Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post
-In Philippines, banana growers feel effect of South China Sea dispute- Dazzled by the opportunities offered by China’s vast and increasingly prosperous populace, Renante Flores Bangoy, the owner of a small banana plantation here in the southern Philippines, decided three years ago to stop selling to multinational fruit corporations and stake his future on Chinese appetites. Through a local exporter, he started shipping all his fruit to China. Today, his estate on the tropical island of Mindanao is scattered with heaps of rotting bananas. For seven weeks now — ever since an aging U.S.-supplied Philippine warship squared off with Chinese vessels near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea — Bangoy has not been able to sell a single banana to China, reports Andrew Higgins.
-Socialists, allies take lead in French parliamentary elections- President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and allied leftist groups appeared headed for a working majority in parliament after the first round of France’s legislative elections Sunday. Exit polls showed that the Socialists and their allies were likely to easily win more than half of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, if the results are confirmed in a runoff round scheduled for Sunday. Hollande’s Socialists control the Senate, giving him the prospect of a free legislative field for his program designed to lighten the burden imposed by Europe’s financial crisis on lower-income French families, reports Edward Cody.
-In Spain’s bailout request, Greece’s crisis played key role- Spain was forced to seek a bailout this weekend, becoming by far the largest country to need help during Europe’s 2 1 / 2-year-long economic crisis. But it was tiny Greece that pushed Spain over the brink. Greek voters head to the polls Sunday with a stark choice between leaders who accept the harsh terms of the bailouts that have kept their country afloat and those who reject them, potentially at the cost of Greece’s future in the euro zone. Fears that a Greek rejection would send markets into panic about the currency union’s future pushed Spain to seek the aid ahead of Greece’s election, reports Michael Birnbaum.
OTHER TOP NEWS
--Obama’s political gaffe will be fodder in general election- Here’s an unpopular opinion: Political gaffes matter. After President Obama’s assertion Friday that “the private sector is doing fine” — and his subsequent attempt to clean up the rhetorical mess he made for himself — many Democrats insisted that while it wasn’t his best moment, it was far from consequential in his reelection race. After all, they argued, who watches cable television in the middle of the day on a Friday? And in an election about big things — the overall health of the economy, America’s place in the world — who would ultimately care or be swayed by a single out-of-context statement made by the president? (The point Obama was trying to make, however inartfully, was that the private sector was performing far better than the public sector.) All true. But also all missing the point, reports Chris Cillizza.
-Friends and family plan: Super PACs often personal campaign fundraising affairs- The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman has one particular congressman in mind: Howard L. Berman, a 15-term California Democrat who is struggling to hold on to his redistricted San Fernando Valley seat. The political fundraising committee is essentially the creation of one man trying to keep a close friend and political ally in office. “Howard and I have been friends for 30 years,” said Marc Nathanson, a cable TV magnate and investor who founded the super PAC and has given it $100,000. “It’s a friendship beyond what I call political friendships — it’s a personal relationship. When it was clear he needed help, I figured out a way to do that.” Amid the hundreds of super PACs created to help favored candidates and causes, Nathanson’s group is part of an even more specific class — highly customized, highly personalized political action committees, often created overnight when a relative or friend writes a check, reports Dan Eggen.
-Leak probe’s risks for administration depend on two veteran prosecutors- The independence and speed of two veteran prosecutors named by the Justice Department to investigate leaks of national security information could determine whether the controversy settles quickly or blossoms into an election-year problem for President Obama. The heads of the congressional intelligence committees said on a Sunday talk show that it was a “good start” for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to name U.S. attorneys from the District and Maryland to investigate a series of national security leaks that have drawn bipartisan criticism, reports Robert Barnes.
--Capital Business: Credit Unions feel stymied by lending limitations- After five years as a personal trainer, Nick Irons was ready in 2010 to open his own fitness studio in Bethesda. His search for financing took him from behemoth HSBC to community lender EagleBank. Problem was every bank he approached turned him down. Irons was bewildered. “My business was successful before I decided to open a studio, but most banks looked at it as if it were a brand new start-up, not an extension of an existing business,” he said. Financial institutions are often leery of lending to fitness companies because of the failure rate, but Irons figured his years of experience and lengthy client list would make him a viable candidate for a loan, reports Danielle Douglas.
-Largest health insurer to keep key parts of law regardless of court ruling- The nation’s largest health insurer will keep in place several key consumer provisions mandated by the 2010 health-care law regardless of whether the statute survives Supreme Court review. Officials at UnitedHealthcare will announce Monday that whatever the outcome of the court decision — expected this month — the company will continue to provide customers preventive health-care services without co-payments or other out-of-pocket charges, allow parents to keep adult children up to age 26 on their plans, and maintain the more streamlined appeals process required by the law, reports N.C. Aizenman.