Israeli Jets Bombs Syrian Chemical Weapons Site Near Damascus…

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 28 (UPI) — The Free Syrian Army says Israeli air force jets flew over President Bashar Assad’s palace and bombed a chemical weapons site near Damascus, Maariv reported.

The report said the Israeli jets entered Syria’s airspace close to 6 a.m Saturday and flew over Assad’s palace in Damascus and other security facilities before striking a chemical weapons compound near the city.
The Hebrew language daily said a Syrian army air defense battery positioned in the city fired at the Israeli jets that left Syria’s airspace unscathed. FSA rebels posted a video showing smoke rising up from the headquarters for chemical weapons. There were no reports of the extent of damage or casualties.
Neither Damascus or Jerusalem responded to the report.
In January, foreign media reported Israeli jets bombed a weapons convoy parked outside a military research institute near Damascus allegedly en route to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Fewer See Better Life North of the Border, but 35% Would Migrate

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico, the United States is enjoying a resurgence of good will among the Mexican public, with a clear majority favorably inclined toward their northern neighbor and more now expressing confidence in Obama.

A national opinion survey of Mexico by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 4-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that roughly two-thirds (66%) of Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the U.S. – up from 56% a year ago and dramatically higher than it was following the passage of Arizona’s restrictive immigration law in 2010, when favorable Mexican attitudes toward the United States slipped to 44%.

Obama also receives higher ratings than he did in recent years. About half (49%) of Mexicans express confidence in the American president to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs, compared with 42% who said the same in 2012 and 38% in 2011. Still, Mexicans’ confidence in Obama has yet to return to the level in his first days in office in 2009, when 55% gave him a high rating.

Mexicans are also now more of the view that the U.S. takes their country’s interests into account when deciding international policy. About half (51%) say Washington considers their country’s interests, while 45% say it does not. In 2012, opinion leaned in the opposite direction – 56% said the U.S. did not consider Mexico’s interests, compared with 40% who said it did.
Bilateral issues, particularly the deepening of economic and commercial relations between the U.S. and Mexico, are expected to be among the key items on the agenda when Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto this week. The survey finds that, overall, 70% of Mexicans consider the deep economic ties between the two countries to be good for Mexico, down slightly from 76% in 2009, when Pew Research last asked this question.

When asked specifically about the influence the U.S. is currently having on economic conditions in their country, views are more mixed. One-third of Mexicans say the U.S. is having a positive impact on national economic conditions in Mexico, while 28% think the U.S. is having a bad impact on their country’s economy.

Views on Immigration

More than 11 million Mexicans live in the U.S., including about 6 million who are in the country illegally.1 Mexicans are divided on whether this is good or bad for their country; 44% say it is good for Mexico that many of its citizens live in the U.S., and an equal share say this is bad for Mexico.

About six-in-ten Mexicans (61%) say they would not move to the U.S. even if they had the means and opportunity to do so. However, a sizable minority (35%) say they would move to the U.S. if they could, including 20% who say they would emigrate without authorization.
Mexicans are less likely than they were a year ago to say that people from their country who move to the U.S. have a better life there; 47% say life is better in the U.S., compared with 53% in 2012. About one-in-five (18%) say Mexicans have a worse life in the U.S., while 29% say it is neither better nor worse. However, among those who have close friends or relatives living in the U.S., 70% say these friends or relatives have achieved their goals, while just 25% believe they have been disappointed.
Three-in-ten Mexicans say they personally know someone who went to the U.S. but returned to Mexico because the person could not find work. About a quarter (27%) know someone who has been deported or detained by the U.S. government for immigration reasons in the last 12 months.

Fewer See Progress on Drug War

Less often than a year ago, Mexicans say their government is making progress in its campaign against drug traffickers; 37% say this is the case, compared with 47% in 2012. An additional 29% now say the government is losing ground against the cartels, and 30% see no change in the way things are going. As in the past, Mexicans overwhelmingly support the use of the Mexican army to fight drug traffickers; 85% are in favor of this approach.
There is also support for some cooperation from the U.S. in the fight against Mexican drug cartels. About three-quarters (74%) would welcome U.S. assistance in training Mexican police and military personnel. A majority (55%) would also approve of the U.S. providing money and weapons to the country’s police and military, although this position has lost some support in recent years; 61% backed this form of U.S. assistance in 2012 and 64% did so in 2011. However, there is little enthusiasm for the deployment of U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug traffickers; just 34% of Mexicans would welcome this approach, while 59% would oppose it.

 Most Mexicans (56%) blame both the U.S. and their own country for the drug violence in Mexico; Mexico01 
20% say the U.S. is mostly to blame and 17% blame Mexico. When Pew Research first asked this question in 2009, far more blamed the U.S. (25%) than blamed Mexico (15%), while about half (51%) said the countries shared responsibility.

Mixed Ratings for Peña Nieto on Key Issues

Peña Nieto, whose election as president in 2012 marked the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after 12 years in the opposition, is generally viewed positively in Mexico; 57% say he is having a good influence on the way things are going in the country, while 38% see his influence as bad.

However, Mexicans expressed mixed views of Peña Nieto’s handling of some key issues. In particular, the same share approves as disapproves of the way the president is dealing with the economy (46%). Similarly, 47% approve of his handling of organized crime and drug traffickers, while 45% disapprove. And when it comes to dealing with corruption, 44% approve of Peña Nieto’s approach and 48% disapprove.

Not surprisingly, on all three issues, those who are affiliated with the PRI offer more positive ratings of the president than do those who are affiliated with Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN). At least six-in-ten supporters of the PRI approve of the president’s handling of the economy (68%), organized crime and drug traffickers (62%) and corruption (62%). In contrast, 46% of PAN supporters approve of the way he is dealing with the economy and corruption, and 51% give him high marks for his handling of drug cartels.

The survey in Mexico is part of the larger cross-national Spring 2013 Pew Global Attitudes survey conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Results for the survey in Mexico are based on 1,000 face-to-face interviews conducted
March 4 to 17, 2013. The survey is representative of the country’s adult population. It uses a multi-stage cluster sample stratified by region and proportional to population size and urban/rural population. All interviews were conducted in Spanish.

The margin of sampling error is ±4.1 percentage points. For the results based on the full sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus the margin of error. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Bush library exhibits: 9/11, war, Katrina, recount

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DALLAS (AP) -- A tour of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum begins in a bright area representing his early domestic agenda, but with one turn, visitors find themselves in a darkened room surrounded by chilling reminders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

This contrast, symbolizing Bush's abrupt shift in priorities less than eight months into his first term, is among the most poignant exhibits at a museum being dedicated this week that also chronicles the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the Florida recount and various other historical events.

Bush told The Associated Press last week that he wanted to make sure the part of the museum devoted to 9/11 was powerful enough to remind visitors of how much the world changed that day.

"It's very emotional and very profound," Bush said. "One of the reasons it has to be is because memories are fading rapidly and the profound impact of that attack is becoming dim with time, and we want to make sure people remember not only the lives lost and the courage shown but the lesson that the human condition overseas matters to the national security of our country."

 The George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the library and museum along with Bush's policy institute, will be dedicated Thursday on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. All the living presidents, including President Barack Obama and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, plan to attend. It will open to the public on May 1.

The museum uses everything from news clips to interactive screens to artifacts to tell the story of Bush's eight years in office. A container of chads - the remnants of the famous Florida punch cards - is part of an exhibit about the 2000 election, which Bush won after the Supreme Court ordered Florida to stop its recount process more than a month after Election Day.

In the 9/11 display, called the "Day of Fire," video images from the attacks flash around a twisted metal beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The exhibit also includes the bullhorn Bush used days later to address a crowd of rescue workers at ground zero: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

Longtime Bush adviser Karen Hughes was standing just a few feet away from the president when he began making the unplanned speech. Hughes said she remembers turning to Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh and saying, "That's going to be in his library someday."

Brendan Miniter, who served as the liaison for the Bushes as the museum's exhibits were developed, said the idea was to present the facts and "let them speak for themselves." He said they also did not want to shy away from more controversial aspects of the administration.

 "I suspect that people would have thought that we wouldn't have talked about say enhanced interrogation techniques or the decision to create the prison in Guantanamo," he said, adding that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is featured in a video about why the administration felt both were necessary.

Visitors also are taken through a timeline of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A display at the end makes the case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, including that he ignored 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding he disclose his weapons programs and fired at British and American pilots monitoring the U.N.-imposed no-fly zone.

The exhibit also acknowledges the biggest controversy about the justification for war: No weapons of mass destruction were found.

A "Decision Points Theater," lined with rows of interactive screens, seeks to put visitors in the shoes of a president. It provides facts for them to decide such questions as whether to invade Iraq or provide bailout money during the financial crisis.

"It's conflicting," Miniter said. "You go to the Capitol Hill and somebody will say you need to provide some resources to stabilize the financial industry, and then somebody else will say no, let it work itself out, don't do anything."

A "Freedom Wall" in the museum features pictures including a soldier greeting children, former first lady Laura Bush supporting women's rights and the Bushes meeting with freedom advocates.

The impact of AIDS around the world - a focus of Bush's international outreach efforts - is illustrated with a large map of the world. Small photographs of the faces of those suffering from the disease are placed into the shapes of the continents of the world, with those with more AIDS cases, including Africa, looming larger.

The museum also features a section on life at the White House, displaying a ball that obviously got some heavy use by the Bushes' late dog Barney. A full-scale replica of the Oval Office leads outside to an actual rose garden. The center also features a 15-acre park recreating a Texas prairie.

Bush said his focus will continue to be the George W. Bush Institute, which has featured programs focused on education, economic growth, global health and human freedom. Through the institute, his activities have included yearly bike rides with wounded military veterans and traveling to Africa as part of an effort among several groups to fight cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.

He also recently took up oil painting, inspired by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Bush, who was the 43rd president, signs his works "43."
"I'm a beginner and I tell people that the signature on my paintings is worth more than the paintings," Bush said.
George W. Bush Presidential Center, http://www.bushcenter.org
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, http://www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu