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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Europe Continues to Struggle

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos met in Berlin, and said that the cost of the Spanish debt, which reached a euro-era record high today, did not reflect the solidity of the country’s economy, or its progress towards fixing its finances. Policymakers also denied rumors of a bailout package for Spain. Meanwhile, Germany and Luxembourg, who saw their credit outlook lowered from “stable” to “negative” by Moody’s yesterday, both said they enjoyed “sound” economies and tried to dismiss concerns that Greece, Spain, and Italy could bring them down. The Netherlands, the third country affected by Moody’s view change yesterday, didn’t comment. None of that soothed stock markets, and the S&P500 fell for a third straight day.

CBO: Health Care Ruling Cuts Costs, Leaves 3M Uninsured

The Congressional Budget Office said today that the June 28 Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act will cost $84 billion less, but will also leave three million people uninsured. While the Court upheld the largest part of the law, it also struck down a provision that would expand access to Medicaid for those who earn as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty level (less than $21,000 a year for a household of two). This gives states latitude not to expand Medicaid programs following the reform’s guidelines, and some already said they won’t. Of those who will implement the expansion, a few may not do so immediately.

97% of Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melts

NASA says one of its satellites observed “unprecedented” melting of Greenland’s ice sheet surface between July 8th and July 12th. In four days, it shrank from 60 percent of its usual size to three percent. This is the most significant thawing event since satellite observation started over 30 years ago. The news comes less than a week after NASA watched an iceberg the size of Manhattan break off from the Petermann Glacier, also in Greenland. Scientists haven’t commented on the possible consequences of Greenland’s thawing, but this extreme phenomenon can be explained by an “unusually strong” mass of warm air, or “heat dome,” over the area. Greenland’s ice sheet is very sensitive to changes in temperature, but it can also amplify them through a process called climate change feedback.

Phone Hacking: Coulson, Brooks Indicted

Two former News Corp. editors, including the one who later became U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s top communications man, were indicted today. Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were charged with conspiring to hack into the telephones of 600 people between 2000 and 2006. The two said they would fight the charges, but the trial is likely to embarrass Cameron, as Coulson worked for him and Brooks and her husband were part of his social circle. Rupert Murdoch resigned from three boards within News Corp. over the weekend, signaling a retreat from the U.K. The magnate’s tweets indicate that he may now be turning his focus onto American politics, USA Today reported. ProPublica put together a graph that shows who in Murdoch’s news empire was involved in the scandal.

First Catholic Church Official Sentenced Over Child Abuse Coverup

Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison for ignoring and covering up child sexual abuse accusations against other priests. The secretary of clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was convicted of felony child endangerment for protecting Edward Avery, a former priest who sexually assaulted an altar boy in 1999. The judge said Lynn “enabled monsters in clerical garb [...] to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart.”

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