News briefs:July 13, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : A new report states 2010 has been the deadliest year so far in the war in Afghanistan; six H1N1 flu cases appear in the Philippines; Switzerland sets Polish film director Roman Polanski free and, in history, Spain defeats the Netherlands ... in 1573.
Today is Tuesday, July 13th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
The Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), an Afghan human-rights group, stated yesterday that 2010 was the worst year in terms of violence for the country since US-led troops occupied the country in 2001.
The ARM says that civilian deaths have risen and that Taliban insurgents have not been defeated despite a surge in troops in Afghanistan. According to their statement, "In terms of insecurity, 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Not only have the number of security incidents increased, the space and depth of the insurgency and counter-insurgency-related violence have maximized dramatically."
ARM's figures state that over 1,074 civilians were killed and over 1,500 wounded in war violence in the first half of this year, a slight increase over 1,059 deaths in the same time period in 2009. "Up to 1,200 security incidents were recorded in June, the highest number of incidents compared to any month since 2002," the ARM commented.
Over half of civilian deaths in the first six months of this year were caused by Taliban insurgents that showed "little or no respect for the safety and protection of non-combatants in their armed rebellion against the government and its foreign supporters." The group also said that the second highest cause of civilian deaths were suicide attacks by the Taliban which have killed 127 people.
Also, the ARM reported that a reduction of US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) air strikes reduced their share of civilians killed. The air strike reduction had been ordered by the former commander of foreign forces, General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by US president Barack Obama for making rude comments about top White House government officials.
In December of last year, US president Obama sent an additional 30,000 soldiers into the country in an effort to halt the Taliban's influence in the region. However, the ARM says in its mid-year report, titled "Civilian Casualties of Conflict", that the move failed to have any lasting effect, and that "the insurgency has become more resilient, multi-structured and deadly".
According to the ARM, most of the injuries and deaths were attributed to homemade bombs — otherwise known as improvised explosive devices. These bombs are considered the Taliban's main weapon.
140,000 soldiers from both the US and NATO are stationed in Afghanistan; another 10,000 are scheduled to enter the landlocked Asian country in the next few weeks. Over 350 US and NATO troops have been killed so far this year, compared with 520 last year. Over 30 troops have been killed in the first 12 days of July.
Six students in Ilocos Sur, Philippines tested positive for the H1N1 influenza virus. This occurrence is part of a rise in A(H1N1) and malaria during recent weeks in two provinces, as was the confirmation of twenty cases of malaria in Zambales.
Officials from the Department of Health say that they are not surprised, as A(H1N1) cases began to appear at about the same time last year, coinciding with the onset of the local flu season. Other health officials believe that the rise is due to the onset of the rainy season. The department noted that all prior cases in the Philippines have been "mild" and patients fully recovered. In the current case, five of those affected have recovered, while one still shows slight symptoms.
"If we look at the pattern for this month, it was also the same time last year when cases of A(H1N1) started increasing," says Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy. The Department of Health believes that the appearance of the virus should not cause distress; however, Suy warns that a new strain could appear.
The Philippines reported their first case of A(H1N1) in May 2009 in a ten-year-old child from the United States. According to the World Health Organization, 214 countries and territories have confirmed cases of A(H1N1), with a total of more than 18,311 deaths. As of June 2009, around 129 cases have been reported in the Philippines.
- Music credit Test Drive by Zapac
Australia's Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has cut Singapore and the UK from her official winter trip, keeping only France on her schedule, due to expectations that Prime Minister Julia Gillard will arrive at Government House in the coming days to request the Governor-General to call an election.
A spokesperson for the Governor-General said that "She wanted to be out of the country for as little time as possible [...] She was supposed to go Singapore and UK and now she's just going to France".
There has been much speculation as to when Gillard was to request that the election be called by the Governor-General, with 21st and 28th of August being most likely. This would be the first time since 1987 that an election was held during the winter.
As a result, Ms Bryce will head to Fromelles in France to represent Australia in a dedication ceremony and then return home, bringing her ten day trip down to five days.
In a speech today in Adelaide, South Australia Gillard suggested that she wanted to achieve a mandate by the people through the usual means of the Governor-General.
"I will ask the Australian people for their trust to move forward," Gillard said in the same speech.
According to current Nielsen and Galaxy polls, on a two-party preferred basis, Julia Gillard leads her rival, opposition leader Tony Abbott, 52-48 percent.
Somone who will not be cutting their overseas stay short,
On Monday, Swiss authorities refused a request from the U.S. to extradite Polish film director Roman Polanski on charges stemming from the 1977 accusation that he had sex with an American thirteen-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in Los Angeles, California. Though the film director had pleaded guilty to rape and unlawful sexual intercourse, he fled to France before he could be sentenced.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that "[t]he rape of a 13-year-old girl by an adult who should know better, and that does know better, is a crime. We will continue to seek justice in this case, and we will evaluate our options."
However, Switzerland has said no appeal to its decision was possible. Polanski was arrested last September by Swiss police when he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime career award at a film festival. The Swiss were acting on a request from the U.S. government.
The Swiss Justice Ministry based its decision on the fact that it was unable to determine whether Polanski had already served the full sentence for his crime. This was due to the Los Angeles Superior Court in May ruling that the records of the closed-door 1977 hearings had to remain secret.
In past hearings, Polanski's lawyers argued that there were irregularities in the original handling of the case, and U.S. judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the original judge.
On this day in history (8:28)
- Music credit Danse Macabre - No Violin
In the Eighty Years' War the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands was put under a bloody siege by a Spanish army that wanted to reclaim the rebellious city for Philip II, the Spanish King.
The city of Haarlem had a moderate view in the religious war that was going on in the Netherlands at that time. The city managed to escape from the Reformed iconoclasm in 1566 that affected other cities in the Netherlands. When the city of Brielle was conquered by the Geuzen revolutionary army on April 1, the Haarlem municipality did not immediately start supporting the Geuzen. Initially, most city administrators -- unlike many citizens -- did not favor open revolution against Philip II of Spain, who had inherited rule of the Netherlands from his father, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. However, after much political debate the city officially turned against Philip II on July 4, 1572.
The ruler of Spain was not pleased, and sent an army up north under command of Don Fadrique (Don Frederick in Dutch), son of the Duke of Alva. On November 17, 1572 all citizens of the city of Zutphen were murdered by the Spanish army, and on December 1 the city of Naarden suffered the same fate.
On December 11, 1572 the Spanish army put Haarlem under siege. The city was not very strong, militarily speaking. Although the city was completely surrounded by city walls, they were not in a very good shape. The area around the city could not be inundated, and offered the enemy a lot of places the set up a camp. However, the existence of the Haarlemmermeer (a great lake) nearby, made it difficult for the enemy to cut off the transportation of food into the city completely.
In the Middle Ages it was not usual to fight in the winter, but the city of Haarlem was crucial and Don Fadrique stayed and put the town under siege. The first two months of the siege the situation was in balance. The Spanish army was digging tunnels, to reach the city walls and blow them up. The defenders made tunnels to blow up the Spanish tunnels. The situation became worse for Haarlem on March 29, 1573. The Amsterdam army, faithful to the Spanish king, occupied the Haarlemmermeer and effectively blocked Haarlem from the outside world. The hunger in the city grew, and the situation became so tense that on May 27 many (Spanish-loyal) prisoners were taken from the prison and murdered.
After seven months the city surrendered on July 13, 1573. Usually, after such a siege, there would be a period of time that the soldiers of the victorious army could pillage the city, but the citizens were allowed to buy themselves and the city free for 240,000 guilders.
The written assurances that had been given to the city were respected, but the whole garrison (which included many English, French Hugenots and Germans) was executed with the exception of the Germans. 40 burghers considered guilty of sedition were executed as well; the besiegers having run out of ammunition, many of them were drowned in the Spaarne river.
Although ultimately the city could not be kept for the Prince of Orange, the siege showed other cities that the Spanish army was not invincible. This idea, and the great losses suffered by the Spanish army, helped the cities of Leiden and Alkmaar in their sieges. The latter city would later defeat the Spanish army, a major breakthrough in the Dutch Revolt. In the Sint-Bavo church the following words can still be read:
In this great need, in our uttermost misery, we gave up the city, forced by hunger, not that he took her by storm.
And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
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