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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Government Plan to bring affluent in tax net

Government Plan to bring affluent in tax net- Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has finalised a comprehensive plan to bring affluent people in the tax net in a countrywide tax broadening drive to be launched from July 1, a tax official told Dawn.

The proposed target for bringing rich people in the tax net for the next fiscal year is 500,000 persons, who would be traced on the basis of financial transactions and data collected from NADRA.

Income tax return filers fell to less than 800,000 in tax year 2012, showing that less than 0.5pc of the population files tax returns in the country of 180 million.

“We will start work on broadening of tax base from July 1,” a senior tax official told Dawn. NADRA has already provided data of 140,000 potential people, who are living in posh areas, having multiple banks accounts, and frequently make foreign visits, but they do not figure on the tax roll.

An official statement of the FBR issued on Wednesday said the most important step in this direction has been the decision to use the National Data Warehouse (NDW) for identification of new taxpayers who can be brought into the tax net.

The NDW would be used in various ways, including its usage for acquisition of data through profiling loading and data mining and usage.

In Pakistan, the National Data Warehouse was only owned and maintained by NADRA. But the statement by FBR has created confusion which NDW would be used for tracing taxpayers because no such thing exists at the FBR.

An information expert says that there is a huge difference in database and national data warehouse. He said FBR can only have a database based on a few machines.

FBR officials contacted were not available for comments to clarify this issue.

According to the FBR statement, the respective RTOs would be sent details and electronic profiles of these potential taxpayers so that notifications are issued by the tax commissioners concerned.

All monitoring and control of the process would be automated and system based.

The FBR has also upgraded its call centre facility for facilitation of taxpayers. Linkages with third-party sources, including provincial revenue authorities, have also been established for effective implementation and monitoring.

To strengthen the enforcement mechanism for the broadening plan, various decisions have been made by the FBR which include initiation of statutory proceedings against persons who failed to respond to outreach notifications through issuance of notices under section 114 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

In case of taxpayer’s persistence on non-compliance, provisional assessment would be finalised and the taxpayer would still have the option to file a return accompanied by a wealth statement and reconciliation of wealth statement within the period of 60 days whereby provisional assessment order would be automatically vitiated.

If the taxpayer did not file the return and required documents within 60 days, the tax liability raised as per the provisional assessment order would become final and would be recoverable and, if necessary, penal and prosecution proceedings, which may culminate in imprisonment and imposition of fine, would also be initiated in selected cases for creating a credible deterrence.

On Musharraf case, govt acting on Supreme Court directions

On Musharraf case, govt acting on Supreme Court directions-  Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan Thursday clarifing government’s stance on high treason case against Musharraf said no double standards were adopted and it was following only Supreme Court’s instructions in this regard. Responding to various questions raised by the opposition members in the  parliament here, the Interior Minister said that the government did only what the Supreme Court of Pakistan had directed it to do. He said the Supreme Court had asked the government to give its opinion  only over a case against Pervez Musharraf for abrogating the Constitution and detaining judges of the higher judiciary after imposing emergency on November 3, 2007.”There was no question of abrogating the Constitution from 12 October 1990 or from 1956 or so on,” he added.
He was of the view that if anybody wanted to open the high treason cases from beginning, they have no objection.
He opined 99.9 percent of the army had nothing to do with the imposition of Martial Laws, rather a few people were involved in such practices, damaging the image of the whole army.
The interior minister made it clear: “We will not accept any insult against Pakistan army,” saying Pak army jawans have been giving huge sacrifices for the nation, so they are ‘the bravest of the brave’.
He said that a person who has been brought to justice now may not be seen as general or military man, but an offender. “Linking the activities of an individual with the whole institution is unjustified,” he remarked.
He criticized the opposition for politicising the issue.
He informed the house that government has constituted a four-member  committee of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the high treason issue.On the issues of Karachi violence, the interior minister said the federal government’s help was always available to provincial government in maintaining peace and it was ready to take onboard all the political parties to resolve the issue.
The political parties of Sindh should develop consensus among themselves and the provincial government should also come with clear stance on the issue,he said.
The minister  urged the provincial government to call a special session to debate on the current situation of Karachi and come with consensus policy, which would be supported by the federal government.
Nisar said that he would visit Karachi next month and hold meetings with Governor Sindh, Chief Minister and political parties to help find solution to the issues available within the ambit of constitution.
He made it clear that federral government will not interfere in the matters of the provincial government.
The Interior Minister stressed the need to make a comprehensive and proactive policy to check militancy in the country and said federal government would call a meeting soon to discuss the security situation and come up with a joint strategy to drive the country out of security crisis.
He apprised the House that there was no national security policy on ground, so we have to prepare overhaul policy to tackle menace of terrorism and law and order situation.
In response to Swiss cases, the interior minister said that the Supreme Court (SC) has taken notice of the matter and government’s reply would be submitted according to the law.
He said that facts should not be mutilated and clarified that PML-N excused for including a section proposed by PPP in the Charter of Democracy (CoD) to ensure that both the parties would withdraw cases against each other after coming into power.

Gaga tops Forbes' Most Powerful Musicians list

Gaga tops Forbes' Most Powerful Musicians list- Pop star Lady Gaga has beaten Beyonce and Madonna to the title of World's Most Powerful Musician according to Forbes Magazine's 2013 list.

The 27-year-old came first in the annual ranking, which is determined by earnings, social media influence and press mentions, largely thanks to the star's 'Born This Way' world tour grossing a massive USD 168 million, despite it being cut short due to her hip injury.

The eccentric performer, who also ranked second on Forbes' Most Powerful Celebrities list, is a prolific social media user and communicates daily with her 38.5 million Twitter fans and 57.9 million Facebook fans, who she calls her 'Little Monsters'.

Beyonce ranked second on the list, with her current 'Mrs Carter World Tour' grossing USD 2 million per concert date, while Madonna came in at number three with her 'MDNA Tour' raking in over USD 305 million.

Taylor Swift was fourth thanks to the smash success of her new album 'Red', while rockers Bon Jovi, powered by their 'Because We Can' tour, came in at number five, and social media whizz Justin Bieber was sixth.

Coldplay were the only British artists to feature in the American-dominated Top 10, after their world tour made them USD 3 million per performance.

Latest PTI distributes mangoes from Zardari among poor

Latest PTI distributes mangoes from Zardari among poor- Wednesday was a hot but sweet day for the poor inhabitants of katchi abadi (slum locality) in G-7, as Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) distributed free mangoes worth thousands of rupees among them. The PTI’s Central Secretariat received 40 crates of mangoes for its Chairman Imran Khan from President Asif Ali Zardari. The party leadership pondered over the matter and it was decided that the fruit should be given to the slum dwellers. “It was practically a mouthwatering feast for the hundreds of poor, who live in the katchi abadi and many of them can hardly afford enjoying the fruit,” commented Rizwan Chaudhry of the PTI Media Centre.

Improvement in Indo-Pak ties will benefit Afghanistan

Improvement in Indo-Pak ties will benefit Afghanistan- Any improvement of ties between New Delhi and Islamabad will automatically improve the situation in Afghanistan, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Dobbins said today.

Dobbins, who arrived here to brief Indian officials on the proposed talks with Taliban as part of stabilising war- torn Afghanistan, also said that there is no prospect of any agreement with Taliban unless they decide on severing ties with all terror groups, including al-Qaeda.

'We certainly agree that there is no prospect of improvement in relationship with Taliban or any agreement with Taliban unless they assure terrorism is...Addressed,' the US diplomat said, adding that Taliban has to do much more before an agreement is reached.

'In an agreement, they need to improve on cessation of hostilities, respectfully attend the Constitution and go about severing of all ties with al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organisations,' Dobbins said.

'Any improvement in Indo-Pak ties will almost automatically improve the Afghanistan situation,' he said.

Dobbins added that he had gathered an impression during his two meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that 'improvement in relationship with India is very high on his (Sharifs) list of priority.'

The US ambassador, who met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai yesterday, will meet his Indian counterpart S K Lambah today.

The visit comes a day after US Secretary of State John Kerrys three-day official visit for the India-US Strategic Dialogue.

During the dialogue, Kerry had assured India that its concerns over Taliban insurgents gaining legitimacy without severing their terror links will not be 'overlooked or undermined' during the talks with the Islamic fundamentalist group.

Deep inside Windows 8.1's hidden new features

Windows 8.1 preview now available: Here's what you need to know,  After months of teasing and torture, the Windows 8.1 Developer Preview is finally here, ready to deliver us from many of Windows 8’s glaring flaws. You’ve no doubt already heard about Windows 8.1’s biggest new features: The Start button is back, Bing owns the Search charm, the split-screen Snap feature is customizable, yada yada yada. You know the drill.

What hasn’t been talked about much are the subtler changes—the hidden secrets tucked away in the dark corners of Windows 8.1, whispering and waiting for a turn to shine rather than shouting their proverbial presence from the proverbial rooftops.

No, these gems aren’t as flashy as Windows 8’s newfound ability to sync apps and Internet Explorer 11 tabs across multiple devices, but they’re arguably just as (if not more) handy. And there’s no way you’ll find them unless you dig deep...or read this enlightening guide.  Let’s start with something basic, but far from obvious.

Yes, the Start button is back...but the Start menu isn’t. So you still need to swipe through a multiclick process involving the charm bar if you want to shut down your PC—if you don’t know about the Start button’s secret menu, that is.

Right-clicking the Start button that appears when you hover your mouse cursor in the lower-left corner of the screen brings up a bevy of powerful options, including quick links to deep stuff like Disk Management and Command Prompt tools.

Now, the menu itself isn’t new to Windows 8.1. What is new is the addition of a Shut Down option to said menu. Hovering over it for a second gives you options to shut down or restart your PC right then and there, no fiddling with hidden menus required.   The Taskbar Properties option is another old friend with a subtle new look—and a crucial one for desktop diehards. Did you hear that Windows 8.1 lets you boot directly to the desktop on start up? It does, but Microsoft clearly doesn’t really want you to do it, since the option is buried in this obscure corner of the OS.

Head to the desktop, right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and then open the brand-spankin’-new Navigation tab. There, you’ll find new options for disabling the uppermost hot corners. Those options are also available in the modern-style PC Settings, but many Start screen options can only be found here.

And how handy-dandy they are! Want to boot directly to the desktop or the All Apps screen? Here’s your chance, and the other selections are just as useful. (Show the desktop background on the Start screen? Yes While you’re busy taking advantage of all the hot resizable Snap size action in Windows 8.1, don’t forget that you can now have a single app open in multiple Snapped windows—something you couldn’t do in the original Windows 8 release.  SkyDrive takes on a much bigger role in Windows 8.1, driving Microsoft’s vision of a seamless, cloud-connected world even further.

In fact, SkyDrive is so vital an underpinning to Windows 8.1 that Microsoft dedicates an entire section to it in the modern-style PC Settings. A vast number of settings now sync and follow you from device to device by default—including modern apps, woohoo! But if you really want to live in the cloud, you’ll need to enable some options buried three or four levels down. 

Latest News Nelson Mandela's condition critical but 'stable'

Latest News Nelson Mandela's condition critical but 'stable'- Former South African leader Nelson Mandela is in a stable condition, his granddaughter says, though he remains critical.

Ndileka Mandela said the 94-year-old's family were taking comfort from messages of support from the public.

Mr Mandela's health had worsened in recent days, prompting President Jacob Zuma to cancel a foreign visit.

South Africa's first black president has been in hospital since 8 June with a lung infection.

Emotional crowds continue to gather outside the Pretoria hospital.

They have been adding messages of support for Mr Mandela, known by his clan name Madiba.

Correspondents say South Africans now seem resigned to the prospect of his death. "We don't like seeing Mandela going through so much pain, he has had a tough time in his life and he's gone through a lot of struggle. I think this struggle should get over sooner," Khulile Mlondleni told the BBC.

"We are all going to feel bad when he passes [away], but at the same time we will be celebrating his life. He has done so many great things for this country," said 25-year-old John Ndlovu, quoted by Reuters news agency.
Speculation warning

After visiting her grandfather in hospital, Mdileka Mandela said it was an anxious time for the family.

"He's stable and we'd like to say that we thank everybody for giving their support and praying with us ... we are anxious as you know that he is critical but he's in a stable condition right now," she said.

"It's been hard, especially because of all of this - that we have to do everything in the public eye."

Mr Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Wednesday evening that Mr Mandela's condition had deteriorated over the weekend.

After consultations with doctors, Mr Zuma said he was cancelling his trip to a regional summit in the Mozambican capital Maputo. The statement from his office said he "reiterated his gratitude on behalf of government, to all South Africans who continue to support the Madiba family".

The decision will only reinforce the impression that Nelson Mandela's life is slipping away, the BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports from Johannesburg.

But later Mr Zuma's office warned against speculation about Mr Mandela's health, saying that announcements about his condition would come from the president himself or Mr Maharaj.

Mr Maharaj criticised some media outlets for broadcasting unverified information, as rumours spread on social media sites.

Mr Mandela is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in South Africa and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected president the following year. He left office in 1999 after a single term. 

Prosecutors say NFL star Aaron Hernandez 'orchestrated execution,' concealed evidence

Prosecutors say NFL star Aaron Hernandez 'orchestrated execution,' concealed evidence- Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez drove his friend to a remote spot in an industrial park in the dead of night and — still fuming from a fight at a nightclub three nights earlier — "orchestrated his execution," prosecutors alleged in a Massachusetts court Wednesday.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five firearms charges, including possessing a large-capacity firearm, more than a week after the body of Odin Lloyd, 27, was found near his Massachusetts home. A judge ordered him held without bail.

Hernandez "drove the victim to the remote spot, and he then orchestrated his execution. That's what it was," First Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said in Attleboro District Court. "As (Lloyd) tried to turn, he was shot in the back, and the defendant and his confederates stood over him and delivered the two fatal shots," McCauley said, adding: "He orchestrated the crime from the beginning and took steps to conceal and destroy evidence."

Wearing a white V-neck shirt, red sports shorts and handcuffs, Hernandez showed no emotion as prosecutors laid out a bruising account of what allegedly happened the night Lloyd, a semi-professional football player, was killed, citing what they say is surveillance camera footage, text messages and witnesses who were working the overnight shift who heard gunshots as evidence. Hernandez wiped tears from his face at the very end of the arraignment.

Lloyd's bullet-punctured body was found by a jogger June 17 in an industrial park a mile from Hernandez's North Attleborough home. The death was ruled a homicide.

Prosecutors said that the killing was prompted by a fight between the two friends during a trip June 14 to a Boston nightclub. Three days later, Hernandez and two friends allegedly picked Lloyd up at his house at 2:30 a.m. Surveillance footage from Hernandez's house shows him leaving earlier in the night with a weapon, prosecutors said.

After getting into the car, Lloyd allegedly texted a family member, asking, "Did you see who I am with," prosecutors said. He then texted that it was Hernandez and followed it up with "Just so you know" in another text message, the prosecutors alleged during the arraignment.

Later that morning, between 3:23 a.m. and 3:27 a.m., employees who were working the overnight shift at the industrial park where Lloyd's body would later be found reported hearing gunshots, authorities said. It's not clear who investigators believe fired the shots.

"It is at bottom a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case," Michael Fee, Hernandez's attorney, said in court.

Prosecutors allege that security videos from Hernandez's house show him with firearms after Lloyd was murdered and show a Nissan Altima — the same type of car Hernandez had rented — going to and coming from the site where Lloyd's body would be found. He was seen exiting the vehicle at 3:29 a.m. with a gun at his home on the surveillance footage, prosecutors claim, shortly after authorities say Lloyd was killed.

Hernandez, 23, was placed in handcuffs and put in a police cruiser just before 9 a.m. Wednesday by Massachusetts State Police and North Attleborough police. Authorities have searched his home, on the Rhode Island line not far from the Patriots' stadium, several times over the past week.

Less than two hours after the arrest, the Patriots announced they were releasing Hernandez.

DOMA widow says on hearing of Supreme Court win

DOMA widow says on hearing of Supreme Court win I cried, I cried, The 84-year-old widow at the center of an historic gay-rights marriage case before the Supreme Court said she cried on Wednesday upon learning of her win, with the justices deeming unconstitutional a federal law that bars recognition of same-sex marriage.

Smiling and at some times emotional, Edie Windsor said: “I cried, I cried,” after learning of her landmark victory, hailed by one of her attorneys, James Esseks, as a “watershed” moment in the decades-long battle for gay rights.

“We won everything we asked and hoped for.  Wow,” she told a room full of reporters at The Center, a LGBT rights community center in New York City. The victory means the federal government must recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples married in the 12 states that allow same-sex marriage, plus the District of Columbia, and give them the same benefits that they had been previously denied under the struck-down law, the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA).

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it meant the end of what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had called "skim-milk marriage" during oral arguments in March. “I thought we had every right to win. I thought our arguments were sound and everyone else's were insane,” she quipped.

Windsor noted that her journey as a lesbian throughout the decades meant she had had to lie a lot of the time about her sexuality. Her other attorney, Roberta Kaplan, likened Windsor to Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks and Harvey Milk.

“It makes me feel incredibly proud and humble,” Windsor said.

Windsor launched her lawsuit after getting a bill for $363,000 in estate taxes after her wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009 – two years following the couple's marriage in Canada. She noted that if her spouse had been named “Theo,” she wouldn't have received that bill.

She was heartbroken after Spyer’s death but also “overwhelmed with a sense of injustice and unfairness” and decided to sue to get her money back.

“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA. And those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married – as Thea and I did – but with the same federal benefits, protections and dignity as everyone else,” Windsor said. “If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it and she would be so pleased."

Kaplan said Windsor would recoup that money plus interest, as would other couples who brought a case. For other couples, who are married now, the reimbursement will depend on each federal program and benefit. DOMA had blocked the access of same-sex married couples to more than 1,100 federal benefits.

As to the future, Windsor said she would be supportive of the ongoing efforts to bring same-sex marriage nationwide but would otherwise take a back seat.

"I don't have a ton of years left and I would like to relax a little bit," she said lightheartedly.

And when asked what she thought Thea, her partner of 44 years, would say on this big day, Windsor surmised: “You did it, honey.”

Breaking News Jared Leto Covers Candy

Breaking News Jared Leto Covers Candy- Jared Leto covers the latest issue of Candy, a magazine that bills itself as the center of "transversal style."
Jared Leto Covers Candy

So it only makes sense the actor would do so in drag, right?

Yes, this really is a photo of the man after whom Angela Chase lusted on My So-Called Life, decked out in a short pink wig, cherry lipstick and long eyelashes The publication has dressed such stars as James Franco, Chloƫ Sevigny and Andrej Pejic in drag garb over the year, creating headlines via gender bending and political satire.

In December, Candy placed transgender model Connie Fleming on its cover, styling her to invoke Michelle Obama swearing in on a Bible.

Leto, meanwhile, dabbled a bit in cross-dressing for his upcoming indie film The Dallas Buyers Club. It will mark his first big screen role in five years.

Weddings must wait, but couples celebrate as Supreme Court rulings push gay marriage forward

Weddings must wait, but couples celebrate as Supreme Court rulings push gay marriage forward- Backed by rainbow flags and confetti, thousands celebrated in California’s streets after U.S. Supreme Court rulings brought major advances for gay marriage proponents in the state and across the country.

Though wedding bells may be weeks away, same-sex couples and their supporters filled city blocks of San Francisco and West Hollywood on Wednesday night to savor the long awaited decisions as thumping music resounded. 

“Today the words emblazoned across the Supreme Court ring true: equal justice under law,” said Paul Katami, one of the plaintiffs who challenged California’s gay marriage ban, as he celebrated in West Hollywood.

In one of two 5-4 rulings, the high court cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California, holding that the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified a voter-approved ban for the ballot did not have the authority to defend it after state officials refused. The justices thus let stand a San Francisco trial court’s ruling in August 2010 that overturned the ban.

In the other, the court wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, putting legally married gay couples on equal federal footing with all other married Americans, allowing them to receive the same tax, health and pension benefits.

The court sidestepped the larger question of whether banning gay marriage is unconstitutional, and states other than California and the 12 others where gay couples already have the right to wed were left to hash out the issue within their borders.

As the sun set on San Francisco, a crowd surged from hundreds to several thousand in the city’s Castro neighborhood, with rainbow flags and confetti filling the air.

James Reynolds, 45, was among the revelers, saying he had been married to his partner of 23 years several times, including once in California.

“It’s been taken away from us,” Reynolds said as he stood in a crosswalk near the barrier blocking off the street for the celebration. “But we’ll be married again.”

In Southern California, an all-day celebration in West Hollywood grew to hundreds by night, including many gay couples dressed in red, white and blue and one sign that read “Today we are American.”

Brendan Banfield, 46, stood on the very spot under a tree in West Hollywood Park where in 2008 he married his partner Charles, becoming one of an estimated 18,000 couples that got married during the four-and-a-half months when gay marriage was legal in California.

“I want to cry,” Banfield said. “It’s been a long journey. I’m grateful I’m alive to see it.”

It remained unclear, however, when California’s gay marriages might start again. Backers of the ban known as Proposition 8 have 25 days to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also must lift a hold it placed on the lower court order before the state can be free to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Still, state officials moved quickly. Gov. Jerry Brown said he had directed the California Department of Public Health to start issuing licenses as soon as the hold is lifted, and state Attorney General Kamala Harris went even further, publicly urging the appellate court to act ahead of the final word from the Supreme Court.

Latest EU reaches political deal on seven-year budget

Latest EU reaches political deal on seven-year budget- A political deal on the EU's hotly contested seven-year budget has been struck, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has announced.

The deal on the 2014-2020 960bn euro (£822bn; $1.3tn) budget was reached between member states and European Parliament leaders, he said.

Leaders of the 27 countries are gathering for a summit in Brussels.

They are expected to focus on Europe's record unemployment, and youth unemployment especially.

Nearly a quarter of people aged 18 to 25 in the EU have no job, while in Greece and Spain it is more than half.

EU leaders will consider mobilising 6bn euros (£5bn; $8bn) earlier than planned to help youth training schemes.

Draft plans have also been agreed on agricultural reform and how to rescue troubled banks.

Bank creditors and shareholders would take the first hits, followed by savers with deposits of more than 100,000 euros. If that is not enough, government help would be called upon, and taxpayers would be among the last to shoulder losses.

There are still fears that a bank run in one country could spread contagion across a still fragile eurozone.
Weak lending

"I am delighted to announce that today we have a political agreement on the European Union's future budget," Mr Barroso told reporters in Brussels.

The 2014-2020 budget, which has a ceiling of 960bn euros, was agreed at a summit in February but its ratification had been blocked by the parliament.

The speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, confirmed the deal in a tweet and urged MEPs to give it their backing.
The idea is to turn that 10bn into EIB guarantees worth 100bn - enough to cover loans issued by private banks. The source stressed that "it is not new money" - it would come from the EU structural funds already earmarked for Europe's poorer regions.

The focus is on SMEs because they account for about 99% of businesses in the EU, employing about 70% of the workforce, the Commission said. Despite the SMEs' importance in EU labour markets, bank lending to them fell by 10% in the first quarter of this year.

But the source told journalists at a pre-summit briefing that co-ordinating action on jobs "is not easy at European level - social policy is mainly a national competence".

The Commission's Youth Guarantee plan would offer young people across Europe a quality apprenticeship or job in the first four months after becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.

The EU Commissioner for Employment, Laszlo Andor, says the scheme could help to reduce the growing north-south competitiveness gap in the EU.

But the heavy lifting of job creation still has to be done by national governments, by making labour markets more flexible, stimulating growth and easing the tax and administrative burdens on SMEs, the Commission admits.
He paid tribute to both Mr Barroso and the Republic of Ireland, which currently chairs the EU.

A European Parliament vote on the budget could come as early as next week, a source at the parliament told the BBC News website.

European Council head Herman Van Rompuy said leaders should aim "above all to agree on tangible measures to bring down the high unemployment levels... especially for young people".

EU youth employment schemes should be accelerated, he said, and youth mobility increased, he said in a press release.

A source at the European Commission said an extra 10bn euros in funding for the European Investment Bank (EIB) could be used to encourage private banks to lend more to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), especially in the struggling southern "periphery" economies hit hard by the euro crisis.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Julia Gillard calls leadership ballot in bid to head off Kevin Rudd challenge

Julia Gillard calls leadership ballot in bid to head off Kevin Rudd challenge-Returning Officer Chris Hayes said there was no spill for the deputy position, but Treasurer Wayne Swan, Craig Emerson, Joe Ludwig and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy are thought to have quit. Penny Wong has been elected as the new Labor leader in the Senate, a position previously held by Mr Conroy.

Mr Hayes said the meeting was quite sombre but people were glad the issue was resolved.

The Governor-General is tonight seeking high-level advice before confirming Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister for the second time.

News Limited has learned that Quentin Bryce was waiting to meet with the Acting Solicitor-General to discuss the constitutional impact of the leadership change before agreeing to commission Mr Rudd.

It is understood Ms Gillard is scheduled to travel the short distance to Government House to resign her office at prime minister.

But Ms Bryce will examine the resignation letter before seeking legal advice. Once satisfied she is expected to invite Mr Rudd to form government.

Latest Science A new species seen in Phnom Penh

Latest Science A new species seen in Phnom Penh-It is exceptionally uncommon for undiscovered bird species to be found in urban contexts, but Oriental Bird Club council member Richard Thomas said that earlier in the year, he "went and saw this remarkable new tailorbird myself - in the middle of a road construction site". The authors of the paper suggest that O. chaktomuk inhabits a small area, made up largely of dense scrubland in the floodplain of the Mekong river - at the edge of which Phnom Penh lies.
new species phnom penh

Birdwatchers do not tend to target this kind of ecosystem because most of the species it supports are abundant and widespread elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

"The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city - not to mention 30 minutes from my home - is extraordinary," said study co-author Simon Mahood of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations."

Because of the small and shrinking nature of the birds' habitat, the team has recommended that the bird be listed as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

Breaking Supreme Court Set to Rule on Gay Marriage

Breaking Supreme Court Set to Rule on Gay Marriage-It's the big day for gay marriage.

Supporters and opponents braced Wednesday—the last day of the court's current session—for the Supreme Court's expected release of decisions on gay marriage. The rulings could give the final word on the law after years of battles—or leave the high court's views still murky.

The court was set to rule on California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The session is expected to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time and rulings should be released shortly thereafter.

The rulings are set to come amid quickly shifting public opinion on gay rights and gay marriage. A poll this year by the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public life found that 50% of Americans support gay marriage, up from 39% in 2008. When Proposition 8 passed in 2008 with 52% of the vote, only two other states permitted gay marriage. Today, 12 states plus the District of Columbia do so.

Moreover, many elected officials and public figures who had previously been noncommittal have thrown their support behind gay marriage. In May 2012, President Barack Obama, who had previously supported civil unions but not full marriage, said he now supported marriage as well. Former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, now says the measure is a mistake.

In both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, the underlying issue is gay marriage, but the specific legal questions differ.

Both cases came to the court in an unusual posture: The federal and state governments that normally would defend their challenged laws agreed with plaintiffs and lower courts that the measures violated the U.S. Constitution.

With the Obama administration declining to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives stepped in. And when California's governor and attorney general offered no defense of Proposition 8, the private citizens who sponsored the initiative came to defend the measure.

But the Supreme Court has long held that particular conditions must be met before a party can appear in federal court, among them that it possesses a definite interest in the outcome beyond a general interest in public policy. And the justices weren't certain that either the House or the Proposition 8 backers possessed the legal standing to appear. The court specifically asked the parties to address that question in the briefs and oral argument.

When it came to the merits of the cases, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act was the narrower gambit. While the challengers argued that the law violated constitutional principles of equal protection and due process, they also left room for the justices to decide the case without opining so broadly.

Family law traditionally falls under state jurisdiction, and it has been virtually unknown for the federal government to deny recognition to couples married in accordance with state law.

Standard methods of legal interpretation require the government to provide justification for discriminating against similarly situated parties, and gay-rights activists argued that no legitimate reason underlay the Defense of Marriage Act. To the contrary, as Justice Elena Kagan observed during oral arguments in March, the legislative record demonstrated that disapproval of homosexuality was a significant basis for enacting a statute designed to penalize same-sex couples.

When the Defense of Marriage Act was adopted 17 years ago, no state permitted same-sex marriage, so the law's impact was largely theoretical. But today, with a dozen states authorizing such marriages, the harm the measure inflicts on same-sex spouses has become clear. In the case before the court, New York resident Edith Windsor would have been exempt from a federal estate tax of $363,000 had her late spouse been male.

Federal district and appeals courts in New York ruled for Ms. Windsor. In parallel cases, lower federal courts in Boston reached the same result.

Paul Clement, the former George W. Bush administration solicitor general the House hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, argued that the federal government had good reasons for denying benefits to same-sex spouses, including maintaining a uniform federal policy regarding marriage across the country, endorsing the values of states that reject same-sex marriage, and, potentially, saving money by excluding married gay couples from tax and other benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.

Although Proposition 8 affected only California, the lawsuit challenging the voter initiative carried the potential of changing marriage laws across the country.

In May 2008, the California Supreme Court held that the state constitution's equal-protection provisions required recognition of same-sex marriages. By enacting Proposition 8 the following November, California voters eliminated that right by adding a sentence to the state constitution stating that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

In 2010, a federal district judge in San Francisco struck down Proposition 8 on broad grounds, concluding that such discrimination against gays and lesbians served no rational purpose.

The measure's proponents appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where last year a Pasadena, Calif.-based panel agreed that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, but for narrower reasons. Citing a 1996 Supreme Court opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Ninth Circuit found it impermissible to withdraw rights from a minority group while leaving them intact for others.

Latest Breaking Bigger posts absorb cuts as Army downsizes

Latest Breaking Bigger posts absorb cuts as Army downsizes-In axing a dozen combat brigades in the face of steep spending cuts and the wind-down of two wars, the Army says it is trying to ease the sting by spreading it around.

But one post stands out on the list of 10 installations targeted in Tuesday's announcement of a major restructuring that has been a long time coming: Kentucky's Fort Knox. In losing the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, the famed post an hour south of Louisville will soon know what it's like to be an Army post without a combat brigade.

The elimination of 3rd Brigade means a 43 percent cut to Fort Knox's active duty force. That's far beyond the level of cuts elsewhere, but it could be a precursor to what other communities may feel if Congress allows billions in automatic budget cuts to continue next year, Army leaders warned.

"This decision will likely remove nearly 10,000 military employees and dependents from the area, which will have a profound economic impact not only on Fort Knox, but the surrounding region as well," Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release.

Officials said they will slash the number of active duty combat brigades from 45 to 33 as the service moves forward with a longtime plan to cut its size by 80,000. As many as 100,000 more active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers could be lost if Congress does not restore funding, the Army said.

Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, said one additional brigade will likely be cut, but no final decisions have been made. "I know in the local communities it will have its impact," Odierno said. "But we've done our best to reach out to them so they understand what the impacts are. We've tried to make it as small an impact as possible for as many communities as we could."

Larger installations with other brigades will, as Army officials noted, be better able to absorb the losses as the Army reverts to pre-9/11 troop levels.

Fort Campbell, on the Tennessee-Kentucky line, will remain the home of the 101st Airborne Division and other units despite losing the 4th Brigade Combat Team, which like Fort Knox's 3rd Brigade, currently has soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas are losing brigades but, thanks to reassignments of many of those troops, will suffer net losses in their forces of less than 10 percent. That's also true for Fort Drum in upstate New York and Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia.

Under the plan announced Tuesday, the Army will increase the size of its infantry and armor brigades by adding another battalion, which is 600 to 800 soldiers. Adding the battalion was a recommendation from commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan who said it would beef up the fighting capabilities of the brigades when they go to war.

Fort Benning, Ga., on the Alabama line, will even see a slight gain in the size of its force thanks to the changes.

Overall, however, the military's largest branch is trimming itself by 14 percent over the next six years, from a high of about 570,000 during the peak of the Iraq war to 490,000. Besides cutting the brigades themselves, which number roughly 3,500 to 5,000 troops apiece, the Army will eliminate thousands of other jobs across the service, including soldiers in units that support the brigades, and two brigades in Germany that have already been scheduled for elimination. And it will relocate thousands of soldiers and cancel $400 million in construction projects.

Odierno said Fort Knox scored the lowest in military value, but insisted the reduction was not the first step toward closing the post. He noted that about 4,000 civilians workers had been added there, as well as the Army's recruiting command.

The total workforce of Fort Knox is about 20,000, including active duty and civilians, post spokesman Ryan Brus said.

Fort Knox has only been home to the 3rd Brigade since 2009, when it was relocated under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure. The governor questioned the fiscal savings when the Pentagon spent more than $500 million for new facilities for the brigade and improvements to the installation to accommodate their families.

"While I understand that the Departments of the Army and Defense must adjust to the current budget realities, this decision seems to focus on shorter-term savings at the expense of longer-term readiness," Beshear said.

Latest Sports Williams Runs Winning Streak to 32 at Wimbledon

Latest Sports Williams Runs Winning Streak to 32 at Wimbledon- A reporter wanted to know whether Serena Williams contemplates adding more variety to her power-based game.

She did not take kindly to the question's premise.

"I don't only play hard tennis. Maybe if you want to get out there, I can show you, like, how I mix things up. I hit a lob today. I'm hitting slices and drop shots, especially more recently," Williams replied.

"Power's often extremely good to have in your game," she continued. "But if I were to sit here and hit every ball hard, my arm would fall off."

It's true that Williams does pound serves, up to 121 mph in the first round of Wimbledon on Tuesday. And her groundstrokes are big, too, enough for a 25-5 edge in winners against Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.

It's also true that Williams has been showing off a soft touch when needed during a winning streak that reached 32 matches — the longest single-season run on the women's tour in 13 years — with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Minella.

That marked the top-seeded and top-ranked Williams' return to competition following a little break after winning the French Open on June 8 for her 16th Grand Slam trophy.

It was also her first match on a grass court since winning her fifth Wimbledon title and two Olympic gold medals back-to-back at the All England Club a year ago. That was the beginning of a stretch in which Williams has gone 75-3 and claimed three of the past four major championships.  Williams and the French coach who's been helping her for about a year, Patrick Mouratoglou, agreed that she did not have too hard a time setting aside the events of the previous seven days, which included a lot of saying "I'm sorry" — face-to-face with Sharapova, at a news conference, in two statements posted on the web — over things Williams was quoted as saying in a Rolling Stone story.

Williams made a negative reference in a phone conversation to a top-five player's love life (the piece's author surmised that it was about Sharapova) and an off-the-cuff remark about a widely publicized rape case in the U.S. that was perceived by some as criticizing the victim.

"It hasn't been a distraction," Williams insisted. "I'm just here to focus on the tennis."

Asked whether she and Sharapova had spoken in the preceding 48 hours, Williams said: "Oh, we're playing on opposite days, so we don't really see each other."

Indeed, the third-seeded Sharapova and Williams are on different halves of the draw and would meet only in the final. Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, was scheduled to play her second-round match Wednesday on Court 2 against 131st-ranked qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal.

Other women slated to play on Day 3: second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion who twisted her right knee in a first-round victory; 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova; 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States.

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was to face Sergiy Stakhovsky on Centre Court, while 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up Andy Murray was placed on Court 1.

Breaking Edward Snowden may be stuck in Russia

Breaking Edward Snowden may be stuck in Russia-Time may be running out for U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden to get out of Russia.

The former National Security Agency contractor has been holed up in the transit area of Moscow airport since Sunday, but Snowden may only have been given a Russian transit visa valid for three days, RIA Novosti cited a source close to the case as saying on Wednesday.

"Transit passengers who have a ticket for a connecting flight and documents necessary to enter a third country can get a Russian transit visa," the source was quoted as saying. "If Snowden has these documents, then he has the right to apply for a transit visa right in the airport, in the consular point, and could well have done that."

RIA Novosti reported that Snowden had booked two tickets for flights from Moscow to Havana on June 24 and 25, but did not board either flights. If he has not been able to extend his transit visa — assuming he has one, and that it is valid for three days — it may be about to expire.

It is not immediately clear what his legal travel status would be were his transit visa to expire. The U.S. has already revoked his passport.

On Monday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that Snowden had been given a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadorean government. Ecuador has confirmed that Snowden applied for asylum in the Latin American country.

"Cancelling Snowden's passport and bullying intermediary countries may keep Snowden permanently in Russia. Not the brightest bunch at State," WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed late Tuesday.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Snowden was in an airport transit zone at Sheremetyevo International Airport. "It is true that Mr Snowden arrived in Moscow, which was completely unexpected for us. He came as a transit passenger, so he didn't need a visa or other documents. As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a plane ticket and go wherever he wants," Putin said in Finland on Tuesday evening.

Latest Australian PM Gillard ousted; Rudd takes over

Latest Australian PM Gillard ousted; Rudd takes over- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been ousted as Labor Party leader by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in vote of party lawmakers hoping to avoid a huge defeat in upcoming elections.

The ballot took place on Wednesday three years and two days after Gillard ousted Rudd in a similar internal government showdown. It makes him leader of the party, but not prime minister.

Party official Chris Hayes says Gillard lost 57 votes to 45.

Rudd will likely have to demonstrate that he can command a majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives before the governor-general makes him prime minister. If he cannot, opposition leader Tony Abbott could be asked to form a government or the elections could be moved up from September to August.

Obama confronts Bush legacy in voting rights case

Obama confronts Bush legacy in voting rights case-President Barack Obama faced an uncomfortable truth Tuesday: He was powerless to stop George W. Bush’s Supreme Court from eviscerating the most consequential civil rights law of the past half-century.

The constitutional law professor sat by helplessly — “deeply disappointed” — as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a 5-4 majority opinion that tore down one section of the Voting Rights Act and effectively killed another. Obama, who voted against Roberts in 2005, could see it coming. Everyone in Washington could.

Roberts had written critically of the Voting Rights Act as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, making arguments that he dismissed during his confirmation hearing as the work of a hired hand — but that stuck in the craw of civil rights activists.

“The judge was on the wrong side of history. He was on the wrong side of the Voting Rights Act, not just the letter but also the spirit of the act,” John Lewis, the Georgia Democratic congressman who was savagely beaten during a 1965 voting rights march in Alabama, told senators back then. On Tuesday, Lewis described Roberts’s opinion as a “dagger into the heart” of the law.

Obama is hardly the first president to govern at a time when the Supreme Court is controlled by justices appointed by the other party — but for a president with big ideas about the government’s role in protecting the disenfranchised, Bush’s moves loom as a particular obstacle, as Tuesday showed.

The irony, of course, is that it was Roberts himself who wrote what is surely the most important opinion of Obama’s first term, enshrining Obamacare as the law of the land. That same justice on Tuesday wrote the opinion striking down key parts of the Voting Rights Act — and could well play a major role in cases Wednedsay regarding gay marriage, barely a year after Obama spoke out in favor of it.

The historic pairing of Obama and Roberts — two singular talents of their respective parties at this moment in time — sets them up to be opposing forces on some of the most important issues of the day, long after Obama leaves office and the Roberts court lives on. That clash on Tuesday took the form of Roberts striking down key parts of a law central to the civil rights movement — perhaps doing more in one opinion to change civil rights protections than Obama could do singlehandedly as president to advance them, even by his presence as the nation’s first black president.

Likewise, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) knew the Roberts ruling was a sure thing — though the conservative Georgia Republican welcomed it as a sign of progress for the South.

“Today’s ruling should not come as a surprise,” Westmoreland said. “We no longer suffer from the voting rights issues we saw in 1965 that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s decision will not weaken the positive impact the VRA had on our country, nor will it diminish the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. It simply acknowledges the progress that has been made since 1965.”

The decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act — and effectively nullifying Section 5 — did little to settle the political debate over whether minorities still need the federal government to ensure access to the polls in states and counties that have a history of racial discrimination. But it ensures that Bush’s record on civil rights will be seen at least as much through the prism of his court picks as his signature on the 2006 Voting Rights Act extension, the fourth renewal of the law since its original enactment in 1965. The Roberts legacy outlived the law.

“There is no denying,” Roberts wrote, “that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.” He was joined in the decision by another Bush appointee, Samuel Alito, conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, and swing voter Anthony Kennedy.

Breaking Texas Filibuster on abortion bill rivets online

Breaking Texas Filibuster on abortion bill rivets online- Democratic Senator Wendy Davis took to the floor the Texas Senate at 11:18 a.m. in pink tennis shoes and began what she hoped would be a nearly 13 hour filibuster of an abortion bill.

As the day went on, the story of Senator Davis' filibuster caught fire on Twitter, and by the evening it was trending worldwide. There were 730,00 total tweets about the filibuster on Tuesday. The excitement peaked at 11:58 p.m. central time, just two minutes before the midnight deadline, with 5,776 tweets per minute about the story, according to Twitter.

It even caught the attention of the official President Obama Twitter account, which tweeted out "Something special is happening in Austin tonight" with a link to The Texas Tribune during the filibuster's ninth hour.

Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. According to opponents, new abortion clinic standards in the bill would effectively shutter 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics. The bill would give Texas some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Strict senate rules for filibusters added to the drama. According to the rules, Senator Davis was not allowed to sit down, take a restroom break, go off topic or even lean.

By 10:30 p.m., the YouTube channel live streaming the special senate session passed 100,000 viewers, and the number jumped when Senator Davis was found to be in violation of senate rules for straying off topic. It was her third violation, which opened the window for a vote on whether or not she must cease the filibuster. Other senators who opposed the bill filled the remaining time with questions and points of order to run out the clock.

With fewer than five minutes left until the midnight deadline and an outcome still murky, the YouTube live stream had more than 180,000 viewers glued to their screens.

On Twitter, the topic was trending worldwide. At different points during the evening, #standwithwendy, #SB5, #texlege "Wendy Davis," "Texas," "Robert's Rules of Order" and "Midnight in Texas" were all trending on the social network. The #standwithwendy hashtag had 400,000 mentions on Tuesday, according to Twitter.

Senator Davis' Twitter account was silent while she was on the floor, but her number of followers jumped from just under 6,000 to more than 48,000 during the course of the day, an 8x increase.

Twitter also served as a rallying point for local protestors, who increased in numbers throughout the day to fill the senate chambers and line the rotunda. Many posted photos and Vines of the crowds. Chanting could be heard inside and outside the senate at midnight, when the floor erupted in confusion as it appeared senators were still taking a vote, even though the deadline had passed

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