Chatter: Ms Merkel goes to Athens




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Need to know:
Beware Germans bearing gifts. Athens is on lockdown today as the Greek capital prepares to, er, welcome German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel is flying in for talks with the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and president, Karolos Papoulias. It's her first time in Greece since the euro-zone debt hit the fan nearly three years ago, and is apparently intended as a show of support for both the country's less-than-solid coalition government and, more broadly, its place on the single-currency team.

But. Many Greeks, hurting from austerity measures they say Germany and other hard-nosed creditors forced upon them, don't want any more of Merkel's kind of support.

Protests began last night and are expected to swell throughout the day. Some 6,000 police officers have been deployed to keep order, while the Greek government is appealing to the public to "protect the peace, and above all our country's prospects and international image."

Want to know:
Mexico says one of its top drug lords is believed dead.

Heriberto Lazcano, commander of the infamous Los Zetas cartel, was reportedly killed in a gun battle with the navy in northern Mexico on Sunday. Authorities say there is "strong evidence" one of the bodies they recovered is the drug baron, but are still awaiting final forensic confirmation.

If indeed Lazcano is dead, it will be counted one of the biggest victories yet victory in Mexico's war on drugs. "The Executioner," as he was known, led one of the country's most violent and far-reaching cartels, and is thought to have been involved personally in hundreds of killings.

Dull but important:
North Korea says the US mainland is within firing range.

Pyongyang has announced that it has missiles capable of reaching American military bases in "Japan, Guam and the US mainland." Plus some stuff about "imperialist aggression" (from the US) and "puppet forces" (South Korea).

The declaration is in response to South Korea's recent announcement that, by agreement with the US, it would almost triple the range of its ballistic missiles to approximately 500 miles. The move, which is designed to act as a deterrent to Seoul's northern neighbor, puts the whole of North Korea and parts of China within the South's range.

California can probably still sleep easy, however: North Korea's two most recent rocket tests – that we know of – both failed.

Just because:
Disgraced former football trainer Jerry Sandusky is due in court today for sentencing, and shows little sign of remorse.

The former Penn State assistant coach faces a maximum penalty of 440 years in prison for the 45 counts of child sex abuse of which a court found him guilty, in June. In interviews from jail ahead of today's appearance, Sandusky continued to assert that he was innocent, the allegations false, and his trial unfair.

He told Penn State's student radio station: "They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart."

Strange but true:
One thing we'll find out today that we probably didn't need to: what a sonic boom does to the human body.

The insight comes courtesy of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner (that's his semi-official title), who's planning to skydive to earth from the edge of space – from the edge of space, for cripes' sake! – and break the sound barrier as he does so.

Baumgartner will jump from a pressurized capsule attached to a weather balloon at 120,000 feet, or about 23 miles. He's relying on his BASE jumping expertise to come to a safe landing. Good luck with that, fella. We'll be busy, um, averting our eyes.