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Friday, October 26, 2012

U.K. Will Not Support a U.S. Strike on Iran

The U.K. does not believe Iran presents a threat and has denied U.S. requests to use British military bases to support the buildup of forces in the Gulf, according to the Guardian. A spokesman at Downing Street told the newspaper that the U.K. government is working closely with the U.S. over military bases, but that “the government does not think military action is the right course at this point of time”. The U.S. military would like to use British bases such as that in Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, but the British position is that allowing for a pre-emptive strike on Iran would be a “breach of international law”, according to a Whitehall source. “It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans”.

Family of Chinese Leader Revealed to Hold Billions in Wealth

A report in the New York Times has revealed that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family has accumulated “assets worth at least US$ 2.7 billion” in property, insurance and construction firms. At least one of these, insurance company Ping An, was benefited by reforms enacted by the State Council, a government body chaired by Wen. No holdings were found in his name, though the article also said that it was difficult to tell “from the documents whether he recused himself from any decisions that might have affected his relatives’ holdings”. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed the report, saying it had “ulterior motives”. The New York Times’ website and its Chinese version are blocked in China, as are references to the article on popular micro-blogging platforms such as Sina Weibo.

Unemployment in Spain Tops 25 Percent

Over 25 percent of Spain’s economically active population is now unemployed, the highest index ever recorded by the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE). The economically active population is defined as those that are either employed or actively seeking employment. Over 5.7 million people are actively seeking employment, which means that for the first time in Spanish history one in four people are without a job. The country has effectively become a job destruction site, with over 830,000 jobs lost in the last 12 months. Of the 50 Spanish provinces, over 16 registered unemployment over 30 percent and some, like Ceuta, have reached 41 percent. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, reacting to the news, said that “each data that comes out about the unemployment situation is a prod that keeps us working”.

Berlusconi Sentenced to Four Years in Jail for Tax Fraud

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to four years in jail for tax fraud. The case involved the purchase of U.S. film and television rights for Mediaset, Italy’s largest television broadcaster, owned by Berlusconi. It used off-shore companies to purchase the rights, as well as inflating the prices paid between 1994 and 1999 in order to skim money. These funds went into a secret slush fund. He is also facing a separate set of charges, relating to sex with an under-age prostitute. Earlier in the week, the 76-year-old former Prime Minister revealed he would not lead his People of Freedom (PDL) party into next year’s elections. He is expected to appeal the verdict. Cases must pass two levels of appeal in Italy before the verdicts are considered final.

Malala’s Father: “She Fell, Pakistan Stood and the World Rose”

The father of a girl shot by the Taliban for defending girls’ rights to education in Pakistan has said that the response to his daughter’s shooting marked a turning point for the country. “The person who attacked her wanted to kill her, but she fell temporarily. She will rise again and she can stand now. But when she fell, Pakistan stood and the world rose. This is a turning point”, said Ziauddin Yousafzai about his daughter, 15-year-old Malala. She was shot on her way home from school in Mingora on October 9 by a Taliban gunman. The group said it was a punishment for her campaign for girls’ education. Yousafzai said he feared for her life in the days immediately after the shooting and even arranged preparations for her funeral and thanked the staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. He added that Malala is now walking, talking, eating, smiling and, with the books he brought her from Pakistan, studying.

Weekend Read: The Things They Leave Behind

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened 30 years ago. During this time people have left letters, mementos and other artifacts of loss. One veteran has spent decades cataloging all 400,000 of them. In the Washingtonian.

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