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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Obama Taps Janet Yellen to Lead Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen will not only be the first woman to hold the position and the first Democrat to hold it in three decades, but quite possibly the most qualified Fed chair in history (she has more experience on Fed boards and the Council of Economic Advisors than previous chairs Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke combined).

Some important things to know about her: Her theory of the labor markets has become an influential justification for the Federal Reserve to stimulate job growth, not just manage inflation. She expresses greater concern about the economic consequences of unemployment than her predecessors and believes it is largest problem the Fed currently needs to tackle.

Finally, as early as 2007, while other policymakers ignored the first signs of distress in financial markets, she warned that “the risk of recession no longer seems remote.” Yellen’s advocacy for a robust, early intervention to stimulate the economy helped prevent that recession from becoming a depression.

Haitians Sue UN over Cholera Epidemic

Human rights lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit today against the United Nations on behalf of the families of thousands of Haitians who died of a cholera epidemic that was introduced in a UN camp. Forensic studies have linked the spread of the disease to a flawed sanitation system at the UN base, which contaminated a tributary feeding Haiti’s largest river.

Prior to October, 2010, no cases of cholera had been reported, but the South Asian strain of the disease has killed over 8,300 and infected more than 700,000 since. It currently kills about 1,000 Haitians per year. The complaint alleges the UN failed to take precautionary steps to prevent the outbreak or remedial steps to contain it. It also comes mere days before the UN is set to formally renew the mandate of the mission to Haiti, Minustah.

Egypt Sets Trial Date for Morsi

Egyptian authorities announced that the politically-charged trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi will begin on November 4th. Along with 14 other defendants, he will stand trial for the killings of protesters outside his presidential palace six months before he was overthrown. Demonstrators were attacked by Morsi supporters, sparking street battles and killing at least 10. They had been protesting a decree that protected Morsi’s decisions from judicial oversight and a highly-disputed new constitution that had been hurriedly passed by parliament.

Whatever the merits of the case, it is not clear that there can be a fair trial, and seems likely to exacerbate tensions in an extremely divided country. The trial, moreover, will probably be the first of many – prosecutors are preparing cases against around 2,000 leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Andhra Pradesh Blackouts Continue as Indians Protest New State

Millions of people enter into their sixth consecutive day without power, as striking workers have shut down power plants across Andhra Pradesh to protest the decision to divide the state in two. 600,000 government employees opposed to the decision have been separately agitating for two months. Police have declared curfew after demonstrators blocked highways with barricades of flaming tires.

The protesters fear that the new state, Telengana, will divide Telugu-speaking people, lead to cuts in the estate budget and create water resource problems. Specifically, the booming city of Hyderabad would become Telengana’s capital, depriving Andhra Pradesh of the city’s tax revenues.

Venezuela’s President Seeks to Expand Powers

President Nicolas Maduro has asked parliament to grant him the power to govern by decree for a set period of time.  Maduro claims the measure is necessary to fight corruption and so-called economic sabotage.  The country is facing shortages of food and essential goods, power cuts and soaring inflation, but the opposition argues he will simply use this power to stifle dissent. Hugo Chavez was granted similar powers four times during his presidency and used them to enact hundreds of legal changes that strengthened state control over the economy. The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the law next week.


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