HOW TO SAVE EUROPE?
-BAILING OUT OF THE BAILOUT?…All investors want is some certainty. Sorry. As one global investor puts it, “It’s all Europe now” – and today that’s a continent’s worth of uncertainty. Today all eyes are on Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose bombshell announcement of a vote on the Euro-rescue plan has thrown investor confidence for another loop. Today Papandreou meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – following a wee-hours agreement from his cabinet to ahead with this make-or-break bailout referendum. Papandreou’s Cabinet expressed confidence in its leader, but he’ll have to survive a broader confidence vote this Friday. Analysts and leaders like Sarkozy and Merkel believe the bailout is the only way to save Greece – and thus the best way to avoid a broader European debt disaster. But the Guardian reports 60 percent of Greeks had a negative or partly negative view of the deal. And speculation is swirling that Greece may leave the euro and return to its currency, the drachma. The NYTimes writes opinions are split on whether the currency alone will rescue the country.
-G-20: WE NEED TO FIX THIS…Well, they can throw out everything else on their agenda – and just worry about this. Seems all else pales in comparison. Papandreou’s meeting with Merkel & Sarkozy is in Cannes, one day ahead of the G-20 summit. The Wall Street Journal notes President Obama and the other G-20 members will have to face Greece’s troubles even though it isn’t a member of the G-20 and accounts for less than three percent of the eurozone’s economic output. And the NYTimes’ Helene Cooper writes, “President Hu Jintao of China will arrive in Cannes this week pondering a plea from Europe for tens of billions of dollars to help the continent get out of its debt crisis. And President Obama will arrive with a smile…and his own plea: that Greece gets its act together and that Europe fix its economic ills.
-RUSSIA WILL PITCH IN…While China is the obvious, large-scale outside source for bailout cash, now Russia is anteing up as well. Per Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Moscow: “Saving Europe” is becoming something of a popular global trend. Arkady Dvorkovich, economic adviser to the Russian president, told RIA Novosti that Russia was ready to help stabilize the European economy via the IMF. The government indicated it was ready to allocate up to $10 billion. “Europe’s continued stability matters to us,” Dvorkovich told RIA Novosti. Experts believe Russia is more concerned with its own geopolitical ambitions than with Europe’s recovery.
-MEANWHILE, IN ITALY…With Italy’s economy in the debt-crisis cross-hairs, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi under increasing pressure to resign, Berlusconi himself seems to have a keen sense of the moment. As Phoebe NATANSON reports from Rome, Berlusconi has decided — due to the mood in the country — to postpone the big launch of his latest CD of songs written with song-writing friend Mariano Apicella. The launch had been planned for this month in Milan.
ASSANGE TO BE EXTRADITED
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden this morning. Judges ruled Assange should be sent to Sweden to be questioned over the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year. Jim SCIUTTO reports Assange’s lawyers will appeal to the Supreme Court, meaning he could stay in the country on bail for a couple of months. If the appeal fails, he’ll likely be extradited to Sweden within ten days.
Syria contends it has reached an agreement with the Arab League to ease a months-long crackdown – but the Arab League isn’t on the same page. League officials are meeting with the Syrian regime in Cairo today. The Arab League has called on President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw security forces from the streets, release prisoners who have been detained since February and allow Arab monitors to enter the country. All indications suggest Assad will not concede to the Arab League’s requests, which is why the United States and others have responded coolly to reports of an agreement. As Alex MARQUARDT reports, there is a lot of skepticism among the opposition that the army would really withdraw its troops and tanks, and that there would be free elections. This as extremely graphic video emerges of nine bodies of executed Syrians, bound and gagged, reportedly student protesters.
HOW AL QAEDA RECRUITS IN SOMALIA
The Guardian has a first-hand account of how Al Qaeda recruits in Somalia. A Guardian reporter saw an Al Qaeda unit handing out rice, flour, oil, dates and milk as well as Islamic books and clothes to more than 4,000 people. The group hands out much needed essentials to people in an attempt to win their support. The unit’s leader was introduced to the Guardian as Al Qaeda’s official envoy to Somalia. The leader then handed out bags full of Somali shillings, equivalent to $17,000.
Pakistan says it has decided to normalize trade relations with its giant rival and neighbor India. Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan says the Cabinet on Wednesday approved a decision to give India the status of the “Most Favored Nation.” The move is hailed as a positive first step in normalizing diplomatic and other links with India. The two nuclear-armed countries have fought three wars since they were created in 1947. Granting the most-favored status means the two countries can now trade on equal terms, typically giving each other low tariffs and high import quotas.
ISRAELIS UNDER FIRE
Several governments have condemned Israel for its decision to accelerate settlement building in the West Bank. Brtish Foreign Secretary William Hague calls it “a serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations. This settlement building program is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements.” We learned last night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the go-ahead for 2,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and two big settlements in the West Bank. Alex MARQUARDT reports Netanyahu’s spokesman says this is territory “that will, under any future agreement, remain part of Israel.”
LIBYA: TWO CENTURIES LATER, CALLS TO BRING THE BOYS HOME
Interesting story from The Baltimore Sun: For the American sailors off Tripoli — five of them from Maryland — it was a suicide mission: Sail the small ship heavy with explosives in among the enemy fleet, set the blast to go off in 15 minutes, jump into lifeboats and get as far away as possible. The crew of the Intrepid would never make it. The fireship ignited early, killing all 13 men aboard. The bodies washed ashore, to be fed on by dogs and dragged through the streets of Tripoli. They eventually would be buried in a pair of sites. More than two centuries later, an ad hoc group that includes history buffs, military veterans and descendants of the sailors is working to repatriate those remains for burial with honors on U.S. soil. After the success of another military engagement with Tripoli — the NATO-assisted ouster of Moammar Gadhafi — the group now sees the best opportunity yet to bring the Intrepid 13 back home. “We are very, very encouraged right now, obviously, with the leadership change in Libya,” said Jack Glasser, the mayor of Somers Point, N.J., the hometown of Richard Somers, who led the Intrepid on its fatal mission in 1804. “We’re hoping that leadership there will be more open than Gadhafi was.” The effort has brought together an Arnold historian, a former campaign adviser to Ronald Reagan and Boris N. Yeltsin, and the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. The loose group has legislation pending in Congress and a Libyan lobbying the new leadership in Tripoli.
FRENCH MAGAZINE FIREBOMBED
The offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were firebombed early this morning – the very day the magazine was out with a special Arab Spring edition featuring the prophet Mohammed as a guest editor. No one was injured when the Molotov cocktail was hurled through a window. It’s not the first time the publication of Mohammed has brought problems for the periodical. In 2007, a Paris court threw out a suit brought by two Muslim organizations against Charlie Hebdo for reprinting the Danish cartoons of the prophet.
ANNA CHAPMAN: SPY, AND PLAGIARIST
Russian ex-spy Anna Chapman has found herself at the center of a plagiarism scandal after prominent bloggers accused her of “copy-pasting” from a book by a Kremlin spin doctor. Her column in the best-selling Komsomolskaya Pravda daily is an almost word-for-word copy of an article in a book by Oleg Matveyechev. Chapman, 29, who was deported from the United States last year along with nine other Russian sleeper agents, has been keeping a high profile in Russia, modeling, editing a magazine, giving lectures and taking a role in the pro-Kremlin youth movement. In her column about the 19th-century poet Alexander Pushkin who died in a duel with a French officer in 1837, Chapman argued that the 1917 revolution and the ensuing bloodshed could have been prevented if Pushkin, who died at the age of 37, had lived to provide moral guidance. “Just half a century later, liberals and socialists flooded Russia and killed the czar, heading for the revolution,” she wrote. “I’m confident that things would have been different if Pushkin had had time to write his mature works.” The text is almost a direct copy of a passage from Matveyechev’s book, which is available online.
DUKE & DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE VISIT UNICEF
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, visit a UNICEF emergency supply center in Copenhagen today to see how food and medical supplies are prepared and shipped to East Africa. The BBC reports the United Kingdom is giving 200 million Pounds’ worth of aid to East Africa. The royal couple will tour the UNICEF warehouse and then watch an aircraft depart for East Africa.
SOUTH POLE STROKE VICTIM GOES HOME
The engineer evacuated from a South Pole research station has been cleared to leave a hospital and is heading to Vermont to stay with friends as she recovers from a stroke. Renee-Nicole Douceur tells The Associated Press in an email she’s leaving John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland Wednesday. She plans to return for a checkup in a month. She’s heading to the Stowe area. Douceur said there was nothing conclusive to determine what caused the stroke. Doctors believe she will make a near-full recovery.
GREAT-GRANDMOTHER GETS CARDED – NO WHISKEY FOR HER
Timon WOODWARD in London finds this gem in the tabloids: A shop refused to sell 92-year-old great-grandmother Diane Taylor a bottle of whiskey – because she couldn’t prove her age. Despite producing an over-60s bus pass and her pacemaker certificate, Mrs. Taylor was turned away by her local One Stop Shop. It was the first time Mrs Taylor, who turned 18 in 1937, has ever been asked to show her ID when buying alcohol. ‘I asked the girl behind the counter to repeat herself three times,’ said Mrs Taylor from Harlow, Essex. ‘I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I thought it was a joke. ‘I can understand shops being strict with all the youngsters buying booze but surely there’s a difference between a 92-year-old and someone of 18.’I ended up storming out in indignation. It is just ridiculous to ask someone of my age to prove they are an adult, I find it offensive.’ The One Stop Shop said it had to enforce a strict ‘no ID, no sale’ policy or risk losing its licence.