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Monday, March 11, 2013

UN Says There Are Few Safe Spots Remaining in Syria

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria has issued its latest report, covering the period between January 15 and March 3. In it the panel says that there are very few civilian areas in the country yet untouched by civil war and that more than 2.5 million people have already been displaced internally. “The scope of the humanitarian crisis in Syria remains of grave concern. The education system in many areas is in tatters. Prices for basic necessities have increased exponentially. There has been significant damage to the country’s infrastructure”, says the report. The panel, which is tasked with the investigation of alleged violations and massacres in Syria, also added that the population is suffering with shortages of fuel, electricity, medicine and potable water. “The urgent need for a political solution cannot be overstated. A failure to resolve this increasingly violent conflict will condemn Syria, the region and the millions of civilians caught in the crossfire to an unimaginably bleak future”, concluded the report.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Says Europe’s Demons ‘Haven’t Been Banished’

Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and former Euro Group chief, has said during an interview with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel that “the demons haven’t been banished”, implying that national resentments could once again bring Europe to the brink of war. Comparing 2013 to 1913, he said that “anyone who believes that the eternal question of war and peace in Europe is no longer there risks being deeply mistaken” and that the “demons of war” are “only sleeping, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo showed”. He said part of the problem was the way German politicians blamed Greece for the economic ills of the continent. “I was just as shocked by the banners of protesters in Athens that showed the German chancellor in a Nazi uniform. Sentiments suddenly surfaced that we thought had been finally relegated to the past”, said Juncker. He also made a plea to countries such as the United Kingdom, who seem to drift towards exiting the EU. “A united Europe is our Continent’s only chance to avoid falling off the world’s radar”, concluded Juncker.

Greenland Goes to the Polls Amidst Heightened Interest in Arctic Natural Resources

The people of Greenland, an autonomous country within the kingdom of Denmark, will go to the polls on Tuesday and choose a new leader between current leftist Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist and opposition challenger Aleqa Hammond, a Social Democrat. The election is largely seen as vote by Greenlanders on how they wish to exploit their resources, now that the melting Arctic ice has opened shipping lanes and eased the access to potentially large reserves of oil, gas, iron ore and aluminium. These same resources could also render the island economically independent from Denmark, leading to calls to complete independence. Prime Minister Kleist has been accused by Hammond of being too eager to accept foreign investment, particularly those aimed at exploring Greenland’s resources. China is ready to start work on an iron ore deposit that could bring in enough Chinese workers to bump up the islands population by four percent.”The fear of being overrun by foreigners is exaggerated,” Kleist told the Reuters news agency. “We are becoming a global player. We need to avoid ethnicity, nationalistic feelings.” Hammond, his opponent, countered that voters “feel that they are not part of the decision making process of big scale projects and mining”.

Antibiotic-Resistant Diseases Pose ‘Catastrophic Threat’

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Claire Davies, has warned that bacteria resistant to antibiotics pose a “catastrophic threat” to the population, calling for a radical restriction on the use of antibiotics. If such measures are not taken “we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century at some point”, said Davies. As many as 5,000 patients die in the UK each year of gram negative sepsis, which occurs when bacteria get into the bloodstream. About half of these infections are resistant to drugs. “Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection”, added Davies. She also wants to find ways to give the pharmaceutical companies incentives to research new antibiotics. Such research tends to be given up because it is hard and not much profit is made.

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