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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Iran Backs Syrian Government, Blames U.S. for “Warmongering”

Iran’s National Security Advisor Saeed Jalili met today with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who hadn’t been seen since four of his closest aides were killed in a bomb attack almost three weeks ago. Assad said he was determined to “cleanse the country of terrorists,” adding that it was “capable of thwarting foreign conspiracies.” Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asked Qatar and Turkey to pressure Syrian rebels into freeing 48 kidnapped Iranian pilgrims. Iran Military Chief, General Hasan Firouzabadi, accused Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar of supporting U.S. “warmongering” in the country, holding them responsible for the violence.

Companies Set to Pay Record $8 Billion in Penalties in the U.S.

Companies in the U.S. are poised to pay a record $8 billion in penalties as disputes are resolved and lenders are sued on mortgages, but also because the Justice Department is investing more resources investigating and prosecuting corporate fraud, the New York Times reports. This is affecting a variety of sectors, from pharmaceuticals to defense, and of course financial institutions. This does not mean individuals are being held accountable, and many executives are easily escaping charges. First, it is hard to convict single individuals when they are backed by their company’s fine print. Second, it is more lucrative to go after the companies themselves. Mostly, though, it’s difficult to pin deeds on single people. The last in line is U.K. bank Standard Chartered, whose stock dropped the most in 24 years today after analysts said it could pay as much as $5.5 billion for dealing with Iran and violating U.S. money-laundering laws.

Over 50 Dead in Manila Floods, 250,000 Displaced

Torrential rains in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, have caused over 50 deaths and forced the evacuation of over 250,000 people in the last several days. The authorities called a state of emergency, triggering rescue and relief efforts. Yesterday, as much as half the city was under water, falling today to about a third. The floods also caused landslides around Manila that have already cost lives. In 2009, rains killed 900 people.

Wealthy Threaten to Leave France over 75% Tax Rate

French high earners are wondering whether they should be ready to leave their country as France’s President François Hollande prepares to make good on his campaign promise to impose a 75 percent tax rate on those who make over €1 million ($1.24 million) a year. Hollande, the first socialist president since François Mitterrand, is trying to to rebalance the country’s budget. The parliament, with a majority of socialists, will take up the bill in September. There are doubts about the efficacy of this project, however, as there are relatively few people who would be targeted: the revenue from this measure would be insignificant to the total €33 billion in new income Hollande promised to raise next year. Many companies are considering moving high-paid executives to countries like Britain, Belgium or Switzerland. For this reason, and because of stringent labor laws, foreign companies are choosing other destinations for investment and hiring.

Chevron Refinery Fire in San Francisco Bay Area Pushes Gas Price Up

A fire in a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, caused the price of gasoline to rise today. The company was forced to close the plant, which is the state’s third largest at 240,000 barrels a day. The fire is under control, and there is no word as to when the refinery will reopen, but the impact will be felt all over the West Coast, from Seattle to San Diego, as California-blend gasoline rose the fastest in a single day since at least 2007. The refinery is one of the oldest in the country, but residents have long been concerned about environmental impact. No casualties were reported, although hundreds of people sought medical help for breathing issues.

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