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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

U.K. May Veto EU Arms Embargo on Syria

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he may veto an extension of the European Union’s (EU) arms embargo on Syria, which is due for renewal in May. Britain, who pledged non-lethal to Syrian rebels, may find an ally in France, which has also called for more help for opponents of Syria President Bashar al-Assad. Both nations face resistance from Germany, which is concerned, like others, that those weapons may find themselves in the wrong hands as Islamic terrorists have seen in the civil war an opportunity to recruit in exchange for their support to those who are fighting Assad’s brutally repressive regime. The conflict has caused more than 70,000 deaths, 400,000 people have fled to neighboring nations, and another two million have been internally displaced, the United Nations have said. “I hope that we can persuade our European partners, if and when a further change becomes necessary, [and that] they will agree with us,” Cameron told the Parliament’s Common Liaison Committee. “But if we can’t, then it’s not out of the question we might have to do things in our own way. It’s possible.”

Ryan Unveils Republican Plan to Cut Deficit

U.S. Republican Representative and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, presented today a plan to get rid of the U.S. deficit within 10 years by cutting as much as $4.6 trillion in expenditures. The new proposal follows the same blueprint as the one he presented before the presidential election, which he lost as Mitt Romney’s running mate, although it is more aggressive. It would repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 and turn Medicare into a voucher plan, but also do away with Medicaid expansions, cut food stamps, Pell grants for college tuition, and more. It would preserve defense programs and lower income tax rates for individuals and corporations. “You cannot continue to spend money that you just don’t have,” Ryan told reporters at a press conference. His plan has no chance of being approved in the Democratic-led Senate, whose senior members believe it would hurt the poor and be too lenient on the rich. “This budget reflects the same skewed priorities the Republican Party has championed for years — the same skewed priorities Americans rejected in November,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada. Ryan’s proposal will serve as a basis for negotiations with his political opponents, who have proposed $1 trillion in savings through increased tax revenue. Most economists believe a balanced budget is irrelevant so long as debt levels are brought down.

Cyberattacks More Dangerous Than Terrorist Plots, Clapper Says

Cyberattacks now represent a more important threat to U.S. security than terrorist plots, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee today as part of his yearly Global Threat Assessment. While he doesn’t foresee an attack that “would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage” in the next two years, cyber security was the first item on his list. His testimony came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service said they opened a probe into a web site that posted private and financial information on Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, singers Beyoncé and Jay-Z, actors Ashton Kutcher and Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others. Another threat to national security may be brought about by the sequester, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that may affect the ability of intelligence agencies to do their job, Clapper said.

Curiosity Finds Proof There Was Potable Water on Mars

Curiosity, NASA’s rover on Mars, found proof there was drinkable water on the red planet, the space agency said today. Seven months after her landing (her operators affectionately call Curiosity “she”), the rover found clays that contain minerals essential to life. While it has found to evidence of the existence of carbon, which is a cornerstone of life on Earth, Curiosity has another 17 months of mission. “If there was organic material there, it could have been preserved,” said David Blake, lead researcher for the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy. Investigators say carbon is not the be-all, end-all as there exist some micro-organisms on this planet feed off other elements. The presence of carbon dioxide may be enough.

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