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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Syria: Suicide Bombing Kills at Least Three of Assad’s Closest Aides

More clashes in Damascus today resulted in a suicide attack that killed at least three of president Bashar al-Assad’s closest aides: the defense minister general Dawoud Rajha, Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who is also the military’s deputy chief of staff, and Hassan Turkmani, the regime’s crisis management chief. There are conflicting reports on a fourth victim, interior minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, who some say died but the government claims is wounded and stable. Analysts believe that this attack considerably weakens Assad’s grip on the country, since the four are among those responsible for orchestrating the brutal repression of the uprising. Both the Syrian government and Russian officials have called this a “terrorist” attack. The United Nations Security Council was supposed to vote on sanctions against Assad’s regime today, but Kofi Annan, its special envoy in the war-torn country, asked for it to be postponed until tomorrow. Opposition within the U.N. between Russia and adversaries of Assad’s regime continues.

IMF Cautions Eurozone Against Deflation

The International Monetary Fund spoke up again today, this time calling for the European Central Bank to pump more money into the Eurozone by buying large amounts of government bonds (so-called “quantitative easing”). The IMF is worried about a decline in prices across the region that may contribute to stunting growth. In a report, it said there was a 25-percent chance of deflation occurring before 2014, and that it would hurt most in countries of Southern Europe. ECB president Mario Draghi hasn’t commented on the report. Central bankers put a high premium on independence, and Draghi, like his predecessor Jean-Claude Trichet, made a show of resisting external pressure. The ECB repeatedly said it would not take the role of governments in rescuing the Eurozone. In the report, the IMF also took a swing at European policies, ineffective as they have been to pull the region out of the crisis.

Olympics: Security Firm in Britain’s Crosshair

The firm G4S, hired to ensure security during the Olympic Games in London, failed to meet its end of the contract by coming short of the 13,700 guards is promised to deliver for the event — 9,700 short. As a result, 3,500 U.K. military troops were called in at the last minute to fill the gap, joining the 13,500 troops already in place. Despite the shortfall, the company’s chief executive said the company would keep the £57 million ($89 million) management fee. Today, both sports minister Hugh Robertson and Prime Minister David Cameron said they would go after the fee and activate the penalty clause to compensate for public spending caused by G4S’s fumble.

Most-Wanted Nazi Arrested Today in Hungary

The world’s most-wanted Nazi was arrested today in Budapest. László Csatary, 97, was found three days ago by “Nazi hunter” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. In 1948, Csatary was condemned in absentia for war crimes in Czechslovakia and sentenced to death. He is suspected of having sent 15,700 to their death during World War II. Today he was charged with “unlawful torture of human beings,” which could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

McCain Slams GOP Reps on Clinton Aide Attacks

U.S. Republican senator John McCain of Arizona wrote a letter to the White House defending Hillary Clinton’s long-time aide Huma Abedin against five Republican congressmen led by Michele Bachmann who accused Abedin of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government. He called the accusations “nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant,” and reiterated his point on the Senate floor. He wasn’t the only one. Bachmann’s former campaign chief Edward Rollins penned the harshest writ against the congresswoman: “Shame on you, Michele!” On the Fox News site, no less.

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