SYRIA: THE HORRORS MULTIPLY
-MARIE COLVIN…Early this morning she was reporting – and speaking to the world – from the beseiged city of Homs. Over the phone she spoke to the BBC of the horror of “unrelenting” shelling – and of a child struck by shellfire. “I watched a little baby die today.” That appears to have been Marie Colvin’s final dispatch. The “media center” where she and a few others were staying – already damaged – was struck by mortar fire. Colvin was killed – as was Remi Ochlik, a freelance photographer who won a 2012 World Press Photo prize for a photo from the Libyan revolution. As Alex MARQUARDT reports, activists say at least two other Western journalists were injured in barrages that claimed at least 19 lives overall. The Syrian military has redoubled its attacks on Homs in the past few days, aiming to retake neighborhoods that have come under control of the opposition and armed rebels – many of them military defectors. Colvin, a Long Island native who wrote for the British Sunday Times, was considered one of the world’s best foreign correspondents – and had covered global conflicts for decades. In a statement, the editor of the Sunday Times called Colvin an “extraordinary figure…She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice.”. The tributes are pouring in – including this from Christiane AMANPOUR, who knew Colvin well – they were together for that memorable interview with Moammar Gadhafi a year ago: “A veteran, a lioness who came back from being wounded in Sri Lanka which left her blind and wearing a patch on one eye…She seemed indestructible. And she was brave and committed beyond words.”
-A GRANDMOTHER’S GRIEF…That child Colvin spoke of in Homs is in a pair of videos flagged by Molly HUNTER. They show a Syrian grandmother crying over a critically wounded baby boy, her grandson. There are holes in the boy’s body but he’s still alive, barely breathing. The child later died.
-YOUTUBE ACTIVIST KILLED…The activist known as “Syria Pioneer” has been killed. His YouTube channel was one of the main channels providing reliable content out of Homs (World News used some of his video in its coverage).
-RED CROSS RENEWS CALL FOR CEASEFIRE…The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that it was holding a meeting with Syria’s main opposition group in Geneva, a day after the humanitarian agency called for temporary pauses in the fighting so that it can bring in emergency aid and evacuate the wounded and sick from affected areas. Russia, which has opposed harsher international measures to end Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protests, voiced support Wednesday for a daily two-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Syria.
AFGHANISTAN: PROTESTS INTENSIFY
From Nick SCHIFRIN and Aleem AGHA: At least seven people have been killed and 20 injured in Afghanistan as protests spread over the burning of copies of the Koran at Bagram airbase. In Kabul, the U.S. Embassy, Camp Phoenix, Camp Eggers and all other U.S. installations were ordered to lockdown as protests intensified. U.S. officials apologized in many ways Tuesday after Korans were “inadvertently” put in an incinerator at Bagram airbase.
ARGENTINE TRAIN CRASH
Joe GOLDMAN reporting on a terrible scene in Buenos Aires today - where at least 49 are dead in a train crash.
IRAN: IAEA TALKS FAIL – NOW WHAT?
The U.N. nuclear agency says its experts have again failed to dent Iran’s refusal to cooperate in probing allegations that Tehran covertly worked on an atomic arms program. An International Atomic Energy Agency statement says Iran refused an IAEA request for access to a site where the agency suspects explosives testing related to a nuclear weapon took place. Meanwhile, Iran’s top leader insists the Islamic Republic is not seeking nuclear weapons, saying they are “useless, harmful and dangerous.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke Wednesday after meetings with Iranian nuclear scientists and officials.
All those ominous-sounding bulletins from Tehran don’t help calm the oil traders. Global oil prices rose again this morning on futures markets. Crude hovered above $106 a barrel, a $10 jump from earlier this month. The U.S. Energy Department reports the average price of regular gasoline is $3.59 – up 7 cents in the past week.
GREECE’S BAILOUT: LARGE PROTESTS EXPECTED
Greece is braced for big protests against further budget cuts, following a $170 billion bailout deal aimed at avoiding bankruptcy. There are fears of more violence during the rallies called by trade unions as the public mood hardens, a BBC correspondent in Athens says.
COSTA CONCORDIA: DIVERS FIND MORE BODIES
The AP reports: Italian authorities say divers searching the capsized Costa Concordia have found what appears to be four more bodies on the cruise ship. The civil protection agency, which is monitoring the operation, said the bodies were found Wednesday but it will take some time before they are recovered. The Concordia struck a reef near the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13 and capsized. Seventeen bodies from the ship have been found and 15 others listed as still missing.
FIGHTING AL SHABAB: A BOOST?
As Bazi KANANI reports, he U.N. Security Council is expected to vote tonight to nearly double the number of soldiers it currently has fighting Al Shabab in Somalia. The resolution will also bring Kenyan troops in Somalia into the U.N. fold, for a total of 17,731 African Union soldiers in the country. There are a couple of other interesting reports today related to the battle against the Al Qaeda affiliate. The BBC is hearing that two vessels carrying weapons for the militants were intercepted at the important port of Kismayo. It is not yet known who supplied the weapons. Also, a Ugandan newspaper reports that over the weekend an Al Shabab cleric and leader told congregants at a mosque south of Mogadishu that even girls should join the Jihad as warriors. If true, it is another indication of how desperate the terror group is getting as they continue to lose ground.
CHINA’S WEALTHY HEADING WEST
Surveys and visa numbers show that members of China’s wealthy elite, who benefited most from the Communist Party’s brand of capitalism, are heading for the exits in search of things money can’t buy in China: Cleaner air, safer food, better education for their children. Some also express concern about government corruption and the safety of their assets. The movement represents the fraying of an unwritten social contract between the Communist Party and China’s citizens, The Wall Street Journal reports.
INDIA: FIRST STARBUCKS, NOW DUNKIN’ DONUTS
Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are bringing their coffee war to India, attempting to tap Indians’ growing appetite for Western fast food. Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd. said Tuesday it expects to open the first Dunkin’ Donuts in India by June, under a franchise agreement with Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc.
SPANISH TREASURE TO LEAVE U.S. BASE
Leaving nothing to chance, the U.S. military is making sure the transfer of 17 tons of shipwreck treasure to Spain later this week is handled safely. Officials at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base said last night that they are cooperating with the Spanish government on the transfer of the of 594,000 coins and other artifacts that were wrested away from deep-sea explorers Odyssey Marine Exploration after a nearly five-year legal struggle. In 2007, it was estimated to be worth around $500 million to collectors, making it the richest shipwreck in history.
BAD DATA GUIDED U.S. FUKUSHIMA CALL
Akiko FUJITA reports from Tokyo: New transcripts released by the NRC give the clearest picture yet of tensions between Japan and the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and why the U.S. ultimately opted for a larger evacuation zone than the Japanese. The U.S. complained of a lack of information from the Japanese side, and in some cases were forced to turn to their own sources to assess radiation risks.
HONDURAS PRISON FIRE STARTED BY CIGARETTE?
That prison fire in Honduras that killed 360 inmates may have been started by a discarded cigarette, officials say. Chief prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi said that an initial investigation showed that the cause of the fire was accidental, BBC reports.
RACE TO SAVE HUNDREDS OF RARE PELICANS TRAPPED IN FROZEN SEA
Authorities in the southern Russian province of Dagestan are trying to save hundreds of rare Dalmatian pelicans trapped by unusually cold weather. The birds migrated to the area near the city of Makhachkala last week. About 20 birds have already died of hunger after the Caspian Sea froze over, local government spokesman Arslan Dydymov told the Associated Press.
NEW ZEALAND MARKS QUAKE ANNIVERSARY
It has been a difficult day, filled with emotion, as New Zealand marked the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch last February. Ceremonies, memorials and community events took place throughout the country, with thousands gathering.
SOUTH KOREAN MILITARY DRILL
Molly HUNTER asks – “Thought you were intense? Watch this - and think again…