QAEDA BOMBER WAS A SPY
-HOW IT WENT DOWN…No wonder counter-terrorism officials could say with confidence that the U.S. was never at risk as this latest bomb plot unfolded: the would-be suicide bomber was an informant – a well-placed plant from a foreign intelligence service. As Brian ROSS reports, the agent infiltrated an al Qaeda cell in Yemen, volunteered for a suicide mission and was apparently accepted and taken into the inner workings of the plot. Authorities tell ABC News the agent spent weeks in the cell and obtained the bomb – which he then drove out of Yemen to Saudi Arabia last week. Authorities also tell ABC News the recovered bomb is similar to the so-called “underwear bomb” used in the Christmas 2010 effort to bring down a jetliner, but with a different chemical formula and dual detonation devices to make it easier to set off.
-NEW WAVE OF BOMBMAKERS…Meanwhile, ABC News has learned the U.S. government is highly concerned that Yemeni bombmaker Ibrahim Al-Asiri has been training a new wave of bombmakers. The fear is that these disciples -schooled in Asiri’s deadly craft – may have already fanned out to develop their own plots at times and locations of their choosing.
-EURO SINKS TO 15-WEEK LOW…The euro fell to near 15-week lows on Wednesday and commodity prices fell as political disarray in Greece deepened worries that the country may fail to stick to the terms of its EU/IMF bailout deal and could be forced to leave the common currency. European shares had a mixed start after hitting a four-month closing low on Tuesday due to the Greek crisis and as the change in the French presidency raised the possibility of an easing in fiscal discipline across the whole debt-laden region.
-MEANWHILE, IN ATHENS…Radical leftist Alexis Tsipras meets the leaders of Greece’s mainstream parties on Wednesday to try to form a coalition government, an effort seen as doomed after he demanded they first agree to tear up the country’s EU/IMF bailout deal. The inconclusive election Sunday has left Athens in political disarray, with no clear path to a government, a new election likely within weeks and speculation escalating that Greece could be pushed out of Europe’s single currency bloc. Hence the global jitters – and global focus on the mess in Athens.
-UN CONVOY: NEAR MISS…As Alex MARQUARDT reports, a roadside bomb struck a Syrian military truck Wednesday, wounding six soldiers just seconds after a convoy carrying the head of the U.N. observer mission passed by. An Associated Press reporter traveling in the U.N. convoy said the explosion blew out the military truck’s windows and caused a plume of thick, black smoke. The U.N. convoy was not hit.
-PENTAGON WANTS TO BUY FROM RUSSIAN TRADER WHO AIDS ASSAD…Bloomberg reports the Pentagon is in a bind, with nowhere to turn for helicopters needed by Afghanistan’s air force except to Russia, and a top arms supplier to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. Army has a $375 million contract to buy 21 Russian-made MI-17 helicopters for the Afghans from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run arms trader, Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy James Miller said in a previously undisclosed March 30 letter. The helicopter purchases undercut U.S. efforts to persuade Russia to stop supplying arms to the Assad regime, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.
RUSSIAN JET OFF RADAR – CRASH FEARED
From Kirit RADIA in Moscow: According to RIA Novosti, a Russian passenger jet has gone missing during a demonstration flight in Indonesia. BBC and Al Jazeera are picking up on the story now too. The Superjet-100 was carrying 44-46 people when it disappeared from radar screens near Jakarta. The Russian news outlet reports that shortly before it vanished from the screen the pilot requested permission to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet and “began to turn and fall into the high mountains” below. The aircraft, which can hold up to 100 people, was reportedly on a 6 country tour through Asia where it was being shown off to military and government leaders.
IRAQ OIL BOOM
For the first time since the 2003 U.S. invasion, Iraqi oil output has reached the heights of the Saddam Hussein era. In April, Iraq actually exported more crude than it has in any month since it invaded Kuwait in 1990. This success, according to analysts and policymakers, could jolt the global economy and help offset the loss of oil supplies from Iran. The cornerstone of Iraq’s progress has been the government’s ability since 2008 to reduce violence and then to maintain security after the U.S. troop withdrawal at the end of last year. Militias and terrorist groups still detonate bombs, attack security forces and target government officials for assassination – but the death toll has dropped dramatically, The Washington Post reports.
BULLISH ON AFRICA: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM OPENS TODAY
From Bazi KANANI in Nairobi: The three-day World Economic Forum in Africa opens today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. African leaders and international business executives will discuss how best to continue growth and development on the continent. Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world, the middle class on the continent is expanding and consumer spending is expected to double this decade to $1.4 trillion.
CHINESE ACTIVIST: MINUTE-BY-MINUTE ACCOUNT
From The New York Times: Over two days of meetings with China’s leaders in Beijing last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had not uttered a word about Chen Guangcheng as her aides arranged to transfer the blind Chinese dissident from the United States Embassy to a hospital, only to have the plan unexpectedly blow up. Then, last Friday, she finally broached the subject with China’s senior foreign policy official, Dai Bingguo. Mr. Chen, she said, should go to the United States after all. The Chinese were furious. They considered Mrs. Clinton’s request a betrayal of American assurances made during 30 hours of talks. China had insisted on absolute secrecy, demanding no public confirmation that Mr. Chen was in the embassy by any Americans, even members of Congress, whom the Obama administration kept in the dark. “I don’t want to talk to him anymore,” Cui Tiankai, the vice foreign minister, erupted after Mrs. Clinton intervened, gesturing toward Kurt M. Campbell, an assistant secretary of state and a crucial negotiator. The confrontation was a pivotal moment in a diplomatic drama replete with unanticipated twists, threats and counterthreats, and at times comical intrigue. Mr. Campbell, for example, took to sneaking out of his hotel in Beijing through an entrance by the garbage bins to avoid public attention.
SUDAN PLANES BOMB SOUTH SUDAN AS U.N. COMMISSIONER VISITS
Sudanese war planes have launched renewed air strikes against South Sudan, violating a U.N. Security Council resolution to end weeks of a bitter border conflict, the South’s army said Wednesday. The reported attacks come as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visits South Sudan to discuss the protection of civilians affected by the border fighting.
TOYOTA QUARTERLY PROFIT QUADRUPLES
Toyota’s January-March profit more than quadrupled to 121 billion yen ($1.5 billion) from the previous year, and the automaker gave upbeat forecasts for this fiscal year, marking a solid recovery from a hardship-filled year following the tsunami in Japan.
THE QUEEN’S SPEECH: STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
Queen Elizabeth II has set out the British government’s annual legislative program in traditionally opulent style, with an agenda focused on kick-starting stalled economic growth amid painful austerity measures and a slide back into recession. Hundreds of people lined the streets outside Parliament to see the monarch’s horse-drawn carriage parade from Buckingham Palace in a lavish ceremony featuring glittering carriages, sparkling diamonds and cannon fire.
ONE IN SIX CANCERS CAUSED BY INFECTION
BBC reports one in six cancers – two million a year globally – are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest. The Lancet Infectious Diseases review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible. These four – human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses – account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers. Most cases are in the developing world.
DAVID CAMERON’S TEXT TO KEY “HACKER-GATE” FIGURE
The Telegraph reports David Cameron sent a text message to Rebekah Brooks, encouraging her to “keep her head up” just days before she resigned over the phone-hacking scandal. The allegation is made in an updated biography of the Prime Minister. Its authors claim that contact between the pair came to an “abrupt halt” after Mrs. Brooks stepped down, but that the Prime Minister later sent an emissary to apologize for his sudden coldness, explaining that Ed Miliband had him on the run.
PRINCE CHARLES LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO SAVE FISH AND CHIPS
The Telegraph also reports the Prince of Wales has launched a campaign to save the future of fish and chips as he warned of the “dire” consequences of over-fishing. In a speech to representatives of the worldwide fishing industry at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh, the Prince reminisced about how he skipped school at Gordonstoun to buy fish and chips. But he said a meal his country takes for granted will be off the menu in future without long-term management of fish stocks and better scientific research.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN & THE JOGGER – UPDATE
Paramedics who saved that jogger who suffered cardiac arrest with some help from Hollywood veteran Dustin Hoffman are speaking to cameras. Sam Dempster, 27, collapsed during a run in London’s Hyde Park on April 27. Hoffman, who has a house in the capital, was enjoying a morning walk when he saw Mr Dempster crash to the floor, landing on his face. When paramedics from London Ambulance Service (LAS) arrived, Hoffman explained what happened and waited with the stricken lawyer until he was resuscitated and rushed to hospital. When it became clear the patient was stabilized Hoffman congratulated the three ambulance crews present saying: “Great job, guys.” Paramedic Martin Macarthur said: “As we got out of the ambulance Dustin Hoffman explained what had happened. “He said he saw the patient collapse face first on the pavement and that he was frothing at the mouth. He stayed on the scene for the whole duration of the resuscitation which was about 15 minutes. He was very concerned. And at the end Mr Hoffman was kind enough to come up to all the crews and say, ‘Great job, guys’, which was really nice of him to say.”
FERRARI STUNT ANGERS CHINESE
A publicity stunt for Ferrari in China has been heavily criticized after one of their sports cars performed stunts at, and may have damaged, a historical site from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Video footage of a Ferrari car doing stunts on the ramparts of the 600-year-old Zhonghua Gate in Nanjing City was posted online. The video showed a special-edition Ferrari 458 Italia, valued at 6 million yuan ($954,000) on top of the ancient city wall, performing “doughnuts” – accelerating and spinning the high performance car in a small space. The stunt left dark tire marks on the ramparts, and experts from the Nanjing preservation bureau say that the real damage might come to light later, if the sports car has stressed the structure of the Zhonghua Gate itself. “How can a six million yuan be compared with 600 years?” an enraged resident said.
WORLD’S RAREST GORILLA – CAPTURED ON TAPE
The rarest gorilla on Earth – the Cross River gorilla – has been seen on tape for the first time. The footage shows eight of the gorillas making their way through a forest in Cameroon. Researchers estimate that only about 250 to 300 of the gorillas remain on the planet. The footage was captured by a hidden camera – a researcher said it’s possible to study the Cross River gorillas for years and never even catch a glimpse of one. We can see one of the gorillas has a missing hand which could have been caught in a hunter’s trap. Conservationists say the gorillas are threatened by poachers and loss of habitat.