Stories we're watching: New pressures for Syria's Bashar al-Assad

Stories we’re watching: New pressures for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

Also: Cooler heads in Ferguson, Karen Stintz’s next gig, and a reality show contestant sues the show for being too real

Members of the Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo June 2, 2014. (Sultan Kitaz/Reuters)

Members of the Civil Defence rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo June 2, 2014. (Sultan Kitaz/Reuters)

Here are five of the top stories making headlines this afternoon:

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad begins to fight a war on two flanks. The controversial leader who has thus far managed to weather a year-long U.S.-backed rebellion in his restive nation must now fight against his supporters as they urge for direct combat against ISIS (now calling itself Islamic State), which has in recent weeks taken strategic military bases and brutally massacred troops. The New York Times report of this inner-circle turmoil comes on the same day that the United Nations released a report saying that at least 191,000 people have died in the ongoing civil war—a number that is likely an underestimate, it suggests—and excoriating the global community for paralysis in the wake of new conflicts.

Heated protests in Ferguson begin to abate. After a week of tense protests and allegedly abusive police actions in Ferguson—the Missouri suburb where black teen Michael Brown was killed by police under questionable circumstances—cooler heads began to prevail, even if the temperature remained scorching. The National Guard, brought in to assist police with handling the burgeoning crowds of protesters, were sent home, marking the most significant step-down of police action since the rallies began. Still, investigations into Brown’s death continue—this issue further stoked by the release yesterday of a video that featured police in nearby St. Louis killing another black teen, Kajieme Powell.

Karen Stintz: ex-mayoral candidate, future CFL commissioner? Despite her initial claims that she would remain in the heated Toronto mayoral race until the bitter end, a lack of momentum—and the related dwindling of donations—ended former Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz’s campaign before the finish line on Thursday. But today, she’s back in the news for a new job she’d like to snag: the head job of the Canadian Football League, which will be opening up with current holder Mark Cohon not seeking a third term at the helm. She acknowledges she’s a long shot—among her qualifications are that she has attended two Grey Cups—but if she needs tips, she can look to a former foe: John Tory, one of the frontrunners in the race, was the CFL’s commissioner from 1996 to 2000.

Does the entry of an unescorted Russian convoy mark an invasion of Ukraine? The United States certainly thinks it’s possible. More than 200 trucks moved into eastern Ukraine without Red Cross escorts, and Ukrainian officials say that it is a “so-called” humanitarian effort, effectively breaking a promise from Moscow that it would not invade. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, would not go as far as to call it a “direct invasion” as Ukraine claims, but did order the convoy out, noting that it was “deeply concerned about this” and that it would speak to the UN Security Council to debate further sanctions if the convoy is not removed. At the same press conference, Rhodes issued some of the strongest language on record about ISIS’s killing of U.S. journalist James Foley: “Absolutely that represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen,” he said.

In lighter news: A contestant on TV’s Dating Naked sues Dating Naked for showing her dating naked. Jessie Nizewitz, a former contestant on a show that actually exists wherein couples are paired up on first dates without any clothes, is suing the show’s company, Viacom, for $10 million. The charge: a shot of her uncensored bottom half during a scene of her mudwrestling, which she says she was told would be more tasteful and blurred out. “I felt lied to, manipulated and used,” Nizewitz told the New York Post, an embarrassment no doubt ameliorated by her giving an interview to the New York Post, whose consistently gauche front pages have included a photo of James Foley’s beheading on Wednesday.

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