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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Syrian Government Guilty of War Crimes, U.N. Says

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is guilty of having committed war crimes, a United Nations panel concluded after an investigation into the Houla massacre, perpetrated on May 25 of this year. Houla is a small region near the city of Homs, north of Damascus. The U.N. said 108 people, including 49 children, died at the hands of Assad’s soldiers and pro-regime militiamen. The government insisted the opposition committed those murders, calling them acts of terrorism. Today a bomb exploded near a hotel where U.N. workers were staying. Rebels, who claimed the attack, said it targeted Syrian government security forces. Meanwhile, the conflict also seems to have exported itself to Lebanon, as a Lebanese Shi’ite family abducted 30 Syrian citizens in retribution for the kidnapping of some of their family members by the Syrian opposition. Fearing escalating violence, the United Arab Emirates told its own citizens to leave Lebanon without delay.

Flat U.S. Inflation Opens Door to More Monetary Easing

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more signs today that the U.S. economy is sluggish. Inflation was flat for a second month in July (0.1 percent), and rose 1.4 percent in the 12 months prior, the least in a year and a half. This gives the U.S. Federal Reserve more room to implement easing measures that could stimulate the job market. With unemployment at 8.3 percent, the economy doesn’t have much scope to grow. Even if food prices increase as a consequence of the drought, the Consumer Price Index (the measure for inflation) is unlikely to gain, as food only represents 14 percent of the index. Industrial production picked up last month, however, growing 0.6 percent from June’s 0.1 percent.

Young Immigrants Apply for Temporary Legal Residency

Lines of applicants formed outside Homeland Security offices today as U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration launched a new program that will allow some young undocumented immigrants to stave off deportation for two years. President Obama announced the measure two months ago. It aims at circumventing the DREAM Act, which has been blocked in Congress. Those who qualify must be between 15 and 31 years old, they must have moved to the U.S. before they were 16 and lived on the territory continuously for at least five years. They will have to show school records and utility bills, and prove that their criminal record is clean. Opponents of this measure call it an amnesty for those who have broken the law, and, at a time of high unemployment, they fear that the nation won’t be able to absorb a glut of new workers. Supporters say it makes it possible to treat fairly youngsters who have lived most of their lives on American soil and reward their willingness to contribute.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Upheld

A judge in Pennsylvania upheld a law that requires voters to show a photo identification to obtain a ballot, a measure that some say disproportionately affects minorities and elderly people and hurts President Barack Obama’s chances to be reelected. Supporters of the law, mostly Republicans, say it will help prevent voter fraud. Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, said the law was constitutional and that it could be implemented before election day, on November 6, adding that there is enough time to acquire proper ID. Plaintiffs will file an appeal with the state’s Supreme Court’s six judges, who are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats (the seventh judge was suspended). A tie would uphold the law.

Apple, Samsung Should Make Peace, Judge Says

San Jose Judge Lucy Koh said today the chief executives of Apple and Samsung should talk to each other before the jury begins to deliberate next week on the patent suit Apple brought against Samsung. Apple says Samsung copied some of its designs and is asking for some of the South Korean company’s products to be banned from sales, as well as $2.5 billion in damages. Koh urged the two to mediate their way into a settlement, something they tried before taking the matter to court.

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