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53 killed in Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria -- A car bomb exploded Thursday near Syria's ruling party headquarters in Damascus, killing at least 53 people and scattering mangled bodies among the blazing wreckage in one of the bloodiest days in the capital since the uprising began almost two years ago.

Elsewhere in the city, two bombs struck intelligence offices, killing 13, and mortar rounds hit the army's central command, activists said.

Recent rebel advances in Damascus suburbs, combined with the bombings and three days of mortar attacks, mark the most sustained challenge of the civil war for control of the seat of President Bashar Assad's power.

Syrian state media said the car bombing near the Baath Party HQ and the Russian Embassy was a suicide attack that killed 53 civilians and wounded more than 200, with children among the casualties. Anti-regime activists put the death toll at 59, which would make it the deadliest Damascus bombing of the revolt.

The violence has shattered the sense of normalcy the Syrian regime has tried to maintain in Damascus.

Duvalier defies order

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier defied a judge's order Thursday and refused to attend a hearing to determine whether he will again face charges for human rights abuses committed during the nearly 15 years of his brutal regime.

Duvalier defence attorney Reynold Georges showed up 90 minutes after the hearing was about to start and announced he had filed an appeal of the judge's order. The session began in a courtroom crowded with reporters and observers.

Georges, a former senator, said he was confident the Supreme Court would overturn the order to compel Duvalier's presence in court.

Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986, a time when thousands were imprisoned, tortured and killed for opposing the government. He was ousted in a popular revolt and forced into exile in France. He made a surprise return to Haiti in January 2011.

Hot sauce poured in eyes

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Two U.S. women jailed on suspicion of duct-taping a 14-year-old boy, forcing him to inhale marijuana and pouring hot sauce in his eyes as punishment could face additional child-abuse charges, police said Thursday.

"This is not discipline that any child should have to go through," West Valley Police Sgt. Jason Hauer said. "It's definitely abuse."

The boy has been returned to his father's custody, Hauer said.

The mother, Robin Willette Rumsey, and her friend, Krista Jean Miller, were arrested Tuesday on multiple felony child-abuse charges.

Rumsey, 38, and Miller, 33, began a pattern of abuse against the boy two years ago, Hauer said.

He was punished for breaking a glass dish by having hot sauce poured into his eyes, according to a probable-cause statement.

They also tried to force the boy to smoke marijuana, poured alcohol over his face and held him in a basement.

Bush demands ad change

DALLAS -- Former U.S. first lady Laura Bush wants to be removed from a pro-gay marriage group's national advertising campaign featuring prominent people speaking on the topic.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition has launched print, television and online ads that also include clips of U.S. President Barack Obama, former vice-president Dick Cheney and former secretary of defence Colin Powell talking about same-sex marriage.

Bush spokeswoman Anne MacDonald says Bush "did not approve of her inclusion in this advertisement nor is she associated in any way with the group that made the ad."

The campaign features a clip of Bush saying on CNN, "When couples are committed to each other and love each other then they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has."

The coalition didn't comment.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2013 A16

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