Syria suspends attacks on city of Homs, begins withdrawing tanks as Arab League monitors visit area

BEIRUT — Syria's army suspended days of punishing attacks on the restive city of Homs and began withdrawing its tanks Tuesday just as Arab League monitors visited the area and met with local leaders, activists and officials said. The British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said as the monitors visited Homs, at least 20,000 protesters gathered in some neighborhoods to "reveal the crimes committed by the regime." About 60 Arab monitors — the first Syria's regime has allowed in during its nine-month crackdown on an anti-government uprising — arrived Monday night and began work Tuesday. The withdrawal from Homs was the first tangible sign that President Bashar Assad was implementing the terms of the Arab League plan to halt attacks that overwhelmingly target unarmed, peaceful protesters. The monitors are supposed to ensure the government complies with the deal . After signing on to the plan early last week, Assad's regime only appeared to be intensifying the crackdown, rather than easing up, and it was condemned internationally for flouting the agreement. On Monday, security forces killed at least 42 people, most of them in Homs. Opposition activist Mohammed Saleh said the heavy bombardment of Homs stopped in the morning and tanks were seen pulling out. Another Homs-based activist said he saw armored vehicles leaving early on a highway leading to the city of Palmyra to the east. He asked that his name not be made public for fear of retribution. "Today is calm, unlike pervious days," Saleh said. "The shelling went on for days, but yesterday was terrible." The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some army vehicles pulled out of Homs while other relocated in government compounds "where (they) can deploy again within five minutes." A local official in Homs told The Associated Press that the team of monitors met with Ghassan Abdul-Aal, the governor of Homs province. After the meeting, the Continue Reading

Chinese city of Guangzhou limits car sales in effort to curb traffic, pollution

In an effort to curb worsening traffic and pollution, the Chinese city of Guangzhou has imposed a cap on the number of cars allowed to be sold, according to state media. Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in China with a population of more than 16 million will issue registration plates for only 120,000 small and medium-sized passenger cars for the next 12 months. The policy is aimed at "ensuring the effective flow of the city's transportation and protecting and improving the air quality," said a city government statement posted online after the weekend announcement. The number of cars that will be allowed to be sold over the next year is roughly half the total sold in 2011, according to reports in the state media. Guangzhou had 2.4 million cars by the end of May, more than double the number five years ago, according to a report in the China Business News. It becomes the third Chinese city, after the capital, Beijing, and Guiyang in the country's southwest, to introduce registration plate limits in an effort to combat the escalating number of cars on China's roads. AFP/Relaxnews Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it using the "Join the Conversation" buttons below, and thank you for visiting Daily News Autos. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Buenos Aires, city of tango and psychoanalysis

Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital known for its tango bars, has another claim to fame: it may well be the world's capital of psychoanalysis. For every 120 inhabitants in this bustling metropolis, a psychologist is on hand to help struggling individuals make it through tough times -- or simply lend an attentive ear to accounts of life's daily travails. "We portenos like to talk more than we like to listen," Marcelo Peluffo, one such disciple of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Marie Emilie Lacan told AFP referring to residents of this city of three million. "That must be why someone who works to listen is successful." Andres Rascovsky, president of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA), one of the World's largest with 1,200 members, attributes the penchant for such services to immigrant nostalgia similar to that expressed on the dance floor. "Psychoanalysis is so much a part of Buenos Aires because the city makes you suffer," the 61-year-old said in an interview in his practice -- near a neighborhood dubbed "Villa Freud" due to its abundance of analysts like him. The popularity of therapy is also reflected by what sells well on television and in the city's theaters where 10 shows currently deal with the subject. "The public could relate to a series called 'In Therapy,' which just ended," said Rascovsky, whose office walls are adorned with deer antlers, seen as symbols of wisdom and connections to the spiritual world. On stage, productions that have drawn full houses include "Knock, Knock" -- a piece about six people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder -- and the comedy "The Last Session of Freud." The musical "Almost Normal" about a child's death and its impact on the family has also been a hit. "These productions do very well because people identify with something you don't see every day but which is latent in all of," Florencia Otero, 22, one of the stars of "Almost Normal" told AFP as her colleagues agreed in unison. Continue Reading

Intense shelling in southern Syrian city of Daraa kills 17

BEIRUT — Syrian troops shelled the southern city of Daraa early on Saturday, killing at least 17 people, activists said. And in Damascus, residents spoke about a night of shooting and explosions in the worst violence Syria's capital has seen since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began 15 months ago. The nearly 12 hours of fighting in Damascus suggested a new boldness among armed rebels, who previously kept a low profile in the capital. It also showed a willingness by the regime to unleash in the capital the sort of elevated force against restive neighborhoods it has used to crush opponents elsewhere. For the first time in the uprising, witnesses said, regime tanks opened fire in the city's streets, with shells slamming into residential buildings. The latest escalations in different parts of Syria are another blow to international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which aims to end the country's bloodletting. Annan brokered a cease-fire that went into effect on April 12 but has since been violated nearly every day since and never properly took hold. On Saturday, U.N. observers in the country ostensibly to monitor the cease-fire issued the first independent video images from the scene of a reported massacre last week in a remote farming village. Activists say up to 78 people, including women and children, were shot, hacked and burned to death in Mazraat al-Qubair on Wednesday. The video, taken in the U.N. visit a day earlier, showed blood splashed on a wall pockmarked with bullet holes and soaking a nearby mattress. A shell punched through one wall of a house. Another home was burnt on the inside with dried blood was splashed on floors. One man wearing a red-and-white checked scarf to cover his face, pointed at a 2008 calendar adorning a wall, bearing the photo of a lightly-bearded, handsome man. "This is the martyr," the resident, sobbing. He sat on the floor, amid strewn colorful blankets, heaving with tears. It was not Continue Reading

New York City is the king of country: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift find the most fans in the Big Apple

Nashville isn’t the country music capital of the nation. New York is. Yes, you read that right. According to figures from Nielsen/SoundScan,  in the last year our city beat out every other town in the nation in twangy music sales, besting the old champ, Los Angeles –  a place that, itself, would strike many as an unlikely winner in this field. For the record, Nashville ranked sixth in sales, racking up 20% fewer country CD purchases than N.Y.C. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters Toby Keith performs in Vegas in April. On one level, there’s a simple explanation for our city’s preeminence. “New York is the biggest market for everything, ” says Nielsen/SoundScan bean counter David Bakula. “It’s the driver of all sales.” In other words, we win just because there are more of us. But that doesn’t explain why the country fan-base in our parts has been growing of late, leapfrogging L.A. in just the last year. Nor does it explain how we’ve been able to accomplish this feat without having a single country radio station within the five boroughs. Jason Merritt/Getty Images Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum in 2009. Wade Jessen, country correspondent for Billboard, sees a lifestyle connection. “New York City is a very demanding place to live,” he says. “Country music is a great way to put the brakes on a lot of the noise in people’s lives.” Chris Hollo   Tim McGraw appears on Sirius radio, which has six country outlets, but NYC itself hasn't had a country music station in 16 years. That’s been showing on the concert circuit as well. “We’re seeing more headlining tours in the New York area going into 2013 than we have in history,” says Brian O’Connell, who books country shows for the touring behemoth LiveNation. “It’s double what it was three or four years ago." Continue Reading

Around NY’s capital city, candidates converge

ALBANY -- Around noon Monday, a bus for John Kasich's campaign rode past a long line of Bernie Sanders' supporters waiting to hear Sanders' 2 p.m. speech.Kasich got out of the bus a block away, huddled privately with Republican leaders in New York, then gave speeches in nearby Troy and Saratoga. Sanders gave an hour-long speech in Albany, sandwiched between events in Binghamton and Buffalo.And that was not all in New York's capital city on Monday: GOP front-runner Donald Trump drew an energetic crowd of about 15,000 to the Times Union Center, where he continued his criticism of a nomination process he says is "rigged."It all made Albany the epicenter of presidential politics Monday, eight days before New York voters cast their primary ballots April 19 in the delegate-rich state."I used to come up to Albany so many times -- I need this approval, I need that," Trump told the crowd as he introduced state senators. "Now I'm on their side. I can't believe it, I'm a politician!"The Albany visits are part of barnstorming tours by the candidates that started last week. Hillary Clinton visited the upstate cities last week and is planning more trips this week.Trump was in Rochester on Sunday and Albany on Monday. On Tuesday, Sanders will be in Rochester, Syracuse and Poughkeepsie."If we make it to the White House, we are going to change our national priorities," Sanders said to cheers from the roughly 3,700 people inside the city's Washington Avenue Armory. "We’re going to rebuild inner cities, we’re going to make sure that every community in this country has clean drinking water, and we will rebuild our roads and bridges and rail system."Kasich said he's not to be overlooked, urging Republican leaders that he's the best chance in New York for their down-ballot races in November. His event in Saratoga was to be aired on Fox News.In Troy, Kasich took audience questions about Social Security, health care and same-sex marriage, highlighting his Continue Reading

Gangs of armed young men roam Syrian seaside city of Latakia

LATAKIA, Syria - Gangs of young men, some armed with swords and hunting rifles, roamed Sunday through the streets of a Syrian seaside city, closing alleys with barricades and roughly questioning passersby in streets scarred by days of anti-government unrest. The scenes in Latakia, a Mediterranean port once known as a summmer tourist draw, were a remarkable display of anarchy in what had been one of the Mideast's most tightly controlled countries. Syria has been rocked by more than a week of demonstrations that began in the drought-parched southern agricultural city of Daraa and exploded nationwide on Friday, with security forces opening fire on demonstrators in at least six places and killing dozens. A Damascus-based activist said residents of an impoverished hillside neighborhood of the capital known as Mezah-86 reported that government forces were attacking demonstrators there Sunday night. The activist said two residents reported hearing gunfire in the area as they spoke to him by phone. "I heard shouting, screaming, fighting and shooting," he said. One of the residents reported seeing security forces breaking into the home of at least one person who had attended an anti-government protest earlier in the evening, the activist said. His account could not be independently confirmed because Syria maintains tight restrictions on journalists and many areas have become unsafe in recent days. The government has also tried to calm the situation with concessions, and President Bashar Assad is expected to announce Tuesday that he is lifting a nearly 50-year state of emergency and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms. Member of Parliament Mohammed Habash told The Associated Press that lawmakers discussed the state of emergency during a Sunday night session and Assad would make an announcement about the issue on Tuesday. He offered no further details. Ammar Qurabi, an exile in Egypt who heads Syria's National Continue Reading

VCU, University of Richmond storm into Sweet 16 as underdogs from same city of Richmond, Va.

Virginia Commonwealth has this to say to all the vocal analysts who felt the Rams didn't deserve an at-large spot in this year's NCAA Tournament. Look at the scoreboard. The 11th-seeded Rams from the Colonial Athletic Association have beaten USC, Georgetown and Purdue - teams from the Pac-10, Big East and Big Ten - by an average of 16.3 points. With tenacious defense and solid 3-point shooting, they are making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. They will arrive with a huge chip and comparisons to another team from their conference, George Mason, which made a Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2006. "That's fine," senior forward Jamie Skeen said. "They've tagged us with everything else. They said we weren't supposed to be here. Look at us now." VCU made a huge statement for non-BCS schools everywhere, overwhelming the heavily favored, third-seeded Boilermakers, 94-76, Sunday night in Chicago, shooting 60% and turning loose Bradford Burgess. The 6-6 junior scored 23 points in the paint to propel VCU into a Friday night matchup against 10th-seeded Florida State in the Southwest Region semis in San Antonio. "You watch them on a four- or five-game stretch and you literally think they can beat anybody in the country," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. VCU has destroyed a lot of office pools. The Rams' success has cast a giant spotlight on the Virginia state capital of Richmond, which is the home of not one, but two teams in the Sweet 16. The 12th-seeded University of Richmond also advanced to the Southwest Region semis, defeating Morehead State, 65-48, Saturday to set up a matchup against top-seeded Kansas. This is the first time two teams from the same city have reached the Sweet 16 since 2007, when UCLA and USC did it. The Richmond Times-Dispatch is referring to the city as Hoopstown, USA. The two schools have stark differences. VCU is an urban campus that has slowly built a residential community and did not have an on-campus arena Continue Reading

City of London Cemetery trying to promote grave sharing, as city runs out of burial space

LONDON — So you think London, population 8 million, is crowded with the living? There are many millions more under the soil of a city that has been inhabited for 2,000 years. And London is rapidly running out of places to put them. Now the city's largest cemetery is trying to persuade Londoners to share a grave with a stranger. "A lot of people say, 'I'm not putting my Dad in a secondhand grave,'" said Gary Burks, superintendent and registrar of the City of London Cemetery, final resting place of close to 1 million Londoners. "You have to deal with that mindset." The problem is a very British one. Many other European countries regularly reuse old graves after a couple of decades. Britain does not, as a result of Victorian hygiene obsession, piecemeal regulation and national tradition. For many, an Englishman's tomb, like his home, is his castle. That view is also common in the United States, which like Britain tends to regard graves as eternal and not to be disturbed — although the U.S. has a lot more space, so the burial crisis is less acute. In much of Britain, reusing old graves remains illegal, but the City of London cemetery is exploiting a legal loophole that allows graves in the capital with remaining space in them to be reclaimed after 75 years. Burks points to a handsome marble obelisk carrying the details of the recently departed man buried underneath. The name of a Victorian Londoner interred in the same plot is inscribed on the other side. The monument has simply been turned around for its new user — whose family, Burks says, got a fancy stone monument for much less than the market price by agreeing to share. Since a change in the law last year, cemetery staff have begun the even more sensitive process of digging up old remains, reburying them deeper and putting new corpses on top, in what have been dubbed "double-decker" graves. They'll be sold for the same price as the cemetery's regular "lawn" graves — those in Continue Reading

Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow is living life of superhero in city of Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - To say that Tim Tebow, Florida's All-Everything quarterback, has become bigger-than-life in this campus town is kind of like saying the winds might pick up in hurricane season: it's pretty obvious. There is a seven-and-a-half-foot sculpture of  Tebow known as "Treebow" that was created by a chainsaw artist, Sam Knowles, from a dead oak tree in front of the Ballyhoo Grill on University Avenue. If that doesn't convince you, consider that when Florida held its annual Football Fan Day this year, a crowd of more than 6,000 showed up. Many started lining up outside the O'Connell Center at 4 a.m., just  so they could get Tebow's signture on an official Florida poster. One local Web site, looking to capitalize on Tebow's popularity, came out with a unique product called Teebows - orange and blue women's panties shaped like a T with a bow on the back. But nothing could top the mass hysteria that broke out at the annual SEC media day in Birmingham, Ala., when the press conducted a ridiculous inquisition of conference coaches, looking for the one who hadn't vote for Tebow as the preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback. Finally,  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who won a Heisman Trophy at Florida in 1966, confessed that he was the guilty party, sheepishly admitting he had let his director of football operations fill out the ballot, then only glanced  at the results when the ballot hit his desk. "He told me we already had 10 Florida players on first team, so he voted for Jevan Snead of Ole Miss," said Spurrier, who asked for a do-over to make the vote unanimous. "It's my fault. Tim Tebow is not only the best quarterback in the SEC, he's the best quarterback in America." Spurrier got his mulligan. Then Tebow was asked an out of the blue, out of bounds question by a reporter in a radio breakout room: "Are you a virgin?" Tebow didn't even blink - though the entire press room did - saying he was saving himself for Continue Reading