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News Wrap: Greece Appoints Interim Government Amid Fears of Euro Exit

May 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Greece appointed an interim government today as it struggled to escape a deepening political crisis. Meanwhile, Germany appeared to hold out the prospect of additional economic aid.

We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Greece’s presidential palace was a vision of tranquility this morning, no outward sign of what the governor of the Bank of England has called a Eurozone tearing itself apart.

But for these political heavyweights, even agreeing a caretaker prime minister proved hard. And this is that caretaker P.M., a safe pair of hands for an unsafe country. His name is Panagiotis Pikramenos, and he’s a senior judge.

The president congratulated him. “It’s a great joy, but a heavy burden for me,” the new prime minister replied. Pikramenos translates as embittered in English. In fact, there is such bitterness here that far-left politicians who plan to cancel the eurozone’s bailout deal could win those elections next month.

In Berlin last night, Chancellor Merkel appeared to be steering Francois Hollande of France. But now there’s the merest hint that the French are steering the Germans, and not the other way around, with Germany’s leader today cutting Greece a little slack.

ANGELA MERKEL, German chancellor (through translator): We want Greece to stay in the Eurozone. If Greece believes that there are certain stimulus to be pursued for growth in the Eurozone, which we could pursue in the interest of Greece, we’re open for this. Germany is open for this.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Though some Greeks aren’t waiting that long. They’re voting now with their money, by taking it out. Over 1.2 billion euros was withdrawn from Greek banks on Monday and Tuesday, with even Greece’s president admitting that what he called great fear could turn to panic.

KWAME HOLMAN: Greece now faces new elections on June 17.

The turmoil in Greece roiled markets for another day. The euro hit a four-month low, the price of oil dropped again, and even gold hit its lowest level since December. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 33 points to close at 12,598. The Nasdaq fell more than 19 points to close at 2,874.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor offered no apologies today for fomenting civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. He told a U.N. tribunal he sympathizes with the thousands of victims, but he admitted no wrongdoing. He claimed his support of Sierra Leone rebels was aimed at stabilizing the West African region. The court convicted Taylor of war crimes last month. He is to be sentenced on May 30.

Medical records have emerged as new evidence in the killing of an unarmed teenager in Florida. George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February. The case has generated national attention. Now, according to ABC News, a doctor’s examination of Zimmerman a day after the shooting shows he had two black eyes, a nose fracture and cuts on the back of his head. That could bolster his claim of self-defense.

President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Specialist Leslie Sabo Jr. today for heroism during the Vietnam War. Sabo was killed in an ambush in Cambodia in 1970, but he saved several other soldiers, even using his own body to shield a wounded man from a grenade blast. The award nomination was lost for decades. Then it took more years to be confirmed and win congressional approval.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Leslie Sabo left behind a wife who adored him and a brother who loved him, parents who cherished him and family and friends who admired him. But they never knew. For decades, they never knew their Les had died a hero. The fog of war and paperwork that seemed to get lost in the shuffle meant this story was almost lost to history.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president also honored other Vietnam War veterans during the ceremony. He said they were shunned after the war, when they should have been praised for their patriotism.

The World Health Organization underscored today that risk factors for diabetes and heart disease are spreading. A new study found a quarter of the world’s population over the age of 25 has high blood pressure. Nearly one in 10 has high levels of blood glucose. WHO officials said it’s due largely to increased tobacco use, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise in people in developing nations.

The footwear company Skechers will pay $40 million to settle charges it falsely advertised its fitness shoes. The Federal Trade Commission found the company deceived customers by claiming several of its shoe lines helped reduce weight and build muscle. Those who purchased the toning shoes will be eligible for unspecified refunds.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.