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Thousands protest austerity in Madrid march

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MADRID — Thousands joined a protest march in the Spanish capital Sunday against the conservative government’s austerity policies amid growing uncertainty over whether the country will need a financial bailout.

“No more unemployment, no more cuts…. They will ruin the country, we must stop this,” read a large banner as union and leftwing party leaders led the march.

Others in the crowd carried “No” signs with scissors painted on them, a reference to the budget cuts that are affecting many Spaniards, with unemployment at 24.63 percent.

Spain’s biggest trade unions, the UGT and CCOO, have called protests in a total of 57 cities, and a general strike is planned for November 14, the same day unions have scheduled an anti-austerity strike in neighbouring Portugal.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is under pressure from his EU partners to cut the public deficit to 6.3 percent of gross domestic product this year, 4.5 percent next year and 2.8 percent in 2014.

Budget cuts over three years are to total 150 billion euros ($195 billion).

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The latest austerity measures included an increase in the value-added tax on September 1.

But as pressure grows for a sovereign bailout, the Bank of Spain has warned that the nation may miss its 2012 public deficit target and slip into a deeper-than-expected recession next year.

Spain missed last year’s public deficit target by a wide margin, ending 2011 with a budget shortfall equal to 9.4 percent of economic output instead of the promised 6.0 percent.

This year, it has promised to lower the overall deficit to 6.3 percent of output, but already Madrid has been forced to admit that the cost of a banking sector rescue will push the gap to 7.4 percent.

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Russians to prod Putin on poverty and his personal life as his ratings tank

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Russians are set to ask President Vladimir Putin about growing poverty at home and tensions abroad during an annual televised phone-in Thursday, which comes following a fall in his approval ratings.

The leader is also likely to face a degree of grilling on his personal life, according to questions submitted by the public online ahead of the live show.

Set to be held for the 17th time since Putin came to power in 1999, the show starts at 0900 GMT and usually lasts several hours.

Ahead of the carefully choreographed show, more than one million questions had been submitted, organisers told Russian news agencies.

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Trump could turn on Hope Hicks just like Michael Cohen: Trump family biographer warns

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Trump family biographer Emily Jane Fox explained that she didn't think that the president would turn on long-time aide Hope Hicks, but then again, it was the same thought about Michael Cohen as well.

In a panel discussion about Hicks' testimony during MSNBC's Brian Williams' Wednesday show, Fox recalled that Micahel Cohen once said that he would take a bullet for the president. Once it appeared that Trump would throw him under the bus, Cohen began looking for a way out.

The same scenario seems to be happening with Hicks now.

"She works at new Fox, which is a company run by a Murdoch son," Fox said. "It's a company that's brand new. She's the head of communications there. And there are shareholders who would take issue with the fact that a senior member of this company is being put in this situation and being thrust on the world stage."

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Trump jumped to Speaker Pelosi’s defense in marathon Fox News interview

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In a strange twist, President Donald Trump appeared to defend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday.

Hannity began by saying to Trump that he believes Pelosi has lost control of her own party, as officials like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) continue to call for impeachment.

"I say Nancy Pelosi is the speaker in name only," Hannity told Trump, calling Ocasio-Cortez the real start.

But what Trump said was the unusual point.

"I think Nancy Pelosi probably has control of it, I hear different things, but I think she does," Trump said, appearing to defend the Speaker. "She knows what she's doing. We will see how it all comes out."

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