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Monday, November 26, 2012

Euro Area Leaders, IMF Agree on Targets for Greek Debt

Finance ministers of the euro area and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials came to an agreement on targets for Greece’s deficit after 11 hours of negotiations today. They settled on allowing for the nation’s debt to reach 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, from an expected peak of 190 to 200 percent in the next two years. This will happen through debt buybacks via Europe’s rescue fund, lower interest rates on loans to the nation, and redirection of European Central Bank (ECB) surplus cash to Greece, but there is no agreement yet on debt forgiveness, a measure that was opposed by the Germans. The decision will allow Greece to receive the next tranche of its bailout package, in exchange for which it created a series of tax increases and spending cuts that contributed to shrinking its economy by one fourth in the past five years.

Bank of England Poaches Bank of Canada’s Carney as Next Governor

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney will be the next Bank of England (BOE) governor, the first foreigner named to this post in the central bank’s 318 years of existence. Carney, a 47-year-old former Goldman Sachs managing director, will replace present BOE Governor  Mervyn King. Untainted by the problems and scandals brought to light by the financial crisis, he will run the central bank just as it acquires new powers to oversee the banking sector in the U.K. The news came after the demise of Paul Tucker, long thought to be the one to take over from King, after his alleged involvement in the LIBOR rigging scandal. Details of a 2008 telephone call he had with Robert Diamond, then the head of the investment banking arm of Barclays, were taken by U.K. lawmakers as proof he pushed the bank to artificially lower its rates. He also failed to act on calls to reform the way the interbank lending rate was calculated. Carney’s country of origin is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, and Queen Elizabeth II is also Canada’s constitutional monarch.
CORRECT: a previous version of this item incorrectly referred to the Commonwealth of England. Canada is in fact part of the Commonwealth of Nations. 

Israel Defense Minister Barak Quits

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today he will quit politics and not run again in the next parliamentary elections. Barak, who worked with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program as a threat to Israel, also acted as a moderate voice in the government, urging Netanyahu to tone down the rhetoric when the prime minister publicly called the U.S. to “draw red lines” against Iran’s effort. Barak was rumored to be negotiating an alliance with Tzipi Livni, the former head of opposition Kadima party, to create a centrist alliance and take on Netanyahu at the next elections in January. Analysts believe he could be keeping his options open and return to the defense portfolio if called upon by the new government.

Egypt’s Morsi Compromises on Presidential Powers Decree

After decreeing that his presidential powers would be beyond judicial oversight until a new parliament is elected, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said today only his decisions concerning “sovereign” matters would be concerned. Morsi’s decree last week enraged his opponents, who demonstrated sometimes violently against what they saw as a dictator’s act. While Morsi clarified that the decree would only be in effect until a parliament is formed and a constitution is written, protesters demanded that it be scrapped. Morsi held emergency meetings with justice officials over the weekend in an attempt to resolve the crisis. He eventually agreed to a proposal by senior judges to limit it to “sovereignty-related issues,” a move that failed to soothe his critics. They will demonstrate again tomorrow, though the Muslim Brotherhood, the political movement that propelled Morsi to power, called off its rival protest.

Bacteria in Antarctic Lake Could Lead Research into Life on Other Planets

Bacteria found in Lake Vida, in the Antarctic, could provide researchers with clues about life on other planets. Organisms found in extremely salty, acidic water at -13 degrees Celsius (8.6 degrees Farenheit), blocked from the outside world for thousands of years, show that life can occur even in the most extreme conditions. It could give scientists better indications of how life would evolve on Mars or on Jupiter’s satellite Europa. The bacteria evolved in isolation for at least 2,800 years, in an environment heavy on nitrous oxide and molecular hydrogen.

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