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Obama says IRS Problems Will be Fixed


VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama says he did not know about abuses by tax officials who targeted conservative groups until a report into the affair was leaked to the press last week.

During a White House news conference with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama said the minute he found out about it, his focus was about making sure the Internal Revenue Service problem gets fixed.

The president added he has complete confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder, who has ordered a criminal investigation into the matter.

Acting IRS chief Steven Miller was fired Wednesday because of the scandal. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that is an "important symbolic step," but a thorough investigation of IRS misdeeds must go forward.

Obama has pledged to make sure the IRS does not engage in partisan politics, and said he will work with Congress in an oversight role.

A report released this week by the U.S. Treasury's independent inspector general said ineffective management allowed IRS agents to improperly target conservative groups opposed to the Obama administration tax and budget policies.


Cyprus Approves International Bailout


Selah Hennessy

LONDON — The Cypriot parliament approved an international bailout Tuesday in a very close vote, with just over half of lawmakers voting in favor. The "yes" vote lines Cyprus up for a range of austerity measures.

Of 56 lawmakers, 29 voted in favor of the bailout and 27 voted against.

The approval secures a $13 billion loan from European nations and the International Monetary Fund. And, according to the Cypriot government, it saves the island from the threat of an imminent default on its debts.

Tuesday's vote comes after more than a month of haggling over the fate of Cypriot finances.

The deal that was eventually reached with international lenders makes Cyprus responsible for raising $17 billion. Spending cuts and tax hikes are in the pipeline. And the island has agreed to shut down its second largest bank and make major reforms to its largest. Depositors with over $130,000 in savings will incur major losses.

The deal has been deeply unpopular with many both inside Cyprus and overseas.

On Tuesday hundreds of protestors were outside parliament.

Haris Hadjipavlou, a citizens' group activist, voiced his anger at those lawmakers voting in favor of the deal.

"All the members of parliament, who are thieves, we want the police to arrest the thieves that are inside the house of parliament and not us," he said. "We are working people and that have been stolen of our money."

Antonis Antoniou, a civil aviation officer, was also at the protest. He said the deal would be detrimental for Cyprus.

"They steal our people's money and not only stealing, I mean destroying the whole country," he said.

The economy of Cyprus has been deeply impacted by the eurozone's now long-running economic woes, especially the economic crisis in Greece.

Without securing the international loan, Cyprus risked defaulting on its debt and potentially leaving the eurozone.

Its economy is officially forecast to shrink by 8.7 percent this year.


IMF's Lagarde Says Global Economy 'Looks Better'


VOA News

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says that a large part of the world economy "looks better" than it did a year ago, but also warns there are risks remaining from the global recession in some countries.

The IMF managing director told a forum on Asia Sunday night in China that "growth continues to broaden and strengthen" throughout emerging and developing economies, and that the U.S. economy is showing signs of improvement.

She praised Asia's economic performance, noting that two-thirds of the global growth since the recession started in 2008 has occurred in Asian countries.

But Lagarde said there is a "patchy recovery" throughout the world, and that the overall improved economic fortunes do not amount to "enough of a real recovery." She said worries about low growth are centered in the 17-nation euro currency bloc in Europe, and that lack of agreement on financial policies in Washington could thwart growth in the American economy, the world's largest.

Lagarde said she expects the Asian economy to grow by 6 percent this year, well above the U.S. and European economies. But she said that for future economic success, Asian countries need to increase their spending on the health and training of future workers, increase the employment of women and protect the continent's environment.


US Job Growth Slows, Jobless Rate Dips


VOA News

The U.S. says the growth of its labor market slowed markedly last month, even as its unemployment rate edged lower to 7.6 percent.

U.S. employers had been adding about 200,000 jobs a month since late last year. But the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that payrolls only increased by 88,000 new jobs in March, the fewest in nine months.

Last month's hiring was down sharply from the robust figure of 268,000 new jobs in February, and a signal that the U.S. recovery from its deep recession five years ago remains uneven.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 88,000 new jobs were added in March.xThe Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 88,000 new jobs were added in March.
The jobless rate is the lowest in four years, but the government said the rate only dropped from February's 7.7 percent level because fewer people were looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.

The senior economist at one large U.S. bank, Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo, said the weak March job growth calls into question the earlier gains in hiring.

“It’s clearly disappointing, and on our trading floor you could hear the collective sigh. I mean … the air was almost sucked out of the room. Everybody was hoping for a number of about 100,000 more jobs than this and really it raises questions as to just how valid the earlier pickup was. In each of the last three years, we’ve seen stronger numbers at the start of the year and then as we’ve moved into spring it’s like the economy’s hit an air pocket. And a lot of folks get this sense of dread, that here we go again, that things haven’t gotten all that much better," said Vitner.

Vitner faulted policy-makers in Washington for failing to reach agreement on tax and spending issues, and said this is the primary reason why the U.S. economy has not steadily advanced.

“You don’t have to be overly political to say that it’s run amok. It’s just a disaster. No one has a whole lot of confidence as to what tax policy is going to be in the future, and we’ve got monster-sized deficits that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon," he said.

Another economist, Michael Hicks of Ball State University in Indiana, says it may take a decade or longer to get back to the unemployment levels seen before the financial crisis.

"I think we’re seeing the U.S. economy settling into a pattern of really poor labor market performance," said Hicks. "And despite the good news about the stock market and maybe some other, generally good news about the economy, labor markets seem to be very much stuck in a pattern of very slow growth, adding very few jobs and preserving a very large pool of unemployed."

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