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Friday, August 2, 2013

U.S. jobless rate falls to four-year low

U.S. employers slowed their hiring in July, but the jobless rate fell to the lowest level in four years. The number of jobs outside the farming sector increased by 162,000, below the market expectations, the Labor Department said. Still the jobless rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest since December 2008. These mixed signals could make the Federal Reserve cautious about drawing down its economic stimulus. Specialists say the American job market is walking towards recovery, but the broader economy is still slow.

The growth in payrolls left the three-month average gain at 175,000. The stimulus program has lowered interest rates, and that has revived the housing market and boosted car sales. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank would likely reduce the level of monthly purchases by the end of the year. There are additional issues seen as risks to growth, including a recent rise in mortgage rates and persistently low inflation.

Mali presidential race goes to runoff

Former prime minister and speaker of the country’s parliament, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita received about 39 percent of the 3.1 million votes cast in the first round of the Mali presidential elections, according to officials. He will face off against former Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse, who received 19.4 percent. There were 28 candidates in the dispute. Keita will face Cisse in the runoff on August 11.

IBK, as he is known, a career politician, is the favorite to take over only months after French soldiers intervened in Mali’s northern half because of al-Qaida’s influence in the region. At 68, he is antipodean to ex-President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown in last year’s March coup. Cisse most recently headed the West African Monetary Union.

Morsi backers stage defiant rallies in Egypt

Rallies in support of Egypt’s deposed President Mohamed Morsi have raised fears of renewed violence. The interim government has announced that police will disperse them soon. Demonstrators began their marches after Friday prayers in Cairo. Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian armed forces following massive protests against his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstrations were a direct rebuke to authorities who told protesters to go home.

Security authorities will impose a siege over the protest camps of Morsi’s supporters. The siege will begin within 48 hours, Egypt TV reported. More than 250 people have been killed since Morsi’s ouster. International rights organisation Human Rights Watch warned of “bloodbath” if Egypt’s interim leaders try to take pro-Morsi rallies by force.

U.N. rights chief calls for investigation into Syria massacre

Navi Pillay said she wanted an independent investigation into an apparent massacre carried out by Syrian opposition forces in Khan al-Assal. Video evidence showed to the U.N. Human Rights chief that rebels against President Bashar al-Assad executed at least 30 individuals, many of them soldiers. Syrian state media accuses insurgents of killing 123 people, mainly civilians, during a rebel offensive in Aleppo last month.

Over 100,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, according to U.N. estimates. In the early months of the conflict Assad’s forces were blamed for the documented human rights abuses. Now U.N. investigators in Syria say both sides have committed atrocities. Khan al-Assal is one of the towns to be visited by another group of investigators, who will try to find out whether chemical weapons have been used in the conflict or not.

Zimbabwe election: Mugabe wins majority in parliament

Hours after African Union observers said the Zimbabwean elections were fair, President Robert Mugabe’s party was announced as the winner of a two-thirds majority in parliament. The country’s Electoral Commission said that Zanu-PF had won 142 seats in the 210-seat chamber. That is enough for Zanu-PF to change the constitution. Results in the presidential race weren’t announced yet.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union mission head, dismissed complaints of fraud made by the opposition candidate, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Another observer urged all parties to “accept the hard facts”. Tsvangirai has described the election as a “huge farce”. A local monitoring group has also said that the poll was “seriously compromised”.

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