Wikinews:Briefs/April 14, 2010

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From Wikinews, the free news source, this is the audio Wikinews brief for Wednesday, April 14th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and here are today's top stories:

At least 400 people have been killed and a further 10,000 injured after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake and its aftershocks struck the remote and mountainous Yushu county in the south of Qinghai province in western China.

The USGS has reported that the tremors started at 07.49 local time and that the epicenter was located 240 kilometers north-northwest of Qamdo, Xizang at a depth of ten kilometers. However the China Earthquake Networks Centers estimations conflicted with the USGS statistics, putting the earthquake's magnitude at 7.1.

The head of news for the Yushu county television station, who was a witness to the quake, spoke to the state broadcaster CCTV about the incident, saying "In a flash, the houses went down. It was a terrible earthquake. In a small park, there is a Buddhist tower and the top of the tower fell off."

An official commented that around 85% of the buildings in the town of Jiegu, located close to the quake's epicentre, were destroyed, and local official, Huang Limin was quoted by the Chinese Xinhua news service as saying: "Soldiers have been dispatched to save the people buried in the collapsed houses." Authorities have ordered supplies to be moved to the area, but Yushu is hundreds of miles away from any airport, according to the BBC.

The plateau where the earthquake hit is frequently visited by tremors; though casualties are rare due to its remoteness and small population. However, in May of 2008 an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the Sichuan foothills, killing an estimated 80,000 people.

Toyota is to suspend sales of its Lexus GX 460 over new safety concerns following an unfavorable verdict from Consumer Reports - the first such warning in almost a decade.

After conducting its standard emergency handling tests on the 2010 version of the Lexus GX 460, Consumer Reports became concerned that the rear of the vehicle had a tendency to slide out, which in real life situations could lead to rollovers. However, the consumer organization is unaware of any such incidents with the 5000 GX 460s sold since its launch three months ago.

Already embattled with ongoing safety issues with its vehicles, Toyota has been quick to act, though it did claim that the car was safe to drive and that it had passed internal safety standards. According to Toyota, "Lexus' extensive vehicle testing provides a good indication of how our vehicles perform and we are confident that the GX meets our high safety standards."

The Vatican prime minister who made comments Monday linking homosexuality to pedophilia has been severely criticized by gay rights activists around the world.

Holy See secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said yesterday that instead of celibacy, homosexuality was responsible for recent allegations of child abuse by Catholic priests. He said, on a televised broadcast in Chile, that "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have shown, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia." He also claimed to have documents of scientific studies proving his claims.

His statements were immediately criticized by several gay rights groups in both South America and Europe. The president of Italy's largest such group, Arcigay, Paolo Patané, says "The equation between homosexuality and pedophilia is a false, despicable and anti-scientific statement that affects the lives and dignity of millions of gay and lesbian people."

The president of Chilean gay rights group, Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile, Rolando Jiménez, said that the statement was "a perverse strategy by the Vatican to shirk its own ethical and legal responsibility by making a spurious and disgusting connection."

The cardinal's statements are not the first time the Catholic Church has made allegations of a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. In 2005, the Vatican prohibited men from becoming priests if they "showed deeply rooted homosexual tendencies." That move came shortly after a major child abuse scandal in the United States, and was also seen as implicitly linking homosexuality with pedophilia.

At least 30 insurgents and two Pakistani soldiers died in a fire fight between Taliban rebels and security forces in the Orakzai region of the North-West Frontier Province. Officials stated that the gun battle started when the insurgents attacked a military base with rockets and mortars. Army Lt. Col. Nadeem Anwar said that the attack "started at midnight and continued until early Monday morning”.

According to local government official, Sajjad Ahmad, troops opened fire aided by artillery when about 200 insurgents attacked a checkpoint. Ahmad told AFP news agency that "[t]he attack was repulsed and up to 32 rebels and two soldiers of paramilitary Frontier Corps were killed".

In light of recent events, the United Nations said that it might have to close projects for assisting the people of Pakistan as only one-fifth of the funds they had requested has been collected. The UN had appealed for 537 million dollars in February to aid the one million people dispersed due to recurring conflicts in the northwestern parts of Pakistan located near the Afghanistan border.

Martin Mogwanja, humanitarian coordinator of UN for Pakistan told reporters "The response by the international community to this appeal is inadequate," and that "humanitarian actors responding to the needs of the people are concerned that some of the projects may have to be suspended because of lack of finances."

Only 106 million dollars had been donated to the body, 20 percent of the total appeal. Mogwanja said that they were in dire need of the remaining portion of the fund and 1.3 million had been displaced in the northwestern parts of the country, against a total of 3.1 million last year.

Meanwhile, on Monday, five others died in attacks in the Abottabad District over the renaming of the North-West Frontier Province. Earlier this month, several people were killed during a political meeting to celebrate the renaming.

The bodies of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska are lying in state ahead of their funeral on Sunday. The couple died along with 94 other people when the plane they were traveling in crashed in Russia. They will be buried after a memorial to the crash victims.

President Kaczynski’s body was repatriated from Russia on Sunday while the first lady’s was flown to Warsaw airport on Tuesday. Kaczynska’s coffin was driven to the Presidential Palace while draped in Poland’s flag. Thousands of mourners lined the six mile route as her coffin was transported. The first couple will be buried at Wawel Castle on Sunday.

Both chambers of parliament held special sessions to honor the crash victims. Poland is currently observing seven days of mourning while Russia held a day of mourning this past Monday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to attend the funeral. President of the United States Barack Obama and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper have both announced that they will also attend.



And those are the top headlines for Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

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