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Monday, March 25, 2013

Cyprus Finalises Bailout Deal, Could Face Years of Depression

Cyprus finalised a bailout deal in the early hours of Monday, aimed at keeping the country in the eurozone. The deal will spare those with deposits below €100,00, although those with deposits above that amount could face a loss of up to 40 percent of their sum total. The country’s second-largest bank, Laiki Bank, will be closed and its €4.2 billion in deposits over €100,000 could be wiped out entirely. Depositors with Laiki with accounts of under €100,000 will have their accounts transferred to the Bank of Cyprus. The plan will not have to be approved by the Cypriot parliament because the losses to large depositors will achieved by restructuring banks and not by imposing a tax on citizens. The problem with the plan is that it breaks with Cyprus’ image as a safe-haven for deposits from wealthy individuals in the EU and further afield, particularly Russian depositors, who held more than €20 billion of the total €68 billion held in Cypriot banks. French bank Société Générale has predicted that the measures could cause the country’s GDP to drop over 20 percent by 2017, placing it into a severe economic depression.

EU Nationals to Be Banned from Claiming Benefits, Pledges UK Prime Minister

British Prime Minister has promised to ban EU nationals from claiming benefits in the UK unless they can prove that they have been looking for work at the same time. The pledge could put the UK at odds with the EU because it could be construed as a restriction on the free movement of workers, one of tenets of EU law. The prime minister also said he would restrict foreigners from gaining access to social housing if they had not been resident in the UK for five years. Cameron said he wanted to “create a system that is fair so that we support the aspirations of hard-working people who want to get on in life. Ending the something for nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare. We’re going to give migrants from the European Economic Area a very clear message. Just like British citizens, there is no absolute right to unemployment benefit”. Cameron’s shift seems to be a reaction to words from Nigel Farage, leader of the right-wing eurosceptic UKIP party, that he would curtail EU citizens’ right to work in the UK and that the measure would boost his party’s popularity. Figures released by the UK Department for Work and Pensions in January 2012 showed that 371,000 non-UK citizens were claiming benefits, of which 258,000 were non-EU nationals.

Afghanistan Takes Control of Bagram Prison After Long Controversy

The US military has handed over the Parwan Detention Facility to the Afghan government on Monday, the only detention facility in the country still under US control. The jail is part of the Bagram military base and the transfer comes a year after the two governments agreed to transfer the administration of the facility. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had long demanded control of Parwan as a matter of national sovereignty.”The transfer of the detention facility is an important part of the overall transition of security lead to Afghan National Security Forces. This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan”, said General Joseph Dunford, top US commander in Afghanistan. The facility supposed to be handed over last September, but the transfer was held up by the US until Afghanistan agreed not to release prisoners who could return to the Taliban and resume fighting alongside the insurgency. President Karzai had earlier said the detainees held at Parwan were “innocent”. The transfer comes a year before the withdrawal of the majority of NATO troops still serving in Afghanistan, which number approximately 96,000.

Amniotic Fluid ‘May Heal Premature Babies’

A study published in the medical journal Gut has showed that stem cells inside amniotic fluid could heal some of the damage caused by a severe inflammation of the gut called necrotizing enterocolitis, which can destroy intestinal tissues and lead to major organ failures and death in premature babies. Babies born before full term are not ready for the world outside the protective environment of the womb and cannot deal with food. One in 10 babies develop necrotizing enterocolitis while in intensive care, which can leads to a hole in the intestinal tissue, causing serious infections. The only treatment available is surgery, but 40 percent of babies that go through a surgical intervention do not survive. “It is quite a problem and we think it is on the increase,” said Dr Simon Eaton, from University College London. But when doctors tested injecting stem cells into rats programmed to develop the disease, the treatment seemed to increase survival times. “We’re able to prolong survival by quite a long way. What appears to be happening is a direct effect on calming inflammation and also stimulating resident stem cells in the gut to be more efficient at repairing the intestines”, concluded Dr Eaton.

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