The Global Note: Syria’s “Civil War”?…London Olympic Fears…Saudi Woman Driver…Rushdie V. Facebook

By Tom Nagorski

Nov 15, 2011 12:17pm

SYRIA: BLOODY DAYS – AND NOW SOLDIERS BEING KILLED, TOO

-CIVIL WAR?…Monday was one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began with around 90 people killed, according to two human rights groups. Many of the dead were soldiers reportedly killed  by defectors near Daraa. This marks a key shift in the violence: the fact (if confirmed) that so many soldiers were killed. As the AP writes, “The brazen attack by the army defectors suggested a new confidence among troops who have sided with the protesters and highlighted the potential for an armed confrontation to escalate. The opposition-led Local Coordination Committees report 52 protesters dead, the Syrian Observatory says 27 civilians were shot dead by security forces while 34 soldiers and 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes.  The opposition Syrian National Council is meeting with the Arab League today, the day before the league is due to suspend Syria.  League chief Nabil al-Araby says the League is preparing to send some 500 observers in to assess the situation, but not before “a clear memorandum of understanding is signed with the Syrian government spelling out the duties and rights of all the parties…”

-ON-AIR FIGHT OVER SYRIA…Two Lebanese politicians on a talk show panel had to be separated after they almost came to blows over Syria. The fun starts about 40 seconds in.

-JORDANIAN EMBASSY IN DAMASCUS ATTACKED AFTER KING’S COMMENTS…One day after Jordanian King Abdullah II told the BBC Syrian President Assad should step down, the Jordanian embassy in Damascus was attacked. About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the embassy, with three protesters scaling the embassy fence to take down the Jordanian flag. Multiple embassies in Damascus were attacked after the Arab League voted Saturday to suspend Syria’s membership. The Jordanian monarch’s remarks, made in an interview with the BBC, came with Mr. Assad still smarting from the Arab League‘s unexpectedly strong rebuke over the weekend with its decision to suspend Syria’s membership. “I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” King Abdullah told the BBC. “If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”

 LONDON OLYMPIC TERROR FEAR – GROUND TO AIR MISSILES?

Rich ESPOSITO tells us top British security officials are in Washington today – to talk security for the London 2012 games. This comes a day after a top British official said security forces could deploy ground-to-air missiles to protect the London Games.  Philip Hammond revealed the plans to Parliament when his predecessor Liam Fox asked him to confirm the level of “defense and deterrents” at the Games.  Mr Hammond said: “I can assure him that all necessary measures to ensure the security and safety of the London Olympic Games will be taken including – if the advice of the military is that it is required – appropriate ground-to-air defences.”  The remarks follow reports that the United States is planning to send a 1,000-strong force of its own, including 500 FBI agents.  It is thought Mr Fox would have been aware of the plans, and “planted” the question to allow Mr Hammond to explain the extent of British security in London.  In response to criticisms that cuts in funding will leave the Games vulnerable to terrorist attacks, a Home Office spokesman said: “Security planning is on track and funding has been protected.   ”The government is committed to delivering a safe and secure Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy.  “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) undertake detailed inspections of security preparations and have full confidence in our plans. The UK has a strong and close working relationship with the US, who have expressed similar confidence.”  Last week it was reported that elite SAS troops will have a base at the Games, and will use East London’s network of waterways to navigate the Olympic Park. 

THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM – PRESIDENT OBAMA TO AUSTRALIA TODAY

Let’s hope the third time is the charm for President Obama who has cancelled two previous trips to Australia – once for the health care debate and once for the BP oil spill. He’s wheels up for Canberra from Honolulu at 1:30p ET. After arriving in Australia Wednesday afternoon, Obama will meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and will address the Australian Parliament before traveling to Darwin where U.S. and Australian forces were killed in World War II.

EURO-MESS

-”SUPER MARIO” GETS TO WORK…Italy’s newly-appointed prime minister is preparing to meet representatives of the two largest political parties as he seeks to support for a new government. Mario Monti, a former EU commissioner, has said he will “act with urgency”.But the PDL party of outgoing PM Silvio Berlusconi and the centre-left Democratic Party are seeking concessions in return for support. Italy is having to offer high rates of interest to lenders wary that the government may not repay its debts. Mr Monti was appointed on Sunday after emergency austerity measures were passed by parliament, triggering the resignation of Mr Berlusconi.

-EUROPEAN POWERS STILL STRONG…Despite Europe’s headline-grabbing fiscal woes, the Financial Times reports Europe’s two largest economies – Germany and France – rebounded in the third quarter of this year. GDP data out today shows German GDP increased by 0.5 percent compared with the previous quarter, while France reported a 0.4 percent increase in the third quarter. This continuing expansion helps offset some of the weakness we’ve seen recently in Greece and Italy where freshly-minted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti meets today with the country’s two largest parties to cement their support for a confidence vote expected later this week.

AFGHAN SUPPORT FOR TALIBAN DROPPING

A poll out today from the Asia Foundation shows only 29 percent of Afghan adults sympathize with the aims of the Taliban, compared with 40 percent last year and 56 percent in 2009. Beyond that, while the survey showed some confidence in Afghanistan’s economic development, it also showed dissatisfaction with the state’s ability to deliver both security and clean government. Important to note – as Nick SCHIFRIN does — that the interviews were conducted before the rash of violence that hit Kabul in September.

ISRAEL V. IRAN

From Alex MARQUARDT in Jerusalem: Fueling rumors that Israel may have been behind that weekend Iranian missile base blast, the Guardian reports that a former director of an Iranian state-run organization said: “I believe that Saturday’s explosion was part of the covert war against Iran, led by Israel.” The former official compared Saturday’s incident to a similar blast in October 2010 at an IRGC missile base near the city of Khorramabad. “I have information that both these incidents were the work of sabotage by agents of Israel, aimed at halting Iran’s missile programe…”

SAUDI WOMAN DRIVER – TEN LASHES?

MARQUARDT again: Shaima Jastaniya, the woman sentenced to ten lashes for driving and then pardoned by the king, may still get the punishment, the Times reports.  A new report circulating among senior politicians has warned that the country would become a den of vice if the ban were lifted…”Shaima is frightened and very confused,” said a friend and fellow activist in Jedda. “She thought that this was finished, but apparently not. It was bad enough that she was sentenced, but if she is pardoned and still gets punished it would be ridiculous.”

JAPANESE FARMS: UNSAFE?

From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: A new study finds that some farms in northeast Japan are too radioactive to farm. A team of international researchers said food production would likely be “severely impaired” by the elevated levels of cesium found in soil samples across eastern Fukushima in the wake of meltdowns at the tsunami-hit plant. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, suggests farming in neighboring areas may also suffer because of radiation, although levels discovered there were within legal limits.

NORTH KOREA’S SOCCER TEAM UPSETS JAPAN

FUJITA again: North Korea’s soccer team upset Japan today in a historic (though meaningless, vis-à-vis the tournament) World Cup qualifier. When North Korea scored the first and only goal of the game early in the second half, fans broke out into a frenzy, chanting, singing and hoisting red and silver megaphones. Japan had already qualified for the cup and North Korea was already eliminated. Still, pride sent them into that frenzy…

MONKS STAGE RARE MYANMAR PROTEST

Five Buddhist monks staged a rare protest inside a Myanmar temple today, calling on the military-regime government to immediately release all political prisoners. The monks locked themselves inside a museum at Maha Myatmuni pagoda in central Mandalay city for several hours, hanging banners with slogans in both Burmese and English on the wall of the pagoda that read “Free all political prisoners” and “We want freedom.” Protests are rare in Myanmar, where dissent has been suppressed by a military junta that was in power from 1962 until earlier this year.

CIA GEAR: NOT MADE IN AMERICA

So — we know that most clothing worn in this country is not made in this country — we did not know that there was a manufacturing plant in Pakistan that produces CIA-branded clothes. Take a look.

SALMAN RUSHDIE V. FACEBOOK

He is a world renowned novelist whose books have sold in the millions and gathered dozens of awards – along with an infamous death threat. But Salman Rushdie has discovered that even his high profile is not enough to satisfy Facebook’s real name police. Rushdie became embroiled in a battle with the social networking website after his account was deactivated for breaching its strict real name policy. Facebook claimed that Rushdie, who refers to himself by his middle name, Salman, was an imposter. The author had to send a photograph of his passport to the security team to prove his identity, but when his account was reinstated he found his name had been changed to Ahmed – the first name on his passport. The novelist, whose books include Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, took to Twitter to vent his frustration, appealing directly to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to reinstate his preferred name.

RARE YELLOW DIAMOND EXPECTED TO FETCH $15 MILLION TODAY

Sotheby’s is auctioning a rare yellow pear-shaped diamond in Geneva today. The 110-carat Sun-Drop Diamond is expected to fetch between $11 million and $15 million.

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