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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Russia Says It Will Deliver Weapons to Syria to Deter ‘Hotheads’

Russia has said it will deliver an advanced air defense system to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in order to deter “hotheads from escalating the conflict to the international scale”. The comments, from Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, come a day after the European Union failed to agree on a new arms embargo for Syria, potentially paving the way for arms shipments to the Syrian rebels. He would not confirm if the Russian anti-aircraft missile system was already on its way to Syria, but said he recognised that “this question worries our partners”. He added he saw no reason why Russia should “reconsider our position in this sphere”. Reacting to the news, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said he knew “the shipments are not on their way yet”, but that “God forbid, if they reach Syria, we will know what to do”, implying that Israel was prepared to strike the shipments. Israel has already carried out airstrikes against targets in Syria, mostly against weapons shipments that were believed to be bound for Hezbollah.

UK Introduces Spending Cuts to Tackle Budget Deficit

UK Chancellor George Osborne announced this morning that the government has agreed on 10 percent cuts with seven departments as part of the Treasury’s plan to slash £11.5 billion from public spending for the 2015-16 financial year. With a month to go until the spending review on June 26, Osborne has 29 days left to find savings of £8 billion so that he can shrink the national budget deficit. Among the departments that provisionally agreed to “significant savings” of between 8 percent and 10 percent were justice, energy, communities, the Treasury and the Foreign Office, which account to up 20 percent of the cuts the government needs to make. Deals are yet to be brokered with the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, two of the highest spending ministries and the ones expected to take the brunt of the latest austerity moves. “We are now about 20 per cent of the way there,” Osborne told the BBC. “I don’t think any chancellor in history has made this much progress with a month to go.” Despite growing pressure on the government to lower overseas aid, international development aid, health and schools have been earmarked for protection from cuts. The Chancellor plans to spend part of the money saved on the National Health Service and on infrastructure in an attempt to boost the economy and help create jobs.

Tests in China Confirm Bird Flu Drug Resistance

Laboratory tests in China have confirmed that some H7N9 bird flu patients have developed a resistance to the only available treatment, with one of the patients developing the resistance after receiving treatment, prompting fears that using a widely-used antiviral drug might cause the resistance. Three out of 14 patients monitored at a clinic in Shanghai had a mutated version of the virus that resisted treatment with Tamiflu, an antiviral drug. All had been given antiviral treatment, with either osetalmivir (Tamiflu) or peramivir, which caused virus levels in 11 patients to drop. The three that did not register a drop had a “high viral load” despite treatment and had to be placed on oxygenation life support machines. Two of them later died. “The apparent ease with wich antiviral resistance emerges in A/H7N9 viruses is concerning”, said an article published by a team of researchers in the medical journal The Lancet. The news comes a week after the deputy head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Keiji Fukuda, said that the world was not ready to deal with a major flu pandemic.

Far Right Demonstration Disarmed with Tea and Biscuits

Worshipers at a mosque in York have been praised for defusing a potentially dangerous situation by offering tea, biscuits and football. Members of the far-right organisation English Defense League (EDL) had arranged to demonstrate outside a mosque in Bull Lane, in York, on Sunday, one of many similar demonstrations held by the group after the death of Lee Rigby, killed in a terrorist attack in Woolwich last week. Upon arrival at the site, more than 100 worshipers met the six or so EDL supporters who had come to protest and offered them cups of tea and biscuits. “When they came, some of the members of the mosque went over and they engaged in a conversation. Some people went over with cups of tea and biscuits, they were talking for about 30 or 40 minutes and then they came inside, which was a really, really beautiful thing”, said Imam Abid Salik. The EDL demonstrators were also invited to play football. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, praised their action, saying that “tea, biscuits, and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views”.

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