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Fears for Syria’s WMD

As the uprising in Syria continues and the future looks increasingly perilous for the Assad regime, worries are mounting as to the fate of the country’s huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
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THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A GUIDED GOVERNMENT TOUR Syrian soldiers raise their weapons while holding a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as they leave the eastern city of Deir Zor following a 10-day military operation on August 16, 2011. Syria has repeatedly said it is battling "armed gangs" -- a claim denied by rights groups who say the regime's crackdown on anti-government protests has killed 1,827 civilians since mid-March, while 416 security forces have also died. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images) (-stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

There are growing concerns as to what will become of Syria’s large stockpiles of deadly chemicals, such as its many sarin-based warheads, if the regime is to suddenly collapse.

According to the Washington Post weapons experts have ranked Syria’s chemical stockpile as probably the largest in the world, “consisting of tens of tons of highly lethal chemical agents and hundreds of Scud missiles as well as lesser rockets, artillery rockets and bomblets for delivering the poisons.”

While many countries have signed the UN Chemical Weapons convention and destroyed their chemical weapons arsenals, Syria has refused to do so and has instead continuously developed an ever larger and deadlier stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

“The question about whether terrorists could take the weapons is a concern in any country undergoing a period of instability,” Radwan Ziadeh, a prominent opposition figure told GlobalPost. “Syria has many weapons according to sources.”

The weapons falling into the wrong hands could spell disaster. The deadly nerve agent sarin killed 13 people and injured around 1,000 in 1995 when it was used in Tokyo’s subway system during a terrorist attack.

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Yemen’s al-Qaeda want toxic bombs

US officials say al-Qaeda in Yemen is trying to make bombs using the lethal poison ricin for attacks against the US.
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Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen are planning a deadly ricin attack on the US, security officials have warned Obama. (PATRICK BAZ/Staff/AFP/Getty Images)

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has for more than a year tried to procure materials such as castor beans to produce the highly dangerous poison ricin, American counterterrorism officials have told New York Times.

The powdery substance is so deadly that a dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult if it is inhaled or reaches the bloodstream.

Intelligence gathered has concluded that AQAP operatives are trying to procure castor beans, which are used for ricin production, and processing agents and bring them to the tribal province of Shabwa in southern Yemen, an area where Yemeni forces have reportedly been battling AQAP.

The intelligence points to AQAP secretly trying to produce the white powdery ricin, which it is planning to pack around explosives to detonate in contained spaces such as shopping malls, an airport or a subway station.

According to the New York Times, President Barak Obama and top national security aides were briefed on the threat last year and have received periodic updates since then.

A senior Defense Ministry official in Sanaa told GlobalPost the security crisis in Yemen stemming from its political paralysis is helping AQAP expand and experiment with new tactics.

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Why is Australia putting so many "Kiwis" on a national security blacklist?

What seems wrong with this equation: Chinese, Indian and New Zealand citizens dominate a newly unearthed Australian border control blacklist.
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An All Blacks fan enjoys the atmosphere during the Tri-Nations Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at Eden Park on Aug. 6, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Cameron Spencer/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese, Indian and — wait for it — New Zealand citizens dominate Australia's border control blacklist, newly unearthed documents show.

Chinese citizens make up 10 percent of the total 314,462 people — or 34,189 people — flagged by authorities as a potential threat to national security on the so-called Movement Alert List. Indians were the next most-flagged group, with 21,643 citizens on the watch list.

Then comes the strange part — New Zealanders are the next officially most-feared group, with 18,315 on the watch list, obtained by The Australian newspaper using freedom on information (FOI) laws. That's one step above Indonesians (16,271), despite long-held (and it must be said, unfounded) fears among Australians of the threats posed by its majority Muslim neighbor to the north.

If only the story told us why.

Viewed by the average Aussie, the most threatening trait of the average New Zealander (universally known Down Under as a "Kiwi") would likely be their ability to pass themselves off as Australian to the untrained ear. 

Disconcerting to the Australian who doesn't like to be mistaken for a Kiwi, Brit or on rare occasions, South African — but hardly a reason to blacklist them, surely.

Some clarity may come from knowing that the blacklist takes into account not only "national security" considerations, but "health concerns."

While almost half those on the blacklist were reportedly singled out for national security reasons, a good proportion (11.08 percent) posed health concerns, primarily linked to respiratory illnesses like tuberculosis, the document indicates.

However, knowing some basic facts about the quality of life in New Zealand dispels this as a solid theory for why Australia is blacklisting so many Kiwis.

In terms of health, New Zealand performs very well when compared with other developed countries, according to the OECD's Better Life index. Among its achievements in ensuring the overall well-being of citizens:

  • Life expectancy at birth in New Zealand is 80.4 years, more than one year above the OECD average; 
  • The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 12 micrograms per cubic meter, and is lower than levels found in most OECD countries; and
  •  97 percent of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91 percent.

Sure, Australians are the happiest people in the world — overall — according to the index, but New Zealanders seem to be doing better than okay.

Rugby fans may point to next month's Rugby World Cup as a possible source of nervousness for die-hard Aussies everywhere. 

New Zealand's fearsome All Blacks on Saturday left no one in doubt they will be one of the favorites for the Cup, after a "clinical" 30-14 victory over Australia's "Wallabies" in a Tri-Nations match.

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Al Qaeda group plans to release animated cartoon to recruit kids

Terrorists connected to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said they were creating the animated film to inspire children to join the jihad, but some users on jihadi websites said the characters were too "scary" for kids
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The planned cartoon does not feature depictions of Osama bin Laden. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

An al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is planning to release an animated film cartoon aimed at recruiting young people to the militant network.

Terrorists connected to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based affiliate, said they were creating the cartoon to inspire children to join the jihad, a posting on an extremist website said, according to the Daily News.

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