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August 30, 2012

Micronesia left behind by the Paralympic movement

Micronesia left behind by the Paralympic movement

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Summer Paralympics

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Sir Philip Craven at the International Paralympic Committee press conference
Image: Laura Hale.

London, England — At the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) press conference Monday, Sir Philip Craven indicated the goal of the IPC is to grow disability sport globally. At the same time, according to Paul Bird of the Oceania Paralympic Committee, the Micronesian of Oceania has been left completely behind by the Paralympic movement.

According to a member of the Oceania Paralympic Committee, the IPC recognizes fewer countries than the International Olympic Committee, with IPC rules prohibiting countries from becoming full members of the organization if their independence is not clear. This rule dates back to the organization’s founding and no serious attempts have been made to change it since.

As many Micronesian countries are not viewed as independent countries, they cannot join. This includes Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The only eligibility route for elite athletes with disabilities in these countries to the Paralympic Games is through their home country, which for most of the Micronesian region is the United States; they have to compete against better-funded and better-supported competitors to earn national team selection. No disability sport competitors from Micronesia were chosen to represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

This problem is not unique to Micronesia, with the United States territories of Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands not being represented as members of the United States team in 2012.



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April 3, 2012

Palau police shoot Chinese fisherman, police plane feared lost

Palau police shoot Chinese fisherman, police plane feared lost

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sand sculpture at a Palauan beach for the celebration of the shark sanctuary
Image: Manuae.

Over the course of the weekend, Palau’s police shot a Chinese fisherman believed to be illegally fishing in the economic zone of the tiny Micronesian nation. Three police staff, who were patrolling territorial waters in search of the Chinese fishing mothership, are feared missing as their plane was not heard from in over forty-eight hours.

The shooting occurred after the police tried to contact the boat and warn them to leave Palau’s territorial water, and subsequent warning shots being fired to again warn the boat away from the area.

Five Chinese fishermen were arrested following the shooting, and were charged with illegal fishing and unlawful entry. They may face up to two years in jail and be required to pay a US$50,000 fine if found guilty of entering Palau illegally.

Palau’s Ministry of Justice
Image: Abasaa.

Police officer Helenda Oimei is quoted by the Agence France-Presse in affidavit as saying, “The confrontation included an officer involved shooting and one of the six individuals on the green fishing boat later succumbed to injuries he obtained during the confrontation.”

Palau President Johnson Toribiong has spoken to the press about the missing plane, confirming the police plane was believed to have crashed and that a pilot and two police officers are amongst the missing. The president is quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying in regards to what the police plane occupants were doing, “They left on a police mission to film the area where a [Chinese] mothership involved in the raid of Kayangel State’s marine resources was burned by its own crew to destroy the ship and its cargo. Officer Earl Decherong, one of the two police officers on board, using a radio telephone, called to say they were gliding to make a water landing and that they could see no light or land.” An extensive search thus far failed to find the crash site.

Home to world’s first and largest shark sanctuary that was created in 2009 and is 630,000 square kilometers in size, Palau actively guards this territory.



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July 7, 2011

Bahamas become fourth country to ban shark fishing

Bahamas become fourth country to ban shark fishing

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

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The Bahamas has become the fourth country to ban shark fishing
Image: Dr. James P. McVey, NOAA Sea Grant Program.

The Bahamas on Tuesday approved a law banning shark fishing in its waters, along with selling, importing and exporting shark products. This makes the Bahamas the fourth country to ban shark fishing, joining the Maldives, Honduras, and Palau. The 630,000 sq km of water around the Bahamas has now become an official shark sanctuary.

The ban is welcomed by many, including environmentalists. The President of the Bahamas National Trust, Neil McKinney, spoke about the issue saying, “They desperately need protection if we’re not going to drive them to extinction.” Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette also commented on the ban: “This is in keeping with the government’s commitment to pursue conservation policies and strategies in order to safeguard the marine and terrestrial environment.”

However, some feel that the ban will affect relations with China. Shark-fin soup is highly popular in China, with around 73 million sharks killed every year. To prepare shark-fin soup, the fins are often scraped off, and the body of the shark is thrown back into the water. A report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that shark populations have fallen by 70 to 80 per cent, with a third of all shark species being threatened or nearly threatened by extinction.



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May 11, 2011

World Bank gives Kiribati emergency aid

World Bank gives Kiribati emergency aid – Wikinews, the free news source

World Bank gives Kiribati emergency aid

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kiribati is a Pacific nation of numerous low-lying islands
Image: Wikimedia Commons user Tauʻolunga, 2009.

Kiribati, one of the world’s most isolated nations, has received US$2 million in emergency food aid from the World Bank. Lying on the equator, the South Pacific country hosts some of the least developed communities in the world, with few natural resources and relying heavily on imports.

As the global food crisis pushes food prices through the roof, the people of this isolated region are struggling to cope, spending half of their income on food. The World Bank grant will provide emergency aid to 60,000 people, approximately 60 percent of the population.

Little skilled workforce and being so geographically isolated has hindered the country’s exports, with foreign aid and tourism each contributing one fifth of the area’s finances. Kiribati’s government and the World Bank struck the deal at the annual Asian Development Bank meeting in Hanoi, securing emergency food grants and developing programmes in environmental sustainability.

This is the second recent grant to Kiribati from the World Bank following a US$20 million allowance given in March to devise applications to deal with the effects of climate change.



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August 14, 2010

7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Mariana Islands

7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Mariana Islands

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

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Location of Mariana Islands in the Philippine Sea.

An earthquake of 7.2 magnitude on the Richter scale struck the Mariana Islands today. The epicenter was located 1,484 kilometers northeast of Davao, Philippines and 2,703 kilometers northeast of Lahad Datu, Sabah at a depth of 4.7 kilometers.

The eathquake struck Mariana at 07:19 a.m. local time (09:19 p.m. GMT Friday). The Northern Marianas emergency management office said that there were no damages reported in the nation. Also the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that there was no Tsunami indication.

No tremors were felt in any of the major islands like Saipan nor in Hagåtña, the capital of Guam. An aftershock measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit the islands ten hours later but it did not trigger a tsunami.



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August 5, 2010

21 sites added to Unesco World Heritage list

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bagrati Cathedral.
Image: Kober.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee inscribed 21 new sites into the World Heritage list on Wednesday, during the 34th session of the committee’s meeting in Brasilia, Brazil under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Culture of Brazil, João Luiz da Silva Ferreira.

Three countries had sites added to the list for the first time: Tajikistan, Kiribati, and Marshall Islands. The Committee added four sites to the World Heritage in Danger list, including the Gelati Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral, both in Georgia. The Galapagos (Ecuador) were removed from this list.

Some of the newly included World Heritages are: Papahānaumokuākea (United States), el Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Mexico), and São Francisco square (Brazil).

Unesco World Heritage sites have special cultural or physical significance as a place or region. Unesco conserves, names, and catalogues these sites for the common heritage of humanity. Italy ranks as the country with the most World Heritage sites, having 45 in total.

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April 27, 2010

Snap election fails to end political deadlock in Nauru

Snap election fails to end political deadlock in Nauru

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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A snap election in Nauru has failed to end a political deadlock. The election, called a year early by President Marcus Stephen, had all eighteen members of parliament re-elected. President Stephen’s government is controlled by nine MP’s with his opponent holding the same number.

Because neither side can decide who should be speaker of the house, a government cannot be formed. Stephen’s opponent had been trying to get rid of him for several months. Stephen will remain in power with a caretaker government.

During his term in office, Stephen has been faced with numerous issues. Nauru was once one of the richest countries in the world, but due to bad investments has become one of the poorest. The country also has high rates of both obesity and unemployment.

Since Nauru gained independence in 1968, there has been 36 changes in government.



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April 16, 2010

US unveils revived space exploration program

US unveils revived space exploration program

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Friday, April 16, 2010

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US President Barack Obama unveiled on Thursday plans for the future of American space exploration, committing to sending American astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.

President Obama spoke in the Operations and Checkout Building, where Apollo spacecraft were once prepared for flights to the Moon.
Image: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

The president was speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a speech to lay out his plans for the future of American space agency NASA. His comments included assurances that America was not abandoning space exploration, contrary to claims he was doing so after he announced the US’s budget for 2011, which would have ended most of NASA’s current projects, including the development of new heavy-launch rockets called the Constellation Program.

Cquote1.svg Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite Cquote2.svg

—US President Barack Obama

Under Obama’s latest program, NASA would receive US $6 billion as supplementary funding over the next five years to develop new projects, which Obama emphasized, saying NASA was in the unusual position of having an expanded budget while other government agencies must comply to financial restrictions or cuts in efforts to reduce the US public debt. With the additional funding, NASA would extend the life of the International Space Station (ISS) by four years further, to at least 2020, design a new series of heavy-lift rockets by 2015, and continue development of the Orion crew capsule, a major part of the Constellation program. Initially, the capsule would serve only as a rescue vehicle for the ISS, but would later serve as the “technological foundation for advanced spacecraft to be used in future deep space missions.” The proposed project would also retain plans for private operators to service the ISS, despite criticism that such operators were not reliable enough for the task.

The centerpiece of the plan would be manned missions to the moon and beyond, beginning with missions to asteroids around 2025, with missions to Mars following within a decade. Initially, Mars missions would consist of sending humans to orbit Mars, with missions to land on the surface of the planet coming shortly after. Obama said that under the plan, “we will push the boundaries not only of where we can go but what we can do.”

Obama said that under his new plan, NASA would be able to achieve more in a shorter amount of time than it would have under the Constellation Program. He also said that, contrary to fears that changes in NASA would result in job losses in Florida, where most space missions are launched from, under his new plan, a total of 2,500 jobs would be created in the area.

The new plan would, according to Obama, lead to “major breakthroughs” in the US space program. He said that the goal of the new program would be “no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.” The president also emphasized the need for continued innovation, saying that “we’ve got to do it [space exploration] in a smart way and we can’t just keep on doing the same old things we’ve been doing and thinking that’s going to get us where we want to go.”



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June 4, 2009

WHOI sub Nereus explores deepest area of Pacific Ocean

WHOI sub Nereus explores deepest area of Pacific Ocean

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) remotely operated vehicle touched down 10,902 meters (35,767 feet) in the Mariana Trench near the island of Guam.

Location of the Mariana Trench
Image: Kmusser.

On Sunday, May 31, Nereus dove into the Pacific Ocean and began its descent into Challenger Deep the deepest area of the Mariana Trench.

“It’s the deepest known part of the ocean. The trench is virtually unexplored, and I am absolutely certain Nereus will enable new discoveries,” said Andy Bowen, project manager of WHOI, “Reaching such extreme depths is the pinnacle of technical challenges. The team is pleased that Nereus has been successful in reaching the very bottom of the ocean to return imagery and samples from such a hostile world. With a robot like Nereus we can now explore anywhere in the ocean. The trenches are virtually unexplored, and Nereus will enable new discoveries there. Nereus marks the start of a new era in ocean exploration.”

However, this is not the first time that a mission was sent into the trench. In 1998, the Japanese robot Kaiko was launched. In 1960 a two man bathyscaphe vehicle, the Trieste descended 10,916 meters (35,813 feet) to the ocean floor.

Nereus can be operated remotely or it can run as an autonomous underwater vehicle AUV. It is currently attached to the mother ship via an optic tether the diameter of a human hair.

“Much of the ocean’s depths remain unexplored. Ocean scientists now have a unique tool to gather images, data and samples from everywhere in the oceans, rather than those parts shallower than 6,500 meters (4 miles). With its innovative technology, Nereus allows us to study and understand previously inaccessible ocean regions,” said Julie Morris, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Ocean Sciences. NSF assisted with the US$8 million project funding.

Nereus will send videos and collect samples on the ocean floor at the trench’s subduction zone and area during its mission.

“The samples collected by the vehicle include sediment from the tectonic plates that meet at the trench and, for the first time, rocks from deep exposures of the Earth’s crust close to mantle depths south of the Challenger Deep. We will know the full story once shore-based analyses are completed back in the laboratory this summer. We can integrate them with the new mapping data to tell a story of plate collision in greater detail than ever before accomplished in the world’s oceans,” said geologist Patty Fryer of the University of Hawaii.



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August 3, 2008

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

An engine test being conducted on a Falcon 1 in 2005
Image: Mark Mackley.

A SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket has failed during its third attempt to reach orbit. Over four years behind schedule, the rocket lifted off from Omelek Island, part of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, at 03:34 GMT this morning, carrying three technology development satellites, and the ashes of 208 people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, and Star Trek actor James Doohan. According to a statement issued by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the first and second stages of the rocket failed to separate, making this the third consecutive unsuccessful launch for the Falcon 1, which is yet to conduct a successful mission. Musk described the failure as a “big disappointment”.

The primary payload for this flight was the Trailblazer satellite, which was to have been operated by the United States Air Force, and MDA. Two CubeSats, Pharmasat Risk Evaluation Satellite (PREsat) and Nanosail-D, were also to have been deployed. The CubeSats would have been operated by NASA and Santa Clara University. The space burial capsules, named Explorers and operated by Celestis, were to have intentionally remained bolted to the second stage of the rocket. The remains of several famous individuals were flown, most notably Project Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Montgomery Scott in the science fiction television series Star Trek. Director John Meredyth Lucas, who also worked on Star Trek, had some of his ashes on the flight as well, as did Mareta West an astrogeologist who was responsible for choosing the landing sites for the Apollo missions to the Moon. This is the second consecutive failure of a major orbital space burial mission, following a failed Taurus launch in September 2001. The last successful major orbital space burial was conducted in December 1999, although a single burial capsule was launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006.

This launch was originally planned to occur in early 2004, with the TacSat-1 satellite and the Explorers payload. It would have been the maiden flight of the Falcon 1. A number of procurement delays pushed it to 2005, and subsequent issues with the availability of Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg AFB, from where it was originally scheduled to launch, led to the first attempts to launch being made in late 2005. During the second attempted countdown, a faulty valve caused the first stage fuel tank to be deformed, leading to a delay.

In March 2006, a flight which was originally scheduled to be conducted after this one, with the FalconSat-2 spacecraft, was launched as the maiden flight, and ended in failure less than a minute after lift-off due to a fuel leak. This caused delays for all other Falcon launches, and a test flight without a functional payload was added to the schedule in order to ensure that the problems with the rocket had been resolved. This was launched in March 2007, and also failed – this time due to a sequence of events started by human error in setting the fuel ratio for the first stage. Despite the failure to reach orbit, most critical systems were tested, so the third flight was cleared to launch an operational payload.

In the meantime, the satellite that was to replace TacSat-1, TacSat-2, was launched, and TacSat-1 was subsequently cancelled as obsolete. During early 2008, the US Air Force announced that they would replace it with a satellite for a programme called Jumpstart, which would be selected a few weeks before launch. Trailblazer was chosen in late May, over two other options, PnPSat, or a pair of CubeSats. The launch was at that time scheduled for late June, but it was subsequently delayed due to small cracks in one of the rocket’s engines.

Today’s launch followed an eventful countdown, lasting almost to the end of the five hour launch window, with the loading of helium onto the rocket taking longer than expected, and requiring several long holds. Following this, an attempt to launch was made at 03:00 GMT, which resulted in a last-second abort at T-0, just after ignition of the main engine, due to a marginal performance issue with the turbopump. The launch was recycled, and the rocket lifted off 34 minutes later.

This was the first flight of an uprated version of the Merlin engine, which powers the first stage. The new version, named Merlin-1C, features regenerative cooling as opposed to ablative cooling used on the earlier launches. It is believed that the failure of the launch was unrelated to the presence of the new engine, the performance of which was described as “picture-perfect” by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.

The next Falcon 1 launch was scheduled to have been launched in September with the Razaksat spacecraft for ATSB of Malaysia, and up to three CubeSats. This will almost certainly be delayed whilst the failure is investigated. It is unclear whether this failure will affect the maiden flight of the larger Falcon 9, currently scheduled for 2009, on a demonstration mission for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services programme. Today’s launch is the 38th orbital launch of 2008, and following the resale and recovery of the AMC-14 satellite, the first outright failure of the year.



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