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By Isabel Coles DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's economic problems went beyond sanctions, blaming "unparalleled stagflation" on the profligacy and mismanagement of his predecessor, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In office from 2005 until August, Ahmadinejad presided over a period of unprecedented revenue growth due to high oil prices but, analysts say, squandered much of it on subsidies that pumped money into the economy and drove up inflation. He also antagonized the United States and the West by threatening to wipe Israel off "the page of time", repeated denials of the Holocaust and an uncompromising stance on Iran's disputed nuclear program. The International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy will shrink 1.5 percent this year in inflation-adjusted terms, after an estimated 1.9 percent contraction last year which was the biggest since 1988, when Iran's eight-year war with Iraq ended.
The first book written in what is today the United States of America fetched $14.2 million in New York, becoming the world's most expensive printed book sold at auction. The translation of Biblical psalms "The Bay Psalm Book" was printed by Puritan settlers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640 and sold at a one-lot auction in just minutes by Sotheby's Tuesday. The settlers, who came to America to seek religious freedom, had set about making their own preferred translation from the Hebrew original of the Old Testament book after arriving from Europe. Sotheby's named the buyer as David Rubenstein, the billionaire American financier and philanthropist.
Philippines authorities demanded Wednesday that boxing great Manny Pacquiao pay a $50 million tax bill or risk having assets seized, but the national hero vowed to take the fight to court. Pacquiao disclosed Tuesday the Bureau of Internal Revenue wanted 2.2 billion pesos ($50.2 million) for alleged unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009, when he was at the peak of his career and one of the world's highest-earning athletes. But tax commissioner Kim Henares, who has spearheaded a high-profile campaign against tax evasion in the Philippines, stood firm on Wednesday, saying Pacquiao had failed for two years to provide documents proving his US payments. Henares said the tax bill may be cut if Pacquiao did provide certified documents proving he paid the US Internal Revenue Service.
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Turkish mobile operator Turkcell is claiming damages of at least $4.2 billion against rival MTN Group, which it alleges used "corruption and bribery" to win a mobile licence in Iran. In documents filed in a South African court, Turkcell said MTN and its former chief executive and current chairman and another former executive used "wrongful and intentional interference" to take the licence from Turkcell. As a result, Turkcell "suffered the loss of business opportunities, turnover and profits" from the licence in the amount of $4. ...
By Edith Honan NEW YORK (Reuters) - Raising taxes on New York City's highest earners to pay for early education programs, a signature proposal of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, has the backing of more than six in 10 New York state voters, according to a poll released on Wednesday. De Blasio, a liberal Democrat who takes office in January, is expected to face strong opposition to the plan from the politically divided state legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year and has committed to keeping tax rates in check. The fact that a large majority of state voters favor the plan could give De Blasio, who won over 70 percent of the vote in November's election, fresh leverage as he seeks to deliver on a centerpiece issue of his campaign. The Quinnipiac University poll found that more than 90 percent of state Democrats and 60 percent of independents back the idea, while nearly 60 percent of state Republicans oppose it.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich poured scorn on his jailed rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, on Wednesday, saying the question of her imprisonment should not hinder Kiev's integration with the European Union. Days before an EU summit, where he had been expected to sign a landmark free trade pact before his government's about-face last week, Yanukovich questioned Brussels characterization of her jailing as politically motivated. "The issue of Yulia Tymoshenko should not be a hindrance to Ukraine's European integration," said a statement on the presidential administration website. "What is the European Union - a court?" Yanukovich was quoted as asking in the statement.
US astrophysicists are split over what will happen when the comet ISON passes near the sun Thursday, but a majority think it will break apart. So when one of them zips close to a hot star, like the Sun, sometimes the icy core simply melts. "Many of us think it could break up into pieces, and some people think it won't survive at all" after its brush near the Sun, said comet expert Carey Lisse of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory during a telephone press conference. But he conceded, there are others who think the icy mass "will actually survive and come back out" on the other side of the sun, albeit somewhat shrunken down from its encounter with the Sun's heat.