The Global Note: Slovakia & Your 401K…Nobel Winner’s Tough Contest…Free Tickets To Japan

By Tom Nagorski

Oct 11, 2011 11:32am

EUROMESS: “ROAD TO HELL”?

-YOUR 401K – AND A VOTE IN BRATISLAVA  Another faraway, seldom-watched place gets center stage on the global financial story today. All eyes on…Slovakia. The euro-zone rescue fund faces a key test today when lawmakers in Slovakia -  poorest country in the currency club – vote on the European Stability Facility. 16 of the 17 nations that use the euro currency, including heavyweights Germany and France, have signed on to the EU rescue plan but it requires approval by all the Eurozone countries, and a thumbs up from Slovakia is in grave doubt. For that, the LA Times writes, Europe can thank Slovak MP Richard Sulik. Not a household name, Sulik, has vowed to veto the measure calling it “a road to hell.” Why, he asks, should his compatriots, among the poorest residents in the Eurozone, open their wallets to bail out the Greeks, who are not only richer but whose government dug its own hole by irresponsible. Under the plan, Slovakia would be required to contribute over 10% of the country’s entire GDP. And if they vote it down? “It is feasible that the whole deal will collapse, which would most likely lead to a sharp correction” — that according to currency analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman.

-MORE $$$ FOR GREECE  Greece’s troika of international lenders — the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — on Tuesday said Athens is likely to receive an 8 billion euro ($10.9 billion) tranche in early November. The joint statement comes after officials from the three institutions completed a delayed review of Greece’s efforts to meet terms of last year’s 110 billion euro rescue. The Greek government proposed additional austerity measures after failing to meet fiscal targets. “Once the euro group and the IMF’s Executive Board have approved the conclusions of the fifth review, the next tranche of 8 billion euros(5.8 billion euros by the euro area member states, and 2.2 billion euros by the IMF) will become available, most likely, in early November,” the statement said.

-EURO-PROTESTS  Strikes have disrupted some French trains and schools as unions across France plan protests against government austerity measures. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative government says the cost-cutting measures are essential to reducing the country’s debts and allowing France to remain a pillar of the troubled eurozone. 

HURRICANE JOVA TAKES AIM

Hurricane Jova (pronounced “hova”) strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane last night as it churned toward Mexico’s Pacific coast. Jova’s maximum sustained winds were near 125 mph overnight and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could reach Category 4 strength Tuesday before making landfall. The forecast track carries its center near Barra de Navidad, south of the larger resort of Puerto Vallarta, early Wednesday. The Mexican government declared a hurricane warning for a 100-mile stretch of coastline. Linsey DAVIS headed there for us.

ARAB SPRING

-EGYPT: DAYS OF MOURNING  Per Alex MARQUARDT: Three days of fasting and prayers begin today for Copts mourning the deaths of 26 Sunday night. Tens of thousands chanted overnight and early Tuesday against the ruling military council during a massive funeral procession for Christian protesters who were killed. Slogans of “down with military rule” interrupted the prayers. Mourners carried the coffin of Mina Daniel through Tahrir, a January 25 protester who had said he wanted his funeral in Tahrir. Al Masry Al Youm quotes witnesses claiming to have seen soldiers throwing bodies in the Nile.

-LIBYA: NATO SURPRISED BY RESISTANCE  The commander of NATO’s air campaign in Libya says hundreds of organized fighters loyal to Col. Gadhafi pose a “resilient and fierce” threat in the two remaining pro-Qaddafi strongholds, and are exploiting the urban settings to complicate the alliance’s mission to protect civilians.

-SYRIA: SANCTIONS FINALLY HURTING?  More than the popular protests, Western sanctions have threatened President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which relies on its economic successes as a source of its legitimacy. With Syria’s currency weakening, its recession expanding, its tourism industry wrecked and international sanctions affecting most essential sectors, the International Monetary Fund now expects Syria’s economy to shrink this year, by at least 2 percent. 

NO INTERNATIONAL PASSENGERS FOR IRAN AIR?

Speaking of sanctions, the New York Times reports that the International Air Transport Association has suspended Iran Air, the Iranian national airline, from the system for processing international ticket payments as a result of strengthened American economic sanctions against Iran. The suspension severely limits the ability of Iran Air to book passengers abroad. 

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER FACES STIFF REELECTION VOTE

She may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but that’s no guarantee she’ll win the election. Liberia’s incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, is expected to face her strongest challenge from former UN envoy Winston Tubman, whose running mate is the popular former soccer star, George Weah. The BBC reports that long queues have formed outside polling stations, as Liberia prepares for its second election since the end of a 14-year-long civil war.  

GLOBAL HEALTH

-HIV PREVENTION PROGRAM WORKING  The Washington Post reports that an estimated 100,000 people in India may have escaped HIV infection over five years thanks to one of the world’s biggest prevention programs, an encouraging sign that targeting high-risk groups remains vital even as more donors focus on treatment, a new study suggests.

-HUGE CHOLERA OUTBREAK  Meanwhile, The U.N. children’s agency says almost 2,500 people have died in one of the biggest cholera outbreaks western Africa has ever seen. UNICEF says more than 85,000 cases have been reported in 10 countries from Mali to Congo this year.

-TB RATES SOARING  The LATimes writes that if smoking rates stay at current levels, smoking could create 18 million extra cases of tuberculosis worldwide and 40 million excess deaths from the disease by 2050, a study finds. Researchers produced mathematical models based on various smoking rate scenarios to estimate rates of tuberculosis disease and deaths in each World Health Organization region around the world.  

AFGHAN WAR: OPIUM SPREADING

A U.N. report says insecurity and rising opium prices have driven Afghan farmers to increase cultivation of the illicit opium poppy by 7 percent in 2011 despite a major push to wean the country off of the lucrative crop. Afghanistan’s is the world’s largest producer of opium — the raw ingredient used to make heroin. Tuesday’s report also shows that opium cultivation is spreading to new parts of the country, a troubling trend as international troops are trying to stabilize Afghanistan enough to hand over security responsibilities to the government.

UKRAINE: EX-PRIME MINISTER TO JAIL?

From Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Moscow: A judge has ruled that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko exceeded her powers when she signed a gas deal with Russia in 2009.  Prosecutors have asked for a seven-year jail sentence. Mrs. Tymoshenko – the leader of Ukraine’s pro-Western Orange Revolution – insists she is the victim of a vendetta by Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych.  Riot police have been deployed outside the court in Kiev. There have been minor scuffles but no major clashes, the AFP news agency reports from the scene.

MYANMAR WINS MORE U.S. SUPPORT

Myanmar’s state-run radio and television stations have announced that the country’s president has granted amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a top U.S. official called political overhauls under way in Myanmar a “dramatic development” and pledged Washington would respond favorably, in the latest sign of a thaw between the two countries.  

THE WAR CRIMINAL IS SICK

One of Ratko Mladic’s lawyers says the former Bosnian Serb military chief has been hospitalized in the Netherlands with suspected pneumonia.

JAPAN TO TOURISTS: COME VISIT, WE’LL PAY

From Akiko FUJITA: Japan – seeking to lure tourists to a nation still reeling from the effects of the March earthquake and tsunami – will make it easier for foreign travelers to visit: It’ll offer free airline tickets. Officials plan to offer 10,000 travelers free airfares to visit the country next year. The catch? Travelers must agree to publicize their visit, since the point is to let the rest of the world know that Japan is safe. One agency spokesman says “we are looking for highly influential bloggers and other people who can help spread the word.”

THE LEANING TOWER…OF LONDON?

The  Telegraph reports that the top of London’s Big Ben is leaning one-and-a-half feet off a level position and getting worse each year. While some report noticing the lean with a naked eye, you can’t make it out in the BBC piece. And the BBC says there’s no need to panic - the famous clock tower won’t become unstable for at least 5,000-10,000 years.  

SOUTH KOREAN POP STAR JOINS THE MILITARY

Leaving behind hundreds of tearful fans, South Korean pop star Rain put on hold one of the most successful entertainment careers in Asia as he entered boot camp Tuesday to begin nearly two years of military service. The 29-year-old singer and actor gave a military salute and said farewell before he disappeared into an army base in the city of Uijeongbu north of Seoul. “Thank you for the 10 years of love,” Rain told his fans, his hair cropped neatly, tears welling in his eyes. He made his debut about a decade ago. Many of the fans were from Japan and China and held banners with messages meant to cheer up the star. Rain, whose real name is Jung Ji-hoon, will serve 21 months in South Korea’s 650,000-strong military. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve about two to three years – a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War – and Rain isn’t expected to receive any special treatment.

ONE DOG FETCHES A DEAF DOG

From our friends at Storyful: This video, uploaded to the Australia-registered YouTube account kellyclemons1 on October 7, shows what the uploader says is one dog fetching a deaf dog. We dont know when the video was filmed, but will update when we hear back from the uploader. The uploader commented below the video: “My friend Ross has two black labs, Buffy and Benson. Benson is deaf so when it’s time for the dogs to go inside, Buffy has to fetch Benson.” We have contacted the uploader for further details and access guidance, and will update when we hear back.

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