Wikinews:Briefs/July 27, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : Twin car bombs kill 20 in Iraq; An investigation into Washington D.C. Metro crash finds a need for new safety rules; New Jersey governor calls television show "Jersey Shore" negative and on this day in history : it's time to put on your all-Rush mix-tape, grab a 2 liter bottle of Shasta and make a saving throw for the father of role-playing games.

Today is Tuesday, July 27, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.



Twin car bombs killed 21 in Karbala, southern Iraq yesterday evening. The suicide attacks, on the road from Najaf, occurred at around 7:00 PM local time.

At least 47 people were injured, according to Salid Kadhim, spokesman for Karbala's health authorities, who went on to tell AFP, "Most of the killed and wounded are policemen and civilians."

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to travel to Karbala and nearby Najaf to celebrate the anniversary of the birthday of the Mahdi.

The bombing in Iraq comes just a day after

Wikileaks released a mass of "secret" material from the United States' involvement in Afghanistan in the five years from 2004 to 2009.

The material was scrutinized in co-operation with the main stream newspapers The Guardian and The New York Times, and the German magazine Der Spiegel, who cross-referenced the leaked documents with published material to check the veracity of the material.

The documents make explicit the accusation that the Taliban is receiving support including portable anti-aircraft missiles from Iran, and Pakistan. However, despite being condemned by the authorities in the United States, commentators have said that nothing in the released material would come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the war.

Another government report which has been relased, this time in connection to the

investigation into the fatal 2009 Washington Metro train collision. The report was conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and it called for new safety and maintenance rules and blamed the crash on the faulty automatic train-control system. The report also cited the use of dated 1000-Series train cars. The 2009 crash, which killed 9 and injured 80, occurred during the evening rush between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations on the Red Line.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, said that the system is currently regulated by state and local agencies. She called for Federal oversight. "Now it’s really time for them to step up to the plate and for Congress to address the issue," Hersman said during the release of the findings.

In 2009, Hersman told Congress that Federal safety guidelines should be set saying "the state oversight system is not effective, they don’t have any teeth." Currently the Federal government has control of interstate transit systems, not regional or local transit systems.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said yesterday that it would replace all of it's 1000-Series trains with newer models. After the crash, then WMATA general manager, John Catoe said that "the system is safe." WMATA's interim general manager Richard Sarles said that "We are committed to considering and following through on the findings and recommendations."

Poisoned liquor, locally known as changaa, killed 17 and blinded a dozen in Kenya's largest slum. Many of the people who died were found in their homes, in Nairobi slum, Kibera.

Police said the changaa "may have contained traces of methanol", according to a BBC News report.

The woman who distilled the liquor was arrested and authorities are investigating if the addition of poison was accidental or not.

Changaa is often supplemented with additives that make it more potent. Many Kenyans die from poisoned liquor every year, often sold in the brewer's home.

The Republic of Seychelles has convicted eight men of piracy and three others for aiding and abetting piracy. All eleven men each received a ten year sentence in jail. Four of the convicted were under eighteen years of age.

The office of President James Michel states this ruling is in response to a hijack attempt on a Seychelles coast guard ship.

This ruling by Seychelles' Supreme Court in Victoria is the first time the state has convicted Somali pirates.

Seychelles set up a court for the sole purpose of trying Somali pirates earlier this year, in response to hijackings of ships in Seychellois waters.

A Seychellois government statement said that "[t]heir conviction is a historical milestone as it is the first time that a piracy trial is successfully prosecuted in the Seychelles."

Pirates attacked ships more than 200 times in 2009, including 68 hijackings, and made around US$50 million (€38.5 million) in ransoms.

Seychelles and Kenya are the only African countries on the coast of the Indian Ocean with signed agreements with the European Union to prosecute Somali pirates.

Two tornadoes touched down around the same time yesterday afternoon near the small town of Wellington, Utah in the Mill Creek Subdivision area. Initial reports are that both tornadoes rated somewhere between F0 and F1, on the lower end of the Fujita scale. Several trees were reported to have toppled over, a mobile home was severely damaged, and a travel trailer was reported to have been thrown over 50 yards. Other homes had minor damage.

It is exceedingly rare for a tornado to touch down in settled areas of Utah, and even more rare for two to touch down at the same time. The last tornadoes touched down in Utah was the Salt Lake City tornado in 1999.

Wellington is about 130 miles by road south-east of Salt Lake City, the capital of the US state of Utah.

A man has died as the result of a collision involving a motorcycle and another car on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. On Monday, at approximately 9:30pm local time, 22-year-old Ryan Thomson, who came from Saint Martin, was riding on a motorcycle near to the location of the Mont Variouf School, located in Le Neuf Chemin, Saint Saviour. He collided with a stationary car and died as a consequence.

Analysis of the incident is currently ongoing and the States of Guernsey Police Service would like to speak with any witnesses who may have sighted two motorcycles being driven en masse near the location of the incident.

Members of the police force have stated that they are currently working in close cooperation with the family of Ryan Thomson and are offering the family their sympathy.

Sales of smartphones running the Android operating system have tripled since the beginning of 2010, according to figures released yesterday. Market analysts GfK said that "around one in every eight handsets sold in the UK between April and June 2010 on a contract is Android-powered, compared to one in 33 on average between January and March."

Last week, Samsung stepped up the marketing for its latest Android-powered device, the Galaxy S. Other Android-powered devices include the Sony Ericsson X10 and the HTC Desire.

Smartphones currently represent 73.5% of the market. GfK analyst Megan Baldock said to The Guardian: "The figures suggest an increasing number of consumers are now asking for Android handsets by name."

Chris Christie, governor of the US state of New Jersey, complained on ABC's Sunday morning talk show This Week that the MTV series Jersey Shore promotes a negative image of the state.

Prompted by a feature in The New York Times on Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, one of the stars of the MTV show, interviewer Jake Tapper asked the governor whether he thought the series was positive or negative for the state. Christie unequivocally answered that the show was "negative for New Jersey... It takes a bunch of New Yorkers, drops them on the Jersey Shore, and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey". He concluded, "I can tell people: they want to know what New Jersey really is? I welcome them to come to New Jersey any time."

In a wide-ranging interview the governor also faced questions about local and national politics, including New Jersey's US$11 billion budget deficit. Specifically, he was challenged over his plans to not pay $3 billion into public pension funds, payments described by the interviewer as a "legal obligation". He said that he "wasn't going to put $3 billion into a failing pension system" and that there would be further reforms of pensions and health benefits.

Christie was further questioned over his ongoing conflicts with teachers unions. He responded that "we can't have one sector of our society sheltered from the ravages of the recession, at the cost to people who have been hurt by the recession the most", citing the example of construction unions in New Jersey currently suffering unemployment between 35 and 50%.

NASCAR and Indy team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates became the first team owners in history to sweep the three top races in American motor sports. In February, NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray took the checkered flag at the Daytona 500 followed by Scottish driver Dario Franchitti's win in the Indy open wheel series at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Jamie McMurray helped make it a clean sweep when over the weekend he again took the top spot (and his second win of the season) by winning the Brickyard 400, also held at the Indianapolis Motor speedway.

Pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya led the majority of Sunday's race, but in a late pit stop, he and his crew chief Brian Pattie conservatively changed four tires while teammate and rival McMurray changed only two. As a result, the Colombian born driver fell back in the field, and eventually crashed out of the race. This marks the second time Montoya has dominated this race only to fall short at the end.

NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick finished in second place, followed by Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart.

Ganassi, a former open wheel driver, formed Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 1990. This team entered cars in North America's two leading open wheel series, CART and the Indy Racing League (IRL). Meanwhile in 1989, Sabates formed SABCO Racing to compete in the NASCAR Cup, the leading stock car class in the United States. Ganassi's operation merged with SABCO in 2001, forming an organization with teams that compete not only in NASCAR and IRL, but also in sports car endurance racing and Ganassi drivers won seven open wheel championships between 1996 and 2009.

The next race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be held on Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, where Denny Hamlin is the defending race champion.

On this day in history (13:27)


Ernest Gary Gygax, an American writer and game designer, best known for co-creating the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with Dave Arneson, was born in Chicago within a few blocks of Wrigley Field in 1938.

The son of Swiss immigrant and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Ernst Gygax, Gary spent his early childhood in Chicago, but in 1946 after he was involved in a brawl with a large group of boys, his father decided to move the family to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where Gary's mother's family had settled in the early 19th century.

During his childhood and teen years, he developed a love of games and an appreciation for fantasy and science fiction literature which his father introduced to him through pulp novels. At the age of ten, he and his friends played the sort of games that eventually came to be called "live action role-playing games", with one of them acting as a referee. His interest in games, combined with an appreciation of history, eventually led Gygax to begin playing miniature war games in 1953, with his best friend Don Kaye.

By December 1958, the game Gettysburg from the Avalon Hill company had particularly captured Gygax's attention and he ordered from the company the first blank hexagon mapping sheets that were available, which he then employed to design his own games. He looked for innovative ways to generate random numbers, and used not only common, six-sided dice, but dice of all five platonic solid shapes, which he discovered in a school supply catalog.

Gygax soon became active in fandom and by 1965 he was active in the wargame hobby, and was writing many magazine articles on the subject.

During the 1960s, as Gygax was working as an insurance underwriter for the Firemen's Fund in Lake Geneva, in 1966, he co-founded the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) with Bill Speer and Scott Duncan. The IFW, which was created by combining several preexisting wargaming clubs, aimed to promote interest in role-playing games, especially those set in the medieval period, and provided a forum for international wargamers.

In 1968, Gygax rented Lake Geneva's vine-covered Horticultural Hall for $50 to hold the first Lake Geneva Convention, also known as the Gen Con gaming convention for short and in 1969 he met Dave Arneson, the future co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, at the second Gen Con.

By 1970, Gary had left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman to make more time for pursuing his interest in game development and began working as editor-in-chief at Guidon Games, a publisher of wargames, for which he produced the board games Alexander the Great and Dunkirk in 1971.

That same year, his and Jeff Perren's Chainmail, a miniatures wargame that simulated medieval-era tactical combat was published and in 1972, he added a Fantasy Supplement to the rules. This supplement included warriors who were monsters of non-human races, drawn from the works of Tolkien and other sources. He also included rules for individual heroic characters, including wizards which included ten spells that could be used to affect a battle, including lightning bolts and fireballs.

Dave Arneson, who had written the game Blackmoor, adopted these new fantasy rules into his game and while visiting Lake Geneva in 1972, he and Gygax immediately saw the potential of role-playing games. Gygax and Arneson collaborated on "The Fantasy Game", the role-playing game that later became Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). In 1973, Gygax quit his day job and attempted to publish the game through Avalon Hill, who turned down his offer.

So, together with Don Kaye as a partner, in 1973 he founded the publishing company Tactical Studies Rules (later known as TSR, Inc.) with an initial investment of $1000 each. However, this did not give them enough capital to publish the rules for Dungeons & Dragons and, worried that other companies would be able to publish similar projects first, the two convinced acquaintance Brian Blume to join TSR in 1974 as an equal one-third partner; this brought the financing that enabled them to publish Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons was first released by TSR in January 1974 as a boxed set; a hand-assembled print run of 1,000 copies, put together by hand in Gygax's home, sold out in less than a year. That same year he also created the magazine The Strategic Review with himself as editor, which later became known as Dragon magazine.

Then, sadly, in 1975, Don Kaye unexpectedly died of a heart attack in January at the age of 36. As Kaye had not made any specific provision in his will regarding his one-third share of the company, his share of TSR passed to his wife, a woman whom Gygax characterized as "less than personable" and who "dumped all the Tactical Studies Rules materials off on my front porch. It would have been impossible to manage a business with her involved as a partner."

However, two years later, in 1977, a new version of D&D, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), was published. The Monster Manual, released later that year, became the first supplemental rule book of the new system, and many more followed over the next few years and by 1980 sales of the Dungeons & Dragons game reached $8.5 million.

Dungeons & Dragons reached mainstream notoriety when negative media attention focused on Dungeons & Dragons. In 1982, Patricia Pulling's son killed himself; blaming Dungeons & Dragons for his suicide, and Pulling formed an organization named B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons) to attack the game and the company that produced it.

By 1984, Gygax discovered that TSR had run into serious financial difficulties and was $1.5 million in debt. In October 1985, TSR's Board of Directors removed Gygax as the company's President and Chairman of the Board. Sales of Dungeons & Dragons reached $29 million by 1985, but Gygax, seeing his future at TSR as untenable, left the company on December 31, 1985.

Gygax continued to write new books and games, and in the intervening 20 years, he became something of a cult, nerd hero, culminating in a famous episode of the Fox cartoon series Futurama in which he, Nichelle Nichols from the original Star Trek series, the famed physicist Stephen Hawking and US Vice President Al Gore each lent their voices as a team of "Vice Presidential Action Rangers", whose task is to protect the space-time continuum. In fact, Gary Gygax's appearance alongside Al Gore is something of an inside joke since Gore's wife, Tipper, hates Dungeons & Dragons and has been publicly critical of it.

A lifelong cigarette smoker, Gygax went into semi-retirement after suffering strokes on April 1 and May 4, 2004, and almost suffered a heart attack after receiving incorrect medication to prevent further strokes. In late 2005, he was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal aortic aneurysm, yet despite his reduced workload, Gygax continued to be active in the gaming community.

Then on March 4, 2008, Gygax died at his home in Lake Geneva at age 69.

Gygax married his first wife, Mary Jo Gygax, in 1958. By 1961 they had two children who would later assist with play-testing Dungeons & Dragons. Three more children were to follow before the marriage ended in divorce in the early 1980s. On August 15, 1987, the same day as his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, he married his second wife, Gail Carpenter, and together they had his sixth and last child. By 2005, Gygax had seven grandchildren.

Gygax's influence is still strongly felt across the gaming community as a whole. The popular online role playing game, World Of Warcraft, dedicated a patch to the franchise in his honor, numerous webcomics make reference to him and even faux-conservative Stephen Colbert, avid D&D gamer in his youth, dedicated the last part of the March 5, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report to Gygax.



And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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