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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tax Report Taken Down Under GOP Pressure

The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, withdrew a report that shows no link between taxes for top earners and economic activity after Republican Senators found problems with its wording and methodology. The findings of the study contradict a central element of the Republican platform in this election year, which states that tax cuts for high earners stimulate investment and job creation. “The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth,” says the report, which was authored by economist Thomas Hungerford. “However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.” The Congressional Research Service is the latest organization to come under attack from the Republicans because their figures undermine the GOP program. Other entities perceived as apolitical, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Tax Policy Center, have come under GOP fire in recent weeks. A person close to the matter told the New York Times that the decision to withdraw the report was made against the advice of the research service’s economic department. Hungerford donated to President Barack Obama’s campaign.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change

As New York City continued to deal with the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, its Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Bloomberg News he will vote to elect U.S. President Barack Obama for a second term. In his column, he cites climate change as a major factor for his decision, along with marriage equality and women’s rights. “One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not,” Bloomberg wrote. “I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.” Although he described the past four years with Obama in office as “disappointing,” with a presidential failure to create a centrist consensus on issues like tax reform and immigration, Bloomberg says Republican Candidate Mitt Romney “has reversed course” on the “sensible positions” he used to have about the same issues. The London-based publication The Economist also announced its support for Obama today, saying “there are a lot of Romneys and they have committed themselves to a lot of dangerous things.”

In Corruption Trial, Brazil’s First Black Justice Becomes National Hero

Joaquim Barbosa, the first black justice in Brazil’s Supreme Court, has become a hero. The son of a bricklayer who worked as a cleaner and a typesetter to put himself through law school, he just oversaw the largest corruption trial in the country’s history, obtaining the conviction of 25 people close to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a 2005 case of vote buying. People credit him for helping the justice system and the nation’s democracy come into their own, as historically, corrupt politicians and businessmen have barely suffered the consequences of their actions. Barbosa has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense judge who doesn’t shy away from heated arguments with his colleagues or speaking up about discrimination. Named to the Supreme Court by Lula in 2003, he will take over the court’s rotating presidency later this month. José Dirceu, Lula’s former chief of staff, was also convicted of diverting at least $35 million in taxpayer’s money to bribe legislators into supporting the president’s minority government.

Israel Admits Responsibility in 1988 Killing of Arafat Deputy

After almost 25 years of silence, Israel took responsibility today for the assassination of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s deputy Khalil al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad. The operation, a seaborne raid in Tunisia, took place in 1988 and was overseen by Israel’s secret service, the Mossad. Censorship on the matter was lifted, allowing the daily publication Yediot Ahronot to print the information along with an interview with Nahum Lev, the man who killed Wazir. The newspaper had been sitting on the scoop for 12 years. “Abu Jihad was involved in horrible acts against civilians,” said Lev, who is now deceased. “He was a dead man walking. I shot him without hesitation.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon were also involved in the operation, though their exact role remains unclear. Barak was deputy military chief at the time, and Yaalon was head of the Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit, which carried out the mission.

Savile’s Estate Frozen on Sexual Abuse Claims

The £4.3 million ($6.9 million) estate of former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was frozen by its trustee and executor, NatWest Bank, in response to the growing number of sexual abuse claims. Savile, who wrote his will in 2006, said his assets were to be distributed among 26 beneficiaries. “Given the claims raised, distribution of the estate has been put on hold,” the bank said in a statement. These beneficiaries included former employees of the Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital, where Savile is thought to have molested minors. Investigators believe Savile may have abused around 300 victims. Two men were arrested in connection with the scandal: former pop singer Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr.

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