GREEK BANKS REOPEN
Photo: Marios Lolos/Xinhua/ZUMA
Greek banks reopened today for the first time in three weeks, marking the return of some semblance of normalcy for the bankrupt country.
- The withdrawal limit of 60 euros per day has been changed to a maximum of 420 euros per week, potentially meaning the end of interminable queues at ATMs all over the country.
- The BBC reports that many restrictions remain, including a block on money transfers abroad. Greeks also still face rising prices, with an increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods.
- Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested Sunday in an interview for Germany's ARD TV channel that she was open to discussing reduced interest rates and extended maturity dates — though she again ruled against "a classic haircut," i.e. writing off part of Greece's huge debt.
- European markets reacted well to both the reopening of Greek banks and Germany's flexibility, with stocks opening higher this morning (0.4% higher for the pan-European Stoxx 600, 0.3% for Britain's FTSE 100, 0.7% for the French CAC, 0.6% for the German DAX).
"The conditions of the agreement, however, are positively alarming for those who still believe in the future of Europe," former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn wrote on his blog about the agreement Greece reached last week with its creditors, which calls for pension and tax reforms. "Without entering into detail about whether the measures imposed on Greece were welcome, legitimate, effective, appropriate, what I want to underline here is that the context in which this diktat was issued has created a crippling situation."
HISTORIC CUBA-U.S. THAW
It's the end of 54 years of Cold War enmity: The U.S. and Cuba have formally restored full diplomatic relations by reopening their respective embassies in Havana and Washington — a crucial step in the rapprochement initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro last year. Diplomatic ties were severed in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolutionary coup.
"It's a historic moment," Cuban diplomat and analyst Carlos Alzugaray told AP, though there are still lingering difficulties such as restrictions on Americans wanting to travel to Cuba, mutual claims for economic reparations, the resolution of the decades-long trade embargo on Cuba as well as calls for Havana to improve human rights and democracy.
ON THIS DAY
Today marks 64 years since Jordan's King Abdullah was assassinated and, more encouragingly, 46 years since Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind." Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
DEADLY BLAST IN SOUTHERN TURKEY
An explosion has killed at least 27 people at a cultural center in Suruc, southern Turkey, near the Syrian border. According to Turkish daily Hürriyet, the attack is believed to be an ISIS suicide bombing. More than 40 were wounded in the blast in the garden of the Amara Cultural Center close to the Syrian town of Kobane, a battleground between ISIS militants and Kurdish fighters, France TV Info with AFP report. About 300 delegates from youth associations were reportedly staying at the center.
From launching new air routes to studying Mandarin, Egypt's tourism industry isn't just standing idly by while post-revolution problems keep American and European visitors away. As Mada Masr"s Edmund Bower reports, the only market for cultural tourism in Egypt that hasn't shrunk is the Chinese market. Far from decreasing, the number of Chinese visitors is expected to double from pre-revolution levels. "It's not just the government that has been working to attract Chinese tourists," he writes. "Individual tour guides have also been marketing themselves to this new group of visitors. Like so many in Egypt, 40-year-old Hani Hamid has worked most of his life in tourism. He has been a tour guide for the past 28 years. The problems Egypt has faced since 2011 have really damaged his work. â€˜I earn a quarter of what I used to, and I have a family of four,' he says. â€˜I need to find a new market.'"
Read the full article, Egypt Taps Chinese Tourists As Western Visitors Stay Away
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
FORMER CHAD DICTATOR ON TRIAL
The trial of former Chad President Hissene Habré for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes is due to open today in the Senegalese capital Dakar. Nicknamed "the African Pinochet," Habré is accused of carrying out thousands of executions during his eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990. According to Human Rights Watch, a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission accused his government of systematic torture and 40,000 political murders.
Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur, announced today in London that he would spend a whopping $100 million in the next decade to search for signals from alien civilizations. Read more about it in the New York Times.
EIGHT AFGHANS KILLED IN NATO FRIENDLY FIRE
At least eight Afghan troops have been killed in a NATO airstrike in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan, according to security officials. Five other soldiers were also reportedly wounded as an army checkpoint was hit in the latest case of friendly fire in the region, Al Jazeera reports.
Three-time winner of the World Surf League Mick Fanning had a lucky escape after he had to fend off a shark in the middle of Sunday's final in South Africa. Today's front-page story in the South African daily Cape Times includes pictures of the 34-year-old Australian swimming away after he was knocked off his board. Read more in our Extra! feature.
BEAUTIES TO FALL FOR