Sunday news round-up: March 16th-22nd

Top Story: The Butcher of Gaza wins fourth term: Incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has clung to power, with his Likud party winning 30 Knesset seats ahead of the Zionist Union’s 24. Netanyahu now gets the first chance to form a coalition government, and has about a month to do so. Hundreds of thousands of the 5 million eligible voters turned out to vote for far-right parties, with way in excess of a million voters opting for a party that calls for harsher treatment of the Palestinian people. Labour officials in the UK expressed dismay at Netanyahu’s re-election, but British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to welcome his friend back into the international arena.

George Osborne’s anti-poor budget under fire: The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget has come under fire by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, just hours after he announced it to Parliament. Osborne announced a further slash to public spending and the welfare budget, tightening low-income families’ access to their basic goods and services, and he is expected to bring government spending down to levels not seen since the 1930’s. The IFS criticized Osborne for failing to specify the extent of his cuts and for over-exaggerating the positive effect austerity has had on people’s incomes.

Cyclone Pam ravages Vanuatu: The Pacific island chain of Vanuatu has been devastated by a cyclone, which climate experts claim is the result of climate change. At least eight people have died as a result of the storms, and irreversible damage has been done to the infrastructure of the nation. As aid begins trickling into the country, there are reports that residents of the islands have been forced to drink seawater.

Ofcom grants UKIP “major party” status, shuns Green Party: British telecommunications regulator Ofcom has issued a ruling on the upcoming general election, granting UKIP the chance to screen two party election broadcasts. The ruling means UKIP can air two televised broadcasts in order to snare TV watchers, whilst the Green Party will only be allowed to air one. The ruling builds on a previous Ofcom decision to exclude the Green Party from the upcoming televised debates, before reversing their decision in the face of popular resistance. The Greens have been represented in the EU Parliament since 1999, and have been represented in Westminster for five years longer than UKIP. The Greens also have more party members than UKIP. Durrr.

Obama Administration deletes Freedom of Information Act regulations: The White House has removed federal regulations which force its Office of Administration to accept Freedom of Information requests, consistent with previous court rulings that the office is not subject to them. While not illegal, the timing of the move is poor, with the regulations being deleted on National Freedom of Information Week. Anne Weismann of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the move was “completely out of step with the President’s supposed commitment to transparency”.

Tony Blair to resign as Middle East peace envoy: The former British Prime Minister’s ludicrous role in the Middle East peace process is finally coming to an end. Speaking in Egypt, the soon to be ex-Middle East Peace Envoy announced that during his tenure he’s learned that democracy is not everything, and that “effective” government is sometimes key. Blair also took the opportunity to praise Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has been accused of gross human rights abuses since coming to power.

Mars One colony highly unlikely, says former NASA researcher: The fanfare surrounding a potential colony on Mars may just be that, fanfare, according to a mission finalist and former researcher for NASA. Joseph Roche passed the lax requirements for a spot on the eventual colony, and has told reporters a ten minute Skype meeting and a non-disclosure agreement were the extent of the interview process, which caused him to question the legitimacy of the mission. Many other questions have been raised about the Mars One non-profit in recent weeks, including its failure to secure adequate funding for the mission, missed deadlines, and a postponement of research programmes. Roche estimates that it is highly unlikely Mars One will be able to bring a colony to fruition.

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