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Thursday, October 18, 2012

EU Leaders Meet in Brussels Amid French-German Tensions

European leaders gathered today for the first of a two-day summit of the European Union (EU). They delayed the implementation of a banking union “to the course of 2013,” with a “complete legal framework” agreed upon by the end of this year. The project would put the region’s banks under the supervision of the European Central Bank (ECB). While most euro area nations agreed on the principle of this measure, they differed on its schedule of creation: France and the EU Commission said it should be done quickly while Germany argued for a slower, more considered approach. French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel traded barbs, with Hollande quipping that Merkel’s deadline for the banking union is September 2013, the next parliamentary elections in Germany. Another point of contention was the fiscal union, which would give the EU Commission greater control over national budgets, an idea pushed by the German government and opposed by the French, who are concerned about more losses of sovereignty. Hollande quickly dismissed the topic, saying the focus of the summit should remain on the banking union. Creating a fiscal union would require a change a new EU treaty, something Hollande warned yesterday will not happen under his watch.

Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional

An appeals court in New York said today the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines it as the union of a man and a woman, is unconstitutional because it violates the 14th amendment, which ensures equal protection under the law. It is the first time a legal decision equates the issue of same-sex marriage to other cases of sexual discrimination, a decision that could take the matter before the Supreme Court. The court found in favor of Edith Windsor, an 83 year old woman who was asked to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after Thea Clara Spyer, her partner of 40 years whom she married in Canada in 2007, died and left her property to Windsor. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996, though six U.S. states have now made same-sex marriage legal. ”This law violated the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish,” Windsor said. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman both hailed the decision.

Boy Scouts of America’s Long History of Pedophilia Cover-Ups

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) released today confidential papers that show a decades-long history of cover-ups in matters of sexual abuse of children. As many as 14,500 pages were made public by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, shedding light on repeated and concerted efforts by local officials across the U.S. and BSA executives at the headquarters in Texas to prevent the prosecution of numerous offenders in order to protect the name of Scouting. The files go as far back as 1965 and include desperate letters from family members, reports of confessions by abusers, as well as impassioned pleas from leaders of local communities and BSA headquarters to keep the facts under wraps. The court order came after a 2010 landmark ruling in Oregon that found in favor of attorney Kelly Clark, who sued the BSA on behalf of a client who had been molested in the 1980s. For two years, the BSA fought to keep the documents secret. “You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,” Clark said.

Google Shares Trading Halted on Inadvertent Publication of Q3 Earnings

Trading of Google shares was suspended today after the inadvertent early publication of the company’s third-quarter earnings, which reported profit and sales that missed analyst estimates. Google’s disappointing results are another consequence of a growing use of mobile technology to access the site, which makes it less appealing to advertisers. Consumers seem to be resorting to applications like Yelp and Amazon to access information on the go, rather than the Google site itself. The average ad price fell 15 percent compared to the same period last year, and 3 percent from the second quarter. While revenue rose 45 percent from a year earlier, expenses increased 71 percent. The share price dropped 11 percent earlier before the company asked Nasdaq to halt trading, and closed 8 percent lower. Google announced a series of cost cuts, including laying off 4,000 people at Motorola Mobility, a company it acquired in August.

Libyan Militia Leader Investigated for Benghazi Attack Speaks Out

Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala said today he was at the U.S. consulate during the attack that caused the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, but denied being behind it. Abu Khattala, who is under investigation by the U.S., claims he found out he was being targeted in newspapers, some of which quoted U.S. officials as saying his whereabouts were unknown. In an interview with Reuters, he expressed surprise at those declarations, telling the reporter “I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I’m even going to pick up my sister’s kids from school soon.” An official from Libya’s interior ministry said that pictures of Abu Khattala were taken during the attack, but there wasn’t enough proof to arrest him. The Benghazi attack, which killed Stevens and three American staffers, has become a contentious point in the presidential campaign, with Republicans attributing the deaths to a failure in leadership by President Barack Obama.

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