WOE IS EUROPE: MARKETS FALL, FEARS OF "DRACHMAGEDDON"
-THE BAND-AIDS AREN'T WORKING…World stock markets fell Thursday amid ominous signs that the debt crisis roiling Greece and Spain will worsen - and spread. Among issues battering investor sentiment: Italy's borrowing costs rose; Cyprus said it may seek an emergency bailout; and this morning, another troubling sign from Spain, whose 10-year borrowing rate inched closer to a dangerously high 7 percent. That's before we mention Greece…
-PREPARING FOR "DRACHMAGEDDON"…From the Times of London, this portrait of Greece, in the not-distant future: "Banks closed, supermarkets looted, riots, people frisked for hidden wads of euros as they flee the country, government wages and pensions paid in IOUs, aircraft evacuating stranded holidaymakers." That is the nightmare scenario of a disorderly Greek exit from the eurozone - dubbed "Drachmageddon". The country heads into an election on Sunday that could provoke panic. A win by the Radical Left Coalition, known by its acronym Syriza, would raise the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro - and secret talks between European finance officials this week are said to have examined possible limits on withdrawals from cash machines, reimposing checks on the country's borders, and reinstituting capital controls. One fear is that a Syriza victory would provoke a run on the banks that would force the country out of the euro before the new government could even take office. Already, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the owner of Greece's largest foreign-held bank is making plans to walk away from the bank if the country leaves the euro zone, and a host of international companies have said they are preparing contingency plans, with many voicing concerns about how to retrieve cash in the country if Greece exits the euro zone.
-WHAT WILL ANGELA DO?…It's really the crucial question: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps saying she's committed to the euro - but as the Eurozone's most potent engine, what will Germany do (and what will Germans agree to sacrifice) to save the currency? Today, Merkel said that Germany will be "the engine of growth and anchor of stability in Europe," insisting again, that "if the euro fails, Europe fails." The AP has an explainer about how Merkel holds the key.
OIL: THAT ONE SILVER LINING
As Bianna GOLODRYGA reports, the European crisis has driven down global demand, and thus the price of oil is falling fast. OPEC oil ministers are meeting today to consider changing their output ceiling amid divisions over how they should respond to plunging crude prices and uncertainties over global energy demand.
-SCATHING AMNESTY REPORT…Echoing the UN's report earlier this week, Amnesty International has published its latest report on Syria - "Deadly Reprisals: Deliberate Killings and Other Abuses by Syria's Armed Forces." The report concludes that Syrian armed forces and militias are rampaging through towns and villages, systematically dragging men from their homes and summarily executing them.
-"HILLARY'S LITTLE STARTUP"…Interesting piece from Time Magazine - on some hi-tech help it says the Syrian opposition is getting from the U.S. "Syria's regime may have overwhelming firepower, but the rebels are winning in another arena- with U.S. help," Time reports. It tells the story of a rebel fighter who "learned to fight Bashar Assad with an AK-47, a video camera and the Internet-and how Americans helped turn him into a cyberwarrior…" and how he went abroad "for even-more-sophisticated training in computer encryption, circumvention of government firewalls and secure use of mobile phones-courtesy of the U.S. State Department. The training has helped give the rebels the upper hand in one front in the battle against Syria's President."
-DAMASCUS BOMB…A car bomb went off at a Damascus bus station this morning, the state news agency reports. Two people were "hit" and a large crater left in the ground.
-THOSE RUSSIAN HELOS MAY NOT BE NEW… The New York Times' lead article today picks up on what Kirit RADIA and Dana HUGHES were reporting yesterday - that Secretary of State Clinton may have overstated Russia's direct aid to Syria. As one senior Defense Department official told the Times, "she put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position." Whether it works or not remains to be seen - but Russia immediately accused the US of hypocrisy. More from HUGHES here.
COURT RULING - AND ANGER - IN CAIRO
Protestors are gathering following a controversial ruling from Egypt's Constitutional Court. From Alex MARQUARDT in Cairo: The rulings just in find that 1/3 of members of Parliament were elected unconstitutionally and will have to be re-elected - and that ex-Prime Minister Shafiq gets to say in the race. Parliament is being dissolved - and the military leadership is in emergency meetings - and now the people (again) are angry. More to come…
YOUR MONEY: SHUT-DOWN SUPPLY ROUTE COSTS $100 MILLION A MONTH
From Luis MARTINEZ: At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Defense Secretary Panetta revealed the cost of Pakistan's closure of NATO's ground supply routes into Afghanistan: $100 million a month. Pakistan closed the supply routes last November after the friendly-fire border incident by U.S. forces that killed 24 Pakistani troops. It's the first time in six months that we've heard an official dollar amount for the rerouting. The US has been trying for months to reopen the Pakistan route without much success; most recently the U.S. negotiating team left Pakistan this week without a deal. Pakistan wants an apology for the November attack, but all the U.S. has been willing to provide is an expression of regret. The increased costs come from redistributing the supply chain through countries that border northern Afghanistan.
ISRAELI SOLDIER WANTS TO BE PALESTINIAN
From Alex MARQUARDT: In an odd twist to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian saga, a former Israeli soldier has embarked on a new fight: He wants to renounce his Israeli citizenship and move to a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. Andre Pshenichnikov, a 23-year-old Jewish immigrant from Tajikistan, was recently detained by Israeli police for residing illegally in the Deheishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. There he told police that he wants to break all ties with Israel, give up his Israeli citizenship and obtain a Palestinian one instead.
U.S. EXPANDING AFRICA SPY BASES
From Wilfred WAMBURA and Luis MARTINEZ: The United States military is expanding a secret network of air bases across Africa in order to spy on Al-Qaeda and other militant groups, the Washington Post reports. More countries are allowing bases for spying on Al-Qaeda - or the hunt for warlord Joseph Kony. More here.
HACKERGATE: PRIME MINISTER IN THE HOT SEAT
British Prime Minister David Cameron is currently testifying before the Leveson inquiry on the relationship between politicians and the press. Reports Lama HASAN: Prime Minister Cameron will be on the witness stand for seven hours as he faces a grilling at the inquiry into media ethics. Thus far, a calm and quite relaxed Cameron has said that the relationship between the press and politicians has gone "bad". He also said ties were "too close and unhealthy" on the one hand, but that there was also a lack of trust on both sides. "I think this relationship has gone wrong…it's never been perfect, there's always been problems. I think in the last 20 years the relationship has not been right, I think it has been too close. I think we need to get it on a better footing." Expect a torrent of questions about his relationship with the Murdochs (his links to Rupert Murdoch's media empire), how much influence did Cameron's culture secretary Jeremy Hunt have in the BSkyB bid, and Cameron's cozy relationship with former head of News Of The World, Rebekah Brooks. You'll recall that during Brooks' testimony she said he would mainly sign off the texts "DC" but would occasionally sign them LOL, thinking it was 'lots of love' until she told him it meant laugh out loud. Cringe-worthy, to say the least…
VATICAN AND THE INTERNET
From Phoebe NATANSON in Rome: Looks like the Vatican is planning to pay $740,000 to control what groups are "authentically Catholic" on the Internet. This from the Catholic News Service.
UNWANTED GUESTS IN JAPAN DEBRIS
Amid all the news about soccer balls and docks - biologists are equally worried about the threat from invasive species attached to the debris from last year's tsunami. USA Today reports that biologists fear that foreign species that arrive on our shores - crabs, barnacles, starfish, snails and plants - could establish a foothold and crowd out native creatures and plants.
JAPAN TO RESTART NUCLEAR REACTORS
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo. Japan moved closer Thursday to restarting nuclear reactors for the first time since last year's earthquake and tsunami led to a nationwide shutdown - after a mayor gave his support to a plan to bring two of them back online. All 50 of Japan's workable reactors are offline because of safety concerns or for maintenance since the March 11 disaster touched off a crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS PLEADS GUILTY IN NEW ZEALAND
Actress Lucy Lawless pleaded guilty to trespassing charges after she took part with an activist group in storming an oil drilling ship docked in New Zealand. In February, she spent four days on top of an oil rig protesting arctic oil drilling. Lawless faces a maximum of three years in jail. She is known for her role in the television show Xena: Warrior Princess and recently starred in the Starz channel series Spartacus.
The Falkland Islands are marking 30 years since the end of the war with Argentina, with services at Port Stanley's cathedral and Liberation Monument. Britain liberated the UK territory from Argentine occupation on June 14, 1982.
WOOLY MAMMOTHS "GRAVEYARD"?
From Dada JOVANOVIC in Belgrade: Serbian archeologists have discovered what is believed to be the first collective "graveyard" of a herd of woolly mammoths. Heavy torrential rain earlier this week revealed the remains of what may be up to six mammoths at an open pit mine in Kostolac, east of Belgrade, Tanjug reported. According to Miomir Korac, director of the Archeological Project "Viminacium," which is named after the Roman provincial capital along the Danube River, the discovery came as a complete surprise. His team will now use infrared screening to get a better idea of what lies below the surface and check if there are additional mammoth bones.