The Global Note: Europe, Fasten Your Seatbelts…Children In Syria…Protesting Putin…The World’s Priciest Cities

By Tom Nagorski

Jun 12, 2012 10:01am

EUROPE: “FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS”

-BIG PICTURE…There’s nothing good in the big picture from across the Atlantic today. A brief post-Spanish-bailout euphoria is history – in its place the realization that we are seeing band-aid approaches to a problem requiring surgery. From our Richard DAVIES: “Fasten your seatbelts. This could be a bumpy ride…Only three things can be said with any certainty. 1) After three years, Europe’s financial problems are far from over.  2) No one knows how this thing will end, whether it’s a euro currency crackup or a new federal united states of Europe.  3) Europe matters. This whole mess will have a big impact on our economy and 401k plans.” As New York Times columnist Joe Nocera puts it, this exactly “how not to solve a crisis. “there is no lender of last resort” in the Eurozone – just 17 governments cobbling together patchwork plans. With no major, comprehensive, continent-wide approach, you have the dam of debt bursting repeatedly, in different places – and little confidence among investors that change is coming.

-NOW, GREECE + ITALY…The critical vote in Greece is Sunday – a make-or-break vote for Greece’s place in the Euro zone and a vote with huge implications for the whole crisis. That’s in the hands of Greek voters, of course – but in the meantime the “contagion”, as the debt crisis is often called, is taking square aim at Italy.  Concerns grew overnight that Italy could be the next victim of Europe’s financial infection, leading nervous investors to sell Italian stocks and bonds and damping that Spanish euphoria. The Times’ Nocera again: “In the euro zone, there is no lender of last resort. Germany, which has the money and the clout to play that role, refuses to. The European Central Bank is constrained by politics and its own narrow sense of mission…The Germans are sick of being asked to save what they see as the ne’er-do-well Greeks. The Greeks are just as sick of the austerity programs that the Germans have imposed on them…”

-GLOBAL MARKETS…European stocks climbed for the first time in three days, U.S. index futures rose, while Asian shares retreated overnight.

-SYMBOLS OF THE CRISIS…As Phoebe NATANSON reports from Rome, several stone laurel leaves have fallen from the Trevi fountain, raising concern that one of the city’s most famous landmarks needs its first major restoration in 20 years. But the city is short on funds and an appeal for funds has begun for the 250-year-old Baroque masterpiece. Meanwhile, The New York Times writes about a jarring new public service campaign that ran on Greek TV. The campaign’s central message — “Monuments have no voice. They must have yours” — is a broad attack on deep cultural budget cuts being made as part of the austerity measures imposed on Greece by the European economic establishment.

SYRIA CRISIS

-CHILDREN USED AS HUMAN SHIELDS?…Syrian troops have tortured children and used them as human shields on tanks to prevent attacks by opposition forces, a U.N. report says. The U.N. said children were being tortured in detention and – adding that they have never seen a similar situation where children were not spared – and even targeted – in a conflict. (The BBC has a good write up of the report.)

-EXPLOSION IN THE NIGHT…A nighttime demonstration in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor was hit by an explosion, according to activists. This footage shows chaotic scenes described as the aftermath of a shell landing. A person is seen being carried along a rubble-strewn street.  Meanwhile, more footage has emerged of shelling in Homs that both the UN and the BBC team with Paul Danahar witnessed.

-ANNAN TO WORLD: “TWIST ARMS”…The U.N.’s special envoy on Syria has asked governments with influence to “twist arms” to halt the escalating violence in the country, his spokesman said Tuesday. “It is totally unacceptable and it must stop, and that is why Annan has invited governments with influence to raise the bar to another level, to the highest level possible, and twist arms if necessary, to get the parties to implement the plan,” his spokesman told reporters in Geneva.

RUSSIA: OPPOSITION RALLIES, FEARS OF CRACKDOWN

Thousands of anti-government protesters are marching through Moscow, a day after police raided activists’ homes. Our Kirit RADIA is out in the thick of it – and The Moscow Times is live-blogging the “March of Millions” protest. We’re hearing what amounts to a brave chant: “Russia without Putin.”

SUU-KYI TO EUROPE

The last time Aung San Suu Kyi saw Europe it was the spring of 1988. The Berlin Wall was still up and the Cold War was still on. Beginning Wednesday, Suu Kyi will take her first trip to Europe in a quarter century, for a tour that includes her long-awaited acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 for her tireless efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar.

ITALY SHAKES…STILL

From Phoebe NATANSON: There were eight quakes overnight, the strongest a magnitude 4.3, in the area of northern Italy that has been rumbling for a month now. The department of civil protection declared that at least 4 in 10 houses are unsafe in the troubled area.

NIGERIA: MASS REVENGE KILLINGS

From Wilfred WAMBURA in Nairobi: A gang of armed robbers has killed 27 people in remote villages in northern Nigeria. About 80 people on motorbikes attacked the villages of Dan-Gulbi and Guru – some victims had their throats cut, according to reports. The attack is believed to have been carried out to avenge the killings of a suspected group of armed robbers by villagers and vigilante groups last year.

OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONY: ‘GREEN AND PLEASANT’

The Olympic Stadium will be transformed “into the British countryside” called “Green and Pleasant,” for the opening ceremony of the Games on 27 July. Director Danny Boyle, and a cast of 10,000 volunteers will help recreate country scenes, against a backdrop featuring farmyard animals and landmarks. 

FLASH FLOOD RESCUE IN CHINA

A dramatic – and successful – rescue of a man trapped in the middle of a flooded street, clinging for dear life, unfolded in southwest China. Torrential rains swept across China’s Guizhou province over the weekend, leaving six people dead and affecting more than 300,000 others, local authorities said overnight.

PAKISTAN MEMOGATE

A controversial Pakistani judicial investigation has found that the country’s former ambassador to the U.S. did indeed write a letter to American officials requesting their help in reining in the powerful army last year, a lawyer and the state media said Tuesday. The finding could lead to treason charges against the former envoy, Hussein Haqqani, who denied any role in authoring the memo. Many independent observers have also concluded that the probe was politicized. Haqqani resigned from his post after the scandal broke.

CHAVEZ DANCES, SINGS ON TV

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez sang, danced and gave a marathon speech at the launch of his re-election bid, offering a preview of a campaign in which he is likely to push his limits to show Venezuelans he is emerging from cancer’s shadow. Various recent reports have suggested Chavez’s condition is grave.

BIEBER FEVER IN MEXICO CITY

Thousands of crazed Justin Bieber fans showed up to his free concert last night in the Zocalo square in Mexico City. The AP reports that, unsurprisingly, the crowd consisted mainly of tween girls and their parents and over 5,000 extra police officers were on hand for extra security.  

WORLD’S PRICIEST CITIES

From Akiko FUJITA – in the most expensive city on earth: In what is perhaps a sign of the times, Tokyo has regained the crown as the world’s most expensive city to live in. The record high yen, pushed costs up for foreign companies with staff in Japan, while Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and other European cities fell in the rankings – as a weaker euro slid costs. Half the cities in the top 10, were in Asia, including Singapore and Hong Kong. The cheapest city was Karachi, where the cost of living was a third of that in Tokyo, followed by Islamabad. In the US: Winston Salem, had the lowest cost of living of any major urban area in the US; Chicago was ranked 110th overall and Washington DC 107th. Mercer rankings here.

THE U.K. FUNNY PAGES

Following yesterday’s news that Prime Minister Cameron left his daughter at a local pub, the Telegraph publishes a great cartoon today showing a girl on a barstool: “Oh No! I’ve left my father running the country.”

POLAND V. RUSSIA – AND PLEAS FOR CALM

Security is high in Warsaw, and Polish and Russian soccer fans are already gathering in the streets, hours before a Euro 2012 match between two nations with a bitter history. For centuries Poles have long resented the long arm of Moscow, particularly in the Cold War period when the Soviet Union imposed control over the country for nearly five decades. As it happens, today is Russia Day, a national holiday, and Russian fans plan to march from central Warsaw to the stadium – a move seen as provocative by many Poles. (Editor’s note: anyone requiring guidance as to whom to root for, please call the Foreign Desk)

R.I.P., TEOFILO STEVENSON

‪Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, the three-time Olympic heavyweight champion with a devastating right hand and a gentlemanly demeanor, has died. He was 60. Mara VALDES reports from Havana that this statement was read on Cuban TV Monday night: “The Cuban sporting family was moved today by the passing of one of the greatest of all time,” it said. Stevenson died of heart disease. Considered by some to be the most accomplished amateur boxer in history, Stevenson first won gold in 1972 in Munich and followed that up in 1976 at Montreal. ”The Olympic Games in Munich and Montreal are the fondest memories I have from my life, the best stage of my career,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year.  In 1980, he won his third Olympic title in Moscow, becoming the second boxer to win gold at three separate games after Hungarian Lazlo Papp.

 THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL

 Today is the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank’s very first diary entry.

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