The Global Note: General Dempsey’s Plane Hit…Dispatch From Aleppo…Meles Zenawi Dead…Nyad Ends Marathon Swim

By Tom Nagorski

Aug 21, 2012 11:09am

AFGHAN WAR

-DEMPSEY PLANE HIT, DAMAGED…We now know what the incoming fire was that Mike and Carlos BOETTCHER heard and reported on World News Monday: Taliban rockets – which struck and damaged the C-17 aircraft used by Joint Chiefs Chair General Martin Dempsey. This morning, Martha RADDATZ and BOETTCHER report that the two rockets struck the C-17 at Bagram Airfield – and that the plane had “shrapnel impact” and small holes above the crew door, in the fuselage to the left of the door, and in one of the engine cowlings. General Dempsey was not on board or near the tarmac at the time – but two U.S. maintenance workers sustained minor injuries. An ISAF Statement confirms ABC’s reporting and says that “Gen. Dempsey, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff…was in his room at the time of the incident and was unharmed. Due to some exterior damage to Gen. Dempsey’s aircraft, he left Afghanistan on a different military plane.”

-”INSIDER ATTACKS”…As for those attacks that prompted Dempsey’s high-level meetings: Afghan officials say they have launched an expanded effort to spy on their own police and army recruits, an acknowledgment that previous measures designed to reduce insurgent infiltration in the country’s security services have failed. The Washington Post reports these steps come amid a spate of “insider” attacks that have shaken the U.S.-Afghan military partnership. Ten U.S. troops have been killed by their Afghan counterparts in the past 12 days. They are among 40 coalition service members who have died in insider attacks this year. President Obama, in his most extensive comments to date on the issue, said Monday that his administration is “deeply concerned about this, from top to bottom.” The Afghan measures include the deployment of dozens of undercover intelligence officers to Afghan security units nationwide, increased surveillance of phone calls between Afghan troops and their families, and a ban on cellphone use among new recruits to give them fewer opportunities to contact members of the insurgency.

SYRIA’S WAR

-ONE JOURNALIST KILLED, THREE MISSING…Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto was killed Monday during a gun battle in Aleppo. At least 19 other journalists have  been killed while covering the conflict, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday, two Al-Hurra-TV journalists went missing; they may have been arrested by the Syrian army.

-DAMASCUS FIGHTING…Activists say government forces have stormed a rebel-held town outside the Syrian capital after days of fierce fighting, killing at least 23 fighters. The LCC activist group and a rebel spokesman said regime troops entered Moadamiyeh Tuesday at dawn and troops were searching homes looking for rebels.               

-ACTIVISTS SAY US AID PLEDGES FALL SHORT…The Washington Post writes that as the Obama administration hardens its rhetoric on Syria, members of the Syrian opposition say the United States has failed to deliver promised communications and other equipment intended to support those seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition activists say they have smuggled hundreds of satellite receivers and other gear they have acquired on their own into Syria in recent months in part because they have not received significant quantities of such equipment from the United States as promised.

-DISPATCH FROM ALEPPO…Strong piece of war reporting from The  New York Times’ C.J. Chivers (both print and video) from outside of Aleppo focuses on the Al-Tawhid Brigade, who they are and how they fight. Chivers spent five days traveling with rebels. Another interesting report comes from the Independent’s Robert Fisk, also in Aleppo. 

IRAN UNVEILS SIX NEW WEAPONS

Reuters reports that Iran unveiled upgrades to six weapons on Tuesday, including a more accurate short-range missile and a more powerful naval engine, Iranian media reported, in what seemed to be its latest response to international pressure over its nuclear program. 

SOUTH AFRICA MINE DROPS THREAT TO FIRE WORKERS

The BBC reports this morning that mining giant Lonmin has dropped its threat to fire workers who failed to return to work at a South African mine after deadly clashes last week. Its decision came after the government appealed to the firm to drop its ultimatum to sack workers if they failed to end their strike by Tuesday. Last week, police shot dead 34 strikers at the Marikana mine. 

RAMADAN FEASTS SEND HUNDREDS TO HOSPITAL

Doha’s Peninsula newspaper reports that overeating of fatty foods and sweets after the fasting month of Ramadan sent hundreds of people to the ER at Hamad Medical Corporation yesterday in Doha. In just 12 hours, 1,125 people were admitted for stomach- related problems. 

YOUNG ISRAELIS HELD IN ATTACK ON ARABS

The New York Times reports from Jerusalem: Seven Israeli teenagers were in custody on Monday, accused of what a police official and several witnesses described as an attempted lynching of several Palestinian youths, laying bare the undercurrent of tension in this ethnically mixed but politically divided city. A 15-year-old suspect standing outside court said, “For my part he can die, he’s an Arab.” The police said that scores of Jewish youths were involved in the attack late Thursday in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square, leaving one 17-year-old unconscious and hospitalized. Hundreds of bystanders watched the mob beating, the police said — and no one intervened.

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM THE EUROZONE

From Richard DAVIES: Spain’s Treasury sold more than $5.4 billion in short-term debt at this morning’s auction.  Interest rates have fallen sharply in recent weeks, as speculation grows that Spain will seek a bailout. Lower sovereign debt yields in Europe, and reports that the ECB may buy bonds to help Spain and other struggling nations, have boosted stock prices.  

ETHIOPIAN PRESIDENT DEAD AT 57

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s long-time ruler who held tight control over this East African country but was a major U.S counter-terrorism ally, died of an undisclosed illness after not being seen in public for weeks, Ethiopian state television said Tuesday. He was just 57. Meles died Monday just before midnight after contracting an infection, state TV announced Tuesday. Hailemariam Desalegn, who was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in 2010, is now in charge of the Cabinet, state TV said. Meles hadn’t been seen in public for about two months. In mid-July, after Meles did not attend a meeting of heads of state of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, speculation increased that his health problems were serious.  The U.S. has long viewed Meles as a strong security partner and has given hundreds of millions of dollars in aid over the years. U.S. military drones that patrol East Africa — especially over Somalia — are stationed in Ethiopia. Though a U.S. ally, Ethiopia has long been criticized by human rights groups for the government’s strict control.

JAPAN V. SOUTH KOREA…STILL BOILING

Akiko FUJITA reports from Tokyo: Japan’s Chief government spokesman suggested the government would consider extending its feud with South Korea – to the economic arena. Just days after Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Japan could roll back an emergency currency swap arrangement with South Korea, the cabinet held a meeting to discuss further responses to President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the disputed islands. Reuters reports the Japanese media has also speculated that Tokyo could abort a plan to buy South Korean government bonds, a step agreed as part of financial and economic cooperation between the two countries. Meanwhile, in Seoul, South Korea rejected a Japanese proposal to take the island dispute to the International Court of Justice. The Foreign Ministry spokesman flat out denied any dispute existed, saying the islands were “clearly South Korea’s territory historically, geographically and on the basis of international laws.” 

DIANA NYAD LATEST – OUT OF THE WATER

Diana Nyad has ended her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her team tells ABC News that Nyad was severely sunburned, suffered multiple jelly fish bites – and can barely walk. “We pulled her out of the water,” team member Steve Munatones said. “The dangers were so great that we couldn’t risk anyone’s life, including her own…She gave it all she had.”

OBESITY + DEMENTIA: A LINK?

New research published in Neurology suggests link between obesity and loss of cognitive function. This is reported in most UK papers today.

ANOTHER PENGUIN ESCAPE

A pesky penguin in Nagano is giving zookeepers at Susaka Zoo quite the headache - with his repeated attempts to escape. A few weeks ago, the 3-month old Humboldt penguin tried to get out by jumping off a slide. After zookeepers attached boards to the foot of the slide, the penguin crawled under the fence – a few days later. Today, the bird was caught swimming in a nearby pond…2 hours after the zookeeper noticed he had escaped. The zoo now plans to place the penguin in an indoor cage, with 3 foot concrete walls and nets …as punishment so the bird can “reflect” on its  behavior. Check out the bird’s capture on NHK:

HARRY, THE INCREDIBLE FLYING DOG

As the BBC notes, it was definitely a case of puppy love when Tony Conway took to the skies with his pampered pooch. The canny collie cross-breed, called Harry, was strapped into a paraglider and enjoyed a tandem flight with his owner down Slieve Donard mountain.

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