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Monday, October 8, 2012

U.K. Chancellor Uses Speech to Outline £10 Billion in Cuts

U.K. Chancellor George Osborne said on Monday during a speech to the Conservative Party’s conference in Brighton that the governing coalition would cut another £10 billion ($16 billion) off welfare spending in order to curb the country’s deficit. The reductions are in addition to £18 billion ($29 billion) already earmarked for cuts by 2015. “The great bulk of savings must come from cutting government spending, not raising taxes”, said Osborne to great applause from the party faithful in attendance. “How can we justify that people in work have to weigh up the costs of having another child when those out of work don’t? How can we justify giving flats to young people who have never worked, when working people twice their age are still living with their parents because they can’t afford their first home?”, continued the chancellor. His words are likely to anger the Conservatives’ partners in government, the Liberal Democrats, who favoured taxing the rich.

President Chávez Wins Elections, Extending Rule to 20 Years

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez won the country’s presidential elections by a comfortable margin on Sunday, defeating opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by over one million votes. President Chávez obtained 54.4 percent of the votes cast against Capriles’ 44.9 percent. The victory will see him enter into a new six-year term, extending his rule to 20 years. “Today we’ve shown that Venezuela’s democracy is one of the best democracies in the world, and we will continue to show it”, said Chávez from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace after the results were announced. Capriles greeted the results by saying that he hoped the “political movement that has been in power for 14 years understands that almost half the country does not agree with it”, adding that he could only learn how to win by learning how to lose.

Iran Derides Israeli Defenses, Complains of Cyber Attack on Rigs

The deputy coordinator for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Jamaluddin Aberoumand, criticised the state of Israel’s anti-missile defense system, saying that it did “not work and lacks the necessary capacity” to shoot down targets. His comments came after the Israeli air force shot down a drone that had been flying over southern Israel on Saturday. The provenance of the drone was unclear, but it was first spotted over the Mediterranean near the Gaza Strip, according to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokeswoman. The comments made by the Revolutionary Guard official would suggest Iranian participation in the drone activity. Iran claimed to have shot down a U.S. drone last December. In another exchange between Iran and Israel, the head of information technology for the Iranian Offshore Oil Company, Mohammad Reza Golshani, said that the company’s technicians had successfully repelled a cyber attack on oil and gas platforms. “This attack was planned by the regime occupying Jerusalem and a few other countries”, said Golshani.

Philippines agrees peace deal with Muslim rebels in Mindanao

Philippine President Benigno Aquino announced a peace agreement between the government and the main Islamic insurgent group in the country, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Manila on Sunday, capping 40 years of protracted negotiations, failed ceasefires and as many as 120,000 deaths in combat over control of Mindanao. The island is the second largest in the Philippines archipelago, with a majority Muslim population and untapped natural resources including oil, gas and minerals. “This framework agreement paves the way for final and enduring peace in Mindanao. This means that the hands that once held rifles will be put to tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations and opening doorways of opportunity”, said Aquino. The peace agreement would include the creation of a new, larger autonomous region called Bangsamoro and the expansion of Sharia courts for Muslim residents, an important concession in a majority-Roman Catholic country. The final implementation should occur in 2016, but could still be challenged by splinter terrorist groups.

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Japanese, British Researchers

The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded on Monday in Stockholm, Sweden, to two different scientific discoveries made 40 years apart by Shinya Yamazaka of Kyoto University in Japan and John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. Both discoveries lie at the heart of cloning techniques and the generation of stem cells. “We now understand that the mature cell does not have to be confined forever to its specialised state”, wrote the members of the Nobel Committee in a press release, noting that mature cells could now be “reprogrammed” into becoming stem cells. The committee added that this discovery will create “new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy”.

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