The alleged murder of a prominent leftwing hip-hop artist by a self-confessed member of the far-right Golden Dawn party has sent political tensions soaring in Greece.

As the crisis-hit country was brought to a standstill by striking workers on Wednesday, police raided several Golden Dawn offices in Athens after the fatal stabbing late on Tuesday of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas, a well-known activist on Greece’s vibrant anti-fascist scene.

The raids came within hours of a 45-year-old man being arrested in connection with the murder. The alleged perpetrator, who has not been named, reportedly admitted having links to the extremist group, according to police.

Fyssas, Greece’s foremost hip-hop artist who performed under the stage name Killah P, is said to have identified the culprit as he was being taken to hospital after being injured in the brawl which broke out shortly after midnight in Piraeus’s working-class district of Keratsini.

“They were his last words before he succumbed to his wounds,” said one source requesting anonymity.

Keratsini’s mayor, Loukas Tzannis, said that black-clad Golden Dawn cadres were behind the attack and that Fyssas had been “ambushed” as he left a cafe after a heated altercation over a football match. Activists, who have accused the extremist group of increasingly targeting leftists, claimed police stood by when a mob of neo-Nazi thugs assaulted the singer.

In an atmosphere that has become increasingly polarised on the back of economic desperation – and soaring support for Golden Dawn – the backlash has been fierce.

Hundreds of anti-fascist supporters gathered at the scene of the murder in the early hours, with leftists announcing a much bigger rally later on Wednesday. The killing comes days after Golden Dawn cadres attacked members of the Greek Communist party in a similar late-night raid.

“Golden Dawn is intensifying its attacks [because it is] enjoying complete asylum from the police,” the anti-racist group Keerfa said in a statement.

Greek law enforcement officers have been increasingly accused of colluding with Golden Dawn, whose calling card appears to be open-ended violence.

The vehemently anti-immigrant organisation fiercely denied involvement in Fyssas’s death. A spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, announced that the party had already started launching lawsuits against those who made such claims.

Golden Dawn, which has 18 MPs in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, is currently polling at around 15% and is the country’s fastest-growing political force.

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In Vince Gilligan’s meth-y anxiety masterclass Breaking Bad, more cumulatively horrible things have happened than in almost any other show in US TV history – even hardcore fans were traumatised by the shattering pivot points of this week’s episode Ozymandias. That’s the nature of modern telly: there are shows that seem to revel in narrative gut-punches, delivering dread scenes that not only affect future plot developments, but can colour everything that has gone before. Here are TV’s most shocking moments.

Game of Thrones: The Red Wedding

The penultimate episode of season three of HBO’s dragons, flagons and shaggin’ epic launched a thousand gobsmacked reaction videos (and a memorable GRR Martin reaction to the reaction videos). But it was hardly a narrative ambush: the slaughter of upstanding Robb Stark and his nearest and dearest was already long spoiler-ed by the actual source material. That said, the murder of an unborn child and the final, desperate acts of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) combined with the belated realisation that, even with the sprawling GoT cast, pretty much all the “goodies” had been wiped off the board, made the Red Wedding a horrific watch.

The Shield: Shane kills Lem

Centred around a corrupt LAPD “Strike Team” tackling brutal gangbangers, The Shield crackled with pleasingly disreputable street-level energy and transformed FX (Now Fox) into a credible cable channel. But as the series progressed, the macho bromance of the Strike Team degraded into something far more desperate, and season five’s grenade-based betrayal of affable lunkhead Lem (Kenny Johnson) by the volatile Shane (Justified’s Walton Goggins) set the show on a compelling, if horrible, spiral to its grimly satisfying conclusion.

Dexter: Rita’s last bath

Michael C Hall in Dexter
Michael C Hall in Dexter. Photograph: Randy Tepper/AP

After a splashy start, Dexter soon settled into a predictable groove as goofily macabre as its opening credits music: the murderous Miami PD blood-spatter expert would grapple with another, obviously far more evil serial killer over the course of a series, but would ultimately triumph. That seemed to be the case with the strangle-happy Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), right up until the final moments of season four, where Dexter discovered his wife Rita (dead) and baby son Harrison (alive), caught up in a pre-emptive bloodbath.

The Sopranos: Silvio kills Adriana

The Sopranos was the ultimate mob show, so there were always going to be instances where someone was “whacked”. In the fifth episode of season one, Tony Soprano himself brutally strangled informant Fabian Petrulio in between assessing potential colleges with his daughter, an early distress flare to audiences that they should perhaps not be overly seduced by his bearish anti-heroics. But season five’s execution of Adriana (Drea de Matteo) – a long-standing character as close to clean as The Sopranos got and someone who had only started talking to the FBI through a misplaced sense of love – was upsettingly callous, even in a show that felt burdened with fatalism. It cut deep.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Mother knows rest

Sarah Michelle Gellar continuously fought the undead in Joss Whedon’s whip-smart quip-em-up, bopping vamps and vanquishing evil spirits with something approaching glee. But the opening scenes of season five episode The Body swapped supernatural menace for something far more relatable: Buffy discovering the cold, dead body of her mother, the victim of a brain aneurysm. Stripped of jokes and even incidental music, watching the reliably ass-kicking Slayer vainly attempt CPR was brutal and harrowing, resetting the death stakes for the entire series.

24: Teri is butchered

The great thing about Jack Bauer is you can put him through pretty much anything and he’ll still come out, unsmilingly, on top. Those close to him rarely fare so well, though. The shocking capper to season one of Fox’s runaway real-time hit saw Jack succeed in saving Senator David Palmer only for his loyal wife Teri (Leslie Hope) to die at the hands of CTU mole Evil Nina (Sarah Clarke). It cemented the world of 24 as somewhere where any major character could be killed (although some of them came back). Teri’s death is apparently still so upsetting, no one can bring themselves to put it on YouTube, so the above clip is an alternate ending where – phew! – she makes it out alive.

Spooks: Fear of frying

Lisa Faulkner as Helen in Spooks.
Lisa Faulkner as Helen in Spooks. Photograph: John Rogers/BBC

Lisa Faulkner apparently knew exactly what she was signing up for when she accepted the role of sparky young case MI5 case officer Helen Flynn in Spooks. The rest of the 8 million viewers who tuned in for the second episode of the moody spy series in 2002 probably did not expect to see core character Flynn get her forearm, and then face, dunked in a deep-fat fryer before being unceremoniously shot in the head. The scene sparked a tempura tempest of complaints, and not-so-subtly indicated that every agent was expendable at Thames House. On the upside, it made Faulkner’s 2010 Celebrity MasterChef win all the sweeter.

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A passenger train and a bus collided at a crossing in Canada‘s capital, Ottawa, during Wednesday’s morning rush-hour, resulting in “multiple fatalities”, according to local police.

Witnesses said the front of the double-decker bus was ripped off by the impact with the Via Rail train.

Ottawa fire spokesman Mark Messier told CP24 television there were “multiple fatalities” and several bus passengers injured. Messier says there were no injuries on the train.

The accident happened outside a suburban train station in the city’s west end.Ottawa Fire Services spokesman Marc Messier told CTV News the initial estimate was that five people had been killed.

Pascal Lolgis, who witnessed the crash, said the bus appeared to drive through a lowered crossing barrier.

“Boom! It went into the train like that,” Lolgis said. “He just didn’t stop.”

Another witness, Mark Cogan, said the rail barrier was down.

“The train is going through,” Cogan said. “And I was just looking around, just watching things happen. And noticed that in the bus lane, the double-decker bus … I saw him, and he just kept going.

“I just thought maybe there’s a side way around or something, but instantly, he just … he smoked the train. He went through the guard rail and just hammered the train, and then it was mayhem.”

The walking wounded were taken to a second bus nearby to be treated by paramedics.

The train tracks in the area cross both a major city street and a transit line reserved for buses.

The Ontario prime minister, Kathleen Wynne, posted a message on Twitter: “Thinking of all families affected by horrible accident in Ottawa. Thanks to first responders on the scene.”

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Yemen‘s human rights minister has vowed to ban child marriage after the reported death of an eight-year-old girl on her wedding night.

Huriya Mashhoor said she would press parliament for the minimum age of marriage to be set at 18 after the child, identified only as Rawan, reportedly died from internal bleeding after marrying a 40-year-old man. “We are asking to fix the legal age for marriage at 18, as Yemen is a signatory to the international conventions on children‘s rights,” she told AFP.

The precise details of the case remain unclear, with tribal leaders in the town of Meedi, in the north-western province of Hajjah, denying that any such incident had taken place. However, the Yemen government said an investigation was now under way. Rajeh Badi, an aide to the prime minister, Mohammed Salem Basindwa, said: “The government is dealing seriously with this issue. It will investigate it, and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Many poor families in Yemen marry off young daughters to save on the costs of bringing up a child and earn extra money from the dowry given to a girl, but international pressure to prohibit the practice has intensified.

The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, urged the Sana’a authorities last week to investigate the case “without delay and to prosecute all those responsible for this crime”. She said the country should reinstate a law setting a minimum age for marriage.

Under international norms such as the universal declaration of human rights, every person regardless of their age must give their consent before they can be married.

Human Rights Watch previously urged Yemen’s government to ban marriages of girls under 18. It said nearly 15% of Yemeni girls were married before the age of 15 and more than half before 18. HRW said many Yemeni child brides-to-be were being kept from school when they reached puberty.

The EU spends about €60m a year on aid to Yemen.

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Marcel Reich-Ranicki, German literary critic, dies aged 93

Posted by MereNews On September - 18 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Germany‘s most influential postwar literary critic, has died aged 93.

Reich-Ranicki, frequently referred to as the Literaturpapst, or “pope of literature”, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year.

Born in 1920 in Poland, Reich-Ranicki grew up in a Jewish Polish-German family in Berlin and survived the Warsaw ghetto, where he married his wife Teofila. His parents died in the Treblinka concentration camp.

After the end of the war, he joined the Polish army and was briefly stationed at the consulate general in London. He returned to Germany in 1958.

He was famous for his scathing critiques and putdowns. After writing a withering review of Günter Grass’s 1995 novel Ein weites Feld (A Wide Field), he was pictured on the cover of Der Spiegel tearing apart a copy of the book. Last year, when Grass published a poem that was critical of Israel, Reich-Ranicki described it as “disgusting”.

He frequently fell out with other leading literary figures, including the writer Martin Walser, who included a thinly disguised portrait of Reich-Ranicki in his novel Death of a Critic, in which an author is accused of murdering a famous literary reviewer. The portrayal of the Reich-Ranicki figure in the book earned Walser allegations of antisemitism.

In October 2008, Reich-Ranicki was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his TV work on the books programme Literary Quartet, but refused to accept it live on television, arguing that that the programme he had been forced to sit through had been “a load of rubbish”.

German papers have been full of praise for Reich-Ranicki, who had frequently championed forgotten classics. Süddeutsche Zeitung called him “der Mann, der uns das Lesen lehrte” (the man who taught us how to read).

When asked in 2005 whether he believed in God, he answered: “I believe in Shakespeare and Goethe, in Mozart and Beethoven”.

He is survived by his son, Andrew Alexander Ranicki, a professor of maths at Edinburgh University.

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Iran frees human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Posted by MereNews On September - 18 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Iran has released the award-winning human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and several other political prisoners from jail a week before President Hassan Rouhani‘s visit to New York for the UN general assembly, in what appears to be the most tangible sign of change so far under his moderate administration.

The authorities drove Sotoudeh from Evin prison in Tehran to her house in another part of the Iranian capital and told her she did not need to return to jail.

“They were quite certain this time that I’m freed and I don’t need to go back,” the 45-year-old women’s rights activist told the Guardian by phone from her home.

Opposition website Kaleme reported that seven other women political prisoners have also been released from prison in the past 24 hours, albeit conditionally, including journalist Mahsa Amrabadi.

At least four men, including reformist politicians Feizollah Arabsorkhi and Mohsen Aminzadeh, who was a deputy foreign minister under Mohammad Khatami, were among those told that they did not need to return to jail.

“In the past, when I was granted prison leave they used to give me a document, this time they gave me nothing,” said Sotoudeh, who last October was awarded the European parliament’s most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, previously won by Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

“My goals and mentality are the same as before, I haven’t changed,” Sotoudeh insisted, adding that like other lawyers she would still work “to restore justice and defend the rights of protesters”.

Sotoudeh fell foul of the authorities after representing several political activists, including those arrested after Iran’s disputed 2009 election, and highlighting the execution of juveniles in her country.

Following her arrest in September 2010, she was initially sentenced to 11 years in jail for “propaganda against the regime” and “acting against the national security”, but an appeals court later reduced the sentence to six years.

Prominent international human rights organisations have said that charges against Sotoudeh were fabricated and politically motivated. Iranian authorities are believed to have been infuriated by Soutoudeh’s representation of Shirin Ebadi, a colleague and Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate living in exile.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed Sotoudeh’s release. “News of the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh and several other political prisoners is a welcome development, but the burden is on Tehran to prove that this is more than just a symbolic gesture,” Faraz Sanei of HRW told the Guardian.

“If the Iranian government is truly serious about real reform it needs to take immediate and concrete steps leading to the unconditional release of hundreds of other political prisoners currently languishing in Iran’s prisons. It also needs to ensure that those who are freed will not continue to suffer targeting at the hands of security forces and judicial authorities.”

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Martin Luther King personal secretary is selling a collection from the early civil rights movement, including handwritten notes by King and a page from his “I Have a Dream” speech, an auction house says.

Maude Ballou worked as King’s secretary from 1955 to 1960, when he led the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Ballou, who turned 88 on Friday, is selling the items on 17 October in New York through Texas-based Heritage Auctions. People can bid in person or online. Ballou and Heritage Auctions say a portion of the proceeds will be used to establish an education fund at Alabama State University.

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Ballou recalled times both rewarding and frightening in those turbulent years, including an especially poignant moment with King in the mid-1950s.

“He said: ‘Maude, I dreamed last night I died and nobody came to my funeral.’ And that was very touching,” Ballou said. “And I said: ‘Oh Martin, that’s not going to happen. Nothing like that’s going to happen to you.’”

King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Some of the 100-plus items are unique, so it’s difficult to put a value on them, said Sandra Palomino, director of historical manuscripts for Heritage Auctions.

“We’re really relying on letting the market decide what the value is going to be,” Palomino said.

Items awaiting sale include a handwritten letter King sent to Ballou while touring India in 1959 to learn more about Mahatma Ghandi’s campaign of nonviolent resistance.

Another item is a typed final page of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, according to the auction house. The page was sent to Ballou on 31 January 1968, several weeks before King was assassinated, by Lillie Hunter, bookkeeper for the SCLC and secretary to Ralph Abernathy – a close associated of King.

Other items include King’s handwritten notes for a 1959 speech to inform his congregation that he would be leaving Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Alabama, where he served as pastor in the 1950s and was involved in the Montgomery bus boycott.

In the notecards, King said he was doing the work of five men by travelling to speeches, leading the church and the Montgomery Improvement Association and doing “endless work” with the SCLC. King later moved to Atlanta where he became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and continued his work with the SCLC and the struggle for equality.

Also for sale is a 1957 Alabama department of public safety list of people and churches considered vulnerable to attacks. King is No 1 on the list; Ballou is No 21.

In 2011, King’s estate sued the secretary’s son, Howard Ballou, in a bid to take possession of the items, but the courts ruled against the estate.

Maude Ballou, who has a business degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was working for a radio station when King asked her to be his secretary. Her husband, the late Leonard Ballou, was a friend and fraternity brother of King.

After working for King, Maude and Leonard Ballou moved on to what is now Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, where Leonard Ballou was an archivist. He apparently stored some of the material in the university’s basement, unknown to anyone, until it was discovered in 2007 and returned to the Ballou family.

“I don’t like to get rid of anything. I like to keep it. But I know we must share. If it’s going to help, we have to share it,” Maude Ballou said.

Some keepsakes are staying with the family, including a copy of King’s book, Stride Toward Freedom, with a handwritten note on the inner cover: “To my secretary Maude Ballou.”

“In appreciation for your good will, your devotion to your work, and your willingness to sacrifice beyond the call of duty in assisting me to achieve the ideals of freedom and human dignity for our people, (signed) Martin.”

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Greece has suffered a huge drop in its birthrate because of austerity and unemployment, according to a senior government official.

The decline of more than 10% in the past four years is unparalleled in Europe and highlights the savage impact costcutting measures are having on the nation at the heart of the eurozone’s financial woes.

“The falling fertility rate is a natural consequence of harsh austerity and record levels of unemployment, especially among the young,” said Christina Papanikolaou, general secretary at the health ministry. “It is the mirror image of the 25% drop in our GDP since the start of the crisis,” she said.

If further evidence was ever needed of the human cost of austerity, it is the effect budget-reducing policies are clearly having on childbirth in Greece. Figures released by the state-run Institute of Child Health show that the birthrate dropped from 118,302 in 2008 to 100,980 in 2012.

The health minister, Adonis Georgiadis, has attributed the decline squarely to the effect of the economic crisis on Greeks. “The problem of low fertility among the Greek population has grown continuously over the past two decades and worsened significantly, recently, as a result of the profound economic crisis the country is facing,” he said, acknowledging that the number of stillbirths had also risen.

Mired in its sixth straight year of recession – the longest on record for an advanced western economy – Greece is in the midst of a public health disaster that according to doctors is worsening by the day.

Stringent cuts imposed on Athens in return for €240bn (£201bn) in rescue funds from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, have resulted in the country’s health budget being slashed by close to 40%. State funds for medication have been axed by almost half, from €5bn euro to just over €2bn, since the turmoil began.

Soaring joblessness – at nearly 28%, Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone – has also meant that growing numbers are no longer covered by free healthcare. The migration of thousands of private insurance holders to state-sponsored schemes has added to the strain.

“This is by far our biggest problem, the long-term unemployed no longer having access to health services because they are uninsured,” said Papanikolaou, a physician herself. “We have had to make cuts in a very short period of time and some have been unfair. Pregnant women, for instance, no longer receive any kind of help or benefits.”

With more than a fifth of the country’s 11.4 million-strong population living under the poverty line, prenatal screening and other tests have been abandoned by prospective mothers who can no longer afford them. The decline in crucial medical examinations has fuelled fears that unemployed mothers are increasingly at risk of losing babies.

Earlier this year, the National School of Public Health said stillbirths had increased 21.5% from 3.31 per 1,000 in 2008 to 4.01 per 1,000 in 2011, attributing the rise to the growing rate of unemployment among women and the inability to access healthcare.

In a four-page analysis submitted to parliament, Adonis Georgiadis, the health minister, conceded that steps needed to be taken to ensure that the uninsured and financially vulnerable could be covered by insurance funds in prenatal screening.

The collapse of medical services has also affected Greece’s large migrant community. At hospitals in Athens, which have been worst hit by the crisis, social workers say growing numbers of uninsured migrant mothers are failing to register children at birth for fear of being forced to pay delivery rates that at €600 (€1,200 for caesarians) few can afford.

“There is a growing population of undeclared children in Greece,” said one social worker, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We have had cases of mothers fleeing hospitals with babes in arms in the middle of the night.”

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The Bank of England is adopting a wait-and-see approach to providing a further boost to the UK economy as it assesses the strength of the recent pickup in activity.

Minutes of the September meeting of Threadneedle Street’s monetary policy committee showed that some of the nine members thought additional stimulus would be warranted but only if recovery faltered.

But with the official data upbeat between the August and September meetings of the committee, there was no pressure for an immediate change of policy.

The minutes show that the MPC voted unanimously to keep interest rates at 0.5% and to leave the stock of assets bought under the quantitative easing programme unchanged at £375bn. The Bank announced in August that it was providing “forward guidance” about the future conduct of monetary policy, with a commitment to leave the official cost of borrowing unchanged at least until unemployment fell to 7%.

The MPC said it would only revisit that pledge if inflation threatened to breach its 2% target in 18-24 months time, if there were signs that the public was starting to lose faith in the Bank’s commitment to keep inflation low, or if there was evidence of an asset bubble developing that could only be kept in check by raising interest rates.

Minutes of the September meeting show that no MPC member believed that any of the three so-called “knockouts” had been breached.

“Members had different views about the extent to which a further loosening of the monetary stance might be warranted, based in part on their judgements about the speed with which the degree of slack in the economy might be reduced if the momentum in demand continued to grow”, the minutes said.

“This remained difficult to judge, and there had been few developments to shed light on it since the committee’s previous meeting. Over the month the evidence was consistent with a recovery at least as strong as that expected at the time of the August Inflation Report. Were the recovery to falter, the case for further asset purchases would be stronger. But no member judged that further stimulus was appropriate at present.”

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The Metropolitan police‘s failure to conclude an investigation into the so-called plebgate affair involving the former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell is quite outrageous, a former director of pubic prosecutions has claimed.

Lord MacDonald said there was no excuse for the delay, given the consequences of the 45-second incident, which resulted in Mitchell resigning as the government’s chief whip after he was accused of calling police officers on duty in Downing Street plebs in September last year.

Mitchell admitted losing his temper and swearing but denied using the word plebs, which was alleged in a police log leaked to the media.

Writing in the Times, MacDonald said: “We are talking here about the resignation of a British cabinet minister, a resignation forced upon him at the height of his career by police allegations that are now seriously called into question. An expeditious and thorough investigation should have been perfectly possible … It seems quite outrageous that, in the face of the simplicity of the allegations and this significant commitment of public resources, the investigation rambles on, with no apparent end in sight.”

MacDonald, who was DPP from 2003 to 2008, also castigates the Met commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, as “plain foolish” for maintaining that he believed his officers were telling the truth at the same time as he announced the investigation.

The controversy arose after Mitchell tried to ride his bicycle through the gates in Downing Street and was asked to dismount by the two officers on duty. His alleged use of the words plebs, which he vehemently denied, saw him vilified and he resigned a month later.

But CCTV footage was subsequently broadcast, casting doubt on the original account of what happened. Additionally, an email account of the incident purportedly sent by a member of the public who had witnessed it, turned out to have been sent by a Met officer who was not present.

MacDonald warned that if it is proved that officers lied over Mitchell using the word pleb, “the missile is heading straight for the heart of the Metropolitan police”.

Thirty detectives have taken statements from all 800 officers in the diplomatic protection group as part of Operation Alice, which has already cost close to £200,000, and is being carried out under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Eight people have been arrested.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: “This investigation is examining very serious allegations, that go to the heart of the public’s trust in the police service. The MPS is conducting a thorough investigation that aims to establish the truth of what has taken place and find the best possible evidence.

“An initial file was passed to the CPS in March 2013. However, since that time three separate pieces of information have been given to us. As a result further enquiries have had to be made.”

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This Way Up: Mobility in America

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Hedge Funds Saved Billions in Tax: Senate

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U.S. Existing-Home Sales Hit Highest Level Since October

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Gasoline Costs Lift Inflation Gauge

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