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Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:1. The Wall Street Journal reports: “..the inability of governments and households to reduce their debt continues to cast a shadow over Western economies and the financial health of individuals. Today, U.S. consumers have more mortgage and credit-card debt than they did five years ago, and the U.S. budget deficit is worsening. At the same time, European governments are having to throw billions more euros at Greece to keep it afloat.”
2. Global economic growth must slow to curb inflationary pressure around the world, the Bank of International Settlements warned in a new report, saying that there was little room left for rapid non-inflationary expansion.
3. Two top congressional Republicans said yesterday that Congress won’t approve tax increases as part of a deficit-reduction package. President Barack Obama today will take over the negotiations regarding deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling.
4. The Greek parliament will vote tomorrow on the EU/IMF austerity package. Support for the austerity program is dwindling and not just in Greece. “Greek MPs are now facing the choice between a lie and a disaster,” writes the FT‘s Wolfgang Munchau. “Considering what is at stake, the EU and the IMF should never have put Greece in that position.”
5. In a stinging farewell address to European allies, US defence Secretary Robert Gates said: “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources … to be serious and capable partners in their own defence.”
6. The ancient port city of Aden, Yemen is now surrounded by jihadist fighters, many with links to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is trying to leverage chaos in Yemen to seize control of the country’s southern territory.
7. Pension costs are beginning to eat municipal budgets alive. An op-ed in the The Wall Street Journal notes: “Wages and benefits account for 30% of state general fund expenditures, according to data from the National Governors Association. But U.S. Census surveys show that in the typical town or school district, employee pay and benefits can consume from 70% to 80% of the budget.”
8. New laws, passed in six states in the last year or so, ban abortions at the 20th week after conception, based on the theory that the foetus can feel pain at that point — a notion disputed by some medical organisations in the United States and Britain.
9. Michele Bachmann will officially announce her candidacy for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination today in Waterloo, Iowa. Ms. Bachmann is now the co-frontrunner (with Mitt Romney) to win the Iowa caucuses.
10. Texas Governor Rick Perry is thought of by some as a formidable candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. But he’s coming to the campaign very late, and it may be too late.
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