The Global Note: Iran’s War Games…Syria’s Torture Chambers…One Inspiring Soldier…The Queen’s Favorite Songs

By Tom Nagorski

Jul 3, 2012 10:10am

IRAN: WAR GAMES, WAR PREPS

-SABER-RATTLING, OR MORE?…Iran’s official news agency reports the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards unit has launched several missiles in a military exercise. The missiles, including long-range ones capable of hitting U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, successfully hit their targets, the agency said. Iran holds several military maneuvers each year and the current one coincides with the beginning of a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure the country over its nuclear program.

-U.S. MOVES…The NYTimes reports the U.S. has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf – to deter the Iranian military from any attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a move Iran has threatened several times in the past year – and which would choke significant streams of oil shipping. The U.S. Is also increasing the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates. The Times says the deployments are part of a long-planned effort to bolster the American military presence in the gulf region, in part to reassure Israel that in dealing with Iran, as one senior administration official put it last week, “When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it.” But the buildup carries significant risks, including that Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps could decide to lash out against the increased presence.

-DIPLOMACY…While the militaries do their thing, low-level technical talks begin today in Istanbul over Iran’s nuclear program. Today’s talks, following three rounds of unsuccessful negotiations between Iran and six world power, are aimed at finding enough common ground to salvage the negotiating process.

EURO-CRISIS

-SLOWDOWN SLAMS U.S. FACTORIES…Whether you’re a factory worker or an Obama campaign staffer – you cannot like the picture painted by the Wall Street Journal today: Namely – the global economic slowdown has finally caught up with American manufacturers. The U.S. factory sector shrank in June for the first time since July 2009—the first month of the economic recovery. Exports fell, and new orders, which gauge future factory activity, dropped at their fastest pace since the post-9/11 plunge in October 2001. It’s the strongest evidence yet that Europe’s troubles and slowing growth in China are hurting American factories, one of the biggest drivers of the U.S. recovery. Separate reports have shown U.S. exports fell in April for the first time since November, and last week the government revised downward its estimate of export growth in the first quarter. 

-LEVERAGING EUROPE’S LANDMARKS TO PAY THE BILLS…The Washington Post has a good read on local governments in Europe that are making up for budget shortfalls by hanging ads, selling usage rights and putting their famous landmarks up for sale. In France, two hotels are opening on the ground of the Versailles palace. In Spain, an office tower will be built in Seville near where Christopher Columbus is buried. In Greece, sites like the Parthenon will be open to filmmakers willing to pay per-minute fees.

SYRIA: TORTURE CHARGE…AND AN ASSAD APOLOGY

-TORTURE CENTERS…A blistering report from Human Rights Watch today finds Syrian intelligence agencies are running 27 torture centers where detainees are beaten with batons and cables, burned with acid, sexually assaulted and their fingernails torn out. The group conducted more than 200 interviews with people who said they were tortured and found more than 20 torture methods used by the regime.

-ASSAD: SORRY ABOUT THAT JET…Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tells Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet that he wished Syrian forces had not shot down a Turkish jet last month. He pledges not to allow tension between the two countries to boil over into combat.

MEXICO’S PRESIDENT: AN OP-ED, AND AN INTERVIEW WITH ABC NEWS

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto pens an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which he denies that his election signifies a return to the old ways of his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, widely known for corruption during its 71 years in power. He pledges to continue the fight against drug cartels, but says he’ll change the strategy by better coordinating the country’s crime-fighting authorities. He also calls on the U.S. to curtail demand for drugs. Cecilia VEGA interviews the President-elect at 12:30 ET.

CHIMP VICTIM STABLE

A spokesman for the South African hospital where chimp attack victim Andrew Oberle is recuperating addressed the media this morning, saying Oberle remains in stable condition and under sedation. As Alex MARQUARDT and Adam SECHRIST report, the chimps will not be euthanized – it’s believed they were simply defending their territory. Oberle’s parents are with him and for the moment they’re not speaking with the media.

WORLD WEATHER WRAP

 -INDIA MONSOONS…The toll from some of the worst monsoons India has seen in years: at least 80 are dead; an estimated 2.2 million people have been displaced; and 500,000 are in relief shelters.

-JAPAN FLOODS…From Akiko FUJITA: More than 40,000 people have been evacuated, and at least one man killed following record rain in Kyushu, Japan’s southern island. More than 4 inches of rain fell in an hour in some of the worst hit areas. An 80-year-old man was killed after he was caught in a landslide. There’s widespread flooding – and nearly 8 inches of rain expected in the next 24 hours. 

-FOR U.K., WETTEST JUNE ON RECORD…Since records began 98 years ago – the British have never had a June as wet as this one.

AFGHAN WAR

 -SUPPLY ROUTE TALKS…From Habibullah KHAN in Islamabad: Senior Pakistani officials are meeting today to discuss reopening American supply routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan. Those routes have been closed since November, when an American airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

-FROM WAR-TIME TRAGEDY, A TALE OF PERSEVERANCE…A remarkable story from the AP this morning: it’s the sad yet inspiring saga of Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills. Mills lost all four of his limbs in an Afghanistan explosion, but as the AP writes, his spirit remains very much intact. Mills is one of five Americans to lose both arms and both legs in the Afghan war.

DEADLY DAY IN IRAQ

At least 25 people have been killed and another 40 wounded in an explosion of a vegetable truck in a city market south of Baghdad. Hours later, two bombs exploded in Taji, killing three people and wounding 15. No claim of responsibility has been made.

POPE FIRES BISHOP; COULD HE DO THE SAME HERE?

Pope Benedict sacked a Slovak bishop today for mismanaging his dioceses. He hasn’t done so yet, but the move suggests Benedict may be willing to fire bishops who covered up sexually abusive priests.

BARCLAYS CEO RESIGNS

Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has resigned less than a week after the bank was fined for trying to manipulate inter-bank lending rates. Chairman Marcus Agius who had announced his own resignation yesterday, will now take over the running of Barclays until a replacement is found. Diamond is still expected to testify before a Parliamentary committee tomorrow. One thing he won’t do: Diamond has pulled out of hosting a London fundraiser for Mitt Romney, reports the Financial Times. Diamond “had been one of 18 co-hosts for a dinner in London later this month where guests are being asked to pay $25-75,000 to raise money for Mr. Romney,” says the FT.

RUSSIA: SERIAL KILLER CAPTURED AFTER 15 YEARS

One of Russia’s most notorious serial killers has been captured, after 15 years on the run. He is a former policeman, wanted for murdering 29 women. 

IN ASIAN BOARDROOMS, WOMEN WANTED

Akiko FUJITA reports: Asian companies have “strikingly” few women in senior jobs, according to a new survey out by McKinsey and Company. The company surveyed nearly 750 companies listed on 10 of Asia’s major stock markets, and found that women hold just 6 percent of board seats, compared to 17% in Europe and 15% in the U.S. Australia, Hong Kong and China topped the list for female presence in boardrooms. South Korea, Japan and India were at the bottom.

CAMBRIDGE STUDENT GIVES BIRTH – PASSES EXAMS HOURS LATER

In the annals of overachievers…A student from Cambridge University who gave birth hours before sitting her final exams has graduated with first-class honors. Hmm.

HOW TO LIVE TO 100 – AND BEYOND

We’ve heard this sort of thing before – but now researchers in the U.K. suggest there is a decrease in mortality figures among those who put others before themselves. The theory is that giving back can provide a sense of purpose and self-worth and result in the  “helper’s high” – a “physical sensation” resulting from the endorphin release after an act of kindness or generosity. And helping some people live to 100 – and beyond

DRAMA ABOVE LONDON!

Joe SIMONETTI flags this: A maintenance worker was caught dangling in the wind on the 72nd floor of Europe’s tallest building, the Shard in London. The cradle can be seen swinging wildly from the top of the building after it was hit by a sudden gust. Workers in the building which is still under construction manage to get the spinning platform under control. The contractor who endured the ordeal returned to work later in the day – after a soothing cup of coffee…

THE QUEEN’S FAVORITE SONGS 

The Telegraph reports one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite songs is the Cole Porter classic “Miss Otis Regrets.” Another favorite comes from the musical Oklahoma – “People Will Say We’re In Love.”

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