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Friday, October 4, 2013

US Shutdown Could Evolve Into ‘Catastrophic’ Default

US President Barack Obama has ruled out using powers granted under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution to force Congress to extend the country’s debt limit. “The administration does not believe the 14th amendment gives power to the president to ignore the ceiling”, said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “The fact that there is significant controversy around the president’s authority to act unilaterally means that it would not be a credible alternative to Congress raising the debt ceiling and would not be taken seriously by the market”, he added. A report released by the US Treasury said that further inaction could lead to a default on or around October 22, which is the date when the Congressional Budget Office expects the government to effectively run out of money. This would be “unprecedented” and “catastrophic”, said the report, adding that “the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”.

Committee Says Berlusconi Should Be Expelled from Italian Senate

A cross-party committee of the Italian Senate recommended on Friday that former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi be expelled from that body because of his conviction over tax fraud. Any expulsion would have to be ratified by a vote in the full Senate, which is expected in the next three weeks. “This is worse than expected. The plot was already written out and we already knew how it would read, but this is going beyond any tolerable limits”, said Renato Schifani, leader of the group of senators belonging to Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (Pdl) party. Schifani was referring to a post to Facebook by a member of the Five Star Movement (M5S) inside the committee chamber, in direct contravention of rules, which could nullify the result. “Given his age, the progressive prolapse of his intestinal walls and the quite likely hypertrophy of his prostrate, the posters telling him not to give up should really tell him to mind his incontinence”, read a post by MS5 senator Vito Crimi.

Car Chase Ends in Injuries and Death in Washington

Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Connecticut, was shot dead by police near the US Capitol building in Washington late on Thursday after a car chase through the American capital, a city still reeling from the shooting at the Navy Yard in mid-September. Officials said her actions did not appear to be part of a greater plot, but were not an accident either. “I’m pretty confident this is not an accident”, said Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The chase began when she struck a White House security checkpoint, knocking a Secret Service agent over. She then sped down Pennsylvania Avenue towards Congress while police officers attempted to stop her with gunshots. The car finally got stuck near the Capitol building and officers shot her dead. A one-year-old girl was unharmed and was rescued from the vehicle by nearby officers.

Japanese Study Could Spell the End of Jet Lag

Japanese researchers at Kyoto University say they have found the body clock’s “reset button” inside the brain, potentially paving the way for drugs that could take the edge off jet lag or the pains of shift working. The study published in the Nature science journal claims that a group of 10,000 brain cells are responsible for keeping the body in sync with the surrounding environment to ensure people go to sleep at night, but that this is disrupted when it is out of sync with the rising and setting of the sun, adapting slowly. Interfering with vasopressin receptors in the cells allowed to clock to be shifted rapidly, with some lab mice having their clocks set back eight hours in a single day. “It’s a remarkable study, it really is very exciting for our field. There’s been many false dawns when it comes to a cure for jet lag, but I think this time they’re close to the money”, said Dr Michael Hastings of the Medical Research Council.

Weekend Read: Iran Opens Its Fist

“Rouhani is a consummate insider positioning himself as an outsider. That raises suspicions in the West, but it also means that he knows how to get things done. It is too early to tell if he can pull Iran out of the immense hole left by his predecessor.” In the New York Review of Books.

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