EUROPE'S CRISIS, GREECE'S MELTDOWN
-THE BIG PICTURE… Global markets are mixed today - Asian shares higher, European stocks up and down, U.S. Stock futures down - as worries over the dreaded "contagion" continue. Current ground zero for the trouble: Spain's banking sector - the country's bond yields hit record peaks - despite that bank bailout of as much as €100 billion ($126 billion) that was intended to calm markets. Italy's borrowing costs also climbed. Next nightmare looming: Sunday's vote in Greece, where parties that want out of the Eurozone may cause havoc with the continent-wide crisis. And still no sense that a continent-wide solution is on the horizon.
-"SOCIAL BREAKDOWN" IN GREECE…Reuters reports that Greece's big banks have seen combined daily deposit outflows of between 500-800 million Euros over the past few days. (That's in the neighborhood of $1 billion). And this from The Guardian: In an atmosphere that has become increasingly electric before Greece's crucial election, the far-right Golden Dawn has ratcheted up the rhetoric by threatening to remove immigrants and their children from hospitals and kindergartens. Earning loud applause at an election campaign rally in Athens, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros said: "If Chrysi Avgi [Golden Dawn] gets into parliament, it will carry out raids on hospitals and kindergartens and it will throw immigrants and their children out on the street so that Greeks can take their place." Medical supplies and beds at some hospitals are running desperately short. Sunday's fresh general election is viewed as decisive for the county's future in the euro. On the other side of the spectrum, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftwing Syriza alliance, said it was obvious that Greece's rudderless state could no longer continue.
-MEANWHILE, IN WASHINGTON…Today at 4:30pm ET, in advance of next week's G-20 summit, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner discusses the state of the global economy and the U.S. recovery.
-ANGER FROM DAMASCUS…The Syrian government lashed out at the U.S. today - after the Obama administration accused Russia of planning to supply new attack helicopters to Syria. State agency SANA denied that the country is in civil war, and said "the U.S. administration is continuing its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Syria, its open support for the terrorists, covering up the terrorists' crimes." Per Kirit RADIA in Moscow, Russian officials deny Secretary Clinton's accusation yesterday about those attack helicopters.
-REBELS GETTING ARMS, TOO…Not a new story - but fresh reporting on outside arming of the opposition. The Independent reports that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to be supplying weapons to anti-Assad forces. According to a "western diplomat," the weapons were transported through Turkey.
-THE FIGHTING…Syrian rebels reportedly pulled out of villages around the besieged mountainous town of Haffa - after days of fierce shelling. One Free Syrian Army fighter told Reuters that Syrian government tanks and helicopters continued to pound the town: "First, helicopters attack the villages, later the tanks attack, and then at the end soldiers enter the houses, loot them and set fire to them."
-THE U.N. OBSERVERS…The U.N. reports that monitors trying to investigate what the US has called a "potential massacre" in Haffa were mobbed and attacked by angry residents. Three vehicles were then fired on as they left, unclear who was doing the firing. This footage shows a crowd surrounding and attacking UN vehicles.
-AL QAEDA'S #2 CALLED FOR "VIOLENT JIHAD" IN SYRIA…Before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week, al-Qaeda's second-in-command urged Arabs to take up arms to assist Syrian rebels in their uprising against President Bashar Assad. The call came in a nearly 15-minute-long video message by Abu Yahya al-Libi. It was released Tuesday, but a jihadist website said it was produced in November. Al-Libi was killed last week in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Al-Qaeda has tried repeatedly to capitalize on the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region.
DEADLY DAY IN IRAQ
Mazin FAIQ reports from Baghdad: Coordinated car bombs struck mainly Shiite pilgrims in several Iraqi cities Wednesday, killing at least 65 people and wounding dozens more in one of the deadliest attacks since U.S. troops withdrew from the country. The bloodshed was a stark reminder of the political tensions threatening to provoke a new round of sectarian violence that once pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war. The pilgrims were headed to the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah to mark the anniversary of the death of a revered Shiite saint who is buried there.
MUBARAK'S FINAL DAYS?
Egyptian security officials say Hosni Mubarak's condition has shown a "slight" improvement but that the ousted leader is refusing prison food. The officials at Torah prison where Mubarak is serving his life sentence say the 84-year-old former president ate yogurt and drank juice Wednesday and was being given liquids and vitamins intravenously. As Alex MARQUARDT reports from Cairo, by one credible account, Mubarak "doesn't trust anyone anymore. He was surprised to find new doctors treating him, not the ones who treated him before, and is afraid to take anything from anyone." At one point, Mubarak told his lawyer that he fears his doctors are out to kill him. Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on June 2 for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during the uprising against his regime.?
DEMOCRACY ICON 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. The internet was a little-known, largely distant dream. That fall the regime in Burma cracked down brutally on the opposition; the following spring Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. For nearly a quarter century she was either under house arrest or too afraid that if she left her country she would never be allowed to return. Today Aung San Suu Kyi arrives on her first trip to Europe in a quarter century, a tour that will include her long-awaited acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 - for her tireless efforts to bring democracy to Burma. It's quite a trip: Red-carpet welcomes in five countries; the Nobel speech in Norway Saturday; a trip to Ireland to personally thank Bono for his support (she'll share the stage with him at a Dublin show Monday night); and then to the U.K., where - next Thursday - she'll receive the rare honor of addressing both houses of the British Parliament.
GLOBAL OPINION OF OBAMA SLIPS
A Pew Research Poll shows President Obama's approval globally has slipped since he took office. Overall confidence in the president and attitudes toward the U.S. have also fallen. European countries and the Japanese are still confident in Obama, though support has slipped, while Muslim countries are less supportive. Most notably, support for Obama has decreased significantly in China.
DRUG FAMILY IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE
Good read in the New York Times - about horse-racing and a Mexican drug cartel. "Newcomers rarely make it into the winner's circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing. Yet in September 2010, a beaming band of men waving Mexican flags and miniature piñatas swept into Ruidoso, N.M., to claim the million-dollar prize with a long-shot colt named Mr. Piloto. Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto's owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends…"
Authorities arrested about 180 people in Warsaw Tuesday after fights broke out between Russian and Polish fans ahead of a soccer match between the two rivals. At least 15 people were injured. The Polish embassy in Moscow was under heavy guard last night as a precaution - but the post-game tensions weren't as bad. Perhaps the result - a 1-1 tie that wasn't too upsetting to either side (the Poles were pleased) - helped.
DIRE STRAITS IN NORTH KOREA
Millions of North Korean children are not getting the food, medicine or health care they need to develop physically or mentally, leaving many stunted and malnourished, the United Nations said Tuesday. Nearly a third of children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, and chronic diarrhea due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity has become the leading cause of death among children, the agency said. Hospitals are spotless but bare; few have running water or power, and drugs and medicine are in short supply, the agency said in a detailed update on the humanitarian situation in North Korea. "I've seen babies…who should have been sitting up who were not sitting up, and can hardly hold a baby bottle," Jerome Sauvage, the U.N.'s Pyongyang-based resident coordinator for North Korea, said in Beijing before presenting the report to donors.
TSUNAMI DEBRIS RETURNED
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: A basketball and buoy from Japan that washed ashore in Alaska have been returned to their owners in the tsunami region. At a middle school in Rikuzentakata today, students gathered in the gym, as FedEx workers delivered the ball wrapped up in a box. The school was washed away in the tsunami, and students have since relocated to a new building. Basketball players say they plan to place the ball on the bench in their upcoming game, as a reminder of what they've been through. Further south in the city of Minamisanriku, Sakiko Miura got the box she had been waiting for - a buoy she had used as a sign for her restaurant, which was destroyed by the waves. Miura said she had given up on reopening her restaurant, but changed her mind after the buoy was found in Alaska. **NHK has video**
BEST AND WORST PLACES TO BE A WOMAN
Interesting story flagged by Joe SIMONETTI: Policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare make Canada the best place to be a woman among the world's biggest economies, a global poll of experts showed on Wednesday. Infanticide, child marriage and slavery make India the worst, the same poll concluded. Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the Group of 20 in a perceptions poll of 370 gender specialists conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. The United States came in sixth but polarized opinion due to concerns about reproductive rights and affordable healthcare. At the other end of the scale, Saudi Arabia - where women are well educated but are banned from driving and only won the right to vote in 2011 - polled second-worst after India, followed by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico. "India is incredibly poor, Saudi Arabia is very rich. But there is a commonality and that is that unless you have some special access to privilege, you have a very different future, depending on whether you have an extra X chromosome, or a Y chromosome," said Nicholas Kristof, journalist and co-author of "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" commenting on the poll results.
Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, appeared briefly in court Wednesday to be charged with covering up the phone hacking scandal. Also today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is scheduled to testify in the Leveson Inquiry.
The Queen of England continues her Jubilee tour in Nottingham today accompanied by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
75-YEAR-OLD BODY-BUILDING GRANDMA
The BBC profiles Ernestine Shepherd - or Miss Ernie, to most. The world's oldest female bodybuilder wakes up every day at 02:30 to fit in a 10 mile run before hitting the gym. 75-year-old Ernestine Shepherd insists that "age is nothing but a number."