German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the beginning of talks aimed at shaping political dialogue, after Ukraine said its security forces had suffered a day of heavy losses. Merkel also stated that the armed separatists from eastern Ukraine were not invited to the talks, as they had “blood on their hands.” The round-table is to be co-chaired by German former diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger and either Leonid Kravchuk or Leonid Kuchma – both former Ukrainian presidents – and will be held under the guidance of the OSCE. Meanwhile, the EU has expanded the list of sanctions against Russia, as some EU diplomats are beginning to wonder whether the Kremlin will be swayed by this approach, reports Deutsche Welle. Furthermore, Ukraine’s government signed two financing agreements with the European Commission. 350 million euros ($479.5 million) have been earmarked to establish an effective administration, while 600 million euros will be paid in the next few days, the first installment of a 1.6-billion-euro loan intended to bridge acute budget gaps, according to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Australian PM Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have revealed the 2014/2015 federal budget, based on the conservative government’s blueprint for tackling “unsustainable deficit forecasts” – $27.9 bn next year and $56.3 bn over the next four years. The budget will bring broad structural reforms to the welfare, healthcare, higher education, and pensions systems, being regarded as a serious blow to the social safety network of the country. “We know that for some in the community, this budget will not be easy. But this budget is not about self interest. This budget is about national interest,” Treasurer Hockey said in his budget speech.
With its self-driving vehicle project still in development, Google is hoping that a series of test runs will persuade customers to embrace the concept of being driven by a robot car. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin tout the driverless car as revolutionary technology that could sharply reduce fatalities on the road; however, it remains to be seen whether it is ready for widespread use (Reuters).
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