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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Unicef Says UK Government Cuts Could ‘Sideline’ A Generation

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has published a report saying that British children and young adults face a bleak future under the current coalition government, with the government’s austerity agenda and cuts to welfare and benefits potentially threatening to “sideline” an entire generation. Although the country is better placed now than when the organisation last compiled a rank of developed countries for overall wellbeing, continued high rates of teenage pregnancy, low levels of youngsters in education, employment or training and alcohol abuse problems have pushed the UK down the table, behind countries such as the Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovenia. The report said that “since 2010 the downgrading of youth policy and cuts to local government services are having a profound negative effect on young people” and that the situation was “expected to worsen”. Anita Tiessen, deputy executive director of Unicef UK, said that the government “needs to acknowledge this and act now. While children and young people will be the first to bear the brunt if we fail to safeguard their wellbeing, over time society will pay the price”.

Syrian Rebel Group Pledges Allegiance to al-Qaeda

The head of a Syrian rebel group has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, a move that is likely to further bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s claims that he is fighting “terrorists” intent on establishing a hard-line caliphate. “The sons of al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri”, said the head of the group, Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani, referring to the current al-Qaeda leader, adding that his group had not merged with al-Qaeda in Iraq. “We inform you that neither the Al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,” Jawlani said. The announcement came after a message from Zawahiri, urging the Syrian rebel movement to establish an Islamic state in the country. The mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) distanced itself from any association with al-Qaeda, with FSA spokesman Louay Muqdad saying that the organisation did not “support the ideology of al-Nusra”.

South Korea Raises Its Military Alert Status

South Korea has raised its military alert status to step up the monitoring of North Korean missile test preparations for a launch that could come “any day”, according to a senior military official quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Wednesday. The Combined Forces Command official also said that the North could conduct multiple launches involving short-range Scud missiles and medium-range Rodong missiles in celebration of the April 15 birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung. The country tends to carry out displays of military might to mark the date. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the US forces in the Pacific, told a US Senate hearing that he also believed the North had moved an unspecified number of longer-range missiles to its east coast. He said he would recommend the use of anti-missile systems against North Korean missiles. “I would certainly recommend the action of intercepting it. And if it was defence of our allies, I would recommend that action”, said Locklear.

French President Hollande Calls for the Abolition of Tax Havens

French President François Hollande has asked for the eradication of tax havens “in Europe and the world” as his government reels from a scandal involving Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who held a Swiss bank account and lied to tax authorities. The French president said he had been “wounded, struck, even bruised” by the scandal and called for all ministers to begin declaring their net worth, while also suggesting that Cahuzac should not retain his parliamentary seat. Hollande called for a “relentless battle against the excesses of money, greed and secret finance”, saying that “French banks will be required to every year make public the list of all their subsidiaries everywhere in the world, country by country”. Besides the requirement on French banks, Hollande also said that those countries that do not comply with French efforts on banking transparency would be considered tax havens, saying the same requirement should also be extended to banks and corporations across the European Union.

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