The Global Note: Mexico’s President…Iran Feels The Pinch…South Africa Chimp Attack…Viva Espana!

By Tom Nagorski

Jul 2, 2012 9:45am

MEXICO: WE HAVE A WINNER

-EL PRESIDENTE…The party that ruled Mexico for 70 years – and was thrown out in 2000 in a ballot-box revolution against a dictatorship – has sent its young and telegenic candidate to the presidency. 45-year-old Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won with 38 percent of the vote. The PRI was long considered the most corrupt and heavy-handed party in Mexican history – it was once called “the perfect dictatorship” – but Pena Nieto’s pledge to make Mexico’s streets safer, rather than chase down drug cartels, seems to have resonated with a populace besieged by drug violence over the last six years. That violence has taken more than 50,000 lives.

-WHAT IT MEANS FOR U.S.: BACKING OFF FROM THE DRUG WAR?…Pena Nieto promises a better trade relationship with the U.S. – and he certainly won in part because his party is seen as more competent on business/economy issues than his predecessor. As for the drug war, this President is less likely to pursue a no-holds-barred “war” on the cartels; that’s welcome news for many Mexicans who’ve seen security and basic law and order battered by the drug war – not to mention all those innocents caught in the crossfire. But the drug kingpins may be breathing easier today – if the Mexican military backs off from that all-out war.

AMERICAN INTERN FOUND DEAD IN MEXICO CITY

The circumstances are not clear – but a 22-year-old American, Armando Montano, who worked as an intern at the AP in Mexico City, was found dead in an elevator shaft of an apartment building near where he was living in the capital. No connection as yet between Montano’s death and the country’s drug violence. Montano, a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, arrived in Mexico City in early June after graduating from Grinnell College with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a concentration in Latin American studies. The AP said that during his time in the bureau, Montano covered stories including the saga of nine young elephants from Namibia who wound up on an animal reserve in Mexico’s Puebla state, and the shooting of three federal policemen at the Mexico City airport. He was not on assignment at the time of his death. The U.S. embassy says it’s monitoring the investigation.

SOUTH AFRICA CHIMP ATTACK

The family of American graduate student Andrew Oberle has arrived at the South African hospital where he is recuperating from a chimpanzee attack. Oberle remains in stable condition after multiple surgeries. His father tells ABC News – in a phone interview – that he’s sure his son will continue working with animals if he makes a full recovery. Meanwhile, Eugene Cussons, a staffer at the scene who helped rescue Oberle says “the chimpanzee jumped onto the bottom part of (my) vehicle…started breaking through the windshield.” Cussons fired a shot through the glass, hitting one chimp and causing both to retreat. Said first responder Lloyd Krause: “If we had left it another 10-15 minutes I think we would have been dealing with a dead person.”

IRAN: NEW SANCTIONS, WAR GAMES AND NUCLEAR TALKS

-TOUGHEST SANCTIONS YET…The European Union’s oil embargo of Iran has taken effect – a total ban on EU purchases of Iranian oil. It’s the toughest measure yet against Iran in the long nuclear-program showdown – and of course the question is, Will this bring concessions, or further defiance? “Today, we are facing the heaviest of sanctions and we ask people to help officials in this battle,” Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi was quoted as saying on state television’s website.

-THE TOLL…Good piece from the NYTimes on how sanctions are already hurting.

-WAR GAMES…Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency reports Iran is beginning a new round of war games , called “the Great Prophet 7″ that involve firing missiles at models of foreign air bases.

-NUCLEAR TALKS…A low-level meeting between both sides on Iran’s nuclear program is set to take place tomorrow in Istanbul, but, as the Wall Street Journal writes, expectations are low following three rounds of high-level talks that made little progress.

AFGHAN WAR: ANOTHER “GREEN ON BLUE” ATTACK

Muhammed LILA reports from Afghanistan: three British soldiers have been killed by an Afghan police officer in Helmand province. The officer turned on the men, opened fire, killing the three soldiers and wounding a fourth. The Afghan policeman was then shot and wounded. He is now in custody.

EUROPE CRISIS

-RECORD UNEMPLOYMENT…Despite that good news out of Friday’s summit, new figures today show unemployment in the Eurozone hit another record in May. Unemployment rose to 11.1 percent, the highest rate since the euro was launched in 1999. No surprise that the highest unemployment was recorded in Spain where nearly one in four people are out of work.

-NEW FIX NEEDED?…Paul Krugman argues in his column today that last week’s Euro summit moves are hardly enough to fix the continent’s economic troubles. To do that, Krugman says the European Central Bank would have to make large purchases of government bonds and accept a higher rate of inflation.

BARCLAYS CHAIRMAN RESIGNS

Richard DAVIES reports – the Libor rate-fixing scheme has claimed its first victim: As expected, Barclays chairman Marcus Agius resigned this morning following the lending rate-fixing scandal. In a  statement, Agius said, “the buck stops with me.” Barclays was fined $450 million last week for attempting to manipulate a key lending rate. The BBC reports Agius is due to answer questions before a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

WIFE OF FORMER TUNISIAN DICTATOR SPEAKS OUT

The much-reviled wife of deposed Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, Leila ben Ali, has given her first interview, to the French daily Le Parisien. In the Skype interview from an elegant apartment in Saudi Arabia, she apologized for any mistakes she may have committed and admitted Tunisians were denied political freedoms under her husband’s rule. She’s particularly hated in Tunisia for helping her clan gain land and far-reaching control over parts of the country’s economy.

TIMBUKTU SHRINE DESTROYED

An Al Qaeda-linked group occupying northern Mali has destroyed 15th-century mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints in Timbuktu, and threatened to demolish the remaining 13 UNESCO world heritage sites in the fabled city, witnesses said. The attack by the Ansar Dine group Friday came just four days after UNESCO placed Timbuktu on its list of heritage sites in danger after the seizure of its northern two-thirds in April by rebels. 

HELPING THE PARALYZED TO SPEAK

A new brain scanner has been developed to help people who are completely paralyzed speak by enabling them to spell words using their thoughts.  It uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to help patients choose between 27 characters – the alphabet and a blank space.  Each character produces a different pattern of blood flow in the brain, and the device interprets these patterns. The British Neurological Association called the research “exciting”.  The study appears in Current Biology journal of Cell Press. fMRI is normally used to track brain activity by measuring blood flow. 

SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART RESUMES

The BBC reports an expedition to find out what happened to Amelia Earhart sets out today from Hawaii, 75 years to the day since she took off on her last flight. Researchers will dive around the uninhabited Pacific island of Nikumaroro, where she is thought to have crashed in 1937 as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe.

APPLE SETTLES IPAD TRADEMARK CASE IN CHINA

Karson YIU reports from Beijing: Apple has agreed to pay a Chinese company $60 million for the rights to use the iPad name in China. Apple says it bought global rights to the iPad name from the company, Proview, in 2009, but Chinese authorities say ownership in China was never transferred.

GRISLY GLOBAL NEWS…

-AUSTRIAN GRAVE-ROBBER…Someone is opening the crypts of famous 19th-century composers – including Strauss and Brahms - and extracting their skulls. The thief, known only by the initials OJ, apparently uses pliers to pull the teeth out, while giving a running commentary of his actions. The Austrians know this because the thief is posting videos of himself doing this. Austrian media have reported that the grave robber intends to create a museum of the stolen artifacts – of which he claims to have amassed hundreds of skeletal samples from the Viennese Central Cemetery. Police launched an investigation after reviewing the footage and checking the tombs for evidence the dentures had been removed. Several teeth, real and false, were found to be missing. Officials have ordered checks on other graves in the same cemetery, including the crypts of Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Arnold Schoenberg.

-MORE BODY PARTS TURN UP IN CANADA…A human head has been found in a Montreal park, prompting authorities to investigate whether it is connected to other body parts mailed to political parties in May. Alleged killer Luka Rocco Magnotta was arrested in connection to those body parts – which belonged to a university student. The student’s head was never found, leading authorities to believe this may be connected.

VIVA ESPANA!

Spaniards blasted off fireworks and jumped for joy after their soccer team won the European Championship Sunday night, giving temporary relief from the crushing economic woes that have engulfed the nation.  Tens of thousands gathered in central Madrid to watch their team beat Italy 4-0 and shout out “Gol!” more times than they thought possible. Even better for Spain, the country’s team became the first ever to win a Euro, then a World Cup and then another Euro. 

THE WIMBLEDON HAWK IS BACK

Sighs of relief at the All-England Club: Rufus the Wimbledon Hawk was found stuffed in a case on Wimbledon Common by a member of the public. He was taken from a car parked at Wimbledon through a window that was left open for ventilation. Rufus is a well-known fixture at Wimbledon who scares the pigeons away.

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