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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pakistan Court Orders Arrest of PM

The Pakistani Supreme Court ordered today the arrest of the nation’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on corruption charges. The announcement coincided with anti-government street protests led by Muslim Cleric Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, who has been tied to the army. While it is unclear whether the two events are linked, their simultaneous occurrence fueled speculation the Pakistani military is working to delay general elections that are due to happen this spring, and looking to appoint a transitional leadership. “There is no doubt that Qadri’s march and the Supreme Court’s verdict were masterminded by the military establishment of Pakistan,” said  PM Aide Fawad Chaudhry. This comes a few days after a Sunni-led attack on a Shi’ite neighborhood in Quetta killed 85 people, and prompted Shi’ite leaders to criticize the military for failing to maintain security.

French to Send More Troops to Mali

As the French army continued its military operation against Islamic rebels in Mali, the French government vowed to send up to 2,500 troops to the African country. “We have 750 troops deployed at the moment and that will keep increasing so that as quickly as possible we can hand over to the Africans,” said President François Hollande. France also called for support from Arab countries as it waits for 3,300 West African troops to join the offensive, thought their deployment could take weeks. Tuaregs of the separatist group, the National Movement of Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA), who initially pushed for the independence of the region that is now dominated by Islamists, have vowed to help the French. “Thanks to our knowledge of the ground and the people, we are more effective than the forces of the ECOWAS,” said MLNA Spokesman Moussa Ag Assarid.

New York Expands Ban on Assault Weapons

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed today a piece of legislation that expands the ban on assault weapons in the state, the first gun control law to be created since the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. The bill passed the state assembly with overwhelming support, with 104 of the votes in favor and 43 against. The law broadens the definition of “assault weapon” to include semiautomatic handguns and shotguns with one military-style feature, and rifles with detachable magazines. Those who already own such weapons may keep them, but they must register them. The new law lowers the authorized magazine capacity to seven rounds of ammunition, from 10. Background checks on ammunition acquisition will also be compulsory, with alerts to authorities on high-volume sales. This comes a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is due to present gun control measures.

Morgan Stanley to Cut 1,600 Jobs, Defer Bonuses

Morgan Stanley will cut 1,600 jobs and defer all bonuses for employees making over $350,000 in salary and $50,000 in bonus. The deferment will happen over three years. The news comes after Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said rewards for employees should be more in line with returns for investors. Those who make less than $350,000 will receive their cash bonuses next month. The bank will also focus its layoffs on senior-ranking employees in their securities unit, and limit the number of promotions to its lowest level since 2009. Morgan Stanley is attempting to reduce its investment in risky fixed-income assets (loans and bonds) to one-fifth by 2014.

Russia Plans Unmanned Probe to Moon by 2015

Russia will send an unmanned probe to the moon by 2015, the country’s space agency announced today. Roskosmos (Russia’s Federal Space Agency) Director Vladimir Popovkin said Luna-Glob (Moon-Globe) is being built in the Amur region and will send information about samples back to Earth. The Russian government approved last month a plan to spend 2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) in space exploration between 2013 and 2020. NASA’s budget was cut last year.

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