The Overflow for August 7th

International News

The Siege of Aleppo

Syrian rebels broke through to besieged areas in eastern Aleppo on Saturday in an assault on a major military complex meant to end a month-long siege. However, pro-government media outlets denied the siege had been broken. The heavy fighting and air strikes reported from the area seemed to indicate any passage that may have been opened would be far from secure enough for civilians to travel through.

Rebels have been trying to break through a thin strip of government-controlled territory to reconnect areas in western Syria with their sector of eastern Aleppo, in effect breaking a government siege begun last month.

The offensive against the government's military complex, which contains a number of military colleges, began on Friday. Taking control of it, and linking up with eastern Aleppo would isolate government-held western Aleppo by cutting the southern route out toward the capital Damascus. It would also give rebels access to armaments stored in the base the Syrian army has used in the five-year conflict as a strategic platform from which to shell opposition targets.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, said in an online statement: "Fighters from outside the city met their brother fighters from inside the city, and work is under way to establish control over remaining positions to break the siege."

 

Austrian Politics

Turkey's failed coup and President Erdogan's subsequent purges of state institutions are reminiscent of the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany and its use by Hitler to amass greater power, the head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party said. The blaze in the German parliament building in 1933 was portrayed by the Nazis as a Communist plot against the government, and they used it to justify curtailing civil liberties, consolidating Adolf Hitler's grip on Germany.

Austria's Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache said he saw parallels in Erdogan's use of the July 15th coup by a faction within the Turkish armed forces to crack down on his opponents in the army, civil service, academia and the media.

"One almost had the impression that it was a guided putsch aimed in the end at making a presidential dictatorship by Erdogan possible," Strache told Die Presse in an interview on Saturday. "Dramatically, we have experienced such mechanisms elsewhere before, such as with the Reichstag fire, in the wake of which total power was seized," Strache said.

Erdogan has angrily rejected suggestions that he or the government might have been behind the coup, which he has blamed on the followers of a US-based Muslim cleric. Erdogan narrowly avoided capture and possible death on the night of the putsch.

Turkey's foreign minister called Austria the "capital of radical racism" on Friday after Chancellor Christian Kern suggested European Union leaders discuss ending Ankara's EU accession talks, citing democratic and economic deficits. Germany rejected Kern's suggestion on Turkey, but Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with other EU politicians, has expressed concern over the scale and speed of the mass purges in Turkey.

 

Olympic security

An anti-bomb squad at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero detonated an unattended backpack near the end of the cycling course on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the public security department said. Officials expect the bag may have belonged to a homeless man, but protocol requires any unattended objects to be destroyed, she said. The controlled blast occurred in early afternoon.


UK News

Hinkley Point

EDF Chairman Jean-Bernard Levy had no prior knowledge of Britain's decision to review the Hinkley Point nuclear project and will sue a French union for suggesting otherwise.

EDF's board approved the £18 billion nuclear plant project on July 28th, but hours later the government of new British Prime Minister Theresa May said it wanted more time to study the plan and would decide on it in the autumn.

EDF said Levy would take legal action against the Sud Energie union for alleging he had lied to reporters by saying he had not known before the board meeting that Britain would conduct a fresh review.

"All that was known before the press statement issued by the British government on July 28th was that the signing ceremony originally proposed for Friday, July 29th, would be postponed," EDF said. "This potential date of signature had not been confirmed, and therefore had not been communicated either to the board nor the market. There was therefore no requirement to communicate its postponement."

EDF and Chinese partner China General Nuclear, which holds a one third stake in the project, are responsible for the project's construction costs, while Britain would pay a minimum price for the power generated by the plant for 35 years.

 

Pending trial

A 19-year-old man appeared in court on Saturday charged with the murder of a US woman during a knife attack in central London this week that left five others wounded. Zakaria Bulhan, a Norwegian man of Somali origin, was detained pending trial, charged with the murder of 64-year-old tourist Darlene Horton, and was also charged with five counts of attempted murder.

Armed police were called late on Wednesday after a man began attacking people in London's Russell Square. Police said there was no evidence Wednesday's attack was terrorism-related.


Olympics Wrap Up

12 gold medals were handed out on the first full day of competition, and they went to ten different nations. The first medal of the Games was awarded to the American shooter, Virginia Thrasher.


Long Read

Of all the mysteries left in this world, our own mind is one of the greatest. And that's why the case of Henry Molaison is such a fascinating one. An ill-fated operation in the 1950's, when brain surgery was still in it's infancy, left Henry with crippling amnesia and neuroscience with it's most valuable patient.

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.
— Terry Pratchett