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April 18, 2010

Poland: Around 100,000 people attend public memorial for victims of plane crash

Poland: Around 100,000 people attend public memorial for victims of plane crash

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

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A public memorial for the victims of the plane crash that occurred last Saturday where the Polish president, Lech Kaczyński along several members of the Polish government died, was attended by 100,000 citizens of the country in Pilsudski Square of Warsaw.

A gigantic white platform having a giant cross across the centre was constructed in the area which had photos of the victims, including Maria Kaczyński, the first lady of Poland and many high ranking Polish officials. The names of the deceased were read, beginning with the president and his wife, as their only daughter, Marta and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Lech Kaczyński and former prime minister of the country, looked on. Former President Lech Walesa, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and interim president Bronislaw Komorowski were also present. The audience held Polish flags held together with black ribbons and observed a two minute silence before emergency sirens and church bells rang out.

“Our world went crashing down for the second time at the same place,” acting President Komorowski said about the crash, which occurred near Russia’s Katyn forest, where thousands of Polish soldiers were killed during the second World War. Prime Minister Tusk called the crash “the greatest tragedy in Poland since the war.”

It marked the beginning of two days of ceremonies. A funeral Mass for the first couple will follow the memorial. The funeral will be held at St. John’s Cathedral at 6 p.m. local time (16:00 GMT) in Warsaw.

The coffins of Lech and Maria Kaczynski were taken to the St. John’s Cathedral for the evening Mass. They will be flown to Krakow Sunday morning for the state funeral, Presidential Palace spokesman Jacek Sasin stated.

“During those few days when the palace was open, some 180,000 people came through the palace” to pay their final respects, he said. Some of them waited for as much as 14 hours in the queue, he added. Teresa Winkler, 76, was one of the mourners who said that she came to pay respect to a President “who took care of the people forgotten by society,” such as aging soldiers and activists.

“He was a real patriot and a real Pole,” Winkler said. “I am afraid it will be hard to find another president like Kaczynski,” she noted. Several other groups came to honor the first couple for their work for the nation.

A state funeral for the first couple is slated to be held on Sunday; however, some world leaders canceled their plans to attend it. The principal cause for this was that several European airports remained closed, owing to volcanic ash that hovered in different parts of the continent.

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Finnish President Tarja Halonen canceled their plans to visit Warsaw for this reason. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia were also among those who canceled their trip. Heads of state of Egypt, Macedonia, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Pakistan also canceled their plans to attend the service on Sunday.

American President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were still expected to arrive. Czech President Vaclav Klaus had stated that he would come to Krakow via train and car, while the presidents of Slovakia and Slovenia said they would arrive by car.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan also canceled his plans to attend the state funeral while Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, was unable to travel from Rome to deliver a memorial Mass on Saturday.

The first couple, along with other Polish dignitaries, died when their plane went down in heavy fog after hitting the tops of trees on approach to Smolensk, Russia. They had been on their way to attend a memorial for thousands of Polish army officers who were killed in 1940 by the Soviet Union.



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Fourteen dead in two attacks in Somalia

Fourteen dead in two attacks in Somalia – Wikinews, the free news source

Fourteen dead in two attacks in Somalia

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Somalia
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A land mine blast in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, has killed eight people, and mortars launched by rebels at the city airport killed six others, according to witnesses and doctors. The al-Shabaab group was said to be responsible for both the attacks by police officials, although they did not claim responsibility for it.

“All the mortar rounds missed the airport but landed in civilian areas,” Ali Muse, coordinator of ambulance services, told Reuters news agency. Five of the six people were killed in the Bakara market, four of them being women. The rebels opened fire soon after President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and the parliament speaker arrived late on Saturday.

The earlier attack occurred near a police station in southern Mogadishu. Several government soldiers died in the attack. Ali Gab, a local police official, said five police officials died in the attack, and blamed al-Shabaab for it. Fadum Hassan, a nurse at a hospital where the injured was being treated, said twenty critically injured people had been admitted to the hospital.

“The explosion killed five soldiers and three [civilians]. Human flesh was everywhere and some of the injured victims were screaming for help,” eyewitness Yusuf Abdulqader told Reuters. Relatives of the victims of the attack have blamed the al-Shabaab for the blast. “They have massacred our people, they don’t care for our people, our flag and sovereignty,” cried Fadumo Abdi, whose son died in the attack.



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April 17, 2010

Pakistan: Eight killed in hospital blast

Pakistan: Eight killed in hospital blast

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

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A suicide bomber attacked an emergency room of a hospital in Quetta, located in southwest Pakistan, killing eight people, including three policemen. Approximately 35 people were wounded in the attack. The explosion occurred in the Civil Hospital of the city.

“The latest death toll is eight,” Qazi Abdul Wahid, police chief of the province, told Agence France-Presse news agency. He said that two senior police officers, a police commando along with a cameraman for a local television channel, died in the attack. Four other journalists were wounded, he added. Hospital authorities confirmed these figures. Television footage showed rescuers carrying away the dead and the injured from the scene of the incident.

“It appears to be sectarian violence,” Wahid added. “Evidence collected so far indicate it (the blast) was a suicide attack,” he commented. Mohammad Iqbal, another police official stated “it was a suicide attack.” “We have found legs and head from the blast site. We have also found metal pellets, usually stuffed in suicide vests, from the blast site”, Iqbal noted.

The hospital was full of journalists who were reporting about the shooting of a bank manager belonging to the Shiite community. Mohammad Sabir, another police official, claimed the room was full of the manager’s friends and family when the suicide bomber attacked.

Quetta is the capital of the Baluchistan province of the country. It has frequently witnessed disputes and clashes between the Sunni and Shiite communities. Several people have died in multiple conflicts in the province. In February this year, suspected Sunni insurgents blew up a bus with Shiite worshippers. Two hours after the incident, a hospital treating the victims was attacked. 25 people died in that incident, with 100 being injured.



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Officials: Seventeen insurgents killed in Orakzai, Pakistan

Officials: Seventeen insurgents killed in Orakzai, Pakistan

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pakistan
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Seventeen insurgents were killed in clashes with security troops in the Orakzai region of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Several rebels were injured in the attack according to officials. None of the soldiers were injured in the attack.

Security personnel alleged that they had arrested a senior Taliban leader in the attack. Meanwhile, elders of various tribes demanded the government to bar security forces to carry out operations affecting the people of the Mishti Mela, Sanghra and Mishti Bazaar areas. They said that the government should have allowed the people some time to shift from the area before launching such attacks, claiming the air strikes in the region also killed some civilians.

Also, three people were kidnapped in Ghalo Cheena area of Hangu on Friday according to witnesses. The three people were on their way home when unidentified men held them at gunpoint and kidnapped them. Police said they had not heard about the incident.



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US bank Goldman Sachs accused of fraud

US bank Goldman Sachs accused of fraud – Wikinews, the free news source

US bank Goldman Sachs accused of fraud

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

US bank Goldman Sachs has been accused of fraud by the American regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Cquote1.svg Goldman Sachs arranged a transaction at Paulson’s request in which Paulson heavily influenced the selection of the portfolio to suit its economic interests Cquote2.svg

—A statement from the SEC, accusing Goldman Sachs of fraud

According to the SEC, Goldman Sachs failed to inform investors of a conflict of interest in the banks’ marketing of sub-prime mortgage investments, which were being sold at a time of uncertainty in the US housing market. The SEC says that a Goldman subsidiary, Paulson & Co, had been involved in the selection of securities included in the mortgage investments. It had not been disclosed to investors that Paulson had bet that the value of the investments would fall, benefiting Paulson but not those who bought the investments.

The securities, which were combined into a package called Abacus that was sold to investors, lost over $1 billion during the collapse of the US housing industry. According to the SEC, Goldman, Paulson, and the creator of Abacus, a vice-president of Goldman Sachs named Fabrice Tourre, all knew that the housing market was going to collapse, but continued to sell Abacus despite the risks.

Tourre had been in command of selecting the investments within Abacus, and then was the person responsible for selling it to investors. He had told those who invested in Abacus that its components had been selected by an independent party, ACA Management.

In all, 99% of the investments within Abacus were downgraded, and investors lost upwards of a billion US dollars.

The SEC alleged that “Goldman Sachs arranged a transaction at Paulson’s request in which Paulson heavily influenced the selection of the portfolio to suit its economic interests.” In a short response from Goldman, the bank said that “The SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and we will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation.”



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Tobacco manufacturers and retailers fined over UK price fixing

Tobacco manufacturers and retailers fined over UK price fixing

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lambert & Butler, one of the popular brands that was subject to price fixing.
Image: Wannanone .

Several tobacco manufacturers and retailers in the United Kingdom have been fined a total of £225 million for price fixing. The fines were imposed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) following an investigation lasting seven years. It is the largest penalty ever issued by the OFT for breaches of the 1998 Competition Act, with the case involving two major tobacco makers and numerous British supermarkets.

Together the manufacturers involved, Imperial Tobacco (whose brands include Golden Virginia and Lambert & Butler) and Gallaher Group (who own Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges among others) make almost 90% of all cigarettes and roll-ups sold in the UK. They were fined £112 million and £50 million respectively.

The supermarkets facing the largest penalties were Asda and The Co-operative Group, at £14 million each. Other stores fined were First Quench, Morrisons, Safeway, Shell garages, Somerfield, T&S Stores (now One Stop) and TM Retail. Also taking part in the price fixing were Sainsbury’s, though they received immunity from being fined after alerting the OFT and co-operating with the investigation. Some of the other companies also earned reductions in their fines through co-operation with the OFT.

Similar allegations against Tesco were not pursued due to a lack of evidence.

Imperial Tobacco denied the charges, claiming in a statement that its dealings with the retailers were simply legitimate “promotional arrangements”. They have said they are considering an appeal against the decision.

In a press release the OFT said that the fines would send out a strong message. “Practices such as these, which restrict the ability of retailers to set their resale prices for competing brands independently, are unlawful.” said Simon Williams, OFT Senior Director of Goods. “They can lead to reduced competition and ultimately disadvantage consumers.”

“This enforcement action will send out a strong message that such practices, which could in principle be applied to the sale of many different products, can result in substantial penalties for those who engage in them.”

Full list of fines

Company Fine Notes
Imperial Tobacco £112,332,495 Manufacturer
Gallaher Group £50,379,754 Manufacturer
The Co-operative Group £14,187,353
Asda £14,095,933
Safeway £10,909,366 Now part of Morrisons
Morrisons £8,624,201
Somerfield £3,987,950 Now part of The Co-operative group
Shell £3,354,615
TM Retail £2,668,991
First Quench £2,456,528 Now in administration
T&S Stores £1,314,095 Now One Stop, part of Tesco
Sainsbury’s £0 Granted immunity from fines
Total £224,311,281



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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.”



Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Barack Obama space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center
  • Wikisource-logo.svg President Barack Obama on Space Exploration in the 21st Century

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April 15, 2010

US Library of Congress plans archive of Twitter

US Library of Congress plans archive of Twitter

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

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The library’s announcement via Twitter.
Image: Twitter.

The US Library of Congress plans to create an archive of every “tweet,” or post made on Twitter. It announced the move via Twitter.

Twitter’s general counsel Alex MacGillivray told the BBC: “I think it shows the tweets are an interesting part of the historical record. This project however is not about us, it is about our users and the fact they use the service to chronicle these amazing events. President Obama actually tweeted after he was elected. That is a big deal and it’s something he did. It is not something we imagined when we were forming the service.”

The library plans to highlight the historically significant tweets such as Barack Obama’s tweet when he won the 2008 presidential election.

Cquote1.svg I think it shows the tweets are an interesting part of the historical record. Cquote2.svg

—Alex MacGillivray, Twitter’s general counsel

Although the library plans a Twitter archive, it does not indicate a change of the Library of Congress’ focus. The library reportedly has 160 terabytes (163,840 gigabytes) of data already taken from other Internet sources.

There are around 50 million tweets sent per day, all less than 140 characters; the total number of tweets has gone into the billions.



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Deposed Kyrgyz President flees to Kazakhstan

Deposed Kyrgyz President flees to Kazakhstan

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

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  • 12 June 2010: Kyrgyzstan: Ethnic unrest continues, government asks Russia for help
  • 14 May 2010: Interim Kyrgyz government retakes buildings after violent protests
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Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2006.
Image: www.kremlin.ru.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan today for Kazakhstan after large scale protest in the country forced him to flee from the Kyrgyz capital to his home village of Teyit. Kazhakstan’s secretary of state and Foreign Minister called this “an important step” to stabilize Kyrgyzstan, thereby preventing conflicts in the country.

The whereabouts of Bakiyev’s brothers, whom Roza Otunbayeva, the interim President of Kyrgyzstan had refused security was not clear. The Interfax news agency of Russia mentioned witnesses claimed the deposed president had boarded the plane without his brother. Bakiyev’s son, Maksim, is already away from Kyrgyzstan. Details about Bakiyev’s departure and its planning was also not known.

Earlier today, gunshots were heard in south Kyrgyzstan during a political rally held by the deposed Kyrgyz President. This attack caused no injuries, but Bakiyev took a car to leave the rally after the shots were heard.

Bakiyev has been holding political meetings in towns near Teyit. Thursday’s rally was in Osh, the largest city in south Kyrgyzstan, where the former was addressing a crowd of 5,000 people. Bakiyev arrived in a convoy consisting of minivans at Osh, where another rally supporting the country’s interim government was being held.

Aziza Abdirasulova, a human rights activist, told The New York Times agency that when Bakiyev started addressing the crowd, supporters of the interim government came running at him. His bodyguards fired in the air and Bakiyev was assisted into a car and driven away from the city. She affirmed that no one was wounded. Eyewitnesses confirmed what Abdirasulova said, adding that the other political meeting was being held about 300 meters by members of the interim government. Two of Bakiyev’s brothers were in the convoy with him.

Bakiyev fled from the capital on April 7 after a violent riot where people attacked government building. At least 83 people died in this violence in the Kyrgyz capital. “He killed all those young people. All the people are against him. How can he even turn up here?” commented Alikh Mansurov, an unemployed dweller of Osh. While there is no arrest warrant against Bakiyev, his brother Zhanybek has one against him. The latter was once the head of the state guard service, and accompanied Bakiyev in the convoy.

Roza Otunbaeva, the interim Kyrgyz president
Image: Ilias Beshimov.

Bakiyev has claimed he would resign his post if the interim government assured security to him and his family members. The latter have agreed to make such security guarantees to Bakiyev, but have refused it for him family members. They also said Bakiyev would either have to leave the country or be prosecuted, blaming him for corruption and the violences which occurred earlier this month. On Wednesday, Roza Otunbayeva, interim President of the country, said she would consider a direct discussion with Bakiyev but refused to discuss what would happen to his relatives.

United States President, Barack Obama has expressed his support for the interim government of Kyrgyzstan. Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs of the US, met with Otunbayeva on Wednesday. He had come to “express support for the steps the provisional government has taken to restore democracy” and offer assistance from his country. Hillary Clinton has spoken with the interim President through telephone.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia said the latter had received a phone call from Bakiyev late on Wednesday. Dmitri Medvedev, President of Russia said to a crowd in Brookings Institution in Washington where he is attending a nuclear summit called by the American President, that according to him Kyrgysztan was “on the verge of civil war now” and it was possible that it would turn into a “second Afghanistan.”

“All the forces in Kyrgyzstan should realize their responsibilities towards the Kyrgyz nation, the Kyrgyz people and the future of the Kyrgyz state,” he commented. He said Russia was aware of “what a civil war means,” saying such a war would attract “terrorists and extremists of all kinds.”


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April 14, 2010

Vatican criticized for cardinal\’s claim of homosexuality and pedophilia link

Vatican criticized for cardinal’s claim of homosexuality and pedophilia link

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Image: Wulfstan.

Cquote1.svg …many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia Cquote2.svg

—Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

The official, 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 paedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. This pathology is one that touches all categories of people, and priests to a lesser degree in percentage terms.” 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 paedophilia is a false, despicable and anti-scientific statement that affects the lives and dignity of millions of gay and lesbian people. It confirms the cynicism and cruelty of the Vatican hierarchies, which have covered sex crimes committed by members of the church for years throughout the world against thousands of innocent boys and girls”. Gaylib, a conservative gay group, condemned the statement, saying that it was “worrying that the foreign minister of a state that occupies the heart of the Italian capital would use arguments that are considered passé even in the Third World.”

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.”

Cquote1.svg [Bertone is] clumsily trying to shift attention to homosexuality and away from the focus on new crimes against children that emerge every day Cquote2.svg

—Aurelio Mancuso, former president of an Italian gay rights group

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



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