World News Brief, Friday May 11

Two bomb blasts in Damascus kill 55 and wound over 300; Chinese have detained two relatives of Chen Guangcheng; US has approved plans for three Chinese banks to expand presence in US; Sudan launches air strikes over South Sudan, violates UN resolution; and more

Top of the Agenda: Deadly Blasts in Damascus

Two bomb blasts near Syrian intelligence headquarters in Damascus killed at least fifty-five people (al-Jazeera) and wounded over three hundred today, Syrian officials and state media said. Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood--the chief of the UN mission in Syria overseeing a deteriorating UN-Arab League cease-fire--rushed to the site of the explosions, where he called on Syrians and the international community to "stop this violence." Meanwhile, Syrian troops resumed a crackdown on the restive city of Homs overnight (BBC), according to opposition activists.


"Are they idealistic freedom fighters with humanistic principles? Or are they religious fundamentalists with the veiled goal of trampling other religious groups underfoot? The questions are crucial, because determining the true colors of the Free Syrian Army will then determine whether a hesitating world will ultimately intervene in favor of Assad's opponents," writes Tobias Havmand for the Daily Beast.

"The administration's unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for 'repulsive,'" writes Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.

"But it's not exactly the change the Syrian opposition and a broad swath of international leaders want. They have called on Assad to step down, and have roundly dismissed the elections as little more than political theater, an orchestrated show with a veneer of democracy overlaying the regime's fiercely autocratic core," writes TIME's Rania Abouzeid.



Chinese Dissident Accuses Government of Reprisals

Local Chinese officials in Shandong province have detained two relatives of dissident Chen Guangcheng and harassed others in reprisals for his escape from house arrest last month, Chen and his lawyer told Reuters today. Chen is expected to study in the United States under a deal brokered between U.S. and Chinese officials.

At a diplomatic level, the case of Chen revealed determination by Beijing and Washington to maintain stable ties, says CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy in this CFR Interview.

CHINA: The U.S. Federal Reserve yesterday approved plans by three state-backed Chinese banks to expand their presence in the United States (WSJ). The decision comes a week after China agreed to allow foreign firms to own larger stakes in Chinese brokerage firms.



Satellite imagery shows signs of cleanup at Iranian nuclear site

Sudan violates UN resolution


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