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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Russia ‘Disappointed’ at US Talks Snub

The Russian government has expressed its disappointment at the US decision to cancel a summit in September over Russia’s decision to grant asylum to intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. “This decision is clearly linked to the situation with former agent of US special services Snowden, which hasn’t been created by us. For many years, the Americans have avoided signing an extradition agreement. And they have invariably responded negatively to our requests for extradition of people who committed crimes on the territory of Russia, pointing at the absence of such agreement”, said Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov. He added, however, that Russia was still open to talks with US officials despite the snub. “Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda”, he said.

Syrian Rebels Claim to Have Hit Assad Motorcade

Syrian rebels claimed on Thursday to have fired rockets and mortar rounds against the motorcade of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as it travelled to Eid al-Fitr prayers in Malki neighbourhood of Damascus. Images shown on Syrian state television later showed Assad alongside the country’s grand mufti and the Syrian Information Minister denied the motorcade had been attacked, insisting the president had driven his own car to the site. Capt. Islam Alloush of the Liwa al-Islam rebel brigade told the Associated Press that, although Assad himself was not injured in the attack, other members of his entourage had been wounded. “We had promised the Syrian people a big operation for Eid and we have delivered”, he said, adding that the footage shown on state television had been pre-recorded or even fabricated.

Australian PM Hits Out at Murdoch Political Interference

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has accused Rupert Murdoch of interfering in the country’s elections to protect his commercial interests. “It’s for others to ask the question why Mr Murdoch really doesn’t want the National Broadband Network to be connected to everyone’s home and everyone’s small business premises. Does he sense it represents a commercial challenge to Foxtel – which is a major cash cow for his company – or not?”, asked the prime minister. The National Broadband Network, a Labor government project, plans to provide a high-speed internet connection to every Australian home, while Foxtel is a part of Murdoch’s News Corp and provides internet access among its services. The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper also owned by News Corp, has taken an anti-Labor stance since the election date of September 7 was announced, including running a headline calling for its readers to “Kick this mob out”.

Pope Francis Tightens Vatican Financial Regulations

Pope Francis has issued a decree designed to combat money-laundering and the financing of terrorism through the Vatican bank, which handles the Catholic Church’s funds. It is seen as a response to the recommendations made by Moneyval, a French-based financial watchdog hired by the Vatican to review its financial operations. It had found that the Institute for Religious Works, as the Vatican bank is officially known, had not always exercised due diligence in its operations. “It is a means of ensuring the road towards transparency continues. In today’s world, it is all about resisting increasingly insidious forms of financial criminality. We have to be equal to the challenges in order to protect legality, and not be left behind”, said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi at a news conference.

UK Population Growth in 2012 Larger Than Any Other in the EU

Numbers divulged by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the biggest baby boom in the UK in the last 40 years has contributed to the country’s population growing more than any other European Union (EU) country last year. The country’s population increased by 420,000, compared to France’s 319,000 increase and Germany’s 166,000 rise. Paul Vickers, a statistician at the ONS, said the jump was not unexpected. “It’s just been gradually building up over the last six years. What we’ve seen is that the number of 0-to-six-year-olds has actually gone up by 580,000 compared with 2001″, he said. The population increase was uneven across the country, with London accounting for almost a quarter of the entire increase and Scotland showing the smallest growth.

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