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Syria steps up arrests and

raids in Damascus suburbs

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces raided a restive Damascus suburb on Thursday, going house to house and arresting scores of men in a broad campaign that activists and U.S. officials say represents a new chapter in the crackdown on the country’s uprising against four decades of authoritarian rule.

Backed by tanks, the forces swept through hundreds of houses in Saqba, an impoverished town on the capital’s outskirts that was the scene of a sprawling demonstration last week against the government of President Bashar Assad, who inherited power from his father, Hafez, in 2000. Human rights groups put the number of arrests there at 286 and said security forces were broadly focusing on men between the ages of 18–50.

Activists described the arrests as part of a campaign of intimidation that represents the government’s latest attempt to stanch seven weeks of unrest. The campaign of arrests appears to have escalated in the past two weeks, and U.S. officials suggested it might backfire as the protests build on momentum gathered over successive Fridays.

—Anthony Shadid, The New York Times

Bill Clinton urges New York to legalize same-sex marriage

ALBANY, N.Y. — Bill Clinton, who as president signed legislation prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages but has in recent years become a supporter of them, called Thursday for New York state lawmakers to pass a measure allowing gay couples to wed.

“For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free,” Clinton, a resident of Westchester County, said. “In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.”

Clinton’s statement was released by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, as part of a campaign to highlight support for same-sex marriage by well-known New Yorkers. The campaign has released video endorsements of the legislation by the actress Julianne Moore, the former Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and the musician Russell Simmons, among others.

—Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times

Earnings and subscribers rise for DirecTV and Cablevision

Two major television distributors, DirecTV and Cablevision, reported gains in profit and in overall subscribers Thursday, giving investors more confidence in the continued health of the cable and satellite subscription business.

DirecTV, the largest satellite TV distributor in the United States, reported net income of $674 million, or 85 cents a share, in the quarter that ended in March, up from $558 million in the same quarter last year. Cablevision, which has about 3.5 million cable subscribers, reported net income of $104 million, or 36 cents per share, up from $74 million.

Earnings for the major distributors this year suggest that the business is stable despite a slight dip in nationwide cable and satellite subscriptions last year. Michael McCormack, a telecom analyst for Nomura Securities, called the business “healthier than expected” for the quarter.

“We believe investors may now begin to turn more positive on the strength of the pay TV business model,” McCormack wrote in an analyst report Thursday, contrasting that forecast with the concerns last year that some customers were cutting the cable cord, or at least considering doing so.

—Brian Stelter, The New York Times