Must-Reads from Around the World: February 14, 2012

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Riot policemen arrest a protester during clashes in central Athens Wednesday, June 29, 2011. (Photo: Petros Giannakouris / AP)

The Greek Way of Life – Austerity measures aimed at rescuing Greece have hammered the economy, the Washington Post reports. Figures released Tuesday show the GDP dropped by 7% for the final quarter of 2011. Response to the country’s deepening economic issues has been both violent and shrewd. In a first-person account of his travels through Greece, the New York Times’ Russell Sarto found examples of both success and dejection.

The Next Greece? – Some 300,000 people have taken to the streets of the Portuguese capital Lisbon in advance of a visit by the “trolka” – officials from the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – in protest of austerity measures. Portugal, unlike Greece, arguably enjoys more support from other members of the European Union. A German finance minster was overheard saying the nation was “much more committed than Greece,” the Global Post reports.

Terror and Tourism Le Monde reports that al-Qaeda’s increased activity in northwestern Africa stagnated the tourism industry driving nations such as Mauritania back into deep poverty. Escalating violence in neighboring Mali add to the strain as thousands flee attacks by  Tuareg rebel groups.

Talking Taliban – In a CNN exclusive, the site is reporting that the Taliban met with U.S. officials to discuss potential peace talks, but aren’t interested in dealing with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s government. “We have never been asked to attend talks with Karzai administration officials in Saudi Arabia, but even if we are asked to attend, we won’t because (the) Karzai government is a puppet and unauthorized, and meeting with them will not be beneficial in solving the issue,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid wrote in a message from an e-mail account often used by the Taliban to put out statements.