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by Euro Reporter
2012-03-10 10:14:50
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Students protest Strauss-Kahn speech

About 100 students protested Friday ahead of a speech at Cambridge University by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief whose career collapsed after he was charged with sexual assault. The 62-year-old French politician, often called DSK, was scheduled to speak on Europe's financial crisis at the university's debating society later Friday despite calls for the event to be cancelled. The protesters said the university should not give a platform to a man with such a troubling attitude toward women. "It's got nothing to do with freedom of speech," said student Francesca Williams, 21. "They're inviting a man who hates women. I don't think DSK should be given the privilege of speaking in front of a private audience."

Earlier, police arrested a man and a woman, both in their early 20s, on suspicion of vandalizing The Cambridge Union Society building. The Cambridge News website displayed photos showing its walls defaced with messages including "DSK GO AWAY" and "WOMEN DESERVE BETTER." Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF after allegations last May that he sexually assaulted New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. Prosecutors later dropped criminal charges against him, but Diallo has brought a civil case against him. In an unrelated case, he was questioned by police in Lille, France, last month about a suspected hotel prostitution ring.

Diallo's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, spoke to about 100 Cambridge students and journalists on her behalf at a rival event earlier Friday. Letting Strauss-Kahn speak at the prestigious university was "giving him a platform to use Cambridge University to help his publicity campaign," Wigdor said. A statement posted Friday on the debating union's website said the invitation was made well before Strauss-Kahn's controversial departure from the IMF. His experience in French politics means that he was "exceptionally well qualified" to speak on the financial crisis and the French presidential election, it said. Some of those attending the speech, many of them economics or politics students, agreed. They said they wanted to hear about Strauss-Kahn's experiences in the IMF and politics, not his personal life. "This is a forum for free speech," said politics student Milad Matin, 21. "It's not a value judgement. I'm not endorsing rape by watching him speak."


Britain faces $8 billion cost of tax-free allowance

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will face a 5.3 billion-pound ($8.3 billion) bill in three years if he increases the level at which workers start paying income tax, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said. The coalition government has a policy to increase the income tax threshold to 10,000 pounds from 7,475 pounds during the current parliament, which runs until May 2015. The cost of introducing that in the next fiscal year, which runs through March 2013, would be 8.9 billion pounds, the IFS said. The threshold is currently set to rise to 8,105 pounds next month.

“Increasing the income tax allowance takes low income people out of income tax,” wrote James Browne, author of the report published in London today. “It is the best way of focusing income tax cuts on those with lower incomes and it will strengthen work incentives, especially for low earners.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this week said his top priority is to raise the allowance to take low-income families out of the tax net altogether. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the Conservative-led government, are pressing Osborne to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the policy in the annual budget due on March 21.  Increasing the tax-free threshold next fiscal year would leave workers earning between 10,000 pounds and 116,210 a year better off by 379 pounds a year, the IFS said. Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier this week said the Liberal Democrats are prepared to scrap the 50 percent top rate of income tax as long as the Conservatives agree to introduce new taxes on the rich.


Britain calls for EU's free movement rules to be suspended

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on Thursday joined Germany, France, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Sweden to demand EU intervention to plug a hole that is allowing illegal immigration via Greece into the rest of Europe.

A joint paper agreed by the seven countries urges Greece to "live up to its responsibilities" and "keep its house in order" by securing the Greek border with Turkey, which is also the frontier of the EU's free movement Schengen zone.  "We believe our combined efforts will help ensure that the EU is taking practical steps to combat illegal immigration, and help reduce the numbers travelling unlawfully to the UK," said a British diplomat.

Passport-free travel within Europe, outside Britain and Ireland, is regarded as a major achievement but what applies to European travellers also applies to illegal immigrants allowing them entry to any EU country without showing identity papers. British officials have identified evidence that the loophole has led to a sharp increase in attempted asylum shopping and the abuse of sham marriages as Pakistani and Afghan illegal immigrants take advantage of the EU's open borders policy to head to Britain from Greece.

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