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Friday, February 22, 2013

Scud Missiles in Syria Kill at Least 12 Civilians

Reports from Syria’s northern city and former commercial capital Aleppo said the Syrian military aimed three scud rockets at rebel-held neighborhoods, killing at least 12 civilians while many others were trapped under rubble. It is the second time this week opposition forces accuse the government of using such missiles, which are notoriously imprecise, in Aleppo. The attack comes a day after a series of multiple car bombings in the capital Damascus in what was one of the deadliest days in the two-year civil war. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were children among today’s victims, and there could be even more buried under the ruins.

U.K. Loses Moody’s Aaa Credit Rating

Credit ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the U.K.’s top Aaa grade to Aa1, citing “continuing weakness in the UK’s medium-term growth outlook” and it negative effect on “the government’s fiscal consolidation program,” as well as the nation’s “high and rising debt burden.” Moody’s believes sluggish economic expansion in Britain “will extend into the second half of the decade” as the nation continues to suffer from “the anticipated slow growth of the global economy and the drag on the U.K. economy from the ongoing domestic public- and private-sector deleveraging process.” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said this downgrade will not change the government’s policies. “Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it,” he said. ”We will go on delivering the plan that has cut the deficit by a quarter, and given us record low interest rates and record numbers of jobs.”

New Tunisian Prime Minister Named

Tunisia President Moncef Marzouki announced today Interior Minister Ali Larayedh, of the Islamic Ennahda party, will replace Hamadi Jebali as prime minister. Jebali resigned this week after his efforts to appease a political crisis caused by the assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid failed. His plan to create an apolitical government of technocrats was rebuffed by members of Ennahda, of which he is secretary general. Larayedh, who was given two weeks to form a new government, was heavily criticized by the left for failing to put a stop to religious fanaticism and violence, although he took a strong stance against people suspected of being affiliated to Al Qaeda.

China Acknowledges Existence of “Cancer Villages”

Years after observers and activists began pointing at villages where cancer rates were high because of dangerous levels of pollution, China’s environment ministry published a report in which it acknowledged their existence. “The toxic chemicals have caused many environmental emergencies linked to water and air pollution,” it said. “There are even some serious cases of health and social problems like the emergence of cancer villages in individual regions.” Pollution has been a cause for rising public anger, a problem the new government has promised to confront. Despite many investigations by local and foreign media, this is the first time the term “cancer village” appears in an official document.

Paralympian Pistorius Released on Bail

Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympics champion accused of murdering his girlfriend, was released on bail today as the judge deemed him too recognizable to be a flight risk, adding the prosecution had not shown enough proof that he is violent. The bail was set at one million rand ($112,770) and the terms required Pistorius to hand in his passport and guns, as well as not to set foot on the crime scene, his home. A court date was set for June 4. The case took a strange turn two days ago as Lead Detective Hilton Botha was removed from the investigation after it was discovered attempted murder charges against him had been reinstated. Botha and two others shot a minibus with seven passengers while chasing a man suspected of killing a woman, dismembering her, and disposing of her body down a drain.

Weekend Read: L’Etranger

French Actor Gérard Depardieu has left France to escape a new 75-percent tax on incomes above €1 million. France thinks this “pathetic.” In The New Yorker.

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