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Friday, October 12, 2012

Rival Groups Clash in Egypt’s Tahrir Square

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with secular opponents of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt today. At least 100 people were injured in the clash as groups threw stones at each other in the square where the anti-regime protests began in 2010. Muslim Brotherhood supporters were in the square to protest this week’s acquittals of several regime-era officials, while secularists had previously called a demonstration to protest Islamist control over the proposed new Egyptian constitution.

Netanyahu Denies Agreeing to Golan Pullout

A spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, denied today that he had ever agreed to cede the Golan Heights back to Syria in exchange for normalized relations between the two countries. The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said Israeli leaders had consented to at least partial Golan pullbacks in past talks with Syria, though none had gone as far as Netanyahu in agreeing to withdraw to the northeastern shores of the biblical Sea of Galilee. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 after seizing them from Syria in 1967. Netanyahu’s office denied the newspaper’s report saying, “this was one initiative among many proposed to Israel in recent years. At no stage did Israel accept this American initiative. It is an old and irrelevant initiative.” Relations between Syria and Israel have remained tense since the 1974 Yom Kippur war.

Rebel Forces Seize Syrian Air Force Base

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian rebels are in control of an air defense base to the east of Aleppo. The anti-government forces killed more than 100 Syrian air force soldiers in a two day clash for control of the base; at least four of rebels were killed. The government-run media did not comment on the loss but did mention that it had killed 16 rebels in the area. Fighting nation-wide has intensified, as non-government organizations have reported more than 400 deaths on Thursday alone.

Mexico Passes Strict Anti-Money Laundering Law

Mexico’s congress unanimously passed a new federal law that will put restrictions on cash purchases of assets used by criminals to launder illicitly gained funds. Sales from drugs in the U.S. are worth about $60 billion annually; a large majority of that money makes its way to Mexican drug-traffickers. In July, a U.S. senate report indicated that HSBC, an international bank, had shipped over $7 billion dollars in drug-money from Mexico to the United States. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has waged a significant military attack on the drug-traffickers since he came to power six years ago but has been criticized for not doing enough to attack their fiscal base. Among other measures, the law will require that the cash purchases of assets worth more than $15,000 be reported to the federal government. Those failing to report such purchases will face a minimum penalty of 5 years in prison. The law, should President Calderon sign it, will go into effect in nine months.

Yéle, Haitian Development Foundation Collapses

Yéle Haiti, a charity started in 2005 by musician Wyclef Jean to aid in the development of Haiti, effectively closed this August when CEO Derek Johnson resigned. Mr. Jean’s spokeswoman said yesterday that Jean and his lawyers “are working assiduously to resolve any pending issues with respect to Yéle prior to its closing.” Yéle came to prominence after the 2010 Haitian earthquake devastated the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Jean’s charity raised an amount totaling around 16 million dollars and took a broad approach to doling those funds out. Among other things, the charity used the funds to rebuild orphanages, obtain materials for temporary housing, start a jobs corps, and provide meals for refugees. Charges of graft and incompetence followed Yéle in nearly every one of its endeavors, while established relief organizations found Yéle’s efforts to be fruitless and wasted. The charity had been in serious financial trouble since 2007. Facing a continuing inquisition from the New York attorney general’s office of fiscal improprieties, Johnson resigned when Wyclef Jean would not accept the $600,000 deal “to remedy the waste of the foundation’s assets” offered by the attorney general.

DISCLOSURE: The author donated $1,000 to Yéle in January 2010.

Weekend Read: The Death of Osama bin Laden

In retrospective, tracking down bin Laden’s whereabouts seemed almost a forgone conclusion. Mark Bowden reminds readers otherwise. In The Guardian.

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