The Global Note: Where Is Assad?…Who Was The Bulgaria Bomber?…Olympic Inequality?…A Lenin Time Capsule

By Tom Nagorski

Jul 19, 2012 10:50am

SYRIA – THE DAY AFTER

-WHERE’S ASSAD?…The regime is responding with heavy force – and trying to convey a “We’re still in charge” message – but the man at the top hasn’t been seen since the attack that took three (or four) of his top lieutenants. Reuters – citing opposition sources – reports President Assad is in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, directing his forces’ response to yesterday’s attacks. Not surprisingly, every passing hour without word from Assad is fuel for the rumor mill – which is rife with speculation that the Syrian leader must have been wounded, and that his wife may have left Syria. Again – NO confirmation of any of this…

-DAMASCUS BATTLES…As Alex MARQUARDT reports, the post-attack clashes continue, in and around Damascus. Video streamed on Bambuser showed a pall of black smoke hanging over the capital. Opposition fighters say government forces are shelling neighborhoods around the city.

-DETAILS ON THE ATTACK…Details of how exactly how the attack was carried out remain murky, more than twenty-four hours later. Some reports suggest it may have been the work of a suicide bomber; another UNCONFIRMED report in The Telegraph suggests bombs were hidden in a flower arrangement and a chocolate box and were remotely detonated.

-U.N. TO VOTE…As events race along, the U.N. Security Council meets today to vote on a new Syria resolution. The resolution is said to threaten further non-military sanctions against President Assad’s regime if he doesn’t withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days. Earlier today, the director of the U.N. mission in Syria, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, in Damascus, gave a depressing and obvious assessment: ”We are not,” he said, “on the track for peace.” 

BULGARIA SAYS SUICIDE BOMBER CARRIED FAKE AMERICAN DOCUMENTS

-WHO WAS HE?…Bulgarian officials now say the bus explosion that killed Israeli tourists yesterday was carried out by a suicide bomber – and the killer appears to have been carrying fake American documents. ABC News obtained airport surveillance video and still photographs showing the suspected bomber wearing a baseball hat, blue t-shirt and plaid shorts. Bulgarian officials have said the Michigan driver’s license he was carrying is fake, but the FBI has not yet confirmed that. No word yet on whether his American passport was real or not.

-ISRAEL CONTINUES TO BLAME IRAN…However the crime was committed, Israel has blamed Iran for being behind the attack. As the  New York Times writes, if the Israelis’ accusations are true, it will be the first successful attempt by Iranian operatives to kill Israelis abroad after a string of failed bomb plots targeting Israeli diplomats in Georgia, India and Thailand this year. Iranian state TV has published a commentary on its website, deriding such accusations as “ridiculous” and “sensational.”

DUBAI: U.S. NAVY FIRE WAS “MURDER”

From Lara SETRAKIAN in Dubai: ‪‪Dubai police have taken a direct jab at the U.S. Navy’s account of Monday’s fisherboat incident, treating it as a murder. This is a big development. Dubai authorities say ‪the U.S. vessel gave no warning before firing — and that they are treating the shooting as a case of murder. Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Commander in chief of Dubai Police, said he believes witness accounts that the U.S. gave no warning before opening fire on the boat in the Gulf on Monday. “According to the testimonies of witnesses and those injured, which we believe, the U.S. vessel did not give any warnings for them to turn away…When the men saw the large vessel, they immediately turned to the left and tried to get away from the US ship.”  Pentagon spokesman George Little Wednesday insisted the ship issued several warnings before it fired shots that killed an Indian fisherman, A. Sekar, 29, and injured three others.  Per Luis MARTINEZ, the U.S. continues to say the incident is under joint US-Emirati investigation.

ARRESTED WAR CRIMINAL: I WAS “FOLLOWING ORDERS”

We’ve heard this before: Laszlo Csatary, the most wanted surviving Nazi war crimes suspect, insisted he was “following orders” when organizing the deportation of 16,000 Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz. That’s according to the Hungarian state prosecutor. The Hungarian authorities arrested Laszlo Csatary on Tuesday after coming under international pressure to prosecute the 97-year old man who has been under investigation and surveillance for 10 months. He is being held in custody and has been charged with committing war crimes.

NOKIA COULD HAVE BEEN LIKE APPLE

More than seven years before Apple Inc. rolled out the iPhone, the Nokia team showed a phone with a color touch screen set above a single button. The device was shown locating a restaurant, playing a racing game and ordering lipstick. In the late 1990s, Nokia secretly developed another alluring product: a tablet computer with a wireless connection and touch screen—all features today of the hot-selling Apple iPad. Consumers never saw either device. The gadgets were casualties of a corporate culture that lavished funds on research but squandered opportunities to bring the innovations it produced to market, the Wall Street Journal reports.

MUBARAK TOP AIDE DIES

Former Egyptian Vice President and spy chief Omar Suleiman died in a U.S. hospital early today. Some reports suggest he died in Cleveland. Suleiman was appointed Vice President at the height of Egypt’s uprising and later ran for the presidency, sparking fears of a Mubarak regime comeback. He was disqualified for not having received enough signatures on his candidacy papers.

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP… 

-MEN IN BUSINESS, WOMEN IN COACH…Akiko FUJITA flags this: It was precisely a year ago that the Japanese women’s soccer team won the World Cup, beating the U.S. in the final and giving a boost to the spirits of a nation that had been battered by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. But when they flew to Europe on Sunday along with the men’s team, the women were in coach seats while the men were up in business class. The Japanese Football Association said the teams had left Tokyo together on the same Japan Airlines flight. “I guess it should have been the other way around,” Homare Sawa, the leading player on the women’s team, told Japanese reporters this week. “Even just in terms of age, we are senior.” Similar treatment was given to the Australian women’s basketball team, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday. The men’s team, known as the Boomers, was seated in business class, while the women, the Opals, were in premium economy seats. The Herald reporter Samantha Lane said the women players “have never protested publicly about this longstanding treatment of national teams and players would not comment on the record today, but they do not like it and say such inequality has been a longstanding source of contention.” The Opals have won silver medals at each of the last three Olympics, losing to the Americans in the 2008 final in Beijing. The Boomers have never medaled. A Basketball Australia spokeswoman told Ms. Lane that each team had its own travel budget and decided how to spend it. The Japanese women are ranked No. 3 in the world. The men, ranked 20th, last won an Olympic medal, the bronze, in the 1968 Games. Ms. Sawa, 33, has been in more than 175 international matches for Japan. She was the world player of the year in 2011. London will be her fourth Olympics. She said this week that the team had been bumped up to business class after winning the World Cup in Germany, then added, “I hope we can produce a good result again and be treated the same way.”

-NEED A ROOM? SLEEP IN A CAB…One London cab driver has come up with a solution for those still scrambling for a hotel room in the days leading up to the Olympics – sleep in his cab for a mere $78. Cabbie David Weekes feared that busy traffic would mean fewer fares, so he converted his taxi into a single bed with a Union Jack blanket.

-STRIKE FEARS…Thousands of immigration staff at airports and ports are threatening to walk out next week – which could of course cause chaos before the Games.

-OLYMPICS + RAMADAN…Winning an Olympic medal is hard. But USA Today reports that “Surprisingly, winning one when you’re fasting for Ramadan is not that much harder. At least, not for Suleiman Nyambui of Tanzania, who took silver in the 5000 meters at the 1980 Summer Olympics while fasting for the Islamic holy month. ‘Once you decide to do something, Allah is behind you,’ said Nyambui, who enjoyed a successful track career at the University of Texas El-Paso and is now secretary-general of Tanzania’s athletics association. As in 1980, this summer’s London Olympics coincide with Ramadan, when Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink, and sex for much of the day. Ramadan begins Thursday night (July 19) and the Olympics run from July 27-Aug. 12.

TONS OF SILVER HAULED AFTER DECADES UNDERSEA

The New York Times reports 48 tons of silver bullion that spent more than 70 years at the bottom of the North Atlantic have been hauled to the surface and returned to the British government. The silver was recovered from the wreck of the Garisoppa, which was carrying the silver to England from Indi in 1941 when a Nazi torpedo struck.

CHINA PLEDGES $20 BILLION TO AFRICA

From Bazi KANANI in Nairobi: Chinese President Hu Jintao announced his country will lend $20 billion dollars to African nations over the next three years, double the amount pledged over the previous three. The announcement was made  at the opening of an annual summit in Beijing, where leaders from nearly every African country gather to discuss cooperation with the communist country that has become Africa’s largest trading partner.  Africa is an important source of resources for China’s growing economy, and critics accuse China of overlooking serious human rights violations in order to keep the supply coming.

FERRY DISASTER IN TANZANIA

Rescuers are searching for the more than 100 people still missing after a ferry sank Wednesday afternoon near the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, killing at least 31 people.  The ferry was carrying 290 people when strong winds and big waves led to difficulty, according to the Tanzanian navy. The ferry was making a two-hour journey from the capital city of Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, a route that is popular with locals and tourists.  The BBC has video of the capsized ferry and rescue operations in the Indian Ocean.

WHAT TO DO WITH LENIN?

From Kirit RADIA in Moscow: It’s an old debate that bubbling up again in Russia. Now a group of Russian Orthodox organizations and nationalists have formed a committee to petition that Lenin’s body finally be buried. It’s been embalmed in that Red Square mausoleum for  decades. Meanwhile, a time capsule has been found under a Lenin statue in Kamchatka. It was placed there by a youth group in 1979 with a message for the world in 2024, envisioning a glorious communist future. It reads, in part: “Without memory there is no future. Remember, as we remember, the immortal heroes of the October Revolution and the Civil War…the great workers of communist construction…Like them, we cannot imagine a life without struggle and creative labor in the name of communism…We say to you, who will join us in 45 years, … let your character be courageous. Let your songs be happier. Let your love be hotter. We do not feel sorry for ourselves because we are certain: you will be better than us…Improve the world and yourself in the name of communism, as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin taught us, as the Communist Party teaches us! Lenin is always with us.”

HYENA PACK ATTACKS FAMILY IN KENYA

The Kenya Wildlife Service says it is airlifting a 10-year-old boy today from the rural county of Wajir to Nairobi for better medical treatment after he and his family were attacked last week by a pack of hyenas as they slept. Two children were killed and six other family members were injured.  The KWS says its rangers pursued and killed the aggressive hyenas.

MEDIEVAL BRAS DISCOVERED IN AUSTRIA

Fashion experts have been surprised by the discovery of four bras around 600 years old in an Austrian castle. The underwear style was thought to be a little over 100 years old as women abandoned tight corsets, but the linen versions unearthed by archaeologists date back to the middle ages, the University of Innsbruck said on Wednesday. Hilary Davidson, fashion curator at the Museum of London, said one specimen in particular “looks exactly like a [modern] brassiere”. The garments were unearthed in 2008, but the discovery was only publicised by an article in the August 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine. 

PRINCE CHARLES SCALES A CLIMBING WALL

Wearing a double-breasted suit, no less. Watch here…

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