The Global Note: “Social Explosion” In Greece; Dodging Euro-Bullets; Landmark – and Anger – In Egypt; Punishing David Nalbandian

By Tom Nagorski

Jun 18, 2012 10:33am

EUROPE CRISIS: THE EURO SURVIVES (FOR NOW); GREECE’S “SOCIAL EXPLOSION”; WHERE’S THE BIG FIX?

-BIG PICTURE…Today’s story has many datelines: Athens, of course, where the ballot box may have kept in the Euro – though nightmares remain; Los Cabos, Mexico, where world leaders are basically saying to Germany’s Angela Merkel and other key players, “How are you going to fix this?”; and of course trading floors from Hong Kong to Wall Street, where all this news is being digested in basic, buy-or-sell terms.

-GREECE VOTES, MARKETS RESPOND…The Greeks have spoken and European and Asian markets spiked in response. But not so fast…analysts warn that the economic crisis shaking the 17 nations that use the euro is far from over. In Athens, the intense horse-trading is underway, among political parties trying to form a coalition government; then that government must negotiate with the rest of Europe for concessions on loan terms from international lenders. And none of this deals with the spillover debt troubles in Spain and Italy. Says Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi of the Greek vote: “We dodged a bullet, but they’ve got a lot more bullets coming,” Zandi said.

-”SOCIAL EXPLOSION” FOR GREECE…Nick SCHIFRIN paints a dismal picture from Athens: Greece only has enough cash to last a few weeks. To secure the next European loan, the government must come up with $14 billion in spending cuts this month – including firing 150,000 civil servants and opening up to competition traditionally “closed” professions – everything from beauticians to bakers to taxi drivers. Quote of the day: An advisor to the new prime minister tells Reuters: “If there is no change in the policy mix, we’re going to have a social explosion even if you bring Jesus Christ to govern this country.” 

-WHAT WILL THE WORLD DO?…The Euro crisis tops the agenda as the G-20 Summit kicks off in Los Cabos, Mexico at 5pm ET. The basic question for the European leaders: Where’s the big fix? What’s the grand plan? Europe keeps barely missing the icebergs – but how to get the debt crisis under control – so we’ll have some confidence the ship won’t sink?

-OBAMA + PUTIN…Nothing to do with the Eurozone – but expect a tough session when President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Mexico summit. “I expect that it will be a candid discussion, it will get down to business,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. Russia is a linchpin in world efforts to resolve the crises in Iran and Syria, and to U.S. goals for the smooth shutdown of the war in Afghanistan.

-OBAMA + THE WORLD…Good piece from the New York Times on just how tough the world stage has become for White House. “For Barack Obama, a president who set out to restore good relations with the world in his first term, the world does not seem to be cooperating all that much with his bid to win a second…Europe has seemed unable to contain its rolling economic crisis to just Greece. The Syrian conflict has intensified as the United Nations suspended its observers’ mission amid the violence. Egypt’s popular revolution is at risk of being reversed by the military. And the Russians are cracking down at home and rattling sabers abroad.

IN EGYPT, WE HAVE A WINNER – AND WE HAVE A PROBLEM

From Alex MARQUARDT in Cairo: Early this morning, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Morsi claimed victory in Egypt’s landmark Presidential election – a result that would put a long-outlawed organization in power in the largest nation in the Middle East. The announcement came just hours after the rling military council (SCAF) issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against just such a victory. After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament, and locking out its lawmakers, the generals also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution on Sunday night. The bottom line: The military is here to stay – and to many Egyptians, the “revolution” seems like ancient history. The Brotherhood celebrates here.

IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS

From Kirit RADIA in Moscow: A high-stakes meeting between a group of world powers and Iran to discuss its nuclear program is underway in Moscow. This latest round of talks comes at a critical – and sensitive – time. Tough U.S. and European oil sanctions on Iran will go into effect within weeks, hitting Tehran in its most lucrative sector and increasing pressure. Earlier this month, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog admitted that its talks with Tehran in Baghdad had ended with “no progress.” Alex MARQUARDT flags these comments from President Ahmadinejad this morning: “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always said that, if the European countries give Iran 20 percent (enriched uranium) fuel, Iran will not carry out enrichment to that level…Even today, if they give us the guarantee that they will supply 20 percent fuel for our reactors, there will be no problem” in stopping enrichment to 20 percent. This isn’t enough to placate the Israelis’ and their stated position of halting all enrichment but it would be a big step forward. 

YEMEN COMMANDER KILLED – LED FIGHT AGAINST AL QAEDA

The commander of Yemen’s southern military region was killed in a suicide attack in Aden early on Monday, medics and a security official said, after the army drove al Qaeda-linked militants from their strongholds in the area. The bomber, who was wearing an explosives belt, targeted Major General Salem Ali Qatan as he was on his way to work, witnesses said.

SYRIA: UN CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE CIVILIAN EVACUATIONS

The head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria has urged both sides in the conflict to take “immediate action” to facilitate the evacuation of civilians trapped amid escalating violence. “The parties must reconsider their position and allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions, and ensure their safety,” Gen. Robert Mood said in a statement. This comes just two days after the observers suspended their mission – in the face of violence that they said made their work untenable.

AFGHAN WAR: POPPY GROWTH PLUNGING

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan‘s key opium producing region has declined 40% over the past four years as coalition and government forces have secured key towns and villages and the Afghan government has ramped up eradication. USA Today reports that this year farmers grew poppy on about 143,000 acres in Helmand province, down from its peak of nearly 256,000 acres in 2008, according to Regional Command Southwest. “In all countries we see links between cultivation and security,” said Angela Me, an analyst at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. “The areas that are more secure are where we had less opium.” Since insurgents are supported by drug revenues, the decline in poppy cultivation has cut into the Taliban’s ability to launch operations, according to Regional Command Southwest.

U.S. DESERTER COMES FORWARD, 28 YEARS LATER

A U.S. Air Force deserter who has lived secretly in Sweden since 1984 has revealed his identity and contacted his family in the United States who were overwhelmed to hear he was still alive, a Swedish newspaper reports. David Hemler reportedly deserted at 21 while serving at a U.S. Air Force base in Germany, after getting involved with a pacifist church and becoming disillusioned with the policies of former President Ronald Reagan.

SUU KYI + BONO

Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi kicks off her week in the U.K. with a visit to Dublin to receive an Amnesty International award presented by U2 frontman Bono – who says he’ starstruck at the thought of being onstage with the Nobel laureate and democracy activist. Suu Kyi formally accepted the Nobel Prize for PEace Saturday, more than two decades after it was awarded for her fight for freedoms.

POPE’S MESSAGE ON IRISH CHURCH ABUSE

From Phoebe NATANSON in Rome: The pope delivered a low-tech video message yesterday at the conclusion of the final Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in which he described the sex abuse scandal as a ‘mystery.”  He said: “Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love [in Ireland] have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care,” the pope said. “Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message.”

AMERICANS REALLY ARE THE FATTEST

Akiko FUJITA flags some fascinating numbers out from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which calculated the weight of the global population. While Asia accounts for 61% of the global population, it only accounts for 13% of the weight of the world due to obesity. No surprise – North America had the highest average weight (178 lbs) even though only 6% of the global population lives there. The extra weight could be the equivalent of adding an extra billion people to the planet. The report here. And a good BBC writeup.

FATTEST COPS IN PAKISTAN

From Muhammad LILA in Islamabad: The police chief of Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province, has a message for his officers: Lose weight or quit. He’s ordering his 175,000 officers to not let their waistlines exceed 38-inches. Overweight officers are ineffective and “cannot chase bandits, robbers and other criminals properly”, according to the police chief’s spokesperson. It comes amid a new report that shows 50 percent of Punjabi policemen are overweight. Think that’s bad? In Rawalpindi, 77 percent of all officers are said to be overweight, according to a study published in a local paper.    

 SAMSONITE HEALTH SCARE

Samsonite International SA says it has pulled a line of luggage from Hong Kong stores after a local consumer group reported finding high levels of a chemical linked to cancer in the handles. The suitcase company said Monday that it commissioned independent tests that showed its bags were safe to use. But it was taking the bags off the shelves to allay customer fears following the report by the Hong Kong Consumer Council. The council said last week it found that the side handles on three Samsonite suitcases had levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that were higher than recommended.

JAPAN: RALLIES AGAINST U.S. OSPREY DEPLOYMENT

From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: The recent crash of an Osprey aircraft in Florida has unleashed a wave of opposition against its deployment to a marine base on Okinawa. Over the weekend, 5,000 people rallied on the southern island, the largest demonstration yet, demanding the government postpone the scheduled deployment later this summer. The crash has strengthened the case of those who oppose U.S. military presence on Okinawa, saying the training is dangerous for those who live there. Japan’s chief government spokesman has said that the plans for deployment are only on hold temporarily, in light of the recent crash, but Japan has no intention to scrap the deployment altogether. Washington has said the Ospreys are necessary, to replace aging helicopters at Futenma base.

MANDELA: NATIONAL BIRTHDAY WISHES

Nelson Mandela’s office has released a video of South Africans singing “Happy Birthday” in an effort to motivate people around the world to salute the anti-apartheid icon ahead of his 94th birthday next month. Mandela’s grandson Luvuyo Mandela said Monday that he and his family will hand out blankets and plant trees on July 18, which was declared Mandela Day in 2009. People around the world are encouraged to devote some time to community service in his honor on the day. A spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said the video aims to mobilize people around the world to sing to Mandela on his birthday. The Nobel peace laureate spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist rule. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.

AIRPORT SELLS LOST TIARA (AND OTHER JEWELS)

The Duchess of Argyll reported her diamond tiara (worth as much $200,000) and other priceless family jewelry missing when she arrived at Glasgow Airport several months ago. But rather than return the missing jewels the airport sold them (and donated the proceeds to charity, a common practice for unclaimed lost property). Problem is: The airport never reported the lost items to the police and the Duchess only spotted her jewelry in a catalog at a local auction house. The airport authority has apologized and is trying to reclaim her property.

TENNIS STAR GOES NUTS

Hard to explain this one away — though David Nalbandian has tried. He was disqualified from the match – and the tournament – and The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is considering what action to take against Nalbandian, after his on-court rant resulted in an injury for a linesman.  

OLYMPIC TORCHBEARER PROPOSES

A torchbearer has proposed to his eight-months pregnant girlfriend during day 31 of the Olympic torch relay from Middlesbrough to Hull. David State, 25, from Redcar, who works with the Scout movement and raises money for charity, knelt as he asked Christine Langham, 27, to marry him. She accepted and Mr State carried on his stint in Loftus, Teesside. The flame was also carried on a steam engine on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway during its 109 mile journey. The relay started with the Olympic flame being carried across Middlesbrough’s landmark Transporter Bridge.

BACK-BREAKING, FIERY CRASH

Ex-Formula One driver Anthony Davidson broke his back yesterday after a horrific crash in the opening hours of the Le Mans 24 hour race.  

QUICKSAND RESCUE

The BBC reports that a 51-year-old man was rescued by coastguards after becoming stranded waist-deep in quicksand. The man was stuck for about 40 minutes before being rescued.

EURO 2012

Which teams during Euro 2012 has the most players not singing the national anthem? The Wall Street Journal keeps score.

TO MAKE YOU FEEL OLD…

Sir Paul McCartney turns 70 today.

…AND TO MAKE YOU FEEL YOUNG

Shiseido Co will release “La Creme” on September 21 to mark the 30th anniversary of its most luxurious beauty product line, “Cle de Peau Beaute.”  At nearly £169 per gramme, it is more expensive than gold – a bargain at a mere £33 per gram – and believed to be the most costly face cream ever sold. Only three jars of the product are being sold, each container hand-crafted and made up of 30 layers of crystals and three platinum rungs, Shiseido said. The jar is being produced jointly by the cosmetics firm and Crystal Saint-Louis, a specialist glassmaker from France whose designs are highly sought after by collectors.

 

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