Wikinews:Briefs/June 8, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : BP claims to be capturing 10,000 barrels of oil a day in the Gulf of Mexico; White House journalist Helen Thomas retires after controversial remarks about Israel are aired online; China publicly criticizes North Korea for killing three Chinese nationals; 2 small children are attacked by foxes while they slept and, in history, the first man to measure the true dimensions of the solar system is born in 1625.

Today is Tuesday, June 8th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.


According to BP's chief executive Tony Hayward the equivalent to 10,000 barrels of oil is being captured each day in the Gulf of Mexico by a containment cap. Around 12,000 to 19,000 barrels are leaking each day, implying that more than half of the oil being released is being captured by the cap.

Tony Hayward expressed his company's intention of restoring the Gulf to its original state, after what has been described by many as one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the US. "As we speak, the containment cap is producing around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface." Hayward said. When asked about what amount of the leak the oil being captured represented, he claimed it was "the majority, probably the vast majority".

Hayward feels confident that almost all of the leaking oil will be captured in the following week. "We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend so when those two are in place, we would very much hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil." he said.

According to CNN, the US federal government's response manager, Adm. Thad Allen, said it was too early to call the operation a success, while admitting that BP had made progresses in the handling of the situation. He added that "I don't think anyone should be pleased as long as there's oil in the water,".

BP isn't the only British entity having public relations troubles.

The UK's Communication Workers' Union have effectively rejected a belated revised pay offer by telecoms giant British Telecom. Their statement, released early this evening, indicates a formal ballot on strike action is inevitable – unless the company revises their two percent offer for 2010.

The deadline set by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) had passed at noon last Friday but apparently went unheeded by BT. The unions' announcement of their intent to ballot members apparently resulted in the offer.

Last week, when their ultimatum was ignored, CWU deputy secretary general Andy Kerr expressed deep disappointment, citing the substantial profits made by the company in the last financial year: "[w]e're obviously very disappointed that BT has not improved its pay offer of 2 per cent despite their healthy profits this year."

The turnaround from losses of £244 million to a billion-pound-plus profit has, the union claims, galvanised their membership into seriously considering industrial action. Senior BT directors have been reported to have received million-pound bonuses including former Labour minister Patricia Hewitt who landed over £50,000 extra per-year. Hewitt was suspended from her parliamentary party in March over cash-for-access accusations, and works two to three days each month on BT's remuneration committee.

The UK's Press Association described the now-rejected offer as being worth 2% this year, and an additional 3% in 2011 with staff bonuses of up to £250. The package supposedly contains pledges including the return of call center and non-frontline work from outsource companies in India.

Wikinews called both the Communication Workers' Union, and British Telecom, seeking clarification on a number of points. Richard Knowles, a BT press officer in London, forwarded a company statement, but did not comment if the offer includes the repatriation of call center and back-office jobs. When asked on this work being carried out in a jurisdiction with less-stringent data protection, and computer misuse legislation, the reporter was referred back to the company's statement.

Sian Jones of the CWU's Press Office, commenting prior to the union's evening statement, remarked that repatriation of call center work was an issue that the union had prior, unrelated, discussions with BT regarding; she gave no indication to Wikinews this was, or was not, part of BT's revised offer.

The press release expressed clear intent to carry on with the process of balloting members on strike action. In the statement, Andy Kerr states, "[w]e're very disappointed that BT's revised offer remains materially unchanged for this year in terms of pay."

Continuing, he emphasized, "[...] we've made clear, 2 per cent is unacceptable for our members as it does not reflect the reward they expect given the contribution they have made to cost savings of £1.75 billion and profits of over £1bn. In addition, inflation is at 5.3 per cent and staff are comparing this offer with the large salary rises and bonuses for senior executives which expose the blatant double standards being adopted by the company when it comes to remuneration."

Any sustained action by CWU members in BT's employ could have a major impact on the country's communication infrastructure. Millions of UK households and businesses are reliant on BT for internet access – in addition to telephony services.

Following the release of their statement, the CWU's Sian Jones confirmed that the union had not, as-yet, given BT the formal seven-days notice of balloting members on strike action.

Any ballot would run for a two-week period; following such, the union would, again, be required to give seven days notice to BT; this time of their intent to take workers out on strike. She emphasized, "nobody wants to be on strike", stressing that the union last took such action in 1987, and would prefer round-table discussions and an improved offer.

When called for comment on the union's rejection of their revised offer, the BT press office declined to comment at this time.

Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas, 89, announced her retirement yesterday with immediate effect, ending her fifty-seven year career, amid criticism over controversial remarks.

Thomas has been a correspondent for over fifty years and has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Obama. Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, who blazed a trail for female reporters in politics in the United States, has ended her career after she was captured on video saying: "Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland," and that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "they should go home" to Poland, Germany, the US and "everywhere else."

In retiring, Thomas stated: "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."

Rabbi David Nesenoff, an independent filmmaker, said he spoke to Thomas outside the White House on Jewish Heritage Day on May 27 and video of her controversial comments were widely disseminated on the Internet by his website,, that relaunched last week.

Thomas was absent from Monday's White House briefing. She was dropped by her public speaking agency and a high school commencement address was canceled. The White House Correspondents Association called her remarks "indefensible". White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called her remarks "offensive and reprehensible."

Thomas has been a correspondent for fifty-seven years, she had worked for decades as a White House correspondent for United Press International and became a columnist for the Hearst newspaper chain in recent years. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and, in 1975, the first female member of the Gridiron Club.

Thomas did little to hide her views, with her questions to Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and their press secretaries about the wars in the Middle East. Two weeks ago, she asked Obama, "Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are you continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse?"

Helen Thomas has written five books. During Kennedy's administration, Helen ended all presidential press conferences with a signature "Thank you, Mr. President" and always issued a caveat about her work: "In my career you're only as good as your last story."

The government of China has made a rare public protest over allegations that the North Korean border patrol shot three Chinese nationals dead and injured a fourth near the Chinese town of Dandong last week. Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry reported that the government of China has formally complained to North Korea, despite the two countries' normally amicable relationship.

Qin says that the men were shot "on suspicion of crossing the border for trade activities", and that "China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". He reports that the incident is currently under investigation, but refuses to comment on the validity of the accusations. "In the aftermath of the incident, China has paid a lot of attention to this issue and has made a formal diplomatic protest to North Korea," said Qin.

China is North Korea's primary source of international trade, and illegal traders crossing the border are perceived as a great threat. North Korea is also involved in a dispute with its neighbor, South Korea, regarding the sinking of a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 people; while an international committee found that North Korea was responsible, China refuses to place any blame on the nation, which it sees as an ally. Heung Gwang, a former North Korean college professor and head of Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, said that because of this "it is rare for China to publicly complain. Usually there is a private apology or money paid."

Dandong is the site of the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, a commemoration of China's aid of North Korea during the Korean War of the 1950s. The Chinese people were reported to be in a boat when they were shot, for allegedly carrying copper wire out of North Korea and into China.

The North Korean border guards caused controversy last year, when they detained two United States journalists on the Chinese border on charges of illegally entering the country. They were sentenced to twelve years hard labor, but a campaign led by former US president Bill Clinton saw their release after only four months.

An investigation is currently under way in Argyll, Scotland, following a derailment on the Glasgow – Oban railway. The incident took place at 9:00pm local time on Sunday, close to the 'Falls of Curchan' station. According to reports, both carriages of the derailed unit had also caught fire. At the location of the incident, the railway line is on an embankment above a local roadway, and the lead car came to rest, overhanging this road.

All passengers have been successfully evacuated, with eight being taken to hospital with "serious but not life-threatening" injuries and there were no fatalities. A spokesperson for the ambulance service stated soon after the incident: "There's quite a lot of walking wounded. There's a couple of bumps to necks and backs and things like that."

Inspector David McEwan was quoted as confirming that the lead coach was "sitting in a precarious position overhanging the roadway", and continued "the coach could slip further down the embankment on to the roadway [...] This is obviously a major concern for the engineers at this moment in time."

Railway engineers are currently working to stabilize the site, and re-open the line. According to a Scotrail spokesperson "an investigation is already under way into the cause of the incident by appropriate agencies and industry partners". The line between Glasgow and Oban remains closed, with buses service replacing trains.

Another scary incident took place in the UK when

two nine-month-old babies were hospitalized after appearing to be mauled by a fox as they slept in cots in their home in Hackney, West London. The attack happened on Saturday at 10:00 pm local time and tt is thought the fox entered through an open door on the ground floor of the house, which was located beside Victoria Park.

The babies both suffered bite wounds on their arms, while one was also bitten on the face. Both are said to be in "serious but stable" conditions.

The babies' mother, Pauline Koupparis, spoke of her shock to hear and see the foxes in her house to local BBC radio station London 94.9: "I went into the room and I saw some blood in Isabella's cot, I thought she had a nosebleed. I put on the light, I saw the fox, it just looked at me and it wasn't even scared of me. I started screaming as I realised Lola was also covered in blood."

Hackney environmental health officers set traps in the rear garden of the property the night after the attack, catching one which was then humanely killed shortly after midnight. It is not yet known if this fox was responsible for the attack.

It is thought there are some 35,000 urban foxes living in the UK, and some experts believe that as much as a third of that number live in the capital. However, attacks on humans are very rare, generally occurring if the fox is trapped and is threatened.

As wildlife may pose a risk to children living in close proximity to wild animals,

A new study by a professor at the University of Oxford has concluded that attending nursery school does not have harmful effects upon "the vast majority" of children under two years old. The research contrasts with the views of other writers in the field, who argue that pre-school children achieve the best results when cared for by their parents full-time.

Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at the university, has based her findings upon data from the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project. This has been running since 1996, tracking the development of 3,000 children to discover the effects upon their development of pre-school care and education.

Sylva told The Sunday Times that "[a] lot of parents worry unnecessarily about this issue but my research shows that the vast majority of children are not impaired on any measure by attending nursery under the age of two", although she admits that there is an increased risk for children from deprived background, and for boys. Those attending better-quality nurseries go on to make better relationships when they start school, she says, and urges parents to check the standards of nurseries for themselves.

Her conclusions come in the wake of a vast expansion in nursery care provision in the United Kingdom in recent years, aimed at getting mothers of young children back to work. One study states that 5% of "middle-class" parents in Britain put their children in full-time nursery care.

According to others such as the child psychologist Oliver James, however, full-time care by parents gives the best results for children. James states that there is evidence that nursery care is "highly stressful and can be harmful", since levels of the hormone cortisol double after one hour in day care, and raised levels can be detected for some months afterwords. Sylva agrees, though, that some children who attend nursery before they are two are slightly more aggressive at primary school – a finding in line with other research – but says that this aggression disappears by the time the child reaches eleven.

The lesbian couple, Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao, married in a Lisbon, Portugal registry office on Monday. As they kissed and hugged Pires said, "This is a great victory, a dream come true," and that they would continue to fight for equal rights for homosexuals, including adoption.

The couple had campaigned for a change in the law since 2006, when they were turned away from a registry office. Officials stipulated that marriage was between people of different sexes. They appealed to Portugal's Constitutional Court, saying that the constitution forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the Court rejected their appeal.

Afterwords the government of José Sócrates introduced a bill removing the reference to marriage being between different sexes. The bill was passed by parliament in January and ratified by conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva in May.

The government said the law is part of its effort to modernize Portugal, where homosexuality was a crime until 1982. Portugal is a predominantly Catholic country and is the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex couples marriages, after Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Initial composition of jury members in a human trafficking criminal trial began Tuesday in Clearwater, Florida. WTVT-TV reported this may be the first such case in the Tampa Bay Area.

An individual named Colin Anthony Dyer was placed under arrest in May 2009. Dyer, 37, faces charges in the case including human trafficking and sexual battery. Accusations against Dyer include human trafficking on one woman, and both sexual battery and human trafficking on another young woman.

Law enforcement officials stated Dyer along with three other individuals restrained women without their permission in a residence in Treasure Island, Florida. According to statements by those investigating the case, Dyer and his associates made these women work as prostitutes.

Law enforcement officials have said that Dyer raped a woman and made her work in the capacity of a prostitute at a strip club called "Vegas Showgirls", located near St. Petersburg, Florida.

Other individuals that were arrested related to the case included Kenyatta Cornelius, Edward Jones, and Corinna Shaffer. The case involving Dyer is the first of these people to be heard in court at trial.

Prior to admitting possible jury members into the courtroom, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters asked lawyers if a plea bargain deal had been made between the parties. Bryant Camareno, lawyer for Dyer, stated his client did not wish to plead guilty. Lawyers for the government did not give Dyer a formal plea bargain deal offer. Judge Peters queried Dyer regarding his understanding that he could be sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in jail, and Dyer answered in the affirmative.

Police detectives have stated that this might be the first case in Florida dealing with the human trafficking of citizens of the United States.

Yesterday, at this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), company CEO Steve Jobs unveiled iPhone 4, along with the new iOS 4 operating system for Apple mobile devices.

The announcement was long-awaited but not a very big surprise. In April, the technology blog Gizmodo obtained a prototype of the new phone and published details of it online. While introducing iPhone 4, at the annual conference, Jobs started by hinting at the incident, saying, "Stop me if you've already seen this."

The new iPhone was praised by Jobs as "the biggest leap we've taken since the original iPhone." It is only 9.3 millimeters (0.37 inches) thick, making it "the thinnest smartphone on the planet", a 24 percent reduction from Apple's previous model, the iPhone 3GS. Structure-wise, iPhone 4 has a new stainless steel frame, which acts as an antenna, supposedly boosting its signal reception abilities and possibly reducing the amount of dropped calls. It also has a new screen, dubbed a "retina display," which displays images at 326 pixels per inch and a new internal gyroscope as well. Even though it now uses Apple's faster A4 processor (first used in its iPad tablet), iPhone 4 has a claimed seven hours of 3G talk time, up two hours from the 3GS.

In addition to its design features, Jobs showed off iPhone 4's new video calling abilities. This feature is called FaceTime, and connects with other iPhone 4s via Wi-Fi. The phone has two cameras: one on the front for video chats, and one on the back for taking pictures and other videos. The rear camera has a resolution of five megapixels, is capable of recording high-definition video, and has an LED flash.

The iPhone 4 will use Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 4. Formerly "iPhone OS," iOS 4 was first introduced by Apple in April, and includes multitasking capabilities. Jobs called the new software "the most advanced mobile operating system in the world." iOS will support Apple's new mobile advertising service, iAd, which goes live on July 1.

iPhone 4 will be available on June 24 in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. It comes in two colors—black and white—and two storage capacities. The 16GB version is priced at US$199 and the 32GB version at US$299. The iPhone 3GS's price will be reduced to US$99, and the iPhone 3G will be discontinued. iOS will be available as a free software update to users of compatible older Apple devices (including the 3GS) on June 21. In the U.S., iPhone 4 will only be available on AT&T's cellular network, despite calls for Apple to let the iPhone be used on other carriers, such as Verizon.

Competition-wise, the BlackBerry mobile device is still the most popular smartphone right now. Apple is also facing some serious competition from web giant Google's Android operating system, as well as Palm's webOS. Earlier this year, Android phones managed to outsell iPhones. iPhone users, however, account for over half of those surfing the Internet on a mobile browser in the U.S. Jobs also noted that over five billion iOS applications, commonly called "apps," have been purchased from Apple's App Store. The App Store currently has around 225,000 different apps for sale.

Finally, in sports,

basketball coach John Wooden died at the age of 99 on Friday of natural causes.

Born in 1910 Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and a coach (1973). After serving in the United States Navy as a lieutenant for three years in World War II, Wooden first coached at Indiana State University's Teacher's College from 1946 to 1948

In 1948 Wooden became the coach at UCLA. There he immediately turned a failing team into the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) Southern Division Champions. His 27 seasons with UCLA culminated in 10 NCAA titles in his last 12 seasons, including a record seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.

Spurning a lucrative offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers to remain at UCLA, Wooden stepped down in 1975 following a final NCAA championship winning season. Following his retirement Wooden embarked in a second career as an motivational speaer and author, becoming known for his "Pyramid of success", a philosophy in which synergistic behaviors reinforce each other to create success in life and basketball.

Wooden leaves behind a son James Hugh Wooden, and daughter, Nancy Anne Muehlhausen. His wife Nellie (Nell) Riley pre-deceased him in 1985 after 53 years of marriage.

On this day in history (25:45)

Giovanni Domenico Cassini was born in 1625 in Perinaldo, near Sanremo, at that time in the Republic of Genova.

Cassini was the first to observe four of Saturn's moons, including Iapetus, whose anomalous variations in brightness he correctly ascribed as being due to the presence of dark material on one hemisphere. In addition he discovered the Cassini Division in the rings of Saturn in 1675 and he shares with Robert Hooke credit for the discovery of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter around 1665.

Attracted to the heavens in his youth, his first interest was in astrology. While young he read widely on the subject of astrology, and soon was very knowledgeable about it; this extensive knowledge of astrology led to his first appointment as an astronomer. Later in life he focused almost exclusively on astronomy and all but denounced astrology as he became increasingly involved in the Scientific Revolution.

In 1672 he sent his colleague Jean Richer to Cayenne, French Guiana, while he himself stayed in Paris. The two made simultaneous observations of Mars and, by computing the parallax (the perceived change in location of an object seen from two different places), determined its distance, thus measuring for the first time the true dimensions of the solar system.

However, it was not until around 1705 when Edmond Halley realized that repeated sightings of a comet were actually recording the same object, returning regularly once every 75–76 years, that the term "Solar System" first appeared in English.


And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

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