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Thursday, August 30, 2012

ECB Draghi Tries to Convince German Central Banker to Agree to EU Rescue Plan

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi wrote an article published in German weekly publication Die Zeit saying it is in Germany’s interest to agree to easing measures. Draghi wants the ECB to inject cash into the economy by buying bonds from euro member-states to lower borrowing costs and preserve the common currency. Germany’s Central Banker Jens Weidmann is resisting the idea of printing more money for that purpose as he fears inflation. The ECB’s function has been traditionally to prevent inflation, but with Eurozone countries struggling with recessions and paying their debts, new strategies are being considered that would steer the central bank into unchartered territories. Draghi’s plan to acquire government debt is similar to those the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.K.’s Bank of England have implemented. Today, Spanish autonomous region Valencia asked for €1 billion ($1.25 billion) more than it initially requested in July, for a total rescue package of €4.5 billion. Spain’s government, who imposed harsh austerity measures on the country, set aside €18 billion to help its regions honor their debts. Catalonia said on Tuesday it will ask for €5 billion.

Egypt, UN Criticize Syria at Meeting Hosted by Assad’s Ally

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon criticized the Syrian regime for its role in the country’s civil war during a summit of 120 nations held in Iran’s capital Tehran. Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government closest ally. Morsi’s remarks on the “oppressive regime” caused Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem to walk out. Ban also called out Iran on its violent rhetoric against Israel and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust. Iran was hoping to use the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement as a way to shine and counter U.S.-led efforts to isolate it. Its leaders were trying to avoid talking about Syria, but Morsi and Ban quickly broached the topic. Meanwhile, the International Nuclear Agency reported that Iran is close to finishing a new nuclear site. This confirms the claim by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran added almost 1,000 centrifuges. This may prompt a new request from Israel that U.S. President Barack Obama warn Iran against pursuing an atomic weapon lest Israel attack Iran unilaterally.

Federal Court Blocks Texas Voter ID Law as Intentionally Discriminating

A Federal Court in Washington, D.C. blocked a Texas law that would have required voters to show a government-issued photo identification before casting their ballot, saying it forced “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and would hinder minority turnout at polling stations. Texas Governor Rick Perry replied he would file an appeal, saying the “federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections. The Obama administration’s claim that it’s a burden to present a photo ID to vote simply defies common sense.” Because individuals must pay to obtain a government-issued ID, U.S. Attorney General Eric A. Holder, Jr. said it was the equivalent of having to pay to vote, and didn’t grant preclearance to Texas. Because of its history of racial discrimination, Texas must always ask for preclearance from the U.S. Attorney General before changing its voting system. This ruling applies solely to Texas. Other, less stringent versions of this law in other states were upheld.

Isaac: Louisiana Orders Mandatory Evacuations for 60,000 People

Louisiana authorities ordered the evacuation of about 60,000 people who live next to the Tangipahoa river after reports came out that Storm Isaac damaged the Tangipahoa Lake dam in Mississippi. While the level of danger is still unclear (the Tangipahoa Parish web site says it’s “imminent” while others say the dam hasn’t even been breached), officials are taking precautions and 8,000 troops have been mobilized to help people evacuate. Around 3,000 residents received evacuation help or were rescued since the storm hit the shores of the state. Isaac is still moving north, with slower winds. Three quarters of New Orleans still doesn’t have power, but there was no major damage in the city. Over one million people have been without electricity in Louisiana and Mississippi. So far, only one person died: a truck driver was killed by a tree that fell on his cab.

South African Miners Charged with Murders by Police

The South African police, whose officers shot at a group of striking miners on August 16 and killed 34 people, charged 270 miners for the murders today. They were accused under the “common purpose” doctrine, which finds participants of a criminal enterprise responsible for the results of that enterprise. The miners appeared in court today, except for six of them, who are still hospitalized for having sustained wounds at the shooting. They will wait for the trial, which is due to start in seven days, in jail. The decision caused an outcry, as none of the police officers responsible for the killing were taken into custody and the “common purpose” doctrine is considered a relic of apartheid. Constitutional Lawyer Pierre de Vos called it a “flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system.” The strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana started because union workers asked for their wages to be tripled.

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