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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eurozone Unemployment Hits a Record 11,6 Percent

Unemployment in the Eurozone hit a record high of 11,6 percent in September according to figures released by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical bureau, with more than 18 million people out of work. This was a significant rise compared to the same period in 2011, when the zone-wide unemployment figure was of 10,3 percent. Spain held the region’s highest unemployment rate, with 25,8 percent, with Greece trailing closely at 25,1 percent in July, the latest available figure. The lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria, with 4,4 percent unemployment, and Luxembourg, with 5,2 percent unemployment. Overall, unemployment rates increased in twenty member states, with decreases observed in only seven countries. Eurostat also reported that inflation in the Eurozone fell to 2,5 percent in October, a small decrease from September’s 2,6 percent. The number is still above the European Central Bank’s target of just below 2 percent.

Tory Peer Criticises Governing Coalition on Growth Strategy

Lord Heseltine, a Tory grandee and prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, concluded a six-month study of the U.K. government’s economic policy with a warning on Wednesday that “continuing as we are is not an acceptable option” and criticising the governing coalition for not having “a strategy for growth and wealth creation”. Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, the Tory peer said he thought the government was doing “an extremely good” job, but that it needs more “urgency” in stimulating growth in the British economy. “I have had nothing but encouragement from the Prime Minister, from the Chancellor, and I’ve got baggage, they know my views, so there was bound to be in the report things that they’ve said ‘Oh my God, he’s off again’”, said Lord Heseltine.

East Coast Inches Back to Normality, Assesses Damage Caused by Sandy

Nearly seven million residents of the U.S. Northeast continued without power on Wednesday. Much of Lower Manhattan remained without power, but most of the city’s problems centred on transportation. The city’s subway system will not be restarted until power is restored and its tunnels are dry. The region’s system of commuter trains is similarly still shut because of significant damage to tracks and debris on its lines. All bridges linking the island to the continent are open, but road tunnels remain closed. Two of the areas three airports, JFK and Newark, are now in operation, but La Guardia still has most of its area under water. Financial trading was restored with the reopening of the New York Stock Exchange and insurance companies have started assessing the damage caused by the storm. Some range as high as US$15 billion in insured losses and an extra US$20 billion in lost economic activity. Elsewhere, Atlantic City casinos were reopened for business.

Netherlands Abolishes the ‘Weedpass’, Says Cities Can Choose to Restrict Access to Drugs

The Dutch government will abolish the controversial “weedpass” after a significant increase in the illegal trade of drugs after its introduction.The measure sought to limit access to marijuana sold in the country’s coffee shops to residents, who had to present an ID and prove their status before registering with their local shop. Street dealers and private merchants took advantage of the restrictions and began selling the drug in the black market to foreigners or Dutch citizens who didn’t want to register with a coffee shop. Under a provisional pact introduced by the incoming governing coalition, cities can choose to bar foreigners from coffee shops and enforcement is left at the local level. Coffee shop owners had complained about the vagueness of the solution. “This is unclear and contradictory”, said Michael Veling, spokeman for the Federation of Cannabis Retailers.

Vatican to Limit Tourist Access to the Sistine Chapel

The ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, completed 500 years on Wednesday amidst plans by Vatican City officials to limit the number of visitors. Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, the director of the Vatican Musems said that it did not have immediate plans for a restriction, but that it might come “in the short and medium term”. “Today the five million visitors a year inside the Sistine Chapel, 20,000 per day at peak periods, certainly bring about a difficult problem. The anthropic pressure with dust, the humidity which bodies bring with them inside, the carbon dioxide produced by perspiration involves discomfort for visitors and damages to the painting in the long run”, wrote Antonio Paolucci.

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