News briefs:April 21, 2010
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From Wikinews, the free news source, this is the audio Wikinews brief for Wednesday, April 21st, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and here are today's top stories:
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court overturned an eleven-year-old law banning videos that depicted animal cruelty, ruling that such a law violated free speech rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The court's 8-1 ruling overturns a law enacted in 1999 that banned the trade of "depictions of animal cruelty," including "conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed." The case was prompted by the prosecution of Robert J. Stevens, who had filmed and sold videos of dogfights, and subsequently was sentenced in 2005 to 37 months in prison, although he has yet to begin his sentence and his case is currently on appeal.
According to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr, the law overturned by the court had been "a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth." The law had been defended by the US government, which had argued that videos of cruelty to animals had no value, and should therefore receive no protection by the First Amendment. Roberts argued the point in his written statement on the ruling, saying that "The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter or its content." According to Roberts, the law had been too broad, and the court was therefore unwilling to place it outside the protection of the First Amendment.
The US Humane Society has called for a new law to be written by Congress, this one more narrow in scope.
The death toll from a 6.9 magnitude earthquake on April 14th in the Qinghai province in western China now stands at 2,039, with another 195 missing. 12,135 people were injured by the temblor and over 1,400 are said to still be in serious condition.
On Tuesday, rescuers were still searching for survivors buried beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings in and around the town of Jiegu, one of the hardest hit areas.
Officials have increased their relief efforts, bringing food, blankets, tents, and other assistance to the area.
Yesterday, an official remembrance day for those killed was held; public entertainment was limited and national Chinese flags flew at half-mast.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) died today in Barcelona at the age of 89.
Samaranch was admitted to the hospital on Sunday with heart trouble marking one of a number of occasions he has fallen ill. He passed away at approximately 11:25 local time. Even in retirement, with advancing age and medical issues, Samaranch continued to travel and be active in Olympic circles, working to try and secure both the 2012 Olympics and 2016 Olympics for Madrid as well as attending various sport conferences.
A former diplomat and Spanish ambassador in Moscow, he was elected to the IOC in 1980 and is largely credited with the renewal of the Olympic movement over two decades marked by boycotts, bribery and drug scandals. While appearing to be small in stature and uncomfortable speaking in public, he was viewed as an often ruthless operator who could forge consensus within an often fractious Olympic movement and bring IOC members to deliver what he wanted.
During his time in office, Samaranch worked to help increase the number of participating countries at the Olympics, oversaw the creation of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the creation of the IOC Athletes Commission.
Prior to his election to the role of IOC president, he had a long background in sports, having held roles with the Spanish Skating Federation, Spanish National Olympic Committee and as Chef de Mission at the games in Rome and Tokyo.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said today that the flight disruptions triggered by the recent eruption of a volcano in Iceland cost the global airline industry a total of $1.7 billion dollars.
According to the IATA, airlines lost a total of $400 million daily for the first three days of the week that European airspace was closed. The closures also impacted an estimated 1.2 million passengers around the world each day, until airspace around Europe began reopening last night.
The crisis compounds the financial troubles of an already troubled airline industry in Europe which, according to the IATA's chief executive officer, lost $9.4bn in 2009 and is forecasted to lose $2.8bn in 2010.
The IATA also criticized the response of European governments to the ash threat, saying that they had over-reacted and the shutdown of all airspace was excessive. However, Eamonn Brennan, CEO of the Irish Aviation Authority said in defense of Eurocontrol, who had ordered the 4 day long shut down of airspace, that the closure was necessary to carry tests and gather data to determine how much ash the engines of an airliner could withstand yet still operate safely.
Restrictions over air travel in Europe have been lifted in many parts of the continent today; three-quarters of the scheduled flights were operating, and most of the European airspace has been opened. Only parts of British, French and Irish airspace remain closed.
On this day in history (6:04)
In 1918, the German fighter pilot known as "The Red Baron", the most successful flying ace of World War I with 80 confirmed air combat victories, was shot down and killed.
And those are the top headlines for Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
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