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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Egypt’s Army Calls for Talks as Government Delays IMF Loan

As the political crisis in Egypt showed no sign of abating, the army called for unity talks tomorrow, with President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi’s opponents said they will decide tomorrow morning whether they’ll attend the meeting. Meanwhile, a much-needed $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been delayed “in light of the unfolding developments on the ground,” according to the lender of last resort. The nation’s government said it asked for the loan to be postponed to have time explain to the Egyptian people the demands for austerity that are tied to the aid. Morsi also faces another challenge as Ahmed El Zend, the head of the Judges’ Club, said 90 percent of its members decided not to oversee the December 15 referendum on a draft for a new Constitution.

Syria’s Opposition Coalition to Present Aid Plan as U.S. Brings Official Support

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the opposition group backed by western nations, is set to present a plan that will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the war-torn country. The announcement will be made tomorrow in Marrakech at the Friends of Syria event, where the U.S. is expected to officially recognize the SNC as the “legitimate” representative of the Syrian people, following the lead of nations like France, the U.K., and Turkey, who expressed their support for the group last month. The move was confirmed by U.S. President Barack Obama today in an interview with ABC. “At this point we have a well-organized-enough coalition — opposition coalition that is representative — that we can recognize them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” Obama said. Opposition leaders see Western backing as essential to attract the support of Syrians, many of whom are now prepared to accept the repressive rule of President Bashar al-Assad to end 21 months of civil war. The SNC said it will rely on rebel groups on the ground to move the aid to the communities that need it.

Michigan Laws Limit Unions’ Power

The Michigan legislature approved today a new set of “right-to-work” laws that considerably limit the powers of organized labor in the state. About 10,000 people marched to the state’s capitol in Lansing to protest the controversial move as the bills, one covering the public sector, another covering the private sector, were signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder. One provision stops people from having to pay fees as a condition for being employed, something supporters of the legislation say frees workers to make choices and create more jobs, while opponents believe it’s a clear win for corporations, with less protection for workers. This is especially significant in Michigan, whose reliance on manufacturing has turned it into a pioneer in collective bargaining. Last month, a ballot measure asked voters to include bargaining in the state’s Constitution, to no avail.

U.S. Exports Fall the Most in Four Years

The U.S. economy is beginning to suffer from effects of the global slowdown. The Commerce Department recorded in October a 3.6 percent fall in exports, the biggest slump in almost four years, due to cooling European and Asian demand for American goods, both of which helped support the U.S.’ recovery. Imports also fell, indicating a slowdown of the U.S. economy, although not as quickly as exports, allowing the trade deficit to grow 4.9 percent. The decrease in exports was aggravated by the worst drought in half a century which ravaged the Midwest.

Childhood Obesity Declines in Key U.S. Cities

Childhood obesity rates fell in the U.S. cities with the most aggressive nutrition policies. The proportion of obese children fell slightly in places like New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Anchorage in Alaska and Kearney in Nebraska. While the declines were modest (five percent for Philadelphia, 5.5 percent for NYC, and three percent for L.A.), they were so surprising some researchers asked for them to be run twice. Childhood obesity has been the rise for 30 years across the nation. While the reasons for this decline have yet to be fully understood, they have occurred in cities that have established nutrition guidelines for years. Philadelphia, for example, has removed sugary drinks and deep fryers from schools. It also saw the steepest decline of obesity among minorities.

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