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This is BBC World News Today with me, Zeinab Badawi.
Europe's debt crisis hits the euro- zone's third biggest economy. The
Italian Senate votes for an austerity budget to stave off an
international financial bailout. And how credit-worthy is the United
States? It faces a possible downgrade over its public debt.
Facing the music. Rupert Murdoch and his son James agree to appear
before a parliamentary committee on the phone-hacking scandal. At you
cannot hide away from this level of public anguish and anger and
interest. We venture into Syria and speak to
the Syrian soldiers who refuse to open fire on unarmed civilians.
And why theatre-goers in Britain won't be left wriggling
uncomfortably in their seats anymore, as many theatres get a
Hello and welcome. The Italian Senate has approved an emergency
austerity budget worth almost 50 billion, in an effort to prevent
the European debt crisis from engulfing the country. The cuts are
being rushed through after financial markets began speculating
that Italy was facing difficulties servicing its large debts. The
lower House of Parliament is due to vote on the issue on Friday, and is
also expected to approve the measures to try to balance the
budget. Richard Galpin reports. Italian senators arrived at
Parliament knowing that their country could now be drawn into the
crisis affecting the euro-zone. Today, they came to debate the
government's plan to reduce the huge amount of public debt the
country has accumulated. In total, Italy owes 1.6 trillion Euros. This
makes it the most indebted country in Europe. It has more outstanding
bonds than Greece, Ireland and Portugal put together. And now, the
borrowing costs are going up sharply. As investors get
increasingly nervous about the stability of the economy. No
surprise then, that in the Senate today, desperate appeals from
ministers. No one writes about it like this without wanting the
common good, without balancing the books, the public debt, and the
fear that the past will devour our future. The country is watching us.
They are looking at the government, and the opposition he differ but
are not divided. These appeals work. With a clear majority of senators
voting in favour of the austerity measures. These measures aim to
save 47 billion euros over the next four years. By cutting Minister's
pay and expenses, extending recumbent -- current hiring freeze
in the public sector and Gatting -- cracking down on tax exemptions.
But almost all of these cuts will only be implemented in 2013 and
2014, by which time there will be a new government. Unfortunately it
seems to me that the political system is not prepared to face
these kinds of situations. And the tendency of politicians is usually
to look at the short term when it comes to benefits, or benefiting
their own gains. And unfortunately, there is a lack of vision.
despite this, the markets have responded positively to the Senate
vote, and to the news that today, the government managed to raise
another 5 billion euros by selling more bonds. On Friday, the people
of Italy will see if the lower house of parliament also bodes
through the austerity measures. Everyone here is aware that the
Italian economy, Europe's third- largest, could bring down the
entire -- entire euro-zone if it also needs a bail-out.
And in the US, the world's biggest economy is also saddled with a big
debt. And the politicians can't agree what to do about it.
President Obama has been urging a change in the country's debt
ceiling in meetings with congressional leaders. If there's
no agreement, the credit ratings agency Moody's has said there's a
small but increasing risk that the US government will default on its
debt. The gulf between the Republicans and Democrats over
The President continues to insist on raising taxes, and they are just
not serious enough about fundamental entitlement reform to
solve the problem for the near two intermediate future. I want to get
there, I want to do what I do think is in the best interest of the
country. But it takes two to tango, and they are not there yet.
need for the United States to take action so that it fulfils its
obligations and pays its debts, as it has in the entirety of its
existence, is not a democratic problem, it is not a Republican
problem. It is an American problem. Clearly if we went so far as to
default on the debt, it would be a major crisis. Because the Treasury
security is viewed as the safest security in the world. It is this
have -- basis of most of our financial system. And the notion
that it would become suddenly unreliable would throw shockwaves
through the global financial system. I think we all know that our
leadership has concocted a scheme where at the folk on the other side
of the Isle can allow the debt ceiling to increase, and continue
to appeal to their constituencies for the election. I look back at
the week's discussions about how to solve the debt crisis. To get an
overall picture of the debt crisis hitting countries like the US and
Italy, we're joined now by Douglas Elliot, a former investment banker
with JP Morgan and now with the Brookings Institution.
Is it fanciful to talk about the United States possibly defaulting
on its debt, or is this just politics, or is there a real risk?
Sadly it is not fanciful. There is a real risk. If we do, it will be
for a short period. But it is very important that does not happen at
all. As one of the previous speaker is said, the markets rely on this
being the bond that always pays. That always does what it had
promised to do. What is the likelihood then? Housing could be
Democrats and the Republicans actually come up with some sort of
action plan? I personally think that it will happen very close to
3rd August, the date that has been set as the last minute. Just
because that is the way things work in Workington. But I do think there
is a high probability the right thing will get done. You may be
familiar with the Winston Churchill quote to the effect that America
always does the right thing, after trying everything else? What is the
right thing? The Republicans says Ben less, the Democrats say they
have to look at taxes... The key here is that we do not default.
There is time for us to work through the budget differences. I
think it was a mistake in the first place to make this the a date which
we had to try to reach agreement by. We have time for a normal process.
Let us not make anyone worry we will not pay our bills. Turning To
Italy, they have approved the austerity measure. But the impact
is not until 2013 -- 2013. It is still a big step forward. The good
news is that it is a wealthy countries. The reason that people
are worried about it is a combination of the fact that it has
a lot of dead, and that its political system works badly. --
debt. But I think they will pull together. The opposition is
supporting the Budget, as we saw their. They will do what they have
to. Thank you for joining us. At first Rupert Murdoch declined
going before a parliamentary committee looking into the phone-
hacking allegations. But by the end of the day he changed his mind, and
said that he and his son James will now answer questions from Members
of Parliament. One of his senior executives, Rebekah Brooks, had
already agreed today to appear before the committee next week.
She's a former editor of the News of the World, the newspaper that
has been at the centre of the storm. James Landale has been following
the day's developments. Parliament has already cost them
the News of the World and BSkyB. Now it wants to hold Rebekah Brooks
and the Murdochs to account. To answer the questions that MPs and
the public want asked about just why so many people's bones were
hacked in the name of news. It was a summons they could not ignore a.
My message to Rebekah Brooks and G Rupert Murdoch is to do the decent
thing. You cannot hide away from this level of public anguish, and
anger, and indeed interest. first, Rupert Murdoch and James
Murdoch were reluctant. In a letter this morning, he told them he could
not attend. However, I am fully prepared to give evidence to the
forthcoming inquiry. His son James has said he could not make it
either. But I would be pleased to give evidence to your Committee on
the 10th or 11th August. Rebekah Brooks said she would be available
to appear before the committee, and welcome the opportunity to do so.
But she said she would not be able to discuss anything they related to
the ongoing police investigation. Here in Westminster, the talk was
of a formal summons. A fine, even imprisonment in the bowels of
Parliament. Within hours, it appeared that the threat had worked.
They changed their minds and said they would now, and answer the
questions. These are just some of As for Rebekah Brooks, she will be
asked about what she told MPs the last time. We have paid the MP --
the police for information in the past... I hope that the committee
will want to hear the trees. We want to get to the facts. This is
not about a lynch mob or an opportunity to throw abuse. This is
about hearing what exactly has been happening. The lawyer representing
the family of Milly Dowler had his doubts. They will be sceptical
about anything, that they will hear the three monkeys. They will say
that they have not heard of any of it, and that nobody was speaking
about it. One man who could not evade a summons was Neil Wallis,
Andy Coulson's former Deputy, he was arrested and bailed over
allegations of phone hacking. It emerged that he had been doing PR
work for Scotland Yard. Once again, MPs have got them on the backs that.
And the scene is set for an extraordinary confrontation between
the power of the media and the power of Parliament. For once, the
word historic is not a cliche. Now a look at some of the day's
other news. The Indian government has put its
cities on high alert after Wednesday's simultaneous triple
bomb blasts in the business capital Mumbai.
Mourners gathered at the city's burial grounds and crematoriums on
Thursday for the last rites of their loved ones, a day after the
bombings in India's financial capital killed at least 17 people.
It was the country's worst strike since the 2008 Siege of Mumbai,
which killed 166 people. The newly-independent state of
South Sudan has been welcomed into the United Nations at a session in
New York. The UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon, called it an important
milestone for the new state. South Sudan declared its independence on
Saturday after decades of civil war. BBC reporter Urunboy Usmonov has
been released on bail after being held in detention in Tajikistan for
a month. He was detained on charges of having links with a banned
Islamic party. Mr Usmonov is at home with family, but he's required
to stay in the country while the legal process continues.
An unfinished early Jane Austen manuscript has been sold at auction
for more than $1.5 million. Sotheby's say the draft for The
Watsons is the earliest surviving manuscript for a novel by Austen.
It was probably written in 1804. In Afghanistan, a memorial service
for President Karzai's brother has been the target of a suicide attack.
Five people were killed in the blast at a mosque in the southern
city of Kandahar. It comes on the same day the UN released a report
on the dramatic rise in civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Nearly 1500
civilians lost their lives in the crossfire of the battle between
Taliban insurgents and Afghan, US and NATO forces. From Kabul, Sanjoy
Majumder reports. Another deadly attack, and -- at
the heart of Kandahar. Top officials were attending a prayer
service for the President's half brother. They were quickly whisked
away, elite police unit secured the area. Among the dead, an
influential cleric, a man opposed to the Taliban. The bomber may well
have been targeted at the elite gathering. But like so many other
attacks, the brunt of it was born by ordinary people. But more people
are also dying from NATO air strikes. Late on Wednesday, six
villagers died in this raid. During an operation to flush out
insurgents from near the Pakistan border. Among the victims, women
and children. It has led to a wave of anger among Afghans. Protests
have taken place pressing for the withdrawal of Western forces. That
is about to happen. But some are wondering at what cost? Starting
next week and over the next few months, thousands of NATO troops
will begin at withdrawal from Afghanistan. They will hand over
security to local forces. Already, questions are being raised about
whether they are ready to take on the role, especially after these
I have been talking to her -- to Staffan de Mistura, the Special
Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission
in Afghanistan, and I asked him how damaged the reputation of Karzai
and his family is as a result of the current situation.
It is damaging in the sense that Kandahar is a crucial place, an
iconic place, but also it is damaging to whoever did this attack.
They have been doing it in a mosque during a religious ceremony, in a
sacred place for Islam. From that point of view, from Mike -- in my
opinion, it damages the people who did the attack more. There are
reports that President Karzai has installed another brother to
oversee his interests in Kandahar. Is the international community
perhaps backing the wrong horse here? Shouldn't you be trying to
make more contact with Taliban members in Kandahar? There is no
question that Kandahar is a critical place for not only
contacts with the Taliban but certainly with the community of the
Pashtuns, who have been feeling disenfranchised to a large degree
and to a certain degree this has contributed to their support for
the Taliban. That is why Kandahar is so iconic, not only because that
is where the Taliban started but because it may be the place where
we start to have a discussion with the Taliban. Can you do that at the
same time as backing President Karzai's attempts to fill the power
back -- power vacuum by putting another brother in? We are in
Afghanistan. In Afghanistan you taught and you shoot at the same
time, these days. -- you talk. You need to have interlocutor ofs who
have sufficient power to talk. Into loquiturs. This is a terribly
delicate period when the two elements coincide. And we will see
more of this, I'm afraid. Spring and summer will be very rough.
spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan compared to last year
would suggest that it is very hard for you to talk about progress
being made in the fight against the Taliban. 1462 civilians speak for
themselves. The Afghan civilians have been a highest victims of this
long conflict. We have been telling the Taliban just today, look, the
type of minds you are using, pressure mines, anybody can step on
them. Everybody except military is stepping on them. That is why we
have so many civilian casualties, so you, the Taliban, are
accountable to 80 % of the casualties. Can't you add least
stop that element as a sign to the population? That is the message we
give to them. There has been sufficient reason to be worried
about their own casualties during air attacks. The conclusion - there
is a need for just now to avoid civilian casualties. If we want to
get to what we hope is a proper dialogue.
That was the UN spectrum -- special representative in Afghanistan. To
Syria, and there are reports from the east of the country that two
people have been killed in continuing demonstrations against
the rule of President Assad. 1400 civilians and 15 hunt -- 1500
security personnel have been killed in the country. Foreign journalists
are unable to journey freely in the country but our correspondent has
crossed into Syria from the Turkish border town of Guvecci.
This is the only way to report freely in President Assad's Syria.
Taking the smugglers' route through the mountain. Everybody treads
carefully to avoid the Border Guard. The patrol passes and we are told
to run. Since this conflict began, the
Syrian regime has tried to control what the world sees and hears. We
have come to find out what it is like.
We are now travelling on the Syrian side of the border. As you can see,
we are keeping a pretty low profile, we are actually in the back of a
farm ats -- Farm a's truck. -- farmer's. The security forces have
tried to crush anti-government protests here, forcing more people
to leave their towns and villages. We are taken to a camp in the woods.
It is not much but it is home. Thousands of families have been
forced into hiding. And they treat strangers with caution. Some have
been here for months. They all have a story to tell and it is
remarkable how similar they are. Terrorised by government attacks,
living in fear of a light -- late night village from the regime's
thugs. What has life been like here for
his wife, his children? TRANSLATION: The Syrian army and
secret police move around in the trees and check upon the people.
They want to plant weapons on people and accuse them of being
criminals. They damaged our house is. This is why nobody will return
to their homes. The Syrian army keeps a watchful
eye through the hills. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, they have taken sides
with the regime. Now, read testimony of what that means. Some
beer is a soul -- soldier from Damascus who deserted after being
given an order he would not follow. -- Samir. He was told to shoot
unarmed protesters. Just look at this rare demonstration in Damascus.
The BBC has been given this footage, which shows what happens to those
who protest. We can't verify this but it appears that regime thugs
threatened and beat those who want change. This is now a youth but --
a fight for their future and in a country which is a fragile mix of
race and religion it is a battle for the shape -- the future of this
region. It will be a long, bloody struggle for their future.
Reporting their from inside Syria on the ongoing troubles in the
country. On a lighter note, theatregoers in
the UK will know that often seats can be pretty uncomfortable. In
fact, they have barely changed for a century in some cases. Now one of
Britain's biggest theatre groups is replacing all 40,000 of its seats
with ones that they say will stop people fidgeting from discomfort.
David Sillito went to try them out. They were built to be palaces of
pleasure but many of Britain's ageing theatres have never been
entirely comfortable, as a theatre critic Mark Shenton knows.
The width is very poor. I am a big guy but that should not be fit -- a
deterrent. The legroom is a shocking. And backache? I had a
major operation on my back just before Christmas. I would love to
say it was caused by these seats. I am sure it has not helped.
The endless search for a comfortable position is caused, it
is claimed, by the fact that most of the seats slump and do not allow
the spine to take the weight. There is a limit to how far you
will let your head drops so you will move and look for a bone to
take the weight. This is the new seat. It keeps you
bolt upright, which, it is claimed, will stop fidgeting and sleepiness.
Bass slumped spine goes up. -- A slumped spine.
I can already feel an improvement. Whether or not I will fill this in
10 minutes' time is another question but it is definitely an
improvement on what we we had upstairs.
But the wit is still only 17 inches. When certain train companies
recently adopted that narrower width, some commuters were not
pleased. His there based -- perfect seat for the modern bottom? -- is
there a perfect. Here at the Design Museum they take sitting very
seriously, with a collection of dozens of solutions for taking the
weight of your feet. When it comes to wit, there auditorium seats give
you 23 inches. -- and width. Any small and I might be
uncomfortable. A lot of designers considered the ultimate product if
they can design something really perfect.
The new shape may reduce fidgeting but, with profit demanding they fit
the same space, elbow room is still very Victorian.
I can vouch for the studio seats here. They are very comfortable. No
fidgeting from me. From me, as Those parts of East Anglia that saw
rain today will have a drier, warmer day today -- tomorrow, but
elsewhere there will be thicker cloud and outbreaks of rain. This
weather front will be a big player for the weekend, rain, showers and
strong winds. Friday is the transition day, we introduce
thicker cloud and mostly light rain into western parts of the UK.
Holding on to sunshine the most in the east of England. Norwich has 24
degrees, compared to 15 degrees today. Further west, there will be
a freshening south-westerly wind and temperatures will be lower
compared to today. 18 degrees in Plymouth, and there will be
outbreaks of mostly light rain working into England and Wales and
Northern Ireland for most of the day. It will tend to come and go
but it will be fairly grey and dismal. Brain edging further