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Thursday, August 29, 2013

UK Government Makes Its Case for Military Action in Syria

British Prime Minister David Cameron has told a specially-convened meeting of the House of Commons that there was “no 100 percent certainty about who is responsible” for the chemical attack in Syria, but that MPs would “have to make a judgement” when deciding to support or vote against UK military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He said the government was convinced the Syrian government forces had been responsible for the attack on August 21 near Damascus and defended the UK’s right to carry out any military action even if such an action is not approved by the UN Security Council. The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, said that he did not “rule out supporting the prime minister”, but that Cameron would have to “make a better case than he did today on this question”. Miliband added that “evidence should precede decision; not decision precede evidence”. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Syrian parliament wrote to his counterpart in the House of Commons to invite a delegation of British MPs to visit Damascus and check the conclusions of the UN weapons inspectors, due to leave the country on Saturday. “Before you rush over the cliffs of war, would it not be wise to pause? Remember the thousands of British soldiers killed and maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq …”, wrote Jihad Allaham, speaker of the Syrian assembly.

Net Migration to UK Increases, Says ONS

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that net migration to the UK has risen slightly over the past year, with a new flow of 176,000 migrants up to December 2012. This is above the number targeted by the coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron, who wanted to reduce net migration from non-EU countries to below 100,000 before the 2015 general elections. The number of migrants in this category fell to 157,000 in the year up to December 2012, particularly in the number of citizens from Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Kenya, Malawi and Pakistan. “Our reforms are working and are building an immigration system that works in the national interest”, said immigration minister Mark Harper. He added that the government was committed to “bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”.

UK Firefighters to Go On Strike

Member of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents over 85 percent of firefighters and rescue responders in the UK, have threatened to carry out the first nationwide walkouts in over a decade in a row over pensions. Planned changes to pensions would raise the retirement age of firefighters to 60, which the FBU claims is dangerous because older firefighters might struggle with the physical demands of the job. “We cannot expect large numbers of firefighters in their late-50s to fight fires and rescue families without creating danger to the public and firefighters. We have repeatedly raised safety concerns and provided strong evidence to back it up but the government just isn’t listening”, said Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU. Some fire stations across the country have begun training members of the public to stand in during the strike because the army is no longer obliged to step in and cover for them.

Breast Cancer Linked to Alcohol Consumption Before Pregnancy

Research carried out in the US, based on findings from 91,000 women, has shown that women who drink on average one glass of wine a day between her first period and first full term pregnancy are 34 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than non-drinkers. “The longer the duration of menarche (first period) to first pregnancy, the higher is a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Compared with non-drinkers with a shorter duration, non-drinkers with duration of 10 or more years between menarche and first pregnancy had 26 percent and 81 percent increased risk of breast cancer and proliferative BBD (benign breast disease) in our analysis respectively”, wrote Dr Ying Liy from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.

Cooling Pacific Ocean Dampens Global Warming

A new study published by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, supported by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has revealed that cooling waters in the Pacific Ocean appear to be a major factor in the slower rise of global average surface temperatures in the last fifteen years. “It provides a powerful illustration of how the remote eastern tropical Pacific guides the behaviour of the global ocean-atmosphere system, in this case exhibiting a discernible influence on the recent hiatus in global warming”, said Dan Barrie, programme manager at NOAA. While recent record summer temperatures are important markers of global warming, global average temperatures obscure such seasonal variations. While climate change skeptics have pointed to the slower rise as proof of their theory, climate scientists say that the overall temperature trend is still upwards.

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