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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

SNC Recognized as “Legitimate Representative” of Syrian People

Official representatives from more than 100 nations, including the U.S., France, Britain and countries of the Persian Gulf, met today in Marrakech to bring their support and full recognition to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the nation’s opposition bloc, as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” The move comes after weeks of intense fighting that allowed rebels to gain ground against the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the struggle for Syria’s capital Damascus. SNC Leader Moaz al-Khateeb said the rebels are counting not only on the political backing, but also on financial help as they endeavor to rebuilt the war-torn nation. Western countries stopped short of promising to arm the rebels. France said it will examine the role played by Islamist factions in the uprising. The U.S. said on Tuesday the Al Nusra group, part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is a “terrorist organization” and an arm of Al Qaeda. Today, both U.S. and NATO officials confirmed the Syrian army launched “Scud-type missiles” at rebels in recent days. Three bombs exploded in Damascus today.

Fed Expands Asset-Buying Program to Boost Economy

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced today it will keep its key interest rate near zero until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent. The central bank said it will maintain the rate at this level until inflation projections reach no more than 2.5 percent for one or two years ahead. The Fed also expanded its asset-buying program by $45 billion per month to purchase treasuries, on top of the monthly $40 billion it has been spending in mortgage-backed bonds since September. “The conditions now prevailing in the job market represent an enormous waste of human and economic potential,” said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during a press conference. He warned that concerns about the fiscal cliff, the $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that will be triggered should no deal on the deficit be reached between the White House and Congress, is already hurting the economy. “Clearly the fiscal cliff is having effects on the economy,” Bernanke said.

North Korea Launches Rocket, Sparking Nuclear Fears

North Korea successfully launched a rocket today, claiming to put a weather satellite into orbit. The U.S., South Korea, and Japan believe the effort is in fact a test of ballistic missile technology that could one day reach targets in the continental U.S. “The fact that they’ve launched this missile is a clear provocation,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN today. “We warned them not to do it.” North Korea is banned under United Nations (U.N.) rules from developing nuclear and missile technology. Even China, North Korea’s ally at the U.N. Security Council, expressed “deep concern” before the launch.

EU Leaders Near Agreement on Banking Union

Finance Ministers of the European Union (EU) neared an agreement on a banking union as Germany showed signs of compromising on the role of the European Central Bank (ECB) as a supervisor for the banks of the 17-nation euro area. “We think that we have a good chance to reach a deal today,” said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a week after he warned against expanding the powers of the ECB. A new proposal recommends that the ECB supervise not all of the 6,000 banks in the region, but only those that hold over €30 billion ($39,2 billion) in assets or more than one fifth of their country’s economic output. Schäuble is still worried about possible conflicts of interests arising, such as the ECB deciding its monetary policy in favor of the banks it supervises.

U.K. Health System to Map DNA of 100,000 People

U.K. ministers have agreed to set aside £100 million ($161.6 million) to map the DNA of as many as 100,000 people. This is the first part of a public health program that could change the way diagnosis and treatment are carried out, as well as put the emphasis on preventive medicine. For three to five years, volunteers with cancer and rare diseases will have their genomes mapped. “We’re now getting to the point where the use of genetics in patients can actually help us deliver medicines and understand cancer much better, and to understand a range of diseases in a much more precise way,” Sir John Bell, Oxford professor of medical sciences, told the BBC.

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