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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clinton Starts Ceasefire Talks with Israel as Offensive Goes On

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Israel began late-night talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find ways to reach a truce in the conflict against Palestinians in Gaza. At least 33 Palestinians died today in continued bombing of the Gaza strip, bringing the total death toll to 135, half of whom were civilians, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry. Clinton told Netanyahu U.S. support for Israel is “rock-solid,” but also promised to work with partners across the Middle East to strike a deal that “improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region.” Meanwhile, Egyptian officials, who have been trying to broker a ceasefire, said Israel and Palestinians were “very close” to reaching an agreement.

Fed Doesn’t Have Tools to Fix Effects of Fiscal Cliff, Says Bernanke

The U.S. Federal Reserve system does not have the tools to boost the country’s economy should the White House and Congress fail to reach an agreement on the deficit, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said today. Speaking before the Economic Club of New York, Bernanke explained that should these negotiations fail and $607 billion in spending cuts and tax increases take effect, the damage to the U.S. economy would be too large for the central bank to fix. The Fed started a third round of so-called quantitative easing, buying $40 billion a month in assets for an indefinite time. If the country fail to avert the fiscal cliff, Bernanke said, “a fiscal shock of that size would send the economy toppling back into recession.” The U.S. economy has shown signs of recovery, however. The Commerce Department said today new home constructions rose to a four-year high, a trend that is likely to boost construction employment.

EU Leaders Meet Again Over Greece Bailout Package

In the second emergency meeting in a week, European leaders warned Greece that although it fulfilled its part of the bargain, it may not be able to receive the next tranche of its bailout package. Finance ministers across the regions are still torn about whether to grant Greece an extra two years to reach its deficit target, two years that would require nations of the European Union to find another €15 billion to see the debt-saddled country through the crisis. “It is clear that Greece has delivered but we still have to agree on the details,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg Prime Minister and Chairman of the Eurogroup. “I expect the chances are good that we will come to an agreement tonight, agreed by all sides, but I am not completely sure about this.” Greece desperately needs the €31.5 billion its international lenders said it would receive in exchange for efforts to get its deficit under control.

Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo Take Major City

Rebels took Goma today, a large commercial city in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The insurgents took control of the one-million people city when soldiers from the United Nations (U.N.) gave up fighting. The news came after days of conflict and as Rwandan and Congolese leaders prepared to hold a crisis meeting as the DRC has accused Rwanda of using the M23 movements to take hold of the DRC’s metal resources, something Rwanda denies. The M23 (March 23rd) movement started in April of this year when 300 former militia soldiers who had integrated the DRC army broke off, citing poor conditions in the military. France asked for a review of the U.N. presence on the ground, saying it was “absurd” for such a force to fail to fight off a few hundred rebels.

AIDS/HIV Epidemic Slows Across World

The number of HIV infections fell 20 percent in 2011 compared with 2001, a new report by the United Nations (U.N.) showed today. Twenty-five nations, including in African, halved that number in the same period. Around 330,000 children, 43 percent less than in 2003, were infected in 2011. The news prompted U.N. officials to say eradication of the disease is “entirely feasible.” Cheaper and more accessible drugs contributed to the improvement, as pregnant women who are infected can be treated to prevent transmission of the illness to their babies. The news comes days after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force called for doctors to test people aged 15 to 64, whether they belong to a risk group or not.

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