News briefs:May 14, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Violence in Bangkok closes the US, Dutch and British embassies, Indonesian rebels are foiled in their plot to assassinate that nations president, no fraud detected in Iraq's elections, and in history, the United States launches it's first space station in 1973.
- Audio credit The Internet Archive
Today is Friday, May 14th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
A string of anti-government protests in Bangkok yesterday resulted in at least one fatality, numerous others injured, and the temporary closure of several foreign embassies in Thailand.
Philip Crowley, a spokesperson for the US State Department, announced early Thursday morning that the US embassy would be closed to the public due to its location near the violence. The embassy will be operating with a reduced staff and will not offer American citizens services until the conflict is resolved. The British and Dutch embassies in Thailand also halted their services after the Thai government said that it would seal off the area.
The leader of the protests was fugitive Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol, the radical leader of the militant Red Shirt movement. While giving interviews with foreign journalists, Sawasdipol appeared to have been shot in the head by a sniper. He was later taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment.
One other protester, 25-year-old Chartchai Bualao, was killed in the incident, but it is still unclear as to who is responsible for the shooting.
Thai military forces moved in quickly to suppress the protesters just after the shooting, aiming to put down the opposition movement and secure the area in which they had barricaded themselves since early April. The Thai government declared a state of emergency for seventeen of the country's 76 provinces in the wake of the protests.
This incident is only the latest in an ongoing series of violent outbreaks among protesters and the Thai government. The violence is a result of the belief of the protesters that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took power through illegitimate means with the support of the Thai military.
Violence in South East Asia was averted, this time in Indonesia, as
authorities said earlier today that they have uncovered a plot by rebels to assassinate several senior government officials, among them president Susilo Yudhoyono.
National police chief Hendarso Danuri commented on the matter earlier today, saying that several rebels intended to conduct the attack and declare an Islamic state during the August 17 independence day ceremony. Danuri added that the attacks also included a plan to attack foreigners and hotels in the capital Jakarta - somewhat similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 174 after rebels attacked tourist spots such as hotels and a train station.
The plot was revealed in part due to several anti-terror raids near the capital, which saw twenty people arrested. Many of those now in custody were reportedly trained at a camp in Aceh, and operated by a branch of the Jemaah Islamiyah group called al-Qaeda in Aceh.
This is reportedly the second alleged plot to assassinate the Indonesian president in a year; last August, security forces said they had evidence suggesting rebels would blow up a car by Yudhonoyo's motorcade. The last large rebel attack was in last July, when suicide bombers targeted hotels in the capital.
Today in China,
at least 21 miners were killed after an explosion at the Yuanyang coal mine in the city of Anshunin located in southwestern Guizhou province. According to the Chinese state news agency, there were ten other workers in the mine who were rescued; five of whom were hospitalized due to carbon monoxide inhalation.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, although it is being investigated. Despite an initiative to increase safety, Chinese mines are among the most dangerous in the world; official statistics say 2,631 workers died in 1,616 separate incidents last year, although the figure is down 18% from 2008.
Political unrest has also been reported in Eastern Europe as
the interim government of Kyrgyzstan regained control of several government offices after a day of violent clashes with supporters of former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Backers of the ousted president took over regional government offices in Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Batken in the southern part of the country yesterday. Afterward, they released a statement calling for the reinstatement of Bakiyev's administration. The provisional government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, said later that it had managed to retake the offices in Batken after the demonstrators left the buildings there. The governor of Osh also managed to reclaim the buildings in his city with the aid of civilian government supporters.
Approximately 250 protesters were reported to have forced their way into government buildings in Osh yesterday morning, unstopped by local law enforcement officials. Up to 200 other Bakiyev supporters, most of whom were women, managed to seize administration buildings in Jalal-Abad, and were also untouched by police.
A group of 4,000 pro-government citizens approached the occupied buildings in Jalal-Abad, but was quickly dispersed when gunfire was heard. Hospitals in the city reported receiving 37 people wounded in the incident, and at least one person has died. A group loyal to Bakiyev later said that they had 25,000 supporters to march into Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz government said that they would use counter-protests, rather than police forces, to combat the demonstrators.
Today, we have multiple stories coming out of Russia, beginning with the killing of
three people suspected of involvement in the bomb attack on the Moscow Metro system on March 29th which killed at least 40 people and wounded over 100. The suspects were killed after "fierce armed resistance" with police in the city.
According to a statement released by Alexander Bortnikov of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the suspects were killed in "an attempt to detain three members of an illegal group."
One of the suspects killed in the incident was suspected by Russian authorities to have escorted the two suicide bombers to Moscow in preparation for the attack while another was suspected of escorting one of the bombers to a Metro station to carry out the attack.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev released a statement in which he said authorities had no choice but to kill the suspects, referring to them as "terrorists", adding that "there was nothing to be sorry about".
In the immediate aftermath of the March attacks, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said the catching those involved should be viewed as a "matter of honour" but that the security forces would be heavily criticised by Russian media if they were to drag the suspects "from the bottom of the sewers".
According to Bortnikov, all those involved in the attacks have now been identified and efforts to locate further suspects in the bombings are ongoing.
In the Russian province of Dagestan,
At least eight people have been killed after an ambush which has been blamed on gangs and separatists supposedly inspired by rebels in neighboring Chechnya.
The incident occurred in the Sergokailinsky district last night about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Dagestan's capital Makhachkala, when workers were being dispatched to fix a cell phone tower owned by the "Beeline" telecommunications company that had earlier been damaged by bomb blasts set off by the rebels. When driving up to the tower, the convoy of workers, accompanied by police officers, came under fire.
A member of the security force of the Sergokalinsky district said that "eight people in the [rebels'] vehicle were killed [and the] other passengers received injuries or concussions".
In a story not heard much since the end of the cold war,
a Russian citizen identified as Gennady Sipachyov has been convicted of "state treason in the form of espionage" and was sentenced to four years in a Russian maximum-security prison.
According to the Russian intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), Sipachyov was found guilty of giving the American government classified military maps, which can be used to target American missiles against targets in Russia more accurately. According to the FSB, the exchange of of information occurred in 2008, when Sipachyov emailed the documents to an organization called "East View Cartography," which was a cover for the intelligence service of the US military.
In its verdict, the court said that "The Pentagon required the maps in order to correct its guidance system for cruise missiles to increase the accuracy of targeting." While no motive was identified, and the trial was barred to the media, speculation has been that any motive involved was financial in nature.
Sipachyov, whose age and profession were not released, was convicted under Article 275 of Russia's criminal code, pertaining to "state treason in the form of espionage." Such a conviction ordinarily carries a sentence of 20 years, but according to the FSB, Sipachyov had "co-operated actively in the detection and investigation and also pointed to criminal activity by other individuals which helped prevent further damage to the security of Russia," leading to his sentence being reduced.
The incident has been seen as embarrassing for both the Russian and American governments, as the two countries are currently trying to repair their previously rocky relationship. Earlier this year, a treaty reducing the number of nuclear weapons each country held was signed by both nations leaders in a widely publicized event.
The US government has not commented on the ruling.
As Russia attempts stabilize relations with the United States in the wake of the espionage case,
Russian president Dmitriy Medvedev met with the Khaled Meshaal, leader of the Hamas group, earlier this week in Syria, prompting criticism from Israel.
Medvedev, during the meeting, had encouraged Hamas to reconcile with rival Fatah; a spokeswoman quoted him as saying that "no one" should be left out of the peace process.
He also requested that an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006, Gilad Shalit, be released, although this was refused by Hamas, who says that Shalit wouldn't be released unless there was an "honourable" prisoner exchange with Israel. Shortly before his conversation with Meshaal, Medvedev also held a meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
In a statement by the Israeli foreign ministry, Israel described Hamas as "a terror organization whose declared goal is the destruction of the state of Israel" and went on to remind Russia that Israel had "stood by Russia in its struggle against the Chechnyan terrorism" and that they expect Russia to do the same concerning Hamas' actions towards the Jewsih state.
However, Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, responded to Israel's comments, saying: "Hamas is not an artificial structure. It is a movement that draws on the trust and sympathy of a large number of Palestinians. We have regular contacts with this movement."
Only a few countries in Europe, including Russia, maintain ties with Hamas; the European Union and the United States regard it as a terrorist organization.
An Iraqi electoral commission has said that no fraud was found during a partial recount of votes from the country's parliamentary elections two months ago.
The recount was requested by Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, after his party came second. Since the recount was done manually, it took 11 days to go through the 2.5 million votes cast in the Baghdad area.
al-Maliki had alleged fraud after the coalition of his main political opponent, Iyad Allawi, took a two-seat lead in parliament. The prime minister wanted recounts for all five provinces in Iraq, although only one - for Baghdad and the surrounding vicinity - was accepted. The Baghdad province accounts for around a fifth of the 325 overall seats. The recount, supervised by observers with the European Union and the United Nations, was conducted in the capital's Green Zone.
The Independent High Electroral Commission will make the full results of the recount publicly available on Monday.
In what is turning out to be a surprisingly uncontentious confirmation,
US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan began the first of a long series of meetings with US Senators on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, called her "the right choice to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court", while Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky hoped "that the Obama administration doesn't think the ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who would rubber-stamp its policies."
Kagan is seen as a moderate, having been criticized by both left- and right-wing politicians, although "she's identified with the American liberal position", according to Illinois Republican Jeff Sessions.
If confirmed, she would be the first US Supreme Court Justice without ever having held a judicial position in 38 years. Kagan, currently the US Solicitor General, spent much of her early career as a professor of law and the dean of the Harvard Law School. She was previously nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit in 1999, but the nomination was unsuccessful. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said that she does not believe Kagan's "lack of judicial experience in any way disqualifies her" to the position.
It is currently unclear what the meetings mean for Kagan. Some Republicans are worried about her move to block military recruiters from Harvard University's campus to protest the federal "Don't ask" policy against openly gay and lesbian members of the US military. However, despite that controversy, the nominee is also gathering support from both Republicans and Democrats. Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said Thursday that he found Kagan to support the military, after meeting with her.
The Washington Post estimates that Kagan will pass the Senate, if only because of the Democratic majority that currently exists there. Most, if not all Democrats are expected to vote for Kagan.
The 50-year-old lawyer was nominated to the highest court in the United States by President Barack Obama on Monday, after current Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement late last month.
James Ibori, a former Nigerian governor, has been arrested in Dubai on corruption charges. Ibori was the governor of Nigeria's Delta State from 1999 until 2007 but was accused of stealing US$290m and has been wanted by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency and by law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom. Ibori's UK assets, which amounted around US$35m against his annual salary of US$25,000, were frozen in 2007.
The former governor has been a senior figure in the People's Democratic Party for many years and played a major role in getting former President Umaru Yar'Adua elected to office. In 2009, Ibori was cleared of 170 charges filed against him due to a lack of evidence and just last month, police attempted to arrest him in Nigeria but were attacked by Ibori's supporters.
London's Metropolitian Police released a statement saying that Ibori had been arrested at the United Kingdom's request on suspicion of money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud and they are seeking his extradition to Nigeria.
Finally, in the cut-throat world of professional chess,
India's Anand defends chess world championship title against Bulgarian challenger Topalov (15:57)
Viswanathan Anand, a grandmaster from India, has retained the world championship title after a match with Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov.
The match, consisting of a dozen games, was played in the Bulgarian capital Sofia over the last twenty days. Anand received the first-place prize of 1.2 million euro, whilst Topalov took 800,000 euro.
The awards ceremony was attended yesterday by the Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, and the international chess federation FIDE's president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Going into the last game, both sides had two wins apiece, and seven draws. However, the Bulgarian's manager, Silvio Danailov, observed that Topalov played the last game "rather nervously", saying: A draw would have been a good result for him but he made a few mistakes and the Indian exploited them
On this day in history (16:48)
To honor the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida this afternoon, on this day in history, in 1973, Skylab was launched aboard a modified Saturn V rocket and became the United States' first space station, and the second space station visited by a human crew. The 100-ton space station was in Earth's orbit from 1973 to 1979 and it was visited by crews three times in 1973 and 1974.
Skylab came into existence due to NASA budget cutbacks during the Apollo missions and NASA's plans for further lunar exploration were canceled but the plans for a scientific, Earth-orbiting mission remained. Skylab took form on 8 August 1969, when the McDonnell Douglas Corporation received a contract to convert two existing stages of the Saturn IV rocket into an Orbital Workshop configuration. The Orbital Workshop was renamed "Skylab" as a result of a NASA contest. The orbiter would be coupled with the Apollo Telescope Mount, which was a solar observatory.
Yet, when Skylab was launched, she suffered severe damage during launch.
- Audio credit The Internet Archive
The station had to undergo extensive repairs and a spacewalk by the first Skylab crew, which launched 11 days later on 25 May 1973 did an initial flyby of the station to assess the damage.
- Audio credit The Internet Archive
What had happened was that debris from a lost micrometeoroid shield pinned the remaining solar panel to the side of the station, preventing its deployment and thus leaving the station with a huge power deficit.
If the crew were to fail to repair Skylab in time, the plastic insulation inside the station would have melted, releasing poisonous gas and making Skylab completely uninhabitable. However, after numerous spacewalks and coordinating with engineers on the ground, NASA put together a plan to get the station operational.
- Audio credit The Internet Archive
The crew stayed in orbit with Skylab for 28 days and two additional missions followed on 28 July 1973 and 16 November 1973 with mission durations of 59 and 84 days, respectively. The last Skylab crew returned to the Earth on 8 February 1974.
Skylab orbited Earth 2,476 times during the 171 days and 13 hours of its occupation during the three manned Skylab missions. Astronauts performed ten spacewalks totaling 42 hours 16 minutes. Skylab logged about 2,000 hours of scientific and medical experiments, including eight solar experiments and the Sun's coronal holes were discovered because of these efforts. Many of the experiments conducted investigated the astronauts' adaptation to extended periods of microgravity and each Skylab mission set a record for the amount of time astronauts spent in space.
Skylab was abandoned by human crews in February 1974 because there were no more launch vehicles available to actually reach the station until the Space Shuttle was launched in 1981 and so Skylab was left in a parking orbit that was expected to last at least eight years.
However, before the Shuttle ever went into operation, increased solar activity heated the outer layers of the Earth's atmosphere and thereby increased drag on Skylab, leading to an early re-entry. NASA realigned the station via computer and Skylab's re-entry occurred on 11 July 1979 in an area covering portions of the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.
Debris was found all through this region including The Shire of Esperance which fined the United States $400 for littering, a fine which remained unpaid for 30 years. The fine was paid in April 2009, when radio show host Scott Barley of Highway Radio raised the funds from his morning show listeners and paid the fine on behalf of NASA.
And those are the top headlines for Friday, May 14th, 2010
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