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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Hits the U.S. Eastern Seabord with Full Force

Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Monday night near Atlantic City, in New Jersey, causing flooding and extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard. It picked up speed as it approached the U.S. coastline, arriving earlier than the original projected time. More than 8.2 million people were left without electricity from Maine to the Carolinas. Airports were closed in the greater New York City area and much of the city was left paralysed by the storm. A record 14-foot surge of seawater burst into Lower Manhattan, flooding the construction area at the World Trade Center. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the longest weather-related closure since 1888. Bridges were closed, tunnels were flooded and the city’s subway system was largely under water. Two nuclear plants were shut in New Jersey as a precautionary measure, but officials stressed there was no risk to the public. President Barack Obama declared states of disaster for New York and New Jersey, which should speed up the release of emergency government aid for recovery and reconstruction.

EU Says Independent Catalonia Would Not Be an Instant Member

Viviane Reding, the Vice-President of the European Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, has said that European citizenship is linked to member states and that if a part of a member state becomes independent, it would not become an immediate member of the European Union. Reding was answering a letter sent to her by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs, who wanted to know how the EU would respond to a hypothetical and unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia. Her clarification is damaging to the nationalist movement, as it had implied to voters that an independent Catalonia would be welcomed into the EU. Regional elections for Catalonia will be held on November 25 and a referendum on independence could be held within four years.

Bahrain Bans All Protests and Public Gatherings

The government of Bahrain has banned protests and public gatherings and has threatened legal action against groups who attempt to start any demonstrations. The measure was announced by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid al-Khalifa on Tuesday, who said the island had suffered from the “repeated abuse” of the rights of freedom of speech and expression. He reiterated the threat of lawsuits, saying that any “illegal rally or gathering would be tackled through legal actions against those calling for and participating in it”. The measures are aimed at Shia Muslim groups who have sought a greater presence in the Sunni Muslim-led Gulf island. Hadi al-Musawi, a representative of opposition Shia group Al-Wefaw, said that the ban was “against international human rights“. The clashes in Bahrain have so far killed 50 people since they begun in February 2011.

Census Shows Inequality Persists in Post-Apartheid South Africa

The results of South Africa’s first census for a decade show that wealth disparities between race groups still persist nearly two decades after the end of apartheid. Incomes for black households in the country, which make up 80 percent of the population, increased 169 percent over the last decade and now stand at US$6,987, but are still approximately a sixth of the amount earned by white households. “These figures tell us that at the bottom of the rung is the black majority who continue to be confronted by deep poverty, unemployment and inequality”, said President Jacob Zuma at a ceremony marking the release of the results. “Great strides have been made, however, much remains to be done to further improve the livelihoods of our people especially in terms of significant disparities that still exist between the rich and the poor.” The census also showed the impact of AIDS on the country. Over 3 million children under the age of 17, or 19 percent of the total, had lost one or both parents to the epidemic.

Scotland Yard to be Sold as Part of Police Spending Cuts

London’s Metropolitan Police is planning to sell off its headquarters in New Scotland Yard to help save over £500 million (US$800 million) in the next two and a half years. The money would be spent to fund more frontline policing. The plans, revealed by Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey, also include the sale of police stations across the British capital. It currently owns about 700 buildings, including police stations, patrol bases and garages. “We need buildings that are fit for a modern policing service. New Scotland Yard costs £11 million a year to run and we now need to invest over £50m into it”, said Mackey. The headquarters would be moved to a smaller building in Whitehall. John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, responded to the plans by saying that selling the headquarters would be tantamount to losing the “Crown Jewels”.

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