Truthout | News in Brief (6)

AP and The New York Times reported Tuesday that President Barack Obama told world leaders at the 47-country Nuclear Security Summit in Washington that nuclear terrorism was one of the greatest threats to global security, and now was the time “not simply to talk, but to act.”

Obama called the conference to work toward locking down all nuclear materials worldwide – there was anxiety Tuesday over the safety of more than 2,000 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and weapons-grade plutonium stored in 40 countries. Obama said poorly guarded nuclear weapons and materials increased the risk of a nuclear attack by terrorists.

The Guardian UK reported a study by Harvard University, which warned of “a very real possibility” that poorly guarded nuclear warheads in Pakistan could be stolen by terrorists.

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The Hill reported that a member of President Obama’s reform commission said Monday that higher taxes will need to be considered to rein in America’s growing debt. Alice Rivlin, the first director of the Congressional Budget Office, said that the main priority was to reduce health care spending, but that higher taxation and reforms to entitlement programs should also be considered.

This follows a statement by White House adviser Paul Volcker that to rein in debt the nation may have to consider adding new taxes, particularly a value-added tax (VAT) which is already common in more than 160 European countries.

The Washington Independent reported concerns by progressives that VAT would hit the low income and elderly. Because it is a tax on consumption, not income or investments, it is considered regressive. Because poor people tend to spend a higher percentage of their incomes, they are disproportionately affected by this type of tax.

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The New York Times and the BBC reported that Kyrgyzstan’s ousted President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has said he will formally resign if the interim government that has taken power guarantees the safety of him and his family.

Following violent protests last week, Bakiyev fled the capital to the south of the country, but continued insisting he was the legitimate leader of Kyrgystan. The interim leaders had lifted his presidential immunity and gave him until the end of the day Tuesday to surrender or face imprisonment.

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Reuters reported that Poland’s acting president vowed to set an election date soon, to remove uncertainty after the deaths of President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other high-ranking officials in a plane crash last week. A presidential vote was originally scheduled for October.

Kaczynski was a strong nationalist, known for his distrust of both Russia and the European Union, and had been traveling to Smolensk in Russia to attend a memorial service of the Katyn massacre. This was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the mass murder, in which more than 22,000 Polish nationals held in Soviet jails were executed by the secret police.

The coffin of his wife, Maria, who also died in the plane crash, was received by her daughter, brother-in-law and thousands of grieving Poles in Poland on (Tuesday.

The Guardian UK reported that language problems between the Russian air traffic controllers and Polish pilots may have contributed to the plane’s crash, which killed 96 people including Polish military commanders, the central bank governor and top opposition figures. Poland’s former prime minister also speculated that pressure from Kaczynski to reach Smolensk might have led the pilots to attempt to land in thick fog.

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The Independent UK reported that voting began Sunday in Sudan’s first competitive elections in almost a quarter of a century. The elections will run until Tuesday and are part of the 2005 peace deal, which ended the 21-year north-south war that took the lives of two million people.

The elected government will prepare a referendum for southern independence next year.

The opposition has repeatedly called for a delay of the vote, saying a rigged system was biased toward the ruling party.