KWAME HOLMAN: A crackdown against anti-government protesters escalated in Syria today. Overnight, the city of Hama, north of Damascus, was heavily shelled. Tanks moved into the main square and electricity and water supplies were cut off.
We have a report narrated by Neil Connery of Independent Television News.
NEIL CONNERY: For the fourth day running, the streets of Hama echoed to the sound of gunfire as the Syrian regime tightens its grip.
Army tanks head deep into the center of this city of 800,000 people in their latest advance in this crackdown on protests. These streets, which have been the focus of anti-government rallies, now seemingly under the control of the regime. The dangers to those trapped here come from many fronts.
These pictures placed on the Internet reportedly show snipers at work on the rooftops. Communication with the city is cut off, along with water and electricity. In what could be a sign of cracks emerging within the military, a group of soldiers calling itself the Syrian Free Army Union has posted a message saying it wants to encourage others to break away. They say they want to help the generals and soldiers who are ready to leave the regime’s orders.
KWAME HOLMAN: In New York, the U.N. Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning Syrian authorities for attacking civilians and committing human rights violations. For the past three months, the world body had been silent on the escalating violence there.
Tropical Storm Emily churned through the Caribbean today. The storm brushed past Puerto Rico, but was forecast to dump large amounts of rain on the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The storm threatened some 600,000 people still living without shelter in Haiti after last year’s earthquake. As Emily approached land, waves and wind began to pick up. More than 10 inches of rain was expected in some parts of the country.
Three NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan. NATO officials said two died in a roadside bombing in the south yesterday, and another died in the east. So far this year, 328 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan.
President Obama today urged Congress to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration by the end of this week. Members went into their summer recess last night without resolving a partisan dispute over funding. Consequently, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and 70,000 construction workers idled.
At the White House, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Congress should pass the legislation to restore the funding immediately.
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION RAY LAHOOD: For politicians to run around Washington, as they have done for the last seven months, and talk about creating jobs, putting people back to work, this is not the way to do it. The American people see the fallacy in these very hollow speeches.
If Congress really believes in the words that they’re saying about jobs, creating jobs, putting people back to work, stop your vacation. Come back to Washington. Pass a clean bill.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the meantime, LaHood assured travelers the nation’s air safety won’t be compromised. Essential personnel, such as air traffic controllers and airline inspectors, will remain on the job.
Justice Department officials today announced the largest prosecution in history for online child exploitation. Attorney General Eric Holder said 72 defendants have been charged worldwide, and, of those, 52 have been arrested. The group called Dreamboard considered itself the premier online image library of adults molesting young children, often violently.
At a Washington news conference, Holder described how people gained access to the group.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general: In order to become part of the Dreamboard community, prospective members were required to upload pornography portraying children under 12 years of age or younger. Once given access, participants had to continually upload images of child sexual abuse in order to maintain membership. The more content they provided, the more content they were allowed to access.
KWAME HOLMAN: Two administrators of the group were arrested abroad. Three more remain at large.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.