The Global Note: Egypt’s President…Syrian Defectors…Fukushima Fishing…Stealing Roman Stones

By Tom Nagorski

Jun 25, 2012 11:08am

EGYPT: AN ISLAMIST PRESIDENCY

-BIG PICTURE

It’s a first: an Islamist wins a Presidential election in an Arab nation. More than that, it’s a group that was outlawed for decades, its leaders harassed and jailed; as one observer noted, when the presidential guard arrived at Mohammed Morsi’s headquarters, he and his followers might have thought they were coming to arrest them – which over the years was the only reason they’d get a visit from security forces. The big questions now: What will “Islamist” mean in terms of running the country? Will Morsi stick to pledges to uphold international agreements (i.e., Camp David)? And what will his presidency mean for the U.S., which for decades has been a close and generous ally of the Egyptian military?

-LATEST…As Alex MARQUARDT reports from Cairo - the euphoria’s over, now the political wrangling begins. After promising to be a leader for “all Egyptians,” President-elect Morsi starts forming a new government today as remaining members of the existing cabinet tender their resignations. There is also talk that Nobel Prize winner (and one-time presidential candidate) Mohammed El-Baradei may be tapped as prime minister (which would provide reassurance to non-Islamists). Morsi is expected to be sworn in on June 30, although questions remain over the extent of his authority. The ruling military council has taken control of many of the president’s powers and has dissolved parliament leaving Morsi very little legal authority. Meanwhile, the Egyptian stock market shot up 5.65% in the first 40 minutes of trading – clearly helped by the absence of any violent showdown – and analysts expect the rally to last a few days.  

SYRIA

-OFFICERS DEFECT…Turkish media is reporting some 33 Syrian officers – including two colonels and a general – have crossed into Turkey and are currently at a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the border. These latest defections – if true – would bring the total of generals who have abandoned the Army to 13. 

-TURKEY SAYS PLANE WAS CLEARLY MARKED, OVER INTERNATIONAL WATERS…NATO says it will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday following a request from Turkey, over Syria’s shootdown of their fighter jet Friday. Turkey has already acknowledged that its jet might at some point have entered Syrian airspace. But after an initially cautious response, Ankara toughened its rhetoric Sunday night. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey’s TRT television that at the time it was shot down, their plane was in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria.

EURO CRISIS

-SPAIN ASKS FOR BAILOUT…Spain has formally requested European aid of up to €100 billion for its banks, the country’s economy ministry confirmed in a statement this morning. Economy minister Luis De Guindos said in a letter to Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker the final amount of the financial assistance would be set at a later stage but should be enough to cover all banks’ needs plus an additional security buffer. The  Telegraph is live-blogging the ups and downs of the economy this morning.

-SUMMIT THIS WEEK…As Richard DAVIES reports: How many times has a summit been called “crucial”?  Once again we’re hearing that word being used to describe this week’s meeting of European Union leaders. Global investors aren’t holding their breaths. The eurozone’s two most powerful leaders – Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France – remain deeply split in the growth vs. austerity debate. But many have called this week’s meeting a make-or-break chance to find a solution to the debt crisis.

-CYPRUS DOWNGRADED TO JUNK…Meanwhile, Fitch ratings agency has downgraded Cyprus’ sovereign credit grade to junk status, citing a rise in the amount of rescue money needed by its banks, which are heavily exposed to Greece.

PUTIN’S MIDEAST TRIP

Russian President Vladimir Putin is beginning his first Middle East tour in seven years with a trip to Israel. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the continuing crisis in Syria are expected to top the agenda of his talks with Israeli leaders.

KARZAI: LUCRATIVE OIL DEAL WAS AWARDED FAIRLY

Following up on last week’s accusations of bias surrounding a lucrative Afghan oil deal, President Hamid Karzai’s office put out a statement saying that he met Saturday with the American and British ambassadors and that both men had agreed that the concession awarded to a Chinese company and a local Afghan company was done so transparently and fairly. “The U.S. and U.K. ambassadors confirmed the transparency and fairness exercised in the Amu Darya oil tender,”  said the statement.

PAKISTAN: REPAIRING A BUDDHA BLOWN UP BY TALIBAN

From the AP: When the Taliban blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in northwest Pakistan almost five years ago, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue. Thanks to the efforts of Luca Olivieri and his partners, the 6-meter (nearly 20-foot)-tall image near the town of Jahanabad is getting a facelift, and many other archaeological treasures in the scenic Swat Valley are being excavated and preserved. Hard-line Muslims have a history of targeting Buddhist, Hindu and other religious sites they consider heretical to Islam. Six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban shocked the world by dynamiting a pair of 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan. The Jahanabad Buddha, etched high on a huge rock face in the 6th or 7th century, is one of the largest such carvings in South Asia. It was attacked in the fall of 2007 when the Pakistani Taliban swarmed across the scenic Swat Valley. The army drove most of them out two years later, but foreign tourists who used to visit the region still tend to stay away.

KENYA WARNING, KENYA ATTACK

From Wilfred WAMBURA in Nairobi: One person died and several others were injured after a grenade was thrown at a Mombasa night club Sunday night. The attack came just two days after the U.S warned its citizens of an imminent attack in the coastal city. One of the injured is being held as a suspect.

MUMBAI ATTACK PLANNER ARRESTED

Police in Delhi say they’ve arrested a key figure in the deadly Mumbai attacks of 2008. Abu Jindal is being described as the “handler” of the 10 gunmen who carried out the deadly assault that claimed 165 lives.

CHINA QUAKE IN VULNERABLE AREA

State news agency Xinhua reports that a magnitude 5.5 quake struck southwest China Sunday, killing four people and injuring over 100. USGS puts the epicenter near the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. The China Earthquake Network Centre measured the magnitude at 5.7 reporting a M3.3 minutes later. Meanwhile, China Daily reports that houses collapsed and rescue officials were 300 tents, 500 quilts and 500 sets of warm clothing to the area Monday morning.

MEXICO BUS CRASH KILLS 26

Another horror on the roads of Mexico: This time a bus slid off the road and into a ravine in the state of Guerrero. The passengers were on their way to a political rally. Twenty other passengers were injured.  

FOX CORRESPONDENT NAMED TO VATICAN POST

Fox News Rome correspondent Greg Burke has been appointed to help improve the Vatican’s communications strategy. Phoebe NATANSON reports from Rome that his job will be to help integrate communications issues within the Vatican’s top administrative office, the secretariat of state, and to help handle its relations with the Holy See press office and other Vatican communications offices. Burke denies that his appointment was ‘imposed’ by US cardinals who had called for better Vatican communications.

ONTARIO SHOPPPING MALL COLLAPSE

The search is still on for at least two people believed missing after a partial roof collapse at an Ontario mall. Rescue workers on site say taps could be heard suggesting the missing are alive. Nine people remain on a missing persons list. 

IKEA COMING TO INDIA

The  Wall Street Journal reports that Swedish furniture giant IKEA Group has asked India for permission to invest $1.9 billion in the country to set up 25 stores in coming years, bringing some relief to New Delhi policy makers, as they try to bolster foreign investors’ sagging sentiment.

TOURIST STABBED IN THAILAND

Thai police have arrested two men in Bali – wanted for the murder of an Australian woman during a botched handbag robbery in Phuket last week. Police posted surveillance video that showed the moment when the woman was confronted on the street with another companion. 

WHEN IN ROME DON’T STEAL IT – TOURISTS TAKING ANCIENT STONES

Dozens of square stones used by Romans 2000 years ago are being stolen by tourists (as souvenirs) only to be discovered by airport security in their luggage. On Sunday police in Rome displayed a vast collection of cobblestones and other artifacts seized from passenger luggage in the first six months of this year. Those caught are not arrested.

FUKUSHIMA: FISHING AGAIN

From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: Fisherman in Fukushima began selling their catch for the first time since the nuclear disaster Monday – but the selection was limited, largely because of radiation concerns. The first shipment only included octopus and marine snails. The government officially green-lighted the sale of Fukushima seafood on Friday – but they banned 36 fish, because they tested for radiation that exceeded acceptable government levels. The octopus and whelk that hit the markets were limited to Fukushima grocery stores. While customers seemed to be buying, NHK reports prices were about 30 to 40% lower than previous levels.

NAME THAT PENGUIN

From FUJITA again: A contest is underway to name the fugitive penguin whose breakout from an aquarium in Japan gave him a following around the world. He’ll be formally named after months of being known just by his number. Humboldt penguin No. 337 spent 82 days at large in and around Tokyo Bay after bolting his enclosure, evading aquarium staff, an army of public onlookers and even Japan’s well-equipped coastguard. Officials at Tokyo Sea Life Park have launched the competition…it ends next week. 

WIMBLEDON

This morning, Novak Djokovic faces Juan Carlos Ferrero on the opening day of Wimbledon. The Washington Post throws down its predictions.

ROYAL MATTERS: KATE MUST CURTSEY

The Daily Mail reports that protocols dictate that the Duchess of Cambridge, the future Queen of England, must curtsey to anyone born royal, including Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, both in public and private. As Bruno ROEBER adds: Kate Middleton may have helped modernize the British royal family…but one thing she cannot do is upgrade her own background. Kate Middleton’s ‘commoner’ status has been laid bare by internal guide issued by the Queen as to who defers (curtseys or bows) to whom in the royal family.  It is an archaic pecking order document that shows the real ranking of blue bloods in the so called “firm”, and reveals what lies at the heart of the British aristocracy…birthright.

LONESOME GEORGE R.I.P.

The giant tortoise Lonesome George, whose failed efforts to produce offspring made him a symbol of disappearing species, was found dead on Sunday,  officials at the Galapagos National Park announced.

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