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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Greece Gets Two More Years to Reach Targets

Eurozone finance ministers agreed late on Monday to give Greece another two years to meet its deficit-reduction targets, extending the deadline to 2016. They did not, however, release the latest €31.5 billion tranche of Greece’s aid package despite the country’s approval of an austerity budget last Sunday. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the Eurogroup president, said that another meeting would be held on November 20 to discuss the matter. Juncker believes that by then the member states will have approved the disbursement, “subject to the troika’s final positive assessment of all prior action by the Greek authorities”. Greece is expected to repay €5 billion worth of debt by Friday, but managed to raise just over €4 billion through the sale of short-term debt in today’s sale.

Royal Navy Officer Admits Trying to Pass Secrets to Russia

A Royal Navy submarine officer has admitted to collecting coding programmes with the intention of passing the information to Russia, a breach of the Official Secrets Act. Edward Devenney, from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, also admitted to a charge of misconduct in a public office after he met two people whom he believed were Russian spies in order to discuss the operation of HMS Trafalgar and another two Royal Navy nuclear submarines. The Russian secret agents were in fact British officers. Devenney met them several times between November 2011 and early March. He was arrested in Plymouth shortly after his last meeting and will be sentenced at the Old Bailey in December. Parts of his hearing will be held in secret.

Scottish Independence Referendum Could Be ‘Unlawful’

The Constitution committee of the House of Lords has found that the Scottish referendum on independence, to be held in 2014, could be declared unlawful. The main concern raised is that the agreement for the referendum is based on legislation referring to devolution, but not independence. The lords agreed that any challenge would likely be struck down, but proceedings could be significantly delayed if one was raised in court. They also warned about the “data protection implications” of the decision to allow those aged 16 and 17 to vote. This would mean that teenagers currently aged 14 and 15 would have to be added to the electoral register, readily available for sale to companies who could then target them.

Australia Launches Investigation into Child Abuse

The Australian government has called for an investigation into child abuses cases within its institutions, including abuses committed by the Catholic clergy. “This is about children who were in the care of religious organisations, all religious organisations, it’s about children who were in state care and in not-for-profit bodies other than religious organisations”, said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “I think we have to do all that we can so that in the future we do not see institutions fail to respond if there are allegations of child abuse in their midst. I hope this Royal Commission can guide us to that place”, concluded Gillard. A Royal Commission is the highest form of investigation in the country. Just hours after the government’s announcement, a Catholic priest was arrested over historical sex offences at a primary school in Sydney.

Vegetative Patient Tells Scientists He Is ‘Not in Pain’

Scott Routley, a 39-year-old Canadian man who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain. He suffered a car accident 12 years ago and his brain suffered severe injuries. He had not shown any sign of awareness since then, but a team led by British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen asked him questions while his brain activity was scanned in a fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. The scan measures the real-time activity of the brain by tracking the flow of oxygen-rich blood. “Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is”, said Prof Owen. The patient’s neurologist for the past decade, Prof Bryan Young, said that the scan results overturned all behavioural assessments made up to that point and that medical textbooks would have to be updated as a result of Prof Owen’s findings.

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