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Thursday, March 14, 2013

UK and France Consider Breaking EU Embargo to Arm Syrian Rebels

The UK and France are considering breaking an EU arms embargo on Syria in order to begin arming the country’s opposition movement, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Speaking on France Info radio, he said both governments shared similar on the embargo and would ask the EU to resume talks on the lifting of the embargo because of the urgent situation on the ground in Syria. “France is a sovereign nation and we are in constant consultation with the UK and on this particular matter, our positions are identical. We have to act very quickly”, said Fabius. In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron said that it was “not out of the question we may have to do things in our own way”. EU leaders will meet in Brussels this evening, although Syria is not a formal agenda item. Russia has already shown its opposition to the move through a tweet by its Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who wrote that “Syrians are caught in a tragedy and humanitarian crisis. But solving the problem by arming the opposition is not an option here”.

Pope Francis Greets the People During His First Day as Pontiff

Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy on Thursday morning with private prayers at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and also took the opportunity to shake hands with children at a local school and commuters heading to work in Rome. He later asked his driver to take him to a priests’ residence in Piazza Navona so that he could pick up the remainder of his belongings, a clear sign that he did not expect to be selected as pontiff when he moved to the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican for the start of the conclave. “He packed his bags and then he went to pay the bill for his room so as to set a good example,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. On Thursday afternoon he celebrated Mass with the cardinals at the Sistine Chapel and is expected to visit Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the coming days at Castel Gandolfo in the coming days.

Xi Jinping Formally Elected President of China

China’s leader Xi Jinping has become its president, with the country’s legislature confirming the transition of power with a ceremonial ballot at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Delegates supported Xi by 2,952 to one, though he ran unopposed. Xi’s accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of communist rule. Events such as the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen massacre overshadowed previous transfers of powers. He had already taken over from Hu Jintao last November as General Secretary of the Communist Party and also as chairman of its military commission, the real sources of power in China. Li Keqiang will succeed Wen Jiabao as the country’s premier in a similarly symbolic ballot on Friday. Xi’s moves since being anointed the new leader of China have signalled an intention to combat corruption and bureaucracy and he has used simple and effective language in his communication.

Over a Quarter of S.African Schoolgirls ‘HIV Positive’

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has revealed that as many as 28 percent of the country’s schoolgirls are HIV positive, adding that the figures “destroyed my soul”. He also revealed that four percent of schoolboys in the country carry the virus. “It is clear that it is not young boys who are sleeping with these girls. It is old men. We can no longer live like that”, said Motsoaledi. He said part of the problem was the trend of young girls becoming involved with “sugar daddies”, while also revealing that 94,000 schoolgirls had become pregnant in 2011, some as young as 10 years of age. South Africa has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS infection rates, with six million people living with the virus in a total population of 50 million people. Cases resulting in death have gone down sharply in recent years and the government now runs the world’s largest anti-retroviral programme in the world, serving 1.7 million people.

Scientists Confident of Having Discovered the ‘God Particle’

Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced on Thursday that after extensive tests it was “looking more and more” that they had discovered the sought-after Higgs boson, known as the “God particle”, which holds the fabric of the universe together. The discovery of the particle was announced at a conference in La Thuile, Italy. “The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is”, said spokesman Joe Incandela. It would be confirmed as a Higgs boson until scientists can demonstrate its interaction with other particles. They say the need to return to the Large Hadron Collider to carry out further tests before they are certain to have found the particle, which has proved impossible to pin down since the 1960s.

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