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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cyprus Banks to Open Tomorrow with Capital Restrictions

After almost two weeks of closure to prevent a run, Cyprus’ banks will reopen tomorrow at noon and until 6 p.m. (2 a.m. to 8 a.m. Pacific Time) with restrictions on money transfers outside the nation and a €300 ($383) withdrawal limit. The decree ordering the measures, issued today by the Central Bank of Cyprus, will remain valid for four days. “Please let’s all be calm and be careful not to create more problems,” said the central bank’s head of audit department Yiangos Dimitriou. “It will serve no purpose for us to run to banks and try to find ways to get money. To get it where?” Travelers will be able to take a maximum of €3,000 with them and only companies that import goods will be able to send money abroad. The European Central Bank (ECB) has sent euros to help banks cope with demand. Meanwhile Yiannis Kypri, CEO of the island’s largest bank, the Bank of Cyprus, said he was asked to resign after the central bank appointed a special administrator  to oversee the lender, which will be made to absorb some of the assets of the dismantled Cyprus Popular Bank, the second largest.

North Korea Cuts Hotline with South Korea

In the latest of a series of provocations, North Korea announced today it severed the last of its direct communication link with South Korea, adding that it would warn the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) about an increased risk of nuclear war. “Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep up North-South military communications,” an official told the state’s news agency. The move comes a few weeks after Pyongyang cut off the Red Cross hotline, used between government when there are no diplomatic relations. “This is because of provocation moves by the US and South Korean puppets,” the North said, referring to the tightened international economic sanctions passed at the UNSC after a third nuclear test last month. Analysts believe this is Pyongyang’s reaction to feeling cornered, but that the likelihood that it will attack first is low.

Scientists Discover Genetic Markers Tied to Three Types of Cancers

In the largest study to date of this kind, scientists in the U.K. have discovered over 80 gene mutations that are tied to increased risk of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. The research, carried out on 200,000 people over 100 institutions and led by the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Cancer Research, uncovers clues for better screening of those most at risk and possibly new avenues for treatment. Genetic risk factors are tied to more than half of cancers, though the risk increases with lifestyle factors. “We’re on the verge of being able to use our knowledge of these genetic variations to develop tests that could complement breast cancer screening and take us a step closer to having an effective prostate cancer screening program,” said Douglas Easton, of the Cambridge Cancer Center.

Justices Skeptical on DOMA’s Constitutionality

U.S. Supreme Court Justices heard today the second case this week on the legality of same-sex marriage. Edith Windsor, a widowed lesbian, challenged the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, after she was required to pay over $350,000 in inheritance taxes to the federal government, something the surviving spouse of a straight marriage wouldn’t have to do. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often seen as the swing vote on issues that divide conservatives and liberals, voiced concern that DOMA infringes on the rights of individual U.S. states, nine of which have legalized same-sex marriage. DOMA, signed by former President Bill Clinton, bans gay and lesbian couples from enjoying benefits granted to married couples. Clinton now says he regrets it. Forty percent of the argument was spent on the issue of “standing” as Justices examined whether the challenge to DOMA would harm the defendant. Since the White House declined to defend DOMA, it fell upon the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to do so, at the request of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. Dismissing the case on standing would void DOMA only in the states that have ruled it unconstitutional.

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