Wikinews:Briefs/April 25, 2010

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From Wikinews, the free news source, this is the audio Wikinews brief for Sunday, April 25th, 2010. The current time is 2:00 UTC. I'm Dan Harlow and here are today's top stories:



Fresh violence has broken out in the central Nigerian city of Jos earlier today, killing at least five people.

The clashes began when the body of a seventeen year old Muslim teenager, supposedly strangled, was thrown onto a main street in a sack, prompting riots. Military spokesman, Donald Oji, said that after the body had been found, Muslim rioters took to the streets and began stabbing passers-by indiscriminately. The riots have since been calmed down, although a youth curfew is still in place.

A gun battle took place between Pakistani soldiers and insurgents on Sunday leaving eight insurgents dead and ten others injured. The incident occurred when about 40 rebels attacked a checkpoint near the Goain village in the Orakzai district of the North-West Frontier Province of the country.

Officials said the attack at the Goain checkpoint was resisted by the army and that two underground hideouts of the rebels had also been captured by the army.

This latest fighting comes just over a week after seventeen insurgents were killed in clashes with security troops in the same region.

At least ten people have been reported killed after a large, destructive tornado tore through Yazoo City, Mississippi yesterday. A further 21 people have been hospitalized as a result of the storm, and others have been trapped in cars and houses. Multiple injuries resulted from cars being blown off of Interstate 55 during the twister. The Salvation Army is aiding relief efforts by providing hot meals, coffee, cold drinks, and spiritual counseling to tornado victims in Yazoo and Warren Counties.

The tornado occurred on the third, and most active, day of a severe weather outbreak that had previously affected areas of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, the latter two of which were also effected during Saturday's outbreak. The Storm Prediction Center has received 104 reports of tornadoes so far during this outbreak.

A large fire has swept thru suburban Manila in the Philippines and has destroyed many houses, leaving many homeless. At least two hundred fire engines have been sent to extinguish the flames.

The fire spread quickly due to strong winds and summer high temperatures. No fatalities were reported, although one resident suffered first degree burns and a Manila fire marshal told BBC News that two people have been reported missing. The fire started on Sunday afternoon and was still burning at nightfall, while people were trying to rescue some of their belongings.

Slum areas in the city are exposed constantly to fires because the houses, often made from wood, are in close proximity to one another.

Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has ruled out a compromise offer by anti-government protest leaders for that nations parliament to be dissolved in thirty days, with elections to be held in 90 days.

In a televised address on Sunday, with army chief General Anupong Paochinda at his side, the prime minister dismissed the offer made by the United Democratic Front against Dictatorship, saying such issues could not be resolved in such a short period of time and adding that his refusal to accept was due to the protestors alledgedly using violence and intimidation.

In reaction, the UDD, commonly known as the Red Shirts, maintained an earlier call for parliament to be dissolved immediately. The UDD also withdrew from any further negotiations with the government and UDD leaders have warned supporters rallying in central Bangkok's retail and business areas of the threat of new government crackdowns. There have been two large incidents of street violence in the past month or so, resulting in 26 deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.

The Red Shirts primarily consist of supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 in a coup. Shinawatra was later given a two-year prison term on charges of corruption, although he left the country in self-exile to avoid being jailed.

Convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner has chosen to die by firing squad in the US state of Utah's first execution in more than 10 years. Gardner indicated his preference at a state court in Salt Lake City on Friday, after being informed that an appeal against his death sentence had been rejected.

Gardner was convicted in 1985 of fatally shooting an attorney during a failed escape attempt at a courthouse in Salt Lake City. Under state law, the 49-year-old had a choice between death by lethal injection or by a five-person team of shooters.

Utah is one of two states that permit execution by firing squad and though Utah outlawed the method in 2004, prisoners convicted before then still have it as an option. The state of Oklahoma also permits death by firing squad.

The 1979 novel, The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer focused on one of the most famous executions in Utah history, the firing squad execution of Gary Gilmore on January 17, 1977. The book took a central position in the national debate over the revival of capital punishment by the US Supreme Court as Gilmore was the first person in the United States executed since the re-instatement of the death penalty in 1976.

Paul Schäfer, the founder and former leader of Colonia Dignidad (the Dignified Colony), an enclave used for torturing and exterminating political prisoners during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile, died at 88 from cardiac-respiratory arrest on early Saturday morning in a Chilean prison hospital.

Schäfer had been convicted for sexually abusing 26 children and retained thousands of people under his own tyrannical regime that worked as an aside territory in the country.

Schäfer was born in 1921, in Siegburg, Germany and had been a a non-commissioned Nazi officer, who moved to Chile after the Second World War, evading accusations of sexual abuse of minors. He established an organization in a rural area of Chile which he named Villa Babiera, located 400 kilometers south of Santiago.

His rule of this area began in 1961 where he oversaw almost 300 Germans who worked for decades without pay. Men and women were segregated, and people who tried to escape were killed.

When Pinochet's regime ended, Schäfer escaped from Chile in 1996 to avoid being imprisoned after he came under investigation for human rights violations and abuse to minors. Eventually, he was detained in Argentina and then extradited back to Chile in 2005.

The British foreign office has apologized after a leaked memo about a visit by Pope Benedict XVI suggested that he might launch a "Benedict" brand of condoms, bless a gay marriage, and open an abortion clinic during a papal visit to the UK.

The memo followed a brainstorming session, where members of the Papal Visit Team came up with ideas for the first papal visit to Britain in 28 years, and was sent to senior civil servants via email on the 5th of March, with the title "Policy planning ahead of the Pope’s visit". Other suggestions were that the pope should change policy to allow female bishops, sponsor AIDS clinics, "spend a night in a council flat in Bradford" and "do forward rolls with children to promote healthy living." A further idea was to change the national anthem to a charity song "God Save the World", performed as a duet by Queen Elizabeth II and the pope.

The ministry apologized, saying that it was "ill-judged, naive and disrespectful," and that the responsible member of staff had been transferred to other duties.

A four-day papal visit to England and Scotland is scheduled to take place in September 2010, but a highly-placed source in the Vatican said, "It’s even possible the trip could be canceled as this matter is hugely offensive."

The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday began simultaneous immunization campaigns in 112 countries and territories across the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, and European regions. The unprecedented vaccination drive will last for a week.

WHO officials say their goal is to expand immunization coverage and raise awareness of the importance of vaccines, and that such cross-border activities can prevent disease and save lives.

WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein says that many countries are working to eliminate measles, adding that some countries in the European region are very concerned that they have stalled in their goal of eliminating measles and rubella this year. According to Epstein, immunization coverage is below the 95 percent recommended level (known as herd immunity) and there have been ongoing measles outbreaks in some of these countries. Measles cases have also been reported to the US and Canada

Epstein added that the biggest obstacle to reaching the goals of vaccination are lack of awareness, lack of information and people being ignorant that they should be vaccinated.

The WHO also began a large polio immunization campaign across sixteen countries in central and West Africa on Saturday saying that 78 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated to stop a major outbreak of the disease. This is the first time the World Health Organization has launched such an event across multiple regions at once.

After three years of working on a new series for the Discovery Channel, famed University of Cambridge theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking concludes that aliens are "almost certain to exist," and could even be dangerous. However, he believes that the most likely forms of life would be microbes or possibly small animals.

Hawking thinks that it is rational to assume that intelligent life exists somewhere in the Universe, and that it is mathematically unlikely that life is unique to the Earth, given the existence of a hundred billion galaxies, each of them containing hundreds of millions of stars.

Hawking imagines nomadic aliens who, after having exhausted their home's resources, could attempt to take control of other planets, invading with "massive ships". He draws a comparison with Christopher Columbus discovering America, resulting in similar devastating consequences.

His rationale stems from the famous Drake equation, created by Frank Drake in 1961, which takes into consideration such factors such as the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy, the fraction of those stars that have planets and the fraction of civilizations on those planets that develop a technology that could transmit detectable signs of their existence into space.

However, another famous experiment known as the Fermi Paradox theorizes a contradiction between the high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, as per the Drake equation, and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations. Enrico Fermi, who devised the paradox, came up with this idea when he wondered "Where are they?" after he concluded that Earth should have been visited long ago and many times over.

On this day in history (12:49)


In 1939, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero in Detective Comics #27; his name is Batman and he has become one of the most popular comic book superheroes of all time. But why is he "so serious"?



And those are the top headlines for Sunday, April 25th, 2010

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