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Monday, July 23, 2012

Europe’s Downward Spiral

Europe is under renewed pressure after Múrcia, a second Spanish region, asked for the central government’s help over the weekend. Six more provinces (Spain has 17) are considering similar moves. Fearing a Spanish bailout, or even a default, the markets continued to drop, prompting Spain and Italy to ban short-selling to limit speculation. The so-called “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) is due to meet in Athens tomorrow and review the nation’s progress, a deciding factor for Greece to receive another cash injection as part of its bailout package. At this point, no one is ruling out its exit from the Eurozone. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told Bill Clinton yesterday that his country was going through a “Great Recession,” comparable to the one that affected the U.S. in the 1930s. Later today, rating agency Moody’s said it changed its outlook on Germany and the Netherlands from “stable” to “negative.”

Iraq Attacks Most Deadly in Over Two Years

Iraq suffered 30 coordinated attacks that killed 106 people in 18 different cities today, the most deaths in a single day in over two years. Bombs targeted Shia neighborhoods, government buildings, and state security forces. The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, claimed the attacks and said it would reconquer the areas affected. Iraqi officials are worried about a resurgence of the group, taking advantage of the turmoil in neighboring Syria. Iraq is the only Arab state that opposed the Arab League’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

Syria May Turn Chemical Weapons Against Foreign Attackers

Syrian foreign minister Jihad Makdissi acknowledged today that Syria has chemical and biological weapons, but will not use them against its people. Rather, they could be used against foreign forces. The European Union increased sanctions against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and tightened its arms embargo rules. Russia continued to defy the United Nations and the EU, delivering weapons to the war-torn country and blocking votes for sanctions against Assad. Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, of Arizona, said President Obama’s refusal to intervene is Syria was “shameful,” and accused him of being “feckless.”

Global Tax Avoidance: Tens of Trillions, Lost

Tax avoidance represents between $21 trillion and $32 trillion globally, The Guardian reports, citing a new study. This is at least as much as America’s and Japan’s gross domestic products combined, and enough to fix the euro crisis. The Tax Justice Network combed through documents at the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund to show that the practice of placing assets in tax havens and dodging tax collectors has an impact on inequality in countries like the U.S. and the U.K., where governments still rely on redistribution to pull people out of poverty. According to the research, almost half of the minimum estimate (excluding non-financial assets such as yachts and real-estate) is owned by only 92,000 people in the world. These findings put in stark relief U.S. Republican Candidate Mitt Romney’s refusal to disclose details of his offshore accounts before the November election. Read the two-part story here and here.

Penn State: N.C.A.A. Sentence Falls

Penn State will have to pay childhood protection charities $60 million, the estimated annual gross revenue of its football team. The program is banned from participating in post-season games for the next four years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced today, handing the school its sentence over the handling of Jerry Sandusky’s 15 years of child sexual abuse. The N.C.A.A. said Penn State fostered a “football first culture” that made these crimes possible, but stopped short of shutting down the program, a sanction known as “death penalty.” The college sports governing body also voided the victories of Penn State’s football team from 1998 to 2011, stripping coach Joe Paterno of 111 wins and placing Bobby Bowden, Florida State University’s former football coach, at number 1 with 377 wins in 44 seasons. The NCAA added it will help student athletes who wish to transfer, and allow others to keep their scholarships. Joe Paterno’s statue on Penn State’s campus was taken down.

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