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Monday, August 5, 2013

Moderate Cleric Rouhani Sworn in as Iran’s President

Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as Iran’s president Sunday, the seventh man elected to the position since the 1979 Islamic revolution. In this inauguration speech before parliament in Tehran, he promised moderation and transparency from his administration, and also pledged to support women’s rights and equality for women. Rouhani told the assemblage “People want change. People want to live better, to have dignity as well as a stable life. They also want to recapture their deserving position among nations.” Addressing western nations, he said “if you want the right response, don’t speak with Iran in the language of sanctions, speak in the language of respect.”

The White House seemingly extended an olive branch Sunday, issuing a statement that congratulated Iranians for “making their voices heard” during the election, and stating that if Iran was ready to engage substantively with the west, “it would find a willing partner in the United States.” That message from the Obama administration comes on heels of last week’s vote in the House to impose further economic sanctions against Iran, a move touted by conservatives aimed at curbing Iran’s developing nuclear program.

Mugabe Declared Victor in Zimbabwe Election

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe again extended his rule of the African nation, capturing 61 of the vote in last week’s election, according to official results announced Saturday. The 89-year-old leader has led the nation since 1980, first as prime minister, and has president since 1987. The Zimbabwe Election Commission declared Mugabe the victor, with 61% of the vote, easily besting opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who denounced the voting as “rigged”. Tsvangirai told reporters “This fraudulent and stolen election has plunged Zimbabwe into a constitutional, political and economic crisis.” Election observers from a number of organizations, including the Roman Catholic church, criticized the polling and highlighted irregularities. In addition to Mugabe’s win, his Zanu-PF party won more than 2/3 of the 210 seats in parliament, giving them the ability to rewrite aspects of the country’s constitution, which was completed by a coalition and much of which Zanu-PF opposed.

Elizabeth Joseph, an Anglican worshipper from Harare, expressed the disbelief of many Zimbabweans , telling the AP “It is inconceivable Tsvangirai could now have lost by such margin. I am in a state of shock and disbelief. Our morning service has been more like a funeral.”

Obama Administration Vetoes ITC Ban on Apple Product Imports

The Obama administration announced a veto of a recent decision by the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the import of the iPhone 4 and some iPads. The ban, announced earlier this year, was a victory for rival device-maker Samsung, and concerned a cellular data patent held by Samsung. Apple’s iPhone 4, 3GS, and 3, along with some early generation 3G-equipped iPads, used a chipset that Samsung argued infringed on their patent. In June, the ITC agreed.

The veto decision was announced in a written statement from Trade Representative Michael Froman, on behalf of President Obama. Froman’s letter stated the decision was based on “review of the various policy considerations … as they relate to the effect on competitive conditions in the US economy and the effect on US consumers”.

Completely unsurprisingly, Samsung wasn’t thrilled by the administration’s decision. In an email statement released Sunday, they noted their disappointment in the move, adding “The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.”

Major League Baseball Suspends 13 for PED Use

Major League Baseball announced a wave of suspensions today to more than a dozen players with ties to a Florida clinic, Biogenesis, known to provide performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to professional athletes. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was the highest profile player involved, and received the harshest penalty, with his suspension lasting through the conclusion of the 2014 season. Among the dozen other players suspended, each for 50 games, were three All-Stars, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres, Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers. The latter two are core players on teams in the thick of the playoff race, and could significantly impact their teams’ chances of reaching the post-season.

Rodriguez is only player amongst the 13 who will appeal his suspension. Rodriguez argues that he is being unfairly targeted by MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who indicated the severity of the suspension for the Yankee third baseman was impacted by his previous admonitions of PED use (he admitted use of steroids between 2001 and 2003), as well as evidence of Rodriguez having 1) recruited other players to work with the Biogenesis clinic and 2) attempted to obstruct baseball’s investigation of the program. For his part, Rodriguez has insinuated that both the league and the Yankees organization are conspiring against him; the latter because, at 38 and coming off two hip surgeries and extended time on the disabled list, Rodriguez is still owed $86 million, over the next four seasons, by the Yankees.

Gov. Brown Intervenes to Prevent (Or Just Delay?) BART Strike

Bay Area commuters gained a reprieve, although potentially a short one, when California governor Jerry Brown stepped in and ordered a investigation into the negotiations between BART and SEIU union officials, preventing a planned strike. Both sides had reported progress in their negotiations Saturday, but acknowledged that there was a long way to go before a deal was reached. The investigation called for by Brown, which will include three-person board delivering a report to the governor within seven days, essentially allows for a cooling off period, and for negotiations to continue.

The governor released a statement Sunday night, saying a strike “will significantly disrupt public transportation services and will endanger the public’s health, safety and welfare.” He urged both BART and SEIU representatives to “meet quickly and as long as necessary to get the dispute resolved.”

Negotiations over a new contract have been ongoing between the two sides. This weekend’s deadline came at the end of an extension to talks following a 4 1/2 day strike last month. Talks have centered around wage increases for workers, who have endured a four-year freeze on wages, as well as pensions and contributions to health care coverage.

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