EUROPE: HOPE FADES…
-BIG PICTURE…The foreign news is still very much the financial news – and the financial news is really grim. Once again a Monday sigh of relief has given way to an ugly Tuesday – just as last week’s Spanish bank bailout looked good for about 24 hours, so too did an election result in Greece. Now? As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “The brief afterglow from Greece’s vote…has been quickly extinguished by a cascade of bad news out of Spain that again rattled faith in the currency bloc’s ability to support its most troubled members.” And this – from the Washington Post: “Among investors, a bitter truth appears to be sinking in: The problems in Europe are so widespread and so deep that a real solution is sure to be complex, hard-fought and anything but quick.”
-THE PAIN IN SPAIN…Here’s the crisis du jour – and the huge fear: Fresh data shows Spain’s lenders are sitting on the highest level of bad loans in 18 years, Spanish bank deposits continue to leak away, and the cost of borrowing money in Spain has reached levels widely viewed as unsustainable – north of 7% – for those keeping score. Those levels led to big bailouts for Portugal, Ireland and Greece – and now the huge question, and new fear: Can Europe afford a huge new bailout for Spain – the continent’s fourth-largest economy – and if not, will the whole Eurozone unravel as a result?
-IN SPAIN, STEALING CROPS…Still in Spain, we get this dispatch from the AP: “The Spanish people are becoming increasingly desperate and now turning to stealing food. Authorities and farm groups blame the thefts on Spain’s economic crisis and have implemented special police patrols to focus on farms and pastures…
-G-20: AT THE SUMMIT, A SEARCH FOR ANSWERS…The leaders of the world’s largest economies will portray themselves today as united behind efforts to boost growth and job creation in order to repair a fragile global economy roiled by all the above fears, according to a draft of the statement to be released later today. But clear, specific measures to deal with the crisis remain absent. After the summit, President Obama plans to meet with Chinese President Hu at 5:30pm ET and hold a news conference at 7:30pm ET.
-IN GREECE, THE HARD WORK BEGINS…No time to celebrate in Athens – where rival Greek party leaders have launched a second day of talks in an attempt to quickly form a coalition government, after the debt-crippled country’s second inconclusive election in six weeks.
EGYPT: NEW CRISIS LOOMS
Alex MARQUARDT in Cairo, along with other Egypt-watchers, warn that the nation could be teetering toward another political crisis as a standoff brews between the interim military rulers and Islamists. As Egyptians celebrate the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square, the nation’s military power is exerting itself with new constitutional powers which will limit the new President’s influence. “The military is clearly trying to turn the clock back to what existed under the Mubarak regime,” Marina Ottaway, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells USA Today. “What is clear more and more is that the military sacrificed (Hosni) Mubarak to maintain the power of the old establishment.”
-U.N. SYRIA MISSION TO BRIEF NATIONS…The head of the now- suspended U.N. observer mission in Syria is traveling to New York to brief the U.N. Security Council in person this afternoon – amid growing concern that the escalating violence may spell the end of the monitoring effort and international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
-RUSSIAN SHIPS TO SYRIA?…Kirit RADIA flags this from Moscow: Another Russian Navy ship is reportedly headed to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains a ramshackle base and refueling center. The “Kaliningrad” from Russia’s Baltic Fleet is apparently the third Russian ship carrying Marines headed to Tartus. The other two came from the Black Sea Fleet. The ships are reportedly going to secure the base and possibly help evacuate Russian citizens.
-PRIME MINISTER OUT…From Muhammad Lila in Islamabad: In a huge blow to the country’s ruling party, Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified the country’s prime minister from holding office today after finding him in contempt of court earlier in the year. “Yousuf Raza Gilani is disqualified from membership of parliament from April 26, the date of his conviction,” said Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. “He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan,” the chief justice stated. The Supreme Court has now called on President Zardari to convene a parliamentary election for Gilani’s replacement. Parliament will now be called into session, where the ruling People’s Party of Pakistan, or PPP, is expected to nominate his successor. The ruling comes as a big test of Pakistan’s democratic system. Critics worry that the latest political turmoil could throw the nuclear-armed nation into a full-fledged crisis, forcing the military to intervene, as it has in the past. Pakistan has seen three military coups in its short history.
-TALIBAN BANS VACCINATIONS…The New York Times reports that a Pakistani Taliban commander has banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, in the tribal belt, days before 161,000 children were to be inoculated. He linked the ban to American drone strikes and fears that the C.I.A. could use the polio campaign as cover for espionage, much as it did with Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped track Osama bin Laden.
NEW SAUDI HEIR
Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s Defence Minister, has been named heir to the Saudi throne after the death of his brother Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Saturday. Prince Salman, 76, who had been widely expected to be named as successor, has a reputation for probity and is well-liked, with close ties to the West. His brother Prince Nayef died in Geneva of a suspected heart attack – in accordance with Saudi custom the 79-year-old prince was buried yesterday in an unmarked grave in the holy city of Mecca. He had held the title of Crown Prince for just eight months after becoming heir apparent after the death of his brother, Prince Sultan, at the age of 86. Prince Salman became defence minister in October following Prince Sultan’s death. It was the first ministerial post for Prince Salman who had been the governor of Riyadh for more than 50 years where he has been credited for developing the capital into a modern city.
U.S. TO MAINTAIN SIGNIFICANT MILITARY PRESENCE IN KUWAIT
The U.S. is planning a military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report to be released today. The AP obtained a copy of the report.
IRAN NUKE TALKS DEADLOCKED
Iran and six world powers have started a second day of meetings as they try to break a deadlock at talks focused on reducing fears about Tehran’s nuclear intentions. The meeting today follows a first day of negotiations that diplomats from some of the six countries in Moscow described as tough and frustrating.
TYPHOON HITS JAPAN
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: Typhoon Guchol made landfall this afternoon – bringing torrential rains and winds of up to 110 mph with it. So far, NHK reports more than 50,000 homes have been evacuated in western Japan, as a precaution, for landslides. In the tsunami ravaged city of Ishinomaki, more than 10,000 have been evacuated. You may recall, the earthquake lowered parts of that city, so it is more prone to flooding. At least 450 domestic and 40 international flights have been cancelled. Some trains have been delayed. No widespread reports of major injuries or deaths caused by the storm yet, but will continue to monitor.
TOP FAILED STATES
Here’s a ranking you don’t want to be a part of: Compiled by the Fund for Peace and published annually by Foreign Policy, this year’s failed state list is out this week. The top prize goes to Somalia, followed by the Congo, Sudan, Chad, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic rounds out the top ten. North Korea ranks #22, followed by Syria at #23 and Egypt falls at #31.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI – NOBEL LAUREATE, AND ROCK STAR…
Burmese parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi spoke at the London School of Economic this morning…continuing a 4-day trip to the U.K. – the first time she’s visited in more than two decades. Another reason to celebrate? Suu Kyi celebrates her 67th birthday today. Last night she received a true rock-star welcome in Ireland, where Bono was among the stars who performed at a special concert in her honor. Sir Bob Geldof, Riverdance, Damien Rice, and the actors Vanessa Redgrave and Jack Gleeson were among other stars paying tribute to Suu Kyi. The Irish Times dubbed it a “Mandela Moment”.
CANADIAN (PORN) MURDERER IN COURT
Luka Magnotta, the man accused of killing, dismembering and videotaping the murder of Chinese University student is expected to face murder charges in a Montreal court later today.
VATICAN BLAMES THE MEDIA
From Phoebe NATANSON the Vatican is blaming the media (again) for its problems. On Monday the Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone told an Italian catholic weekly that journalists reporting on the leaks scandal are “pretending to be Dan Brown – inventing stories and replying legends” and fuelling the scandal. He said there was no power struggles or problems of unity in the Holy See’s governance.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Prince William has spoken out against the illegal trade in rhino horn, calling those who take part in it “ignorant, selfish and wrong”. Two rhinos are killed each day in South Africa alone, and Prince William is warning that we need to take action now or the species will disappear forever. He’s given his support to a conservation project which is taking three black rhino from Kent to be relocated into the wild in Tanzania.
THE QUEEN AT ASCOT
Along with Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth attends the start of Ascot along with thousands of horse racing fans (famous for not only the racing but for the ladies in attendance and their big hats).
A CHINESE SUPERHERO FOR CHINA
From Karson YIU in Beijing: The creator of Spiderman – Stan Lee – is creating a new superhero for Chinese moviegoers. “The Annihilator” is the (vague) story of a young Chinese man forced to leave China only to return later to help save his country. Casting gets underway soon. According to the LATimes, the story will go something like this: “‘The Annihilator’ will tell the story of a young Chinese man forced to leave his hometown in mainland China amid dramatic circumstances. After time in the United States, he returns home in the guise of the Annihilator, who uses his extraordinary powers to save the world and also explore his roots. One official description added that the character would be “a young Chinese man given a second chance as an international superhero, who returns home to mete out justice.”
MCENROE ON ANGER MANAGEMENT
It’s being compared to Keith Richards giving advice on staying sober, or Madonna explaining how to be shy and retiring. John McEnroe has proffered some friendly advice to fellow sportsmen on how to handle a flaming temper. A week before Wimbledon, McEnroe warned Andy Murray against what he calls the “lob of diminishing return”, when, instead of being channelled into competitive spirit and performance, rage becomes counter-productive. Anger can be a positive force, he said, but only when combined with control. His words were all the more pertinent given Sunday’s outburst at the Queen’s final, when David Nalbandian kicked an advertising board, injuring a line judge. The Association of Tennis Professionals said yesterday the Argentinian had been fined the maximum penalty of €10,000 (app. $13,000) for the incident, as well as been disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct – that’s another $50,000 in prize money gone. The Metropolitan Police launched their own investigation after a complaint, treating it as an alleged assault.
WHY DID THE DUCK CROSS THE ROAD
Stunning still photos as five thousand ducks brought traffic to a standstill in the Chinese province of Zhejiang.