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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

UN Secretary General Says Korean Crisis Has ‘Gone Too Far’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reacted to the ongoing crisis in the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, saying it had “gone too far” and that “things must calm down”. “There is no need for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to be on a collision course with the international community. Nuclear threats are not a game”, said Ban. His comments came after North Korea announced it would restart the nuclear reactors at its Yongbyon complex, which had been closed since 2007. A report by state news agency KCNA said it would be used for “bolstering the nuclear armed force in both quality and quantity” as well as handling the country’s electricity shortages. South Korea reacted by saying that the move was “regrettable”. “North Korea should keep their promise and agreements and they should keep the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Our government will closely monitor the situation”, said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young.

March ‘Deadliest Month’ in Syrian Conflict

March was the deadliest month in Syria since protests began against the government of Bashar al-Assad two years ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The UK-based group said it recorded 6,005 deaths last month. The victims were 291 women, 298 children, 1,486 rebel fighters or army defectors and 1,464 government troops. The group also estimates that the total death toll is higher than the more than 62,000 deaths recorded by the regime. “We estimate that it is actually around 120,000 people. Many death tolls are more difficult to document so we are not officially including them yet”, said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the SOHR. Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict is continuing to spill over into neighbouring Lebanon. Gunmen intercepted a bus carrying eight Syrian citizens that had crossed into northern Lebanon, near the town of Wadi Khaled. The driver was beat up and all Syrians taken back into Syria.

Eurozone Hits Record Unemployment Rate Since Creation of the Euro

The 17 members of the eurozone hit another record combined unemployment rate in January and February, pushing the figure to 12 percent. It is the highest number recorded since the creation of the euro in 1999 according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union (EU). The figures show that unemployment in the eurozone rose by 76,000 to 19 million people without a job. The wider European Union, which includes those countries not members of the monetary union such as the U.K. and Poland, registered an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, up from 10.8 percent in January. The highest unemployment rates were registered in Greece, with 26.4 percent unemployment, and Spain, with 26.3 percent unemployment. The country with the lowest jobless rate was Austria, with 4.8 percent.

UK Chancellor Says Critics Spew ‘Headline-Seeking Nonsense’

UK Chancellor George Osborne has said wide-ranging cuts to housing benefits and alterations to council tax across the United Kingdom will be beneficial to “around nine out of 10 working households”, adding that the government would “make work pay”. Among the changes brought by the government is a £26,000 cap on the benefits a household can receive, along with a cut to housing benefits of social housing tenants whose property is deemed larger than they need. He also hit back at the critics of his plan, saying that they were peddling “headline-seeking nonsense”. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls countered that “George Osborne should be straight with the British people and admit that millions on middle and low incomes are paying the price for his economic failure, while he gives a huge tax cut to millionaires this week”. Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said that the changes were fair and that he could live on £53 a week in response to a question put by a benefits claimant. A petition has been set up on the Change.org website and more than 250,000 people have asked Duncan Smith to take the challenge.

LHC Upgrade Could Lead to ‘More Complete Theory of the Universe’

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, is being put through a £70 million upgrade to take science to “a new realm of particle physics”, according to scientists associated with the project, including a more complete theory of how the Universe works. “The past two years have been the most exciting in my time as a particle physicist. People are absolutely fired up. They’ve made one new discovery (the Higgs) and they want to make more discoveries with the new high energies that the upgrade will give us. We could find a new realm of particle physics”, said Dr Pippa Wells, a project leader at the LHC. Critics call the upgrade a repair, saying that all it will do is rectify damages done shortly after it was first turned on in 2008, when the connections inside the collider could not take the current running through them. “Nobody has ever done this kind of technology before. Everything from the most basic welding to the most complicated beam diagnostics is pushing the boundaries of technology, and sometimes these things just don’t go right simply because we don’t know how it’s going to work,” said Stephanie Hills, a spokeswoman at the complex.

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