News briefs:April 30, 2010
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From Wikinews, the free news source, this is the Audio Wikinews Brief for Friday, April 30th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and here are today's top stories:
The United States government has approved plans for a controversial wind power project off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, which, if built, would be the nation's first offshore wind farm.
The company responsible for the project, Cape Wind, received a permit from the federal government to commence construction of the wind farm for what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says will be the first of many such projects up and down the Atlantic coast.
However, construction of the wind farm in the near future is not certain, as there are additional regulatory procedures the company must complete, and opponents have threatened to take the project to court. According to the leader of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group opposed to the wind farm's construction, numerous permits related to the project were being appealed, and close to a dozen parties intend to sue the project, claiming it violates environmental regulations.
Supporters of the project say that it will provide up to 75% of the power for the region, and will benefit the environment by providing a clean and renewable source of power, as well as providing hundreds of new jobs in the area during construction of the wind farm. Opponents, which included deceased US Senator Ted Kennedy, claim it will destroy the natural beauty of the region, and will raise the costs of electricity in the area.
According to Pakistani intelligence, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, is still alive, contradicting claims by US and Pakistani officials that he was killed in a January drone attack. At the time of the attack, officials reported that Mehsud was killed along with ten other rebels, but Pakistani sources now say he was only wounded in the attack.
Despite his apparent survival, US defense officials downplayed the significance of the revelation. According to unidentified sources, his authority within the Taliban had significantly diminished after the attack, and is now overshadowed by other commanders such as Waliur Rehman, a senior Taliban commander based in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A spokesman for the Pentagon in Washington, DC said that there was "no evidence" that Mehsud was "executing or exerting authority over the Pakistan Taliban as he once did"
An Algerian driver who was abducted on April 20th along with a French tourist he was driving, has been released by his hostage takers in Niger. Apparently, he was released in the Mali desert and made his way back to Algeria after the pair were taken at gunpoint near the Mali and Algerian boarders. According to a Nigerien military source, the man had been wandering around in the area until some people on camels found him and took him to Algeria.
The pair were abducted only days after four countries near the Sahara opened a military base to combat al-Qaeda, with whom the gunmen have ties to.
Hostage takings have become more frequent and foreign offices recommend that tourists avoid the area near the Sahara, known as the "red zone", as governments there are having more trouble controlling the problem.
The second hostage, a Frenchman in his 70’s, is still being held captive.
Noted for his controversial attempts to foster peace deals with the Taliban, Pakistani Non-governmental organization leader Khalid Khawaja was killed early Friday morning, a week after being kidnapped in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas while helping a British filmmaker. He had been shot twice, in the head and chest, and his body dumped near Miranshah in North Waziristan, Pakistan, the location of a refugee camp for displaced Afghans from the Soviet invasion.
Khawaja was a former associate of Osama bin Laden, he fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and was an outspoken critic of the American-led invasion. The leader of the Defense of Human Rights NGO, Khawaja was often accused of being an apologist for Islamist militants due to his stringent demands for better treatment and legal rights for prisoners captured by both the American and Pakistani forces.
Khawaja was traveling into North Waziristan along with former colleague Colonel Imam, to help British cameraman Ased Qureshi meet with a Pashtun warlord and a senior Taliban commander as he sought to film a documentary about the rise of Islamic militancy in the region. The three were kidnapped, and their captors demanded the release of ten imprisoned militants as well as $10 million for the release of the two former Inter-Services Intelligence officers. Pakistani officials anonymously confirmed the money would likely be paid, but the insurgent leaders were unlikely to be released.
Khawaja had most recently landed on the legal defense team of five Americans arrested by Pakistan who were accused of membership in Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamic freedom-fighter organization based in Pakistan whose primary motive is to separate Kashmir from India. Immediate reports suggest that a note was pinned to his body, claiming responsibility for his death in the name of the Asian Tigers, a splinter group of the militant organization. The note blamed the government for refusing to negotiate on the desired release of jailed Pakistani militants.
Lawmakers in Belgium voted almost unanimously on Friday to ban the public wearing of full face veils. Under the new rule, any clothing that fully obscures the face will be prohibited in public areas such as parks and anyone who ignores it will be fined $20 to $35 and/or a jail sentence of up to a week. Exceptions could be made during certain festivals, or if the wearer has police permission to use the veil.
Daniel Bacquelaine, head of the liberal MR party in the parliament, said that the law was "not about introducing any form of discrimination", but rather veils were "aimed at stopping people from being identified".
Vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, opposed the proposal, saying "the wearing of a full-face veil is part of the individual freedoms."
The proposal will now go to the Belgian Senate, where it is not expected to be blocked and some reports suggest the law could go into full effect by this June or July.
On this day in history (6:55)
In 1006, in the constellation Lupus (Latin for Wolf), light from an exploding star 7,200 LY away reached Earth. The event is the brightest supernova in history and was recorded by early astronomers in China, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Switzerland, and possibly North America. Nova means "new" in Latin, and what makes them "super" is that in the period of just a few days or weeks, they can outshine an entire galaxy and radiate as much energy as our own sun does over its entire lifespan.
And those are the top headlines for Friday, April 30th, 2010
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