-”OUTRIGHT RECESSION” The IMF and Goldman Sachs join a growing chorus of analysts now predicting that Europe is headed for an outright recession. “The sovereign debt crisis is like a fungus on the economy,” Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank tells the New York Times. “I thought it would be just a slowdown,” he said. “But I have changed my mind.” Generally, stocks are tanking, and late Tuesday Moody’s downgraded Italy’s debt, and the Wall Street Journal reports Goldman Sachs is predicting both Germany and France will slip into recession.
-GREEK SHUTDOWN The rest of the Eurozone is demanding further austerity from Greece, but of course that’s not going down well in Greece itself. Today Greek civil servants have walked off the job on a 24-hour strike, paralyzing the public sector in a protest against those deeper cuts. Air traffic controllers joined Wednesday’s strike, grounding all flights to and from Greek airports. State hospitals are operating with emergency staff, while lawyers, school teachers and tax officers also are striking. Public transport workers are holding work stoppages in the morning and evening, and demonstrations are planned later in the day.
-BIG PICTURE The problem with all this (one of many) is: No austerity means no bailouts; no bailouts, then Greece defaults. (Other problems: Greece may default even with a bailout; and all this austerity may guarantee Greece cannot grow its way back to fiscal health).
-NOBLES IN DISTRESS? Even Europe’s nobility is hurting. The Wall Street Journal reports that support groups are cropping up across Europe as nobles deal with the rising middle class, the fluctuating farming revenue, financial crises and tax increases. While planning social functions – these groups also take on the all important legal task of protecting the noble names from commoners. Hindered by the fact that it was long considered un-noble to have a job—unless it was to serve the king—some French nobles have fallen on hard times.
-KARZAI ASSASINATION ATTEMPT? From Aleem AGHA and Nick SCHIFRIN in Kabul: Afghanistan’s Intelligence Directorate has arrested a group of six people including one of President Karzai’s bodyguards and a university teacher in an attempt to kill President Karzai. According to an Afghan Intelligence report, some of them were trained in North Waziristan of Pakistan. The bodyguard who was part of the attempt is originally from Karzai’s home village. A few months ago Ahmad Wali Karzai, the President’s half brother, was killed by his own bodyguard in his Kandahar residence. Karzai is in India at the moment — so clearly this was in the planning stages only.
-1 IN 3 U.S. VETS: IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN WARS NOT WORTH FIGHTING
A stunning — and sad — statistic from a poll timed for the tenth anniversary of war in Afghanistan: One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today. The rare survey of former service members also finds that veterans are having greater difficulty returning to civilian life than veterans from previous eras.
-RETURN ON INVESTMENT? Also today, the BBC asks: how has Afghanistan changed since the 2001? Billions of dollars in foreign assistance have poured into the country, most of it spent on military operations. The BBC organizes the data in a user friendly way in advance of the war’s tenth anniversary. *Nick SCHIFRIN in Kabul.
IRAQ: NO IMMUNITY FOR U.S. TROOPS
Iraq’s political leaders announced late Tuesday that they had agreed on the need to keep American military trainers in Iraq next year, but those trainers would not be granted immunity from Iraqi law, a point the United States has said would be a deal breaker. The New York Times reports that the statement sent mixed signals as United States officials and the Iraqi cabinet negotiate whether any troops will remain after the first of the year, when the forces are scheduled to be gone.
PANETTA TO NATO: CARRY YOUR WEIGHT
Kirit RADIA reports from Brussels that Secretary of Defense Panetta has warned that the U.S. cannot pick up NATO’s slack. In a carefully calibrated speech just before the opening of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting, Panetta praised the broad effort that has come together in Libya. But he said the allies must better share the security burden in order to survive global financial pressures that are slicing into defense spending.
…IN SAUDI ARABIA? From Alex MARQUARDT: A small incident, maybe – but in a place where unrest is rare and would have global impact. Several reports of clashes in a Shia area of Saudi Arabia that left 14 people injured, after activists claimed security forces fired live rounds. The interior ministry blamed “instigators inspired by a foreign country” for the trouble in the village of al-Awwamiya village near the city of al-Qatif. It said 11 security personnel were injured and three civilians.
-SYRIA – U.N. VETO Russia and China have vetoed an already-watered-down UN security council resolution that threatened action against the Assad regime if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians. It would have been the first legally binding resolution adopted by the security council since Syrian military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said the resolution “could have provoked full-scale civil war” in Syria that could be “destructive in the whole Middle East.” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice walked out of the chamber when the Syrian ambassador was speaking.
-EGYPT: ROAD TO DEMOCRACY? From Kirit RADIA, again: Not even Egypt’s interim military rulers know when they plan to relinquish power to a new civilian government, the United States ambassador to Egypt, Anne W. Patterson, said in Cairo. Speaking at a news conference here with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta after he met with Egyptian military leaders, Ms. Patterson offered an unusually candid assessment of the haze over Egypt’s path toward democracy after the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak eight months ago.
-SEAN PENN IN LIBYA After a brief trip to Cairo’s Tahrir square over the weekend, actor Sean Penn is in Tripoli today. Penn says he admires Libyans for their courage in overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi. “The courage to say we want freedom. It’s an extraordinary thing,” Penn said standing outside a hotel.
SOMALIA: DAY OF MOURNING
From Dana HUGHES in Nairobi: Funerals are happening today for most of the victims of yesterday’s bomb blast in Mogadishu. Over 70 people were killed and more than one hundred injured after a truck bomb exploded outside of a government ministry. The Somali government says it’s organizing a day of mourning. Many of the victims were young students and their relatives who were waiting in the area to hear if they’d been granted scholarships to study in Turkey.
TUTU: ANC-LED GOVERNMENT “WORSE THAN APARTHEID”
Dana HUGHES again: The fallout continues from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s angry speech yesterday — in which he called the current ANC government “worse than the apartheid-era government”. Leaders of the ANC have put out a statement asking Tutu to “calm down” and to “work with” the ANC rather than “praying for its demise.” Tutu railed against the government after it delayed issuing a visa to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama was scheduled to be a guest of Tutu’s at his 80th birthday celebrations later this week. Meanwhile university students in Johannesburg are marching today to protest against government’s stance over the Dalai Lama. South Africa enjoys close trade partnerships with China, and the Dalai Lama has not been able to visit the country in more than 2 years.
REOPENING NAZI WAR CRIMES TRIALS
German prosecutors tell the Associated Press they have reopened hundreds of dormant investigations of former Nazi death camp guards and others who might now be charged under a new precedent set by the conviction of retired U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk, now 91, was convicted in May of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for serving as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
HACKING INQUIRY – ON LIVE TV
The Telegraph reports that we could be in for a reality TV treat. Celebrities, crime victims and others who allegedly had their phones hacked could be filmed live if they give evidence to the inquiry into the scandal. The high profile names include, Sienna Miller, J.K. Rowling, Hugh Grant, and the parents of Madeleine McCann and Milly Dowler.
CHINA STEPS UP CENSORSHIP
In yet another example of the Communist Party’s grip on information, Chinese authorities are intensifying their crackdown on popular microblogging sites (like Twitter) that have become a source of real time news for many. Weibo, the most popular, has emerged as a freewheeling forum for breaking news, exposés and edgy opinion — often to the chagrin of censors. The Washington Post reports that after a visit from the Beijing Party Secretary, the owner of Weibo, Sina, has stepped up efforts to remove what it calls unsubstantiated rumors from its site and to indefinitely freeze the accounts of users who spread rumors.
COOLING PROBLEM SHUTS JAPAN REACTOR
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: In a fresh blow to public confidence, a reactor in southern Japan went into automatic shutdown Tuesday because of problems with its cooling system, clouding the outlook for an imminent restart of the country’s idled nuclear plants. The New York Times reports that Kyushu Electric, the operator of the reactor at the Genkai nuclear power plant, characterized the incident as minor and said there was no risk of a radiation leak.
BILLIONAIRES HITTING BILLIONAIRES
Remember that punch thrown by Russian billionaire Aleksandr Lebedev? There are consequences – even for billionaires. Lebedev, who owns two British newspapers, The Independent and The Evening Standard of London, could face up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted. Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin characterized the clash as “hooliganism.” If you’ve forgotten the punch…here it is.
And as Whitney LLOYD writes…No sweat. The Sahara race has kicked off – a cool four 25-mile legs, topped off by one seven mile “sprint” stage through the Sahara Desert.