The Global Note: Greek Agonistes…Iran Attack?…Kalashnikov Clothing?…Skiiing Mt. Etna

By Tom Nagorski

May 17, 2012 10:27am

EUROPE’S CRISIS

-GREEK SWEARING-IN, MARKETS SWOON…Greece’s 16-member caretaker cabinet was sworn in this morning at the Presidential Mansion in Athens. The ceremony was followed by the swearing in of the 300-member Parliament who will take up their seats for a day before Parliament is dissolved for the new vote. Watching all this, investors brought European stocks down again, on worries about contagion from Greece to other European nations – Spain in particular, where the latest bond auction saw borrowing costs rise. The FTSE is down 1.47%, the German DAX 1%, and Spain’s benchmark IBEX fell to its lowest level in nearly a decade. A day after reports of mass withdrawals of Euros from Greek banks – today we have reports that customers of a major Spanish bank have pulled more than one billion Euros from their accounts in the last week alone.

-OBAMA + GLOBAL LEADERS – LOOKING FOR ANSWERS…The Eurozone crisis will top the agenda as President Obama and world leaders kick off four days of high-level meetings Friday. Back-to-back meetings of the G-8 and NATO get started with G-8 leaders — including the newly elected Hollande of France, Monti of Italy and Noda of Japan — huddling at Camp David, where Obama will urge Europe’s leaders to work more on spurring growth and less on austerity measures. As for the stakes: ”If Europe’s unable to manage this, it would have a significant impact on our interests,” said Michael Froman, White House deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. “So there’s a great deal at stake.” That’s putting it mildly; a Greek exit could undermine the confidence of global investors in other struggling European countries (Spain, Italy, Portugal) raising the prospect that these major economies could default if they do not get an international bailout. The impact of Greece leaving the Eurozone could be grave not just for Europe but also for the United States, prompting a downturn in trade that would hurt U.S. companies and roil global stock and credit markets.

IRAN ATTACK?

From Alex MARQUARDT in Jerusalem: The US Ambassador to Israel seems to have gone a bit farther than the White House and Pentagon’s “all options are on the table” with regards to Iran. “It would be preferable to solve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure, than to use military force. But that doesn’t mean that option isn’t fully available, not just available, it’s ready,” said Amb. Daniel Shapiro . “The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.” You can hear the audio here. Shapiro was speaking Tuesday with representatives of the Tel Aviv and central district of the Bar Association.

MILITANTS HIT GOVERNMENT COMPOUND IN AFGHANISTAN

A group of militants attacked a government compound in western Afghanistan, killing at least five people. Muhammad LILA reports from Kabul that Afghan forces killed the attackers, without need for NATO support. Two women were among the injured. Meanwhile, in the south of Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports Taliban attacks are on the rise.

PAKISTANI AIR FORCE PLANES IN MID-AIR CRASH

Police say two Pakistani air force planes crashed into one another today on a training mission in the country’s northwest, killing all four pilots and injuring five people on the ground. Habibullah KHAN reports the two trainer planes crashed in mid-air; one of the planes fell in the fields while the other on a house.

MLADIC TRIAL: THE HORROR OF SREBRENICA

The BBC reports the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic has resumed, with the prosecution focusing on the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Mladic is accused of orchestrating the killings of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men in the town.

CHEN: PASSPORTS WILL BE READY WITHIN TWO WEEKS

Activist Chen Guangcheng said today that Chinese officials have told him the passports that he and his family applied for should be ready within two weeks. Meanwhile, back in Chen’s hometown, reports are emerging of more retaliation by local authorities against Chen’s extended family.

D.E.A. “COMMANDOS” IN HONDURAS

A commando-style squad of Drug Enforcement Administration agents accompanied the Honduran counternarcotics police during two firefights with cocaine smugglers in the jungles of the Central American country this month, according to officials in both countries who spoke to the New York Times. One of the fights, which occurred last week, left as many as four people dead and has set off a backlash against the American presence there. It remains unclear whether D.E.A. agents took part in the shooting during either episode, the first in the early hours of May 6 and the second early last Friday. But this week, a local mayor and a Honduran lawmaker said that four innocent bystanders had been killed and called for an investigation into what the Honduran news media are now portraying as a botched D.E.A. operation. Honduras is a growing focus of American counternarcotics efforts aimed at drug cartels that have increasingly sought to use its ungoverned spaces as a way point in shipping cocaine from South America to the United States.

ITALIAN COURT: CRUISE CAPTAIN WAS “UNFIT”

From Phoebe NATANSON in Rome: Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation has said that Francesco Schettino was unfit to captain the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which capsized off the Tuscan coast in January, claiming 32 lives. The report states Schettino showed “little resilience in performing command functions or in handling responsibility for the safety of people in his care”. Schettino is being investigated for multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship, abandoning those in need of help and failing to communicate properly with the maritime authorities. Meanwhile, tomorrow the Head of the Italian Civil Protection Department will hold a press conference in Rome to present plans to remove the Costa Concordia from its resting place just off Giglio.

‪IRAN THREATENS TO SUE GOOGLE

Iran has threatened to sue Google for omitting the name of the Persian Gulf on Google Maps. The body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula remains nameless on Google’s online map service. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says that if Google does not restore the name of the Persian Gulf, it will face “serious damages.”

RUSSIAN CAPSULE DOCKS WITH SPACE STATION

From Kirit RADIA in Moscow: The Soyuz capsule, carrying two cosmonauts and one American astronaut, docked with the International Space Station today. It blasted off from Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

AK-47 BRAND CLOTHES?

Seems weird to us – but Kirit RADIA writes that the maker of the Kalashnikov rifle says the company plans to branch out into clothing, saying their brand represents reliability. According to a Russian news report they believe their brand is worth about $10 billion. There’s already a Kalashnikov vodka. Plans for a Kalashnikov SUV a few years ago never materialized. An analyst interviewed for the article said the brand will probably only have success in producing leisure clothing for outdoor activities like hunting and hiking.

PRAGUE’S BUS TOUR HIGHLIGHTS DIRTY POLITICAL SECRETS

The Wall Street Journal reports the “Prague Crony Safari,” organized by CorruptTour, offers sightseeing trips to places associated with alleged dirty dealing or political sleaziness. Executives’ villas, public hospitals, you name it. The tours, which started in February, are the brainchild of Peter Sourek, who said he came up with the idea last year after reading yet another story about alleged wrongdoing by politicians.

DUKAN DIET GURU REQUESTS REMOVAL FROM FRANCE’S MEDICAL REGISTER

Pierre Dukan, known for the celebrity “Dukan Diet” that Kate Middleton famously followed before the Royal Wedding, has requested to be taken off France’s medical register.  The Telegraph reports Dr. Dukan had been facing disciplinary action over proposals to award extra marks to schoolchildren who lose weight. The French College of Physicians warned his method could be harmful for kids suffering from obesity or anorexia; meanwhile, there was also speculation about whether his business in the diet world was compatible with the code of medical practice. Dukan claims he retired from being a practitioner in 2008 and therefore the disciplinary proceedings were null, still he requested to be taken off the medical register.

A ROYAL SNUB: QUEEN OF SPAIN BAILS ON U.K. JUBILEE

The BBC reports Queen Sofia of Spain has cancelled a visit to the UK to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee because of disputes over Gibraltar. A Spanish government statement said it was “hardly appropriate” for Queen Sofia, 73, to attend a lunch on Friday.

QUESTION AT CANNES: WHERE ARE THE WOMEN DIRECTORS?

While female actresses dazzled the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival opening, no female directors accompanied them. Not a single film competing at the rarefied French festival was directed by a woman – a fact that French feminists lamented in an open letter published in Le Monde and the  Guardian.

DAVID BECKHAM CARRIES OLYMPIC FLAME TODAY

David Beckham will be joined by five young Britons today for the Olympic flame handover at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder and former England captain will be tasked with taking possession of the flame and then being part of the delegation that brings the flame to Cornwall in southwest England to begin its 70-day journey around Britain and Ireland. The Guardian reports the flame will begin its 70-day, 8,000-mile relay across the UK on Saturday.

“SPEED-FLYING” – ON WORLD’S MOST ACTIVE VOLCANO

Great stuff from the BBC here: A team of speed flyers has become the world’s first to successfully descend Italy’s Mount Etna. The sport involves a combination of paragliding and skiing – but of course racing down one of the world’s most active volcanoes has even more risks. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18098852

FUGITIVE PENGUIN – SPOTTED

Akiko FUJITA writes that the rogue penguin who escaped from Tokyo’s Sea Life Park in March has been spotted swimming in Tokyo Bay. Reuters reports the one year-old Humboldt penguin was caught on camera near the city’s Rainbow bridge. Park experts believe it now feeds on small fish in the bay, and returns to shore, to rest at night. The penguin – known as No. 337 – escaped Sea Life Park in March by climbing a rock wall and a barbed-wire fence.

 

 

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