Peacekeepers set free
Rebels in southern Syria freed 21 U.N. peacekeepers on Friday after holding them hostage for four days, driving them to the border with Jordan after accusations from Western officials that the little-known group had tarnished the image of those fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.
The abduction and the tortured negotiations that ended it highlight the disorganization of the rebel movement, which has hindered its ability to fight Assad and complicates vows by the United States and others to provide assistance.
It also has raised concerns about the future of United Nations operations in the area. The Filipino peacekeepers were abducted on Wednesday by one of the rebel groups operating in southern Syria near the Jordanian border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where a U.N. force has patrolled a cease-fire line between Israel and Syria for nearly four decades.
Device safe, but not super
The future is unclear for a promising heart device aimed at preventing strokes in people at high risk of them because of an irregular heartbeat.
Early results from a key study of Boston Scientific Corp.’s Watchman device suggested it is safer than previous testing found, but might not be better than a drug that is used now for preventing strokes, heart-related deaths and blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation over the long term.
More than 2.7 million Americans and 15 million people worldwide have atrial fibrillation. The upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating properly. That lets blood pool in a small pouch. Clots can form and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
Export U.S. natural gas?
The natural gas boom in North Texas is sputtering, with the number of rigs working the Barnett Shale recently hitting a 10-year low. It’s an issue elsewhere, as well, as the glut of domestic energy that’s transforming America drives down the price of natural gas and makes drilling less profitable.
An industry association based in Fort Worth, Texas, is among those arguing that a solution is for the federal government to allow exports of America’s natural gas to foreign nations, where the price can be five times higher.
Civil War sailors buried
More than 150 years after the USS Monitor sank off North Carolina during the Civil War, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret when it was raised a decade ago were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The evening burial, which included a gun salute and a band playing “America the Beautiful,” might be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery overlooking Washington.
“Today is a tribute to all the men and women who have gone to sea, but especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who spoke at a funeral service before the burial.
The Monitor made nautical history when the Union ship fought the Confederate CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads on March 9, 1862. The battle was a draw.