Wikinews:Briefs/May 13, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : Madagascar’s leader Andry Rajoelina decides not to run in this years elections, Russia agrees to build a Turkish nuclear power plant, the UK does away with "the Bin Laden" problem, wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald interviews Dr Isabella Margara of Greece's Communist Party and in history, the Great Comet of 1861 makes its dazzling debut.

Today is Thursday, May 13th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.



Andry Rajoelina, the leader of Madagascar, has announced that he will not run in elections due to be held later this year. He stated his reasons as an attempt to end the country’s political crisis.

The crisis began in early 2009 when Rajoelina ousted then president Marc Ravalomanana in a military coup on March 17th. After the coup, Norway and the US froze all non-humanitarian aid to Madagascar, whilst the African Union suspended Madagascar's membership. The South African Development Community (SADC) stated that it "completely rejected the legitimacy" of the new president.

After the coup, Rajoelina named Colonel Camille Albert Vital, a high-ranking army officer, as the country's new prime minister and announced he was abandoning a power-sharing deal with opposition leaders thus blocking Eugene Mangalaza who was supposed to become prime minister under the deal.

Rajoelina announced his decision on television saying he declares in the name of the superior interest of the nation and of the people, his decision not to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections for a fourth republic.

Madagascar had previously been ruled by France and today France's secretary of state for co-operation Alain Joyandet released a statement saying that Rajoelina's move "demonstrated a sense of responsibility".

Following a peaceful transfer of power in the African nation of Nigeria,

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has announced plans to re-name Nigeria's Katsina Airport after late president Umaru Yar’Adua who died earlier this month after being ill for several months.

The announcement comes at the end of seven days of mourning for the late President. Tributes were paid by President Jonathan, Nigerian ministers and former President of Ghana, John Kufuor.

The airport is located in Katsine, Yar’Adua’s home state. A road in Abuja is also to be renamed after the late president.

In an agreement that "really looks rather impressive," according to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,

the Russian and Turkish governments today signed a deal that would lead to Russia building a US$20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey, that nation's first.

The plant will be built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and construction will commence as soon as the deal is approved by both countries with the building process expected to take around seven years. The reactor will also be owned by Russia, which will hold "no less than a controlling stake," in the plant, according to Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, a Russian nuclear energy corporation.

The contract for the reactor was one of 20 signed by the two countries today, expected to result in around US$25 billion of Russian investment in Turkey. Other major contracts signed include projects to transport Russian oil and natural gas through Turkey to ports on the Mediterranean Sea. One such project is a major pipeline between the Turkish ports of Samsun on the Black Sea and Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea, built in conjunction with an oil refinery in Ceyhan.

In a press conference, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the agreements signal "a new page in our cooperation" and Turkish President Abdullah Gul added that the two countries "share a determination to increase the trade volume from a current US$38 billion to US$100 billion in five years."

Speaking of large sums of money,

currency exchange offices in the United Kingdom have today stopped the sale of €500 notes after an investigation by the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) concluded that up to 90% of the notes were being used by money launderers and other organized criminals. Ian Cruxton, deputy director of SOCA, said that the Euro had been chosen as the currency of choice by criminal gangs due to the large denomination of the notes. Cruxton added that criminals "are going to have to find other means of trying to move their money."

The note was introduced by the European Central Bank in 2002, when the currency itself officially entered into circulation. The notoriety of the note's criminal uses has earned it the nickname "the Bin Laden" after Al-Qaeda suspect Osama bin Laden. Since its introduction, there has been mounting international concern over criminal use of the large denomination note, which facilitates money laundering by allowing large concentrations of cash to be concealed in small spaces, for example, €20,000 can be concealed in a cigarette packet and £1 million in €500 notes weighs 2.2kg

When asked if criminal demand for the note would simply be displaced to other high-value notes, such as the €200 note (the next-highest denomination), Ian Cruxton said he believed that would be the case, however, with less of the €200 note in circulation, their movements would be easier to track than those of the €500.

Tourists returning to the UK from holidays in Europe will still be able to change their €500 notes for Sterling. However, the European Central Bank has no plans for a withdrawal of the note across the entire Eurozone, given the legitimate demand for it in countries such as Germany and Italy, where cash is used far more frequently than alternatives such as credit cards.

Recently, events in Greece have had a dramatic impact on the Euro, and the world economy at large, and so in our

continuing coverage of the Greek financial crisis, wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece. In the interview, Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticized KKE in a previous wikinews exclusive interview.

Margara's interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation's debt-problem.

Finally, in the world of sport,

El Salvador has been suspended from competing in all world football internationals. FIFA, the governing body in football, suspended the Salvadorian Football Association after the Salvadorian government refused to recognize the local football officials that FIFA had appointed.

Last year, the head of the Salvadorian Football Association, Rodrigo Calvo, resigned so FIFA stepped in and appointed a special commission to reform the finances of the association. However, Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes refused to recognize the commission which FIFA saw as political interference.

The suspension affects next month’s World Cup in South Africa. Despite the national team not qualifying, three referees have been selected to participate in the tournament. If the suspension is not overturned by the start of the tournament, they will not be able to participate.

A meeting of an executive commission is due to take place on June 8th; should the El Salvadorian government not change its stance on the issue, the suspension will be finalized and El Salvador will remain suspended for the entire year until the FIFA congress meets again in June 2011.

Moving from current controversy in sport to historical controversy,

Canadian track and field coach, Charlie Francis, has died at the age of 61 after a five year battle with cancer, according to his family.

Francis had worked with several athletes including disgraced runner Ben Johnson. Johnson won a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was later disqualified after testing positively for steroid use. During a national inquiry Francis admitted introducing Johnson to steroids.

Though Francis was banned for life by the national governing body of athletics in Canada, he briefly trained Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones for a time in 2003 and continued to believe that steroids are necessary in athletics.

On this day in history (8:56)


The Great Comet of 1861 is discovered by John Tebbutt of Windsor, New South Wales, Australia.

The comet of 1861 interacted with the Earth in an almost unprecedented way. For two days, when the comet was at its closest, the Earth was actually within the comet's tail, and streams of cometary material converging towards the distant nucleus could be seen. By day the comet's gas and dust even obscured the Sun.

By the middle of August the comet was no longer visible to the naked eye, but it was visible in telescopes until May 1862. Measurements made at the time observed it had an elliptical orbit with a period of about 400 years, which would indicate a previous appearance from about the middle of the 15th century, and will make a return in the 23rd century.

As of 1992 this Great Comet had traveled more than 100 AU from the Sun, making it even further away than dwarf planet Eris. It will come to aphelion, the point in which it is furthest from the sun, around 2063.

Comets have been observed since ancient times and have historically been considered bad omens but in reality, they are mostly a loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles, ranging from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers across. When a comet is close enough to the Sun, it displays a thin, fuzzy, temporary atmosphere called a coma, and sometimes also has a tail. These phenomenon are the result of the solar radiation and the solar wind interacting with the comet nucleus.

As of May 2009, there are a reported 3,648 known comets and this number is steadily increasing. However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential comet population: the reservoir of comet-like bodies in the outer solar system may number one trillion. The number visible to the naked eye averages roughly one per year, though many of these are faint and unspectacular.



And those are the top headlines for Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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