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Thursday, September 5, 2013

China Joins Russia in Opposing Strikes Against Syria

China has joined Russia in opposing a military strike against Syria as called for by the US and France. Speaking ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Chinese Deputy Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said that “military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices – it will cause a hike in the oil price”. Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said US Secretary of State John Kerry had lied to US senators when asked about the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. “I watched the debates in Congress. A congressman asks Mr. Kerry: ‘Is al-Qaida there?’ He says: ‘No, we are telling you responsibly that they are not’”, said Putin. Despite not being able to convince Parliament to join the military effort against the Assad regime, British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to show Putin further British intelligence province that Syrian government forces were responsible for the use of chemical weapons against its own people, a day after the Russian president said his government would approve a strike against Syria if it received credible intelligence on the matter.

UN Says Press Should Not Be ‘Intimidated Into Silence’ Over Leaks

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, said on Thursday that “the protection of national security secrets must never be used as an excuse to intimidate the press into silence and backing off from its crucial work in the clarification of human rights violations”, a reference to the detention of David Miranda by the UK government under the Terrorism Act on 18 August. Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, had documents and electronic devices seized and was held for nine hours at Heathrow while en route from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. “The intimidation of journalists and newspapers questioning alleged abuses by intelligence bodies is certainly not a contribution to the open debate that needs to take place. Under no circumstances, journalists, members of the media, or civil society organisations who have access to classified information on an alleged violation of human rights should be subjected to intimidation and subsequent punishment”, added Rue.

Australian Polls Predict a Win for the Opposition

Opinion polls in Australia have predicted a convincing win for opposition leader Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal party, at parliamentary elections to be held over the weekend. A victory for his coalition would bring an end to six years of Labor party dominance in Australia. “It’s not just being Housekeeper-in-Chief, it’s being Cheerleader-in-Chief. This is as well prepared, as experienced, as competent an Opposition as you’ve ever had. Over three years we’ve had the same clear plans, the same strong united team, and the best preparation for being a good government is being a good Opposition”, said Abbott. Polls predict a 3 percent swing to the opposition, meaning a fall of 10 seats for the Labor party and a 20-seat majority for Abbott in the House of Representatives.

Spanish Helpline Registers Record Number of Callers Contemplating Suicide

Calls to the Spanish equivalent of the Samaritans hotline by people who say they are contemplating suicide increased by 30 percent in 2012, with suicide becoming the most common cause of deaths in the country apart from natural causes. “I believe that suicide is under-diagnosed and undertreated, because mental problems are increasing more and more and because in a prosperous society people take failure much harder and have less capacity for suffering”, said José Giner, from the University of Seville psychiatry department. “Among young people what we find is a sense of desperation, not just because of the crisis, but because of an existential emptiness. We can’t say the numbers have risen specifically because of the crisis, but there are many more callers who mention financial problems, depression and anxiety”, said Alfonso Echávarri of the Navarra helpline. Nine Spanish citizens kill themselves every day and for every recorded suicide there are 20 failed attempts.

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