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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hezbollah Reaffirms Assad Support

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, pledged that the Shiite militant group would continue to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its forces would remain in Syria for as long as necessary. He also rejected the possibility of withdrawing from Syria as the condition of forming a new government in Beirut. Hezbollah’s fighters have been instrumental in recent government victories in and around Damascus.

This will likely only exacerbate the growing Sunni-Shiite tensions in Lebanon. Lebanese Sunnis are increasingly angry not only at Hezbollah and the endless stream of refugees, but at their own army, which they believe is implicitly siding with the Syrian government as well.

Striking Bangladesh Garment Workers Get Raise

After a four-day shutdown of many factories, protests and street violence, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina convened a meeting of business leaders on Wednesday night and convinced them to agree to a wage increase. Today, factory owners announced that they had agreed to raise the minimum wage for garment factory workers by 77%. The proposal would make the minimum wage in Bangladesh $68 a month, still the lowest in the world.

Upon the news of the wage increase, however, fresh protests broke out as workers reiterated their demand for a minimum wage of $100 a month. More than 50 people have been wounded as stone-throwing workers blocked major roads and attacked factories, while police used water canons, rubber bullets and tear gas to try to disperse them.

Ukraine Delays Vote on Former Leader’s Release

In a move that could derail Ukraine’s plans to sign political and free trade agreements with the European Union, the country’s Parliament has failed to vote on a bill that would free jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and allow her to seek medical treatment in Germany. The EU has said it will not sign any agreements with Ukraine until a solution over Tymoshenko has been reached. A heroine of Ukraine’s democratic Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko is currently serving 7 years in jail for abuse of power, but many believe her imprisonment is politically motivated. Lawmakers have until November 19th to pass the bill.

3% of Stop-and-Frisk Stops Resulted in Convictions

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that only 3% of the nearly 150,000 arrests and 2.4 million street stops made between 2009 and 2012 as part of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy had resulted in convictions. Less than 1% lead to violent crime pleas or guilty verdicts; half of the arrests were never prosecuted or had their cases dismissed.

Meanwhile, the federal appeals court that had abruptly removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the stop-and-frisk case said that it had made “no findings of misconduct, actual bias or actual partiality” by the judge. It refused to reconsider its order to remove her from the case, however, and she will not be reinstated.

Iran Slows Nuke Expansion Ahead of Talks

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced today that since Hassan Rouhani has become president, Iran has stopped expanding its uranium enrichment capacity. The significant slowdown may be intended to underline Rouhani’s commitment to a nuclear agreement with the West as the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are asking for strict controls and size limits on Iran’s nuclear enrichment. Nevertheless, Iran is pressing ahead with its most sensitive nuclear activity, enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20%, which is only a short technical step from weapons-grade material.


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