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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Egypt’s Morsi Leaves Palace over Protests

Egypt President Mohamed Morsi was forced to leave the presidential palace today as 10,000 people gathered outside to protest a November 22 decree that temporarily gives him sweeping powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” they chanted in a demonstration they called a “last warning” to the government. They are also protesting against a  new constitution that will be the object of a December 15 referendum. Morsi opponents see the draft, which was rushed through the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly last week, as a document that does not take into account the interest of liberals and non-Muslim groups. Eighteen people were injured in the clashes, the Health Ministry said.

France, Germany Clash over EU Banking Union

A rift between France and Germany is threatening the European Union’s (EU) project for a banking union. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said today his nation would not support a plan that would give final say to the European Central Bank (ECB) on supervision. “The right of the last decision cannot be left to the ECB Governing Council,” he said, arguing for a system where EU states are ultimately responsible for their nations’ banks. In response, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and the ECB said a banking union will require a central authority and a unification of the rules for all 6,000 banks across the region. Another German concern is to keep a clear separation between monetary policy and banking supervision to avoid conflicts of interest. The clash dampened hopes for an agreement before the end of the year.

Four Republicans Axed From Budget, Finance House Committees

Four Republican at the U.S. House of Representatives were booted from their committees by the House leadership today. Walter Jones, of North Carolina, and David Schweikert, from Arizona, were forced out of the Financial Services Committee. Michigan’s Justin Amash and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the House Budget Committee. Schweikert, Amash, and Huelskamp were all elected as Tea Party candidates in 2010, while Jones won his seat in 1995. All four rebelled against the Budget Control Act, which was signed into law in August 2011 as a last-minute compromise between the Republican leadership and the White House to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a sovereign default. “It’s the price you pay,” said Jones. “I didn’t come here to be a puppet to anyone.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Calls for “Compromise” on Climate Change

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, speaking today at the annual U.N. climate talks in Doha, urged world leaders to show “strong political commitment” in the face of climate change. Defining it as a “crisis,” he called for compromise on ways to tackle this “existential challenge for the whole human race.” Delegates have been meeting for over a week and still don’t appear to be any closer to a deal on climate change. The commitments on the Kyoto Protocol, which expire on December 31, must be extended. The attendants are also tasked with defining a road map to a plan that would be implemented by 2020, and establishing clear rules for climate finance. Ban acknowledged the participants’ “mixed feelings,” and asked them to take the trail of destruction left by Hurricane Sandy in the U.S. as a “call to action.”

Sign Language for Science

Deaf science students may soon have a vocabulary of their own thanks to crowdsourcing projects that aim at creating signs for scientific terms in both British and American Sign Language. The Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project added 116 new signs for physics and engineering this year, like “magnetic field” and “ultraviolet radiation.” Another project is ASL-STEM (American Sign Language for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Adoption of new signs can be problematic as signs evolve and get refined with use, which is why a democratic approach to choosing them could help stave off confusion. An advantage of sign language is that it is more expressive than spoken words, which sometimes facilitates comprehension, for example to illustrate the distinction between the concepts of “mass” and “weight.”

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