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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The U.K. and the Netherlands Urge its Citizens to Leave Benghazi Over ‘Serious Threat’

The U.K. and the Netherlands have urged their citizens to immediately leave Libya’s second city, Benghazi, over what were described by the U.K.’s Foreign Office as “serious and credible” threats to Westerners. The British Embassy in Tripoli said it had already contacted the British nationals whose details it had, while the Dutch Foreign Ministry said it had at most six Dutch citizens in Benghazi. Spokesman Thijs van Son said that the Dutch government had “reason to believe there is a serious threat coming up”, but refused to elaborate. The British Foreign Office similarly refused to expand on what had prompted the advisory. Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Abdullah Massoud said that the two countries had overreacted, expressing his “astonishment” at the warnings and that “nothing justifies this reaction”. The deputy head of the Benghazi Local Council, Saad al-Saitim, said the decision only brought about “more fear at a time when people need to stand with us”.

U.K. Prime Minister Defends EU Referendum at Davos

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron defended his promise of a EU membership referendum at the Davos World Economic Forum, insisting that it was “not about turning our backs on Europe”. Speaking a day after his speech pledging to hold the referendum if his Conservative party wins the U.K.’s next general elections in 2015, Cameron said that he was largely misinterpreted. “This is about how we make the case for a more competitive, a more open, a more flexible Europe, and how we secure the EU’s place within it”, said the prime minister. “The club we belong to is changing, we can’t ignore this, change is under way,” added Cameron. “And the debate about what this means, it is live, it is happening right now.” Shifting to a more domestic topic, the prime minister said that his government would focus on tax evasion. “Any businesses who think that they can carry on dodging that fair share or that they can keep on selling to the U.K. and setting up ever-more complex tax arrangements abroad to squeeze their tax bill right down. Well, they need to wake up and smell the coffee because the public who buy from them have had enough,” he said.

North Korea Says Rocket Launches and Nuclear Tests are ‘Targeted’ at the U.S.

North Korea said on Thursday that any future rocket launches or nuclear tests would be “targeted at the United States”, calling it a “hostile” country. A statement by the country’s National Defence Commission, distributed by the North Korean news agency, said that the country’s leaders were “not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States”. Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, reacted to the statement in the South Korean capital, Seoul, by declaring that he hoped North Korea “don’t do it, we call on them not to do it”. He added that “this is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula”. North Korea did not say when it would carry out further tests, but its rhetoric is seen by analysts as a riposte to a UN Security Council resolution that reprimanded and sanctioned the country for having carried out a rocket launch in December.

Antiobiotics Close to Being Ineffective at Combatting Diseases

The U.K.’s Chief Medical Officer has warned Parliament that an increase in drug-resistant diseases could trigger a national emergency and that, like pandemic flu outbreaks, terrorist attacks and major flooding, the threat should be added to the country’s National Risk Register. She told MPs that in 20 years’ time people undergoing routine surgery could face the “apocalyptic scenario” of dying from common infections “because we have run out of antibiotics”. Speaking to the Guardian, she added that “there are few public health issues of potentially greater importance for society than antibiotic resistance. It means we are at increasing risk of developing infections that cannot be treated – but resistance can be managed”. Drug resistance occurs when drugs are effective at controlling infections but leave hardier strains behind. These strains multiply and are not contained until new antibiotics are developed. “What has changed is that the development pipeline is running dry. We don’t have new antibiotics that we can rely on in the immediate future or in the longer term”, said Alan Johnson, consultant clinical scientist at the Health Protection Agency.

Inspections Find More Than 16,000 Cases in U.K. Immigration Backlog

U.K. immigration inspectors have discovered a backlog of more than 16,000 cases relating to requests where British citizens were petitioning to have spouses settle in the U.K. through marriage. Some have waited for over a decade for a decision on cases where their requests were initially denied. One inspector told the BBC that the unresolved applications had been “dumped” on the U.K. Border Agency’s team in Sheffield after being processed in Croydon. John Vine the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, said that “for people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards”. Immigration Minister Mark Harper countered that the current government had inherited these cases and they would be dealt with promptly.

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