EURO-MESS: NEW GOVERNMENT FOR GREECE; ITALY REELING; WHAT NEXT?
-GREEK DRAMA…First, some good news – sort of: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras meet today to name a new caretaker prime minister and cabinet, after Papandreou agreed to step down, making way for an interim government. “Good news”, because it would end (for now) all the late-night drama and uncertainty from Athens. The new government’s main task will be to approve measures tied to Europe”s $11 billion bailout for the country, and then lead the country into early elections, expected early next year. One name mentioned as a leader of the new government is Lucas Papademos, a former governor of the Bank of Greece and a former vice president of the European Central Bank. That inspires some confidence, too.
-RESCUE MISSION…As Greece regroups politically, Eurozone finance ministers meet today in Brussels to decide whether to release that $11 billion in bailout money.
-ALL EYES ON ITALY…Now for the bad news. As Richard DAVIES reports, “The markets’ fear focus has moved from Greece to Italy.” Interest rates for 10-year Italian government bonds are at their highest since the since the Euro currency was formed. Italy must finance more than $400 billion in borrowing next year. Prime Minister Berlusconi is struggling to save his shaky coalition government. The New York Times writes that the Greek news merely buys time for European leaders to put together a stronger bailout mechanism to protect larger economies from default – namely Italy. High debt, low growth and the diminishing credibility of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have made that nation increasingly vulnerable. Phoebe NATANSON reports from Rome that Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority could fall apart as early as this week, leaving the embattled premier to face a no-confidence vote…again.
-MEANWHILE, IN THE REST OF EUROPE…France unveils austerity measures today as the country tries to meet deficit-reduction targets and hold onto its prized triple-A credit rating. Germany last night passed $8.3 billion in tax breaks over the course of two years, designed to thank German taxpayers for the burden they’ve had to carry in Europe’s ongoing debt crisis.
-WHAT EURO-COLLAPSE WOULD MEAN…And (sorry, more bad news) The Wall Street Journal has an excellent read explaining what a European financial collapse would mean for the U.S.‘s fragile economic recovery.
IAEA: IRAN READY TO BUILD NUCLEAR WEAPON?
The Washington Post reports the IAEA is expected to release a report this week showing Iran has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon. The Post says “intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles…Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction… the new disclosures fill out the contours of an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected….U.S. intelligence officials maintain that Iran’s leaders have not decided whether to build nuclear weapons but are intent on gathering all the components and skills so they can quickly assemble a bomb if they choose to.”
SYRIA: DEADLY WEEKEND
As Alex MARQUARDT reports, it was a particularly bloody weekend in Syria as the Assad regime defied its agreement with the Arab League to end its crackdown. Today activists said 23 people were killed Sunday alone. The Arab League admitted Sunday what everyone already knew, that Syria has done nothing to implement the peace plan agreed upon last week in Cairo. They called for an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss “the continuing violence and the government’s failure to stick to its obligations under the Arab Action Plan”. Meanwhile, Homs is still under siege; the opposition-led LCC said 15 people were killed yesterday (19 overall in Syria) and reports “a large-scale attack” last night. “The siege has prevented medical supplies and food from getting in to more than 2,000,000 people. It also led to preventing families, women and children from leaving and moving to safe areas, while the regime uses heavy artillery, rocket launchers, and warplanes to bomb populated residential neighborhoods,” the LCC said.
IRAQ: AS U.S. LEAVES…
-LOOTING AS THEY GO?…As the war in Iraq winds to an end, the AP reports the number of people indicted for bribery, theft and other crimes in both Iraq and Afghanistan is rapidly rising. Among the crimes, A Marine in Iraq sent home $43,000 in stolen cash by hiding it in a footlocker among American flags. A soldier shipped thousands more concealed in a toy stuffed animal. An embassy employee tricked the State Department into wiring $240,000 into his foreign bank account.
-PURGING SUNNIS FROM THE MILITARY…The Wall Street Journal reports Sunni Muslims are being purged from Iraq’s security forces, just weeks before the last U.S. troops depart. While some of the Sunni officers were accused of serving in Saddam Hussein’s “repressive apparatuses,” some were simply called for “early retirement,” and others were dismissed under vague accusations of associating with terrorists. With the U.S. departure imminent, any new fissures in the security services will make it harder for Iraq’s army and police to keep the peace and defend the country’s borders.
-ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT…Meanwhile, the governor of Iraq’s largest Sunni province, Anbar, has escaped an assassination attempt. Qasim al-Fahadawi escaped unhurt this morning after a roadside bomb hit his motorcade as he traveled to Baghdad.
DEA EXTENDS REACH OF DRUG WAR
The New York Times reports the Drug Enforcement Agency has deployed five commando-style squads to Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize to battle drug cartels. The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. In recent years, it has expanded far beyond the war zone into a global enforcement arm, blurring the line between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism.
CARLOS THE JACKAL ON TRIAL
Cold War terror master Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carols the Jackal, stands trial in Paris today, for a series of bombings he’s accused of orchestrating in the early 1980s.
POLAND HONORS “HERO” PILOT AND CREW
Poland’s President has pinned state medals on the pilot, co-pilot and other crew members of a Boeing 767 that made an emergency landing on its belly in Warsaw last week. The LOT airlines plane from Newark made the emergency landing last Tuesday after its landing gear failed to open. President Bronislaw Komorowski decorated the crew members during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Warsaw. Among them was pilot Capt. Tadeusz Wrona, who became an instant hero in Poland.
STRANDED EVEREST TREKKERS HEAD HOME
Hundreds of foreign trekkers stranded in the Mt. Everest area for the past week are departing on flights today now that the weather has cleared. Twenty flights left the Lukla airport this morning and more are expected throughout the day.
THOUSANDS SEND MONEY FOR AI WEIWEI’S TAX BILL
After the Chinese government demanded Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei pay $2.4 million in back taxes, thousands of supporters have donated more than $550,000 to met the tab. In a commentary today, the Global Times suggested these donations could amount to “illegal fundraising.”
As Akiko FUJITA writes from Tokyo, “Nothing major here, but surprising, considering it’s been less than a month since the maiden voyage…” From AFP: An All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying 249 people had to make a second approach at a west Japan airport before landing, after a glitch forced the pilot to manually deploy the main landing gear, the airline said Monday. The first glitch on a commercial flight for the new plane occurred on a domestic route Sunday after a cockpit monitor showed that the landing gear had not fully deployed shortly before landing, ANA said.
U.K. CRASH INVESTIGATION
Police in the U.K. are focusing their inquiry into that horrific highway crash on reports that a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club sent thick smoke across the carriageway, blinding drivers. The 27-car pileup killed seven people.
2012 OLYMPICS – THE TORCH ROUTE
Per Dimitrije STEJIC, Olympic organisers will reveal all 1,018 of the towns and villages that the Olympic torch will visit next year.
RUSSIA: HOCKEY COACH ATTACKS FANS
Rough stuff from the rink in Russia. Max KARMEN reports that a hockey coach has been suspended for two games – for doing this.