0 The News Tribe

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 03:13 PM PST
Malaga forward Sebastian Fernandez Switzerland: Spanish side Malaga will appeal a one-year ban from European competition which was handed down by UEFA on Friday, angrily claiming they had been made “scapegoats” in a row over financial irregularities.
European football’s governing body said Malaga would be barred from taking part in either the Europa League or Champions League when they next qualify and also faced the prospect of a second year-long exclusion if they failed to clear outstanding debts.
UEFA gave the Liga club a deadline of March 31 next year to prove it had “no overdue payables” to clubs, employees or the tax authorities.
If they were unable to do so, the ban would be extended, a statement on uefa.com said.
Malaga, who were also fined 300,000 euros ($396,000, 244,000 pounds), were on Thursday drawn to face Portuguese side Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League, giving the Spanish side a real chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
But the club said they would appeal against the decision and claimed they were already proceeding with financial restructuring in line with UEFA’S fair play rules.
“Malaga football club wishes to express its total disagreement with the resolution made today by UEFA, considering the measures it intends to take absolutely disproportionate and unjustified,” said a club statement.
“An unfair punishment is being applied to make an example of the club, turning it into a scapegoat.”
The club “will work energetically and tirelessly until justice is done, appealing firmly to all the necessary bodies.”
Malaga are currently fourth in La Liga behind leaders Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, which would ordinarily allow them to qualify for a European spot.
Nine European clubs were referred to UEFA’s financial regulators because of debt problems, as the ruling body seeks to clamp down on clubs spending beyond their means and target infringements of licensing agreements.
Five other clubs face one-year European bans should they qualify over the next three seasons. They are Croatian sides Hajduk Split and Osijek; Romanian clubs Dinamo Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest; and Partizan Belgrade of Serbia.
The clubs were given a March 31, 2013 deadline to prove they had honoured their debts and were fined amounts ranging from 80,000 euros to 100,000 euros.
Serbian side Vojvodina were fined 10,000 euros, Ukraine’s Arsenal Kyiv received a 75,000-euro fine, 30,000 of which was suspended until it had proved it had paid its dues, while a case against Polish side Lech Poznan was dropped.
UEFA said in November that Malaga were among nine clubs facing sanctions over unpaid bills, although they lifted the suspension of prize money on 16 of 23 clubs originally targeted in September as part of their Fair Play controls.
Malaga spent nearly 60 million euros on new players last year but failed to meet a deadline to show they had cleared overdue payments.
The club is owned by Sheikh Abdallah Ben Nasser Al-Thani, a member of the Qatar ruling family.
UEFA are intending to introduce financial fair play rules to ensure that clubs in continental competition live within their means at the risk of penalties, including being banned from international tournaments.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 03:03 PM PST
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti Rome: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti resigned on Friday with his political plans still in doubt, paving the way for early elections next year in a lynchpin eurozone state still mired in recession.
Monti kept a promise to step down after losing support in parliament and “handed in the resignation of his government” to President Giorgio Napolitano, the presidency said in a statement.
He will stay on in a caretaker role until the elections.
Napolitano will now begin consultations on Saturday with parliamentary leaders before dissolving the two chambers and calling a general election which most observers expected on February 24.
Monti is then expected to announce his own plans at a press conference on Sunday.
In his last speech as premier, Monti said that his stormy 13 months in government had been “difficult but fascinating” and voiced hope that his reform agenda will be continued by any new leader.
Italy was now “more reliable” on the world stage and the euro was in a better state “also thanks to Italy,” he told foreign ambassadors in Rome.
The 69-year-old has won praise at home and abroad for rescuing Italy from the brink of bankruptcy with tough austerity, launching long-delayed pension and labour market reforms and joining other eurozone leaders in battling the debt crisis.
Monti said he would step down earlier this month after his flamboyant predecessor Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his support for Monti and announced he would run for a fourth term as prime minister.
The government’s mandate had been due to run out in April.
“The technocratic government is finishing today and we hope there will no longer be a suspension of democracy,” Berlusconi told reporters after the resignation announcement.
Roberto Maroni, leader of the Northern League party which has opposed the Monti government, said on Twitter: “Monti has resigned, about time!”
– ‘Bitter medicine’ for Italy –
The current favourite to win the elections is centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani but things could change if Monti decides to join the campaign and back a coalition of small centrist parties as some local media have been reporting.
talian Prime Minister Mario Monti
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti listens to a speech during a visit to a carmaker plant on December 20, 2012 in Melfi
A former economy minister and leader of the Democratic Party, the cigar-chomping ex-communist Bersani, 61, has promised to stick to Monti’s reforms but also do more to bring down unemployment and to tax the rich.
Monti’s name cannot officially be on the ballot as he is already a senator for life, but the former economics professor can still be appointed to a post in government including prime minister or finance minister after elections.
Sources close to the technocrat premier insist he has not yet decided whether to join the fray, despite appearing to launch a bid for a weighty role in the campaign with a rousing speech at a Fiat factory on Thursday.
“I think it would be irresponsible to waste all the sacrifices that Italians made,” he said after sniping from Berlusconi who has promised to put an end to austerity measures and to abolish a property tax introduced by Monti.
After taming the markets and bringing down bond rates from more than 7.0 percent when he started out to just over 4.0 percent this week, he also defended his “bitter medicine” saying a simple aspirin could not cure Italy.
Markets were cautious on Friday, with the Milan stock exchange closing 0.40 percent lower and the yield on sovereign bonds rising slightly.
The business world and the Catholic Church have been hugely supportive of Monti but his popularity has been hit among ordinary Italians as the debt-laden country grapples with record-high unemployment and a recession-hit economy.
Monti was installed by president and parliament as the head of an emergency technocratic government in November 2011 after the larger than life Berlusconi was forced to step down amid a financial crisis and a slew of sex scandals.
Many Italians breathed a sigh of relief but Monti’s popularity rating has fallen to around 30 percent in recent months compared to more than 60 percent when he started as austerity measures begin to bite.
Bersani has cautioned Monti against running, as has the 76-year-old billionaire Berlusconi who said the outgoing prime minister risked becoming a “small player” on the political scene.
Monti “has bowed down in front of EU requests, particularly those of the ‘German European Union’ of northern Europe, which only lead to recession,” Berlusconi said on Friday in an interview.
The party lover was convicted of tax fraud in October and is a defendant in a trial for having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office. Berlusconi denies all charges.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 02:55 PM PST
New Zealand cricketer Corey AndersonDurban:  New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was unapologetic for his team’s approach after South Africa trounced them by eight wickets with 47 balls to spare in the first Twenty20 international on Friday.
Fast bowler Rory Kleinveldt took two early wickets to start a slide from which New Zealand never recovered.
Kleinveldt took the key wickets of Rob Nicol and McCullum before he finished with three for 18 to capture the man of the match award.
South Africa romped home in 12.1 overs with new captain Faf du Plessis making 38 not out, while Quinton de Kock, making his debut four days after his 20th birthday, slammed a quick 28 not out.
“We played some aggressive cricket and missed a couple of fundamentals on the way,” McCullum said of his team’s collapse to 86 all out after winning the toss, with several of the batsmen falling to over-ambitious strokes.
“That is the way we are going to be, that is the way we are going to put them under pressure. We were probably a bit too keen, we were outplayed,” added the captain, who said he expected a better performance in the second match of the three-game series in East London on Sunday.
Du Plessis hailed a “fantastic” performance by the home side.
“The bowling was fantastic, the energy on the field was awesome,” he said.
It was a disappointing start for New Zealand, who arrived as underdogs but were expected to put up a reasonable fight in the Twenty20 internationals.
They were missing several key players, including former captain Ross Taylor, who was unavailable for the tour, and they suffered another blow when experienced batsman Martin Guptill could not play at Kingsmead because of a stomach ailment.
Fast bowler Trent Boult was also unavailable because of a similar problem.
On a Kingsmead pitch with pace and bounce, the tourists lost three wickets inside the first five overs.
South African batsman
South African batsman Quinton de Kock (L) hits the ball on December 21, 2012
Nicol charged Kleinveldt and was caught behind, while McCullum top-edged a hook and was caught at fine leg. In between Peter Fulton drove Dale Steyn to mid-on.
It did not get much better for the Black Caps although left-handed newcomer Colin Munro, who was born in Durban and did his early schooling in the city before his family moved to New Zealand, made 23. Doug Bracewell hit 21 not out.
Steyn, newcomer Chris Morris and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson all took two wickets.
New Zealand new cap Mitchell McClenaghan had Richard Levi caught at slip for a duck, bowling a wicket maiden at the start of the South African innings.
But Henry Davids and Du Plessis put on 45 before the captain and De Kock finished the match.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 02:43 PM PST
South Korean pop sensation Psy performs in central Sydney Seoul: Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became the first video to hit a billion views on YouTube on Friday, marking a fresh milestone in the global craze for the South Korean rapper and his horse-riding dance.
The view counter attached to “Gangnam Style,” which was only posted on the video-sharing site July 15, clicked over into 10 figures at around 1550 GMT, confirming its status as the most viewed video in the site’s history.
“One billion views is an incredible number,” said Kevin Allocca, YouTube trends manager, who attributed Psy’s success “to the universal appeal of catchy music — and er, great equine dance moves.”
Psy has swept all before him in the past five months, hoovering up awards and scoring guest appearances with everyone from Madonna to the head of the United Nations.
Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber performs onstage during Power 96.1′s Jingle Ball 2012 at the Philips Arena on December 12, 2012 in Atlanta
The video and its singer have been given walk-on roles in major world events like the US presidential election and major maybe-events like the Mayan calendar-inspired speculation about looming global armageddon.
The timing of the one-billion views breakthrough dovetailed with a viral social network hoax that had the 16th century French seer Nostradamus apparently referencing Psy as a harbinger of the December 21 apocalypse.
And it came less than a month after the video took the all-time “most-viewed” title away from “Baby” by Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber.
Bieber’s effort was still in second place Friday with more than 812 million views.
“Perhaps what’s most impressive about this feat is that it took just over five months to happen,” Allocca said in a blog post.
“Congratulations to PSY, the flash mobbers, K-Pop fans and people who love fun across the globe,” he added.
Gangnam Style
South Korean rapper Psy performs “Gangnam Style” in front of a crowd on November 5, 2012 in Paris
Although its imminent demise has been predicted many times, the Psy phenomenon has simply refused to die.
Every time it has looked like fading, another parody, another celebrity or even another world leader has popped up to administer some publicity CPR and restore it to health.
Rolling Stone put “Gangnam Style” at number 25 on its top 50 list of best songs for 2012 and labelled Psy as “Seoul Brother Number One.” On the Billboard Hot 100 chart it peaked at number two.
The song — which refers to a trendy Seoul district — has spawned a mini tribute video industry and has been co-opted by an impressive roster of big names, including Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
It earned Psy a contract with Bieber’s management agency and a number of assessments and projections have been posted claiming “Gangnam Style” has generated over $8.1 million in advertising deals.
And the public has joined in, with tens of thousands turning out for giant flashmob performances of Psy’s horse-riding dance in cities like Paris and Rome — even beauty spots like South America’s majestic Iguazu waterfalls.
The quirky star, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, has won adulation in his homeland for the global hit and was this month awarded one of South Korea’s highest cultural honours, the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit.
Psy hit a speedbump in the United States when anti-American views he voiced a decade ago caught up with him last month — but he apologised and went on to perform at a “Christmas in Washington” gala attended by Obama and his family.
South Korea sees popular culture as a potent export force, providing international exposure for a country that still feels overlooked in comparison to neighbours China and Japan.
The government has spent substantial time and money supporting the so-called Hallyu (Korean Wave) of TV shows and pop music that has swept across Asia in the past decade.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 02:32 PM PST
Syrian boy displays what he says is the remains of a Scud missileDamascus: The Syrian regime has fired Scud-style missiles at rebels, NATO said Friday, as Russia raised the alarm over the risk of chaos in Syria and Palestinians forced to flee their Damascus camp returned.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the Syrian army’s use of missiles against rebels an act of desperation.
“I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles; we strongly regret that act,” Rasmussen said. “I consider it an act of a desperate regime approaching collapse.”
The latest launches were detected on Thursday, a source close to NATO said, and that was corroborated by an activist in the rebel-held town of Marea in the northern province of Aleppo.
 Abu Hisham told AFP he had been awakened to “the sound of a very loud explosion. It was raining heavily and there were many clouds, so we knew it was unlikely to be aerial bombardment.”
“The first missile fell outside Marea. Had it hit the town it would have caused a massacre. The second, my friends told me, fell outside (the nearby town of) Tel Refaat.”
In Damascus, Palestinian refugees streamed back to the Yarmuk camp after a reported deal to keep it out of the conflict, following fierce clashes earlier this week and briefly on Friday.
An AFP correspondent heard sporadic shooting, and a main road was blocked with boulders to keep out cars, although a van full of passengers still entered through a side street.
The fighting forced about 100,000 of Yarmuk’s 150,000-strong population to flee, with many taking refuge in Damascus parks and squares, said the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
Residents of the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria
Residents of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in the Syrian capital Damascus return to their homes on December 20
Hours after they returned on Friday, fighting again flared in the camp for about an hour and a half, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The fighting pitted anti-regime Syrian and Palestinian rebels against members of the pro-regime popular committees,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
The clashes were between fighters who had not withdrawn from Yarmuk despite a reported agreement after talks that began on Wednesday aimed at removing both rebel and government fighters from the camp.
Newspapers in neighbouring Lebanon said an agreement had been reached under the auspices of Mokhtar Lamani, the representative of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The UN’s World Food Programme said it was to start providing food to 125,000 “vulnerable Palestinians and displaced Syrians” in and around Yarmuk.
Elsewhere, violence raged in flashpoints across Syria, with the Britain-based monitor saying at least 82 people were killed.
And a rebel attack on an electricity pylon caused a power outage in several areas of Damascus, state television said.
Despite the violence, protesters took to the streets in several anti-regime areas, renewing calls for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow does not want “chaos” in Syria — 21 months into an anti-regime revolt that monitors say has claimed more than 44,000 lives — and that it looked forward to seeing a democratic regime there.
“We will try to pursue the public order in Syria and look forward to a democratic regime in Syria because this country is close to our borders,” he said at a news conference on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.
“We wouldn’t like chaos in that country,” he added. “Everyone is interested in stopping the violence and the bloodshed.”
For the secont time in two days, Putin denied propping up Assad’s regime and appeared to acknowledge the possibility of change, saying: “We do not advocate the government of Syria.”
He insisted, however, that a solution must be found among all parties at the negotiating table to take into account the views “of all the citizens.”
On Thursday, Putin said Russia was not concerned about Assad’s fate, but “we understand that the family has been in power for 40 years and there is a need for change.”
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 02:23 PM PST
National Rifle Association (NRA) leader Wayne LaPierreWashington: The United States’ most powerful pro-gun lobbying group demanded Friday that armed police be deployed to every school in the country following a mass shooting that left 20 young children dead.
The National Rifle Association, which defends what it sees as US citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms, had been under pressure to respond in the wake of last week’s massacre in a Connecticut elementary school.
Even as the NRA leaders made their combative and determined appearance another four people died in Pennsylvania in America’s latest shooting spree. But the lobbyists ceded no ground to those calling for tougher gun laws.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” declared NRA vice-president Wayne LaPierre, in the group’s first reaction since the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation,” he said, in a lengthy statement. He took no questions from reporters.
LaPierre said the NRA was ready to help train security teams for schools and work with teachers and parents to improve security measures, and accused the media and the political class of demonizing gun owners.
Last Friday, a troubled 20-year-old man burst into the Sandy Hook school and gunned down 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six staff members trying to protect them, before taking his own life.
Then a week later, even as LaPierre and his allies were on stage in Washington, police in Pennsylvania shot dead a man who had shot dead three people and wounded “several” state troopers.
These deaths were only the latest in a series of mass shootings in the United States this year, and prompted President Barack Obama to throw his weight behind plans to revive a ban on assault weapons.
protest at National Rifle Association (NRA) news conference
A protester is removed from a National Rifle Association (NRA) news conference in Washington on December 21, 2012
America has suffered an epidemic of gun violence over the last three decades including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982. The vast majority of weapons used have been semi-automatic weapons obtained legally by the killers.
There were an estimated 310 million non-military firearms in the United States in 2009, roughly one per citizen, and people in America are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than someone in another developed country.
But LaPierre insisted gun ownership was not the problem.
“You know, five years ago after the Virginia Tech tragedy when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy,” he said, referring to a 2007 campus shooting that left 32 people dead.
“But what if, what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?” he demanded.
 ”Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 little kids, that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day? Is it so abhorrent to you that you’d rather continue to risk the alternative?”
The statement did not impress Chris Murphy, the congressman who represents the district that includes the school.
“Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I’ve ever seen,” he said, on Twitter.
And the statement immediately drew criticism from supporters of tougher gun control, who are pushing to ban semi-automatic assault weapons like the .223 Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in Friday’s shooting.
“The NRA leadership’s drive to fill our schools with more deadly guns and ammo is wildly out of touch with responsible gun owners and the American public,” New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said.
The protesters that attempted to drown out LaPierre’s statement were more blunt. One bore a banner reading “NRA kills our kids,” the other “NRA has blood on its hands.” They were led away by security.
But LaPierre ploughed on, warning that more killers are actively plotting to attack schools.
And he slammed and attacked media conglomerates, denouncing violent video games, music videos that celebrate crime and Hollywood movies that glamorize violence.
“Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?” he demanded.
“Too many in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.”
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:52 PM PST
clashes in EgyptEgypt: Clashes between rival demonstrators erupted on Friday in Egypt’s second city Alexandria, on the eve of the final round of a referendum on a divisive new constitution pushed by Islamists.
Riot police, with orders to act “decisively,” formed a barrier between several thousand Islamists and hundreds more opposition protesters and used tear gas to quell the street battles.
The interior ministry said in a statement that 62 people, among them 12 police conscripts, were injured in the clashes in which protesters torched two police buses. Police also arrested 12 protesters.
clashes in Alexandria
Egyptian men help a wounded comrade during clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on December 21, 2012
In the first round held in half of Egypt last weekend, Alexandria voted in favour of the constitution. It has seen clashes break out several times amid nationwide rallies both for and against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Early this month in Cairo, the confrontations turned deadly outside the presidential palace with eight people killed and hundreds hurt.
The army has since deployed 120,000 soldiers to bolster 130,000 police tasked with maintaining security during the volatile voting.
The secular-leaning opposition sees the proposed constitution as weakening human rights and opening the way to creeping strict sharia-style Islamic legislation under Morsi. It is urging a “no” vote in Saturday’s second round.
Analysts said it was almost certain the new constitution would be adopted — but that such an outcome would not end Egypt’s political crisis.
The instability is hurting the economy, which has been limping along since the popular uprising that ousted the 30-year autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak early last year.
The International Monetary Fund has put on hold a $4.8-billion loan Egypt needs to stave off a currency collapse, and Germany has indefinitely postponed a plan to forgive $316 million of Egypt’s debt.
clashes in Alexandria
Egyptian riot police try to quell clashes in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on December 21, 2012
The head of the National Salvation Front opposition coalition, former UN atomic energy agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, warned in an online video that “the country is on the verge of bankruptcy.”
He said “a solution is still possible,” as long as Morsi was prepared for “sincere dialogue” and allowed a whole new constitution to be drafted through a more inclusive process.
Egyptian opponents and supporters of President Morsi
Egyptian opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi clash in Alexandria on December 21, 2012
Supporters of both sides have taken to the streets in an attempt to sway voters to their side of the debate in the run-up to the referendum’s second round.
In Giza, a southwestern Cairo district that will vote on Saturday, an opposition campaign volunteer who give his name as Maher said he pointed out to people in the street those who remain “committed to the revolution and who betrayed it” — implying that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had Egypt let down.
A pro-constitution campaigner there, Abdallah Hassan, said his counter pitch was to inform people of “the benefits that will come out of this constitution by voting ‘yes’,” principally stability after so many months of turmoil.
Analysts said that even if the draft charter were adopted, it would do nothing to resolve the festering political confrontation.
“Everything suggests the vote will go the way the Muslim Brotherhood wants,” Hassan Nafaa, an analyst and commentator, wrote in the newspaper Al-Masri al-Youm.
“But the misleading conclusion it will take away is that there is an overwhelming victory allowing it to continue on its chosen path.”
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:40 PM PST
National Bank in AthensAthens: Greece’s biggest lender National Bank on Friday said it had posted a nine-month loss of 2.45 billion euros ($3.2 billion) while number two Alpha Bank said it had lost 711.8 million euros over the same period.
Both banks said they had taken a hit after participating in Greek sovereign debt reduction operations this year, and called for additional recapitalisation funds of 2.3 billion and 1.6 billion euros, respectively.
NBG’s operating income dropped 10 percent to 3.03 billion euros in the first nine months of the year, with operating costs down three percent to 1.7 billion.
Alpha Bank’s takings fell by 38.2 percent to 1.07 billion while expenses were reduced by 5.6 percent to 785.7 million euros.
Greece’s main banks are to receive 50 billion euros overall to restore their capital after a sovereign debt write-down in the spring, and a subsequent debt buy-back earlier this month.
An initial payment was carried out in May and another 16 billion euros in EU rescue money earmarked for the recapitalisation was disbursed on Wednesday.
The country’s third and fourth-largest lenders had also reported major losses a day earlier.
Third-ranked Eurobank — which is due to merge with National Bank — reported a net loss of 1.095 billion euros ($1.44 billion) and said it would need recapitalisation funds of 5.8 billion euros overall.
Piraeus Bank, fourth overall, said it had lost 629 million euros over the same period and had required a 7.3-billion-euro boost in total.
Eurobank had received a first instalment of 3.97 billion euros for this purpose in May, while Piraeus Bank had drawn 4.7 billion euros.
National Bank picked up 7.4 billion euros seven months ago and Alpha Bank has already received 2.9 billion euros.
European leaders last week decided to unblock a total of 49.1 billion euros from Greece’s outstanding financial assistance package by early next year in return for a new austerity deal in Athens.
The release of the money after six months brought a welcome respite to the country’s recession gloom.
Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s this week gave Greece’s sovereign debt a six-point grade increase, and the European Central Bank said it would again accept Greek bonds as collateral for central bank loans.
But the cheer did not extend to Greek banks.
On Thursday, S&P said it was keeping all four main lenders on a triple-C long-term rating.
“Although we believe that sovereign credit-worthiness benefits from the strong determination of the eurozone to restore Greek economic stability and preserve its eurozone membership, we believe that the four Greek banks we rate are likely to continue facing significant risks to their weak financial profiles,” the ratings agency said.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:33 PM PST
Washington: Republican leaders, chastened by a failure to get conservatives to back a tax hike on millionaires, said Friday they were not walking away from negotiations with President Barack Obama on resolving a looming fiscal crisis.
House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” tax bill crashed to defeat Thursday night when he realized he did not have the necessary votes, but, despite the setback, he and his number two Republican in the chamber both insisted it was now up to Obama to compromise in order to secure a year-end deal.
“I don’t want taxes to go up. Republicans don’t want taxes to go up,” Boehner told reporters in the US Capitol.
“But we only run the House. Democrats continue to run Washington.”
Both parties are scrambling to work out a deal that would avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes on all Americans and deep mandated spending cuts on military and domestic programs that kick in beginning January 1 if Congress does not act.
US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama walks towards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC on December 20, 2012
The Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent members home until after the Christmas break, and Boehner essentially said late Thursday that the ball was in Obama’s court.
Despite the conservative backlash over the prospect of raising taxes, Boehner insisted he was not abandoning talks, and bristled when a reporter suggested as much.
“No, no, no. Listen, I did not say that,” he stressed.
“I’m interested in solving the major problems that face our country, and that means House leaders, Senate leaders, and the president are going to continue to have to work together to address those concerns.”
Boehner’s tax bid was part of an overall offer to Obama that would raise some $1 trillion in tax revenue — mostly through closing loopholes and ending certain deductions — and another $1 trillion in spending cuts, including slashes to some entitlements like Medicare.
“I told the president on Monday these were my bottom lines,” Boehner said.
“The president told me that his numbers, $1.3 trillion in new revenues, $850 billion in spending cuts, was his bottom line, that he couldn’t go any further.
The White House has described its offer as $1.2 trillion in tax revenues and nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts, although Republicans dispute whether all of the austerity measures are real.
“And so we see a situation where because of the political divide in the country, because of the divide here in Washington, trying to bridge these differences has been difficult,” Boehner said.
Obama had originally insisted on letting tax cuts expire on households earning more than $250,000, but has since upped the threshold to $400,000 in a bid to reach a compromise.
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:25 PM PST
Barack Obama and John KerryWashington: US President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Senator John Kerry as his new secretary of state, as he began to reshape his national security team for a second term clouded by increased global turmoil.
Kerry, 69, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, defeated former presidential candidate and foreign policy sage, will succeed Hillary Clinton, who is stepping down after four years as the top US diplomat.
“Over these many years, John’s earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world,” Obama said at the White House as he announced Kerry’s nomination, his first second-term cabinet pick.
“He is not going to need a lot of on the job-training.”
“I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.”
Kerry stepped up following the withdrawal of UN ambassador Susan Rice, the early favorite for the post, who was caught in the political aftermath of the attack of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September.
Obama said that Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, had played a central role in every US foreign policy debate for 30 years and that his “entire life” had prepared him for his new role.
Kerry saw life overseas as the son of a Cold War foreign service officer, served as a navy officer in Vietnam, and spent years wrestling with foreign policy issues in the Senate.
Obama said that Clinton had hoped to be at the announcement, but was still recovering from a serious virus and a concussion.
The White House had hoped to make a clean sweep by announcing all nominations to the national security team, including new chiefs of the CIA and Pentagon at once.
eresa Heinz Kerry and Joe Biden
Teresa Heinz Kerry and US Vice President Joe Biden wait for President Barack Obama in Washington on December 21, 2012
But a crush of political events, including the “fiscal cliff” economic crisis, has pushed them back. A battle is already raging as opponents seek to tar former senator Chuck Hagel, a possible pick for Defense Secretary.
Kerry, who is well known abroad after acting as an unofficial envoy for Obama, is expected win easy confirmation from his Senate colleagues.
In the past years Kerry has traveled to the Middle East and South Asia, and met Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad several times as Washington mulled a diplomatic opening. He also sought a renewal of Arab-Israeli peace talks before the outbreak of the Syrian revolt.
In May 2011 Kerry went to Pakistan to try to ease tensions after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and in February 2009 he made a rare visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, without meeting anyone from the Islamist group.
As soon as he is confirmed in his new job, Kerry will face a huge array of foreign policy challenges, including a critical moment in the Iranian nuclear showdown and what could be the last throes of the Assad regime in Syria.
Kerry’s Senate colleagues welcomed his appointment.
“We have known John Kerry for many years. We have confidence in John Kerry’s ability to carry out the job,” said Senator John McCain.
“I think John Kerry was a very solid choice by the president,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who however noted he had some policy disagreements with Kerry.
Kerry played an important role in Obama’s political career, notably by picking him to give the keynote speech in the 2004 Democratic convention, at which the then unknown Illinois lawmaker burst onto the political scene.
He also played Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in mock debates staged by the president’s team ahead of Obama’s successful re-election effort in November.
“Nothing brings two people closer together than weeks of debate prep,” Obama quipped.
Kerry narrowly lost the 2004 presidential race to president George W. Bush, after a campaign that included savage attacks on his war service.
He was lambasted by Republicans who accused him of “flip flops” on the Iraq war, and the Bush campaign ran an ad showing him windsurfing, with the kicker “John Kerry, whichever way the wind blows.”
Kerry will be the first white, male secretary of state for years, following three women — Clinton, Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright — and Colin Powell.
Kerry first shot to prominence in April 1971 when he testified to the Senate committee he would later lead, and famously asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Earlier, during his second 48-day tour in Vietnam, Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for valor for his work as a lieutenant in charge of dangerous “Swift” gunboat missions in the Mekong Delta.


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