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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Egypt Sinks Deeper into Crisis as Tanks Surround Palace

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi addressed the nation today after clashes between his opponents and his supporters killed seven people and injured another 770. Morsi asked for a national dialogue but offered little to appease protesters who have been demanding his resignation since November 22, when he signed a decree that gives him sweeping powers. Zakareya Abdel-Aziz, reformer judge and former head of the Judges’ Club, said earlier Morsi must revoke the decree, but also reopen the debate with his opposition on a draft for a new Constitution that was rushed through a vote last week, and delay a referendum to December 22. Morsi in his address invited his opponents to a conversation on Saturday, but said the referendum would take place, as scheduled, on December 15. Three more government officials resigned today, bringing the total to nine, as tanks surrounded the presidential palace to contain the violence.

Apple to Bring Manufacturing Back to U.S., Cook Says

In his first extensive interview as Apple’s chief executive officer, Tim Cook announced the iconic computer maker will invest $100 million in 2013 to bring a small part of the Mac production back to the U.S., from China. “We’re really proud of it,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek. “This doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people, and we’ll be investing our money.” His announcement comes amid growing pressure to create new jobs in an economy where the unemployment rate is around eight percent. “I do feel we have a responsibility to create jobs,” Cook added. In the interview, he also discussed increased transparency on the supply chain as well as the company’s decision to match employees’ charitable donations.

Russia, U.S. Meet on Worsening Syrian Conflict

Russia may be moderating its support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had an unscheduled meeting today in Dublin, convened with Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy to the war-torn nation. Russia and the U.S. have long opposed each other on Syria, as the former has consistently shielded Assad against sanctions at the U.N. Security Council while Americans have invariably sought to remove him. The two committed to finding a “creative” solution to the issue. Russia’s position seems to have shifted recently, as the head of President Vladimir Putin’s party in parliament Vladimir Vasiliyev said the Syrian government may no longer be able to “carry out its functions.” Meanwhile, U.S. officials told NBC News the Syrian military is loading precursor chemicals to sarin gas onto aerial bombs to be launched from dozens of planes.

EU Cracks Down on Tax Avoidance, Havens

The European Commission presented today a 34-point “action plan” against aggressive tax avoidance. Member-states of the European Union (EU) must establish common criteria to blacklist tax havens, but also share information by introducing EU-wide tax identification numbers. “Around €1 trillion ($1.31 trillion) is lost to tax evasion and avoidance every year in the EU,” said EU Commissioner for Taxation Algirdas Šemeta. “Not only is this is a scandalous loss of much-needed revenue, it is also a threat to fair taxation.” Company revenues should be taxed in the country where “actual economic activity takes place,”  Šemeta added. This new framework sheds a harsh light on companies like Google, Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon, which have either reported lower profits than they actually earned, or registered in countries like Luxembourg, with very low taxes.

Washington Is First U.S. State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

At midnight today, Washington became the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults. As revelers celebrated by lighting up around Seattle’s Space Needle, uncertainty remained about enforcement. One of the new law’s provisions forbids users from smoking in public. Earlier on Wednesday, Seattle’s prosecutor warned that those who would contravene would be fined $100. The legislation, which still makes it illegal to drive under the influence of the drug, removes sanctions against adults older than 21 who possess one ounce (28.5 grams) of weed, 16 ounces (450 grams) of edible goods imbibed with cannabis, or 72 ounces (2.4 kg) of the product in liquid form.

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