-INCREASING SPEED…The National Hurricane Center and ABC’s Max GOLEMBO report that Isaac has notched top wind speeds of 45mph as it is moves northwest toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where it is expected to pass just to the south this morning. Tropical Storm Warnings are posted in the DR, Haiti, Cuba and the southern Bahamas. The storm is expected to make landfall late this morning on the island of Hispaniola (that’s Haiti and the DR), with top wind speeds near 50mph. Up to 20 inches of rain could fall on the mountainous area of the island – which could be particularly damaging for Haiti.
-WEEKEND PATH…Isaac is expected to move over Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, re-emerging in the Straits of Florida overnight Saturday. The eye of the tropical storm is expected to pass over Key West, Florida Sunday afternoon into evening with winds near 60 mph. Miami and south Florida can expect heavy rain and some flooding but nothing catastrophic. Isaac will wind up 200 miles west of Tampa as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75mph. That will mean heavy showers and thunderstorms for the Republican National Convention but no major damage or flooding is expected.
IRAN EXPANDING NUCLEAR CAPACITY UNDERGROUND?
The New York Times and Reuters report that Iran may have installed more uranium enrichment machines in an underground bunker, potentially paving the way for a significant expansion of work the West fears is ultimately aimed at making nuclear bombs. The Times’ David Sanger writes that the news suggests that a boast by senior Iranian leaders late last month — that the country had added upward of 1,000 new machines to its installation despite Western sabotage — may be true.
-MISSING AMERICAN…The father of an American journalist working in volatile regions of Syria says his son hasn’t been in contact with his editors or his family in Texas in more than a week, but he’s hopeful his son will turn up safe. Austin Tice, a former Marine, has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other media outlets from Syria, where he recently spent time with rebel fighters. He was expected back in the U.S. in mid-August. “It’s not uncommon for various journalists moving in and about Syria to be out of communication. We’re very hopeful that that is what is happening,” his father, Marc Tice, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Houston late Thursday. The Washington Post reported that the 31-year-old Tice spent time with rebel fighters in the north after entering Syria from Turkey in May. He then traveled to Damascus, where he was one of the few Western journalists reporting from the capital.
-FRANCE SEEKS NO-FLY ZONE
France signaled last night that it is prepared to take part in enforcing a partial no-fly zone over Syria. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged the international community to consider backing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but cautioned that closing the Arab nation’s entire air space would be tantamount to ”going to war” and require a willing international coalition that does not yet exist.
McRAVEN TO TROOPS: PIPE DOWN
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the coming publication of “No Easy Day” – the memoir penned by a member of Seal Team Six – Special Operations Chief Adm. Bill McRaven has warned his troops, current and former, that he would take legal action against anyone found to have exposed sensitive information that could cause fellow forces harm. “We will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate,” the four-star commander wrote, in an open, unclassified letter emailed to the active-duty special operations community Thursday, and obtained by The Associated Press.
From Muhammad LILA and Habibullah KHAN in Islamabad: A U.S. drone strike in Waziristan has killed eighteen suspected militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It’s a large toll, and the fourth drone strike this week. The strikes continue to be a source of tension between Pakistan and the United States, with Pakistan insisting the strikes are a violation of the country’s sovereignty. US officials have said the strikes are necessary to root out militant hideouts in the region.
BREIVIK FOUND SANE, SENTENCED TO 21 YEARS IN JAIL
A Norwegian court found Anders Behring Breivik sane on Friday, in the trial following the murder of 77 people in the gun-and-bomb massacre carried out last year. The ruling means Breivik will be jailed for at least 21 years.
The International Cycling Union says it will wait for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to explain why Lance Armstrong should lose his seven Tour de France titles before commenting on the case. The sport’s governing body says it wants USADA to “submit to the parties concerned (Mr. Armstrong, WADA and UCI) a reasoned decision explaining the action taken.” The UCI says the World Anti-Doping Code requires USADA to do this in cases “where no hearing occurs.” Armstrong has chosen not to pursue an arbitration hearing where he could have fought charges brought by U.S. anti-doping officials that his teams doped when he won the Tour from 1999-2005. The UCI and USADA have engaged in a turf war over who had jurisdiction for the case.
GREENPEACE’S ARCTIC ATTACK
From Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Moscow: Overnight, six Greenpeace activists took over an oil platform in the Arctic belonging to the Russian Gazprom company, to protest plans to drill for oil in an environment with a fragile ecosystem. They arrived on inflated motorboats and have supplies to keep them going for several days. According to Reuters this offshore development is crucial to maintaining Russia’s position as a world oil producer. Greenpeace intends to raise the issue in the UN. Gazprom has declined to comment.
CANADIANS OPEN WALLETS IN U.S.
USA Today reports that a strong Canadian dollar, an increase in the value of duty-free goods Canadians can take home, and a gradual post-9/11 relaxation along the border have boosted sales of everything from milk to vacuum cleaners in American border stores. The Canadian government this week reported that overnight travel to the U.S. rose 7.5% in June from the same month last year, the highest level in 40 years. Canadians took 1.9 million overnight trips into the USA in June.
GE TO OPEN OFFICE IN MYANMAR
Just three months after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared Myanmar open for business, American companies are sniffing around for new opportunities. GE became the first American company to invest in the country last month and today, The Wall Street Journal reports that GE has announced plans to open a physical office in Yangon by the end of the year. GE tells the WSJ that they’re hoping to explore providing health care, energy and transportation-related equipment.
SOUTH KOREA COURT SAYS SAMSUNG, APPLE INFRINGED EACH OTHER’S PATENTS
A South Korea court ruled today that Apple infringed on two Samsung technology patents, while Samsung violated one of Apple’s patents. The court awarded small damages to both companies and said they must halt sales of the infringing products in South Korea.
CHINA: OLYMPIC MOMENT FAKED?
From Gloria RIVIERA and Karson YIU in Beijing: China gasped, State TV anchors cried and track star Liu Xiang dramatically kissed the last hurdle after crumbling to the ground in the men’s 110-meter race. And now come reports saying the whole thing may have been staged by the Chinese government. Why? Here’s what they’re saying: That the Chinese government knew Liu was seriously injured before the London games – and then issued a gag order on State TV to prevent anchors from reporting the story. Liu is a superstar here; he makes millions in endorsements. China’s sports authority gets a cut of every deal. The theory: The Chinese government forced Liu to compete so that he would go out a national hero in a moment of sympathy (maintaining earning potential) instead of fade away without a last moment in the sun. The reports say that Chinese State TV went so far as to prepare four different versions of a “live on the air” reaction pending Liu’s actual results. Lead track and field anchor Yang Jian choked up, praising Liu for charging the ‘enemy’s fortress with his body.’
CHINA’S GLUT OF UNSOLD GOODS
After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses. The New York Times reports a glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home. The severity of China’s inventory overhang has been carefully masked by the blocking or adjusting of economic data by the Chinese government — all part of an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business managers and investors. But the main nongovernment survey of manufacturers in China showed on Thursday that inventories of finished goods rose much faster in August than in any month since the survey began in April 2004.
From Simon MCGREGOR-WOOD in London: Disturbing story about the lengths some Paralympians will go to, to “boost” their performances, including significant self harm (electric shocks and breaking bones) raising blood pressure and thereby boosting their performance, all outlawed by governing bodies.
INVESTIGATION OF STOWAWAY FOUND ON BRITISH AIRWAYS PLANE
Bazi KANANI reports that airport officials in Cape Town are investigating how a man managed to elude security and hop on a British Airways jet where he was found dead in the landing gear bay at Heathrow Airport the next day. An airport manager in South Africa told reporters the man jumped a fence Wednesday night and ran onto the busy airfield where a security officer chased him until he disappeared.
NEWS ABOUT SMUGGLING…
-SNAKES ON A PLANE…A man was arrested in Orlando after apparently trying to smuggle a gaggle of slithering creatures out of the country. Transportation agents at Orlando International Airport found 27 snakes individually wrapped inside women’s stockings and packed into two checked bags.
-DRIED SEAHORSES ON A PLANE…Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it but the BBC reports that police in Peru have seized more than 16,000 dried seahorses which were to be exported illegally to Asian countries. Seahorse powder is used in China, Japan and elsewhere in traditional medicine and for its alleged aphrodisiac uses.
SWISS LAB SET TO DIG UP ARAFAT’S BODY
AFP reports that a Swiss radiology lab said Friday it will test the remains of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for polonium poisoning after receiving the go-ahead from his widow. The experts from the Lausanne University Hospital Centre, which also got the green light from the Palestinian Authority, will travel to the West Bank to take samples from the body, a spokesman for the lab said.
MEANWHILE, BRITS DIGGING FOR RICHARD III’S BODY
The Telegraph reports that British archaeologists have started digging for the remains of the last British king to be killed in Battle, Richard III. Richard, characterized by Shakespeare as a wicked hunchback with a withered leg, was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He was buried in a church near the battlefield.
THE ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE
The fascinating age-old debate continued in a new article published in Science this week. While most evolutionary biologists believe the origin of Indo-European languages (including English) came from the steppes above the Black Sea, new research suggests an Anatolian origin. Both the timing and the root of the tree of Indo-European languages “fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago,” the New Zealand researchers report.
-THE SUN GOES THERE…”Heir It Is!” reads the front page headline in the British tabloid, The Sun. After British papers were explicitly told not to publish the pictures, the paper explains why they’re defying the Palace’s lawyers and publishing pictures of the royal rascal anyways. The real question: did Rupert Murdoch give the paper’s editor the green light?
-MEANWHILE…The Daily Mail claims Harry’s £30,000 hotel bill was waived. Not bad publicity for the Wynn hotel. And The Telegraph reports that the excessive drinking by Harry and his mates started days earlier on Richard Branson’s private island of Necker.
AS SOUTH AFRICANS ANTICIPATE RESCUE, TRAPPED HIPPO DIES
From Bazi KANANI: People in South Africa were hoping to cheer the rescue this morning of Solly the hippo – who was stuck at the bottom of an 8-foot-deep swimming pool at a private game lodge, but shortly before the 4-year-old bull could be tranquilized and lifted by a crane to safety, the distressed animal died. Managers at the Monate Game Lodge north of Johannesburg say they believe Solly wandered onto their property Tuesday when he was chased away from his herd by older bulls. When he stepped into the pool for a swim, it was too deep for him to get back out. A team of veterinarians and conservationists decided to drain the pool enough to allow Solly to stand. They had to delay the attempt to free him because of high temperatures.
MANDELA GRANDSON SPENDS AN HOUR BEHIND BARS
One more from KANANI: Media in South Africa report Mandla Mandela, the oldest grandson of revered statesman Nelson Mandela, was not able to get off the hook entirely after a warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday for failure to appear in court in an alimony case. Mandla Mandela showed up at the court to answer his warrant on Thursday with his third wife by his side. He told the judge he had just returned from a trip to China and was unaware of the summons to appear earlier in the week. The judge was reportedly “irate” and made Mandela sit in the holding cells for an hour before ordering his release. Mandla Mandela, who assumed the traditional role of chief of Mandela’s ancestral village, continues to make headlines for his troubles with women and questionable management of the village.
NORWAY TOWN TO OPEN TIME CAPSULE
The tiny town of Otta, Norway is slated to open a package – wrapped in brown paper, tied with a few pieces of string and sealed with red wax – that was delivered 100 years ago. Sealed in 1912 by the municipality’s mayor, Johan Nygaard, the package bears the inscription, “Kan aabnes i 2012″ – “Can open in 2012.”
OLE! LIVE BULLFIGHTING TO RETURN TO SPAIN’S STATE TV
Spain’s nationally run television says it will once again broadcast live bullfights after a six-year halt. The previous socialist government had stopped showing the centuries-old tradition on live TV. The sport fell on hard times as audiences dwindled. The new conservative Popular Party government opposes all attempts to curtail bullfighting. Live broadcasts are to resume September 5th.