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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Syria: Kofi Annan Resigns as U.N. Envoy and Mediator

Kofi Annan quit his position as the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria today, saying that “finger-pointing and name calling” at the Security Council undercut his efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. “It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government and also the opposition to take the steps to bring about the political process,” he added. China and Russia vetoed resolutions for sanctions at the U.N.S.C. on three occasions since last fall, the latest of which occurred two weeks ago. He also blamed Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its obstination and the rebels for their belligerence. The assumption was that Syria was mostly left to its own devices, until Reuters reported yesterday that U.S. President Barack Obama signed a secret order earlier this year allowing the Central Intelligence Agency and others to bring support to the opposition forces.

Markets Balk at ECB’s Mixed Signals

Borrowing costs for Italy and Spain rose after European Central Bank failed to commit to new easing measures in its monthly announcement today.  ECB President Mario Draghi said last week the central bank would do “whatever it takes to defend the euro,” which investors took as a hint that decisive action would be announced this week. While reiterating his determination to do something, Draghi explained that it would take weeks to work out the details of new bond purchases. To go through with this plan, the ECB needs the support of Germany’s Bundesbank, whose dissent could undermine efforts to boost the economy and increase countries’ ability to borrow money.  Stock markets in Europe and the U.S. fell.

Israeli Strike on Iran Unlikely, Analysts Say

Israel is unlikely to attack Iran to stop its nuclear program, leaving it to the U.S. to deal with the problem, analysts said today. Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta time was running out and U.S. policies were failing to bring Iran’s nuclear activities to a halt. Iran said the program is peaceful, but Washington, too, believes the nation is trying to give itself the option to make a bomb. Yet observers say Israel won’t take action as its military and intelligence agency Mossad are “entirely against” striking Iran. The timing is also sensitive as the U.S. is due to elect a new president in just over three months.

Knight Capital Fights for Survival after Trading Glitch

Knight Capital, one of the U.S.’ largest market makers, lost $440 million after it sold all the stocks it accidentally bought yesterday because of a computer glitch. This is four times its 2011 net income. The company asked its clients to place their orders elsewhere while they resolve the issue. Its shares fell 72 percent in two days as a result, putting it at risk of a potential failure and forcing it to seek funding. The New York Stock Exchange investigated the trading of a 140 stocks that were affected by the glitch, and canceled transactions that happened when volatility was at its peak, with shares moving as much as 30 percent in 45 minutes.

Regulator Says U.K. TV Satellite Company BSkyB Has “Too Much Power”

Britain’s Competition Commission said in a report published today that BSkyB, a TV satellite company partly owned by Rupert Murdoch, has too much power over its competitors, opening the door to a new investigation. It identified its long existence on the market as well as its main rival Virgin Media’s limited geographical presence as causes for this position of dominance. Pointing to new streaming services like Netflix, it said that competition had increased, but not enough to affect BSkyB. At this point, nothing can be done, but this could be significant later, should an inquiry into the matter begin.

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