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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Merkel Pushes for Stronger EU Powers Amidst Criticism at Home

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for stronger European Union powers to intervene when member states break budget rules, putting herself on a collision course with French President François Hollande ahead of an EU summit in Brussels. “We are of the opinion – and I speak for the whole of the German government on this – that we could go a step further by giving Europe real rights of intervention in national budgets”, said Merkel. She had earlier come under attack from her opposition leader, Social Democrat Peer Steinbrück, for not doing enough to contain the crisis. “It was a grave mistake that you allowed your coalition to launch a bullying campaign against Greece’s membership in the eurozone. You didn’t intervene, you didn’t speak out for Europe and you vacillated”, said Steinbrück.

China Misses Growth Target for First Time Since 2009

Figures released by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics for the month of September showed that the Chinese economy slowed for the seventh straight quarter, missing the government’s own target for the first time since 2009. China grew 7.4 percent year on year, a figure that would be celebrated by any other economy, but sharply slower than the 9.2 percent experienced in 2011 and the three decades of annual growth figures nearing 10 percent. Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for the statistics bureau, said that China “can see a clear sign of steady economic growth”, admitting only a “smaller margin of decline”. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was quoted by local media as saying that growth appeared to be stabilising, expressing confidence that China would still meet its declared target of growing 7.5 percent for the full year.

Bangladeshi Man Arrested in Plot to Bomb New York Federal Reserve

An FBI sting operation has arrested a Bangladeshi man attempting to blow up a fake car bomb outside the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan, according to authorities. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis assembled what he thought was a bomb using inert material supplied by undercover agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives, who also videotaped him saying “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom” before setting off in his car. He was arrested after making several attempts at blowing up the dummy bomb, weighing 450 kilograms. U.S. authorities claimed that, while the bomb plot posed no actual risk, it demonstrated the value of using such operations to neutralise terrorist operations within the country.

Colombia Launches FARC Negotiations in Norway

Colombian government negotiators and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have convened in a hotel in Hurdal, a small town to the north of the Norwegian capital Oslo, to launch a peace process after nearly 50 years of conflict. Colombian chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle and FARC secretariat member Ivan Márquez appeared together on a podium, but avoided shaking hands. “We have said that this process is built on other processes that have taken place before”, said de la Calle. Márquez said that the FARC came to the table “with an olive branch in our hands”, seeking a “stable and lasting” peace. Both sides have reiterated, however, that armed operations will continue in Colombia until a final agreement is signed.

Uruguay Legalises Abortion

Uruguay has become the first country in South America to legalise abortion for all women, with legislation being narrowly approved in the country’s senate by 17 votes in favour to 14 against. Women are now allowed to have an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, provided that they justify their choice to a panel of experts. They are then made to wait for several days before stating a final decision. Pro-choice campaigners said the measure will save many lives from the risk of clandestine terminations, while anti-abortion activists said the government should have instead promoted measures to encourage adoptions. Other South American countries only allow abortions in cases of rapes or health risk to the mother.

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