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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spain’s Largest Region Seeks €5 Billion-Euro Rescue

Catalonia, the largest and most indebted of Spain’s 17 autonomous provinces, asked for €5 billion ($6.3 billion) of the €18 billion rescue fund established last month by the country’s central government for the purpose of keeping regions afloat. According to Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Catalonia, which hasn’t been able to sell bonds on financial markets, “can’t face the redemptions it has at the moment.” Redemptions occur when borrowers must repay their debts, an action that sometimes requires them to borrow more money (similar to refinancing a mortgage). The central government has already made €41 billions in funds available to its regions, both through direct lending and by enabling bank loans. Regions, which control a third of the national budget, could contribute to dragging the country down. Spain was said to be discussing a bailout package with the European Union last week, of the kind Greece and Portugal benefited from, but it hasn’t yet made a decision on whether to take it. The conditions on such a rescue could be even harsher than the ones Rajoy has already ordered for the country. Austerity is also contributing to pulling the economy into a recession as data released today show it shrank 0.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with the first quarter.

U.K. Lib Dem MP Clegg Asks for Heavier Tax Burden on the Rich

U.K. Member of Parliament and head of the Liberal Democrats party Nick Clegg called today for an emergency tax on the country’s richest people. Clegg, who is also the deputy Prime Minister, added it was necessary to ensure cohesion in Britain, which is struggling to end a recession that has already lasted longer than expected. The tax would be temporary and focus on wealth rather than income, but the Conservatives, with whom Lib Dems are in a coalition, may not agree with such an initiative. Clegg asked, “in addition to our standing policy on things like the mansion tax is there a time limited contribution you can ask in some way or another from people of considerable wealth so they feel they are making a contribution to the national effort?” The Conservatives-Lib Dems coalition is Britain’s first peacetime coalition in 70 years.

Isaac Reaches Hurricane Strength

Tropical Storm Isaac was upgraded to a category 1 hurricane today as the shorelines of Louisiana and Mississippi braced for winds and flooding. While New Orleans residents do not have to evacuate, Mayor Mitchell Landrieu asked that people living in some areas of the city not protected by levees find safer places to stay. Authorities say that the biggest danger with Isaac, which doesn’t appear to be as strong as weather services predicted, will be the amount of water it could push from the Gulf. President Barack Obama said he personally directed federal agencies to do everything possible to prevent the worst. New Orleans’ new $14.5 billion flood protection system, built in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, will be tested today for the first time.

Israeli Court Clears Army of Activist’s Death

A judge in Israel dismissed a civil law suit by the parents of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who died in 2003, crushed by a bulldozer of the Israeli army as she stood before it to stop it from destroying Palestinian homes in Rafah. The 62-page court ruling called it a “regrettable accident,” adding that the driver could not have seen Corrie from where he was sitting, and cleared the army of any wrongdoing. The judge said she’d “brought it upon herself” by putting “herself in a dangerous situation.” The ruling also found no significant fault in a police investigation conducted in 2003, which the Corries say has “inconsistencies” and which the U.S. criticized. Cindy Corrie, the victim’s mother, says she relies on the U.S. government to help the family “find some accountability for this.”

France Opens Murder Inquiry into Yasser Arafat’s Death

French authorities announced they were opening a murder investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat, former President of the Palestinian Authority, who died in hospital in France eight years ago. Arafat’s widow Suha filed a complaint on July 31 after the channel Al Jazeera broadcast an investigation into the circumstances of his death, revealing that traces of polonium-210 were found on his personal belongings. This suggests that he may have been poisoned, because polonium is a difficult substance to obtain. Arafat died from a stroke caused by a blood disorder that provokes the formation of clots, but Arafat passed away before the doctors were able to identify the origins of the illness. French newspaper Le Figaro cites experts who say these symptoms could be brought on by poisonous mushrooms. Lausanne University’s Institute of Radiation Physics, who analyzed Arafat’s belongings, was commissioned to examine Arafat’s remains in Ramallah.

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