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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Today’s edition is guest edited by Ash Ponders

Greek prime minister seeks additional time to jumpstart economy

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has asked Eurozone leaders for additional time to jumpstart Greece’s economy out of recession. In September, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission, known as the troika, will meet to determine if Greece has adequately positioned itself to satisfy the conditions of its €130 billion ($161 billion) bailout package. According to Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, if the investigation concludes that Greece is unable to meet the troika’s requirements, Greece may have failed its last chance. German Premier Angela Merkel has indicated she’d be amenable to at least hearing out Samaras’ request for more time. This change in the dialogue may be influenced by deeper cuts being made by the Greek government than were expected. If Greece cannot secure the two-year extension for enacting its cuts, and the troika determines Greece is not fit for bailout, the consequences could cause further economic instability to, and signal Greece’s expulsion from, the Eurozone.

U.K. banks may have intentionally misled customers into purchasing ‘toxic insurance’

A number of business owners are seeking compensation from UK banks after being sold structured collar products with little to no explanation of the terms. Structured collars are a type of financial insurance product meant to protect small businesses against wide fluctuations in interest rate movements. The largest UK banks including Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland have begun to react after British banking regulators found “serious failings” in the way these insurance products were sold to companies. Already the likely payout is approaching 10 billion pounds, though as the practice seems to have been rampant and endemic to most business loans given between 2005 and 2008, this figure may ultimately swell.

Ecuador open to diplomatic resolution of assange asylum

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced he is open to dialogue with the U.K. in an attempt to peacefully resolve the asylum of Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. Last week, Ecuador Ambassador to the U.K. Ana Alban was informed that British authorities may attempt to forcibly extract Mr. Assange, who is currently wanted for deportation to Sweden by U.K. authorities. Correa has stated that any attempt to storm the embassy by force would be “suicide”, and would open up the U.K. to similar diplomatic violations around the world. Assange has remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 19th, amid fears that he could ultimately be extradited from Sweden to the U.S., where he could face charges. The Assange case stands in stark contrast with that of Aliaksandr Barankov, another asylum seeker, currently in Ecuador, who faces deportation to Belarus, a country with dubious human rights credentials.

Mali’s northern rebels release video of western hostages

Al-Jazeera has obtained footage which shows a dual British and South African citizen, a Dutch national, and a Swede, each taken hostage by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Islamist militia that wishes to overthrow the Algerian government. All appear to be in good health, though Stephen McGowan, the British/South African, suffers from skin cancer and needs medication. A fourth German captive was killed as he resisted his would-be abductors, who rushed into a Timbuktu restaurant while armed. Last year saw several French nationals taken by Al-Qaeda as well, though their current conditions are unclear. These kidnappings come out of a larger Tuareg rebellion in northern Africa that began on the 17th of January of this year, which saw Islamist and secular Northern Mali separatists claim independence from Mali’s southern government. The coalition then fell to infighting.

Syrian conflict continues with 47 casualties

Heavy shelling began anew in Damascus and Aleppo today, with 47 reported casualties. Assad’s forces have held on to and even regained large swaths of these major Syrian cities. While the regime has largely been ousted from rural villages and towns in northern Syria, residents in the town of Azaz say they are being bombarded from small military outposts long after Assad loyalists have been driven from the town. Also on the northern border of Syria, Kurdish rebels have killed nine people in what may be an Assad-supported attack. In a move which may be designed to prevent direct U.S. action, Syria has given Russia, Assad regime’s diplomatic ally, assurances that it will not use its chemical weapons. Previously, the Obama administration had stipulated that any menacing movement of these chemical weapons could cause the US’s current restrained involvement to change.

Mexico’s los zetas cartel breaks into two rival factions

Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel gang has broken into two rival gangs. For years, Los Zetas has been considered by many to be the most sophisticated and dangerous crime syndicate in Mexico. As a result of the split, one group now follows Miguel Angel Treviño, known as ‘Z-40′, while the other follows Ivan Velasquez, known as ‘Z-50′, both early members of Los Zetas. This rupture in the Zetas organization has already claimed dozens of lives and will likely cause significant strife in Zetas-controlled territories along the Gulf coast. Los Zetas was one of many relatively new cartels in Mexico, having been formed of former military personnel turned mercenaries for the Gulf Cartel in the late 1990s. Los Zetas seized control of most of the Gulf Cartel’s territory in 2010. It is not immediately clear how this schism will affect the two-faction system currently in place, though a rival crime syndicate, the Knights Templar Cartel, has declared war against the Z-40 sect, in an apparent alliance with Z-50.

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