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Monday, August 5, 2013

US Extends Embassy Closures Over ‘Serious Threat’

The US will keep 21 embassies and consulates closed in North Africa and the Middle East until Saturday, with the extended closure understood to be a reaction to “terrorist chatter reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11″, said Republican senator Saxby Chambliss during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press programme. He added it was “the most serious threat I have seen in the last several years”. The US State Department had issued a global travel alert last Friday saying an al-Qaeda inspired attack was possible in the Middle East and North Africa. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has a track record of attempting high-profile attacks, including one on Christmas Day in 2009 when Nigerian Omar Farouk Adbulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb in his underpants while aboard a flight to Detroit.

New Iranian President Urges Moderation and Respect

Newly-installed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used his first speech as the country’s head of government to promise moderation, hope and prudence. “People want change. People want to live better, to have dignity as well as a stable life. They also want to recapture their deserving position among nations”, he said. On the country’s foreign affairs, Rouhani said “the only way for interaction with Iran is dialogue on an equal footing, confidence-building and mutual respect as well as reducing antagonism and aggression. Transparency is the key to creating trust but it can not be one-sided. If you want the right response, don’t speak with Iran in the language of sanctions, speak in the language of respect”. Reacting to his words, the White House issued a statement saying Rouhani would “find a willing partner in the United States” if his government chose to “engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations”.

Cameron ‘Seriously Concerned’ Over Gibraltar Dispute

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he was “seriously concerned” about the escalation of tensions over the border between Spain and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. The controversy erupted over plans unveiled by Spanish Foreign Minister José García-Margallo to introduce a 50-euro tax to enter or leave Gibraltar by road, to stop at the border any materials used to construct a reef that Spain claims harms Spanish fishermen, to close Spanish airspace to flights bound for Gibraltar and to force online gambling sites operating in Gibraltar to use Spanish servers, allowing the Spanish government to tax them. “What we have seen this weekend is sabre-rattling of the sort that we haven’t seen for some time”, said Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister. “We’ve seen it before during Franco’s time during the 1960s but I think all of us hoped that those politics were never going to come back”, he added.

West Germany ‘Sponsored Doping’ in Sports

The German government announced on Monday that it would publish a report on doping in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, detailing that it was actively involved in experimenting with performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, testosterone and EPO, using taxpayers’ money to fund its studies, and that the research included giving banned substances to minors. Previously, only East Germany was seen as guilty of using doping on a system-wide scale during the Cold War. “The Interior Ministry has a strong interest in a complete clarification and assessment of the history of doping. The Federal Institute for Sport Sciences will today publish the researchers’ final report on its website and then the Federal Institute for Sport Sciences will do a specialist assessment and then there will also be a political assessment”, said government spokesman Philipp Spauschus during a news conference.

First Lab-Grown Burger Eaten in London

A hamburger made from strips of cow muscle grown in a laboratory was prepared and eaten during a news conference in London on Monday. Sponsored by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands took cells from a cow and turned them into strips of muscle, which were then combined to make a patty, cooked by chef Richard McGowan from Cornwall. The burger was tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald. “I was expecting the texture to be more soft. There is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, but it’s not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper. This is meat to me. It’s not falling apart”, said Ruetzler. “The mouthfeel is like meat. I miss the fat, there’s a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger. What was consistently different was flavour”, added Schonwald.

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