-MARKETS UP ON NEW LEADERS, NEW HOPES…After a week of political wrangling that sent global markets into a tailspin, markets are up this morning on hopes that new Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and would-be Italian Prime Minister (and respected economist) Mario Monti can lead their respective countries back from the abyss. The Dow is up more than 200 points at this hour. The Italian Parliament is voting on austerity measures that will pave the way for Monti to succeed current Prime Minister Berlusconi. Italy’s borrowing costs have slid sharply today toward levels that are considered manageable, just two days after they spiked to levels that triggered the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Meantime, the new Greek cabinet has just been sworn in. Another sigh of relief — but as we’ve said before, the fundamental problems are still there. Still a nightmare
-FRENCH WORRIES MOUNT…Sorry, another giant European economy to worry about. The Guardian reports the European Union has told its second-biggest economy, France, to cut government spending amid fears the debt crisis could escalate and ensnare the French economy. As the Guardian writes, “Much of France’s success in recent years had depended on making loans to peripheral Eurozone countries, many of which are now in deep trouble and possibly unable to repay all their loans.”
-EURO-MESS + THE SUBPRIME CRISIS…The New York Times suggests the U.S.’s subprime mortgage crisis is at least indirectly responsible for Europe’s woes. When U.S. mortgage investments went bust, bankers piled into Euro bonds because they were seen as a safe refuge. Now the political and financial crisis engulfing Europe have turned much of that sovereign debt into the latest distressed asset. As the Times writes, “How European sovereign debt became the new subprime is a story with many culprits, including governments that borrowed beyond their means, regulators who permitted banks to treat the bonds as risk-free and investors who for too long did not make much of a distinction between the bonds of troubled economies like Greece and Italy and those issued by the rock-solid Germany.”
THE HUNT FOR WILSON RAMOS
The Major League Baseball’s department of investigations is involved in efforts to free Washington Nationals’ player, Wilson Ramos. MLB has several investigators in Venezuela working on the case. Ramos’s abduction seems to have been elaborately planned by a criminal gang. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports how family and friends are struggling with the news. Venezuelans called for the suspension of yesterday’s baseball games as a result of the kidnappings, but the league refused. Still the only proof of Ramos’ safety is from a Twitter feed that stated he was alive. Last night a small group of people held a solemn candlelight vigil outside the Ramos’ home in Valencia. Follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/search/wilson%20ramos
SYRIA: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?
It’s probably the toughest assessment of the Syrian crackdown to date. Human Rights Watch has issued a scathing report on abuses in Homs, where they say at least 104 people have been killed since Syria signed the League’s peace deal on November 2. HRW describes torture as “rampant” with security forces using heated metal rods to burn body parts, electric shocks and the use of objects, like car tires, to forces detainees into positions that make it easier to beat them on sensitive parts of the body. The organization urges the Arab League — which meets in Cairo tomorrow — to suspend Syria’s membership in the League and ask the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against individuals responsible for the violations, and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. The full report here. Meanwhile, at least 30 civilians and 26 soldiers were killed in Syria ahead of Friday prayers, activists said. The daily toll this month has been one of the highest in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Thousands marched on Thursday at funerals for 24 civilians killed by pro-Assad forces the day before, activists said, including eight in the suburbs of Damascus in one of the bloodiest attacks on demonstrations in the capital.
U.S. WILL SELL BOMBS, BUILDING COALITION AGAINST IRAN
This will racthet up the U.S.-Iran showdown: The WSJournal reports the Obama administration has quietly drawn up plans to sell the United Arab Emirates “bunker-buster” bombs and other munitions in order to build a regional coalition against Iran. The proposal for the U.A.E., which is a preemptive U.S. tactic before further sanctions are imposed on Iran, is expected to appear in Congress in the coming days. It would authorize the sale of up to 4,900 joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs, along with other weapons systems.
TURKEY: TOLL FROM THE SECOND QUAKE
Turkey: The toll from the 5.7 quake has risen to 13. Rescuers are still digging through the collapsed Bayram Hotel in Van, one official said they can’t hear voices “but still we are removing layers of concrete in a way as if there are survivors. We are working on the third floor now.” One of the dead was a Japanese aid worker pulled from the rubble alive but he later died at the hospital. The official, Aksit Dayi, said they hope to finish the search by midnight tonight.
PRESIDENT OBAMA TO APEC SUMMIT
President and First Lady Obama travel to the president’s hometown of Honolulu tonight for the weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. On the agenda for the Asia-Pacific nations will be creating more effective trade regimes to stave off any ill effects from Europe’s ongoing economic troubles.
A former Bush administration official — citing an unnamed source inside the Venezuelan government — says President Hugo Chavez’s cancer is spreading faster than expected and his doctors fear he has only a few months to live. Roger Noreiga, a former ambassador to the Organization of American States, writes in a column that Chavez was suffering from cancer six months before publicly acknowledging he was diagnosed with the disease.
SUDAN BOMBS REFUGEE CAMP
Dana HUGHES reports: Worldwide condemnation of Sudan after it bombed a refugee camp in South Sudan. The camp is in the oil-rich Unity State, which borders Sudan. Local officials said at least 12 people were killed and more than 20 people injured. The White House issued a statement demanding that “the government of Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately.” A spokesman for The UN Human Rights chief said the attack “could amount to an international crime” Sudan has denied responsibility for the bombing, saying rebel forces within South Sudan are responsible.
LIBERIA: NOBEL LAUREATE RE-ELECTED
Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has won 90% of the vote in Liberia, but with the main opposition boycotting the election and a poor turnout, she faces problems of unifying the country. From Dana HUGHES in Nairobi: Foreign election observers condemned opposition candidate Winston Tubman’s decision to boycott the country’s first independently run election since the end of its brutal civil war, saying it was well organized. President Sirleaf has promised to offer opposition candidates prominent positions in her administration and told reporters she is confident that she’ll be able to reconcile the country.
-STANDING UP FOR HEROES…Obviously for us it’s Veterans Day — and an ABC News project we’re calling “Standing Up For Heroes — but there are other, quirkier associations today — as in…
-EGYPTIAN PYRAMID CLOSED…Alex MARQUARDT reports: The biggest of the Giza pyramids outside Cairo was closed amid rumors religious groups would try to hold “Jewish” or “Masonic” rites on 11/11/11. The head of Egypt’s antiquities authority said the pyramid of Khufu was closed until Saturday for maintenance and told the AP that reports of the ceremonies are “completely lacking in truth.” The director of the complex said the Khufu pyramid needed maintenance after the Eid holiday. Ali al-Asfar said 11:11 on 11/11/11 passed without incident. (Locally, at least!)
-RUSSIA’S MARRIAGE BOOM…From Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Russia: Astrologists may have warned people to be on their guard today, but in Russia where such dates are considered to be lucky, there is a marriage boom, with double the usual number of weddings registered at the civil wedding registry offices.
TSUNAMI: RESTORING THE PICTURES — SOLACE FOR FAMILIES
A remarkable, heart-warming story from Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: One woman’s crusade to save tattered and nearly-ruined photographs of the victims of the tsunami. That tragedy struck eight months ago today.
VIDEO GAMES AS ART?
The Grand Palais in Paris is renowned for its fine art collection, But a new exhibit looks at the history of the video game over the past four decades – with focus on aesthetics of games like PacMan and Space Invaders.
NO MORE 24-HOUR PARTYING IN PANAMA
Partiers in Panama have put on notice: No more round-the-clock parties. Bars and night clubs can no longer be open 24 hours a day; now they can only be open from 9p to 3a. Which, as Whitney LLOYD puts it, raises the question: Who thought 24-hour-clubs were a good idea in the first place?