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Monday, April 15, 2013

Defeated Candidate in Venezuelan Poll Deems Results ‘Illegitimate’

Defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has branded the results of Sunday’s poll, which declared Nicolás Maduro as the winner with 50.7 percent of the vote, as “illegitimate”. The opposition candidate said that there were more than 300,000 incidents that took place on polling day that needed to be investigated before the election results could be fully declared. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, on other hand, said the results were “irreversible” shortly after the announcement handing Maduro the victory. Former President Hugo Chávez had named Nicolás Maduro his political heir months before his death and there are suspicions that the slim margin of victory might have been engineered in his favour. “It is the government that has been defeated”, said Capriles, later addressing Maduro directly and adding “The biggest loser today is you. The people don’t love you. Mr Maduro, if you were illegitimate before, now you are more so”. The slim margin also seemed to bother members of Maduro’s own United Socialist Party (PSUV). National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello wrote on Twitter that the results obliged the government to “make a profound self-criticism”.

Greece to Return to Growth in 2014

Members of the troika, as the representatives of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are known, have said Greece has enacted enough reforms to be able to receive a new tranche of its €270 billion bailout, worth €8.8 billion. “Greece has indeed come a very long way. The fiscal adjustment in Greece has been exceptional by any standard”, said Poul Thomsen, of the IMF, on the steps taken by the Greek government. The latest measures include the dismissal of civil servants, 15,000 of which were underperforming and who would be replaced by more capable employees. Thomsen also said the troika believed Greece would be able to return to growth in 2014. Meanwhile, Greek Finance Minister Yoannis Stournaras said that the country should aim for a primary budget surplus this year. “In my opinion, the major target now is to achieve a primary budgetary surplus this year so that we can ask for a drastic reduction in the public debt. That will create a very positive boost in developments and would speed up our exit from the crisis”, said Stournaras.

Pope Names Advisory Board to Reform the Vatican’s Administration

Pope Francis has decided to setup an advisory board composed of eight cardinals who will aid him in reforming the Catholic Church’s central administration. The cardinals, who come from Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Honduras, India, Italy and the US, will hold their first formal meeting in October. They will study changes to a constitution written by the late Pope John Paul II, known as the “Pastor Bonus”, that gave the Church’s administration its current structure in 1988. A Vatican statement clarified that the pontiff was responding to suggestions aired during meetings among the cardinals before the conclave, where the failings of the administration were exposed fully. One of the possible reforms to be instituted is the introduction of term limits on Vatican bureaucrats to prevent the “careerism” that led to infighting and scandals. One of the cardinals appointed to the board, Giuseppe Bertello, is tipped to become the Vatican’s Secretary of State, effectively the pontiff’s number two.

Lab-Grown Kidneys Fully Functional

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have grown a kidney in a lab from stripped-down kidney scaffolds, which were then transplanted into rats. The kidneys are now filtering blood and urine just as a natural organ would, if only not as as efficiently. The scaffolding used by the team led by Harald Ott took the kidneys of deceased rats, cleaned them with detergent to strip away cells, but left tissues such as blood vessels intact. They then injected the scaffolding with human umbilical cord cells to line the blood vessels and with newborn rat kidney cells to produce the other tissues that line the organ. In time, Ott argues that these bioengineered kidneys demonstrate that, if the procedure can be scaled up for human kidneys, patients with the most severe forms of kidney disease might be saved by receiving a lab-grown organ. “In an ideal world, if someone walks into the hospital and has a kidney grown on demand, there’s no donor organ shortage and there are no immune problems”, said Ott.

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