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Monday, November 5, 2012

U.S. Candidates Make Final Run in Swing States Amid Legal Battles

In the very last hours of their campaigns, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney made a final push for votes in states that are thought to be decisive for the result in tomorrow’s election. Obama held a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, accompanied by singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. Meanwhile, Romney started his day in Florida and was planning to head to Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire. Tomorrow’s election may end up being decided in courts of law, experts say. Provisional ballot restrictions issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday are already meeting legal challenges from Democrats. Provisional ballots, which determine whose votes count after they are cast, can cause issues when an election is close, as was the case in Florida in 2000. In Columbus, Ohio, a federal judge set the hearing for the dispute over provisional ballots to Wednesday at 11 a.m., the day after the election.

G-20 Warns U.S. Against “Fiscal Cliff”

The finance ministers of the Group of 20 are concerned about the U.S.’ so-called “fiscal cliff.” In a meeting in Mexico City on the eve of the presidential election, they warned the future leaders of the world’s largest economy against allowing excessive austerity to drag it back into a recession, and the rest of the world with it. Unless the White House and Congress come to an agreement by January 2013, $607 billion in tax hikes for Americans and government spending cuts will be triggered, austerity measures that experts fear will hurt and possibly reverse the fragile recovery, slowing consumption and pushing unemployment up. The G-20 also urged the European Union (EU) to sort out its debt issues and promote economic expansion. “There is nothing more important to the global economy than to lift growth in the world’s major advanced economies,” said Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan today.

Syrian Rebels Claim to Kill Over 50 Pro-Assad Fighters

In an escalation of violence, rebels in war-torn Syria today claimed to take the lives of at least 50 Syrian soldiers in a car bomb explosion at a government checkpoint in a village near Hama. Another car exploded in a neighborhood of the capital, Damascus, where members of the security forces live, killing 11 people. The government also carried out airstrikes, targeting rebel strongholds. This marks one of the most violent days in months in the country. This occurred as opposition leaders met in Qatar. Members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) announced they will include more activists, groups, and women in the rebel coalition, thereby fighting accusations that the organization, led by exiled Syrians, does not represent the people on the ground. The SNC also said it will examine a U.S. proposal to create a 50-member leadership group that would represent all the major rebel factions.

Ukrainians Protest Parliamentary Election Results

The Ukrainian government’s opposition called a rally in the country’s capital, Kiev, to protest the allegedly fraudulent parliamentary election won by President Viktor Yanukovich’s party, the Party of Regions. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which acted as an observer during the election, said last week the party had used government resources in the campaign, even as the president’s main opponent, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was imprisoned and barred from running. “We regret that the convictions of opposition leaders during trials that did not meet international standards are preventing them from standing in parliamentary elections,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton wrote in an October 24 op-ed for the New York Times. As the vote count drew to a close, demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the electoral commission, chanting “down with the gangster.” The government said the police stood ready to disperse the “illegitimate” rally. The result is likely to give the Party of Regions a very slim majority.

Frequent Testing Turns Porn Industry Into Model in Fight Against HIV

A regimen of frequent testing for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea has turned the U.S. heterosexual adult film industry into a model in the fight against HIV. Since 2004, medical consultants to the industry say, there hasn’t been one HIV infection, even during the 350,000 on-camera instances of condom-free, on-camera intercourse. Studios have set strict rules for themselves: actors show each other recent test results, which are then confirmed by producers through a database. When an actor tests positive for any of these diseases, the studios that adhere to the standards of the Free Speech Coalition shut down for as long as it takes to find and test all of that person’s partners, their partners, and their partners’ partners. Confronted with the data, HIV experts worried that it may give the wrong message to the general public (sex without condoms is still unsafe, they say), but also admitted the system is working. While most studios require tests every 28 days, a few of them are switching to a once-every-two-weeks regimen. California, meanwhile, is trying to pass a law that would force actors to wear condoms on camera, but producers say it’ll hurt the industry. As for the actors, they say that off camera, it’s “condoms, condoms, condoms all the way.”

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