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Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown Shooting Seen as ‘Game Changer’ in U.S. Gun Control Debate

Democratic U.S. Senators who have a history of supporting gun rights said today they would consider tighter restrictions on gun control. Senator Joe Manchin II, from West Virginia, who is an avid hunter and member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said “everything should be on the table.” “This has changed the dialogue,” Manchin asserted, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “And it should move beyond dialogue, we need action.” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia agreed, tweeting earlier the event was a “game changer.” The comments come after U.S. President Barack Obama promised to start a national discussion on what can be done to prevent such carnage. “We as a nation have not done enough, clearly, to fulfill our number one obligation, which is to protect our children,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today, echoing Obama’s remarks in a speech he gave yesterday at an interfaith memorial service in Newtown. A White House official told Politico the President spent the afternoon talking with aides about a response to the Newtown’s killings.

Japan Veers Back to the Right as It Reelects Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was reelected yesterday in Japan after being ousted in 2009. The Liberal Democratic Party, who ruled for 50 years before a crushing defeat three years ago, won 294 seats in the 480-seat parliament. It will form an alliance with New Komeito Party, which won 31 seats to create a two-thirds majority, enough to override the nation’s upper house. The hawkish Abe faces tough decisions on the economy, which is now in its fourth recession since 2000, and China, with which Japan is locked in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands. Abe’s appointment also may mean a monetary policy change for the country, for which deflation is a major problem. He said he wants the Bank of Japan’s target for inflation to be at 2 percent. In 2006, he supported a rate increase that he now says was a mistake.

Egypt Public Prosecutor Resigns after Controversial Referendum

Public Prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim, who was appointed last month by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, offered to resign today in a move welcomed by Morsi opponents who saw his nomination as an assault on the independence of the judiciary. Judges in the nation strongly protested the departure of Ibrahim’s predecessor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, who served under the previous rule of Hosni Mubarak. Morsi removed him to appease protesters that demanded a retrial of former government officials who they said used violence against them during last year’s uprising that saw the deposition of Mubarak, and were acquitted. Ibrahim’s resignation comes after a referendum on a draft Constitution which Morsi’s Islamists backers said they won, but human rights organizations say was spoiled by multiple instances of abuse and irregularities.

Nigeria Finance Minister’s Mother Held Hostage of Fuel Subsidies

The 83-year-old mother of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped and held for five days after she and President Goodluck Jonathan tried to do away with an oil subsidy program believed to be rife with corruption and bribery. “The kidnappers spent much of the time harassing her. They told her that I must get on the radio and television and announce my resignation,” Okonjo-Iweala said. The government is thought to pay for twice as much oil as the nation consumes, but an attempt to remove the subsidies led to over a week of strikes, forcing the President and his minister to withdraw their plan. While Nigeria is among the world’s top 10 oil exporters, many years of mismanagement are now forcing it to import as much as 80 percent of the oil it uses.

U.S. Federal Pilot Program Aims at Promoting Minorities Among Scientists

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. will start a pilot program to help blacks and other minorities that are underrepresented in medical research. One initiative in particular will test a grant review process that excludes all identifying information. The announcement comes after a study that showed last year a black scientist was significantly less likely to receive research funding than a white colleague with the same qualifications, possibly betraying an unconscious discriminating bias among reviewers. The goal of the new plan is also to attract underrepresented minorities to the field, targeting undergraduate and graduate students, and setting up mentoring programs.

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