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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Turkey Asks UN for Protection of Syrian Refugees

Turkish officials today asked the United Nations to protect Syrian refugees who cross the border into Turkey. They suggested the displaced population could gather in a “safe zone” within Syria that would be under foreign mandate. The Turkish government is worried to be on the receiving end of a Syrian exodus similar to the one that led 500,000 Kurds to cross its borders during the 1991 Iraq war. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said up to 200,000 Syrians could flee to Turkey if the conflict doesn’t end. Syria President Bashar al-Assad dismissed the idea of a safe zone inside the nation in a television interview with pro-government channel Al Dounia. He added that his forces are gaining strength, explaining that they “are progressing, the situation on the ground is better but we have not yet won. This will take more time.”

U.S. Growth Picks Up, Fed Still Likely to Act

The U.S. Commerce Department said today the country’s economy grew 1.7 percent in the second quarter, more than an initial estimate of 1.5 percent. Still, uncertainty remains and the door is still open for more intervention on the part of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Generally speaking, the economy must expand by 2 percent to 2.5 percent to maintain employment levels. Although the housing market is picking up, inflation is slowing down. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at Jackson Hole on Friday, and investors hope he will give an indication of what the central bank will announce at its periodic meeting on September 12-13.

EU Lawmakers to Fight EU Commission on Bankers Bonuses

Members of the European Parliament, the European Union’s legislature, said today they will fight EU Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier (the equivalent of an EU minister for banking) on his proposal to weaken legislation designed to cap bankers’ bonuses.  MEPs, as Members of the EU Parliament are known, approved in May a ban on bonuses larger than bankers’ fixed pay. Instead, Barnier has proposed to make bank shareholders responsible for employees’ remuneration in an attempt to reach a compromise with the EU’s national governments, some of which are resisting the change. Capping bonuses is part of an effort to return the banks to their original function, which is to serve individuals and businesses and support growth by making investment possible, rather than to just create money for themselves.

South Africa Seeks Deal with Miners on Strike

After strikes and violence that caused the death of 44 people in South Africa, the government began seeking a deal with miners today. Platinum miners have been asking for their salaries to be tripled, and the strike is causing Lonmin, the company that owns the Marikana mine where the bloodiest labor-related incident in post-Apartheid South Africa took place, to lose about 1 billion rands a day ($119 million). A meeting was scheduled today during which the government attempted to mediate an accord between Lonmin and the miners. There is also strife between the unions involved in the conflict as some union members tried to intimidate others into not working.

Hurricane Isaac Tests New Orleans’ Anti-Flood Infrastructure

As it hit Louisiana and Mississippi, Hurricane Isaac was slow enough to dump up to 20 inches of water over certain areas, testing the flood gates in New Orleans and reducing the differential between the tide and the levee to 7 feet. Three thousand people were ordered to evacuate the area of Plaquemines Parish in southeastern Louisiana and dozens of people had to be rescued as they became trapped by the rising waters. Although Isaac was downgraded again to a tropical storm and the winds are expected to weaken, federal officials warned residents that the worst may not yet be over. Half a million people in Louisiana have lost access to electricity.

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