THE FURY SPREADS
-BIG PICTURE…Marines headed for Libya; a “million-man march” called for Cairo; another U.S. Embassy breached; and by the way, a frail Pope is coming to the region. For the U.S., all kinds of questions about security and the Middle East – when for some time we’ve thought Syria and Iran were the only places that mattered (they still matter more than the rest). And for the most part – this all started with that film…
-EGYPT…In Cairo, the clashes continue – an expression of anger at the U.S. and also the security forces there. From Lama HASAN and Matt McGARRY: Extremely strong footage out of Cairo this morning. Riot police fired warning shots and tear gas early Thursday outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to keep hundreds of protesters at bay. Nasser ATTA flags this video of a police car burning in Cairo this morning. Newly-minted President Mohammed Morsi is trying to sound more like a U.S. ally – after President Obama used strong words to question the alliance. “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” he said. “I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected.”
-LIBYA…Two American destroyers – the U.S.S. Laboon and the U.S.S. McFaul - and 50 American Marines are on the move to Libya. Known as a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, or FAST, the team’s role is to respond on short notice to terrorism threats and to bolster security at U.S. embassies. They operate worldwide, and the team that went is one of two that are based in Spain. This – as the bodies of victims as well as the survivors of the Benghazi consulate attack are flown out of the country. As Jeffrey KOFMAN and Bruno ROEBER note from Tripoli, worth noting that many Libyans have come out to show their support of the U.S. – and their anger at the killers.
-YEMEN…Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, getting through the first main gate. A Yemeni officials tells ABC News that hundreds of protesters arrived unannounced – the official called the situation “crazy”; there are reports that one protestor was killed, five hurt. Earlier the demonstrators removed the embassy’s sign on the outer wall and set tires ablaze. Once inside the compound, they brought down the U.S. flag and burned it.
-OTHER FLASHPOINTS?…In Sadr City, Iraq, Mazin FAIQ reports that protesters are starting to gather; and American flags were seen burning in front of the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca, and at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis.
-AMERICAN EMBASSIES ON HIGH ALERT…As Alex MARQUARDT warns, we’ll likely see big protests tomorrow across the region. In Cairo, a “million man” march has been called, while in Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are teaming up for a massive anti-US march. We’ll be looking for similar post-Friday prayers in Beirut, Sana’a, Alexandria, Tunis and Tripoli. In Kabul, Muhammad LILA says President Karzai has called off a European trip, with protests planned in his country; Habibullah KHAN – from Islamabad – says there may be protests there tomorrow. The State Department has ordered a review of security at several diplomatic facilities.
-THE POLITICS…President Obama tells CBS News that Mitt Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.” Obama made the comment in response to Romney’s statement that the Obama administration sympathized with the protestors in Cairo.
-POPE HEADING TO LEBANON…An already important Papal visit – meant to focus on Christian-Muslim issues – sure looks a lot more interesting now. Pope Benedict arrives in Beirut Friday.
MEANWHILE – THE U.S + IRAN
The U.S. and more than two dozen allies are gearing up for the largest naval exercise ever in the Middle East focused on countering the threat of anti-ship mines. A wary Iran says it will be watching closely. The maneuvers starting next week are the latest flexing of American military muscle in and around the Persian Gulf, even as Washington tries to convince ally Israel that diplomacy and sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to scale back its nuclear program need more time to work. U.S. Navy officials insist that the anti-mine exercise is not about any specific country or a response to Iranian threats to shut the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, the route for one-fifth of the world’s oil. But the drills will likely be perceived around the world as a challenge to Tehran, which has thousands of anti-ship mines it could deploy to disrupt shipping and drive up oil prices in response to any airstrike on its uranium enrichment facilities.
IN SYRIA, NEW ENVOY ARRIVES
A spokesman says the new international envoy to Syria has arrived in Damascus. Good luck to Lakhdar Brahimi, who is making his first trip to the country since taking up his post as the U.N.-Arab League envoy. He replaces Kofi Annan, who left the job in frustration in August after his efforts failed to stem the country’s civil war.
CHINA: WHERE’S XI?
This from the Telegraph – on the Xi Jinping mystery: “Although people have said he suffered a back injury, he actually had a heart attack, a myocardial infarction,” said Li Weidong, a political commentator in Beijing and the former editor of China Reform. The magazine is influential among Chinese policymakers and under the aegis of the National Development and Reform Commission. Other unnamed sources have also suggested that Mr Xi, 59, suffered a heart attack, while Willy Lam, the former editor of the South China Morning Post, believes China’s president-in-waiting had a stroke and is currently unable to show his face in public.
CHINESE ELEVATOR PLUMMETS, KILLS 19
A platform elevator at a construction site in southern China has dropped 30 floors in a free fall, killing 19 workers. The official Xinhua News Agency says the accident happened Thursday in Wuhan city in Hubei province. A government notice posted by local Wuhan newspapers on their official microblogging sites says the elevator fell 328 feet.
SPREADING MINING PROTESTS SHUT DOWN WORLD’S LARGEST PLATINUM MINE, THREATEN GOLD MINES IN SOUTH AFRICA
From Bazi KANANI in Nairobi: The world’s largest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, has suspended operations at a mine shaft in South Africa near the Lonmin Marikana mine where 34 died when police opened fire on armed protestors on August 16. The South African Press Association reports there was a tense standoff at the entrance of the Anglo-American mine Wednesday between police and thousands of protesting miners who demanded operations be halted. Anglo American Platinum says its employees are afraid to go to work because of the threat of violence from striking miners. Platinum prices are up 20 percent since the shooting at the Marikana mine as labor unrest continues to spread in South Africa. It is now threatening the country’s gold industry.
NEW WORLD RECORDS
The latest edition of the Guinness World Record book has launched, with 3,000 new entries. Four thousand records are waiting to be broken in the 2013 edition, including the Japanese man who holds the world record for “Tallest Mohawk.”
DUCHESS KATE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN – NO, NOT HERS
With rumors swirling that she’s pregnant with William’s child, Kate delivered her first overseas address in Malaysia today, talking about how hugely excited they are to be continuing their Royal Jubilee tour. Kate told the Malaysian royal family, “I have learned that delivering the best possible palliative care to children is vital. Providing children and their families with a place of support, care and enhancement at a time of great need is simply life changing.”
JULY 23, 1984
That was the day I started at ABC News. In the news then: The U.N. demanding a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war; Geraldine Ferraro on the cover of Time Magazine; 21 killed at a California McDonald’s; and Vanessa Williams gives up her Miss America crown. Today I am signing off, after 28 years. Headed for The Asia Society. Thank you all for everything!