INDIA GRID COLLAPSE: 600 MILLION PEOPLE WITHOUT POWER IN INDIA
The numbers are hard to fathom. A staggering 600 million people are without power in India after the country’s northern, eastern and northeastern power grids collapsed in one of the world’s biggest-ever blackouts. The BBC reports a total blackout in the capital of New Delhi where all trains have been halted and passengers are being evacuated. Yesterday, only the northern grid failed and that alone took out power for 370 million people – more than the combined populations of the U.S. and Canada. Hundreds of trains stalled across the country and traffic lights went out. Beyond the traffic jams in New Delhi there were horrible other consequences. Electric crematoria stopped operating, some with bodies half burnt, power officials said. Emergency workers rushed generators to coal mines to rescue miners trapped underground. The massive failure — a day after a similar, but smaller power failure — has raised serious concerns about India’s outdated infrastructure and the government’s inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower. Officials are saying power will be restored by nightfall – but Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde blamed the new crisis on states taking more than their allotted share of electricity. “Everyone overdraws from the grid. Just this morning I held a meeting with power officials from the states and I gave directions that states that overdraw should be punished. We have given instructions that their power supply could be cut,” he told reporters.
WITH THE REBELS: Alex MARQUARDT and Bartley PRICE reporting with the rebel fighters in Northern Syrian – where the Free Syrian Army continues to control a series of towns and villages – and work to supply and support the fighters aiming at the ultimate prize: the country’s commercial hub and major city, Aleppo. Alex’s dispatches here…and here.
BATTLES IN ALEPPO: Fighting has once again broken out this morning inside Aleppo, the fourth day of the Syrian army offensive and the 11th day of fighting there. Rebels who spoke to Reuters have vowed to turn Aleppo into the “regime’s grave,” with some claiming they now control 60 percent of the city, though there is no way to confirm that. In case you missed it, here is the BBC’S Ian Pannell’s dramatic dispatch from the city, where he and his cameraman flee from sniper fire. The piece also features desperate residents who haven’t fled standing in long lines for what little food remains in the city.
DOPING ALLEGATIONS & CONTROVERSY: So – which side are you on? Cheer a 16-year-old for what seems an unbelievable performance? Or question that performance – because how could a 16-year-old girl swim faster (for a portion of a race at least) than Ryan Lochte? Well, now the BBC reports drug tests of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen have come back clean after a U.S. coach described her gold-medal-winning performance in the 400-meter individual medley as “disturbing.” She also denied the allegations, telling reporters, “My results came from hard work and training and I would never use any banned drugs. The Chinese people have clean hands.” Ye swam the race seconds faster than she ever had before and on the last 50 meters, faster than American Ryan Lochte who won the men’s event. The back and forth have Chinese fans saying Ye is being questioned only because she is Chinese…
AMERICANS TO WATCH: Among The Americans to watch today are gymnast Jordyn Wieber, swimmer Missy Franklin and (no surprise) swimmer Michael Phelps. Weiber will try to shake off her disappointment over failing to qualify for the individual all-around to try to lead the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to its first team gold medal since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Franklin who won her first gold medal yesterday will compete again today in the 200-meter freestyle. Phelps will attempt to break the all-time Olympic medal record today. He has 17 medals, the record is 18 and he’s got two races today that could put him over the top.
ALSO TODAY: The U.S. men’s basketball team plays its second game in what’s expected to be a rout of Tunisia. American tennis player Andy Roddick takes on five-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic, while Venus Williams continues her quest for a fourth gold medal. Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Zara Phillips will compete today in the third and final leg of the equestrian eventing competition. Great Britain is second going in today’s show jumping event.
ARREST AFTER ATHLETE THREATENED ON TWITTER: British police have arrested a teenager they believe posted malicious Twitter messages directed at British Olympic diver Tom Daley. Daley’s father died of brain cancer last year and he had said that he hoped to win a medal for his dad. He came in fourth, missing a medal, prompting a Twitter message that read “You let your dad down I hope you know that.”
TUBE DELAYS: After a first day of relatively smooth commuting for Londoners, today has been a bit more difficult after a train operator smelled smoke on a Central Line train headed to Olympic Park. Firefighters found no sign of a fire, but trains were suspended right in the middle of the morning rush. They have resumed moving, with delays, at this hour.
ROMNEY WRAPS FOREIGN TOUR
As David MUIR reports, Mitt Romney concludes his foreign tour in Warsaw, Poland today. He return to his focus on the economy during a speech at the University of Warsaw shortly. Romney will likely laud Poland’s economic success. As the Wall Street Journal writes, Romney is fond of the country’s budget “narrative” – namely, that officials cut government spending amid rising deficits, contributing to a more than four percent growth rate last year. Earlier, Romney laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and will later visit the Monument of the Ghetto Heroes and the Warsaw Uprising. Romney’s traveling press spokesman Rick Gorka and reporters from CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post were caught in a verbal altercation this morning. CNN sparked it by asking if Romney was concerned about the mishaps on his trip while he visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Gorka was heard saying “Kiss my ass” and “Shove it” – urging reporters to show some respect on what he called a “holy site” for the Polish people.
SAUDI OIL, OUR GAS PRICES:
The Wall Street Journal reports Saudi Arabia is on track for record-high oil product this year. Output averaged as high as 10 million barrels a day this month. High Saudi oil output helps keep oil prices down – good news for Americans filling up at the pump this summer.
AHMADINEJAD SLAMS SANCTIONS, AMID DISCONTENT IN IRAN
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to state TV today to call international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program “ridiculous,” saying only “politically retarded” governments would use such measures. His remarks come amid what the Los Angeles Times is calling a “Ramadan of Discontent.” Fast-rising prices, fueled in part by international sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, have pushed up the cost of foods, especially chicken, typically used to break the Ramadan fast by at least 20 percent in just a few days. Protests have broken out over the prices, an exceedingly rare event in Iran.
SPIKE IN AFGHAN ASSASSINATIONS
The Los Angeles Times notes a spike in assassination attempts on Afghan officials this month. Authorities are uncertain whether the attacks represent a coordinated campaign, but either way, they represent an ominous trend as NATO forces hand over their responsibilities to Afghan forces.
STRONG VIDEO AS U.N. VISITS NORTH KOREAN FLOOD ZONE
Strong video of flooding in the North Korean city of Anju has emerged, just as U.N. officials visited the country’s flood zone today. As many as 1,000 houses and buildings and more than 5,600 acres of farmland in Anju alone are thought to have been destroyed by the flooding.
SECRETARY CLINTON TO AFRICA
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wheels up at 9a ET today for Senegal, where she will meet with President Sall. Later, she travels to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa where she will meet with Nelson Mandela.
PAKISTANI ACID ATTACK VICTIM TO BECOME AMERICAN CITIZEN
The 16-year-old Pakistani girl who had acid thrown on her face because she is a Christian is set to become a U.S. citizen today in Houston. Julie Aftab has undergone 31 surgeries since the attack.
REMAINS OF WWII AIRMEN FOUND IN CANADA
The AP reports the remains of World War II airmen appear to have been found in Canada’s St. Lawrence River. A federal agency that works to recover members of the military who are missing in action found a trove of items that amounts to a time capsule of war years – sunglasses, navigation and radio equipment and kitchen items.
IT’S NOT JUST THE TOWER OF PISA THAT’S LEANING
Thanks to Rashid HADDOU for flagging this: Reuters reports the Coliseum in Rome is slanting about 40 centimeters lower on the south side than on the north. Authorities first noticed the incline about a year ago and are investigating whether it needs urgent repairs.
MAEVE VINCHY DIES
The Irish author Maeve Vinchy has died. She sold more than 40 million books worldwide….translated into 42 languages. Some of her works were adapted into films including the 1995 movie “Circle of Friends (starring Minnie Driver). Maeve Binchy was 72 years old. http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0730/writer-maeve-binchy-dies-aged-72.html