New Theory on Stonehenge

The mysterious structure of Stonehenge may have been built as a symbol of peace and unity, according to a new theory by British researchers.

During the monument’s construction around 3000 B.C. to 2500 B.C., Britain’s Neolithic people were becoming increasingly unified, said study leader Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield.

“There was a growing islandwide culture — the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast,” Parker Pearson said in a statement, referring to the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. “This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries.”

By definition, Stonehenge would have required cooperation, Parker Pearson added.

“Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everything literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification,” he said. [ Photos: A Walk Through Stonehenge ]

The new theory, detailed in a new book by Parker Pearson, “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery” (Simon & Schuster, 2012), is one of many hypotheses about the mysterious monument. Theories range from completely far-fetched ( space aliens or the wizard Merlin built it!) to far more evidence-based (the monument may have been an astronomical calendar, a burial site or both).

The culture of Stonehenge
Along with fellow researchers on the Stonehenge Riverside Project, Parker Pearson worked to put Stonehenge in context, studying not just the monument but also the culture that created it.

What they found was evidence of a civilization transitioning from regionalism to a more integrated culture. Nevertheless, Britain’s Stone Age people were isolated from the rest of Europe and didn’t interact with anyone across the English Channel, Parker Pearson said.

“Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel,” Parker Pearson said.

Stonehenge’s site may have been chosen because it was already significant to Stone-Age Britons, the researchers suggest. The natural land undulations at the site seem to form a line between the place where the sun rises on the summer solstice and where it sets in midwinter, they found. Neolithic people may have seen this as more than a coincidence, Parker Pearson said.

“This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else,” he said. “Perhaps they saw this place as the center of the world.”

Theories and mystery
These days, Stonehenge is nothing if not the center of speculation and mystery. The monument has inspired its fair share of myths, including that the wizard Merlin transported the stones from Ireland and that UFOs use the circle as a landing site.

Archaeologists have built some theories on firmer ground. Stonehenge’s astronomical alignments suggest that it may have been a place for sun worship, or an ancient calendar. A nearby ancient settlement, Durrington Walls, shows evidence of more pork consumption during the midwinter, suggesting that perhaps ancient people made pilgrimages to Stonehenge for the winter solstice, Parker Pearson and his colleagues have found.

Stonehenge may have also been a burial ground, or a place of healing. Tombs and burials surround the site, and some skeletons found nearby hail from distant lands. For example, archaeologists reported in 2010 that they’d found the skeleton of a teenage boy wearing an amber necklace near Stonehenge. The boy died around 1550 B.C. An analysis of his teeth suggested he came from the Mediterranean. It’s possible that ill or wounded people traveled to Stonehenge in search of healing, some archaeologists believe.

Other researchers have focused on the sounds of Stonehenge. The place seems to have “lecture-hall” acoustics, according to research released in May. One archaeologist even suggests that the setup of the stones was inspired by an acoustical effect in which two sounds from different sources seem to cancel each other out.

original post at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47923931/ns/technology_and_science-science/

Sandusky Guilty on 45 Counts of Sex Abuse

Image: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, leaves court in handcuffs after being convicted on Friday (© Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse Friday night and faces spending the rest of his life in state prison. His attorney said he would appeal the verdict.

Sandusky’s attorney, Joseph Amendola, asked Judge John Cleland to allow Sandusky to be released on house arrest, but Cleland summarily rejected the request, saying: “Bail is revoked. Mr. Sandusky is remanded to the custody of the sheriff.”

Michael Isikoff, John Yang, Ron Allen, Marianne Haggerty and Hannah Rapplye of NBC News and Jim Gold of msnbc.com contributed to this report by Kimberly Kaplan of NBC News and M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

Sandusky was immediately led out of the courthouse in handcuffs as a large crowd of onlookers cheered. Sentencing was set for late September.

Sandusky, 68, the former longtime defensive coordinator for the Penn State University football team, had denied all 48 counts alleging that he abused 10 boys over 15 years. Two grand jury reports accused him of having used his connection to one of the nation’s premier college football programs to “groom” the boys, whom he met through his Second Mile charity for troubled children, for sexual relationships.

Several of the counts are so-called mandated felonies, meaning Cleland has no discretion in sentencing. NBC News reported that he faces a minimum of 60 years in prison.

Cleland, who is a senior judge in McKean County, was brought to Centre County to oversee the trial after local judges recused themselves.

Amendola, who was interrupted by hecklers outside the courthouse several times, said he had expected the outcome and respected the verdict of the jurors, who didn’t speak to reporters afterward.

Defense attorney Joseph Amendola speaks outside the courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., after his client, Jerry Sandusky, was found guilty of sexually abusing children.

Amendola said he believed Sandusky had legitimate grounds for appeal, saying his client had “an uphill battle” because of the extensive pretrial publicity.

“We said we were attempting to climb Mount Everest from the bottom of the mountain. Obviously, we didn’t make it,” he said.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, whose office prosecuted Sandusky, said, “A serious child predator … has been held accountable for his crimes.”

Kelly thanked the victims, who she said “came forward to bravely testify in this trial and to finally put a stop to the crimes that were committed.”

“We hope that our search for justice will help them and perhaps others looking on nearby and afar,” she said.

Grace Gordon, 49, of Bellefonte, also welcomed the verdict but lamented the damage the trial had done to Bellefonte and Centre County.

“It’s hard. It really is, to see a small town torn apart like this,” said Gordon, who was outside the courthouse with her 23-year-old son and his girlfriend.

Gordon said her father, wrho worked with Sandusky at Penn State, “would have just been devastated to know about this.”

“You’d never, ever have dreamed that he’d be that kind of person,” Gordon said. “What he did to those kids is just horrendous.”

The university that Sandusky served for decades said in a statement late Friday that “we have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly. No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing.”

The university said it would seek to “fairly … compensate” the victims and invited them to participate in a program to “facilitate the resolution of claims against the University arising out of Mr. Sandusky’s conduct.”

It said it intended to get in contact with lawyers for the victims “in the near future.”

A trial that riveted the nation
The trial, which opened June 11, culminated months of intense attention that led to the firing of head coach Joe Paterno, who won more games than any other major college football coach in history, many of them with Sandusky at his side.

Paterno died exactly five months ago, a few weeks after the Penn State Board of Trustees dismissed him for not having done enough to stop Sandusky’s abuse.

Jurors heard often-graphic testimony from eight of the 10 victims whose accounts were included in two grand jury reports. They told how Sandusky would first win their trust by giving them gifts and taking them on trips with the football team before progressing to hugging, kissing, increasingly sexual touching and, in some cases, oral and anal sex.

In a rare occurrence in an abuse trial, prosecutors also presented the testimony of a corroborating eyewitness — Sandusky’s former Penn State coaching colleague Michael McQueary, who said that he saw a young boy, identified in the first grand jury report as “Victim 2,” in a Penn State shower with Sandusky.

McQueary said the boy had his hands against the wall and that Sandusky was standing up against him from behind. He said he heard a “skin-on-skin smacking sound” and that he had “no doubt” that Sandusky was engaging in anal sex with the boy.

Because they were sequestered, without access to computers, phones or any other way to hear news coverage, the jury of seven women and five men wouldn’t have heard newer, potentially damaging information from two other accusers that emerged after they began deliberations.

Sandusky’s adopted son Matt said he had been prepared to testify that he, too, was a victim of abuse by his father, according to a statement issued Thursday by attorneys who said they are representing the younger Sandusky.

(NBC News and msnbc.com generally do not identify victims of sexual assaults, but Matt Sandusky chose to identify himself in a public statement released through his attorneys.)

Matt Sandusky: From staunch defender to possibly his father’s most damning accuser

Amendola said Friday night that Jerry Sandusky abandoned plans to testify in his own defense because of the prospect of damaging rebuttal testimony by his son.

Nor would they have heard the account of Travis Weaver, 30, of Ohio, who attended Second Mile camps as a youth. Weaver told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday night that Sandusky performed oral sex on him in the upstairs bedroom of the Sanduskys’ home.

Weaver testified to one of the two grand juries but wasn’t mentioned in the grand jury reports or called as a witness during the trial.

The end of the trial doesn’t mean the case is over.

Two former top Penn State officials, former Athletic Director Timothy Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, face perjury charges in connection with their grand jury testimony in December, in which prosecutors alleged that concealed what they knew about Sandusky’s conduct.

original post at: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/22/12363955-sandusky-convicted-of-45-counts-plans-to-appeal?lite

Casey Anthony breaks silence: ‘Obviously, I didn’t kill my daughter’

 Image: File photo of Casey Anthony during her trial (© Joe Burbank/Pool/Reuters)

Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter , addressed the murder charges Tuesday for the first time since her trial last summer.

In a phone interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Anthony, 26, reportedly said she had been enormously proud of her daughter Caylee, who was last seen June 16, 2008.

“There’s obviously several misconceptions. Obviously, I didn’t kill my daughter,” Morgan said Anthony told him on the phone. “She said that very firmly.”

Morgan did not play the phone interview, but spoke with one of Anthony’s attorneys on “Piers Morgan Tonight” about the conversation.

“If anything, there’s nothing in this world I’ve ever been more proud of, and there’s no one I loved more than my daughter. She’s my greatest accomplishment,” Morgan said Anthony told him.

Caylee was not reported missing until nearly a month after she was last seen, when Anthony’s mother, Cindy, called the police. Morgan said he was “struck” by Anthony’s desire to reiterate that she was innocent.

Casey Anthony sued by man who found her child’s remains

“She said that to you without any prompting, without any rehearsal, without any lawyering whatsoever,” attorney J. Cheney Mason Mason told him Tuesday.

Anthony’s high-profile murder trial was held last July in an Orlando courthouse, which attracted crowds of protesters. During the 13-day trial, Anthony’s lead attorney, Jose Baez, argued Anthony did not report her daughter’s disappearance because Caylee, 2, had accidentally drowned in the Anthony family’s pool, and she feared being accused of intentionally killing the toddler.

Video: Anthony jailhouse tape released

Baez argued Anthony’s father, George, helped dispose of the body after Caylee drowned, calling the death “an accident that snowballed out of  control.” George Anthony denied any involvement.

Six months after Caylee was last seen, her skeletal remains were found less than a mile from her grandparents’ Orlando home. Prosecutors claimed Anthony drugged Caylee with chloroform, and then duct-taped her mouth.

Casey Anthony and her lawyer Jose Baez leave the Orange County Jail in Orlando

Pool  /  REUTERS

Casey Anthony and her lawyer Jose Baez leave the Orange County Jail in Orlando, Fla., on July 17, 2011.

Anthony was acquitted of murder, and she was released from jail on July 17, 2011, to people yelling, “Baby killer!” as the vehicle she was in drove her away from jail. She has lived in an undisclosed location since then amid fears for her safety.

Judge releases Casey Anthony jailhouse video

In the conversation with Morgan – which reportedly lasted about 10 minutes – Anthony reflected on past interviews with the media. “I’ve looked back at some of the interviews. I’m ashamed in many ways of the person that I was, because even then, that wasn’t who I am,” she said, according to Morgan.

In the weeks following Caylee’s disappearance, photos showed Anthony partying in clubs. Baez addressed her seemingly carefree behavior in his defense, arguing Anthony had been sexually abused by her father as a child, and was accustomed to hiding her feelings. George Anthony vehemently denied the molestation claims.

Mason said on CNN on Tuesday, “Casey had a bad background, lots of problems in her history … She didn’t trust anybody.”

Although Anthony was acquitted of murder, she was found guilty of four counts of lying to authorities investigating Caylee’s disappearance.

“I’m 26 now, and I’ve gone through hell,” Anthony reportedly told Morgan in their phone conversation.

Anthony has dropped out of the public eye since her trial, surfacing only on YouTube in January when she released a video diary in which she spoke about the dog she adopted and the computer she owned. The clip didn’t mention Caylee.

Video: Casey Anthony speaks out in online video

“I’m not making gazillions of dollars at the hands of other people, or trying to sell myself to anyone willing to throw a couple of dollars at me,” Anthony said, according to Morgan. “The caricature of me that is out there, it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Video: Attorney: Don’t ‘read into’ Casey Anthony videos

She is currently serving a year of probation stemming from an unrelated check fraud conviction in 2010.

original post at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47796208

Man calls 911 from tree after being mauled by a bear

A hiker who clambered 30 feet up a tree in the Alaskan woods after being mauled by a brown bear is recovering after state troopers rescued him.

From high up in the tree, Ben Radakovich called 911 early Sunday to report the attack three miles from the head of Bird Creek Trail.

“I was mauled by a brown bear,” he gasped in the call. “I’m bleeding bad.”

Radakovich told the emergency operator that he was bleeding from his back and neck, and asked for an ambulance. The call appeared to disconnect at one point, and when Radakovich got back on the line, he told the operator that a bear cub was also on the scene.

“I can hear the brown bear, it’s still huffing in the trees,” he said. “I was able to climb a tree. So I’m as high up in a tree as I can get.”

“The damn thing was batting at me,” he later added.

Troopers reached Radakovich about two hours after his 911 call, KTUU-TV reported.

“He was pretty cold, shivering,” Trooper Tim Lewis told the station. “He had multiple injuries, serious injuries.”

The Associated Press reported that Radakovich, of Eagle River, used ski poles to protect himself.

Radakovich has been released from the hospital, KTUU-TV reported.

original post at: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/12/12185917-alaska-man-mauled-by-bear-climbs-tree-to-escape?lite/

Febreze kills your pets

Image Detail

Please do not use Febreze anywhere near your pets! If you have used it near your pets or on their bedding, clean the bedding/area thoroughly to remove the Febreze, and move the animals away from the area.

Please pass this information on to other pet owners/caretakers,before more animals are injured or killed, and find a safer method of odor control.

Febreze: This product is marketed as something that removes odors without covering them up. However, there is a strong smell to it, but worse than that, Febreze contains zinc chloride. Many birds have already been killed after this product was used in any proximity to them whatsoever, and some dogs have also died. Other dogs have become ill without dying. This product is marketed as safe around animals, and people have sprayed their dogs' bedding to remove the doggy smell, only to discover later on that their dog became deathly ill from it. There is one dog who lost most of her hair after being accidentally sprayed with some Febreze, though this particular incident also had a second factor involved (diet change).The Febreze bottle, as of December, 1998, has a picture on the back of a dog, which leads some people to believe it's safe to use in their bedding.

original post at: http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blfebrez.htm

LA Kings win first Stanley Cup

The Los Angeles Kings‘ 45-year quest for an NHL title ended Monday night with an early flurry of power-play goals, followed by two periods of unbearable anticipation – right up to the moment when Dustin Brown snatched the Stanley Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Brown skated to center ice and thrust the 36-pound silver trophy skyward, the captain never flinching under the weight. Long-suffering L.A. fans, who had never even seen hockey’s greatest prize, went crazy.

Image: Mike Richards, left, and Anze Kopitar hoist the Stanley Cup after the Kings beat the Devils in Game 6 on Monday night in LA (© Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The Kings are NHL champions for the first time, and all the men in black played a role in this Tinseltown blockbuster.

Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored two goals apiece, playoff MVP Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in his latest stellar performance, and the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the finals, becoming the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the league title.

Brown had a goal and two assists for Los Angeles, which ended its spectacular 16-4 postseason run in front of a crowd including several dozen Kings faithful who have been at rinkside since the team’s birth as an expansion franchise in 1967. Every other year ended unhappily.

”Every single guy worked so hard for us this season,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who began the year as a contract holdout and finished with six points in the finals, including two assists in the clincher. ”Everyone deserves this. We got used to each other, we developed a chemistry, and we just went sailing from there.”

After taking a 3-0 series lead and then losing two potential clinching games last week, the Kings finished ferociously at Staples Center just when the sixth-seeded Devils appeared to have a chance for one of the biggest comebacks in finals history.

One penalty abruptly changed the tone of the series. Brown, Carter and Lewis scored during a five-minute power play in the first period after Steve Bernier was ejected for boarding Rob Scuderi, leaving the veteran defenseman in a pool of blood. Quick took it from there, finishing a star-making two months by allowing just seven goals in six finals games.

”You never know. You get to the dance, you never know what’s going to happen,” Brown said. ”We calmed down after losing two. It was the first time we had done that all playoffs, and we finally got off to a good start.”

Martin Brodeur stopped 19 shots for the Eastern Conference champion Devils, just the third team to force a Game 6 in the finals after falling into an 0-3 hole. Rookie Adam Henrique ended Quick’s shutout bid late in the second period after the Kings had built a 4-0 lead, but Lewis and Matt Greene added late goals for the Kings.

”We never lost our confidence,” Quick said. ”We had to take it on the chin to keep moving, losing two, and we looked at it as, `Hey, we still have to win one game to win a championship. And we have two chances.’ Finally, we were able to do it at home.”

The Kings steamrolled everyone in their path after barely making the playoffs, eliminating the top three seeds in the Western Conference in overwhelming fashion as they matched the second-fastest run to a title in modern NHL history. Although the Devils gave them a little trouble, the Kings boasted a talented, balanced roster that peaked at the absolute perfect time under midseason coaching hire Darryl Sutter.

Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy, adding one more dominant game to a run in which he set NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Brown capped his own impressive playoff work by finishing with 20 points, tied for the postseason scoring lead with linemate Anze Kopitar.

And Brown, just the second American-born captain to raise the Cup after Dallas’ Derian Hatcher, accomplished what even Wayne Gretzky couldn’t do in eight years in Los Angeles.

Brown handed off the trophy to Willie Mitchell, the 35-year-old defenseman who had never won a title. Mitchell gave it to long-injured and recently returned forward Simon Gagne, who nearly tripped before raising the Cup for the first time.

Sutter, the stone-faced Alberta farmer from a family of hockey-playing brothers, smiled like a kid at his first chance to lift the prize, and general manager Dean Lombardi even took a turn after declining it twice. Later, Justin Williams sat his crying daughter in the Cup, and Kopitar raised it while wearing a gold crown on his head.

After going on a 12-2 tear to the Western Conference title, the Kings won the first two games of the finals in overtime by identical 2-1 scores in New Jersey, leading many to assume another one-sided series victory was upcoming. Los Angeles then flattened the Devils 4-0 in Game 3, but missed its first chance to clinch on home ice when Henrique scored the tiebreaking goal with 4 1/2 minutes left in New Jersey’s 3-1 win in Game 4.

The Devils then beat Los Angeles 2-1 in Game 5, earning another cross-country trip after becoming the third team in NHL history, and the first since 1945, to win twice after falling behind 0-3 in the finals.

”You don’t give yourself a lot of room for error, finding yourselves in a pretty deep hole,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. ”It’s hard, but we really felt like could get back in this and force a Game 7. We did give our best, but we just came up a bit short, unfortunately.”

The Kings were the West’s bottom seed after failing to clinch a playoff berth until right before their 81st game, but only because they underachieved for much of the season. Their talent finally came together under Sutter, who replaced the fired Terry Murray shortly before Christmas and turned Los Angeles into a contender by late February.

Five years after the Anaheim Ducks won California’s first Stanley Cup, the Golden State’s oldest team raised the second. The Kings also are the first team to win the Cup at home since those Ducks, and their fans appreciated the Hollywood touch.

Despite coming off their first back-to-back losses of the playoffs, the Kings started with impressive energy in Game 6, getting most of the good early scoring chances – and then they got the break they needed when Bernier pushed Scuderi headfirst into the boards behind Quick’s net. Scuderi stayed motionless for quite a while, eventually heading to the dressing room after leaving plenty of blood from his lacerated nose.

Bernier, a 27-year-old journeyman and depth forward with two goals in 24 playoff games this season, went to the locker room. The Devils complained Jarret Stoll received no penalty for checking Stephen Gionta into the boards between the benches a moment earlier.

”I wish I could take that play back,” said Bernier. ”I didn’t want to hurt my team. I wanted to help them. This is extremely hard. It’s been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it’s not fun for sure. But there’s nothing I can do now.”

The Kings then went to work on a power play that nearly measured up to the Miracle on Manchester – the famed 1982 playoff game in which Los Angeles rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the third period against Edmonton with a dynamic power play.

Brown scored 53 seconds in, slickly redirecting Drew Doughty’s low pass in front for his first goal since the Western Conference finals opener. Brown’s physical play and goal-scoring in the first-round series against Vancouver set a tone for the entire playoffs, but New Jersey had effectively shut him down until Game 6.

Carter then scored his seventh goal of the postseason after Brown walked the puck out of the corner and fired a shot at Brodeur’s glove side while skating away from the net. The midseason acquisition has been a dependable scorer ever since he was reunited with longtime Philadelphia teammate Mike Richards on the Kings’ second line.

With the Los Angeles crowd on its feet, the Kings added another as rookie Dwight King ferociously drove the net and left a rebound for Lewis, who tucked it home for his first goal in 18 games. Staples Center was deafening for the rest of the first period, and Los Angeles went up 4-0 just 90 seconds into the second when Brown found Carter unchecked in the slot for a one-timer.

”It’s pretty awesome,” Sutter said.

”It’s the feeling of seeing them so happy, the work that you go through. The first thing you think about as a coach – these guys are all young enough, they’ve got to try it again.”

NOTES: The Kings are the first team to clinch the Stanley Cup on their home ice since the Anaheim Ducks did it five years ago. They’re also just the second No. 8 seed ever to make the finals. Edmonton lost in seven games in 2006. … Only four Kings had previously won the Stanley Cup – Dustin Penner, Scuderi, Justin Williams and Colin Fraser, who didn’t contribute much to Chicago’s 2010 run. … David Beckham, Matthew Perry, James Gandolfini, Alyssa Milano and My Chemical Romance attended the game. My Chemical Romance’s ”Welcome to the Black Parade” has become the black-jerseyed Kings’ unofficial anthem after its incorporation into a clever pregame video featuring photos of several Kings as kids.

original post at: http://msn.foxsports.com/nhl/story/Los-Angeles-Kings-win-Stanley-Cup-defeat-New-Jersey-Devils-6-1-Game-6-061112

U.N. Fears for Syrians Trapped by Fighting

The United Nations reported intense fighting between the Syrian military and opposition forces in multiple locations across Syria on Monday and expressed alarm about civilians trapped in besieged rebel strongholds in the central city of Homs and northwestern village of Al Heffa.

United Nations cease-fire monitors reported artillery shelling and machine-gun fire in the Khaldiyeh section of Homs as well as the towns of Rastan and Talbiseh, to the north. The monitors also reported the military’s use of helicopter gunships — a relatively new tactic employed by the Syrian Army, first observed by antigovernment activists in attacks on armed rebels around the major port of Latakia a week ago. The helicopter attacks are regarded as a significant escalation by the government side in the conflict.

Kofi Annan, the special envoy from the United Nations and Arab League whose peace plan that placed the cease-fire monitors into Syria has been basically ignored since its start two months ago, exhorted the antagonists to “take all steps to ensure that civilians are not harmed.”

Sausan Ghosheh, a spokeswoman for the monitors, said they had been unable to confirm reports of casualties in the new outbursts and called on both sides “to grant the U.N. observers immediate and unfettered access to conflict zones.”

She also said that members of the Free Syrian Army, a group of Syrian Army defectors and others who have taken up weapons against the government, had captured an unspecified number of Syrian soldiers in Talbiseh.

Echoing the United Nations concern about possibly large numbers of trapped civilians, the State Department in Washington cited accounts by both the United Nations monitors and antigovernment Syrian activists suggesting the possibility that another massacre was looming.

Referring to such a possibility, which could mean a fifth massacre in less than three weeks, the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters in Washington: “We remind Syrian commanders of one of the lessons from Bosnia: The international community can and does learn what units were responsible for crimes against humanity, and you will be held responsible for your actions.”

The 16-month-old conflict between the political opposition and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, which has left more than 10,000 people dead according to the United Nations, has increasingly taken on the contours of a sectarian-tinged civil war, pitting Mr. Assad’s Alawite minority against the country’s Sunni majority and other groups.

Mr. Assad’s global isolation has particularly deepened since a May 25 massacre of 108 civilians in the western village of Houla and a June 6 massacre of at least 49 in the hamlet of Qubeir near Homs, in which Syrian armed forces and feared plainclothes Shabiha militiamen are suspected. Many victims were women and children, and in the Qubeir case, the military and pro-government civilians temporarily blocked United Nations monitors from visiting to collect evidence.

Mr. Assad’s government has denied responsibility for any atrocities and has blamed his armed opponents, whom he calls foreign-backed terrorists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British group with a network of contacts in Syria, said the increased use of helicopter gunships partly reflected the military’s losses of tanks and other armed attack vehicles in repeated clashes in recent months. The group’s leader, who goes by the pseudonym Rami Abdel-Rahman for reasons of personal safety, said at least 25 Syrian tanks had been destroyed since May 29.

The group reported heavy bombardments by Syrian forces on targets in Homs, Al Heffa and in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. It said at least 50 people were reported killed in fighting nationwide on Monday, a figure that was impossible to corroborate.

Despite the increased bloodshed of recent weeks, United Nations diplomacy on additional steps to solve the Syria crisis remains stalled. Russia and China have said they will block any effort in the Security Council to authorize the use of force. The United States and its Western allies have imposed increasingly tough sanctions on Mr. Assad but have not supplied weapons to his opponents, who remain fractious and disorganized.

original post at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/world/middleeast/fears-for-trapped-civilians-as-syria-fighting-continues.html?hpw