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Monday, December 2, 2013

UN Says Assad ‘Authorised’ War Crimes

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on Monday that there was “massive evidence” pointing to the highest levels of the Syrian government participating in war crimes and crimes against humanity, including President Bashar al-Assad. But she stressed the rebels were also liable for similar charges. “The scale and viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by elements on both sides almost defies belief”, said Pillay. The UN’ human rights chief said that the full list of suspected war criminals would remain undisclosed until evidence is requested by competent authorities wishing to carry out a “credible investigation”. According to Pillay, the names “rightly belong to people who suffered violations”, but should be kept secret “to preserve the presumption of innocence” until proper procedures could be carried out, leading to a fair trial.

Kiev Protesters Blockade Government Buildings

Anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, began erecting barricades and readying themselves for a long occupation of the country’s main government buildings dotted around Independence Square in the centre of the city early on Monday. The protests began when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a deal that would bring about closer ties to the EU, which some analysts saw as a capitulation to Russia. The protesters demand his resignation and the release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, convicted of abuse of power in 2011. The police attempted to disperse the protesters on Sunday night, leading to cries of police abuse and brutality. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso urged president Yanukovych to investigate any cases of police abuse and negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Energy Prices to Drop Following New Policy

Some of the UK’s major energy firms announced on Monday that they would pass on to their customers the savings brought about by a new package of measures enacted by the government. British Gas said would cut bills by £53 in January, two months after raising them £123. Scottish and Southern Energy said its bills would be cut by approximately £50, after also being raised in November. EDF said it would not raise prices until 2015 and E.On, which is yet to announce new prices, said its prices would not rise as much as they could have without the package. The drops came after the government decided to fund some of the current subsidies for those in fuel poverty through other means and to scale back green energy policy targets. Opposition leader Ed Miliband said that the government’s plan was “smoke and mirrors”, pledging to freeze energy prices for 20 months if Labour is elected at the next election.

Energy Drinks Alter Heartbeat

Energy drinks with caffeine can cause hearts to contract more forcefully according to studies conducted at the University of Bonn. A team of scientists imaged the hearts of 17 volunteers an hour after they had consumed an energy drink, showing that the left ventricle, responsible for pumping blood around the body, contracted harder an hour after an energy drink was consumed than at the start of the study. “Until now, we haven’t known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart. The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death”, said researcher Dr Jonas Dorner. The research team advised children and those with irregular heartbeats to avoid energy drinks.

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