EUROPE: "APOCALYPSE SOON"?
-BIG PICTURE…That headline - "Apocalypse Soon" - is borrowed from NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman but it's a characterization used by many now, as economists and global investors look at Greece and the dominoes of debt nightmares that loom ahead. And "apocalypse" is clearly what President Obama and the G-8 leaders will be working to avoid when they begin their meetings today.
-MARKETS HAMMERED…World markets have been hammered today - not just by the ongoing Greek mess, but now by concerns over Spanish banks, 16 of which were downgraded today by Moody's rating agency. Japan's Nikkei finished down nearly three percent; Spain's main index fell more than two percent, before recovering somewhat, while London's FTSE and Germany's DAX were down nearly one percent before coming back. (For now, U.S. futures are up, likely because of Facebook's IPO).
-MEANWHILE, IN ATHENS…A key figure in the Greek story, radical leftist leader Alexis Tsipras, gives an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he discounts the chances Europe will cut off the country's funding, but warns that if it does, Athens will stop paying its debts. Consider the gauntlet thrown.
-AS FOR THE G-8…Consider the issues on the table, as President Obama hosts the G-8 leaders at Camp David this evening: The Greek mess, the potential unraveling of the Eurozone, global market instability, global oil markets in light of sanctions against Iran; next week's Iran nuclear talks and oh, yes, North Korea and Syria. Whew. Enjoy the dinner. The Wall Street Journal examines each issue in detail.
-OBAMA & HOLLANDE, ONE ON ONE…Before departing for Camp David, President Obama hosts newly-minted French President Francois Hollande at the White House. One additional testy matter for these two leaders: Hollande campaigned on a promise to remove French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.
-GERMAN AUSTERITY V. AMERICAN SPENDING…G-8 leaders have very different ideas about how to fix what ails Europe. Europe's largest economy, Germany, has taken an austerity-driven approach: suffer now, deal with the debt, grow later. That's in stark contrast to the stimulus the U.S. passed in the depths of the recession here. The Washington Post notes how that difference in approach will be clear at this weekend's summit. The Wall Street Journal expects President Obama to press German Chancellor Angela Merkel to abandon the austerity approach and try a bit of American-style stimulus, but that she is unlikely to consent.
-18 MILLION AT RISK…According to Save The Children, more than 6 million people are facing malnutrition in Niger and more than 18 million in West Africa. It says a rising number of children now need medical treatment for the condition, as the crisis is reaching a new level of seriousness. Save the Children's warning comes as this weekend's G8 meeting is expected to discuss food security.
-WHITE HOUSE TO INVEST IN GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION…President Obama and the leaders of four African countries are introducing a group of companies who have promised to invest more than $3 billion to help the world's poorest farmers earn a livelihood.
-U.N.: MONITORS NOT THE ANSWER…The head of the United Nations monitoring group says monitors alone cannot solve the Syrian crisis. Meanwhile, Secretary General Ban ki-Moon says al-Qaeda was behind the massive bombings last week in Damascus, while the group that appeared to claim responsibility on tape, the al-Nusra Front, said Tuesday that the video "fabricated."
-STRONG VIDEO…Alex MARQUARDT notes strong footage out today: Injured activists getting into a UN car to escape while others are clearly beaten outside: A UN monitor caught in crossfire …then being dragged to safety.
AFTER TALIBAN ATTACKS, 500 SCHOOLS NOW CLOSED
From Muhammad LILA in Kabul: According to the Afghan Ministry of Culture, more than 500 schools have been closed over the past few years, following threats from the Taliban. The attacks have stepped up in recent years, leaving 30,000 with nowhere to learn.
TWO SOLDIERS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN
Muhammad LILA reports from Kabul: Their nationalities have not yet been released, but two NATO troops were killed today in eastern Afghanistan in an insurgent attack.
U.S. AGONIZES OVER APOLOGY TO PAKISTAN
It's hard sometimes to say you're sorry. That's the simple takeaway from an excellent Wall Street Journal piece, exploring how officials at the highest reaches of the Obama administration have been agonizing over whether to apologize to Pakistan for killing two dozen Pakistani troops. The U.S. has expressed "regret" for the November deaths, but whether to publicly apologize, at the risk of appearing weak, has been argued for months.
U.S RETHINKS DRONE SECRECY
The Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration is considering changes that would recognize the drone program as a regular part of counterterrorism operations. The strikes are hardly a secret, but they remain classified and many officials believe it's time to reevaluate that policy, saying that more openness could defuse criticism of the program.
-CANADA APPROVES FIRST STEM CELL THERAPY…Reuters reports Canadian health regulators approved treatment for acute graft-versus host disease in children, making it the first stem cell drug to be approved for a systemic disease anywhere in the world. Graft versus host disease (GvHD) is a potentially deadly complication from a bone marrow transplant, when newly implanted cells attack the patient's body. To date there have been no approved treatments for the disease.
-DIETING SAFE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN…A British Medical Journal study finds dieting is safe for pregnant women and does not carry risks for the baby. Pregnant women following a calorie-controlled diet were significantly less likely to develop complications inherent to overweight pregnant women. The study does not make clear, however, if the findings apply to women who are overweight when they became pregnant or became so while pregnant.
RUSSIA ADOPTION: AMERICAN WOMAN FINED
Kirit RADIA reports from Moscow: An American court slapped a $150k fine on the mother who put her adopted Russian son on a plane to Moscow with little more than a note saying she didn't want him anymore. She will also have to pay him $1k a month until he turns 18. Hansen has been hiding and is believed to be in California. RADIA notes he interviewed the boy last month and he told me he didn't want to talk about his time in the US.
VIETNAM BUS DISASTER
Officials in central Vietnam say a bus plunged into a river bank, killing 34 people and injuring 21 others in one of the country's deadliest road accidents. A local official says the bus smashed through the rails of a bridge Thursday night and plunged into the bank of the Serepok River about 60 feet below. The bus's two drivers were among the 32 people who died at the scene. Two others died at the hospital.
CHINA NOW MORE POPULAR THAN THE U.S.?
A GlobeScan poll finds China has grown more popular than the U.S. among people around the world - who were quizzed about whether countries affect the world for good or ill. Half the people polled outside China said the country had a mainly positive effect on the world. Just 47 percent of people polled outside the U.S. said it had a largely good influence.
CASTRO'S DAUGHTER TO THE U.S.
The U.S. government has granted Cuban President Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, a visa to visit the U.S. She's expected here next week to attend a meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco and to then travel to New York. It's sparked a firestorm among anti-Castro types and among American scholars who say other Cubans invited to the same conference were not issued when visas when Castro was.
PROTESTING LADY GAGA
Now it's a Christian youth group - in the Philippines - which held a protest in Manila today, calling for Lady Gaga's shows there next week to be cancelled. The group's members say they're offended by her music and videos and they plan to sue Lady Gaga her for violating the country's religious sensibilities.
DIAMOND JUBILEE LUNCH
Queen Elizabeth hosts a lunch at Windsor Castle today to mark her Diamond Jubilee - and later Prince Charles and Camilla host an evening banquet. The BBC notes the controversial names on the guest list, including the King of Bahrain and Swaziland's King, who are both accused of human rights abuses.
OLYMPIC FLAME ARRIVES IN U.K.
The Olympic flame arrives in the U.K. This afternoon. The 8,000-mile, 70-day torch relay around the U.K. begins tomorrow - a relay that will end with the torch carried into the Olympic Stadium on July 27 for the opening ceremonies of the Games.
FIRST GAY PRIDE EVENT…IN MYANMAR
In a sign of how far the reclusive nation of Myanmar has come, the BBC reports the country has held its first public gay pride event. Gay relationships are still a crime there and discrimination is rife - but the event was allowed to go on.