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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Netanyahu Re-elected in Israel with Shakier Coalition

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed on track to remain in his post after the general elections, though his right-wing religious coalition appeared considerably bruised in the exit polls today. Surprising forecasters, two thirds of Israelis showed up at the polls and voted to shift the balance towards the center. They granted only 31 of the 120 seats in Knesset—parliament—to the right-wing alliance Likud-Beiteinu, down from 42, and handed centrist party Yesh Atid, a newcomer, 18 or 19 seats. Overall, the results gives only the slightest of margins to the religious, ultranationalist, and right-wing parties in Knesset at 61 seats, with centrists, left-wing, and Israeli-Arab groups controling the other 59. Kadima, the left-wing party of Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon that still held 21 seats in the last parliament, did not receive enough votes to be represented. The new formation will force Netanyahu to broaden his alliances and soften his stance, which had become more strident in recent months as he endeavored to attract far-right voters.

North Korea Vows to Strengthen its Nuclear Capabilities

After a the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously to rebuke North Korea‘s missile launch last month and expand existing sanctions, the east Asian country announced it will boost its nuclear program and military force. China’s approval of the resolution, which promises to “take significant action in the event of a further DPRK (North Korean) launch or nuclear test,” was a major diplomatic blow to Pyongyang as China has been a staunch ally of the North Korean regime. “We will take measures to boost and strengthen our defensive military power including nuclear deterrence,” the nation’s foreign ministry said via state news agency KCNA.

Cameron to Call for Referendum on U.K. Staying in EU

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will call for a yes or no referendum  by 2017 on whether the nation should remain in the European Union (EU) at a long-awaited speech tomorrow. Cameron plans on renegotiating the terms for Britain’s membership in the EU and asking the people if they approve. Should they not, the U.K. would leave the EU. Cameron has been under pressure from his own conservative party to announce a referendum, but many international allies, including the U.S. and Germany, have warned him against putting EU membership to a popular vote lest the U.K. become irrelevant on the global stage. Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt said it is “impossible to have an individual renegotiation of the British position” without weakening the European institutions. Ed Miliband, head of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said Cameron “has lost control of his party and is too weak to do what is right for the country.”

EU Tax on Financial Transactions Approved

The European Union (EU) gave 11 of its members the go-ahead to put a tax on financial transactions into law.  Finance ministers of the region who met today voted to give their approval to Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia, with the U.K., Luxembourg and the Czech Republic abstaining from the vote. The tax could raise a total €35 billion ($47 billion) a year for the 11 countries combined. Its goal is to deter speculation, and prevent the conditions that caused the 2008 financial crisis, as well as the sovereign debt crisis that followed across Europe. Critics say it will not work unless it is enforced across the EU’s 27 nations, but participating countries already are hoping for extra income. “It paves the way for more ambitious member states to progress on a tax file, even when unanimity could not be achieved,” said Algirdas Semeta, the EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union.

Meningitis Vaccine Gets EU Approval

A vaccine that aims at protecting children from meningococcal B meningitis, a most common and fatal type, has been approved for use by the European Union (EU) Commission. This form of the illness, which affects children under the age of 5, kills one out of every 10 of those who contract it, and those who survive are at high risk of brain damage or losing limbs. Meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes the brain and spinal cord to inflame. The Bexsero vaccine, which is made by pharmaceutical company Novartis, could be effective in 73 percent of the cases, experts say.

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