Cyprus Scrambles to Change Controversial Bailout Plan
Cypriot government officials were scrambling to change the terms of a controversial bailout deal on Tuesday with the intent of limiting small savers from measures that would seize up to 10 percent of all bank account deposits. A revised bill would exempt those with savings under €20,000, but would keep a rate of 6.75 percent for savings between €20,000 and €100,000 and also the rate of 9.9 percent for any savings above €100,000. President Nicos Anastasiades says that the country has no choice but to accept the deal offered by the EU and the IMF, with the only other alternative being outright bankruptcy. The Mediterranean island’s parliament was expected to vote on the deal later on Tuesday, but all parties announced a blanket abstention minutes before the session opened. “It will strengthen the bargaining position of the Republic of Cyprus”, said ruling DISY party leader Nicos Tornaritis. Cyprus Central Bank president Panicos Demetriades warned lawmakers that the island’s banks will lose 10 percent of their deposits if the deal is passed, urging them to consider extending the tax exemption to those with deposits up to €100,000.
At Least 56 Killed by Bombs in Iraq on 10th Anniversary of US-led Invasion
At least 56 people were killed and over 200 were injured by car bombs and roadside explosive devices that detonated in Baghdad on the 10 anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. Ten car bombs, one roadside bomb and two gun attacks struck the Iraqi capital during the morning rush hour and targeted mostly Shia districts in the city, an apparent attempt to heighten sectarian tensions and undermine the Shia-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The attacks came as the government announced that it would postpone regional elections in Anbar and Nineveh provinces because of security concerns. Many candidates have been threatened and killed in recent months. Meanwhile, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had no regrets over supporting the war in 2003. “How can you regret removing a monster who created enormous carnage?”, he asked a BBC reporter. “If you examine what’s happening in Syria – just reflect on what Bashar al-Assad, who is a 20th as bad as Saddam, is doing to his people today and the number of lives already lost”, he added.
UK Government to Announce Further £2.5bn in Cuts
British Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce further spending cuts to the tune of £2.5 billion in Wednesday’s Budget, with all of the savings channeled towards infrastructure projects that the government hopes will spurt economic growth. Most government departments will have to cut 2 percent of their spending over the next two years to achieve the savings figure expected by the Treasury. Only Health, Schools and Revenue & Customs are understood to be exempt from the budget cuts. Energy Secretary Ed Davey, whose department will have to save as per the government’s plans, said government ministers were not taken by surprise by this new measure. “What was really noticeable around the cabinet table was people supporting the overall approach not only of the chancellor but the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. We have to get to grips with this. In countries where they don’t they’re paying a very heavy price”, he told the BBC.
Pope Francis Sets Humble Tone in Inaugural Mass
Pope Francis inaugurated his pontificate with a Mass at the Vatican, calling on those in attendance to defend the poor and the weak. Up to 200,000 people attended the service in St. Peter’s Square. His homily focused on service to others and on ” protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.” He also called on those with wealth and power to “protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love”. The service was simpler and an hour shorter than the elaborate Mass that inaugurated Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Francis also shunned the bullet-proof popemobile used by his predecessor and toured the square in an open-topped jeep, stopping frequently to greet well-wishers, kiss babies and even stepping off to bless a disabled man.