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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BBC Director-General Regrets Dropped Sexual Abuse Investigation

BBC Director-General George Entwistle spoke before the House of Commons culture committee on Tuesday to say that he did not believe pressure from the public broadcaster’s upper management had led to a report on abuse claims against former presenter Jimmy Savile being dropped. “There is no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved in the years – the culture and practices of the BBC seems to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did – will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us”, said Entwistle, adding that “this is a gravely serious matter and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror”. A criminal investigation is currently under way into allegations of sexual abuse by Savile, who died last year and is believed to have abused girls and boys over a 40-year period. The police have described him as a predatory sex offender.

Obama Takes the Foreign Policy Debate with ‘Horses and Bayonets’

Monday night’s presidential debate on foreign policy between incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney exposed little difference between them on key issues and highlighted a common denial of weakening American influence, with the United States mentioned as the “one indispensable nation”. The zinger of the evening came courtesy of President Obama, who countered Romney’s assertion that the U.S. Navy was “smaller now than at any time since 1917″ by saying that “we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed”. Nearly half of those polled by CNN said the Democratic incumbent won the debate.

Qatari Emir Becomes First Head of State to Visit Gaza Under Hamas Rule

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, has become the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas took power in 2006 after winning democratic elections. The Emir entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing. Much of his visit is centred around an investment programme worth US$ 400 million that includes a housing development on land formerly occupied by an Israeli settlement and the construction of new roads. Hamas welcomed the visit, with leader Ismail Haniyeh thanking the Emir for “his brave decision” and wishing that he would return to another visit “in the freed Jerusalem”. The Emir’s visit also marks a break in the international isolation of Gaza. Governments had preferred to maintain relations with rival faction Fatah, in the West Bank, as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Iceland Approves Crowdsourced Constitution, Strenghtens Natural Resource Control

Voters in Iceland have voted for their constitution to be based on a draft created by a specially-appointed panel of 25 citizens, effectively endorsing a crowdsourced basic law as a substitute for their current legislation. The panel used a website, Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the public, receiving nearly 4,000 comments and 370 suggestions in the process. Approximately 49 percent of those registered to vote participated in the referendum on Sunday, with 66 percent backing the adoption of the new draft. Another of the six questions posed by the referendum asked Icelanders if they wanted natural resources that were not privately owned to be declared national property. This is a contentious topic in the island and foreign investors frequently face protests from residents who are against their plans, such as the case of a Canadian company that agreed to reduce its stake in a geothermal plant in 2011. More than 82 percent of voters agreed with the measure. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir praised the vote, saying that she was “very proud that the people should send parliament such an unreserved message”.

Iran Using Gold to Carry Out Trade Despite Economic Sanctions

Iran has managed to skirt the economic sanctions imposed because of its disputed nuclear programme by using nearly US$ 2 billion worth of gold in August alone, according to Turkish trade data revealed by the Reuters news agency. Couriers carrying gold bullion travel from Istanbul to Dubai, where it is later shipped on to Iran. The country uses physical gold to get around the restrictions that prevent it from using SWIFT, a worldwide messaging system that is used to arrange transfers of money. Iran needs such transfers to carry out its international trade, but it now resorts to physical gold in order to make payments. A Dubai trader interviewed by Reuters said that “every currency in the world has an identity, but gold means value without identity”. The gold is shipped from Turkey through the United Arab Emirates so that Iran can avoid publicity of the scheme.

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