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Monday, March 18, 2013

Cyprus Scrambles to Contain Rescue Deal Fallout

Cyprus, a small island near Turkey and Lebanon in the Mediterranean, struggled today to contain the popular anger after the publication of the terms of a rescue deal reached by leaders of the European Union (EU) over the weekend. The latest in a series of European nations to crumble under their debt, Cyprus asked its citizens and foreign depositors to pay an exceptional tax on their bank accounts in exchange for a €10 billion ($1.3 billion) loan from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The levy would be of 6.75 percent for sums under €100,000, stamping an EU rule that savings under that amount should be protected in such cases, and 9.9 percent for larger deposits. The measure, which aims to create €5.8 billion in tax revenue, shocked Cypriots to such a degree that President Nicos Anastasiades and the parliament asked for more time to renegotiate the terms and postponed a vote that would make them law. The government also closed all banks until Thursday to prevent a run. Later today the Eurogroup (the group of EU finance ministers) said it agreed to give Cyprus more flexibility, but remained ambivalent on whether smaller deposits should be guaranteed. There were rumors a new deal would lower the tax for under€100,000 accounts to three percent rather than 6.75, and a Cypriot channel said deposits under €20,000 would be exempt. Protests continued in the capital, Nicosia, as markets dipped around the world on concerns the euro crisis may yet cause serious damage.

Syria Carries Out Airstrikes in Lebanon as Opposition Picks Leader

The U.S. government confirmed today that the Syrian army carried out airstrikes inside Lebanon, officially crossing borders for the first time, a move U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland deemed a “significant escalation.” Fighter jets launched four bombs on the town of Arsal, where a majority of residents support Syrian rebels and where the geography makes it possible to smuggle weapons into Syria. While no one was harmed in the attack, this could mark a turn in a national conflict that has threatened to spill over and engulf the region. “France strongly condemns this escalation and reiterates its commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and the inviolability of its borders,” said French Foreign Minister Yves le Drian in a statement. The strikes occurred as the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), an umbrella organization representing all opposition groups, met in Istanbul to name an interim government. A prime minister may be appointed tomorrow.

Republican Christie Raises Record Cash for 2016 Bid

Republican Chris Christie has already raised $2.1 million for his 2016 reelection campaign as New Jersey governor. Buoyed by his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which earned him a 36-percentage point boost in the polls, Christie is all but quashing his opponent, the Democrat Barbara Buono, who only raised $215,000. Commentators say he could easily transform growing bipartisan support in his own state into a viable presidential bid for that same year. The fundraising figures were published as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) came to a close. The GOP governor, criticized by hardline conservatives for his willingness to reach out to a broader electorate, was not invited to take part in CPAC, yet still managed to come in fourth at a straw poll organized at the event.

U.S.: New High for Gay Marriage Support as Clinton Comes Out in Favor

Same-sex marriage in the U.S. is enjoying growing support, reaching a new record of 58 percent of Americans in favor and 36 against, a poll published today by the Washington Post and ABC News shows. Importantly, almost two thirds of Americans also believe it to be a civil rights issue that should be guaranteed by the Constitution and protected across the nation, rather than legislation left at the discretion of individual states. Even a majority of Republicans under 50 support marriage equality. Among those who reside in states where it is still banned, 56 percent say it should not longer be illegal. The news came as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a likely candidate for the 2016 presidential contest, announced her support of gay marriage, a stance at which she hinted in 2011 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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