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IRAN – Twenty-five years ago on 3 Jun 2014, Seyyed Rouhollah Khomeini, the revered founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, died at 86. Iranian cities and towns across the country drape buildings in black each anniversary and millions of Iranians make their way to Tehran from inside and outside the country to pay their respects at his shrine. The anniversary will bring Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and other high-ranking officials and clerics to the shrine, and the format of the ceremonies will tell analysts if Iran’s overtures toward the West in recent months are real or a ploy to bring about the easing of Western economic sanctions. If the ayatollahs command center stage, all renewing their allegiance to the ideals of their late spiritual leader, the message will be that the Guardian Council, the most influential body in Iran, hasn’t relinquished more than talking points to Rouhani.
Khamenei tells hardliners not to undermine talks (Reuters 3 Nov 2013)
Why 'Death to America' remains Iran hardliners' slogan (BBC 4 Nov 2013)
Guardian Council (BBC)
UNITED STATES -- On 3 Jun 1914 Slovak inventor Stefan Banic demonstrated his prototype parachute for military representatives by jumping from a 41-floor building in Washington DC and later from an Army aircraft. Banic didn’t invent the parachute – that distinction probably belongs to Leonardo da Vinci – but his was the design that had practical applications. Patented on 25 Aug 1914, his parachute became standard equipment for US pilots during the World War I. The centenary of Banic’s jump merits celebration for its contribution to the war effort and also for its role in the foundation of sport parachuting – base jumping and sky diving. Enthusiasts can be counted on to stage centenary competitions and events.
Stefan Banic (US Library of Congress)
History of the parachute (About.com)
SYRIA – President Bashar al-Assad plans to run in the presidential election set for 3 Jun 2014. If Assad remains undefeated by rebel forces and if his staunch friends Iran and Russia see no benefit in coercing him to stand down, an election is unlikely to change the leadership of the war-torn country. Assad won’t have a rival powerful enough to defeat him at the polls -- his family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years and opposition is dealt with proactively. Should a significant rival make it as far as the polls, the chances are remote that, whatever the election results, Assad would step aside. His removal by fiat – if that were possible -- wouldn’t guarantee an end to the civil war; Syria’s National Coalition, the likely transitional government, will be in the cross-hairs of pro-Assad militias, and some opposition factions are reported to be at war with each other.
Syria crisis: Diplomats meet over peace talks delay (BBC 5 Nov 2014)
Syrian Election Announced (New York Times 21 Apr 2014)
CHINA – Tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong will hold a candle-lit vigil in Victoria Park on 4 Jun 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of the attack by Chinese People's Liberation Army troops on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The attack with assault rifles and tanks killed hundreds, and ended the six-week demonstration calling for political reform. Security at the Square, always tight because of its attraction for disgruntled citizens and its proximity to power centers and the Forbidden City, will be iron-clad for the 25th anniversary; significant milestones represent a particular lure for protest attempts. The former British colony of Hong Kong, which has its own legal system, is the only place in China where the observance is allowed. For mainlanders, virtual commemorations also present risks as Chinese censors keep tight watch on the Web to silence any reference to the events of 4 Jun 1989.
Tiananmen Square massacre (This Day in History.com)
Tiananmen Square car blaze kills five people (28 Oct 2013)
BELGIUM – The G-8 Summit of leaders that was scheduled for Sochi, Russia, for 4-5 Jun 2014 is now the G-7 Summit and the venue is Brussels on the same date. The now-G7 purged Russia, nominally 2014 president of the club of major industrial nations, as punishment for annexing the Crimea. The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the United States announced the expulsion of Russia and return to the G-7 format at an emergency meeting at the Hague after the annexation in Mar 2014. At the June summit the seven plan to discuss increasing financial assistance to Ukraine's central government, and will decide how and when to launch coordinated sanctions on certain sectors of the Russian economy if Russian President Vladimir Putin presses into other pro-Russian areas of Ukraine. Russia’s G-8 website still lists the Sochi summit for 4-5 Jun 2014.
G7 leaders to hold summit in Brussels, not Sochi (EurActiv 26 Mar 2014)
Russian G8 web
Brazil, China, India rally round Russia after snub (EU Observer 25 Mar 2014)
FRANCE – The milestone 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during WWII, led by United States General Dwight D. Eisenhower, falls on 6 Jun 2014. Known as D-Day of WWII and also Operation Overlord and launched from across the English Channel, it describes the invasion of Nazi-occupied northern France by an Allied armada of ships, planes and landing craft and some 156,000 troops. The Sword Beach sector in Normandy has been chosen for the international remembrance on 6 Jun 2014. The American, British, Canadian, French and German leaders are expected there to lay wreaths, and other countries France regards as its liberators have been invited. The 70th will be the last international remembrance for most veterans – now near, in or past their 90s – and there are early signs that there may not be an 80th remembrance. From Jun 6 to Aug 22, military history enthusiasts will swell the number of tourists to the battle sites and military cemeteries of Normandy. The 80-day battle for Normandy cost an unknown number of Allied, French and German lives. Estimates range from 200,000 to 500,000.
The 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy (Normandy 70th)
Normandy Invasion – estimated casualties (Encyclopedia Britannica)
D-Day: The 70th Anniversary (National Geographic tours)
EQUATORIAL GUINEA – The 23rd Summit of the African Union, planned for Malabo from 26-27 Jun 2014, is likely to see a call for collective action to halt Boko Haram’s depredations in Nigeria and the region. The Islamist militant kidnapped some 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria in Apr 2014, causing widespread outrage, and it is blamed for hundreds of death in the region. At a meeting hosted by French President Hollande in Paris in May, the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad agreed to “wage war” on the militants. The summit is also expected to decide whether to lift the suspension of Egypt’s AU membership. It was handed down after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on 3 Jul 2013. He was the country’s first civilian and Islamist president. The organization recently notched up its relations with NATO, which assists with several AU peacekeeping operations. An agreement signed 8 May 2014 formalizes a NATO liaison office at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. South Sudan looms as an urgent topic for the leaders as extreme famine is said to be imminent due to the new country’s civil war. The AU brings together 54 African states.
NATO and the African Union boost their cooperation (NATO 8 May 2014)
Africa leaders declare 'war' on Nigeria Boko Haram (BBC 17 May 2014) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27451966 Mehleb concludes Equatorial Guinea visit ahead of AU summit (Daily News Egypt 10 May 2014)
ITALY – Salvage operators anticipate that the ill-fated Costa Concordia is expected to begin its voyage from the Tuscany coast to port for breakup in July or August, 2014, after the protracted battle to refloat it. Its final destination is being considered by the ship’s operators and the Italian authorities. Ten ports in several different countries, including China and Turkey, are vying for the work. Piombino, in Italy, is the closest. The breakup means thousands of jobs to the winning port. The passenger liner slammed into a reef off Giglio Island on 13 Jan 2012, killing 32 passengers and crew. In Sep 2013, almost two years later after it ran aground, engineers succeeded in wrenching the 900 ft, 115,000-ton cruise ship from its side to vertical with pulleys. Capt. Francesco Schettino is currently on trial in Rome for manslaughter, alleged to have caused a shipwreck and leave the ship before all passengers were evacuated. Prosecutors have accused him of taking the ship off course toward the island for a stunt.
Tuscan Port Vies to Dismantle Costa Concordia (New York Times 13 May 2014)
Diver dies during work on Costa Concordia (Guardian 2 Feb 2014)
Removing the Costa Concordia wreckage (CTV News 15 Sep 2014)