-ABC NEWS INSIDE SYRIA…Alex MARQUARDT and Bartley PRICE are in Northern Syria – reporting on the rebellion.
-BATTLE FOR ALEPPO…The battle – and the bluster – are underway in the key city of Aleppo. State TV says Syria’s army has “purged” Aleppo’s Salaheddine district of armed gangs that were “terrorizing” residents and is pursuing others in several neighborhoods as it tries to regain control of the city, state television said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group, reported heavy shelling in the key neighborhood of Salaheddine today, suggesting the district or parts of it are still under rebel control. An officer interviewed by the state-run TV channel said “mercenaries” from other countries, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, were helping the rebels in Aleppo. Elsewhere, Agence France-Presse reports the rebels have seized a checkpoint northwest of the city that allows them free movement between Aleppo and Turkey. And Reuters reports “the rebel banner of independence waves over the scorched streets and gutted cars that litter the urban battlegrounds of Aleppo…careening through streets ripped up by army tanks on their motorbikes and flatbed trucks, young rebels with camouflage pants and Kalashnikovs patrol their newly acquired territory, which stretches from the outskirts of Aleppo in the northeast and sweeps around the city down to the southwestern corner. ‘We always knew the regime’s grave would be Aleppo. Damascus is the capital, but here we have a fourth of the country’s population and the entire force of its economy. Bashar’s forces will be buried here,’ said Mohammed, a young fighter, fingering the bullets in his tattered brown ammunition vest. The U.N. says more than 200,000 residents have fled Aleppo in the last two days as government forces continue to pound rebel positions there. The BBC’S Ian Pannell is among a small group of foreign journalists who have made their way into the city and reports on the misery for those residents who haven’t fled – as they attempt to find food for their families.
-WHERE ARE THE KEYS?…The latest Olympic flap comes courtesy of a lost set of $63,000 keys. The Evening Standard reports police responsible for security at Wembley Stadium lost a set of laser keys to the stadium after carrying out a security sweep last week. The locks on the stadium have been changed and officials say security has not been compromised, but those keys are still missing.
-THAT DREADED COMMUTE…Today’s the first working day of the London Olympics and the first real test for the city’s beleaguered tube and roadway system. So far, the commute has gone pretty smoothly, with the worst of the delays on the city’s roadways. The group that runs the city’s public transport network has warned commuters to avoid multiple key subway lines and urged them to leave extra time for their journeys.
-TODAY’S EVENTS…The big events today – swimming: men’s 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke and women’s 100m backstroke (Missy Franklin goes for gold), men’s synchronized diving (David Boudia and Nick McCrory are the US hopefuls) and men’s gymnastics (John Orozco an interesting character here – not only a podium hopeful, but also someone whose road to success involved unusual family support; a native of the Bronx, Orozco needed to make a move to an elite gym in a ritzy northern suburb of New York City in order to develop his natural talent. Unable to afford the costs, six of his family members became employees of the facility to help pay his enrollment). Other stuff today: handball, hockey, equestrian, judo, weightlifting and shooting. And in fencing – one American on the team has to contend with Ramadan. As an American Muslim, Sherif Farrag is fasting during daylight hours. Before the Games, Farrag was apparently expressing his worries at the prospect of having to handle the strain of competition without food.
-WIEBER’S FALL…From the USA Today: For years, U.S. gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman have been each other’s best friend and biggest competitor. Along with teammate McKayla Maroney, they have grown up together on the mat…But they have also crushed one another’s dreams. On Sunday, one friend’s greatest joy was another friend’s greatest disappointment. In team and event qualifying, Raisman knocked Wieber out of the all-around final, ending the reigning world champion’s chance of competing for gold Thursday. Both left the arena in tears.”It was hard because of course I wanted that spot, but I also wanted Ally to do her best also for the team and for herself,” Wieber told NBC after Raisman’s results came in. “It’s always been a dream of mine to compete in the all-around at the Olympics and shoot for that gold medal,” said the reigning world champion. “I’m really proud of Ally and Gabby (Douglas) both and I’m happy that they both made it to the all-around and I’m glad that I’ll be able to help the team out in team finals.”
-WORST TEAM AT THE OLYMPICS?…The Los Angeles Times has a great read on what they’ve dubbed “the worst team at the Olympics” – the British handball team which has a lifetime record of 9-62. They’re only in the Games because the host country can enter every sport without qualifying. “Like high schoolers thrust into the NBA playoffs.”
-OLYMPIC WARFARE, SOCIAL MEDIA-STYLE…The New York Times has a hilarious Olympics footnote. Lots of athletes are taking stealth shots of their teammates and sharing them on Instagram. LeBron James in a sleep mask, anyone?
EBOLA OUTBREAK IN UGANDA
From Bazi KANANI in Nairobi: After an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus was confirmed over the weekend in a rural western district of Uganda, more details are emerging about the response by health officials from Uganda, the WHO and the CDC. Uganda’s health minister says it took a few weeks to detect the outbreak because patients weren’t showing the extreme symptoms usually associated with the disease such as internal bleeding. The virus that has killed 14 people so far in the Kibaale district has been identified as the more mild Ebola-Sudan strain which is encouraging to health officials who believe others who become infected may be saved with early medical intervention. Two people who were infected remain in an isolation ward that has been set up at a local hospital. Scientists believe humans contract the virus from infected animals, usually other primates. It’s highly contagious and can kill up to 90 percent of those infected within days. The CDC has a laboratory in Uganda where scientists study Ebola and other deadly viruses in Africa.
AFGHAN WAR: U.S. BUILDING PLANS WAY BEHIND
A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan, originally pitched as a vital tool in the military campaign against the Taliban, is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have left, according to a government inspection report to be released Monday. The Washington Post says the report, by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, also concludes that the Afghan government will not have the money or skill to maintain many of the projects, creating an “expectations gap” among the population that could harm overall stabilization efforts. “Implementing projects that the Afghan government is unable to sustain may be counterproductive” to the U.S. counterinsurgency mission, the inspector general wrote. The study calls into question a fundamental premise of the U.S. strategy to counter the Taliban insurgency — that expensive new roads and power plants can be funded and constructed quickly enough to help turn the tide of war — and it poses a sobering, counterintuitive question for policymakers in Washington: whether the massive influx of American spending in Afghanistan is actually making problems worse.
THE DRONE WAR, FROM UPSTATE NEW YORK
The New York Times looks at the truly distant, remote-control nature of the U.S. “drone war.” From his computer console here in the Syracuse suburbs, Col. D. Scott Brenton remotely flies a Reaper drone that beams back hundreds of hours of live video of insurgents, his intended targets, going about their daily lives 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan. Sometimes he and his team watch the same family compound for weeks. “I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Colonel Brenton said. When the call comes for him to fire a missile and kill a militant — and only, Colonel Brenton said, when the women and children are not around — the hair on the back of his neck stands up, just as it did when he used to line up targets in his F-16 fighter jet.
BAD DAY IN INDIA – 300 MILLION WITHOUT POWER!
Rough day in India. A major power outage in the country’s north plunged some 300 million people into darkness, including the country’s capital New Delhi. Surprisingly, the Times of India reports 60 percent of the grid has already started functioning again. Officials were eager to point out that is much quicker than it takes to get the power back on here in the States after a storm. In southern India, at least 42 people were burned to death where an electrical fire surged through the train car they were riding on.
ANOTHER CRISIS IN NORTH KOREA
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reports flooding there has killed at least 88 people and left 63,000 homeless. It’s bad news for a country that has struggled with chronic food shortages since the mid-1990s. The U.S. just suspended 240,000 tons of food aid in April after North Korea tested a rocket.
EGYPT: REOPENING TOMBS TO DRAW TOURISTS BACK
Amid the ongoing turmoil following Egypt’s revolution, the Washington Post reports Egypt is planning to reopen tombs, many for the first time in decades, to draw tourists back to the land of the pyramids. The tomb of Queen Meresankh III will be opened for the first time in nearly 25 years, as will five other tombs of high priests.
MEXICAN NEWSPAPER ATTACKED FOR 3rd TIME IN MONTH
Mexican newspaper, El Norte, has been attacked for the third time this month. Several masked, armed men broke into the paper’s bureau near Monterrey, poured out gasoline and ignited it. Two other bureaus were attacked with grenades on July 10. It’s part of a campaign of violence against journalists by the country’s drug cartels.
IN REVERSAL, IRAN NOW URGING PARENTS TO HAVE MORE KIDS
In a major reversal of once far-reaching family planning policies in Iran, the AP reports Iranian authorities are now slashing its birth-control programs in an attempt to turn around an aging demographic that has left many Western countries struggling to keep up with medical costs. Some analysts say the change in policy may be an attempt to send a message to the world that Iran is not suffering from sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.
D-DAY: RARE COLOR PHOTOS
Life Magazine has published rare color photos taken before and after the allied invasion of France on D-Day. The photos are far from the gruesome violence typically associated with D-Day Instead, they show American troops training in small English towns in the run-up to the invasion, the lush French countryside and the reception the GIs enjoyed en route to Paris.