Sunday News and Notes

Syrians – And The Russians – Remain Loyal To Assad
More than a year of a violent and brutal civil war, many Syrians remain loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, even in regions which have been the focus of heavy attacks by rebel forces.

As international analysts and governments attempted to determine whether Assad’s threat to use chemical weapons was real or merely bluster, Syrian rebel forces have elected Brigadier Selim Idris, A Syrian Army defector, as its new military commander.

Meanwhile, representatives from the US and Russia are meeting in Geneva with UN special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to discuss potential resolutions to the civil war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to make clear that the meeting was not a sign of Russia softening its position on removing Assad from power.

“We are not conducting any negotiations on the fate of Assad. All attempts to portray things differently are unscrupulous, even for diplomats of those countries which are known to try to distort the facts in their favor,” clarified Lavrov, according to CBS News.

Egyptian President Backs Off Controversial Decree – Sort Of
Facing ongoing protests from opponents, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has partially annulled the controversial decree that expanded his powers. However, Morsi did not cede to demands to halt the most disliked parts of the referencdum included in a draft constitution, which is set for a vote on December 15.

Protests, which began late last week, continued on Sunday.

Law Permitting Email Intercepts On Foreign Soil Set For Debate
A law which permits the FBI to monitor and intercept emails and phone calls of foreigners located overseas is set to expire triggering what could be a contentious debate.

A vote to extend the measure was overwhelmingly approved in the House by a 301-118 vote, but the Senate has yet to vote on the issue. Intelligence experts believe it is critical to combating foreign threats, but opponents argue that innocent citizens could be monitored without a warrant or other privacy protections.

Excitement Over Jobs Report Tempered When Closely Examined
The optimism with which some observers greeted Friday’s jobs report has been muted somewhat upon a closer look at what the numbers actually signal. Wihle the overall unemployment rate declined, it is partially a consequence of mor Americans dropping out of the workforce.

“There isn’t a tremendous amount of good news here. In fact there isn’t much news at all, which means that it’s not going to move the needle in terms of monetary policy and it’s not going to shift the view on the fiscal side,” Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research, tells CNBC.

Health Concerns For A Hero And A Villain
Former South African President Nelson Mandela returned to the hospital on Saturday to undergo a series of tests, while a world away Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez announced that his cancer has returned.



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