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Friday, November 23, 2012

Egypt Protests Against Morsi’s New Powers

Egypt was gripped by protests on Friday after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi granted himself broad powers late on Thursday. His decree put his powers above that of any court, declaring him the guardian of the revolution. Morsi sacked an unpopular general prosecutor and ordered a new trial for former president Hosni Mubarak and his aides. “We are, God willing, moving forward, and no one stands in our way”, said Morsi after visiting a mosque for Friday prayers. “I fulfill my duties to please God and the nation and I take decisions after consulting with everyone”, he added. Demonstrators packed Tahrir Square in Cairo, demanding the resignation of the president and accusing him of staging a silent coup. Similar marches were held in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez. Offices of his Islamic Brotherhood party were reportedly torched in some Egyptian cities. One of Morsi’s adversaries, former IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei, took to Twitter to call the president an absolute monarch. “Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh”.

No Deal Reached at EU Budget Summit

European Union leaders have ended a summit in Brussels with no agreement about the organisation’s budget for the 2014-2020 period. The disagreement centred on how much different countries wished to contribute to the budget, with politicians squabbling because of internal pressures in each of their countries. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron had told reporters earlier on Friday that it was not “a time for tinkering” with the budget and that “unaffordable spending” should be cut. It is thought the U.K. will be blamed for the breakdown in discussions because of its inflexible stance in seeking cuts in the EU budget to match similar austerity cuts being made at a national level. The Netherlands and Sweden backed the U.K. position, while countries like Poland, who rely heavily on EU subsidies, favoured an increase in spending. The failure to agree on a budget by the end of 2013 means that the current budget could be rolled over on a month-by-month basis until a new budget is drafted.

U.S. Warns Allies of Possible North Korean Missile Launch

U.S. government officials have warned Japan and South Korea that the North Korean regime is preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile by the end of the month, according to reports in the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily. According to sources heard by the newspaper, missile parts were transferred in early November from a weapons factory near Pyongyang to an assembly plant at a missile launch base in northwestern North Korea. Satellite photos of the cargo showed it had similar features to a long-range ballistic missile that exploded shortly after launch in April. There is speculation that the launch is a signal that Kim Jong Un has not yet gained complete control of the country, with the North Korean military going ahead with the activity despite the new leader’s wishes to adopt a more moderate stance in relations with its immediate neighbours and the United States.

Argentina Could Default After New York Court Ruling

A New York judge has ruled that Argentina should be forced to pay over US$1.3 billion in repayments and interest to bondholders who refused to agree to a write-down of its debts after a sovereign default in 2002. An agreement had been reached with over 90% of bondholders in 2005, who accepted a 70% loss and repayments in installments over a 30-year period. Some, however, decided to seek a full repayment in courts and have been chipping at the country’s assets in attempt to recover their losses. Last month, an Argentinian navy training ship was seized in Ghana as collateral for unpaid debts after a claim by NML Capital, an investment fund. Judge Thomas Griesa upheld a ruling backing Elliott Capital Management, another investment fund, writing that “Argentina owes this and owes it now”. Some in Argentina fear the country could enter another default. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, speaking last month before the ruling, said that the country would not cave in to those claiming payments. “We need to be intelligent, sensible and calm and not respond to provocations from those who want to restore an ultraconservative regime that destroyed Argentina”.

Electronic System Tracks Women Who Leave Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia have begun being monitored by an electronic system that tracks cross-border movements. Their male guardians now receive text messages informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together. Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without consent from their male guardian, who signs a form known as the “yellow sheet” at the border crossing. There is speculation that the new tracking mechanism was prompted by a Saudi woman who fled the country after facing family issues. She was aided by a coworker and of her line managers, who are now being sued by her father because they helped her leave the country without his permission. The advent of the tracking system is in contrast to the appointment of a moderate member of the Saudi royal family, 89-year-old Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, to head the country’s religious police. He had previously banned members of the police force from harassing Saudi women over their behaviour or attire.

Weekend Read: The Tunnels of Gaza

The Rafah smuggling tunnels, recently bombed by Israel during the eight-day offensive against the Gaza Strip, represent a vital lifeline for the besieged territory. In National Geographic.

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