News briefs:May 16, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : BP fails again to cap the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a Cathay Pacific airliner is escorted by military jets after a bomb scare, students in Chile celebrate Student's Day, and in history, American pioneers set out along the Oregon Trail.
Today is Sunday, May 16th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
Officials from British Petroleum have reported their latest attempt to cap the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has hit yet another obstacle.
Previous efforts to contain the spill failed when the company had first tried to enclose the leaking pipe with a large container dome and when that failed, it tried a smaller "top hat" dome. This latest setback occurred when a siphon tube designed to be inserted into the broken oil pipe on the sea floor had to be brought back to the surface aboard the drill ship Discover Enterprise and altered because a metal frame on the tube had changed position and thus could not be connected to the pipe via robotic submarines.
The siphon tube method, which will be attempted again on Saturday night, is designed to reduce the amount of oil flowing into the ocean, but is not a permanent solution to stopping the leak altogether but it will allow a tanker at the surface to draw the oil from the broken pipe.
If this latest attempt is unsuccessful, BP will use the smaller dome to cap the leak, and may also try to plug the leak by covering it with trash, mud, or concrete. BP was also given permission yesterday by the US Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency to use chemical oil dispersants to combat the spill.
The company is already in the process of drilling relief wells to completely stop the leak, but this is expected to take several more months. The amount of oil currently leaking from the pipe is disputed, and BP said it has spent several hundred million US dollars in response to the oil spill.
In an effort to take a more relaxed approach to relations with the US,
British Foreign Secretary William Hague traveled to Washington, D.C. on Friday to meet his opposite number, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Hague, who was leader of the UK's Conservative party between 1997 and 2001, traveled to the United States in his first overseas visit in his capacity as foreign secretary almost as soon as his appointment to the post was confirmed since the election ten days ago and the formation of a coalition government six days later.
Hague was keen to point out that US President Barack Obama had been the first foreign leader to telephone David Cameron and congratulate him upon becoming the UK's new Prime Minister and that the promptness of his visit was intended "to ... reciprocate that warmth" shown by the US to the new coalition government.
Clinton told Hague that she was "enthusiastic" about the new government in the UK and the "chemistry" between Cameron and his Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg. The talks focused on the major foreign policy concerns shared by both countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle-East and the pair ended the subsequent press conference by expressing their unity on those issues, particularly on further UN sanctions against Iran and on the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan.
Clinton, who ran against Obama in the Democratic Party's primaries during the 2008 presidential election, was at pains to emphasize that any future disharmony in the Westminster coalition government would not affect US–UK relations, nor the ability of the US to rely on the UK as partner in the future. Comparing the two political systems, Clinton said "We don't formally have a coalition government in the way that you have formed one in the UK now, but we have enough of our own internal differences that we have to sort through."
Cameron and Obama are scheduled to meet in person at next month's G20 meeting in Canada.
In the skies over Canada,
a Cathay Pacific passenger aircraft from Hong Kong was escorted by two Canadian military aircraft after the pilot issued an alert of a bomb threat to the aircraft.
Two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets had taken off from a military base on Vancouver Island to intercept the plane after the pilot's alert and, according to a Canadian official, "[the] fighters escorted the aircraft until it landed safely ..." at Vancouver International Aircraft at around 1:40pm local time. Passengers were initially kept on board the aircraft before being allowed to deplane and according to an unidentified passenger from the flight "They told us there was some sort of terrorist problem and the baggage would be held up."
The plane was then moved to a secure section of the airport while police investigated the incident, though no dangerous substances had been found on board and passengers had not been in danger.
While passengers from Hong Kong are dealing with the bomb scare over Canada, back home,
Hong Kong by-elections start (4:54)
A special election will be held today following the resignation of five legislators in Hong Kong's Legislative Council earlier this year in protest of the government's indifference towards universal suffrage and the abolishment of functional constituencies.
Prominent politicians Leung Chun Ying and Anthony Cheung have refused to vote as have the heads of the DAB and Liberal Party, the former going on a trip to avoid voting. Their absence provoked the criticism of several pan-democrats, including Audrey Eu, party leader of the Civic Party.
The elections began at 07.30 local time and are due to end at ten o'clock tonight. Results are expected to be released tomorrow morning.
Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old Australian, became the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted and alone when she arrived in Sydney Harbor on Saturday.
As Watson neared land, a large assortment of other watercraft began to parade alongside her yacht. She was greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who called her "Australia's newest hero." and congratulated her with a free driving lesson and a copy of the Australian "Keys to Drive" program. Watson completed her journey days before her seventeenth birthday.
Watson departed from Sydney on October 18th of last year and after 210 days, she traveled, by herself, for over 23,000 nautical miles on a 34-foot yacht, called Ella's Pink Lady.
Watson caught some criticism when she first announced her intention to sail solo around the world. Some thought that she was too young and too inexperienced to safely travel alone, but Watson's mother stated that she had been sailing since she was eight years old. And last week, it was questioned whether Watson had sailed far enough past the Equator to satisfy the requirements for achieving the record.
Watson's record is unofficial because the World Speed Sailing Record Council no longer has a category for the sailors under eighteen. Jesse Martin, also Australian, held the previous record in 1999, when he was eighteen.
Meanwhile, young people on dry land celebrated
Colegio Preciosa Sangre, Pichilemu, amidst other Chilean schools celebrate Student's Day (7:04)
Students' Day in schools across Chile.
Student's Day was created in May 11, 1990 by Chile's Ministry of Education and allows students to engage in fun and team building activities such as live music performances by local bands and an event known as gymkhana which pits teams of students against each other in fun competitions that include threading a needle and eating a pear while playing with a basketball.
In the town of Pichilemu, team Verde edged out team Rojo in these student competitions.
All across the nation, students enjoyed a wide range of activities, most notably free food, especially in Parral where Savory's ice cream was given to people in front of the the city's Municipality building.
Meanwhile, the Clerk of the Municipality of Punta Arenas, Orlando Estefó, congratulated students for "making history every day by day, as the main actors in the educational process."
On this day in history (8:01)
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In 1842, the second organized wagon train along the famed Oregon Trail, set out from Elm Grove, Missouri, with more than 100 pioneers. The party was led by Elijah White, a missionary and agent for the United States government in Oregon Country.
The Oregon Trail was one of the main overland migration routes on the North American continent, leading from locations along the Missouri River to the Oregon Country, located in the America's Pacific Northwest region.
The trail was used extensively between 1841 and 1869 by settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, and business men looking for new opportunities away from the rapidly growing eastern portion of the pre-Civil War United States.
To complete the journey in one traveling season most travelers left in April to May as soon as grass was growing enough to support their teams and the trails had dried out. To meet the constant needs for water, grass, and fuel for campfires the trail followed various rivers and streams and the network of trails required a minimum of road work to be made passable for wagons. People using the trail traveled not only by wagon but also on pack trains, horseback, on foot, by raft, and by boat.
The cost of traveling over the Oregon Trail and its extensions varied from nothing to a few hundred dollars per person. The cheapest way was to hire on to help drive the wagons or herds, allowing one to make the trip for nearly nothing or even make a small profit. Those with capital could often buy livestock in the midwest and drive the stock to California or Oregon for profit.
The journey itself was arduous and filled with many dangers, but the number of deaths on the trail is not known with any precision and there are only wildly varying estimates. The estimates are made even harder by the common practice then of burying people in unmarked graves that were intentionally disguised to avoid them being dug up by animals.
While Indian attacks were a hazard and increased significantly after 1860 when miners and ranchers began fanning out all over the country which, incidentally, often encroached on Indian territory, it was diseases such as cholera that were the main killer of travelers with up to 3% of all travelers dying of the disease in the cholera years of 1849 to 1855.
By the time the first transcontinental railroad by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways was completed in 1869, the use of the trail rapidly diminished, yet one of the main enduring legacies of the Oregon Trail is the expansion of the United States territory to the West Coast. Without the many thousands of United States settlers in Oregon and California and thousands more on their way each year, it is highly unlikely that this would have occurred.
When Elijah White had set out in 1842 with his 100 pioneers, the Oregon Country was subject to competing claims by the United States and Britain, but after years of industrial expansion and western migration the territory was admitted to the Union on November 11, 1889.
And those are the top headlines for Sunday, May 16th, 2010
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