-BIG PICTURE…It’s a sad day for anyone searching for silver linings or diplomatic hopes in Syria. Whatever one thinks – or thought – of U.N. envoy Kofi Annan and his mediation effort, the fact is that he’s done, and as many have said over the last couple of months, “there is the Annan Plan – and there is no Plan B”. At the U.N. today, meanwhile, the toothlessness of the global measures against President Bashar al-Assad will be on full view; with the U.N. Security Council deadlocked over the Syrian crisis, the General Assembly will denounce Syria for unleashing tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes on the people of Aleppo and Damascus, and demand that the Assad regime keep its chemical and biological weapons warehoused and under strict control. Sounds good – and the resolution is expected to easily pass in the 193-member Assembly – but only after two key provisions were removed: a demand that Assad resign, and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria.
-BATTLE FOR ALEPPO…Some tweets that the rebels may have taken the ancient citadel in Aleppo – no confirmation. Meanwhile, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council that U.N. military observers in Aleppo are seeing “a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start.” The rebels have commandeered tanks, and are bringing them into combat as Syrian warplanes strike back. “Even in Damascus, I was there a few days ago, one could hear explosions regularly, interminably,” Ladsous told reporters after briefing the Council.
-DEADLY DAY…Clark BENTSON, monitoring from Beirut, sees reports of heavy casualties in other parts of Syria. “Gory video from Deraa (where the uprising began)…lots of dead bodies of Free Syrian Army fighters, looks like they were killed in shelling attacks in more than one location. Also a very bloody attack on the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus – reports say more than 20 killed and 40 injured there…and 62 reported dead from shelling in Hama.
-DAY 7…It’s the first day of track and field, featuring the men’s 100-meter dash. Meanwhile the Olympic pool remains a big focus: Michael Phelps follows his record 20th gold medal with his last individual race, the 100-meter butterfly. Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Franklin compete in the 200-meter backstroke final. On the pitch, it’s win or go home for the U.S. women’s soccer team as they face New Zealand in the so-called “knockout stage” of the quarterfinals today. Over at Wimbledon, four-time Olympian Roger Federer faces Juan Martin del Porto of Argentina and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic goes against hometown favorite Andy Murray in the semifinals. More events at abcnews.com.
-THE MEDAL COUNT…An American “gold rush” Thursday helped vault Team USA to the overall medal lead, by 37-34 over China.
-HOW U.S.’S FIRST JUDO GOLD MEDALIST OVERCAME SEX ABUSE…Kayla Harrison says the reason she broke down in tears as the National Anthem played and the stars and stripes rose above the London arena, was that she was reflecting on the hardship she had overcome to win America’s first gold medal in Judo. Harrison says she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her coach, starting at the age of 13. The horror went on for three years in Middletown, OH, until she confided in a friend, who told her mother, and police were called in. Harrison moved to Boston to live and train with two-time Judo bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro, and the 22-year-old is now engaged to the friend who exposed the abuse.
-SAD DAY FOR QATAR’S FIRST FEMALE OLYMPIAN…17-year-old Al Maki, making history for her country, pulled a hamstring right at the start of the 100-meter dash. She was reduced to tears, and she’s out of the running.
-SAUDI WOMAN’S JUDO BATTLE…A teenage Saudi judo fighter is preparing for the battle of her life – and not only on the mat. Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani took on Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica in a preliminary match Friday that was over in about a minute. (Mojica holds a black belt and has honed her skills by training with men, while Shahrkhani is a virtual novice, a blue belt who has only been at the sport for two years). The real drama begins now, in reaction to what she wore in front of male spectators. Shahrkhani, one of the first two women ever to compete at the games for the conservative Gulf kingdom, fought in a modified hijab covering, under a deal worked out between Olympic officials, the international judo federation, and Saudi authorities. The 18-year-old has many supporters, the compromise has not been nearly enough to satisfy hard-liners who say she is dishonoring herself and her family by competing in front of men – and in form fitting clothes. Several have told her not to jeopardize her place in the afterlife for a fleeting bit of fame on earth.
-FUND YOUR OLYMPIC DREAM…BY RUNNING A BROTHEL?…A taekwondo fighter who helped fund his Olympic dream by running a brothel has rejected being labeled a ‘pimp’, pointing out that prostitution is legal in his native New Zealand. Logan Campbell, in London to represent New Zealand next week in the men’s under-68kg division, opened a brothel in Auckland in 2009, when he was struggling to raise finances for his campaign to make it to the 2012 Games. At the time, the New Zealand Olympic Committee warned Campbell his association with the 14-room brothel, which he described as a high-class “gentleman’s club”, could damage his chances of Olympic selection. Campbell, 26, sold the establishment in early 2010 and the proceeds, along with funding from the New Zealand’s elite sporting body SPARC, allowed him to train full time, resulting in his selection for the Games in March this year. He said he was reluctant to talk about his foray into the sex industry but wanted to clear up the misconception that he was a pimp. “I sold the brothel so I don’t really want to talk about it now, OK,” he told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a legal business in New Zealand, it’s completely different from other countries in the world…no one was forced into the industry, and they’re not doing it because they are in poverty because we have a really good welfare system.”
-OLYMPIC GATECRASHER COMES FORWARD…The woman who (in)famously gate crashed Team India’s parade at the Olympic opening ceremony has come forward to apologize. Madhura Nagendra is a student from Bangalore. She called it an “error in judgment” and hopes to one day hopes to participate in the Olympics as an athlete
-ROYAL PRIDE…The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge showed their delight after Sir Chris Hoy, Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny stormed to success in the velodrome yesterday afternoon.
-THAT CHINESE SWIMMER…Ye Shiwen’s parents first interview with Western Media…Meanwhile, Ye Shiwen “doubter”, US Coach John Leonard, has had his personal details leaked to the public on Chinese Twitter by the former head of China’s Google.
SECRETARY CLINTON IN AFRICA: WAR, TERROR, AND THE HUNT FOR A WARLORD
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits South Sudan and Uganda today on her 7-nation tour of Africa. She is the highest-level American official to visit South Sudan, the world’s newest country. In a meeting with President Salva Kiir she stressed the importance of negotiations with the country’s northern neighbor, Sudan; since South Sudan seceded a little more than a year ago, there have been clashes along the disputed border and South Sudan completely shut down oil production over a disagreement over the price to export oil through pipelines in Sudan. Clinton is headed for Uganda, where she is scheduled to meet with President Yoweri Museveni for talks focused on regional security issues. She will visit a Ugandan military base and meet some of the 100 or so U.S. troops who are in central Africa acting as advisors in the hunt for notorious warlord Joseph Kony. She will also talk with President Museveni about Uganda’s role in the African Union military campaign in Somalia where regional troops are fighting to oust hard-line Islamist militant group Al Shabab.
Our Richard BESSER is travelling with the CDC’s team in Uganda as it tries to fight the outbreak of Ebola there. As Bazi KANANI reports, even though the World Health Organization has not issued any travel restrictions in Uganda because of the recent Ebola outbreak – and even though Hillary Clinton and her team are visiting the country – many tourists aren’t willing to take any chances. The Uganda Tourism Association says its members are seeing massive cancellations during what is typically the peak tourist season. The Ebola outbreak is believed to have killed 16 people so far in the western Kibaale district. Doctors Without Borders says the first victim was a 3-month-old baby girl and that 15 of the 65 people at her funeral later contracted the disease.
AL QAEDA TERROR SUSPECTS IN COURT
A judge in Madrid today questioned the three suspects alleged to be part of an al Qaeda plot to attack somewhere in Spain or perhaps elsewhere in Europe. The judge is deciding whether to detain the men, a Turk and two Russians, one of whom is of Chechen descent. Authorities say they found enough explosive material in the house where the Turk was hiding to blow up a bus. It’s believed the three men might have been planning to use ultralight planes or motorized hang gliders as part of the plot.
-TOP BANKER DISAPPOINTS…Global investors didn’t like what they saw – or didn’t see – Thursday, from the European Central Bank. The ECB failed to take aggressive action on the eurozone’s continued economic crisis, with no change in interest rates or other prescription for change. Asian markets dipped today in reaction, down 1.2 percent. European stocks were higher in early trading this morning, recovering slightly from the ECB announcement and awaiting the U.S. jobs report that could fuel Fed intervention.
-THE PAIN IN SPAIN – AND RIPPLE EFFECTS HERE…As the Washington Post reports, the newest Apple store in Spain, like its counterparts in other parts of the world, is designed to draw you in. Stone floors, glass doors, and rows of blond wood tables stocked with scores of gleaming iPhones, iPads and MacBooks as far as the eye can see. On a recent weekday afternoon, the cavernous showroom was missing only one thing: customers. Only a handful were scattered throughout the store — and most were just browsing. “I would have liked to buy lots of things, but I have no money,” sighed Nacho Corral, a 37-year-old government worker whose salary was recently cut 7 percent along with those of other civil servants. The eerie emptiness of the store, in an upscale shopping mall in Madrid, is an indicator of the growing severity of the impact of the European financial crisis on U.S. companies. In the latest series of earnings announcements from U.S. corporations, top American brands such as Whirlpool, Ford, General Motors, Starbucks and Apple have reported disappointing revenue because of Europe’s troubles. These results, over the past two weeks, have heightened concerns on Wall Street about the health of U.S. business.
Toyota reported its first quarter profits soared to $3.7 billion dollars sales growth.
JAPAN HANGS DEATH ROW INMATES
The Telegraph reports Japan’s justice ministry has confirmed two death row inmates convicted of rape and murder were hanged today. Japan is one of the few industrialized countries that have capital punishment carried out by hanging. There were no executions in Japan in 2011; 130 convicts there are currently on death row.
GLOBAL WARMING – AND “GLOBAL WEIRDNESS”
A melting Greenland glacier, summer heat waves, a devastating “derecho,” drought: Is it all part of global warming or “global weirdness”? USA Today reports that a plague of extreme weather events, from Greenland briefly thawing to the derecho thunderstorms that knocked out power for millions across the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest has struck this summer. Above all, an exceptional drought has marked roughly 50% of all U.S. counties nationwide as federal disaster areas. Has global warming arrived not with a bang or a whimper, but with wild weather? It’s starting to look that way, suggests science writer Michael Lemonick, co-author of this year’s “Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future.” Says Lemonick: “In retrospect, we’ll look back and say we were starting to make changes to climate back then.”