Good morning! It’s Friday. Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Guardian reports: “Close allies of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being “magicians” and invoking djinns (spirits).”
2. Syrians will take to the streets today in what is being called a national “day of defiance.” The Assad regime’s security forces are on high alert.
3. The leading Egyptian presidential candidate told The Wall Street Journal that if he was elected he would “break with former President Mubarak’s amenable policies toward Israel, and would have to deal with a parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
4. Elements of the Pakistan military played a supporting role in the US attack on Osama bin Laden.
5. Five Republican presidential candidates participated in a “debate” last night in South Carolina. No news was made. The Business Insider Politics “scorecard” is here.
6. The New York Times reports: “House Republicans signaled Thursday that they were backing away from the centrepiece of their budget plan — a proposal to overhaul Medicare — in a decision that underscored both the difficulties and political perils of addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.”
7. One reason Republicans are “backing away” can be found in upstate New York. There, a Congressional race that should be comfortably Republican is very close because of the Medicare issue.
8. The White House political strategy on immigration is doomed to failure, as everyone knows, including the White House and the Hispanic groups and leaders it is trying to woo. So is the White House strategy insulting or just inexplicable?
9. Gillian Tett reports today that the Financial Stability Board is raising warning flags over exchange traded funds (ETFs). Fears that ETFs may be the CDOs of this decade are growing.
10. Greek debt restructuring — accurately described by Floyd Norris as a “polite term for default” — is probably inevitable. How messy it will be is the key question.
11. The “end of days” caravan has pulled into Washington, DC. Apparently, the world will end on May 21. This would mean that the US Open Golf Championship probably wouldn’t be played in June.