EURO-MESS: FEARS OF A “GREXIT”, MARKETS SWOON
-WHAT’S A “GREXIT”?…That’s the term coined for the possibility that Greece would leave the Eurozone, reverting to its own currency and raising the possibility that other debt-ridden economies may do the same. There are respected economists who believe this is the best way out for Greece; but it’s also a recipe for profound economic trauma for Europe and uncertainty for global markets. Dada JOVANOVIC reports that Citigroup puts the likelihood of a “Grexit” at between 50 – 75 percent. This tweet came from global economist Nouriel Roubini: “Grexit path: election, default, exit, capital controls, deposit freeze, drachmatization of euro claims, depreciation, return to growth/jobs.”
-DRAMA IN ATHENS…Greek President Karolos Papoulias promises to soldier on today in his efforts to broker a coalition agreement, though that seems all but impossible – and new elections all but certain. Here’s what happens next: If Greece cannot form a government that will push through painful austerity measures, it won’t receive its next round of EU bailout funds, and will likely default on its debt and end its use of the euro. Dada JOVANOVIC notes the front page of Germany’s Der Spiegel which reads “Akropolis Adieu!” - perhaps a sign that Germany’s patience with Greece is wearing thin. European finance ministers meet today in Brussels, with Greece expected to be high on the agenda.
-GREEK JITTERS DRIVE SHARP MARKET LOSSES…Global stock markets have dropped sharply on concerns about the Greek political crisis. The Greek market is down three percent, London’s FTSE is down 1.3 percent and the German DAX is down 1.6 percent, and stocks on the Dow Jones are off sharply in early trading.
-THE IMPACT HERE…The Wall Street Journal has a comprehensive read on what effect all of this could have on the U.S. economy. Nothing good…
-WAR ON AL QAEDA…WITH U.S. HELP…It’s not just a drone war. Government forces are continuing to pound al-Qaida targets with airstrikes in the southern province of Abyan where the army is trying to dislodge militants from their strongholds, military officials tell the AP. Writing in the London Times, Iona Craig reports that newly arrived U.S. Green Beret special forces and Army Rangers are helping to co-ordinate intensified air and ground attacks for Yemeni forces. Government troops are said to have surrounded Abyan’s provincial capital, Zinjibar, in an attempt to retake a city that has been under the control of an al-Qaeda offshoot called Ansar al-Sharia for more than a year.
-THE TARGET…The primary target of all the drone attacks is Yemeni bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri – apparently not one of those killed in the recent spate of drone attacks. That stepped-up pace of drone strikes – more already this year than in all of 2011 – is believed to be the result of the intelligence drawn from the plot unraveled last week.
-TOP U.S. COUNTERROR MAN IN YEMEN…Yesterday the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, met with President Hadi in the capital Sanaa. Hadi’s office said the Yemeni leader briefed Brennan on the army’s progress against al-Qaida in the south.
-A DRAWING FOCUSES ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR WORK…The AP files what it calls an exclusive: A drawing based on information from inside an Iranian military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type needed for nuclear arms-related tests that U.N. inspectors suspect Tehran has conducted there. Iran denies such testing and has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a chamber. The AP says the computer-generated drawing was provided by an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program – who said it proves the structure exists, despite Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge it. The official also said the image is based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site. The official is from an IAEA member country that is severely critical of Iran’s assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.
-IRAN STORING OIL ON TANKERS…A sign those sanctions against Iran may be working to some extent – The Washington Post reports Iran is storing oil on its tankers and turning off those ships’ GPS systems so they can’t be tracked. Iran is storing the oil because sanctions and an international boycott of its petroleum mean they have no one to sell it to. Officials say this tactic illustrates the growing economic pressure Iran is under and it increases the chances for a breakthrough in which Iran agrees to abandon elements of its nuclear program.
HORROR ON A MEXICAN HIGHWAY: 49 HEADLESS, HANDLESS BODIES
Authorities are blaming the Zetas drug gang for the slaughter of 49 people whose headless, handless bodies were recovered Sunday near a highway that leads from the industrial city of Monterrey to the South Texas border. The Houston Chronicle reports a message left with the bodies claimed credit for the latest in a series of recent atrocities by rival criminal gangs trying to intimidate and threaten each other. Mexico’s organized crime groups often leave multiple bodies in public places as warnings to their rivals, and authorities said at least a few of the latest victims had tattoos of the Santa Muerte cult popular among drug traffickers.
-TALIBAN SPLINTER GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSASSINATION…FROM Muhammad LILA: A little-known group called Mahaz-e-Mullah Dadullah has claimed responsibility for the assassination of a high-ranking member of the Afghanistan High Peace Council. Arsala Rahmani was gunned down over the weekend in a drive-by shooting, the second member of the HPC to be killed in the past year. The Mullah Dadullah Front, named after a famous Taliban commander who was killed in 2007, has said it carried out the assassination.
-A TALIBAN DIVIDED?…In an exclusive interview with the AP, a high-ranking Taliban leader says that a majority of Taliban want a peace settlement, but that a small, hardcore group is bent on waging jihad instead. Agha Jan Motasim is a member of the influential Quetta Shura, a council of top Taliban leaders, and was interviewed while receiving medical care in Turkey. ”There are two kinds of Taliban,” he said. “The one type of Taliban who believes that the foreigners want to solve the problem – but there is another group and they don’t believe, and they are thinking that the foreigners only want to fight.”
U.S. WARS – AND RESEARCH
With the Afghan war winding down and the chance to study troops in combat running out, military scientists are conducting record amounts of research on everything from blast effects on the brain to stanching blood loss. USA Today reports that at least 47 medical studies in these areas are slated for this year, up from 40 last year and 20 in 2010, according to Army Lt. Col. Kevin Chung, who is coordinating the efforts. “This is the largest number of total projects we’ve had going,” he says. The studies look at the process of battlefield care, test new forms of treatment and diagnosis, or attempt to enhance understanding of brain injury. Proponents of battlefield research cite a storied history of breakthroughs that included field ambulances in the Civil War and the discovery of the causes of yellow fever following the Spanish-American War.
CRASH AT DEADLY AIRPORT IN NEPAL
At least 15 people are dead after a plane crashed when it hit a mountain while trying to land at a notoriously tough mountain airstrip in Nepal’s northern Himalayas. Gloria RIVIERA notes Jomson Airport is known as one of the most dangerous airfields in the world because of its high altitude in a very mountainous region that is often hidden under cloud cover. Twenty-one people, including two westerners, are thought to have been on board, but it’s not yet clear what country they are from. Jomson is a popular gateway for trekkers and Hindu pilgrims.
KONY COMMANDER CAPTURED
Ceasar Acellam, a senior commander in the rebel army of the world’s most wanted warlord, was captured after a brief gun battle in central Africa. According to Ugandan military officials, he was Kony’s top military strategist. Here is a detailed blog link from Bazi KANANI.
BRITAIN’S WAR ON BINGE-DRINKING
The AP reports on the scourge of binge-drinking in the UK - and efforts to stop it. “The girls slumped in wheelchairs look barely conscious, their blond heads lolling above the plastic vomit bags tied like bibs around their necks. It’s an hour to midnight on Friday, and the two girls, who look no older than 18, are being wheeled from an ambulance to a clinic set up discreetly in a dark alley in London’s Soho entertainment district. They’re the first of many to be picked up on this night by the ambulance, known as a ‘booze bus,’ and carried to the clinic — both government services dedicated to keeping drunk people out of trouble, and out of emergency rooms. Binge drinking has reached crisis levels in Britain, health experts say, costing the cash-strapped National Health Service 2.7 billion pounds (US$4.4 billion) a year, including the cost of hospital admissions related to booze-fueled violence and longer-term health problems. Unlike all other major health threats, liver disease is on the rise in Britain, increasing by 25 percent in the last decade and causing a record level of deaths, according to recent government figures.” It’s not just teenagers – there was also this bar fight among members of parliament.
RUSSIAN SATELLITE’S EARTH SHOT
The largest single-shot photo of the Earth ever taken was captured by a Russian satellite 22,369 miles away. It’s unlike NASA’s famous “Blue Marble” shot which is a composite of many satellite images.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
From Jean FIEVET: It’s being called “the Manchester Miracle”. Yesterday saw the most dramatic finale in the history of the English Premier League, decided by almost the final kick of the season. Manchester City scored twice in stoppage time to be crowned champions as they beat Queen’s Park Rangers to win a season that had already taken several twists and turns. It’s 44 years since City won the league, and trailing 2-1 as five minutes of stoppage time began, it seemed almost certain that the dream had died and the crown would go to their rivals Manchester United. In the end, the decider was the last goal of the season, scored in the 94th minute by Sergio Agüero. Unfashionable Manchester City has been transformed by petrodollars from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, who bought the club in 2008 from former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Four years and nearly $1.5 billion dollars later, City are champions of England.
CAT CAFÉ OPENS IN VIENNA
Have you ever craved a latte while petting a kitten? Well, now you can enjoy both at the same time. Austria’s first cat café has opened; customers can have drinks while playing with cats.