Wikinews:Briefs/May 31, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : Israeli commandos board vessels in international waters attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza; a bus accident in Cameroon claims 30 lives; Dario Franchitti wins the Indianapolis 500 and, in history, the final entry is made in one of the most important diaries of the western tradition.

Today is Monday, May 31st, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.


Around nineteen Free Gaza Movement activists died today when Israeli Defense Force commandos boarded vessels in international waters attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. According to Israeli television, 19 people were killed and 36 wounded in the confrontation, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a toll of at least 10.

The six vessels, called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, carried 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid destined for the Gaza Strip, including water purifiers, prefabricated homes and medical equipment. Passengers included several European members of parliament from Germany, Belgium, Algeria and Israel. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that the organizers of the Gaza aid flotilla have connections to organizations such as Hamas and al-Qaeda.

The Israeli military had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza and said the activists were a "provocation intended to delegitimise Israel". The Israeli Navy had been transmitting messages throughout the night ordering them to turn back, stating that if the order was ignored: "the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade".

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organizers, had said that the flotilla was "fully prepared for the different scenarios" that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would "do what's right" and not stop the convoy. She said, "we fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation of threats of violence against us," and that "they are going to have to forcefully stop us."

The pre-dawn boarding took place in international waters around 150 kilometers (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza. Footage from on the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship from helicopters and fighting with activists. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the activists attacked the commandos with batons, knives and axes. Benjamin Netanyahu said "they were mobbed. They were clubbed, they were beaten, stabbed. There was even a report of gunfire and our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives or they would have been killed."

A spokesman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin accused Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at "unarmed civilians", however, Israel said troops found weapons aboard the Gaza flotilla which were used against the IDF. Egypt's foreign minister and the foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief who helped to organize the convoy denied that there were weapons aboard.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon said he was "shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on boats carrying supplies for Gaza" and called for "a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place" and urged Israel to "urgently provide a full explanation". Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' called for three days of mourning to commemorate what he called the "slaughter" of protesters. Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has dubbed the Israeli action as "a crime".

Turkey's prime minister describes the Israeli raid as 'state terrorism' and said Israel violated international laws. Some of the ships were sailing under Turkish flags and media reports indicate that Turkish nationals are among the dead. Turkey demanded an "urgent explanation" from Israel and warned of "irreparable consequences" after the incident. Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Israel and is calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called on Israeli authorities to launch a "full inquiry" into the killing, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "deeply concerned" and France said "nothing can justify" the incident. Sweden, Austria, Greece and Spain have said it was important to "quickly establish" what happened, and have summoned the Israeli ambassadors. The British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and the White House said that the United States "deeply regrets" the loss of life and injuries and was working to understand the circumstances surrounding this "tragedy."

Russia has called attention to the fact that the Israeli interception of a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla took place in international waters, which it said represents a gross violation of international law.

Another attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2 or 3 days will be made by the Irish vessel MV Rachel Corrie and the Irish Prime Minister said that “The cause of this problem relates directly to the fact that there is a humanitarian blockade."

At least seven policemen were killed in northeastern Afghanistan yesterday, according to reports, after a bomb went off near a police patrol vehicle.

The incident occurred in the Darayim district within the province of Badakhshan, considered to be the least violent province in the country.

Another policeman was injured, and subsequently evacuated to a provincial hospital; deputy provincial governor Shams-Ul Rahman Shams said his condition is apparently critical. Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, an Afghan army convoy full of soldiers struck upon another roadside bomb in Nangarhar, killing a further three people.

Tragedy also struck in Cameroon where

at least thirty people are dead after a bus rolled over on Saturday near the city of Bafia, 135 kilometers north of the capital Yaounde.

Traffic police official Fifen Idrissou told the Agence France-Presse news service: "At the scene we've identified around 30 bodies but the death toll could be much greater given that some of the injured evacuated before we arrived reportedly died." In describing the accident, he said "the bus lost control [...] 200 meters further on the bus hit a ditch. It rolled over several times".

It wasn't immediately clear how many people were aboard the bus when it crashed.

In keeping up with the latest geological activity on the planet,

a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Andaman Islands, located in the Bay of the Bengal, India, today at 1:21 AM local time. The earthquake had a depth of 127.7 kilometers and the epicenter was located 120 kilometers at the southeast of Port Blair, the largest town and a municipal council on the Andaman Islands. No casualties or damage has been reported, and no tsunami alert was issued.

Finally, in motor-sports,

Scottish IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti won his second Indianapolis 500 in four years Sunday after leading 155 laps, which is the fourth most in the 99-year history of the race. Franchitti, aged 37, also won a rain-shortened race in 2007, when the race was stopped after 166 laps.

After a failed attempt to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2008, Franchitti returned to the IndyCar series to race for Chip Ganassi Racing. With this victory, owner Chip Ganassi became the first team owner in racing history to have a driver win both the Daytona 500 of the Sprint Cup and the Indianapolis 500. On February 14, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 driving for a Ganassi team and just hours after Franchitti took the checkered flag and had the ceremonial winner's milk drink, Jamie McMurray took second at the NASCAR Coca Cola 500, just 1 second behind Kurt Busch.

Franchitti won the race on less than a tenth of a gallon of fuel, after he and his team decided to not pit during the final laps of the race. The race ended on a caution after a massive crash between drivers Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay, when Conway's car got caught onto Hunter-Reay's left outside wheel and was sent airborne. Conway's car then hit the track's retaining wall and landed on its front side. Medics took Conway out of the car, and he was taken to the hospital with a leg injury.

Finishing behind Franchitti in second place was British driver Dan Wheldon of Partner Racing. This was Wheldon's second straight second place finish. In third place was Marco Andretti, who started in sixteenth position. Other notable finishes were Scott Dixon taking 5th, Danica Patrick placing 6th and Helio Castroneves at 9th.'

On this day in history (10:14)

In 1669, citing poor eyesight, English naval administrator and Member of Parliament Samuel Pepys recorded the last entry in his diary, one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period.

Pepys was born on Fleet Street in London in 1633 to his father John, a tailor, and his mother Margaret who was the daughter of a Whitechapel butcher. He was fifth of 11 children but child mortality in the age was high and he was soon the eldest.

From a young age, Pepys suffered from kidney stones in his urinary tract and he was almost never without pain, as well as other symptoms, including "blood in the urine". By the time of his marriage, the condition was very severe and probably had a serious effect on his ability to engage in sexual intercourse.

In 1657, Pepys decided to undergo surgery and upon consulting Thomas Hollier, a surgeon; on 26 March 1658, his operation took place in a bedroom at the house of Pepys's cousin, Jane Turner. This cannot have been an easy option, as the operation was known to be especially painful as well as hazardous, not to mention it would be roughly 200 more years before the use of anesthesia, however, Pepys' stone was successfully removed and he resolved to hold a celebration on every anniversary of the operation, which he did for several years. There were long-term effects from the operation: the incision on his bladder broke open again late in his life, and the procedure may have left him sterile – though there is no direct evidence for this, as he was childless before the operation.

Though his immediate family was of humble origins, his father's first cousin, Sir Richard Pepys, was a member of parliament for Sudbury and for a time Samuel lived with another of his father's cousins, Sir Edward Montagu, who would later be made 1st Earl of Sandwich. Possibly this combination of a hard working, middle class upbringing and influential connections allowed Pepys, who had no maritime experience, to rise by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II.

What sets Pepys apart in history, however, is his diary. Beginning on January 1st, 1660, he recorded his daily life the women he pursued, his friends and his dealings for almost ten years. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship with his wife, Elisabeth de St Michel, a descendant of French Protestant immigrants, whom he married when she was 14 years old. The diary is an important account of London in the 1660s and the juxtaposition of his commentary on politics and national events, alongside the very personal, can be seen from the beginning.

Robert Latham, the editor of the definitive edition of the diary, has remarked that 'His descriptions of the Great Plague of 1665, and of the Great Fire of London in 1666 are agonizingly vivid and achieve their effect by being something more than superlative reporting; they are written with compassion. As always with Pepys it is people, not literary effects, that matter.

His account of the Great Fire of London is quite vivid as he had taken a boat and observed the fire for over an hour. In his diary, Pepys recorded this observation on Sunday, September 2nd 1666 :

"And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour's time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs.————lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, an there burned till it fell down"

Pepy's was, after all, also very human and he engaged in a number of extramarital liaisons with various women, which he too chronicled in his diary, often in some detail, and generally using a cocktail of languages (English, French, Spanish and Latin) when relating the intimate details. The most dramatic of these encounters was with Deborah Willet, a young woman engaged as a companion for his wife, Elisabeth. On 25 October 1668 Pepys was surprised by his wife whilst embracing Deborah and he writes that Elisabeth "coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con my hand sub su coats; and endeed I was with my main in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also...." Following this event, he was characteristically filled with remorse but (equally characteristically) this did not prevent his continuing to pursue Willet when she had been dismissed from the Pepys household.

From June–October 1669, Pepys and his wife took a holiday to France and the Low Countries but on their return, Elisabeth fell ill and died on 10 November 1669. Pepys erected a monument to her in the church of St Olave's, Hart Street, in London.

Throughout the period of the diary, Pepys's health suffered from the long hours he worked. Specifically, he believed that his eyesight had been affected by the work he had done. At the end of May 1669, he reluctantly concluded that, for the sake of his eyes, he should completely stop writing and, from then on, only dictate to his clerks which meant he could no longer keep his diary.

However, he remained quite active and in 1673, he was promoted to Secretary to the Admiralty Commission and elected Member of Parliament for Castle Rising in Norfolk. In 1683 he was sent to Tangier to assist Lord Dartmouth with the evacuation and abandonment of the English colony and during his time as a Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica was published and its title-page bears Pepys' name. During a correspondence between Newton and Pepys, arose the "Newton–Pepys problem" which whether one is more likely to roll at least one six with six dice or at least two sixes with twelve dice. It has been only recently noted that while the gambling advice Newton gave Pepys was correct, the logical argument Newton included with it was unsound.

On May 26, 1703 Pepys died at a house at Clapham owned by his friend William Hewer but his diary, as well as 3,000 volumes of his personal library, still one of the most important surviving 17th century private libraries, is on display at the Pepys Library of Magdalene College, Cambridge.


And those are the top headlines for Monday, May 31st, 2010

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