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Political agreement reached on tax hike

DUBLIN (AP) -- Ireland's government and opposition chiefs reached an agreement Monday that will allow lawmakers to rush a critical tax-raising bill through parliament so that the government can be dissolved next week for a national election in late February.

The breakthrough followed a week of political calamities for Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who botched a Cabinet reshuffle, resigned as leader of the Fianna Fail party and finally lost his parliamentary majority when his coalition partners defected to the opposition.

Last week's humiliation forced Cowen to call an early election for March 11. But Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who led Monday's negotiations, said the agreement means that parliament will be dissolved by next Tuesday and the election date will be moved to late February.

"It's important for the country that we are seen to unite at least in dealing with this measure," Lenihan said of the finance bill, which will broadly raise income taxes to combat Ireland's double-digit deficit.


Six killed by gunmen at anti-violence park

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- Gunmen spraying automatic weapons fire killed six people at a park that had been built as an anti-violence measure in this besieged border city, authorities said Monday.

A spokesman for Chihuahua state prosecutors, Carlos Gonzalez, said the assailants arrived at the park in the city's Francisco I. Madero section and opened fire Sunday afternoon. Four people, including a 12-year-old girl, were hospitalized in critical condition.

Investigators found 180 bullet casings from the sort of assault weapons typically used by drug gangs, Gonzalez said, though they had not yet identified the gunmen or a motive.

The park opened as part of a government program called Todos Somos Juarez, or We're All Juarez, to reduce violence and improve life for the city's 1.3 million residents. Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, is Mexico's most violent city, with more than 3,000 people killed last year as the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels fight for control of lucrative trafficking routes into the United States.


Bloggers, social media are cautioned by pope

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI told Catholic bloggers and Facebook and YouTube users Monday to be respectful of others when spreading the Gospel online and not to see their ultimate goal as getting as many online hits as possible.

Echoing concerns in the United States about the need to root out online vitriol, Benedict called for the faithful to adopt a "Christian-style presence" online that is responsible, honest and discreet. "We must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its 'popularity' or from the amount of attention it receives," Benedict wrote in his annual message for the church's World Day of Social Communications.

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