Violence flares before key Greek austerity vote
Greek police firing tear gas fought running battles with stone-throwing protesters outside parliament on Wednesday as signs grew the government would succeed in pushing through an austerity plan demanded by creditors.
Tens of thousands of protesters, many of them waving Greek flags and beating drums, packed Syntagma Square outside parliament as a 48-hour general strike that began on Tuesday brought central Athens to a standstill.
Demonstrations turned violent for a second day when a surge in the crowd overturned metal barriers, forcing back a line of riot police, who responded with flash bombs and tear gas.
Greece braces for riots as critical vote looms
Greek riot police fired round after round of tear gas to keep small crowds of protesters away from Parliament Wednesday, as lawmakers prepared for a vote on budget cuts that could be critical to the future of Europe's currency, the euro.
How a Greek default would ripple around the world
As the Greek debt crisis goes from bad to worse, worried bankers and policy makers have started throwing the L-word around at every opportunity. Their dire warning: Greece could become another “Lehman moment,” spreading financial destruction across the globe.
“If it is Greece alone, that’s already big. But if other countries are drawn in through contagion, it could be bigger than Lehman,” Deutsche Bank chief executive officer Josef Ackermann said this week.
The Europeans, the International Monetary Fund and other governments and central banks will do all they can to prevent the Greek illness from wreaking widespread havoc, because the potential fallout – another global financial crisis, the unravelling of the economic recovery and the failure of the euro zone itself – is too awful to contemplate. And because they all remember Lehman.
Debt-ridden Ireland and Portugal have already been blown off course by the Greek gale. Frozen out of the capital markets by sky-high premiums demanded by investors for the rising risk of owning their bonds, they had to seek bailouts of their own. And Spain, Italy and Belgium have all come under pressure from bond market predators, despite European efforts to fence off the Bailout Three.
The euro zone reminds risk expert Satyajit Das of a party of mountaineers roped together. As the weaker ones lose their grip, the survival of the stronger climbers is increasingly endangered. The result could be the departure from the euro of the least-competitive members and a breakup or shrinkage of the one-currency-fits-all model. A mortally damaged Europe would put a severe crimp in global prospects for economic growth and could very well trigger another slump while the U.S. economy remains weak.
In the rest of the world:
French Banks Scramble to Prevent Another Global Collapse
The plan is a stark illustration of how dire the situation has become.
It's well understood that the European Union could be debilitated by a Greek default, but the United States has just as much at stake.
"The largely untold 'rest of the story' is this: If the European banking sector implodes, the U.S. financial system could take an unqualified beating," said Money Morning Contributing Editor Shah Gilan
Britian told to find extra 1.6bn a year to fund EU
Despite national austerity measures, including a savage EU-IMF programme of cuts in Greece, The Daily Telegraph understands that a draft EU “multiannual financial framework” will increase spending by 12.5 per cent.
The rise, at over five times the EU rate of inflation, will take Britain's annual contribution to £13billion a year.
In the Middle East, it looks like Israel is taking the Syrian threat seriously:
'Warning to Assad': Attack us, we'll hit you personally
Israel sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent days, warning him that if he started a war with the Jewish state in order to divert attention from domestic problems, Israel will target him personally, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the personal warning was sent through Turkey following intelligence reports of unusual Syrian troop movements, including the moving of long-range ballistic missiles that could be used to target Israel.
The report added that the IDF has increased its preparedness on the northern border out of fear that Hezbollah may attempt to stage another kidnapping of soldiers or civilians along the Lebanese border.
Israel Warns Assad He Is on Death List if He Attacks
A Kuwaiti newspaper reports that Israel has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he will be targeted if he tries to start a war with Israel to take the glare off his brutal suppression of the uprising in his country.
"It's almost a cliché - this is what he [Assad] always does. He's under pressure at home, so he deflects attention," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and quoted by the British business news site IBTimes.
He said that Assad tried the same tactic in the Second Lebanon War in 2006 “by rallying the people around resistance to Israel, and this time it's with the Palestinian cause. This is not going to work."
IDF delivers Goods to Gaza but Flotilla Leader Claims 'Blockade'
The IDF oversees the shipment of 6,000 tons of food, fuel, merchandise and building material to Gaza every day but flotilla leaders allege a “blockade” exists. The requests never exceed the transit vehicles' capacity.
The IDF noted that aid from European convoys to Gaza has continuously been transferred overland in an orderly way without the violence that characterized last year’s IHH-backed flotilla.
Unlike the flotillas, which clearly have nothing to do with humanitarian needs:
The 2010 Gaza flotilla’s five other ships arrived with only 20 truckloads worth of goods, including expired medication. Before the ships left ports for Gaza, a flotilla organizer said the real aim was to Isolate Israel in the international community.
Los Alamos fire inches closer to nuclear waste
A wildfire burning near the desert birthplace of the atomic bomb advanced on the Los Alamos laboratory and thousands of outdoor drums of plutonium-contaminated waste Tuesday as authorities stepped up efforts to protect the site and monitor the air for radiation.
"We are throwing absolutely everything at this that we got," Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said in Los Alamos.
The fire has forced the evacuation of the entire city of Los Alamos, population 11,000, cast giant plumes of smoke over the region and raised fears among nuclear watchdogs that it will reach as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste.
"The concern is that these drums will get so hot that they'll burst. That would put this toxic material into the plume. It's a concern for everybody," said Joni Arends, executive director of the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, an anti-nuclear group.
Wildfire Pushes Toward Nuclear Lab
South China Sea Disputes Could Lead to War
Risks are growing that incidents at sea involving China could lead to war in Asia, potentially drawing in the United States and other powers, an Australian think tank warned on Tuesday.
The Lowy Institute said in a report that the Chinese military's risk-taking behaviour in the South and East China Seas, along with the country's resource needs and greater assertiveness, had raised the chances of an armed conflict.
"The sea lanes of Indo-Pacific Asia are becoming more crowded, contested and vulnerable to armed strife. Naval and air forces are being strengthened amid shifting balances of economic strategic weight," report authors Rory Medcalf and Raoul Heinrichs wrote.
"China's frictions with the United States, Japan and India are likely to persist and intensify. As the number and tempo of incidents increases, so does the likelihood that an episode will escalate to armed confrontation, diplomatic crisis or possibly even conflict," they said.
African Horn in 'worst drought' in 60 years
A UN spokeswoman said on Tuesday that some areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are seeing "one of the driest years since 1950/51," due to two consecutive years of low rainfall.
More than 10 million people are now affected in drought-stricken areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda and the situation is deteriorating, it said.
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