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April 9, 2014

Via Kevin Drum, we find that Greece might have a successful debt auction:

Greece is undergoing an astonishing financial rebound. Two years ago, the country looked like it was set for a messy default and exit from the euro. Now it is on the verge of returning to the bond market with the issue of 2 billion euros of five-year paper.

There are still political risks, and the real economy is only now starting to turn. But the financial recovery is impressive. The 10-year bond yield, which hit 30 percent after the debt restructuring of two years ago, is now 6.2 percent....The changed mood in the markets is mainly down to external factors: the European Central Bank's promise to "do whatever it takes" to save the euro two years ago; and the more recent end of investors' love affair with emerging markets, meaning the liquidity sloshing around the global economy has been hunting for bargains in other places such as Greece.

That said, the center-right government of Antonis Samaras has surprised observers at home and abroad by its ability to continue with the fiscal and structural reforms started by his predecessors. The most important successes have been reform of the labor market, which has restored Greece's competitiveness, and the achievement last year of a "primary" budgetary surplus before interest payments. [Reuters]

But let's not get ahead of ourselves:

(Source: tradingeconomics.com)

Given the kind of people who have been in charge of the thing, I guess it's sort of impressive that the European Central Bank has finally figured out how to use their infinite Euro-creation power to keep member nations from defaulting on Euro-denominated debt. But with unemployment still over 27 percent, I'd say let's hold off on talk of a recovery.

Indeed, I rather fear this could be the worst of all worlds. Moving off the Euro would have been awful, but at least held the prospect of returning to growth and full employment within a couple years (from a much lower base). By contrast, the bank Natixis recently estimated that, given very generous assumptions, it will take Spain (which is in similarly dire straits) 25 years to return to 2007-era employment. A nation can do a great deal of catch-up growth in that time.

Realistically, I'd guess this means that Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, etc., will never recover fully, and instead we're witnessing the birth of a crummy, tattered Franco-German empire with a permanently depressed periphery. Ryan Cooper

3:16 a.m. ET

The Islamic State overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in the summer of 2014, and the militants left traces of their massacres dotting the landscape. In a new report, The Associated Press identifies 72 mass graves in Syria and Iraq, and says many more will be uncovered as ISIS's territory shrinks. "This is a drop in an ocean of mass graves expected to be discovered in the future in Syria," says Ziad Awad, the editor of online publication The Eye of the City, who is trying to document ISIS's mass burial plots.

Using satellite imagery, photos, and interviews, AP has found the location of 17 mass graves in Syria, and 16 of the mass graves the news organization located in Iraq are in areas still to dangerous to excavate. AP says anywhere from 5,200 to more than 15,000 ISIS victims are buried in the graves it knows about. "They don't even try to hide their crimes," Sirwan Jalal, director of the Iraqi Kurdistan agency in charge of mass graves, tells AP. "They are beheading them, shooting them, running them over in cars, all kinds of killing techniques, and they don't even try to hide it."

The evidence and chance to identify the dead are waning with the passage of time and exposure to the elements, however, and the Iraqi Kurds and other local groups are seeking international help. Part of the goal is to build a case to convict ISIS leaders of war crimes, and part of it is so families can bury their dead. "We want to take them out of here," Rasho Qassim, an Iraqi Yazidi, says of the remains of his two sons. "There are only bones left. But they said 'No, they have to stay there, a committee will come and exhume them later'.... It has been two years but nobody has come." You can read more at AP, and watch the video below for more context and testimony about the ISIS massacres. Peter Weber

2:11 a.m. ET

When your presidential aspirations fizzle out and die, the next best thing is to go on television and cha-cha your way back into the spotlight.

The official Dancing With the Stars lineup for Season 23 won't be announced until Tuesday's edition of Good Morning America, but Entertainment Tonight is reporting that former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is set to appear on the show. He will be joined by a hodgepodge of other celebrities, including Olympians Laurie Hernandez and Ryan Lochte, Maureen McCormick of Brady Bunch fame, Vanilla Ice, Marilu Henner, and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, ET says.

Perry won't be the first Texas Republican to two-step across the Dancing With the Stars stage — in 2009, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay appeared on the show, partnered with pro Cheryl Burke. As seen in the video below of DeLay dancing to "Wild Thing," he's not exactly nimble on his feet — in fact, the second-hand embarrassment is strong throughout the performance — but he did go out there and show America he can wiggle his hips and point a lot. Catherine Garcia

1:51 a.m. ET

Public Policy Polling (PPP) is a Democratic polling firm with a good track record (Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight gives it a B+ rating) and an idiosyncratic sense of humor, and Rachel Maddow had some new results she was excited to share on Monday night's Rachel Maddow Show. "I can now report, this year's Republican presidential nominee is less popular than middle seats on airplanes," she said, and she meant it literally. According to PPP's latest poll, American voters prefer getting stuck in the middle seat to Donald Trump, 45 percent to 43 percent, and Trump only beats bedbugs by 22 percentage points — though among black and Latino voters, not only bedbugs beat Trump, but also the bubonic plague, mosquitoes, Ryan Lochte, and carnies.

Now, maybe this isn't great news for Hillary Clinton, since she is only beating Trump by 5 points among likely voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, "but you know, the whole story isn't just the topline result, right?" Maddow said. "Obviously, the demographic breakdowns are interesting as well." Here, the big number was Trump's popularity numbers among black voters — 97 percent unfavorable, 3 percent unsure, and 0 percent favorable.

Maddow also was tickled by some of the "demographic groups you did not know could exist in nature," like the 2 percent of black voters who agree that Trump "cares about African Americans and Latinos," and the 4 percent of Donald Trump voters who agree he "cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons." "Every year you have a new demographic," she said. "Sometimes it's soccer moms, this year it's the apocalyptically suicidal." The PPP poll was conducted Aug. 26-28, and has a margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points. You can watch Maddow giddily dig into the details below. Peter Weber

1:26 a.m. ET
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A car exploded near the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the government's heath ministry announced, killing the driver and injuring three people. It appears the car rammed the embassy's gate before it blew up, Reuters reports. The state security service said it is investigating the incident. Catherine Garcia

12:54 a.m. ET

This is one of those Tonight Show sketches where you wish they'd also release video of the pitch meeting where this idea was hatched and hammered out. On Monday's show, Kevin Bacon showed that his acting and singing skills extend to a very solid Tom Petty impersonation and Jimmy Fallon joined him dressed as Mike Campbell, Petty's long-time collaborator and guitarist. The song is the 1989 Petty hit "Free Fallin'," but since this is one of Fallon's VH1-style "First Drafts of Rock" passion projects, you won't recognize most of the lyrics. Watch below, and pay special attention to Fallon's growing frustration as Bacon's Petty just ignores the band's buildup to the chorus. Peter Weber

12:37 a.m. ET
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

When the family of Gene Wilder announced Monday that he died at 83 from complications due to Alzheimer's, many were shocked to hear he had been living with the disorder for the past three years. In a statement, they explained why the actor decided to keep his diagnosis private.

The decision to wait to disclose Wilder's condition had nothing to do with "vanity," his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman wrote, "but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him, 'There's Willy Wonka,' would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment, or confusion. He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world."

Walker-Pearlman also shared one bit of good fortune the family had — they were "among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. It took enough, but not that." Catherine Garcia

August 29, 2016
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

On Monday, Apple sent invitations out for its autumn product launch Sept. 7 in San Francisco, leading many to believe the company will debut the iPhone 7 at the event.

Apple did not confirm any details, but typically during the annual September event, at least one iPhone model is announced, as well as new models or features of popular products like the MacBook and Apple Watch. Sources say they expect the new phones to come without a headphone jack. While Apple has sold more than 214 million iPhones over the past year, sales are down from the same time in 2015. Catherine Garcia

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