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September 10, 2011

Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA\’s \’space junk\’ plans

Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA’s ‘space junk’ plans

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

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Computer-generated plot of tracked objects as seen from outside geosynchronous orbit
Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office.

A 182-page report issued September 1 by the United States National Research Council warns that the amount of debris in space is reaching “a tipping point”, and could cause damage to satellites or spacecraft. The report calls for regulations to reduce the amount of debris, and suggests that scientists increase research into methods to remove some of the debris from orbit, though it makes no recommendations about how to do so.

NASA sponsored the study.

A statement released along with the report warns that, according to some computer models, the debris “has reached a tipping point, with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures”. According to the Satellite Industry Association, there are now about 1,000 working satellites in Earth orbit, and industry revenues last year were US$168 billion (£104.33 billion, €119.01 billion).

Sources and danger of debris

A simulation of the collision of debris and a spacecraft, conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Center
Image: NASA.

The debris consists of various objects, such as decommissioned satellites and exhausted boosters, but the vast majority of the particles are less than one centimetre across. 16,094 pieces of debris were being tracked as of July, although estimates put the current number at over 22,000. The total number of fragments is thought to be as high as tens of millions. While most of the debris is very small, some of it is travelling at speeds as high as 17,500 mi h-1 (28,164 km h-1; 7,823.3 m s-1).

The International Space Station sometimes has to dodge larger fragments, and in June its crew was forced to prepare to evacuate due to a close encounter with debris.

The UK Space Agency told Wikinews that space flight “is likely to be made more difficult” by the debris. However, communications will “[n]ot directly” be affected, “but if the GEO ring became unusable, there is no other altitude at which objects appear [‘]geo-stationary[‘] and so all antennas on the ground would then have to move in order to track the motion of the satellites”.

Donald J. Kessler, the lead researcher and former head of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, said that “[t]he current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts,” and suggested that “NASA needs to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk.”

Cquote1.svg The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts Cquote2.svg

Donald J. Kessler

Two events are thought to be the largest individual sources of space debris. Kessler said that “[t]hose two single events doubled the amount of fragments in Earth orbit and completely wiped out what we had done in the last 25 years”.

The first of these was a controversial 2007 Chinese anti-satellite weapon test, which smashed the decommissioned weather satellite Fengyun-1C into approximately 150,000 fragments over a centimetre in size—making up roughly twenty percent of all tracked objects—537 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The Chinese government has so far failed to respond to Wikinews’s queries regarding the incident.

The other is a 2009 collision between twelve-year-old active satellite Iridium 33 and the defunct Russian Strela-2M satellite Kosmos-2251—both weighing in excess of 1,000 lbs (454 kg)—that occurred 490 miles over Siberia, the first such collision. The Iridium satellite was replaced within 22 days, according to Iridium Communications, who operated it.

An Iridium Communications satellite similar to Iridium 33
Image: Cliff.

Cquote1.svg We believe this is a substantial first step in better information sharing between the government and industry and support even more robust interaction which can provide better and more efficient constellation operation. Cquote2.svg

Iridium Communications

In a statement released to Wikinews, Iridium Communications said that they “received no warning of the impending collision. Although commercial projections of close encounters (commonly called conjunctions) were available, the accuracy of those projections was not sufficient to allow collision avoidance action to be taken.” They also made the assurance that the Air Force Space Command and United States Strategic Command now provide them with information through the Joint Space Operations Center, and that “when necessary, [they] maneuver [their] satellites based on this information to avoid potential collisions. [They] believe this is a substantial first step in better information sharing between the government and industry and support even more robust interaction which can provide better and more efficient constellation operation.”

Iridium expressed their support for “[l]ong-term investment to improve Space Situational Awareness” and “[i]mproved information sharing between industry and the U.S. government”, as well as more “[g]overnment support for policy and processes which would permit sharing of high-accuracy data as required to allow reliable assessment and warning” and “[i]ncreased cooperation between the government and U.S. and foreign commercial operators.”

They maintained that “the Iridium constellation is uniquely designed to withstand such an event. Because of the resilient and distributed nature of the Iridium constellation, the effects of the loss of a single satellite were relatively minor”, and that “any other system, commercial or military, which experienced the loss of a satellite, would have suffered significant operational degradation for a period of months if not years.” Nonetheless, the company is “concerned over the increasing level of risk to operations resulting from the debris in space.”

Clean-up

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The report makes more than thirty findings, and more than twenty recommendations to NASA. None of the recommendations regard how to clean up the debris. However, it does cite a report by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which suggested various possible techniques for catching and removing space debris, such as magnetic nets.

Cquote1.svg The Cold War is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains Cquote2.svg

—George J. Gleghorn

However, international law does not allow one country to collect another’s debris. George J. Gleghorn, vice chair of the committee, observed that “[t]he Cold War is over, but the acute sensitivity regarding satellite technology remains”.

The debris will, in time, be pulled into the earth’s atmosphere—where it will burn up—by gravity, but more debris is being created faster than this can happen.

Cquote1.svg The problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns Cquote2.svg

—National Research Council’s report

The report recommends collaborating with the United States Department of State on “economic, technological, political, and legal considerations.” As already mentioned, international law does not allow one country to collect another’s debris.

Cquote1.svg It is best to treat the root cause, the presence of debris in orbit, and remove the large objects before they can break up into many thousands of uncontrolled fragments capable of destroying a satellite on impact. Cquote2.svg

UK Space Agency

According to the report, “[t]he problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns characterized by possibly significant differences between the short- and long-run damage accruing to society … Each has small short-run effects but, if left unaddressed, will have much larger impacts on society in the future.”

A spokesperson for the UK Space Agency told Wikinews that the organisation “does not have any plans to get directly involved with [the clean-up] initiative but through its involvement with NASA in the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, it is conducting studies to identify which objects present the biggest hazard and how many objects may need to be removed and from where.” It says that the viability of such an operation is “a question of treating the symptom or the cause of the problem. Building more physical protection is costly and if the environment deteriorates too far, becomes unviable. It is best to treat the root cause, the presence of debris in orbit, and remove the large objects before they can break up into many thousands of uncontrolled fragments capable of destroying a satellite on impact.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that “[u]nder current licensing regimes (such as in the UK), countries are now obliging operators to remove satellites from crowded regions of space at the end of operational life”.

Related news

Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Space debris
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Kessler syndrome

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July 23, 2011

At least 85 dead in shooting at Norwegian youth camp

At least 85 dead in shooting at Norwegian youth camp

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

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File:Anders Behring Breivik (Facebook portrait in suit).jpg

Anders Behring Breivik.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

A gunman, identified by Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik, has shot and killed at least 85 people at a youth camp on the island of Utøya in Norway. The 32-year-old man has been charged with both this attack and an explosion in the capital city of Oslo, which killed at least seven people. Police searched Breivik’s apartment in Oslo overnight and have been interrogating him.

Breivik is reported to have arrived at the camp dressed as a police officer, telling children to gather around him for protection before systematically shooting them. It is not yet known whether he acted alone; police say there are no concrete reports of a second gunman, but this cannot be ruled out.

The camp was organised by the Workers’ Youth League (AUF), which is affiliated with the Norwegian Labour Party. A number of sources, both inside and outside of Norway, are speculating that an opposition to the Labour Party’s immigration policies, especially regarding Muslims, was Breivik’s motivation for the attacks.

Islam is the second largest religion in Norway, after Christianity, and Breivik’s comments on the political website Document.no, where he posted using his real name between September 2009 and October 2010, expressed anti-Islamic sentiments. He described the religion as a “hate ideology”((no)) and compared it to Nazism. His Twitter account was used to post only a single comment, quoting social liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests”.

Cquote1.svg a youth paradise turned into a hell Cquote2.svg

Jens Stoltenberg, regarding Utøya

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who described the island as “a youth paradise turned into a hell”, reports that a number of children have not yet been located. He, and the families of some of the children killed, met with King Harald V of Norway, his wife Queen Sonja, and their son Crown Prince Haakon, and was said to have been “deeply touched” by the meetings.

He also said that it is “too early to speculate” about the shootings, and that the police should be allowed to continue with their investigations before people “jump to any conclusions”.

Breivik, who ran a farm, reportedly recently purchased six tonnes of fertiliser, which is speculated to have been involved in the making of the Oslo bomb.

The island of Utøya is closed to the public, and an official at the British embassy in Oslo does not recommend travel to the immediate area of central Oslo where the bomb was detonated. However, she is not discouraging travel to Norway, nor to Oslo.

 
This story has updates
 
See Norwegian police lower death toll in massacre, July 26, 2011
 

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg 2011 Norway attacks

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July 9, 2010

UK police involved in stand-off with gunman Raoul Moat

UK police involved in stand-off with gunman Raoul Moat

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File photo: Rothbury is a small town about 30 miles (48 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne
Image: C Massey / Geograph.

A major police operation is in progress in the United Kingdom town of Rothbury, Northumberland, in relation to the search for the 37-year-old gunman Raoul Moat. A police cordon has been set up around riverside allotments in which Moat was thought to have been hiding, around 200 metres from the town centre. Police are negotiating with a man near the riverbank where the operation is taking place, who has them locked in a stand-off by holding a gun to his own head. Police are said to be moving away from the scene, and it is speculated that the incident may be coming to an end. A cordon remains established in the immediate vicinity of the incident and a 10 mile air exclusion zone has also been implemented. The following roads are closed or have restriction: “High Street, Church Street, Providence Lane, Bridge Street, Town Foot, and Brewery Lane”. The North East Ambulance Service is on standby in case of casualties.

Police have confirmed the person matches the description of Moat, who is wanted for the shooting of his ex-girlfriend, her new partner (whom he killed), and a police officer. Moat has repeatedly made threats to the police, and to the public at large.

Local residents have been told to “go home and lock the door” for their “own safety”. People who attempt to leave their homes in the nearby area are ordered to go back inside by armed police officers. Armed police are on the scene, and an ambulance was seen to arrive. Residents have made reports of snipers by the riverside, with guns pointing at a man who they believe to be Moat. Residents also report that Moat is holding a gun (which has been described as looking like a sawn-off shotgun) to his neck. Negotiators are reported to be standing no more than 21 feet from Moat. There are also unconfirmed reports that the “best friend” of Moat, a Tony Laidler, has been admitted inside the cordon to assist with the negotiations. Food and water has been delivered to the suspect.

The footballer Paul Gascoigne is also present, outside the cordon, in Rothbury, claiming to be a friend of Moat. Gascoigne, on local radio, stated his intentions: “I jumped in a taxi with broken ribs and brought some food for him, lager. I know he won’t shoot me.”



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February 3, 2010

Ex-minister says UK Cabinet was \”misled\” about legality of Iraq war

Ex-minister says UK Cabinet was “misled” about legality of Iraq war

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

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In this 2009 file photo, Clare Short is speaking at a rally in Birmingham.
Image: Faizan Bhat.

Clare Short, the United Kingdom’s then-Secretary of State for International Development, appeared before the Iraq Inquiry yesterday, and told the panel that the Cabinet was “misled” about the Iraq War’s legality prior to the 2003 invasion. The three-hour session was held in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London’s City of Westminster.

Short, an outspoken critic of the war, retired from the cabinet to become an independent MP two months before the invasion. She claimed to have been “conned” into staying on despite her doubts about the war and told the inquiry that the Cabinet, of which she was a part, was not a “decision-making body”, and that Parliament was simply a “rubber stamp”.

Lord Goldsmith’s decision

She also claimed that Tony Blair “and his mates” had acted “on a wing and a prayer”, having “leaned on” then-Attorney General for England and Wales Lord Peter Goldsmith, pressurising him to change his mind about the invasion. She did, however, admit that she had no evidence to support these claims. Goldsmith gave a verdict that the war would be legal only shortly before the invasion, having firmly held the belief that it would not be without a further United Nations Security Council resolution.

Short was applauded as she concluded her testimony, in which she said that she was “shocked” at how a definitive statement about the legality of the war circulated only as late as March 17, 2003 — just three days before the invasion began — that this state of shock led her to be “jeered at” by other ministers. Said statement, according to Short, contained no hint that Goldsmith had previously had any doubts whatsoever.

She said any discussion of legality was stopped at the same pre-war cabinet meeting. She accused Blair of standing in the way of such discussion, and said, “Everything that’s happened since makes me know that there was deliberate blockage and there were also all sorts of secret, private meetings”, and that normal cabinet communications were “closed down” as the invasion approached. “There was never a meeting that said ‘what’s the problem, what are we trying to achieve, what are our military, diplomatic options?’ We never had that coherent discussion … never.”

Cquote1.svg I think [Goldsmith] misled the cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

Goldsmith responded to her inquiries about the lateness of this statement by saying “it takes me a long time to make my mind up”, and that he had made his decision after consulting foreign legal professionals. She said that Goldsmith’s “doubts and his changes of opinion” made her “think for the attorney general to come and say there’s unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading.” She said that “I think he misled the cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through”.

Cquote1.svg [I]f we got a Palestinian state and a UN lead on reconstruction, that will be much better Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

She claimed that the government, having failed to secure a required UN resolution, started the “untrue” rumour that France had vetoed it. She said that she “believed them at the time. You don’t want to disbelieve your Prime Minister in the run-up to war and you want to believe the leader of your party. You want to be loyal”.

UN involvement

When asked why she had not resigned earlier than she did, she said that she “was conned” by Blair’s promises of a strong role for the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq, as well as more attempts to resolve the conflict about Israel. She said that she “thought that if we got a Palestinian state and a UN lead on reconstruction, that will be much better … I took a lot of flak for it. I still think, if we had done those things, it would have been a heck of a lot better.” She says that this lack of UN involvement in the post-invasion reconstruction effort was her main reason for retiring from the government.

Short said that she “was seeing the intelligence” about Iraq at the earlier stages of preparation for an invasion, but that in late 2002 “asked for a briefing… This just didn’t come and didn’t come… it became clear there was some sort of block on communications.” Apparently, the intelligence reports she say said that “Saddam Hussein didn’t have nuclear [weapons] … [he] would if he could but he was nowhere near it. It wasn’t saying there was some new imminent threat”.

Tony Blair, 9/11, and post-war planning

Short asserted Blair’s evidence, given to the inquiry on Friday, was “historically inaccurate”, since “[t]here was no evidence of any kind of an escalation of threats” after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. This is contrary to Blair’s claims that attitudes towards the threat Iraq posed “changed dramatically” after the attacks, and that Saddam Hussein “threatened not just the region but the world”.

Cquote1.svg We could have gone more slowly and carefully and not have had a totally destabilised and angry Iraq Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

She said, “We could have gone more slowly and carefully and not have had a totally destabilised and angry Iraq. The American people were misled to suggest that al-Qaeda had links to Saddam Hussein. Everybody knows that is untrue – that he had absolutely no links, no sympathy, al-Qaeda were nowhere near Iraq until after the invasion and the disorder that came from that.” Short criticised the military for not meeting the obligations laid out for them, as an occupying force, by the Geneva Convention.

Background and response

Lord Boyce, the former head of the British armed forces, said in an earlier hearing that officials from the Department for International Development — Short’s department — let their opposition to the war prevent them from cooperating fully with the rest of the government immediately after the invasion. Alistair Campbell, Blair’s former spokesman, said that Short had been “difficult to handle” in the run-up to the invasion, and that there was fear that she may leak pieces of information that she did not agree with. Lord Andrew Turnbull, former Secretary of the Cabinet, however, said that these concerns were unfair, and that minority voices had been unfairly pushed to the sidelines.

Hilary Benn, who took over Short’s post after her resignation, is scheduled to give evidence before the inquiry today.



Related news

  • “Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again” — Wikinews, January 29, 2010
  • “UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010
  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010

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January 29, 2010

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

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Friday, January 29, 2010

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2007 file photo of Tony Blair.
Image: Gryffindor.

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, appeared before the Iraq Inquiry today. He faced six hours of questioning, starting at 6:30 am, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London concerning his role in the 2003 Iraq invasion. During the inquiry, Blair stood by his decision to invade, saying he would make the same decision again.

This is the third time Blair has given evidence at an inquiry into the Iraq War, having already testified before the Hutton Inquiry and the Butler Review, as well as participating in an investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Hutton Inquiry found that the government did not “sex up” the dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The Butler Review uncovered “serious flaws” in pre-war intelligence, and this inquiry was set up by current prime minister Gordon Brown in order to “learn the lessons” of the war. Sir John Chilcott, the inquiry chairman, began by stressing that Blair was not “on trial”, but could be called back to give further evidence if necessary.

At the end of the session, Chilcott asked Blair if he had any regrets, to which Blair replied that he was “sorry” that it was “divisive”, but said that invading was the right thing to do since he believes “the world is a safer place as a result.” Blair said that the inquiry should ask the “2010 question”, which refers to the hypothetical position that the world would be in if Saddam Hussein were not removed from power. He said that “today we would have a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran […] in respect of support of terrorist groups”.

Reasons for invasion

At the inquiry, the topics on which Blair was questioned included his reasons for invading Iraq.

At the time, he said that his reasons were based on a need to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction; however, interviews held later suggest that removing Saddam Hussein from power was his primary objective. Blair denies this, asserting that the need to dispose of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was the only reason for the United Kingdom’s participation in the invasion. He explained that, in an interview with Fern Britton, he “did not use the words regime change”, and, what he was trying to say was, “you would not describe the nature of the threat in the same way if you knew then what you knew now, that the intelligence on WMD had been shown to be wrong”.

He said, despite no weapons of mass destruction being found by UN weapons inspectors, he still believes that Saddam Hussein had the means to develop and deploy them; “[h]e had used them, he definitely had them […] and so in a sense it would have required quite strong evidence the other way to be doubting the fact that he had this programme […] The primary consideration for me was to send an absolutely powerful, clear and unremitting message that after September 11 if you were a regime engaged in WMD [weapons of mass destruction], you had to stop.”

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He also said that weapons of mass destruction and regime change were not separate issues, but “conjoined”, since “brutal and oppressive” regimes with such weapons are a “bigger threat” than less hostile nations with the same weapons. He said that Hussein’s regime was hiding important information from UN weapons inspectors, and had “no intention” of complying with them. He asserted that he has “no regrets” about removing Hussein, “[a] monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world.”

There were also questions about why the UN weapons inspectors were not given more time in Iraq in March 2003. Blair responded by saying that it would have made very little difference, as Iraq had the knowledge and “intent” to rebuild its weapons program from scratch if it were dismantled. He was also asked whether he still believed that the war was morally justified. He said that he did. He also said that the war was required because more diplomatic solutions had already failed, and the “containment” of Hussein’s regime through diplomatic sanctions was “eroding” when the decision to invade was made.

Cquote1.svg I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us. Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said that attitudes towards Saddam Hussein and the threat he presented “changed dramatically” after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. He said, “I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us.” He said that he believed terrorists would use biological and chemical weaponry, and also said, “if those people inspired by this religious fanaticism could have killed 30,000 they would have. My view was you could not take risks with this issue at all.”

He later said, “When I talked earlier about the calculus of risk changing after September 11 it’s really important I think to understand in so far as to understanding the decision I took, and frankly would take again. If there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view then. It’s my view now.”

Crawford commitment

He was also asked about his supposed commitment to George W. Bush that United Kingdom would join the United States in an Iraq war, which he is said to have made at Bush’s Crawford ranch in 2002. Blair stubbornly denied that this took place, saying that what was said is that Saddam Hussein had to be “dealt with”, and that “the method of doing that is open”. Instead, he says, his reasons for the invasion were moral.

Cquote1.svg The decision I had to take was … could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programme? Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said, “This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?”

He said of Bush: “I think what he took from that [the meeting] was exactly what he should have taken, which was if it came to military action because there was no way of dealing with this diplomatically, we would be with him.” He did admit, however, that—a year later, as the invasion approached—he had been offered a “way out” of the war, which he declined. He said of this, “I think President Bush at one point said, before the House of Commons debate, ‘Look if it’s too difficult for Britain, we understand’. I took the view very strongly then—and do now—that it was right for us to be with America, since we believed in this too.”

The 45-minute claim

Another line of questioning focused on his 45-minute claim, which was included in the September 2002 dossier but redacted after the war. It states that Hussein was able to deploy nuclear weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order. This dossier also contained the words, “the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons”. However, the inquiry has revealed that there were certain caveats involved, so the claim was not—anti-war campaigners claim—”beyond doubt”, especially since senior civil servants have told the inquiry that intelligence suggested that Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled.

Blair said that it “would have been better if (newspaper) headlines about the ’45-minute claim’ had been corrected” to state—as he admits he should have made clear—that the claim referred to battlefield munitions, rather than to missiles. He says that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have liked to have published the intelligence reports themselves, since they were “absolutely strong enough”. He did insist, however, that the intelligence that was available at the time put it “beyond doubt” that Iraq was continuing to develop weaponry. He added that “things obviously look quite different” after the war, since weapons of mass destruction were not found.

Legality and planning

File photo of Lord Goldsmith, who told the inquiry earlier this week that he changed his mind about the legality of the war.
Image: Johnnyryan1.

One of the main topics was the legality of the war. Earlier this week, a senior Foreign Office legal advisor claimed that the war would be illegal without a further United Nations Security Council resolution—which was not obtained. The attorney general at the time, Lord Peter Goldsmith, said that the cabinet refused to enter into a debate over the legality of the war, and that Blair had not received his advice that a further UN resolution would be needed warmly. He insists that he “desperately” tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problem until France and Russia “changed their position” and would not allow the passage of a further resolution.

Blair also said that he would not have invaded had Goldsmith said that it “could not be justified legally”, and explained Goldsmith’s change of mind by saying that the then attorney general “had to come to a conclusion”, and his conclusion was that the war was legal. He did not know why Goldsmith made this conclusion, but said he believes that it may be due to the fact that weapons inspectors “indicated that Saddam Hussein had not taken a final opportunity to comply” with the UN.

Questions were also asked on the government’s poor post-war planning, and claimed confusion about whether the US had a plan for Iraq after the war was over. Blair was drilled about the lack of priority that was given to the issue of post-war planning. He was also asked about the lack of equipment that British soldiers were given. This line of questioning was pursued in front of the families of some of the soldiers who died in Iraq—many of whom blame the poor equipment for the deaths of their relatives.

Response

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The families of some of the 179 British soldiers killed in the Iraq war, along with around 200 anti-war protesters, held a demonstration calling for Blair to be declared a war criminal outside the centre in London’s City of Westminster. They chanted “Tony Blair, war criminal” as the former prime minister gave evidence inside. Blair was jeered by a member of the audience as he made his closing statement, and the families booed him, chanting “you are a liar” and “you are a murderer” as he left the centre.

In order to avoid the protesters, he arrived early and was escorted by security as he entered through the back door, with large numbers of police officers standing by. One of these protesters, Iraqi Saba Jaiwad, said, “The Iraqi people are having to live every day with aggression, division, and atrocities. Blair should not be here giving his excuses for the illegal war, he should be taken to The Hague to face criminal charges because he has committed crimes against the Iraqi people.”

Ahmed Rushdi, an Iraqi journalist, said that he was unsurprised by Blair’s defence of the invasion, because, “A liar is still a liar”. He also claimed that the war had done more harm than good, because, “Before 2003 there were problems with security, infrastructure and services, and people died because of the sanctions, but after 2003 there are major disasters. Major blasts have killed about 2,000 people up till now. After six years or seven years there is no success on the ground, in any aspect.”

Cquote1.svg Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country? Cquote2.svg

—Nick Clegg

Current prime minister Gordon Brown, who set up the inquiry, said before Blair’s appearance that it was not a cause for concern. Anthony Seldon, Blair’s biographer, called the session “a pivotal day for him [Blair], for the British public and for Britain’s moral authority in the world”. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who opposes the war, said in Friday’s Daily Telegraph that it was “a pivotal moment in answering a question millions of British people are still asking themselves: Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country?” He called the invasion “subservience-by-default to the White House”, and questioned the “special relationship” between between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Vincent Moss, the political editor of the Sunday Mirror newspaper, criticised the inquiry for being too soft on Blair. He said, “A lot of ground wasn’t covered, and in my mind it wasn’t covered in enough detail, particularly the dodgy dossier in September 2002. There wasn’t very much interrogation on that, they pretty much accepted what Tony Blair said about the intelligence. We could have had an awful lot stronger questioning on that”.

It is feared by some senior Labour Party politicians that today’s events could ignite strong feelings about the issue in voters, and thereby damage the popularity of the party, which is already trailing behind the Conservative Party with a general election required in the first half of the year.


Related news

  • “UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010
  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 26, 2010

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January 28, 2010

Novelist J.D. Salinger dies aged 91

Novelist J.D. Salinger dies aged 91 – Wikinews, the free news source

Novelist J.D. Salinger dies aged 91

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

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American novelist J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, has died of natural causes at the age of 91. His son confirms that he died in his New Hampshire home yesterday. Salinger was born in New York City in 1919.

J.D. Salinger in 1951
Image: Lotte Jacobi.

The author had famously remained a recluse since 1953, shortly after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, his most famous work. He very rarely entered the public eye after that date, emerging only for infrequent interviews and lawsuits. He never responded to fan mail.

His magnum opus was published in 1951, and tells the story of Holden Caulfield, an alienated, rebellious seventeen year-old and his expulsion from an exclusive prep school, but is now known as one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Featuring on Time’s top 150 books of all time, it has been translated into many languages, and sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. It was also carried by Mark David Chapman, when he gunned down John Lennon in 1980.

Apart from The Catcher in the Rye, he has published a few other books, none of which have enjoyed such success. These include 9 Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

Salinger’s last work, the novella Hapworth 16, was published in The New Yorker in 1965.



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January 27, 2010

Seventeen-year-old shot dead in Merseyside, England

Seventeen-year-old shot dead in Merseyside, England

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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A seventeen-year-old boy, who has been identified as Lewis O’Brien, has been shot dead in Merseyside, England. The boy was found after police officers were called to Hathersage Road in the town of Huyton at roughly 16:00 GMT. The police had received reports of the shooting from people who lived nearby. The incident has caused the police to launch an investigation.

According to reports, O’Brien was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. A Merseyside Police spokeswoman said that “the boy died shortly afterwards.” She also stated that further details will not be released until a later date which was not specified.

The scene of where the shooting occurred — at the crossing of Lyme Grove and Hathersage Road — has now been cordoned off with police tape by police officers to allow forensic examinations to take place. Only people who lived very near to the scene of the crime were allowed through the area. An 18-year-old male, believed to be the gunman, was arrested shortly after the incident.



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UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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Lord Peter Goldsmith, the Attorney General for England and Wales before and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has told the Iraq Inquiry that he changed his mind about the legality of the invasion about one month before military action began.

During his six hour session of questioning, Goldsmith said that he changed his mind about whether a further United Nations resolution was needed to ensure that the invasion was legal. His testimony comes only a day after former foreign office legal advisor Michael Wood told the inquiry that his own advice, that a further resolution was required, was ignored in favour of Goldsmith’s. Goldsmith’s account was under scrutiny because he had consistently said that it would be “safer” if a further resolution were obtained—since it would have put the “matter beyond doubt and nobody could have challenged the legality”—before changing his mind and giving the “green light” only a month before the invasion. He said that he had “good reasons” for “ultimately reach[ing] a different view”, and called his previous advice “too cautious”. He based his support of the war’s legality on a series of UN resolutions dating back to the end of the Gulf War.

Until February 2002, he believed that a new resolution would be required, but he said today that—after discussions with US and UK diplomats—he realised that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 “revive[d]” the authority of the United Kingdom to use force, as outlined in previous resolutions. One of these was United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, which was passed in November 1990. It authorized “Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait … to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area” against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to give up his weapons of mass destruction. However, there has been debate about whether “all means necessary” included military force.

Cquote1.svg The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it. Cquote2.svg

—Peter Goldsmith

He admitted that he had told then prime minister Tony Blair, as far back as 2002, that any justification for war other than a UN resolution (such as regime change or self defence) would be invalid. Goldsmith said, “I don’t think it [the advice] was terribly welcome.” However, he added, “The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it.” Goldsmith agreed that he ignored the advice of other legal advisors, including Michael Wood (who spoke before the inquiry yesterday) and Elizabeth Wilmshurst (who resigned in protest days before the invasion), who both said that invading Iraq without a new UN resolution would amount to the “crime of aggression”. Goldsmith claimed to have “paid great attention to what their views were,” but added, “Ultimately I disagreed with the views they took.”

He said that an “unequivocal” opinion was needed before the invasion, and that this was what he gave in March, having been unsure about the war’s legality previously. He denied changing his mind only days before the invasion, as some have claimed, saying that he had advised the government that the war would be legal as far back as February, and that his advice was “consistent”. He also called claims that he was pressured into changing his opinion “nonsense”. He said that he “was ready to answer questions” and intended to debate the issue with the cabinet, but was told that they would read his advice before moving on to different issues. He said that the debate did not in fact take place – he told the inquiry that he believes cabinet ministers considered it to be “a slightly sterile exercise”.

In his testimony, Goldsmith also criticised Jack Straw’s response to Wood’s advice, saying that, while ministers could “challenge” legal advice, Straw “appeared to be rebuking a senior legal adviser for expressing his own legal view” in a recently declassified letter. He was also concerned that the cabinet ignored, or was unaware of, the caveats included in his March advice on the war’s legality, in which he said that “the safest legal course” would be to get a new resolution, despite a “reasonable case” being available based on existing resolutions. His advice warned the government that he was not “confident” that the case based on existing resolutions would stand up in court. Goldsmith also requested the declassification of documents relating to the war’s legal status, which are available to the Iraq inquiry, but not to the public. Sir John Chilcot, the chair of the inquiry, said that Goldsmith’s “frustration is shared.”


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  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 26, 2010

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January 26, 2010

UK mother cleared of attempted murder of ME-suffering daughter

UK mother cleared of attempted murder of ME-suffering daughter

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Bridget Gilderdale, a mother from Stonegate, East Sussex, has been found not guilty of the attempted murder of her daughter, Lynn Gilderdale—a 31-year-old sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome (more commonly known as ME)—after her daughter was found dead at their home on 4 December, having been killed using a concoction of pills and morphine. The case has called into question the United Kingdom’s assisted suicide laws.

Cquote1.svg There is no dispute that you were a caring and loving mother and that you considered that you were acting in the best interests of your daughter Cquote2.svg

—Mr Justice Bean

Bridget Gilderdale had already admitted to aiding and abetting her daughter’s suicide, but the jury decided, unanimously, to acquit her of a charge of attempted murder. The presiding judge, Mr Justice Bean, had already questioned the accusation’s suitability, asking prosecutor Sally Howes “why it was considered to be in the public interest”. Once the verdict was delivered, he said, “I do not normally comment on the verdicts of juries but in this case their decision, if I may say so, shows common sense, decency and humanity which makes jury trials so important in a case of this kind. There is no dispute that you were a caring and loving mother and that you considered that you were acting in the best interests of your daughter.”

Gilderdale was given a 12-month conditional discharge. The case stands in contrast to the life sentence received last week by Frances Inglis, who killed her severely brain damaged son Tom by injecting him with heroin. Tom had, however, never expressed any wish to die, and his mother had ignored medical advice, while Lynn had previously attempted suicide. When this attempt had failed, her mother had assisted her in ending her life.

Cquote1.svg at present the law is a mess. Cquote2.svg

—Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying

The case has brought into the limelight the debate over a person’s “right to die” and the United Kingdom’s laws on assisted suicide. Some claim that, with a new draft policy clarifying the law in the pipeline, Bridget Gilderdale should not have been prosecuted at all. A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to prosecute, saying that “It was not clear cut: there was a sequence of events and the toxicologist could not prove which of these stages resulted in death,” and that it was not certain whether Lynn Gilderdale had died from assisted suicide. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, says that there is a “clear ethical difference” between asisted suicide and murder, and that the law does not take this into account. She said, “Ultimately, the Government needs to review the law in this area, as this case highlights at present the law is a mess.”



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  • “UK woman convicted of ‘mercy’ murder of son” — Wikinews, January 21, 2010

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January 25, 2010

Technical problem on Airbus A400M maiden flight

Technical problem on Airbus A400M maiden flight

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Monday, January 25, 2010

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Artist’s impression of the Airbus A400M
Image: Sebastian Wallroth.

Airbus has confirmed that there was a software glitch on its Airbus A400M military transplort plane’s maiden flight. The problem was relatively minor, and affected the software controlling its engines.

The glitch was not reported when the plane made its maiden flight on 11 December—four years behind schedule and $7.3 billion over budget, due to what the manufacturers call “political interference”—and only became public attention this weekend, when German magazine Der Spiegel cited confidential documents from engine maker Europrop in a report. The steering computer and backup system failed after thirty minutes.

The issue has been resolved, according to Airbus spokesman Jaime Perez-Guerra. Apparently, the glitch led the pilots to disengage an engine, allowing its blades to turn freely. Since then, he says, the plane has flown for nearly thirty hours and is exceeding expectations.

However, additional costs were involved, and European aerospace contractor EADS wants this cost to be shouldered by the seven customer nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Airbus has asked that a decision on how the project is to procced be made before the end of the month.



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