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Friday, September 21, 2012

Italy Backs Away from Austerity; Troika Calls Truce on Greek Budget

Leaders of the countries at the heart of the european crisis met in Rome a day after Italy revised its debt target upwards. The Italian government announced it will not cut its debt any time soon as more austerity would contribute to deepening the crisis. Prime Minister Mario Monti already implemented €20 billion ($26 billion) in spending cuts since he took over the nation last November, but the recession in Italy has shown signs that it will be much worse than previously forecast. Meanwhile, after weeks of negotiations on an extra €11.5 billion ($14.9 billion) of spending cuts, Greek officials and the troika, as Greece’s three main lenders are known, called a week-long truce. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been haggling with other coalition leaders for €7 billion ($9 billion) of cuts in wages, pensions and benefits. The troika, made of representatives of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have repeatedly said some of these measures don’t go far enough. The truce added to speculation that the troika may delay the publication of a report on Greece until after the U.S. elections, so as not to destabilize the Obama administration at a crucial time. EU officials denied the report.

Nineteen Die Amid Violent Protests in Pakistan

Protests over a U.S.-made film that mocks Prophet Muhammad killed 19 people and wounded another 160 in Pakistan today. Violence erupted in the northern city of Peshawar and Karachi, on the south coast, in what is now the deadliest day since protests began almost two weeks ago. The Pakistani government called a holiday, letting people demonstrate for what it called “Love of the Prophet day.” Tens of thousands of people took to the streets. Mobs also attacked Christian churches in Peshawar and Mardan and set fire to two movie theaters in Peshawar. One member of a television crew was killed as police shot at the crowd. Since last week, protest have swept the Arab world, taking over major cities in 23 nations. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today, and focused her criticism on the depictions of the prophet in a joint press conference. She also avoided condemning the violence in her country. The Obama administration bought $70,000 worth of ads in Pakistan saying the U.S. has nothing to do with the making of the video. Meanwhile, a New York court allowed an advertisement campaign for the city’s subway that presents Muslims as radicals.

War on Syria is War on Iran, Says Iranian Military Official

Iran Chief-of-Staff Major General Hassan Feiruzabady said today the war on Syria is a war on Iran, according to the ILNA news agency. This remarks echoes Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s comments that the Syrian conflict is in fact a war against the “axis of resistance against Zionism,” as Syria, Iran, and Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah have described themselves. “Syria represents the front line for resistance facing the occupiers of Jerusalem,” Feiruzabady said, referring to the Israel. Iran has been an unwavering supporter of Assad in his 18-month struggle against the rebels, and both Assad’s opponents and western countries at the United Nations have accused Iran of providing the brutal regime with weapons. “Iran’s arms exports to the murderous Assad regime in Syria are of particular concern,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.

Romney Releases 2011 Tax Return

U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney today released his 2011 tax return, which shows he paid 14.1 percent on $13.7 million in capital gains, or return on investments. Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. It was lowered once in 1997 from 28 percent to 20 percent, and then again in 2003, from 20 percent to 15 percent. Ordinary income can be taxed at anything between 10 percent and 35 percent, depending on the tax bracket. The return also shows Romney and his wife Ann deducted only $2.25 million in charitable donations from the $4 million they actually gave last year. “The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the governor’s statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13 percent in income taxes in each of the last 10 years,” according to Romney’s trustee R. Bradford Malt. The candidate and his wife could still deduct the remaining $1.75 million in following tax years. While Romney still refuses to release tax returns from before 2010, his campaign published a letter today from his tax advisers that says the couple gave an average 13.25 percent of their income to charity, and that the lowest tax rate they paid was 13.66 percent.

Libyans Surround and Storm Militant Base in Benghazi

Today, pro-government and pro-America Libyans surrounded and stormed the headquarters of the Islamist group suspected of having led the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American staffers last week. Americans in Libya are credited with ridding the country of the violent regime of Muammar Gaddafi last year, and preventing the massacre of then rebel-held Benghazi Gaddafi had planned to carry out. Stevens was especially beloved because of his dealings with anti-Gaddafi forces during the uprising. Moved by anger, the protesters took over the base of the Ansar al-Sharia militia and handed it to the Libyan army. They also set fire to at least one vehicle.

Weekend Read: Cheating Upwards

Bright students at the most prestigious schools also cheat. Why? In the New York Magazine.

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