Wikinews:Briefs/October 20, 2008

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Audio Wikinews Brief for October 20, 2008


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Audio Wikinews News Brief for October 20, 2008
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From Wikinews, the free news source, this is the Audio Wikinews Brief for Monday, October 20, 2008. I'm Kevin Fields, and here are today's current stories.

In a rare one-on-one interview with the editor in chief of the journal Science Magazine published online on Friday, Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People's Republic of China, acknowledged that although companies were to blame, the government was also partially responsible in the recent melamine contamination of milk and infant formula from China. The two-hour conversation between chief editor Bruce Alberts and Premier Wen already took place on September 30th. A Chinese version of the interview was published in the communist party newspaper People's Daily. The Premier spoke about social, economic and scientific issues facing his country. Wen explained his "scientific outlook on development", which tries to found social and economic progress for the people, in a sustainable fashion and with decreased disparities, on a scientific basis. At the end of the interview, the Premier agreed that the scientific communities could build bridges between countries, even if their governments disagreed. "More scientific language and less diplomatic rhetoric could make this world even better," he concluded.

Russia has requested Iceland give them more details of the island nation's plan to rescue the banking sector and thus the entire national economy before granting them a loan. Two weeks ago, Iceland's banking sector collapsed and was largely nationalised. Icelandic banks are in significantly more debt than the country can afford, and the nation may seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund. A decision on whether to involve the IMF is due within a week. As for Russia, a senior Russian government source is reported by Reuters as having said "At the current moment, we do not yet have enough reasons to give them credit. We did not refuse. We are continuing the talks." Forbes quoted him as having also said "'We asked them to collect more information and present a rescue plan for the banking system." Meanwhile, there is some optimism in Iceland over the economy. It is hoped by authorities that the lower exchange rate for the króna means that more tourists will be attracted. Bars and restaurants are also doing well. The manager of one bar explained: "Actually, when people get depressed they drink more."

The government of Iran has announced that it intends to stop executing children who commit crimes in its country. The announcement was made by Hossein Zabhi, the Iranian assistant Attorney General for Judicial Affairs, who issued directions for judges, saying that they should no longer issue the death penalty for minors. The announcement was also broadcast by the Iranian state-run news agency. Human Rights Campaigners welcomed the move. They say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child bans child executions. The convention states that all governments must recognize that "every child has the inherent right to life." Although welcoming the move, Amnesty International stated that "the Iranian authorities should release the text of the directive and make clear that they intend to uphold their international human rights obligations by including cases of those convicted of murder in this ban." The human rights group said that it did not know if the ban on executions extended to murder cases.

Finally, in the United States, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to map the boundary between the solar system and interstellar space was launched on a Pegasus XL rocket on Sunday. The two year mission, costing US$165 million, will study the region in space where the solar wind from the sun suddenly slows down as it reaches the thin, cold gas of interstellar space. This region, called the heliospheric boundary of the solar system, helps to deflect most of the potentially life-threatening forms of radiation coming from elsewhere in our galaxy. IBEX will ride Pegasus to around 200 kilometres from earth, before boosting itself into its final earth orbit 322,000 kilometres away. The probe will capture energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), which are formed when positive ions in the solar wind hit neutral atoms of interstellar material and rip out electrons from them. IBEX-Lo and -Hi detectors will collect data on the ENAs to create a three-dimensional map of the heliosphere. The heliospheric boundary was first probed by Voyager 1 in 2004 and later by Voyager 2 in 2007. The data from the two missions indicated several indentations on the heliospheric boundary. It is hoped that IBEX studies may reveal the cause of these indentations.



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