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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Corruption Threatens Communist Party’s Existence, Says China’s Hu

Chinese President Hu Jintao opened the country’s Communist Party Congress on Thursday warning the new generation of leaders that corruption threatened the party’s existence. “If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state. We must thus make unremitting efforts to combat corruption”, said Hu. As for political reform, the Chinese president said that the country would “never copy a Western political system”, adding that China “will neither walk on the closed and rigid road, nor will we walk down the evil road of changing flags and banners”. Hu’s speech marked the beginning of a week-long congress that will mark the appointment of the party’s new Standing Committee and the swearing in of his successor, current Vice President Xi Jinping.

Red Cross Unable to Cope With Worsening Syria Crisis

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, has said that the organisation is not able to cope with the needs of civilians engulfed by the Syrian conflict. “There is an unknown number of people in Syria who do not get the aid they need”, said Maurer during a news briefing in Geneva. “There is no point in planning. You try every day to fill the crack that is opening”, continued the ICRC president. “We can’t cope with the worsening of the situation.” His comments come a day after the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations claimed that almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) headquarters in Damascus was being confiscated by the government and not reaching those in need. Separately, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said during an interview with Russian news channel Russia Today that he will not leave Syria and warned against a foreign intervention in the country. “I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” he said. “I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” concluded Assad.

German Chancellor Merkel Warns Against British Isolationism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against British isolationism ahead of European Union budget talks later this month. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a heavy defeat in Parliament earlier this month when eurosceptic Tory MPs voted against the government and demanded that the EU budget should be “reduced in real terms”. Speaking at the European Parliament, Merkel said that she believed that the British could be “very happy on an island, but being alone in this world doesn’t make you any happier”. The German Chancellor added that “despite the differences that we have, it is very important for the UK and Germany to work together”. Acknowledging the domestic pressures inherent to any EU budget negotiations, Merkel concluded that “we always have to do something that will stand up to public opinion at home”.

Earthquake Strikes Guatemala, Kills Dozens in Mountainous Area

A magnitude-7.4 earthquake struck the southern coast of Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 48 people and wounding dozens more. The earthquake was felt as far as Mexico City and San Salvador, in neighbouring El Salvador. The tremor was measured off the coastal town of Champerico, approximately 150 miles from the capital Guatemala City. Most of the deaths occurred in San Marcos province, a mountain region that sits on the affected coastline. Johana Milner, spokesman for the country’s disaster agency, said that as many as 100 people were missing and that the death toll could still rise. She also said that at least 32 houses were destroyed in San Marco, where buildings are made primarily of adobe. Eddy Sanchez, the director of Guatemala’s Seismological Institute, said the earthquake was the biggest registered in the country since 1976, when 25,000 people were killed in a magnitude-7.5 tremor.

Astronomers Discover Potentially Habitable Alien Planet

An international team of astronomers led by Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire and Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Goettingen have discovered a ‘super-Earth’ with a potentially habitable climate and the possibility of holding surface water. Planet HD 40307g is seven times bigger than Earth and lies in a multi-planetary solar system 42 light-years away from the Sun. It is at the right distance from the star to allow for liquid surface water and is one of the six planets that are believed to circle dwarf star HD 40307 in the constellation Pictor. Scientists believe the planet rotates on its own axis, sustaining a day and night cycle, increasing the chances of the evolution of a life form. Planet HD 40307g could theoretically be photographed by next-generation space satellites, still at a preliminary design phase.

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