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Thursday, February 28, 2013

US to Provide Aid to Syrian Opposition Group

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday that the Obama administration will provide food and medicines to Syrian rebel fighters, but will not furnish heavy weaponry or high-tech gear. “The stakes are really high, and we can’t risk letting this country, in the heart of the Middle East, be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists”, said Kerry after meetings with opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) President Mouaz al-Khatib in Rome. The aid will be channeled through the SNC and will include an extra US$60 million to provide basic services such as sanitation and education in areas controlled by the rebels. Not all Syrian opposition groups agreed with the US move. The Syrian National Council, which boycotted the talks, said that “nothing has changed” and that the situation had become “embarrassing and degrading”. “The regime’s escalation has rendered even our unmet pleas foolish. We used to beg for antiaircraft missiles. What do you ask for to counter Scuds?”, said Mohammed Sarmini, a spokesman for the group.

Benedict Pledges Obedience to the next Pope

Pope Benedict XVI declared his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the next pontiff at a meeting with cardinals in the Vatican hours before resigning his post. “I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you are fully accepting of the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope”, said Benedict, adding that “among you there is the future pope”. His remark can be seen as an attempt to defuse tensions ahead of an unprecedented situation in the history of the Catholic Church, that of a former pope and a reigning pope living in the Vatican at the same time. “Let us remain united, dear brothers”, continued Benedict. He will leave the Vatican by helicopter and fly to Castel Gandolfo, the summer papal retreat near Rome, where he will remain until his new home, a former convent in the grounds of the Vatican, is ready for him.

Spanish General Threatens to Invade Catalonia if Independence is Granted

Spanish Army Reserve General Juan Antonio Chicharro told the audience of a debate on the constitutional role of the country’s armed forces on Wednesday that he would support an invasion of Catalonia if that region seceded from the Spanish state. “The fatherland precedes and is more important than democracy. Patriotism is a feeling and the Constitution is nothing more than legislation” said Chicharro to members of his panel at a club outside of Madrid. The former head of the Marines until 2010, he was the only ranking officer among the speakers and said that he was compelled to speak “because of the separatist-secessionist offensive” currently under way in the country. “If the mechanisms created to defend the constitutional order no longer function, because of an action or omission, then…”, he concluded, alluding to a coup. His words were met with cheers from those assembled, but were rebuked by civilian members of the panel. Professor Pedro González-Trevijano, dean of King Juan Carlos University, said that “the alternative to the Constitution is collective suicide”.

Man Killed After Being Dragged by Police Van in S.Africa

South Africa’s Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the country’s police watchdog, has launched a murder investigation after a video appearing to show a man being tied to the back of a police van and dragged along a street surfaced on the internet. The victim, 27-year-old Mozanbican taxi driver Mido Macia, was later found dead at a police holding cell in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, less than three hours after the video was shot. An examination found the cause of death to be head injuries with internal bleeding. According to police sources, Macia had assaulted an officer and took his firearm after he was asked to move his vehicle because it was blocking traffic, although this is not shown on the video published by South African newspaper the Daily Sun. An IPID statement said that it was “investigating allegations that the deceased was dragged on the road with the police vehicle” and South Africa national police commissioner Riah Phiyega “strongly condemned” the incident.

UK Pledges to Fight EU Cap on Bankers’ Bonuses

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledge to fight an European Union agreement that caps bankers’ bonuses at a year’s salary, an amount that could only be doubled if the bank’s shareholders agreed. The agreement was finalised on Wednesday night in Brussels at a meeting between all 27 member states. The prime minister said that EU regulations needed to be flexible in order to allow international banks to operate in Britain and the rest of the EU. “We do have in the UK – and not every other European country has this – we have major international banks that are based in the UK but have branches and activities all over the world”, said Cameron. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, added that the agreement was “possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman empire”. He added that the bonus cap could push banks elsewhere, to Zürich, Singapore or New York.

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