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Lake: America’s Arab allies warming to Syria’s dictator

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Lake: America’s Arab allies warming to Syria’s dictator

King Abdullah II of Jordan made news last week when he took a phone call from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was the first contact between the king and president in more than a decade, since Syria’s civil war began.

It was part of a pattern. Since 2018, Arab states that once funded and armed Assad’s opposition have been trying to restore diplomatic ties with his regime. Since President Joe Biden came into office, these efforts have intensified. Last month, the Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Recently, trade ministers from Syria and the United Arab Emirates met to discuss how to expand economic ties.

This is ominous news for the Syrian people. Assad is a dictator whose forces have gassed civilians and tortured political opponents. Now he is no longer shunned by his neighbors. The stain of his brutality is being washed away.

It’s also a setback for U.S. interests. Since the second term of President Barack Obama, the aim of U.S. policy against Assad has been to deny him a full victory in his civil war. This is why Obama and former President Donald Trump supported sanctions on the Assad regime and a UN-mediated process to establish a transitional leadership for Syria.

Diplomatic recognition of a Syrian government was linked to the outcome of that process. Jordanian, Egyptian and Emirati efforts to normalize relations with Syria will only embolden Assad and other tyrants.

So it’s worth asking what, if anything, the Biden administration is doing about these thawing relations between Assad and America’s Arab allies. To be sure, the U.S. maintains its policy of not recognizing Assad’s government. A State Department official has told me and other journalists that there are no plans for the U.S. to upgrade its diplomatic relationship to Syria and that the U.S. does not “encourage others to do so, given the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people.”

That’s fine as far as it goes. But no U.S. official has publicly criticized Abdullah’s phone call or any other recent Arab entreaties to Damascus.

“It strains credulity to think the king of Jordan would publicize his call with Assad if President Biden or his administration had objected to this outreach,” said David Schenker, who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs under Trump. Jordan receives more than $1.5 billion in military and economic assistance annually from the U.S. government. Schenker said that he warned his interlocutors that full recognition of Assad’s government would violate a UN Security Council resolution and potentially trigger U.S. sanctions on Syria.

Syrian opposition figures are also frustrated with the Biden administration. “We were given the impression that Syria would not be forgotten,” said Mouaz Mustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. “The very least they should be doing is to make it as difficult as possible to normalize relations with a genocidal war criminal regime.”

Right now normalizing relations with Assad, if not Syria, seems quite easy for Abdullah. His opening to Syria’s leader has cost him nothing with his most important ally. As Abdullah told CNN over the summer, “The regime is there to stay.” It appears that Biden agrees, even if his diplomats won’t say so.


Eli Lake is a syndicated columnist.

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Ask Amy: Group texts flummox family member

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Ask Amy: Abusive ex-husband now wants to share cabin

Dear Amy: My extended family members prefer to communicate through texting. Group texts are routinely over 500 words long.

Full-blown fights and disagreements are communicated through texting.

If I telephone someone because I don’t enjoy typing on the phone, they won’t answer.

I recently found out that a family member had COVID. I learned this through a posting on Facebook.

When I responded to the Facebook post by saying I hope everyone gets better soon, I was yelled at by text for not texting my well wishes!

Am I obsolete? Is this normal?

I can’t take these text fights anymore, and my husband is so frustrated that he wants to end all communication.

I am OK with texting to a degree — you know: “Meet you at 10,” “Thank you for the gift,” etc., but long and drawn-out text chains about important issues is leading to more division and hostility.

What is the best way to deal with this?

— Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: You seem to assume that whoever yells at you the loudest is correct. That might be the norm in your family but, generally if someone posts on Facebook, then a response to that posting is also appropriate on Facebook.

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Daily horoscope for January 21, 2022

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Daily horoscope for January 21, 2022

Moon Alert: There are no restrictions to shopping or important decisions today. The Moon is in Virgo.

Happy Birthday Friday, Jan. 21, 2022:

You are friendly and sociable. People are drawn to your sincerity. You are fun-loving and generous and attracted to humanitarian causes. This year is the first year of a nine-year cycle for you, which means you can open any door to explore new avenues. Have the courage of your convictions!


The stars show the kind of day you’ll have: 5-Dynamic; 4-Positive; 3-Average; 2-So-so; 1-Difficult

ARIES

(March 21-April 19)

★★★

You might have new, fresh, innovative ideas related to your job or perhaps your health today. Whatever happens, you will see how to improve something. Possibly, your clever improvements will apply to how you deal with your pet. Tonight: Protect your health.

TAURUS

(April 20-May 20)

★★★★★

Today you’re full of creative, original ideas! Surprise invitations to a social occasion or something to do with a creative project also might occur. Alternatively, an appointment might be canceled. Note: This is a mildly accident-prone day for your kids. Tonight: Be vigilant.

GEMINI

(May 21-June 20)

★★★

Something unexpected might impact your home routine today. A small appliance might break down or a minor breakage could occur. Perhaps someone unexpected might knock at the door. Stock the fridge so you’re ready for anything. (Hopefully it’s a pleasant surprise.) Tonight: Confusion at home.

CANCER

(June 21-July 22)

★★★★

There is an unpredictable quality to this day. You might change your daily plans. You might meet someone new who is unusual. You might have bright, clever ideas. However, it is a mildly accident-prone day for you, so be careful. Pay attention to everything you say and do. Tonight: Foggy thinking.

LEO

(July 23-Aug. 22)

★★★

You might spend your money impulsively today. Therefore, beware spontaneous shopping, because you could have regrets later. At least keep your receipts — and the box. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your money, because you might find money or you might lose money. Tonight: Double-check your finances.

VIRGO

(Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

★★★★★

Today has an electric, exciting quality to it because the Moon is in your sign dancing with wild, wacky Uranus. This can make you impulsive and ready to do something at the drop of a hat. Nevertheless, think twice before you act to avoid having later regrets. Be smart. Tonight: Be clear in your communications.

LIBRA

(Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

★★★

This is a vaguely restless day for you. You might not know why. That’s not important, because this influence is brief. Don’t worry if you feel unsure of things, because in fact, there are subtle and not so subtle changes taking place everywhere today. Tonight: Dismiss self-doubt.

SCORPIO

(Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

★★★★

You might meet a real character today. Or possibly, someone you already know will do something that surprises you. A discussion with a friend also might prompt you to reconsider or rethink your long-term goals. Keep an open mind. (Don’t be so open that everything falls out.) Tonight: Clarify something with a friend.

SAGITTARIUS

(Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

★★★

A boss, parent, teacher or member of the police might catch you off guard today; be prepared. This is because something to do with authority figures will be unpredictable. In turn, this could make you feel rebellious or inclined to overreact. Be cool. Never underestimate the power of courtesy. Tonight: Make sure you know what others expect.

CAPRICORN

(Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

★★★★★

Travel plans might change today. Or possibly, you might suddenly have to travel when you did not expect to do so. You might hear news that is pleasing regarding a course or something related to politics, religion or higher learning. Could be anything. Tonight: Don’t be naive.

AQUARIUS

(Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

★★★

Double-check all details regarding debt, shared property, insurance issues and banking, because something unexpected could impact these areas. When it comes to your debt and wealth, you want to be on top of things and in the know. Information is power. Tonight: Check your finances.

PISCES

(Feb. 19-March 20)

★★

A friend or partner will surprise you today by saying or doing something you didn’t expect. Possibly, you will be introduced to someone — perhaps someone in the general public — who will be unusual or surprising in some way. Stay off your heels. Be alert. Tonight: Confused communications.

BORN TODAY

Actor Luke Grimes (1984), actress Geena Davis (1956), actor Ken Leung (1970)

* * *

Find more Georgia Nicols horoscopes at georgianicols.com.
(c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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Patriots excited by Mac Jones’ potential in Year 2: ‘He’s the ultimate professional’

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Patriots excited by Mac Jones’ potential in Year 2: ‘He’s the ultimate professional’

By most statistical accounts, Mac Jones’ rookie season was a roaring success.

By his teammates’ remarks this week, next year should be even better.

From training camp through the playoffs, Jones won the Patriots over with his steady approach and performance. He was remarkably accurate as a passer. Among all NFL quarterbacks, Jones finished in the top 10 for completion percentage and completion percentage over expected (CPOE), a Next Gen stat that evaluates every throw by difficulty, accounting for the receiver’s field location and proximity to the nearest defender using GPS tracking data.

Mastering ball placement and the Patriots’ playbook were two major reasons Jones inspired confidence initially, but it’s what he did after that’s elevated expectations.

“I’m very excited, honestly,” said Pats leading receiver Jakobi Meyers. “All year I felt like I saw effort and consistency. Those were my big two for him. He really was the same guy every day and he put in the same work every day. He never slacked up. He always came in ready to work.

“I think if all the guys get that mindset and we all get together this offseason and just work … I feel like we’ll have a really good offensive unit — especially skill unit — going forward.”

Up front, Jones earned the respect of his offensive linemen by taking several vicious hits early in the year. But he never missed a snap due to injury, eventually completing 67.6% of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 picks during the regular season.

“I have just a ton of respect for Mac Jones,” said left guard Ted Karras said. “I think he’s obviously a great leader and it was just a pleasure. He’s the ultimate professional, and he works very hard to improve himself and bring guys along. It was very fun to be in the fray with him. ”

Later in the team’s Wild Card loss at Buffalo, one of Jones’ favorite targets, tight end Hunter Henry, took him aside for a private talk on the sideline. The Patriots were completing one of their worst playoff losses in franchise history, but Henry saw the night as a potential springboard for success. If Jones — as he did over two touchdown drives in the second half — can keep pushing himself next season, the offense will grow with him.

“Just reassuring him this is a big moment and it’s something we’re going to learn from and grow from and continue to get better,” Henry told reporters this week. “That’s the biggest thing: improvement.”

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