RUSSIA -- THE RAIN IS GOOD NEWS Heavy downpours have cooled the Russian capital after weeks of unprecedented heat and dry weather, but dozens of wildfires are still raging around Moscow. The city on Friday remains largely free of clouds of suffocating smog after they were blown away by favorable winds earlier this week. Weather experts say, however, that smoke from burning forests and peatbogs may again choke the city later in the day after winds change their direction. Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry says its teams have managed to reduce the area covered by wildfires, but more than 500 are continuing to burn across the country, including 29 around Moscow. It said about 14,000 firefighters are battling blazes around the Russian capital.
WIKILEAKS LATEST The Pentagon is bracing for another dump of classified war documents. WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange says his organization is preparing to release the 15,000 documents still on its file. The Pentagon warned that would be more damaging to security and risk more lives than the organization's initial release of war documents. Meanwhile reporters Without Borders has criticized the Wikileaks website's "incredible irresponsibility" in publishing the names of Afghans who had helped international troops fighting insurgents.
NUCLEAR PLANT TO START Russia's nuclear agency says it will load fuel into Iran's nuclear power plant next week, a key step towards starting up the Bushehr reactor. A spokesman in Moscow says uranium fuel shipped by Russia will be loaded into the reactor in a ceremony on Aug. 21, potentially ending years of delays. But there's no firm date as to when the reactor will be fully operational, and it could take up to six months. Russia will run the plant, supply the fuel and take away the waste. The U.S. has called for Russia to delay the start-up until Iran proves that it's not developing nuclear weapons.
Official second quarter figures for European countries have been released today, and on the face of it, they're surprisingly good. Europe's largest economy, Germany, appears to be weathering the financial storm. Its economy grew by 2.2 percent in the second quarter, its best performance since reunification in 1991. Economists put some of it down to buoyant exports aided by a decline in the value of the euro. The eurozone economy as a whole grew by 1 percent during the quarter -- up from 0.2 percent in the first three months of 2010, and higher than market expectations. France's modest rise of 0.6 percent in growth is significantly better than experts had expected. The Spanish economy grew by 0.2 percent, compared with 0.1 percent in the previous three months.
NOT SO GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS FROM EUROPE Southern Eurozone countries are definitely not out of the woods yet. Spain continues to struggle to avoid a double-dip recession. The pace of growth in the Italian economy remained the same, at 0.4 percent. And Greece has confirmed its economy shrank once again in the second quarter -- with GDP falling by 1.5 percent. It recorded a 0.8 percent decline in GDP in the first three months of the year, so its economic decline is speeding up. Unemployment in the country has also hit 12 percent.