BBC News – Greece: Who is being ‘bailed out?’

Greek leaders thought they had fulfilled their side of the bargain, yesterday, hammering out 3bn euros in extra budget cuts to qualify for their next round of international loans.

But at the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Thursday, frustration at Greek foot-dragging seems to have won the day.

Those same politicians have now been told they have three days to come up with a bit more budget pain. And they have to all promise (in blood?) that they will stick with the programme, no matter what the voters might say in April.

International bailouts – and the debt crises leading up to them – are always pretty painful to watch.

You wouldn’t look very dignified either, jumping through hoops for your bank manager, with your back firmly against the wall (mixed metaphor intended).

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A Caring Lawyer

One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the road-side eating grass.

Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop to investigate.

He asked one man, “Why are you eating grass?”

“We don’t have any money for food,” the poor man replied. “We have to eat grass.”

“Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I’ll feed you,” the lawyer said.

“But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree.”

“Bring them along,” the lawyer replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, “You may come with us, also.”

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, “But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!”

“Bring them all as well,” the lawyer answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.

Once under way, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said, “Sir, you are too kind.”

“Thank you for taking all of us with you.

The lawyer replied, “Glad to do it.

“You’ll really love my place.

“The grass is almost a foot high.”

Come on now…you really didn’t think there was such
a thing as a heartwarming lawyer story…did you ????

Syrian troops launch ‘brutal shelling’ attack on Homs

Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been shelling Homs for more than a week to retake parts of the city captured by rebel forces. Hundreds are believed to have been killed since last Saturday, and the humanitarian conditions in the city were worsening.

Homs was under “brutal shelling” on Tuesday, the Local Coordination Committees activist group said, citing its network of witnesses on the ground.

With diplomatic efforts bogged down, the conflict in Syria is taking on the dimensions of a civil war, with army defectors clashing almost daily with soldiers.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned on Monday that the Security Council’s failure to take action has emboldened the Syrian government to launch an all-out assault.

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Greece won’t see a cent of the great bail-out

Over the weekend, the Greek parliament voted to accept Europe’s latest demands for spending cuts and tax rises and other reforms and retrenchments. The aim was to make it marginally less implausible that Greece will pay back the hundreds of billions of euros that its neighbours are lending it. The alternative, we were told, was that it would become “ground zero” for a new financial meltdown, with its exit from the euro leading to social chaos within the country and economic chaos outside.

So Greece’s MPs voted it through, 199 to 74 – despite the tens of thousands rioting on the streets of Athens, despite GDP having contracted for three years in a row, despite tax revenues collapsing thanks to austerity-induced depression and overt, systematic tax evasion, despite the main governing party’s popularity falling to 8 per cent in the opinion polls.

Phew! Now Greece will get its second bail-out package of 130 billion euros (the first 110 billion, given in May 2010, having proved insufficient). Now it won’t default or leave the single currency, and everything will go back to normal… won’t it?

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Osborne is a superb cook, but the Budget cupboard is bare

As he prepares for his imminent Budget, George Osborne is like a cross housewife. The lady in question is a superb cook, and happy to create a feast: all she needs is a little notice. But her husband has just rung to say that he is bringing six friends home in half an hour. As she contemplates the fridge, she can see barely enough to fill a frying pan, which is just as well. She will need that to brain the husband.

The analogy is not wholly accurate, for there is one crucial difference. Mr Osborne knew that the first phase of his chancellorship would be about famine, not feasts. It is to be hoped that there will be a second phase, and not just for the obvious reasons. George Osborne has a restless intelligence. His officials have been impressed by his command of his brief. In his early days as shadow chancellor, he was attracted by the idea of a flat tax. In different circumstances, such a refusal to succumb to the conventional wisdom could make him the most original and creative chancellor since Nigel Lawson. But in these bleak times, it is hard to be either.

Some of the Chancellor’s critics have complained about his failure to produce a strategy for growth. To listen to them, one might think that this was a simple matter: that Mr Osborne resembled an idle s

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Whitney Houston may have died of drink and prescription drugs, not drowning

The singer’s family were told by officials that she did not have enough water in her lungs to immediately conclude that drowning was the cause of death.

She had taken a combination of the sedative Xanax and other prescription drugs with alcohol, and could have died before her head went under the water.

Houston had drunk alcohol shortly before getting into the bath. Photographs of her room, obtained by TMZ, showed her final meal which included an opened Heineken can and an empty glass of champagne.

She had eaten a hamburger, then taken a turkey sandwich and jalapeno peppers on a tray with her into the bathroom, apparently intending to eat them in the bath.

A police source told celebrity website TMZ it was possible Houston suffered a heart attack caused by a reaction to medication, but it was too early to definitively decide what killed her.

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Abu Qatada released under strict bail conditions

The extremist preacher was freed from Long Lartin top security jail but will be banned from holding lengthy conversations with anyone beyond his family and will not be allowed to leave his home for 22 hours a day — including going into his garden. He is prohibited from using a mobile phone, computer or the internet.

Officials hope that the measures will prove temporary as James Brokenshire, the security minister, prepares to fly to Jordan, where Qatada has been convicted in his absence of terrorism-related offences.

The European Court of Human Rights blocked Britain from deporting the 51-year-old Islamist cleric to Jordan after ruling that he might not receive a fair trial.

However, Qatada’s own mother last night said the hate preacher should be sent back to Jordan.

Aisha Othman, 70, told the Daily Mail from her home in the Jordanian capital Amman: “He has been away too long. We want him home now.

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Britain being overtaken by ‘militant secularists’, says Baroness Warsi

In an historic visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi will express her “fear” about the marginalisation of religion throughout Britain and Europe, saying that faith needs “a seat at the table in public life”.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Cabinet Office minister says that to create a “more just society” Britons must “feel stronger in their religious identities”.

The minister, who is also chairman of the Conservative Party, says: “My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere.

Are you worried by the threat of militant secularism in Britain?

Marginalising religion is a form of intolerance seen in totalitarian regimes 21.63% (681 votes)

People should worship in private and not display religious symbols in public 16.42% (517 votes)

People should feel proud to worship in public and display their faith 16.17% (509 votes)

Secularisation is not a threat to this country 45.78% (1,441 votes)

Total Votes: 3,148

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