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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cypriot Banks Reopen Amid Tight Restrictions

Cypriot banks have reopened after being closed for the two weeks of bailout talks with the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with queues being formed outside bank branches and depositors being informed of strict limits for withdrawals. This is the first time a country in the eurozone breaches a strict EU prohibition on the movement of capital, but the European Commission said the move was justified because the “stability of financial markets and the banking system in Cyprus constitute a matter of overriding public interest”. Depositors are limited to one daily €300 withdrawal and the cashing of cheques is banned. Those travelling outside the country can take no more than €1,000 with them, while transfers abroad made via debit or credit card are limited to €5,000 a month. The country has formed a special committee to review commercial transactions between €5,000 and €200,000 and all transfers above €200,000 will be reviewed individually. Despite a large police presence, most queues outside banks were calm and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted his thanks to the Cypriot people, saying that they showed “maturity and collectedness in their interactions with the Cypriot banks”.

OECD Predicts Stronger Economic Growth, Europe Lagging Behind

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has forecast that the world’s major economies will see stronger growth in 2013, but those in Europe will still face a slower recovery out of the recession. The biggest seven economies in the world will have an average growth of 2.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, which is a marked improvement from the last quarter of last year, when these economies shrank at an average 0.5 percent. “The bottom line is that we are moderately more optimistic. We see growth firming in the U.S., we see more growth in Japan thanks to new measures, and we see more growth in Germany”, said OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan. The organisation expects Germany to grow strongly in Europe, but France and Italy are expected to remain in recession until the second quarter of 2013. Padoan also warned that markets was a growing disconnect between the slow economic recovery and the buoyancy demonstrated by the financial markets. He said this situation “may be creating some problems down the road”.

Pope Francis Washes Offenders’ Feet on Maundy Thursday

Pope Francis broke with tradition on Maundy Thursday when he decided not to perform the washing of the feet at one of Rome’s basilicas, instead deciding to wash the feet of juvenile offenders. The washing of feet on the Thursday before Easter is a Christian tradition commemorating the Last Supper and the pontiff traditionally washes the feet of lay people. During the service the Pope washes and kisses the feet of 12 people to replicate Christ’s gesture of humility towards his 12 apostles on the night he was crucified. Pope Francis has instead decided to visit the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre in the outskirts of the Italian capital, where he will wash the feet of prisoners. The BBC reports that some detainees volunteered to have their feet washed, while others were given an invitation to overcome their initial embarrassment. This is another one of Pope Francis’ breaks with tradition. On Wednesday he had announced his decision to carry on living in the Casa Santa Marta instead of the far grander papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace for the foreseeable future.

British Ministers Considering Checking Schools for Illegal Immigrant Pupils

British ministers are considering a plan to make schools check the immigration status of their students as part of a raid on “education tourists”, another of government’s attempts at curbing migrants’ access to benefits. A chain of leaked emails written by officials including Schools Minister David Laws and Immigration Minister Mark Harper suggested that the group considering banning illegal immigrant children from schools before being reminded by civil servants that the UK would be in direct contravention to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child if that step was taken. Labour MP John McDonnell said that the proposals were “scraping the barrel of morality”. Lesley Gannon, head of policy at the National Association of Schoolteachers, told the Guardian she was “very concerned” about the plan. “It’s also really worrying to start to drag schools into politics in this way. Yes, we are public servants, part of the state, but once you put that process in place, I’d suggest you’re encouraging parents who are worried about their immigration status to avoid putting their children into school, to avoid detection. That puts the educational rights of that child at risk”, said Gannon.

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