News briefs:May 28, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Suspected serial killer Stephen Griffiths appears in British court; Maoist rebels are suspected in a deadly train derailment in India; California state senators ban sugary sports drink from schools; the US Air Force breaks a record for hypersonic flight and, in history, a solar eclipse ends an ancient war near modern day Turkey.
- Audio credit US Air Force
Today is Friday, May 28th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
A man accused of being a serial killer has appeared in the Bradford magistrates court in West Yorkshire today charged with three counts of murder. 40-year-old Stephen Griffiths is accused of killing three prostitutes, Suzanne Blamires, 36, Susan Rushworth, 43, and Shelley Armitage, 31.
Griffiths, a former van driver with a degree in psychology and studying for a PhD in criminology, gave his name as "Crossbow Cannibal" when asked. He has been in police custody since Monday when police were alerted to a CCTV recording that appeared to show a murder.
A caretaker had been reviewing footage from the flats where Griffiths lives when he saw footage of a woman and a man enter a flat early on Saturday morning. Two minutes later, she ran out and was followed by the man, who beat her to the ground and shot her in the head with a crossbow. Over the course of the weekend, the man was seen several times with bin bags and a rucksack.
On Tuesday, the day after the arrest of Griffiths, Blamires' remains were found in the River Aire in nearby Shipley. She had been cut into several pieces and her head was located in a rucksack. Police continue to search for the other two alleged victims; Rushworth has been missing since June last year and Armitage vanished in April.
Police have searched much of Bradford's red-light district, where Griffiths' third-floor flat is located. Forensic investigations at the flat are expected to last around three weeks. There are plans to search landfill sites for bodies, and police may yet expand the inquiry to cover three more cold cases, although at present they have not been linked to the current inquiry.
Griffiths was known as "the lizard man" in his block of flats owing to his habit of walking his two pet monitor lizards in the area. One neighbor is reported to have quoted him as saying he was studying for "a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper," and he had spent time in a high-security psychiatric hospital. During his five-minute court appearance he did not enter a plea, kept his head bowed and fidgeted with his cuffed hands. He said "Here, I guess," when asked for his address.
As he stood in court, guarded by three security officers, he was watched by the families of Rushworth and Armitage, who were accompanied by police family liaison officers. Blamires' family chose not to be present, but the victim's mother Nicky Blamires, 54, has told the press that Suzanne was a "much-loved" family member even thogh she "went down the wrong path and did not have the life she was meant to have." "Nobody deserves this," she said. "All these girls were human beings and people's daughters."
Griffiths' morning court appearance was followed by a second one this afternoon, at Bradford Crown Court. This time, he confirmed his name without incident. He was remanded into custody until next month, when he will appear in court again.
British media has been quick to compare the case to Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the "Yorkshire Ripper". Sutcliffe was a Bradford killer responsible for thirteen murders and seven attempted murders, including several prostitutes. Since his 1981 conviction he has spent most of the last three decades in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital near London.
While the UK attempts to cope with the aftermath of the serial killings, violence also broke out in India as
at least 65 people were killed and over 200 injured when suspected Maoist rebels triggered an attack on an Express train in West Bengal derailing it near the city of Sardiha.
The incident occurred at around 1:30 a.m. local time, and police forces and local medics took an hour to reach the site. Lack of roads and the fear of an ambush by Maoists slowed rescue operations as the region is a Maoist stronghold where multiple attacks have occurred in the recent past.
Air Force helicopters managed to arrive on scene at dawn as local television footage showed onlookers standing on the top of the affected carriages, as soldiers cut holes in the roofs with a gas-powered circular saw. A doctor at a nearby hospital noted 30 bodies had been taken to the hospital, but "a lot of dead bodies are strewn under the derailed carriages," he added. Home Secretary of the state, Samar Ghosh, said 65 bodies had been found so far.
The exact cause of the disaster was unclear, with some officials claiming an explosion had led to the attack, while some unaffected passengers stating they heard no blast. The driver said he had heard an explosion in the attack which derailed as many as ten passenger coaches five of which were subsequently struck by a freight train coming in the opposite direction.
Police officials, including the head of police of the state, said the metallic parts which held sections of the rail track together were missing and he labeled this as an act of sabotage. Maoists leaflets were also found at the scene. According to the country's railways minister, there was "definitely sabotage" and a bomb blast had led to the derailment. The minister also announced a compensation of $11,000 and a job in her ministry for the families of the dead and $2,200 for those wounded.
The Maoists guerrillas who are known as "Naxalites" are powerful force in the relatively poorer states of India. In the past few years, poor or landless peasants and tribesman have rendered their support towards the insurgents, due to the wealth gap and as a result of the former losing their land to government-aided mining companies.
As citizen in India react angrily to the growing economic divide in that nation, workers in Taiwan are also feeling pressured as
Taiwan electronics giant Foxconn has moved to repair its reputation after the suicide of a tenth employee this year.
The latest death came on the same day as Terry Gou, Chairman of Foxconn's parent Hon Hai Precision, opened the Shenzen production facility to the media for the first time. In the face of accusations that he ran a modern day sweatshop, he showed off employee recreation facilities. Gou, bowing as an expression of regret, promised to work to prevent such tragedies occurring again.
Although not a household name, Foxconn is the largest producer of electronics components and badge engineered electronics products in the world, Badge engineer is the replacement of the branding trademark of one product as another. Foxconn manufactures products for companies like Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Apple.
Labor activists have criticized conditions at Foxconn's factories as "military-style", with workers working long shifts and not being able to speak to each other. However, Foxconn claims that the suicides were mostly the result of relationship problems unrelated to its own management style, and it argues that for a work force so large the number of suicides is small.
- Music Credit Forsaken
The United Kingdom's Conservative Party has won the last seat of the 2010 general election, taking the seat of Thirsk and Malton with a majority of over 11,000. Voting in the constituency had been delayed by the death of the UK Independence Party candidate in the run-up to the original polling date of May 6, 2010.
The new MP, Anne McIntosh, took over 52% of the vote, with the Liberal Democrats – partners with the Conservatives in the coalition government – in second place. Despite the relationship between the parties in government, the Liberal Democrat candidate Howard Keal had promised that there would be a "full-on fight" for the seat. The Labour Party came third, although the fall in its share of the vote was described by political opponents as "catastrophic" for the party.
This was the first election held for the constituency, which was formed from parts of two former Conservative-held seats. The Conservatives' share of the vote rose by 0.2%, with the Liberal Democrats up 5% and the Labour Party down 11.6%.
McIntosh, formerly MP for the Vale of York constituency, said that she was "delighted", adding that it was a "very exciting time" in politics.
In a victory that's just as "sweet",
earlier today, California state senators voted 21 in favor and eleven against the prohibition of sales of sugared sports drinks at public schools during class hours. Soft drinks are already banned during school hours.
Studies have shown that sweetened drinks contribute to obesity among adults and children, leading to diseases like diabetes. According to Senator Alex Padilla, "Sugar-sweetened electrolyte replacement beverages are still available and have surged in popularity among kids,". He added that the bill "is a a common sense step forward in the effort to address the obesity epidemic in California,"
Governor Schwarzenegger is also sponsoring a package of legislation aimed at reducing child obesity in California and today's bill will now move to the state assembly for further legislation.
However, not all political victories have been without controversy as
US Representative Joe Sestak allegedly offered job by Obama to stay out of Senate election (11:03)
US Representative Joe Sestak, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, says that he was offered a job in the Obama administration if he would drop out of a Senate primary election. Obama told journalists in a news conference that an official report on the allegations will be released "shortly".
Sestak made the allegations first in February. Media attention grew, however, only when he defeated Arlen Specter, the incumbent senator and White House-preferred candidate, in the Senate primary last week. Since then, there has been more pressure on the Obama administration to reveal what they discussed with Sestak.
Republican leaders have asked the Attorney General's office to review the legal implications of this job offer, but the Justice Department has rejected other requests to investigate or appoint a special prosecutor.
Charges of corruption are not limited to the political realm today as
the mens basketball program at the University of Connecticut has been cited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for eight major violations of its recruiting policy. These allegations have resulted in the resignation of two of the team's assistant coaches, Beau Archibald and Patrick Sellers. Head coach Jim Calhoun is also accused by the NCAA of not monitoring the activities of his assistant coaches closely enough, which they said lead to the rules violations.
These citations come after the NCAA's 15-month long investigation relating to the team's possible recruiting violations of Nate Miles, who was set to play for the team during the 2007-08 season until he was expelled from the school for a restraining order violation. Sellers and Archibald are accused of placing 160 unauthorized phone calls and sending 191 unauthorized text messages to recruits who had not yet committed to play for the team yet, which is a violation of NCAA rules because teams are only allowed to place a certain amount of phone calls to recruits.
Former coach Archibald also allegedly placed an unauthorized phone call that lasted approximately 29 minutes. However, the player's name was kept anonymous and withheld from the report. The investigation also reports that the two accused assistant coaches gave improper and false information when NCAA investigators interviewed the two about the situation.
Calhoun, aged 68, has been the coach for UConn for the past 28 years and has already been enshrined in the College Basketball Hall of Fame as well as recently signing a $13 million contract extension with UConn. "It's not exactly, certainly anywhere near the high point of my career," Calhoun said in a statement, "as a matter of fact it's certainly one of the lowest points at any time that you are accused of doing something. It's a very serious matter,"
UConn has been scheduled to appear in front of NCAA investigators on October 18 for sanctioning and further investigation. It is likely that the basketball program could lose scholarships and receive probation.
- Music credit Ice
US actor Gary Coleman dies aged 42 (14:45)
US actor Gary Coleman has died at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah after complications from a brain hemorrhage. Coleman was admitted to the hospital on May 26 after falling and injuring his head then went into a coma on May 27, requiring life support. He was taken off life support and died shortly after noon on Friday.
Coleman had been suffering multiple medical problems throughout his life, however it is unknown if these problems affected his death. He suffered from a congenital kidney disease which required two transplants and daily dialysis. On February 27, 2010 Coleman suffered a seizure on the set of the television show The Insider.
Coleman's career began with appearances in the US sit-com's The Jeffersons and Good Times but he was best known for his recurring role as Arnold Jackson on Diff'rent Strokes and his recurring line, "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?".
Coleman was 42 years old.
the experimental Boeing X-51A Waverider scramjet managed to break a hypersonic flight record Wednesday during a test flight.
The United States Air Force (USAF) said that the scramjet was able to fly for 200 seconds, achieving a top speed of around Mach 5 and setting a new record for what the Air Force called "the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight." The previous record of twelve seconds was set by the NASA X-43 in 2004. This hypersonic flight, also the first to use hydrocarbon fuel, was hailed by US government officials as a success. Despite an unknown failure which caused the X-51 to lose acceleration, an X-51 program manager said that the USAF was "ecstatic" about the event's accomplishments.
The X-51 is 14 feet long and has no real wings, allowing it to withstand the shock wave created during flight.
- Audio credit US Air Force
The aircraft was launched over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range from under the wing of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress at 50,000 feet around 10 a.m. PDT. The X-51 was then propelled by a solid rocket booster to Mach 4.8.
After about 200 seconds in flight, Boeing said that "something then occurred that caused the vehicle to lose acceleration", possibly due to an engine blowout. "At that point, the X-51A was terminated as planned." Although it was expected to fly for about 300 seconds and reach Mach 6, the scramjet only managed Mach 5 at a height of about 70,000 feet. The aircraft then landed in the ocean as planned, however there are no plans to retrieve it.
This test is the first of four planned flights for the X-51 program, with the other three planned for this coming fall. Previously, the X-51 had flown twice, but remained attached to the B-52 both times.
On this day in history (18:12)
- Music credit Biomythos
In 585 BCE, the Battle of Halys, also known as the Battle of the Eclipse, took place at the Halys River (in present-day in Turkey) between the Medes and the Lydians. This was the final battle of a five-year war between Alyattes II, commander of the Lydians and Cyaxares who commanded the Medes. The battle ended abruptly due to a total solar eclipse which was perceived as an omen, indicating that the gods wanted the fighting to stop.
Famed ancient historian Herodotus states that there were two reasons for the war. First, the two sides had clashing interests in Anatolia, but also there was a motive of revenge. The desire for revenge was over some Scythian hunters employed by the Medes who once returned empty-handed and were insulted by Cyaxares. In revenge the hunters slaughtered one of his sons and served him to the Medes. The hunters then fled to Sardis, the capital of the Lydians. When Cyaxares asked for the Scythians to be returned to him, Alyattes refused to hand them over so, in response, the Medes invaded.
According to Herodotus's "Histories", "when they saw that it had become night instead of day, they ceased from their fighting and were much more eager that peace should be made between them."
In the aftermath, a truce was hastily arranged. As part of the terms of the agreement, Alyattes's daughter Aryenis was married to Cyaxares's son Astyages, and the river Halys was declared to be the border of the two warring nations.
Since the exact dates of eclipses can be calculated, the Battle of the Eclipse is the earliest historical event of which the date is known with such precision.
And those are the top headlines for Friday, May 28th, 2010
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