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Friday, December 7, 2012

U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Backs Gay Marriage in Churches

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron wants churches in England and Wales to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. But let me be absolutely 100 percent clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely not, be forced to hold it”, said the Prime Minister during a visit to the West Midlands. Conservative MPs will be given a free vote on the issue, meaning they can vote against the Prime Minister without facing disciplinary action. Cameron’s words have outraged some members of his Tory party. Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, said that there would be “outrage throughout the country” and a “clear backlash” against the proposal. He told BBC News that “marriage is between one man and one woman and so changes to the definition of marriage are not appreciated and not strongly supported”.

Japan Earthquake Triggers Renewed Fears

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on Friday in the same region jolted by a massive earthquake and tsunami last year. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said the earthquake occurred off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, 6.2 miles beneath the seabed. State broadcaster NHK broke off regular programming with a warning that a strong earthquake was imminent, urging those resident in coastal areas to flee to higher ground. The announcement was repeated in multiple languages for the first time, a reflection of revised procedures since the 2011 earthquake. The tremor was felt as far south as Osaka, with buildings in Tokyo reportedly swaying for several minutes. The capital’s Narita airport was closed briefly and phone lines were jammed with the large volume of calls. Japanese authorities issued a tsunami warning with potential waves as high as 2 metres and Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture was hit by waves 90 centimetres high. The warning was subsequently lifted two hours after the first tremors.

Hamas Leader Visits Gaza for the First Time in Decades

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal knelt down and kissed the ground upon arriving in Gaza on for the first time in 45 years on Friday. “I consider this moment my third birth, and I pray to God that my fourth birth will be the moment when all of Palestine is liberated”, said Mashaal. He said his first “birth” was the day he survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 and the second his actual birthday in 1956. He is expected to visit the home of late Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, assassinated by an Israeli missile as he was being wheeled from morning payers in 2004, and that of Ahmed Jabari, whose killing in an Israeli air strike sparked the eight-day confrontation in November that led to the death of 170 Palestinians and six Israelis. Israeli Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor said no guarantees had been requested by Hamas and that none had been given. “Hamas is Hamas, it doesn’t matter who heads it, Hamas is still a terror organisation”, said Palmor.

Chávez Back in Venezuela After Treatment in Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez arrived in Caracas in the early hours of Friday after 10 days of medical treatment in Cuba. He travelled to Havana on November 27 after announcing he needed hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Although the 58-year-old president has frequently stated that he was free of cancer, having spent much of the past two years battling pelvic cancer, some speculated that his sudden trip to the Caribbean island was a sign of worsening health. State broadcaster Venezolana de Televisión showed President Chávez bounding down the steps of the presidential jet wearing a colourful track suit and asking those assembled “where is the party, then?”. He was met by members of his cabinet, including Vice-President Nicolás Maduro. Chávez told the awaiting media that he was “very happy, as you all can see, to be arriving here again, very happy”. He also told reporters that he had been delayed in his return because he had been discussing poetry with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Pushes for 100 Percent Black Ownership of Firms

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe vowed on Friday to modify the country’s law to require 100 percent black ownership of firms, up from the current 51 percent. Speaking at a pre-election ZANU-PF party conference in Gweru, he said that “the notion that capital is more important than any other factors is nonsense” and added that “that philosophy is dirty, filthy and criminal”. Foreign investors have protested such measures, with India and Russia boycotting a recent international trade fair hosted by the Zimbabwean government in April. Analysts say Mugabe’s push for 100 percent black ownership is part of a populist push aimed at winning voters back to the ZANU-PF party, defeated at the 2008 parliamentary elections for the first time since the country’s independence in 1980. The Zimbabwean president ended the speech in typical bombastic fashion, stating that foreign investors who “don’t want to abide by the rules” should “go away”.

Weekend Read: Man on Fire

Jamphel Yeshi was living in the outskirts of Delhi at the time he decided to set himself on fire. He is one of more than 80 Tibetans who have self-immolated to protest China’s policies in their homeland. In National Geographic.

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