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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Scottish Government Launches Blueprint for Independence

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond launched Scotland’s Future, his government’s White Paper on the country’s future if independence is chosen at next year’s referendum on the issue. “This is the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent nation”, said Salmond, adding that it was “a prospectus for the kind of country we should be and which this government believes we can be”. Among the proposals set out in the paper are a removal of nuclear weapons from the country within the timeframe of its first independent parliament, the maintenance of the pound as Scotland’s currency, a new Scottish broadcaster to replace the BBC and social measures such as more childcare, further tax allowances and a minimum wage that would “rise alongside the cost of living”. Alistair Darling, former UK chancellor and leader of the Better Together campaign, said that “it is a fantasy to say we can leave the UK but still keep all the benefits of UK membership. The White Paper is a work of fiction. It is thick with false promises and meaningless assertions. Instead of a credible and costed plan, we have a wish-list of political promises without any answers on how Alex Salmond would pay for them”.

Pope Calls for Church Reform

Pope Francis has called for a radical reform of the Vatican’s power structure, saying bishops should have “genuine doctrinal authority”. He also said Catholics should do more to help those in need, but said the idea of women priests “was not a question open to discussion” and that the Church “cannot be expected to change its position” on abortion. “It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it”, wrote the Pope in the 84-page document, entitled Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) adding that “excessive centralisation, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life”. He also said that violence was a byproduct of the inequalities brought about by capitalism. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode”, wrote Pope Francis. Many noted the colloquial tone of the document, a marked departure from the more academic stance of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Spain Searches UK Diplomatic Bag in Gibraltar

Spain and the UK are mired in a diplomatic spat over Gibraltar, with the latest salvo in the dispute being the apparent search of a British diplomatic bag by Spanish Guardia Civil officers at the border between the territory and Spain on Friday. The UK has asked the Spanish government for an “urgent explanation” of the matter, as it was the first time a British diplomatic bag had been searched by an EU or NATO member. Diplomatic sources heard by the Daily Telegraph believe that the border guards acted on their own initiative, without seeking authorisation, and appear to be willing to give Spain the benefit of the doubt. “As far as we are concerned there is no justification for this infringement of the UK’s rights under the Vienna Convention. Official correspondence and diplomatic bags are inviolable”, said a Foreign Office statement.

China to Send Rover to the Moon

Chinese officials revealed on Tuesday that they intend to send the country’s first unmanned probe to the Moon. The Yutu (Jade Rabbit) moon rover is expected to be launched in December and, if successful, would mark the first time a Chinese spacecraft landed on the Moon. Two had already successfully orbited it, but never landed. “Yutu is a symbol of kindness, purity and agility, and is identical to the moon rover in both outlook and connotation. Yutu also reflects China’s peaceful use of space”, said Li Benzheng, deputy head of China’s lunar programme. The rover is another step in the country’s plans to ramp up its space programme. China intends to have a functioning orbital space station by 2020 and send a manned mission to the Moon in the years following it.

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