EURO-CRISIS: SOME REASON FOR HOPE
-SUMMIT DEAL…As Richard DAVIES describes it, "An early morning surprise from Brussels." After all-night talks European leaders appear to have come up with a set of measures to show they're serious about solving the crippling debt crisis. European leaders agreed early Friday to funnel money directly to struggling banks. The change would come after the eurozone set up a single banking supervisor to be run by the European Central Bank. Instead of the hodgepodge of 17 different bank supervisors, there will now only be one for all eurozone banks. The agreement also backs away from forcing tough reforms in exchange for rescue money - countries that want the eurozone bailout funds will no longer be subject to Greek-style monitoring programs. That's a win for the likes of Greece, Spain and Italy. Here's the Euro Summit Statement.
-MARKETS LIKE THIS…Already this morning, positive reaction from the markets. Irish, Spanish and Italian bond yields have fallen substantially (that's a good thing) and major Asian and European markets experienced a bounce on the news - and the Euro has surged 1.1%. Stock futures rose this morning on Wall Street. DAVIES again: "But many analysts are still skeptical, saying Europe must still move mountains to really solve the debt crisis."
-BLACK MARKET FOR BODY PARTS AMONG EUROPE'S POOR…The NYTimes reports on a growing nightmare among the poorest in Europe: People are literally selling their body parts online for cash. The article highlights one couple who have put their kidneys online for $40,000. In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs - as well as hair, sperm and breast milk have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000.
Campaigning has ended in Mexico's once-every-six-years vote for President. Enrique Pena Nieto - of the old powerhouse PRI party (what some Mexicans call the Party of the "Perfect Dictatorship") is the frontrunner, with leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Josefina Vazquez Mota, Mexico's first female presidential candidate the major contenders. The outcome will have repercussions for the U.S. - not least because there's likely to be a new approach towards the current aggressive, U.S.-backed war on the drug cartels. That war has taken a staggering 50,000 lives - maybe more - in just five years.
CHINA HIJACKERS FOILED
From Karson YIU in Beijing: A local Chinese news website reports that passengers and crew on a plane in China's far-western region of Xinjiang have foiled a hijacking attempt by six people. The hijacking attempt was made just after the plane took off Friday from Hotan for Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi. The regional government news site says the six suspects were detained by police after the plane returned safely to Hotan but did not immediately give any other details. Here's a pic taken from the plane.
Thousands of people are without power - and a man was swept away - following torrential rain and hail that hit parts on the U.K. in the past 24 hrs. The worst-hit area is northeast England. British transport, power and schools are expected to be disrupted. The rain caused hundreds to be stuck on a London-to-Glasgow train - some for 15 hours.
ARCTIC SEA ICE: RECORD MELT
Max GOLEMBO flags this from the Guardian: Sea ice in the Arctic has melted faster this year than ever recorded before, according to the US government's National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). Satellite observations show the extent of the floating ice that melts and refreezes every year was 318,000 square miles less last week than the same day period in 2007, the year of record low extent, and the lowest observed at this time of year since records began in 1979. Separate observations by University of Washington researchers suggest that the volume of Arctic sea ice is also the smallest ever calculated for this time of year. Scientists cautioned that it is still early in the "melt season", but said that the latest observations suggest that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to shrink and thin and the pattern of record annual melts seen since 2000 is now well established. The increased melting is believed to be a result of climate change. Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the past half century.
-CLINTON IN RUSSIA…Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in St. Petersburg, Russia where she and Foreign Minister Lavrov will try to iron out differences over Syria. This comes on the eve of a Syria conference in Geneva.
-DAMASCUS FIGHTING…Opposition activists say at least 40 people have been killed in relentless shelling of rebellious suburbs of Damascus over the past two days. The barrage is part of a fierce government offensive aimed at regaining control of parts of Damascus suburbs where rebels operate, particularly in Douma.
EGYPT'S NEW LEADER
Mohamed Morsi will be sworn in as President of Egypt at the Supreme Constitutional Court Saturday morning. Morsi is due to deliver his first presidential speech at Cairo university after the ceremony, Ahram Online reports. He is also expected to address a rally in Tahrir Square today, after Friday prayers.
SUDAN "DAY OF RAGE"
Can an "Arab Spring" come to this giant African nation? Opposition groups in Sudan have organized "day of rage" protests today against the government of Omar al Bashir. Vicious fighting has broken out between Sudan and South Sudan in recent months after the South cut off oil production. You can flow the protests via the hashtag #SudanRevolts on Twitter. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof calls the protests a milestone in the effort to bring down Bashir.
ASSANGE NOT EXPECTED TO SURRENDER
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, will likely not obey the order to return report to a police station today - what is supposed to be the first step in his extradition to Sweden to face sex crime charges. Assange has been hiding out in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, but was served a surrender notice for extradition. Assange says the sexual assault charges are politically motivated and that he fears extradition to the U.S. to face charges for leaking secret documents.
"MISS HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR"?
That's right. Fourteen women who survived the horrors of World War II competed in an usual and controversial pageant last night in Israel for the title of "Miss Holocaust Survivor." Even though some complained judging the women was offensive, pageant organizer Shimon Sabag rejected the criticism, saying the winners were chosen based on their personal stories of survival and rebuilding their lives after the war, and physical beauty was only a tiny part of the competition. The women, ranging in age from 74 to 97, wore black dresses, earrings and necklaces, and sported blue-and-white numbered sashes. The winner, Hava Hershkovitz, a soon-to-be 79-year-old, was banished from her home in Romania in 1941 and sent to a detention camp in the Soviet Union for three years. (So technically a Gulag survivor, not Holocaust…)
Another swimmer will attempt to swim from Cuba to Key West today. Penny Palfrey, a 49-year-old mother and grandmother, will set off from Havana's Hemingway Marina this morning and expects the swim to take as many as 50 hours. She'll be swimming without a wetsuit or a shark cage. Worth noting that swimmer Diana Nyad made two failed attempts last year.
CHINESE ASTRONAUTS RETURN TO EARTH
China's first female astronaut and two other crew members emerged smiling from a capsule that returned safely to Earth Friday from a 13-day mission to an orbiting module that is a prototype for a future space station. The Shenzhou 9 parachuted to a landing on the grasslands of the country's sprawling Inner Mongolia. China declared the first manned mission to the Tiangong 1 module a major stride for the country's ambitious space program. The three astronauts, all experienced air force pilots, were lifted onto folding chairs and appeared in good health. They smiled, waved, chatted and saluted as state television ran live footage from the landing site. Premier Wen Jiabao said the mission marked "absolutely important progress" for the space program. China has been extremely cautious and methodical in its manned missions, with more than three years passing since the previous one, and all four have been relatively problem-free.
QUEEN'S DIAMONDS ON DISPLAY
Lama HASAN reports from London: Starting Saturday, more than 10,000 diamonds go on show at London's Buckingham Palace to mark Queen Elizabeth's 60th year on the throne. The most impressive display, however, is the one containing seven of the nine major stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest ever found.
That's the headline for a Daily Mail piece about the "terrifying moment a buzzing swarm of 3,000 bees descended on florists in Hereford, England. Pretty good still photos…