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Friday, February 8, 2013

China and Japan Trade Blame over Disputed Islands

Tensions flared up again between China and Japan as they engaged in a new round of blame over military actions near an archipelago of uninhabited islands that have been at the center of a months-long dispute between the two nations. Japan accused a Chinese ship of locking a radar normally used to aim weapons for attack at one of its vessels last week, an accusation China denied, blaming the incident on Japan’s excessive monitoring of Chinese ships and calling for Japan to “stop making irresponsible remarks.” Former Presidential Candidate John Hunstman, who was also President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China, told Bloomberg TV he worries “about the military maneuvers in crowded airspaces and sea lanes.” “The tensions are real,” he said. The dispute could develop “beyond anyone’s ability to then de-escalate it.”

EU Leaders Agree on First Ever Budget Cut, Focus on “Climate Actions”

Leaders of the European Union (EU) agreed today on the first ever cut in the region’s budget. After 24 hours of grueling negotiations, they cut it by about €40 billion to €960 billion ($1.3 trillion) for the next seven years, pleasing nations like the U.K. and the Netherlands, which were pushing for less spending, while still protecting programs dear to France, such as the common agricultural policy. This represents a three percent cut compared to the previous budget, trimming expenses in areas like infrastructure, energy, bureaucracy and scientific research. The EU has also committed one fifth of the overall spending to “climate actions” to build “a low carbon, resource-efficient and climate-resilient economy” across the region, prompting Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard to call it ”a major step forward.” “It’s perhaps nobody’s perfect budget, but there’s a lot in it for everybody,” said Summit Chair and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy.

Tunisia Mired in Violence at Burial of Assassinated Leftist Leader

Clashes continued in Tunisia as tens of thousands of people gathered for the funeral of Chokri Belaid, the left-leaning leader of the secular Party of Democratic Patriots, which opposes the Islamic-led government. The interior ministry said the funeral attracted around 40,000 people, adding 132 people were arrested. Police threw more teargas to disperse the crowds, after firing shots to stop people breaking cars in the center of Tunis. Today was the second day of a general strike that paralyzed the entire country, including the international airport in the capital, called after ruling party Ennahda rejected calls by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to dissolve the government and replace it with a non-partisan cabinet until new elections. “I insist on my decision to form a technocratic government,” Jebali said today, adding this move would not require the approval of the Constituent Assembly. Ennahda supporters gathered in front of the parliament to condemn the assassination of Belaid and “defend the revolution.”

Major Winter Storm Threatens U.S. Northeast

The states of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut declared today a state of emergency as a massive winter storm threatened to cause major disruptions in the American Northeast. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick banned all cars from the road from four o’clock in the afternoon. Failure to comply could entail up to one year in prison and a fine. That order was quickly echoed by Dannel Malloy, governor of Connecticut. Maine also declared a limited state of emergency. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo asked for international airport JFK to be closed by six o’clock this evening as all flights were halted. Residents were told to expect between 14 inches (35cm) and 28 inches (71cm) of snow across the region. “If you are not already on the road to get home, you should be,” said Malloy. The snowstorm, named Nemo, comes only three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the northeast states of the U.S.

Weekend Read: The NRA vs America

How the National Rifle Association, a lobby for gunmakers, uses the argument of civil liberties to distort the debate on gun control and helps shape legislation. In Rolling Stone.

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