Monday, June 18, 2012

My vagina monologue: what Michigan GOP lawmakers didn't want to know

If Michigan Republicans think they have the right to control women's bodies and reproductive rights, they can hear me out

'I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no': Representative Lisa Brown speaking on the floor of Michigan state House on HB 5711, which seeks to limit abortion rights. Video:
As a state legislator, I have spoken out often and passionately on the things that matter most to me and my constituents. I have spoken out against the defunding of our public schools and against tax increases to middle-class families. So I was shocked to learn Thursday that the leadership of the Michigan House of Representatives had decided to silence me and keep me from doing my job because I had uttered the one word they couldn't stand to hear: vagina.
Let me explain. The day before, we were debating a new anti-choice law that would over-regulate women's health clinics to the point many could no longer offer abortions. It would require doctors to make the equivalent of funeral arrangements for foetal remains, both in the cases of abortion and miscarriage; and it would hinder women in rural areas or who don't have transportation from getting early abortions by prohibiting doctors from prescribing abortion drugs by phone.
When it was my turn to talk, I explained my opposition to the bill. As a Jew, I said that I follow my faith's teaching that when a pregnant woman's health and life is at stake, it's her life that comes first. As a member of a religious minority, I understand that not everyone shares my views, and I respect that. In turn, I asked that they not force their religious views on me. In closing, I told them that I was flattered in their interest in my vagina, but no means no.
Apparently, that was too much for House leadership to bear.
The next day, I was told I wouldn't be allowed to speak on behalf of my constituents on the House floor. Thursday was the last day of session before legislators went home for the summer, and a lot of work was getting done. There were proposals on funding teacher pensions and reducing income taxes – issues my constituents find very important. But I wasn't allowed to speak up for them. Because I had dared say "vagina" the day before.
To hear some talk about it, you'd think I'd said a dirty word. One of my counterparts, Representative Mike Callton (Republican–Nashville, Michigan) said he couldn't even bear to repeat what I had said because it was "so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company." Callton, by the way, holds a bachelor's degree in biology. Imagine what he went through in anatomy class.
If he thought the legislature was a safe refuge, he's bound to be disappointed. At least three times, Michigan lawmakers have passed laws containing the dreaded V-word: once in describing body cavity searches, once in offering a legal description for birth, and another time in describing criminal sexual conduct.
Shouldn't we be able to discuss body parts if we're going to pass laws about them? Am I really to believe that my opposition is undone at the mere mention of a woman's anatomy?
I don't think so. I think what's going on is even worse. Some legislators – mostly male – will go to great lengths not to hear women's voices when it comes to legislating our health and catering to extreme special interests. They don't want to hear us, and when we speak out anyway, they try to shut us down.
I'm not about to let them stop me. I wonder if they hear us now?
• Follow Lisa Brown on Twitter

With a red ribbon "V" on the steps  at the State Capitol Building in  Lansing, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, far left,  Rep Barb Byrum, center, in black, and State Rep Lisa Brown, at right with red top and black skirt, read from the play "The Vagina Monologues" Monday   6/18/2012 as thousands gather .   The event was a response to the recent ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word "vagina."  

With a red ribbon "V" on the steps at the State Capitol Building in Lansing, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, far left, Rep Barb Byrum, center, in black, and State Rep Lisa Brown, at right with red top and black skirt, read from the play "The Vagina Monologues" Monday 6/18/2012 as thousands gather . The event was a response to the recent ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word "vagina."
Rod Sanford | Lansing State Journal 
With a red ribbon "V" on the steps at the State Capitol Building in Lansing, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, far left, Rep Barb Byrum, center, in black, and State Rep Lisa Brown, at right with red top and black skirt, read from the play "The Vagina Monologues" Monday 6/18/2012 as thousands gather . The event was a response to the recent ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word "vagina."
More than 2,000 people, most of them with signs, turned out for a rally on June 18, 2012 at the state Capitol. The event was a response to the ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word 'vagina.'More than 2,000 people, most of them with signs, turned out for a rally on June 18, 2012 at the state Capitol. The event was a response to the ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word 'vagina.'
More than 2,000 people, most of them with signs, turned out for a rally on June 18, 2012 at the state Capitol. The event was a response to the ban of State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the State House after she used the word 'vagina.'

Ann Arbor woman organizes reading of 'The Vagina Monologues' Monday at Lansing Capitol

Posted: Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 9:15 a.m
By Lisa Carolin Freelance Journalist

The steps of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing will become a stage Monday at 5 p.m. when a special performance of the play "The Vagina Monologues" takes place starring Eve Ensler, the playwright along with a group of female legislators, all Democrats, including Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.

Carla Milarch, the associate artistic director at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor, is organizing the reading of "The Vagina Monologues" in response to the controversy that erupted in the Michigan Legislature last Thursday when two state representatives were prevented from speaking on the House floor because of remarks they made the day before.

Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, talks with staffer Katie Carey, left, after telling reporters that she was banned from speaking Thursday because of comments she made on the floor Wednesday about her vagina.
Dale G. Young | The Detroit News

MLive reported that on Wednesday, state Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield said, "I'm flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but no means no," in her opposition to abortion regulations that the House ultimately passed. The Detroit Free Press reported that Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, on Wednesday proposed an amendment which would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man's life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy, and that she shouted out the word "vasectomy." Both Byrum and Brown were prevented from speaking Thursday.

"I decided to do this because I was struck by how closely the issues in 'The Vagina Monologues' aligned with the issues in the recent Lisa Brown incident," said Milarch. "So many taboos about ourselves, our bodies, and speaking up for our rights are tied into our difficulty with that word."

"The fact that in this day and age people are still intimidated by a woman using the word vagina in an assertive and self-expressive way proves that there is still a strong need for the messages of the play," said Milarch.

Milarch met Ensler when she visited the Performance Network Theatre in 2003 during the production of her play "Necessary Targets." Milarch recently had the idea to do the play as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood featuring local actresses.

"When I emailed Eve to get her permission, she told me that she had been bombarded by communications from Michigan about the incident," said Milarch. "People were outraged and she wanted to get involved!"

Milarch connected Ensler to Sen. Warren, and the event grew to a new level. Warren reserved the Capitol steps and got numerous legislators involved. More than 30 local actresses agreed to take part in the performance including Naz Edwards, Suzi Regan, Jan Blixt, Eva Rosenwald, Dana Sutton, Chelsea Sadler and Kate Willinger Manfredi. "I am already in awe of what the women working together on this have accomplished in such a short time," said Milarch.

The special performance of "The Vagina Monologues" is scheduled to run from 5-8 p.m. Monday on the Michigan Capitol Building steps, 100 N. Capitol Ave.

Rebekah Warren says tonight's 'Vaginas Take Back The Capitol' rally is about freedom of speech

Posted: Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, says tonight's "Vaginas Take Back the Capitol" rally in Lansing is about freedom of speech.

"Nowhere is freedom of speech more essential than in our legislative bodies," Warren said in a statement. "What we are facing is not simply a question of pro-choice or anti-choice policy — this is about whether women will be allowed to freely participate in the debate. It is an issue that should disturb and engage Michiganders from every corner of our state."

Michigan senators and representatives are expected to be joined by playwright and V-Day founder Eve Ensler, as well as local activists and actors, for a special performance of Ensler’s award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues" on the Michigan Capitol steps.


Rebekah Warren
The performance, which takes place between 6and 8 p.m., is part of an organized response to the recent banning of state Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, from publicly speaking in the House after she uttered the word "vagina" during a speech.
 Brown was banned by Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas and House Republicans after she told supporters of a controversial piece of anti-abortion legislation, "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."

GOP leaders have said Brown was gaveled out of order not for using the word "vagina," but for saying "no means no," because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape.

In addition to Warren, Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D- East Lansing, and several other lawmakers, including Brown, are expected to perform along with Ensler and local actors tonight. In a news release announcing the event, Ensler spoke of the power of simply saying the word "vagina."

"We’ve seen how it's freed women from their shame and empowered them to break the silence and become leaders in their communities," she said. "By saying the word 'vagina' and making it OK to say the word 'vagina,' we take away the humiliation, and fear, and myths that often surround it.

Censoring a woman for saying a word that is a body part that 51 percent of their constituents have is a repression that we have not and should not ever witness in this country." is reporting that what started as a debate over anti-abortion legislation has turned into a platform for women's rights and a boost for Democratic fundraising in this election year.

Whitmer, the highest-ranking woman in Michigan government, said she looks forward to joining other powerful women in sending a message that they're proud of themselves, proud of their bodies and proud of the message they have to offer.

"I want my two daughters to know that their mom and countless other women stood up for them as they grow into the next generation of strong women," she said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters

'Vagina Monologues' coming to Capitol to protest muzzle on legislators

June 16, 2012 Playwright Eve Ensler is flying in for the reading Monday. The play is considered a manifesto of feminist rights.
Playwright Eve Ensler is flying in for the reading Monday. The play is considered a manifesto of feminist rights. / 2007 Music Hall photo
When state House Republicans -- a largely male group -- indefinitely banned two Democratic women in the House from speaking in the chamber, it set the stage for an unlikely theatrical performance on the Capitol steps in Lansing.
At least nine female legislators will join actresses from around Michigan on Monday evening to read the 1996 play "The Vagina Monologues." Considered a manifesto of feminist rights by fans, it's the perfect way to vent outrage against muzzling women and otherwise trying to oppress them, said protest organizer Carla Milarch, 42, who is associate artistic director of the Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor.
View the facebook page created for the event
The playwright Eve Ensler is flying in for the event from California, "and we have more and more actresses calling to fill out the cast," Milarch said Friday night. Staging the play seemed like the perfect response to conservative men silencing women for speaking in direct terms about body parts -- specifically for saying the word vagina, she said.
"This word being deemed inappropriate to be said on the House floor is creating a stir. We want to get people thinking about it," Milarch said.
Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, said she plans to join in the play's reading 6-8 p.m. Monday.
Brown sparked the controversy when she said Wednesday: "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no" -- a statement that opponents have called vulgar, unnecessarily provocative and an unfair reference to rape during a debate on bills about abortion.
"I was just trying to express my frustration with the Legislature taking up this oppressive legislation when we should be talking about ensuring our kids get a high-quality education and helping businesses grow in Michigan," Brown said Friday night. She said she was hearing from women "all across the country, women and men," who support her right to speak, regardless of their views on abortion.

Once you watch this video there are four other videos pertaining to this one.

Vagina monologues' draws large crowd at Michigan's Capitol: The 'Vagina Monologues' demonstration was performed on the steps of the Capitol Monday evening. As many as 2500 people attended the event. Paul Henderson|

When will the speaking ban end?
"I have no idea. I have never even heard officially why I can't speak," Brown said.
Also planning to read Monday are Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, who also was banned from making further speeches; Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes, D-Saginaw; Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit; Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills; Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.
"No one is throwing these words around (in the Legislature) without a rational context. If these men can't handle the debate about women's bodies, they shouldn't be taking away our rights" to abortion access, Whitmer said.
Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said she will read from the play " because preserving freedom of speech is essential in any legislative body.
"I think the fact that women's voices were silenced should disturb Michiganders in every corner of the state," Warren said.
Mark Liss, husband of state Rep. Lesia Liss, D-Warren, said both he and his wife objected to some of the language in this week's abortion debates. Lesia Liss was unavailable to comment.
"The irony is, Lesia loves the play," Mark Liss said. "We've actually been to see it, and I said, 'When are we going to the Penis Monologues?' "

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Vagina Monologues take over Michigan

Who let the vaginas out?

No, seriously, what’s going on?

Everywhere I turn that’s all anyone can talk about. Apparently vaginas are the new must-have summer accessory.

Shoes? Check. Cute little flower purse? Check. Vagina? Check.

The current brouhaha stems from Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown, an Oakland County representative. Brown was engaging in a heated debate on the Michigan House floor about an abortion bill that would put regulations on abortion providers and ban any abortion after 20 weeks.

I’m not really interested in engaging in an abortion debate. That turns people on both sides into irrational grandstanders most of the time – myself included.

What I find interesting is the aftermath of the debate.

Brown closed her speech with the following: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

That simple statement – rooted in a very basic truth – has set the state on fire.

First Brown was called on her “vulgar” use of language by a variety of different national and state political figures – all men I might add.

I must have missed the dirty word conference this week – and frankly I don’t know how they had the meeting without the president, but that’s another diatribe -- because last time I checked vagina was a medical term.

Trust me, there are a lot of different words that Brown could have used that actually could have been termed offensive. Vagina, however, is the most innocuous one in the English vernacular.

Call me crazy, but maybe you shouldn’t be legislating my vagina if you can’t even talk about it without freaking out.

What the offended parties have done is set off a firestorm of debate that’s hitting the national stage.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since women’s reproductive rights have taken center stage in this political cycle.

What does come as a surprise, though, is that a group of men feel they can legislate on this issue without taking those “icky” lady parts into consideration.

The simple fact of the matter is that women have a vagina. I know, it’s shocking to some apparently.
I guess I take the libertarian view on a lot of different things.

If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person.

If you don’t like pot, don't smoke it.

And if you can’t say the word vagina, don’t pass laws that affect my vagina.

Since I know it scares men, though, now I’m going to just start dropping the word vagina in everyday conversation.

You know, guess how my vagina is feeling today. Or, my vagina is a little depressed today. Or, my personal favorite, my vagina has a migraine so you have to do what I say today.

Should be a fun and brave new world. Welcome to the Vagina States of America.
posted by Amanda Lee at

Eve Ensler and Lisa Brown to read Vagina Monologues in Michigan

Author and state congresswoman will protest Brown's banishment from debate for reference

Eve Ensler
Eve Ensler: 'Vagina. If you can'
t say it, you can't protest or complain when it's violated.' Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler is set to add her voice to a wave of outrage against the silencing of a state lawmaker for uttering the word "vagina" in a political debate over abortion in Michigan.

Ensler, whose best known piece is the Vagina Monologues, will now join other protesters on Monday in a reading of the famous feminist work on the steps of the state's capitol building in Lansing.

"I can't wait to moan!" she said in a message posted to her Twitter account.

The demonstration will be just the latest manifestation of dismay against the barring of state congresswoman Lisa Brown after she referred to her own vagina during a debate on the passing of contentious new abortion regulations.

"I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no'," Brown said at the end of her speech on the new anti-abortion laws last week, prompting Republicans to disallow her from speaking at a different debate the next day.

When news of the censure broke it prompted a Twitter storm of protest that spread around the world, as well as vocal condemnation from women's rights and free speech proponents.

On her own Twitter account Ensler has been furious in condemning the action. "Vagina. If you can't say it, you can't protest or complain when it 's violated. It never belonged to you," she stated.

Ensler will now join Brown and other local state politicians and actors for a performance of the Vagina Monologues on Monday night.

She has also encouraged her 11,000 Twitter followers to send stories about their own vaginas to Michigan Republican leader James Bolger.

Bolger, who took the step to silence Brown, has defended the move. In a statement released to the press he claimed Brown had "failed to maintain the decorum" of the legislature.

The Vagina Monologues is work that was first performed in New York in 1996 and consists of a series of different stories that each in their way relate to women's sexuality and their own bodies.

Each year a new monologue is added to highlight a different women's issue, and performances of the play have become a key part of many women's rights organisations activities around the world.

Lansing Photos 

Melissa Anders |

Gallery: "The Vagina Monologues" (12 photos)   RSS

Description: More than 2,500 people gathered at the state Capitol on Monday evening for a performance of "The Vagina Monologues."

'Bad deal' lump pension payouts for veterans draw new scrutiny

Daryl Henry's reward for 20 years of service in the Navy was a $1,083 monthly pension. But more than half of it went to a private California company -- Retired Military Financial Services -- after Henry was duped into a complex financial agreement, the Maryland resident alleged in a class-action lawsuit.
Struggling with bills, Henry says he answered an ad in the Navy Times and traded 96 months of future pension checks -- totaling $103,000 -- for a lump sum payment of $42,131. He then spent years depositing his government pension checks into a special account so Retired Military Financial Services could take its share of the taxpayer-funded payments and pay private investors with it.
Lump sum pension payments for vets are big business, targeting 1.5 million former service members who receive $40 billion annually. Companies that provide them have attracted negative attention from military advocates for years. Tales of retired or injured vets getting 30 to 40 cents on the dollar are easy to find. In 2004, Congress threatened legislation designed to banish the industry, and several courts have ruled the arrangements run afoul of existing federal laws.
Still, companies offering so-called "annuity utilization contracts" crowd out Google searches around military pensions and loans. The websites that rank highest are often decorated with red, white and blue banners, and they have government-sounding dot-com names. While the lump payouts may sound attractive to retired vets in a financial bind, the terms are oppressive: Participants find themselves with what is essentially a loan at 30 percent interest.
But on Monday, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray said his agency will begin focusing on pension lump sum payments.
"We are ... concerned about military pension buyout schemes," Cordray said in a speech on Elder Abuse Awareness Day. "Military retirees are offered lump-sum cash payments in return for surrendering their rights to their pension payouts. These schemes are usually very bad deals for the retirees. We want to collect information on all of these kinds of financial practices."

Several agencies and investigators have been collecting information on the industry for years. John Wasik, an author of 13 books on personal finance, recently investigated the industry for investment-related fraud in a column on
"Basically, you sign up they lock you in, and if you want out, you don't have recourse," Wasik said. "There is very clear language saying, ‘This is not a loan,’ but it resembles a loan in all characteristics."
Where do these pension payout companies get their capital from? Investors looking for steady returns. Wasik found that Retired Military Financial Service’s partner, California-based Structured Investments Co., was ordered by an arbitrator in November to repay $5 million to investors who alleged they were defrauded. In December, the firm agreed to stop selling the investments in California.
In August, a California court ruled in favor of Henry and the class of veterans who joined his lawsuit, ordering Retired Military Financial Service to return $2.9 million.
"There is an awful lot of litigation out there," Wasik said. "My biggest concern is the proliferation of these things without regulation. Somebody should be looking at what they are doing."
Attempts to reach Retired Military Financial Services by deadline were unsuccessful. Founder Steven P. Covey defended his company last year in a story published by the Center for Public Integrity’s
"The position is: We’re purchasing at a discounted lump-sum, future cash flow,” he said. “We’re not lenders. When you’re not lenders, you’re not dealing in potential usury areas.”
Covey's attorney, Robert Clarkson, told Wasik that his client had "done nothing wrong,” but said he wouldn't answer questions because of pending litigation.
'It's likely every single one is violating a law'Plenty of websites offer cash for pension and disability payments, which add to an already crowded field of firms offering lump payments for structured settlement recipients. There’s good money in granting lump payments to down-on-their-luck consumers who have a guaranteed stream of income. Military pensions fall into a protected category, however, says Stuart Rossman of the National Consumer Law Center, who helped argue Henry's case.
"If these sites are dealing with the issue of military pensions, it's likely every single one is violating a law," he said.
All firms that offer such lump payments are between a legal rock and a hard place, he said. Assigning military pensions to a third party isn’t legal; offering loans without abiding by Truth and Lending Requirements is also illegal.
"And they are either one of the other," he said.
One site,, offers a typical example: "This program is NOT A LOAN," it says on its home page, despite its Web address. "We will buy the next eight years of your pension for a lump sum of cash." didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite the legal troubles, and occasional bad publicity, the military loan/pension products have survived for more than a decade. Rossman said he filed his first case against such a firm nine years ago. But why?
He thinks many of these companies use veterans' sense of honor against them.
"They believe in doing their duty. They don't want to come forward. They believe 'It's my mistake and I have to own up to it,'" Rossman said. "And a lot of them don't even realize they are paying 30 percent interest."
Rossman hopes military pension payout companies are on the ropes now that investors might be scared away by the California litigation. No investors would mean no money for lump payments.
Henry’s legal triumph was a bit of a hollow victory, however -- he'd already made all 96 payments by the time the judge ruled in his favor. While he is entitled to a portion of the $2.9 million judgment, Rossman said the owners of Retired Military Financial Payments had declared bankruptcy, so there are no assets to pay the judgement.  
Still, it was a worthy fight, Rossman said. 
"He's proud he's put a stop to this, and once we had the judge's ruling, we were able to tell other members of the class they could stop making payments. We saved them a lot of money, and he's proud of that," Rossman said.

Nervous traders look ahead to key weekend in Europe

Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.

It’s rare for an election in a country as small as Greece to have global implications.
Yet investors here and around the world will be on the edge of their seats this weekend when Greeks go to the polls for what many see as a referendum on remaining in the eurozone.
As if that wasn’t enough to make markets nervous, Spain’s rising borrowing costs are setting off alarm bells, and Italy may not be far behind. Storm clouds gathering in Europe could result in a perfect storm for U.S. investors, analysts say.
“Greece is a small country, far away, but a financial crisis in a small country gets propagated to other parts of the world; it’s not good news for the U.S. It will get translated over here,” said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors in Albany, N.Y.
he Greek election matters to investors because it could help determine whether the two-year-old financial crisis in Europe is being contained or about to get much worse.
Observers see the election as a referendum on the decade-old euro currency. In elections last month Greek voters turned away from traditional political parties seeking to restructure the economy and toward more radical parties that promised to pull the country out of bailout and austerity agreements with other eurozone countries.
If Greece abandons its bailout terms, international creditors could stop providing the rescue funds, leaving the country to default on its debt and abandon the euro -- a jolt that could mark the beginning of the end for the unified currency.
U.S. firms already are feeling the impact of the downturn in Europe, our largest trading partner. U.S. companies have seen European revenues plunge from 29 percent of the total in 2010 to 14 percent last year, according to Richard Peterson, director at market research company S&P Capital IQ.
The crisis in Europe was at first confined to Greece, and then Portugal and Ireland. But the sovereign debt crisis now threatens to engulf larger members of the Eurozone -- Italy and Spain.

Related: Spain's debt costs hit the danger level

Spanish 10-year bond yields hit 7 percent Thursday -- a level that has triggered rescue efforts for other eurozone members. Italian borrowing costs also rose sharply. The rising borrowing costs suggest investors don’t believe the nations will be able to pay back their debts.
Yet stocks rose sharply Thursday, at least partly on news that central bankers are standing by, prepared to provide liquidity in a coordinated move in case the Greek election triggers market turmoil. Cantral bankers also are closely watching elections in France and developments in Egypt, where the Supreme Constitutional Court's dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament ahead of a weekend presidential runoff.
Britain's government and the Bank of England, meanwhile, also went on the offensive, saying it will flood its banking system with cash in a move to get credit flowing through its economy.
A senior U.S. official cautioned that the Greek election will not provide "the definitive signal on what happens next" in the eurozone debt crisis, according to Reuters.
Johnson pointed to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which started with the collapse of the Thai currency and eventually spread to much of Southeast Asia and Japan, raising fears of a global economic collapse.
“The risks are getting higher,” Johnson said. “You’re seeing that in the U.S. markets, and you’re seeing that in the European markets. Both are telling me you need to take a more defensive position with your investments.”
“We have certainly done that,” Johnson added. “We are bolstering our defenses by overweighting healthcare stocks, utilities, telecom stocks and consumer staples.”
U.S. investors have shown a steady aversion to taking on market risk. The broad U.S. stock market, measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, has lost 7 percent of its value since hitting a recent high on April 2.
Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, sees Europe-driven market uncertainty continuing for the remainder of the year.
“From a U.S. investment standpoint, you’re still left in a bubble of uncertainty that has plagued the market for not just the last couple of weeks, but the last couple of quarters,” Greenhaus told CNBC. “The unfortunate reality is we are likely to face that over the next couple of quarters.”
Rebecca Patterson, chief markets strategist for the global institutional arm of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, is more sanguine. While she thinks the market uncertainty will last, she also thinks any movements in the market will be limited.
The risk of markets moving to the downside is mitigated by the fact that central banks are ready to step in to prop up economies, Patterson told CNBC. European leaders don’t want the euro to completely fail, and so will do whatever is required to keep the eurozone from breaking up.
If Greece stays in the euro, “you could get a bit of a relief rally,” Patterson said. “But that doesn’t take away the bigger structural issues that Europe faces in countries like Spain.”

Martin Wolf, Financial Times, discusses whether the EU will stay intact; the outcome of the Greek elections, and its impact on global markets.

Questions swirl as Saudi Arabia gets set to bury crown prince

Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images
A man in Jeddah reads a newspaper on Sunday with an article about Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz's death as the country prepared to bury the former heir to the throne.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- As Saudi Arabia prepared to bury its former crown prince in Mecca on Sunday, questions swirled about how the world's largest oil producer would pass the baton to a younger generation of leaders.
Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz's death on Saturday meant that for the second time in less than 12 months the important U.S. ally has to choose a successor to 88-year-old King Abdullah.
Unlike in European monarchies, the Saudi succession does not pass from father to eldest son, but has moved along a line of brothers born to Abdul-Aziz bin Saud. A previous crown prince, Sultan, died last October.  The likely candidate is Prince Salman, 76.

'Powerful conservative force': Saudi Arabia's next in line to throne dies

"There will be a meeting where the next crown prince will be decided. If you take a historical perspective it has always been done in an orderly and organized manner. Prince Salman fits the profile in many ways," said Khaled Almaeena, editor in chief of the Saudi Gazette.
The appointment of a new crown prince is not likely to change the kingdom's position on foreign or domestic policy, but King Abdullah's new heir will face a range of major challenges when he one day becomes king.
Salman, who is seen as a pragmatist with a strong grasp of the intricate balance of competing princely and clerical interests that dominate Saudi politics, was named defense minister last year.

Saudi prince Alwaleed's deal for Twitter is not a traditional investment, says Dan Primack, senior editor at Fortune Magazine.

Saudi Arabia-Bahrain union plan set to inflame tensions with Iran?

Salman is the current defense minister and was governor of Riyadh, the country's capital, for more than four decades.
Analysts believe he shares many of Nayef's conservative views and is unlikely to challenge the religious establishment if made king. But he also has played more of a mediator role in Saudi politics while in charge of Riyadh.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will allow women to vote and run for public office at the next election cycle in 2015. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

"There has been an impression that Nayef is more conservative because he was the guy dealing with threats and terrorism as interior minister and Salman was meeting with businessman and intellectuals as governor of Riyadh," said Sami al-Faraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.
"The reality is there is very little difference. Both are conservative and won't rock the boat," he added. "Nayef was just a behind-the-scenes guy and Salman is more public. One was implicit; the other explicit."
But it is unclear whether Nayef's death will bring about the shift to put a younger member of the royal family in a traditional role as No. 3 in line for the throne. Among the possible contenders mentioned include King Abdullah's son Mitab, the head of the National Guard, and Nayef's son Mohammad, a senior official in the interior ministry.

Report: Saudi woman dies after campus protest

Grooming a next generation as potential rulers would mark an important shift in Saudi affairs by acknowledging that the country is moving toward a new era under the stewardship of a group raised with deeper Western connections and understandings.
"The house of Saud will need to think about what would happen in the event the king became unwell, and there is no way on earth you would hand the crown prince role to a grandson in 48 hours time. You have to find an older prince," said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in Qatar.
Whoever takes the helm in the coming years, Saudi Arabia will have to grapple with Tehran's regional ambitions as well as its nuclear program. Iran insists it does not seek nuclear weapons, but Saudi officials and their Western allies fear the country could develop an arsenal and significantly shift the balance of power in the region. One possible outcome could be a regional nuclear arms race with Saudi Arabia also seeking atomic weapons.
Saudi Arabia is also facing Arab Spring-inspired internal pressures for political reforms and greater openness. King Abdullah has pledged billions of dollars to create more state jobs and offer other government-backed programs to try to appease calls for change.
Neighboring Bahrain, meanwhile, has become a central issue for Saudi Arabia since a Shiite-led uprising last year against the ruling Sunni monarchy. Saudi forces led a Gulf military intervention to help prop up the dynasty in the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Saudi Arabia is now leading efforts for closer union with the country that would effectively unify key policies such as security and foreign relations. More than 50 people have died in Bahrain's unrest since February 2011.
Reuters, The Associated Press and staff contributed to this report.

Hassan Ammar / AP
Saudi crown prince and interior minister Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud drinks coffee and welcomes Gulf Arab leaders taking part in the Gulf Cooperation Council summit on May 14.

'Powerful conservative force': Saudi Arabia's next in line to throne dies

Updated at 8:10 a.m. ET: RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the hardline interior minister who spearheaded Saudi Arabia's fierce crackdown crushing al-Qaida's branch in the country after the 9/11 attacks in the United States and then rose to become next in line to the throne, has died. He was in his late 70s.
Nayef, interior minister since 1970, was the heir to Saudi King Abdullah and was appointed crown prince in October after the death of his elder brother and predecessor in the role, Crown Prince Sultan.

He had been in Switzerland since May for medical tests.  No details were released about his illness.
Nayef had a reputation as a steely conservative who opposed King Abdullah's reforms and developed a formidable security infrastructure that crushed al-Qaida but also locked up some political activists.
Jane Kinninmont, London-based Chatham House's senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program, told that a pillar of the old authoritarian order in the Middle East would had gone with Nayef's death, adding:
"Prince Nayef was the most powerful conservative force in Saudi Arabia, running the interior ministry, the internal security forces and the religious police. He was opposed to women voting or driving. The next in line to the throne, Prince Salman, is seen as a more liberal figure, and is a bit younger, but it's all relative -- he's in his 60s rather than late 70s. Don't expect any radical change coming from the new crown prince -- more a subtle shift of tone."
The big question is who will be the third in line to the throne -- do they keep passing this role around the increasingly elderly sons of the first Saudi king, or choose someone from the younger generation? The family is huge and full of rivalries and they are likely to be increasingly preoccupied with their internal family politics -- which could prove a distraction from the need to reform and adapt to accommodate their own population's needs.
Funeral prayers for the prince would be held after sunset on Sunday, the royal court said in a statement.  Burial traditionally follows immediately after prayers.
Will Saudi-Bahrain union plan provoke Iran?
Al Arabiya television reported that the prayers would be held in a mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
New heir?Nayef's death means the 89-year-old King Abdullah must nominate a new heir for the second time in nine months. Defense Minister Prince Salman, 76, seen as most likely to continue King Abdullah's cautious reforms, has long been viewed as the next most senior prince in the kingdom's succession.
Nayef, King Abdullah and Salman are among the nearly 40 sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz bin Saud, who established the kingdom in 1935.
Salman was made defense minister in November and had served as Riyadh governor for five decades.
 Report: Saudi Arabia to buy nukes if Iran tests A-bomb
The New York Times called the prince "hard-line but pragmatic" in a profile that ran in October.
The article went on to quote an October 2009 American diplomatic cable that was obtained via WikiLeaks:
"Nayef is widely seen as a hard-line conservative who at best is lukewarm to King Abdullah’s reform initiatives ... However, it would be more accurate to describe him as a conservative pragmatist convinced that security and stability are imperative to preserve Al Saud rule and ensure prosperity for Saudi citizens."'s F. Brinley Bruton and Reuters contributed to this report. 

Greece avoids 'Drachmageddon' but Europe debt crisis remains

The pro-bailout New Democracy Party, led by Antonis Samaras, won the biggest vote in Greece's national election Sunday. Samaras has proposed creating a coalition government to help the struggling nation remain in the eurozone. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
Greece appeared to have avoided crashing out of the euro currency zone early Monday after political parties in favor of an international bailout deal won a slim election majority – but the region’s debt crisis showed no sign of abating.
Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, said he was confident of forming a coalition as he announced talks with leaders of all parties "that believe in Greece's European orientation and the euro."
Foreign leaders reacted positively to the result, viewed as crucial in holding the joint currency together, and there was a brief rally on Europe’s money markets.
Arriving at the G20 summit meeting in Mexico, Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Monti, said: “This allows us to have a more serene vision for the future of the European Union and for the eurozone.”
However, fresh worries over debt problems in Spain and Italy wiped out the market gains. Spanish 10-year government bond yields rose to 7.14 percent, pushing the nation's implied borrowing costs to their highest during the euro's lifetime. Italian 10-year bond yields also rose to 6.08 percent. Seven percent is widely seen as an unsustainably high cost of borrowing.
Citigroup analyst Jurgen Michels said on Monday that, even after the election result, the probability of Greece leaving the euro over the next 12 to 18 months remained at between 50 and 75 per cent, according to Business Insider.
Struggling Greece remains deeply divided over whether to implement a harsh austerity package, the price for receiving a total of $300 billion in bailout money from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to save its near-bankrupt economy.
Right-winger re-elected despite assault trial
The radical left, anti-austerity SYRIZA bloc won 27 per cent of the vote – only 2.7 percentage points less than New Democracy, while the ultra-right wing Golden Dawn party also enjoyed success despite its spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, facing trial for assault after slapping a female rival during a live television debate.

Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images
Ilias Kasidiaris, member of Greek Parliament and spokesman of extreme-right ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn looks on during a pre-election rally in Athens on Friday.

Kasidiaris was re-elected in Sunday’s poll, according to Bojan Pancevski‏, a reporter for Britain's Sunday Times.
"My biggest fear is of a social explosion," a senior adviser to Samaras told Reuters on Monday. "If there is no change in the policy mix, we're going to have a social explosion even if you bring Jesus Christ to govern this country."
Despite pro-bailout parties winning a majority in parliament, actual votes for Greece's anti-bailout parties added up to 52 percent.
Samaras now faces the awkward task of convincing the center-left PASOK movement to join a coalition charged with implementing highly unpopular spending cuts and privatizations, while the economy nosedives.
The streets of central Athens are scarred after repeated waves of protests, some hospitals are running short of vital medicines, thousands of businesses have closed, beggars and rough sleepers are multiplying and suicides are rising.
Under the terms of the international bailout, the new government must fire up to 150,000 civil servants, slash spending by 11 billion euros this month, sell off a swath of state-owned companies, improve tax collection and open closed professions to competition.
A PASOK-New Democracy coalition would be guaranteed a parliamentary majority thanks to a quirk of Greek electoral law which gives the winning party a bonus of 50 extra seats. But that will not win the argument on Greece's streets.
The Greek economy is expected to shrink by 5 percent this year after contracting 7 percent last year and unemployment is running at almost 23 percent. Many economists believe that the harsh austerity measures will only make matters worse in the short term.
'Fight' goes on for leftists
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos has previously said he would only formally join a coalition if SYRIZA did so as well, something which is politically impossible, given the radical left bloc's unstinting opposition to the austerity measures.
Greek analysts noted that SYRIZA's charismatic 37-year-old leader, former student communist Alexis Tsipras, conceded defeat quickly in a phone call to Samaras, apparently relieved he was free of the pressure to form a government and make compromises.
"From Monday we will continue the fight," Tsipras told cheering supporters in an open-air square outside Athens university. "...the next government after this one will be a left government."
"We will fight to topple these policies," the youthful crowd chanted back as loudspeakers played World War Two Greek Communist resistance songs.
Filippos Nikolopoulos, a sociology professor at Crete University and SYRIZA supporter, said that Tsipras's fans were jubilant because they had won new force and authority by increasing their share of the vote so much on Sunday.
"We want Europe, we want to cooperate," he said. "But we do not want to be subjugated by (German Chancellor) Mrs. Merkel."
Stathis Stavropoulos, a newspaper cartoonist famous for his drawings depicting German officials preaching austerity at Greece as Nazi taskmasters, said the new conservative government would have the people of Greece against it from the outset.
"Our dream of European Union was very different," he told Reuters. "It was a union of countries and peoples, not a union to serve banks and not a Fourth German Reich."
Financial markets had feared a victory for SYRIZA, and New Democracy’s win prompted a surge in shares in early trading on Monday.
"It's a temporary rally but we're seeing broad gains because the global situation has changed now that the prospect of a 'Drachmageddon' has disappeared," said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, general manager of investment and research at SMBC Friend Securities in Tokyo.
Reuters and's Alastair Jamieson contributed to this report.