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July 2012

Jul 1  In Hong Kong, an estimated 400,000 participate in an annual rally, beating drums, waving flags, singing, dancing and shouting slogans. China has ruled Hong Kong for fifteen years with a "one country, two system" policy. One demonstrator told BBC News, "We are fighting for the right to vote. It should have happened by now." Another said, "We're fighting for the rule of law. The Chinese government is interfering with the workings of the Hong Kong government, and that's not right."

Jul 2  Syria update. Assad regime helicopters bombarded the Damascus suburb Douma today. Douma was attacked by government forces two days ago, and Reuters News describes "bodies rotting in the streets of the nearly abandoned town." Assad has told the international community in effect that what he does in Syria is his business and to butt out. Diplomacy continues to fail, and Russia is being accused of protecting Assad.

Jul 3  More regarding Syria. Turkey's deputy prime minister announces that regime change in Syria is a domestic issue for Syria and not Turkey's business or interest. Turkish media reports that yesterday another 85 Syrian soldiers, including 14 senior officers, defected across the Turkish border. And, according to National Public Radio, Human Rights Watch reports today that Syrian intelligence agencies have established at least 27 detention facilities — an "archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country."

Jul 4  In Europe, austerity strategy is being discarded in hope of moderate economic growth with discipline. International Monetary Fund director, Christine Lagarde, supports the same for the United States. She forecasts recovery at 2.3 percent in 2013, up from 2 percent in 2012 "tepid growth". She says that in order to bring the debt under control, action needs to be taken "over a period of time ...to extend for the next 10 years." It needs to be gradual, she claims, and "not so contractionary that the economy stalls." Referring to the austerity-growth debate in Europe, she says there is "clearly more focus on a balanced approach."

Jul 7  The Economist writes today of the growth of the anti-Assad forces in Syria, of anti-Assad fighters transporting arms and medicine "and greeting refugees and defectors passing the other way." It repeats a report that regime "soldiers patrolling the border have to be flown into some posts, since they are unable to cross hostile territory by land." Also, "A UN expert reckons that 40% of Syria's populated area is no longer fully under government control." The title of the article is "The tide begins to turn."

Jul 8  In the United States the campaign for president is underway. Mitt Romney is saying he will be better at advancing the economy and job creation than President Obama. He describes Obama as having failed. It's a claim that defies Christine Lagarde of the IMF who says that the best we can hope for is continued "tepid" growth from 2 to 2.3%. Romney promises to incentivize the "job creators." Skeptics counter that those with the money to hire people will do so when they need to increase production because of increased buying.

Jul 9  Bashar al Assad again claims that he has the support of a majority of Syrians. He tells a German news organization, "The US is against me, the West is against me, numerous regional powers and countries are against me; if the people were also against me, then how could I still be in my position?" The answer, some would say, is wanton use of military force. Meanwhile, today, Kofe Annan announced that he has "just had a positive and constructive discussion with President Assad." Assad told him again of his willingness to negotiate a settlement with his opponents — whom he calls terrorists and implies are traitors.

Jul 10  It's in evolutionary genetics. Researchers discover why dogs like to gnaw on bones. They developed the jaw muscle strength that allowed them to survive when "open habitants were spreading through Asia, Europe and North America" around eight million years ago. And dogs are genetically inclined to want to use their jaw strength. (BBC News)

Jul 11  Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to give 30 billion euros to Spain's troubled banks by the end of the month and to give Spain's government an extra year until 2014 to reach its budget targets. Spain's center-right government announces austerity measures (increased sales tax and spending cuts) to satisfy the big-money people behind the bank bailout. BBC News writes that, "European leaders want to see a credible Spanish plan for viability and deficit reduction." Labor, led by miners, are protesting in the streets. They don't care what does and does not satisfy big-money people; they don't want the average Spaniard carrying any more burden in the crisis created by big-money people.

Jul 12  Libya's first-time elections for decades, on July 7, have been getting a good press. According to the Norway Post, "International observers reported that the election was well organized and orderly" and "voter turnout was around 60 percent." Norway's foreign minister is reported as saying, "Libyan voters men and women alike showed great courage by protecting polling stations against those who tried to disrupt the voting."

Jul 13  On July 9, Syria's President Assad told United Nations peace envoy Kofi Annan that his (Annan's) plan to end 16 months of bloodshed in Syria was being undermined by US political support for terrorists. Annan announced to the world that his talk with Assad was constructive. Today, Annan says he is "shocked" by the slaughter of 200 men, women and children in the Syrian village of Tremseh. Why Annan thought his talks with Assad were constructive and why Annan can still be shocked by events in Syria remain unknown.

Jul 17  A third day of warfare in Syria's capital has reached the city's center. Democracy forces call it Operation Damascus Volcano. Across Syria the surging multitude of combatants are blocking main highways, and there are claims that the decisive battle for Syria is underway. An activist says that Assad's army is shelling the al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus "hysterically" and that "the collapsing regime has gone mad." There is fear that the Assad regime may start to use its chemical weapons.

Jul 17  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells reporters that, "It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered."

Jul 18  Conflict between Canada-based gold and copper mining companies and agricultural villages in Central America is underway. There, Inmet of Toronto is building what will be one of the biggest copper mines. The companies are accused of making river fish unfit to eat and of disrupting local labor markets. The companies are financing schools and health centers to win acquiescence, but local leaders are not accepting it, saying these things are the responsibility of their government. Canadian mining companies have around 1,400 properties from Mexico to Argentina. MiningWatch Canada reports: "We're seeing moratoriums on new mining concessions in Guatemala, in Honduras, in El Salvador, in Ecuador."

Jul 19  The surge by anti-Assad forces in Damascus is holding on for the fifth day more successful than the Tet Offensive in Saigon in 1968. Across Syria crowds are celebrating in the streets. The rise in morale equals more people encouraged to fight and to fight better. In the face of the sudden success of the opposition, the Assad regime speaks absurdities similar to Gaddafi in Libya just before he was defeated. Yesterday state radio and TV repeated over and over that the Syrian people's unity is going to grow. (What unity? They are in a civil war. The regime is falling because it is not a part of a unity of sufficient breadth.) Gaddafi was calling his opposition rats. Yesterday came the announcement that the Armed Forces are resolved "to decisively eliminating the criminal and murder gangs and chasing them out of their rotten hideouts wherever they are until clearing the homeland of their evils."

Jul 20  On this, the sixth day of occupy Damascus, according to the Arab News, anti-Assad forces have been driven out of the Midan district while other anti-Assad combatants continue to pour into the city from elsewhere in Syria. Anti-regime attacks within the city continue. Another Syrian general has fled to Turkey, bringing the number of generals sheltered there to 22. As many as 30,000 Syrian refugees "may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours."

Jul 20  In Aurora Colorado, a 25-year-old, James Eagan Holmes, enters a movie theater, shoots and kills 12 and wounds 70. Holmes had an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside, with the highest honors. Holmes will be described as under the influence of nihilism. What he demonstrated was contempt, and he will be described as suffering from mental problems.

Jul 21  The economic crisis continues in Europe. Spain has had a week of demonstrations against government austerity cuts. Yesterday Spain's stock market fell sharply: nearly 6%. This was after eurozone ministers agreed to a big loan to Spain's banks in return for the Spanish government restructuring its banking sector. The cost of borrowing money continued its rise anyway, above 7.2%, as moneylenders (creditors) want higher rates of return on their money rates said to be unsustainable for a country that cannot devalue its own currency and is in a depression. What to do? Just cancelling debt and starting from scratch is not an option for Spain's right-of-center government. Analysts are talking again about a coming breakup of the eurozone, with Spain going back to its old currency, the peseta, which Spain could manipulate to suit its interests rather than the interests of moneylenders.

Jul 22  The world wealthy are hiding at least $21 trillion in tax havens according to a report by James Henry, printed by BBC News. "This figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined." Comments are well over a thousand. A Brit writes: We need OUR currency to drive OUR economy, not to have it hoarded for 'market killings.' Another comments: "The british government in charge at the moment, demonizing the so-called benefit scroungers, targeting the pensioners, the old, the sick, the hard-working people, closing down libraries, schools, and hospitals telling us that we can't go on like this. We? Who's we?"

Jul 23  Economic crisis continues in Spain, expressed today in the continuing fall in its stock market. Spain's banks are described as undercapitalized, the central government cannot borrow money at an affordable rate. Spain's regions are burdened by debts they cannot pay. Spain is not growing out of its recession, and its economy minister says, "We have done all what we could to establish the bases of a return to a healthy growth for Spain's economy."

Jul 24  Saudi King Abdullah hostile to the Assad regime in Syria initiates a donation campaign to support the people of Syria. Today so far, $32.4 has been raised in the kingdom. Yesterday at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, the Arab League pledged $100 million in aid for Syrian refugees.

Jul 27  "Every time there are 15 people killed in a village, 500 additional sympathizers are mobilized, roughly 100 of whom are fighters." So says Robert Mood, former head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria. Now the enhanced rebel forces are focusing on defending Syria's second city, Aleppo. They have taken the city from within, overwhelming police and Assad militiamen. People in Aleppo are standing arm-in-arm in the street, cheering in the face of death. The city is surrounded by Assad forces with bigger guns, tanks and aircraft. Anti-Assad fighters are moving behind them. Meanwhile a defecting general claims that Assad's forces are on the brink of a logistical meltdown because they lack fuel and food. The question: how soon is Assad going to realize that for him it's over? And today, a less significant development than the looming Battle for Aleppo, and a different kind of cheering: the opening festivities for the London Olympics.

Jul 28  People power in China. Hundreds of demonstrators protesting in the coastal city of Qidong (near Shanghai) have protested against pollution from a paper-making factory. They chanted slogans in opposition to the pollution of coastal waters. They occupied a government office, destroyed computers, overturned cars and clashed with police. Reuters described five cars and one minibus being overturned. Demonstrators found a party official wearing an expensive Italian brand shirt and forced him to replace it with a shirt bearing an anti-pollution slogan. At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd and beaten. The crowds dispersed after local authorities announced that the waste water pipeline project would be "permanently cancelled."

Jul 29  For a second day the Assad regime continues its assault against the city of Aleppo. Col. Abdel Jabbar Al-Oqaidi of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) describes his side as having "destroyed eight tanks and some armored vehicles and killed more than 100 soldiers." Oqaidi said that the FSA can "face air strikes" and that Assad's air strikes were responsible for the high death toll among civilians. He calls for help for the people of Aleppo in the form of a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, after months of failing to get the Assad regime to stop its military assaults, Kofe Annan rejects the rebels' armed defense against the Assad regime. Annan repeats his claim that only a political solution can end the conflict. With Annan are the Russians, as before. Despite Russia's historical experience with an indigenous mass uprising against autocracy, yesterday Russia's foreign minister sided with the Assad regime by blaming the West for "essentially encouraging, supporting and directing an armed struggle against the regime."

Jul 30  From Rueters: 'We always knew the regime's grave would be Aleppo. Damascus is the capital, but here we have a fourth of the country's population and the entire force of its economy. Bashar's forces will be buried here," said Mohammed, a young fighter, fingering the bullets in his tattered brown ammunition vest.

Jul 31  Indian women who have angered their families by pursuing "forbidden" relationships are increasingly seeking refuge with their husbands in special shelters run by the police. Asked whether her family might really kill her husband because she married outside her caste without permission, she says, "Yes, yes, they can." (BBC News)

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Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.