News briefs:July 23, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Four earthquakes hit the Philippines in quick succession early this morning; former Illinois Governor Blagojevich rests in corruption trial; Darth Vader turns back to the dark side in, where else, New York and, in history, one of the most important Indian revolutionaries was born in 1906.
Today is Friday, July 23, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, four earthquakes have hit in quick succession in the Moro Gulf, located in the Mindanao area in the Philippines.
The first one, magnitude 7.3, took place on Saturday at 6:08am local time at a depth of 604.5 kilometers with the epicenter located 915 kilometers south-southeast of the capital city Manila.
The second earthquake reached a magnitude 5.4, and occurred at 6:19am at a depth of 594 kilometers and located about 7 kilometers further to the north.
A third earthquake, this one magnitude 7.6, struck at 6:51am 945 kilometers south-southeast of the capital.
The fourth and last earthquake, a magnitude 7.4, occurred at 7:15am, 35 kilometers closer to Manila.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has released notices in response to each of the four quakes, stating that no destructive force tsunami has been generated by the deep quakes. Rona Faeldin of the Philippines Coast Guard told CNN that no damage has been reported on the island though officials "were still determining if there were casualties or damages".
In 1976, an 8.0 earthquake struck the region generating a tsunami which devastated 700 kilometers of coastline in the Sulu Archipelago and southern Mindanao island. The region includes faults in the Sulu Trench, located in the Sulu Sea and the Cotabato Trench, a subduction zone crossing the Celebes Sea and the Moro Gulf.
Please visit Wikinews.org for the latest developments on this breaking story.
Tragedy occurred yesterday when
five people were killed early Thursday morning in a three-alarm fire in the New York City borough of Staten Island. The fire destroyed most of the home in the Port Richmond neighborhood. The five killed included four children and their mother 33-year-old Leisha Jones.
Neighbors said that the fire began at approximately 4 a.m. local time. Two New York Police Department officers noticed the fire and radioed for assistance at 4:10 a.m and rescue workers attempted to enter the building although they were deterred by heavy flames and smoke. Once the flames were doused, Fire Lieutenant Robert Strafer entered the building and found the youngest child, two-year-old Jermaine Sinclair. Upon further inspection, officers found the other four victims.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud popping sound before the building burst into flames. The cause of the fire is currently unknown, although it is not considered suspicious, however, the apartment which Jones and her children were living in did not have a smoke detector, as required by city law.
Jones mother, Martha Anderson, told the New York Daily News, "She was such a nice person and she was a really good mother," "She loved her kids...and I loved her."
Despite promises he would testify in his own corruption trial, lawyers for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich rested their case on Wednesday morning. His defense did not call a single witness, and apparently feels the prosecution has not proven their case. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.
Speculation that Blagojevich would not testify began on Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge James Zagel adjourned 90 minutes early after a private meeting with the lawyers involved. Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and co-defendant in the case, had already testified on his own behalf. Blagojevich's defense team apparently considered resting their case on Tuesday, but Zagel gave them an extra day to consider their decision more carefully.
When Zagel directly asked the former governor about his decision, he replied that he understood what he was doing. "It is my decision, under the advice of my attorneys. I make the decision fully and voluntarily," he said.
Blagojevich is charged with, among other crimes, trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election. Robert Blagojevich testified that his brother was trying to manipulate the political situation to his advantage, but emphasized that he engaged in nothing illegal. According to some sources, Blagojevich was interested in leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Music credit Desert City
Typhoon kills two in southern China (5:52) 
Two people are dead and thousands of others have lost their homes in southern China after Typhoon Chanthu struck the region yesterday. The Typhoon made landfall in the Guangdong province with winds that reached 126 kilometers per hour and has caused approximately 2.2 billion yuan worth of damages.
Chanthu caused downpours in China's southern provinces, with central and western provinces expected to flood as well. The Typhoon prompted President Hu Jintao to call for increased flood control measures. Chanthu is the latest in a string of recent violent storms followed by massive floods.
So far this year 701 people have been killed by flooding, the highest since 1998. Along with that 347 people are missing and presumed dead. Storms have also destroyed 27,160 houses and 101,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of farmland.
Weather may also begin to play havoc in Australlia as
Australians have been shivering through one of the coldest winters in the country's history, but the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a nationwide forecast for the coming months which predicts warmer conditions in most parts of the country excluding Tasmania.
The southern hemisphere's Spring Equinox occurs in September, but the forecast suggests unseasonal weather conditions across the nation for August and September. Temperatures in Queensland and Western Australia are predicted to soar well above the average, with heavy, torrential springtime rains arriving well in advance, and is expected to have both negative and positive effects on the agricultural industries of the states.
The south of Australia is similarly anticipating warmer-than-average conditions with Victoria, South Australia, and southern Western Australia anticipating balmy to humid weather. This comes in contrast to parts of New South Wales, which experienced their coldest night on record, while Melbourne, Victoria dealt with its coldest morning in 15 months.
Forecasters hypothesize that warmer temperatures in the Indian and Pacific Oceans could be responsible for the onset of an "early spring".
Finally, in weird news of the day,
a man dressed as the Star Wars antagonist Darth Vader robbed a bank in Setauket, New York. The robber was dressed in a character themed mask and blue cape. Armed with a hand gun the robber stole an undetermined amount of cash from the Chase bank branch.
The robber entered the bank saying that he was robbing it. Customers initially thought it was a joke and began laughing. Detective William Lamb of the Suffolk County Police Department said that one customer attempted to tackle the robber and was attacked. The robber then approached a teller and demanded cash while brandishing a weapon.
This robbery is the latest in a string of odd bank robberies in the New York metropolitan area. Yesterday the New York Police Department arrested a man robbing banks carrying flowers and potted plants. Also police are looking for an apparent cross dressing robber who stuck up a bank in Long Island.
On this day in history (9:14) 
- Music credit rAga kIravANi
Chandrashekhar Sitaram Tiwari, better known as Chandrasekhar Azad, one of the most important Indian revolutionaries, was born in 1906 in Uttar Pradesh.
Azad was only 12 years old when, in 1919, the Amritsar massacre occurred, where fifty British Indian Army soldiers, under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children. The firing lasted for ten to fifteen minutes, until ammunition was running short leaving 379 dead and 1,100 wounded.
Though he was not involved in the massacre, he was deeply troubled by it and, in 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation movement, he actively participated in the protest movement. While only 15 years old, he was arrested for his first act of civil disobedience and when the magistrate asked him his name, he said "Azad" (meaning free).
For this, he was sentenced to fifteen lashes. With each stroke of the whip, young Chandrasekhar shouted "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" ["Hail The Motherland!"]. From that point onwards, he became known as Chandrashekhar Azad and vowed never to be taken alive by the police again.
When Gandhi suspended the struggle in 1922 due to the Chauri Chaura massacre of 22 policemen as he was appalled by the brutal violence, Azad did not feel that violence was unacceptable in such a struggle and he soon became attracted to more aggressive and violent revolutionary ideals and thus committed himself to complete Indian independence by any means.
Towards this end, he formed the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, whose goal was full independence and he wanted to build a new India based on socialist principles. He became a mentor to a number of revolutionaries including Sukhdev Thapar, who once wrote a famous letter to Gandhi protesting against his disapproval of revolutionary tactics, and shedding light on the disparities between the two major schools of thought among Indian freedom fighters.
Azad chose the city of Jhansi in northern India for his organization's hub. In the nearby forest of Orchha, he and his followers set up a shooting range from where they could practice and train and Azad established himself as an excellent marksman. Though he lived their under an alias, he established a good rapport with the local residents and even taught schoolchildren from another nearby village.
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From this base of operations, he and his compatriots planned and executed several acts of violence against the British. He was involved in numerous such activities like the Kakori Train Robbery in 1925, the attempt to blow up the Viceroy's train in 1926, as well as the assassinations of prominent figures.
The British soon clamped down on his revolutionary activities and rounded up many of the participants in the train robberies, sentencing them all to death, however Azad eluded capture.
Azad's end did eventually come in 1931, at the age of only 24. On February 27th, a Hindi writer/journalist spotted Azad and Sukhdev Thapar discussing some plans and reported their presence to the police. Within a few minutes policemen surrounded the entire park. During the initial encounter, Azad suffered a bullet wound in his thigh, making it difficult for him to escape but he made it possible for Sukhdev to escape by providing him covering fire.
After Sukhdev's escape, Azad managed to keep the police at bay for a long time but finally, with only one bullet left in his pistol and being completely surrounded and outnumbered, Chandrashekhar Azad shot himself, keeping his pledge to never be captured alive.
- Music credit Palacio India 2
Azad is today considered a hero in India. Alfred Park, where he died, was renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park, as were scores of schools, colleges, roads and other public institutions across the now independent nation. Countless films have been made of his life and exploits, a secret file related to Azad is still kept in India's Criminal Investigation Department and the COLT pistol with which he shot himself with is still on display in the Allahabad Museum.
And those are the top headlines for Friday, July 23, 2010
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