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Friday, March 15, 2013

U.S. to Boost Nuclear Defenses Against N. Korea

The U.S. will deploy new missile defenses in response to the nuclear threat coming from North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today. Fourteen new ground-based missile interceptors will be added to the existing 30 in Alaska and California. Hagel also cited Iran’s expanding uranium enrichment program as another reason for this decision. “The reason that we’re doing what we’re doing… is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat,” he said. All 14 interceptors will be installed by the end of 2017 at an estimated cost of under $1 billion.

Murdoch to Face 600 New Claims of Phone Hacking

Investigators at the U.K.’s Metropolitan police (Met) are now looking at around 600 new claims of phone hacking ordered by reporters at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, which was owned by Australian Publisher Rupert Murdoch. The evidence, which will be presented on Monday at the High Court of Justice (which acts as a supervisory court), was found by the Met on the phone records of a suspect who became an informant and a crown witness, as witnesses for the prosecution are called. The new findings means the investigation into the affair will be prolonged as a result, lasting well into 2015. The force initially thought trials would conclude this year. More than 250 people, including celebrities and politicians, have sued Murdoch’s News International since the scandal was revealed. Also on Monday, Labour and Liberal Democrats Members of Parliament are also expected to vote on amendments that would impose harsher regulations on the press.

EU Split on Whether to Arm Syrian Rebels

As leaders of the European Union met in Brussels for a second day today, the discussion turned on the region’s embargo for the delivery of arms to Syrian rebels. The U.K., which signaled earlier this week it may veto its renewal when it expires in May, and France, which supports this plan, were pitted against Germany and the rest of the participants, which favor the more cautious approach of keeping weapons from falling into the hands of Jihadists, who have hijacked the pro-democracy struggle. “We agreed to task our foreign ministers to assess the situation as a matter of priority,” said EU President Herman Van Rompuy, referring to a meeting that will take place in Dublin on March 22 and 23. “I haven’t made up my mind yet,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “It is an extremely difficult situation.”

North Dakota May Ban Abortions After 6th Week

The Republican-led Legislature of the U.S. state of North Dakota passed today a bill that would make abortions beyond the sixth week of pregnancy illegal, which is about the time a heartbeat can be identified using a transvaginal probe. Doctors could face up to five years in prison if they do not use the probe and if they knowingly perform the abortion past that moment. The law, if approved by GOP Governor Jack Dalrymple, would also prohibit these procedures in the case of genetic defect or to choose the baby’s gender. The vote comes less than a week after Arkansas approved legislation that renders abortions past the 12th week of pregnancy illegal. Both laws violate a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that allows abortions until the 24th week of pregnancy, which is about the time a fetus can survive a premature birth.

Obama Plans to Redirect $2 Billion for Clean Fuel Research

U.S. President Barack Obama said today he will propose to redirect $2 billion from oil and gas leases into funding research for cleaner power and efficient transportation. “The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices – the only way to break that cycle for good – is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil,” he said, speaking at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, which received stimulus money to support its research into vehicle battery technology and helped boost the market for electric cars in the U.S. The president toured the site and imagined “coast to coast without using a drop of oil.” This proposal has appeared to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Weekend Read: In Mississippi, the Mysterious Murder of a Gay, Black Politician

Marco McMillian was gay and black, and he was running for mayor in the town of Clarksdale in conservative Mississippi. His body was found beaten and burnt in February. Was it a hate crime? In the National Journal.

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