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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Queen’s Speech Outlines Tougher Rules for Immigrants

The Queen unveiled 17 bills to be tabled by the government, placing curbs on immigration at the heart of the coalition’s plans. Access to the NHS will be made more difficult, landlords will have to check the immigration status of potential tenants and illegal immigrants will not be able to obtain driver’s licenses. Her Majesty said an immigration bill would “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute, and deter those who will not”. Prime Minister David Cameron said the measures contained in the speech showed that the government was “rising to the challenge” and ready to back citizens who were ready to “work hard and get on”. Opposition leader Ed Miliband said the government had run out of ideas, “standing up for the wrong people and unable to bring the change the country needs”. The Prince of Wales, joined by his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, also attended the state opening of Parliament, making his first appearance since 1996. This could signal that Prince Charles will start to take a more prominent role in the future, assuming more of the Queen’s official duties when necessary.

Syrian Opposition Leaders React with Scepticism to Calls for Talks

Calls made jointly by the US and Russia for an international conference on the possible creation of a transitional government in Syria was met with scepticism by opposition leaders. Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned last month as head of the National Opposition Coalition (NOC), said that the rebels should be wary of squandering their gains in conference halls. Another member of the NOC, Samir Nashar, said that the opposition first needs to know what role current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have during any transitional phase before it commits to talks. “Before making any decisions we need to know what Assad’s role would be. That point has been left vague, we believe intentionally so, in order to try to drag the opposition into talks before a decision on that is made. No official position has been decided but I believe the opposition would find it impossible to hold talks over a government that still had Assad at its head”, said Nashar. The US-Russia proposal was welcomed by the UN Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, whose efforts have been thwarted by divisions within the UN Security Council. “This is the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time. The statements made in Moscow constitute a very significant first step forward. It is nevertheless only a first step”, he said.

Brazil’s Azevêdo Wins Election to Head the World Organisation

Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo was announced as the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) late on Tuesday, the first representative from Latin America at the helm of the trade body since its creation in 1995. He defeated Mexican candidate Herminio Blanco, seen as the favoured candidate of the US and Europe, in the contest to success France’s Pascal Lamy. Although the result of the election was only supposed to be announced formally on Wednesday, the Brazilian government confirmed Azevêdo‘s election before any communiqué could be issued in Geneva. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that Azevêdo‘s election was not only a victory for Brazil, but for the WTO as a whole. “For Brazil it is clear that, given his commitment and experience, he would be able to lead the organisation toward a path of a fairer and more dynamic global economic order”, said Rousseff. Azevêdo is not the first Brazilian to achieve an important role in an international organisation. Murilo Portugal, an economist, was the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 2007 and 2011.

Nine Feared Dead as Cargo Ship Slams into Genoa Port Control Tower

Nine people are feared dead after a cargo ship, the Jolly Nero, rammed the control tower of the port of Genoa on Tuesday night, toppling the concrete structure into the Italian city’s busy harbour. The port is the country’s busiest in terms of cargo handling, as well as acting as an important port of call for cruise ships sailing the Mediterranean. Four people were hospitalised and another two were unaccounted for, according to Luca Cari, spokesman for the city’s firefighters. He also confirmed seven deaths, with many of the bodies found near the area where the tower’s elevator stood. “This event is unbelievable because we had the best weather navigation conditions”, said Luigi Merlo, president of the Genoa port authority. He also said that the ship’s unique height allowed it to slam into the tower and not just the dock itself. “The ship directly impacted the control tower”, said Merlo. Andrea Furgani, a first aid paramedic, said that those recovered and taken to hospital were in critical condition. “They mainly suffered wounds caused by compression, broken bones and wounds on the chest”, he said.

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