Today's Takeaway: G20 Meeting and the 'Robin Hood Tax'

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Friday, November 04, 2011

World leaders at the Group of 20 meeting in Cannes. (pool/Getty)

Europe on the Brink as Greece Calls Off Referendum; Movie Date: 'Harold & Kumar' and 'Tower Heist'; States Struggle with Tuition Hikes and Budget Cuts; Weekly Wrap-Up: The Economy and Herman Cain; G20 Meeting and the 'Robin Hood Tax'; Steve Martin on 'Give Me the Banjo'; Hajj Pilgrimage in the Midst of the Arab Spring

Top of the Hour: Italy Agrees to IMF Monitoring, Morning Headlines

Overnight, Italy agreed to be place under the stewardship of the International Monetary Fund. The move is aimed at reassuring already jittery financial markets that Italy is committed to financial reform.

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Europe on the Brink as Greece Calls Off Referendum

In Cannes, leaders from the world's 20 largest economic nations are meeting to discuss the most pressing fiscal matters across the globe. On top of that list is Greece and the high-stakes political gamesmanship of the country's Prime Minister George Papandreou. Papandreou called off a plan to hold a referendum on his country's loan deal with the European Union Thursday after he gained new support for the deal from the opposition. Greece is in a tense political stalemate as its fate with the euro zone hangs in the balance. Papandreou is trying avoid a economic catastrophe as he faces calls for his resignation and a no-confidence vote on Friday. Papandreou's political brinkmanship has renewed questions about the instability of the euro zone and the destabilizing roles of deeply indebted countries.

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Listener Responses: Trust in Government

All week The Takeaway has been talking about issues of trust: Trust in God was the topic at hand on Tuesday, as America's national motto, "In God We Trust," was officially reaffirmed by the House of Representatives. The Takeaway asked listeners what they think of the motto. Like it? Think it’s inappropriate? Have any better ideas? The Takeaway got your responses and also encountered the issue of trust in a much different context — trust in politicians. Allegations of sexual harassment against Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain were reported earlier in the week.

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Movie Date: 'Harold & Kumar' and 'Tower Heist'

This week's big new releases at the multiplex are "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas in 3D," starring John Cho and Kal Pen; and "Tower Heist," starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Judd Hirsch, and Matthew Broderick. Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday,;and Kristen Meinzer, The Takeaway's culture producer, are co-hosts of The Takeaway’s Movie Date Podcast, and give their reviews of this week's new movies.

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States Struggle with Tuition Hikes and Budget Cuts

Over the past few weeks, The Takeaway has reported about student loan debt and rising tuition costs. President Obama recently unveiled a new program that he says will help lower the interest rates on student loans. But his strategy does not help students who graduated before 2012. As cash-strapped states continue to cut funding for public universities, tuition is likely to keep on rising. How should public universities balance budget cuts and tuition hikes? 

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Gadhafi's Penpal: A Jewish Florist from Brooklyn

A number of peculiar stories have emerged since the demise of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. There was the story about his crush on former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, which she has called "weird and a bit creepy." Rice may not have liked Gadhafi's attention, but Louis Schlamowitz, an 81-year-old Jewish florist from Brooklyn, was happy to have corresponded with him for a number of years. A hobby collector of over 6,000 autographs, Schlamowitz first wrote to Gadhafi in the late 1960s and continued to receive letters from the dictator for forty years.

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Weekly Wrap-Up: The Economy and Herman Cain

Herman Cain's sexual harassment woes. Greece's unstable government buckling under pressure from its debt crisis. The renewed focus on the striking disparity between rich and poor in America. And, well, Kim Kardashian's divorce. These were, for better or worse, the stories that dominated the headlines for the last week. The Takeaway has assembled a panel of analysts to rundown, dissect, and wrap-up all the major stories of the week.

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Top of the Hour: Papandreou Faces No-Confidence Vote, Morning Headlines

Embattled Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will face a vote of no confidence in Parliament on Friday. Papandreou has been under pressure to resign after calling for a referendum on a European bailout plan — a position he walked away from on Thursday.

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G20 Summit and the 'Robin Hood Tax'

The G20 summit is under way in Cannes. While the European sovereign debt crisis is at the top of the agenda, one of the more noteworthy topics being discussed is a so-called "Robin Hood Tax," a financial transaction tax on stocks, bonds and derivatives trades. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is at the summit to address world leaders in support of the tax, which he says could be utilized to help developed nations meet their global aid obligations to the world's poorest countries.  

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Steve Martin on 'Give Me the Banjo'

In music, there are few things more insane than an amateur going and trying to sit down with a real player. But that's just what John Hockenberry did earlier this week, when he went to the house of comedian, author and banjo aficionado Steve Martin. A documentary called "Give Me the Banjo" airs tonight, and is narrated by Martin. But in the comedian's New York City apartment, talking about the banjo — as well as Martin's long career in comedy and interest in music — was augmented by some performance and a lesson or two. 

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CIA Makes Concessions to Drones Program

After numerous complaints from military and State Department officials, the Central Intelligence Agency has agreed to concessions in the way it runs its covert drones program. Military and diplomatic officials complained large drone strikes were undermining the already fraught relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. A White House review came out in favor of the drones program, but found that the CIA must coordinate its attacks with the State Department. Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, reported on the story in today's paper.

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Hajj Pilgrimage in the Midst of the Arab Spring

This weekend some 2.5 million people are expected to take part in this year's Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. But this year's pilgrimage takes place against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. The Saudi government has mobilized 100,000 defense personnel to prepare for the world's largest human assembly. The Saudis say the build-up is to avoid the deadly stampedes that have broken out in previous pilgrimages. But one can't help but wonder if the democracy movements in neighboring countries is a lingering factor as well. 

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Unemployment Dips to 9 Percent After US Adds 80,000 Jobs

The U.S. economy added 80,000 jobs in the month of October, pushing the unemployment rate down to 9.0 percent from 9.1 percent according the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In October, the private sector added 104,000 jobs, though 24,000 government workers lost their jobs. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve forecast that unemployment will likely only drop to between 8.5 and 8.7 percent in 2012Charlie Herman, business and economics editor for The Takeaway and WNYC, analyzes what these figures mean for the economy.

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Corzine Resigns From MF Global; Hires Criminal Attorney

Former New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine resigned as chairman and CEO of MF Global, the brokerage firm that filed for bankruptcy on Monday. Corzine has chosen to forfeit his $12 million severance package. Under Corzine's leadership, MF Global lost two-thirds of its market value. A federal investigation is now under way after MF Global disclosed that $630 million of customer money was missing. Corzine is said to have retained a criminal defense attorney. Michael de la Merced, reporter for The New York Times' DealBook, discusses the latest developments.

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