News briefs:June 15, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : The Red Cross condemns the Gaza blockade as Israel announces it will carry out an investigation into the death of the flotilla activists; women reveal accounts of forced abortion in Scientology; World Cup security officials walk off the job and, in history, the first human blood transfusion is administered.

Today is Tuesday, June 15th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.

Script

International Committee of the Red Cross condemns Gaza blockade (0:39)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement today calling for an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip which it called a "...collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law."

The statement gave an overview of what the Red Cross viewed as a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The ICRC described how the blockade has seriously impoverished the people of Gaza, as well as denying them basic access to housing, food and health care. The ICRC claimed the blockade has almost totally destroyed Gaza's economy which is kept on life support by an elaborate tunnel system used to smuggle in goods. Even though Israel stated it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip, the ICRC said that the country still denies access of Gazans to their fishing grounds, causing economic hardships.

The ICRC also outlined the condition of the health care system in Gaza stating that electricity blackouts are on average seven hours a day, meaning that hospitals must run on generators. Generators can take two to three minutes to start, a luxury many patients cannot afford. To make matters worse fuel reserves for the generators are running out, and the ICRC reported that already three times in 2010 Gaza's hospitals have run out of fuel.

Highlighting a potential risk to Gaza's water supply, according to the statement, only "60% of Gaza's 1.4 million inhabitants are connected to a sewage collection system." Raw sewage is dumped into the Wadi Gaza river and as many families live along side the river, the sewage poses a great health risk. Because of overused aquifers, Gaza's drinking water has "high levels of nitrate, chloride and salt" leaving the drinking water unfit for consumption.

The ICRC also urged for the rights of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held prisoner by Hamas, to be respected, however, they recognized that, "Over 800 Gazan detainees in Israeli prisons have been prevented from meeting face-to-face with their loved ones since June 2007."



Israel announces inquiry into Gaza aid ship deaths (2:51)

The Red Cross statement comes after the May 31st incident on a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships when nine Turkish citizens were killed as Israeli naval commandos boarded a vessel in the flotilla, the MV Mavi Marmara.

Following a rejected UN call for an international inquiry, Israel will carry out an inquiry into last month's raid consisting of two non-voting foreign observers.

The three-man inquest into the boarding action, which took place in international waters, will be headed by ex-Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel. A retired military officer and a professor of international law are the other members. The two foreign observers will be Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble and a former jurist in the Canadian military, Brigadier General Kenneth Watkin. They are to watch the panel consider how the Turks died, as well as judge whether the naval blockade of Gaza is allowable under international law.

Middle East peace envoy for the Madrid Quartet, Tony Blair, said that he hoped that the Israeli blockade on Gaza would be softened within days, whilst the White House backed a Security Council statement calling for a "prompt, impartial [and] credible" review. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the inquest did "not correspond to what the Security Council asked for".

The Turkish government, however, is not satisfied with Israel's inquiry. Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, said in a news conference that Israel's "one-sided inquiry" is insufficient, and his country wishes for a commission to be set up under the control of the United Nations. Turkey has withdrawn their ambassador to Israel and canceled joint military exercises. It is calling for the blockade, which the Red Cross says violates the Geneva Convention, to be lifted.



In another part of the world where war and religious tensions have caused serious economic hardships,

US report says Afghanistan has significant mineral wealth (4:38)

A report released by the United States noted that Afghanistan has nearly a trillion dollars worth of mineral reserves.

The report, authored by the US military, the US Geological Service, and the US Agency for International Development, stated that the total wealth in mineral reserves is upwards of US$900 billion, although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the value of mineral reserves in the country could be as much as US$3 trillion.

Resources claimed by the report include 421 billion dollars worth of iron, 274 billion dollars worth of copper and an undetermined amount of lithium, a mineral used in the batteries for many personal electronic devices.

According to an Afghan official, the potential income from mining the reserves would be enough for the country to become self-sustaining, without the need for international financial aid.

US military official General David Petraeus said that there was "stunning potential" for Afghanistan, going on to say that "[t]here are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant."

A spokesperson for Karzai stated that "it's very, very big news for the people of Afghanistan and that we hope will bring the Afghan people together for a cause that will benefit everyone."

Analysts were less optimistic about the potential for a mining industry, however. Janan Mosazai, one such analyst, said that "I highly doubt it will be able to either properly manage these resources or use the riches to build a more peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan for all Afghans." Mosazai cited Nigeria as an example of a country that has seen increased violence as a result of abundant natural resources; in that case, oil.





Women reveal accounts of forced abortion in Scientology (7:16)

Scientology is facing renewed criticism, due to an extensive exposé in the Florida newspaper the St. Petersburg Times which contains revealing accounts of women involved in the organization who say they were forced to have abortions. Multiple different female members of the Scientology group called the Sea Org said they were pressured to have abortions, and were threatened with separation from their families, hard labor, interrogations, and shunning, if they did not comply.

Women that came forward to the St. Petersburg Times said that those who did not wish to undergo an abortion were shunned by others within the Sea Org group, and were labeled as "out ethics" and "degraded beings". The Sea Org consists of 6,000 members of Scientology, who sign billion-year contracts to work for the organization for multiple lifetimes. Joining the Sea Org is considered a high calling within Scientology.

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, stated his appreciation for families within the Sea Org. Scientology's subsequent leader, David Miscavige, issued an order that children were to be banned in the Sea Org. The mandate by Miscavige asserted that children hampered the productivity of the Scientology order.

Scientology representative, Tommy Davis denied all of the assertions made by the women. "There is no church policy to convince anyone to have an abortion, and the church has never engaged in such activity." stated Davis to the St. Petersburg Times.

Another woman is suing the Scientology organization in United States federal court, and stated she was threatened with severe repercussions if she did not have an abortion. Claire Headley, 35, a member of the Sea Org when she was in Scientology, told the St. Petersburg Times, "The policy was if a staff member became pregnant, that they were to have an abortion."

In 1991, Headley became a member of the Sea Org at age sixteen, and began work with the division in Los Angeles, California. She then married at age seventeen, while a member of the organization. Headley said that officials within Scientology leadership pressured her to have two abortions: one at age nineteen, and another at age 21. Headley believed she had "no choice", as she had witnessed other women that refused to have abortions instructed to perform manual labor, with one pregnant woman ordered to dig ditches. Headley said that during pressure to have her second abortion she was forbidden to phone her husband to discuss the decision. Headley spent a total of thirteen years in the Sea Org.

Laura Dieckman, 31, said that she was enthusiastic about beginning a family when she became pregnant within Scientology at age seventeen, but was instructed to have an abortion. In a federal lawsuit against Scientology, Dieckman stated she joined with the Sea Org at the age of twelve, and at age sixteen she married another member of the group, Jesse DeCrescenzo. She said she was pressured to have an abortion in 1996.

Dieckman said to the St. Petersburg Times: "I was pounded for two days by the top person in my organization ... about how the baby wasn't a baby yet, it was just tissue and it wouldn't matter if I aborted the baby." Dieckman left Scientology in 2004. In a video posted to the website of the St. Petersburg Times, Dieckman emotionally recounted how she had immediately regretted going through with the procedure, "They will do an ultrasound before the procedure so you see the heartbeat. ... I'm lying there ... and I was like, 'No.' But it's too late. I'd already done it."

Another woman, Natalie Hagemo, said that 20 years ago at age nineteen, she too was pressured by Scientology officials to have an abortion, but she resisted. Hagemo gave birth to a daughter, Shelby, on August 20, 1990 who was recruited into the Sea Org at age 14. Shelby contacted her mother a week later wanting to leave the Sea Org but Hagemo had a difficult time getting her out of the group. It was not until this year that Hagemo told her daughter about experiencing pressure from Scientology officials to have an abortion.

The St. Petersburg Times received sworn depositions from additional women including Sunny Pereira, who said they were intimidated into having abortions they did not wish to undergo. "They put you in this position where you're weighing the lives of all these people you're supposed to be saving against this one little tiny speck of nuisance that's growing inside of you," said Pereira. Spokesman Tommy Davis stated the women were accusing Scientology of forced abortions because of choices they now "appear to regret".

In Nevada, Republican party candidate for the United States Senate, Sharron Angle, was the focus of criticism for her support of a Scientology-associated program. Angle's opponent, incumbent Senator and Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid, took out a 30-second negative political ad critical of Angle for supporting "a Scientology plan to give massages to prisoners". The prison program Angle had supported was based on techniques developed by Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Angle had previously been the subject of a similar ad in the Republican primary, generated by the campaign of her opponent Sue Lowden. Sharron Angle is pro-life, and The New York Times columnist Ramesh Ponnuru noted her position against abortion helped her win the Republican primary. "Angle would not have been able to unite populist conservatives and beat the party establishment’s candidate had she been pro-choice,".




World Cup workers walk off the job (12:46)

Following a labour dispute involving soccer match stewards, South African police have taken over security duties for World Cup games in Cape Town and Durban. Security personnel staged a sit-down protest in the Durban stadium on Sunday, and walked off the job before yesterday's match in Cape Town.

The security workers are in a contract dispute with their employer, Stallion Security Consortium Pty (Ltd). Workers claim they were promised as much as seven times as much pay for a shift than what they are currently receiving.

Following the match between Germany and Australia on Sunday, workers staged a sit-in on the grounds of the Durban stadium and were attacked by police with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The 2010 organizing committee claims they are working on resolving this dispute.

Some South African unions have threatened to severely disrupt the country during the World Cup if labor demands are not met. South Africa currently has one of the largest income disparities in the world.



And finally, for fans of a sport without the annoying drone of the Vuvuzela,

Los Angeles Lakers need to win game six to tie NBA championship (13:46)

the Los Angeles Lakers need to win tonight's home game to stay in the NBA Finals after the Boston Celtics beat the Lakers 92–86 on Sunday in game five of the seven-game series. After the Celtic's win in game five, and a three-thousand mile journey back home, the Lakers find themselves needing to win tonight to tie the series and deny the Celtics the win they need to wrap up the 2010 championship.

Though Kobe Bryant had scored 38 points on Sunday, there were no other other major point contributors from the Lakers. Pau Gasol scored twelve points, and Derek Fisher added nine points. The Celtics' Paul Pierce scored 27 points, and their other two "big three" players (Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) scored 30 points between them.

The Celtics may have underperformed over the season, but in these 2010 playoffs, they have been playing like the championship team they were three two ago.

For the final two scheduled games (should a game 7 be necessary), the Lakers will have home field advantage at the Los Angeles' Staples Center.



On this day in history (14:55)

In 1667, Jean-Baptiste Denys administered the first fully documented human blood transfusion using about twelve ounces of sheep blood into a 15-year old boy, who had been bled with leeches 20 times. The boy, along with a second patient, a labourer, both survived though it was likely due to the small amount of blood that was actually transfused into them, allowing them to withstand the allergic reaction.

Then, in the winter of 1667, Denys performed several transfusions on Antoine Mauroy with calf's blood, who on the third account died. Much controversy surrounded his death as Mauroy's wife asserted Denys was responsible for her husband's death. Denys was charged with murder but was acquitted, and in an unusual twist, Mauroy's wife was accused of causing his death which was later determined to be from arsenic poisoning.

After the trial, Denys quit the practice of medicine and his experiments with animal blood provoked a heated controversy in France, which banned the procedure in 1670. It wasn't until after Karl Landsteiner's discovery of the four blood groups in 1902 that blood transfusions became safe and reliable.



Outro

And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

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