Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service–DAWNS Digest.

Bashar al Assad Gives National TV Address. Reconciliation Not Quite in the Offing

In his first public speech in several months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad struck a defiant and violent tone. He blasted the Arab League for isolating Syria, taunted rebels as traitors and vowed to subdue what he cast as a foreign-backed plot against his country. “‘We will defeat this conspiracy,’ Mr. Assad declared in a nearly two-hour speech. The address reiterated what has become a familiar refrain as Mr. Assad faces his greatest challenge in more than 11 years of authoritarian rule — a pledge to crush what he has cast as terrorism and sabotage, complemented by somewhat vague promises to reform. The tenor of his remarks, and seeming show of confidence, underscored the irreconcilable nature of Syria’s crisis, pitting a protest movement that demands Mr. Assad leave against a government that rarely acknowledges their grievances.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/zw5rxb)

Over One Dozen Killed in Sectarian Bombings in Iraq

In the latest of a series of attacks intended to inflame sectarian tensions, aver a dozen people were killed in a spate of car-bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday. In Baghdad, two car bombs at Shia religious sites killed 14 and wounded dozens. Two more attacks targeting pilgrims in the central city of Hilla wounded 15 more. “Shia pilgrims are travelling to the holy Iraqi city of Karbala, 110km (70 miles) south of the capital, to mark Arbaeen – the end of the 40-day mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein in a 7th Century battle. Last Thursday, at least 72 people were killed by bomb attacks in Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriya, which also targeted Shias. The attacks coincide with a rise in tensions between Iraq’s Shia-led government and the main Sunni-backed political group since the US military withdrew from Iraq last month.” (BBC http://bbc.in/zvZ4xp)

A Brand New and VERY Scary TB Strain

Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis is arguably one of the scarier diseases out there. It is highly infectious and as the name suggest, regular treatment regimens can’t cure the patient. Even worse than “MDR-TB” is Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. What’s worse than “XDR-TB?” Nothing, we thought, until now. Scientists in Mumbai have discovered what they believe to be “TDR-TB,” as in, TOTALLY resistant Tuberculosis. “News of some of the cases was published Dec. 21 in an ahead-of-print letter to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which just about everyone missed…That letter describes the discovery and treatment of four cases of TDR-TB since last October. On Saturday, the Times of India disclosed that there are actually 12 known cases just in one hospital, the P. D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre; in the article, Hinduja’s Dr. Amita Athawale admits, ‘The cases we clinically isolate are just the tip of the iceberg.’ And as a followup, the Hindustan Times reported yesterday that most hospitals in the city — by extension, most Indian cities — don’t have the facilities to identify the TDR strain, making it more likely that unrecognized cases can go on to infect others.” (Wired http://bit.ly/wRaGiR)

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