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July 21, 2006

Ninety New Zealanders evacuated from Lebanon

Filed under: 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict — admin @ 5:00 am

Ninety New Zealanders evacuated from Lebanon

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Friday, July 21, 2006

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Ninety New Zealanders have been evacuated from war-torn Lebanon and are on their way to the safety of Cyprus. Three ships are helping in the evacuations, two British Navy and one United Nations (UN) chartered ferry.

There are 1,500 people on board the two British ships “There are definitely New Zealanders aboard, but there just isn’t an actual passenger list. We’re hoping there are quite good numbers of New Zealanders onboard,” Helen Tunnah, a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), said.

Officer Andrew Greig’s family, which includes his wife and two sons, are on board the UN ferry.

This evacuation comes after Britain announced it will conduct a formal evacuation, which also includes New Zealand citizens because New Zealand does not have an embassy in Lebanon.

Israel has been attacking Lebanon for three weeks. Hundreds of civilians and two Israeli soldiers have already died due to this conflict as well as two Hezbollah fighters and about twenty Lebanese soldiers.

MFAT will help the New Zealand evacuees find accommodation and help them with getting travel arrangements. “Because of the sheer number of people wishing to leave, it is expected to take days before the evacuation is completed,” Helen Tunnah said.

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Microsoft to buy back US$40 B of its stock over 5 years

Microsoft to buy back US$40 B of its stock over 5 years

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Friday, July 21, 2006

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT, HKSE:4338) has announced plans to buy back US$40 billion of its stock between now and 2011.

(All further figures in this article are in U.S. Dollars.)

Microsoft, the world’s largest maker of computer software, will make a tender offer to repurchase $20 billion of its own stock by August 17, and will purchase another $20 billion by 2011. This is in addition to a previous $30 billion stock buyback offer it completed two years ago.

The company plans to accept offers in the form of a modified Dutch or “reverse auction”, and based on those offers for stock, come up with a price no less than $22.50 and no more than $24.75, that allows it to buy up to about 8.1% of the common shares outstanding, up to either 808,080,808 shares, or $20 billion. The company stated that it will not purchase shares below a price stipulated by a shareholder, and in some cases, may actually purchase shares at prices above a shareholder’s indication under the terms of the modified Dutch auction. Prior to the announcement, Microsoft shares were trading at $22.75, with the announcement causing share prices to rise $1.32, or 5.8%, to $24.17.

Microsoft has been criticized in the past for “sitting on” huge reserves of cash without making additional purchases of companies or technology.

The company expects to sell more units of its Xbox 360 game console, which currently is unprofitable, helping to shore up weaker earnings from its Office flagship software package, of which a new version is not expected until sometime next year.

On July 20 the company said profit for the year will be $1.43 to $1.47 a share, an increase from an April forecast of $1.36 to $1.41. For the quarter ending September, expected profit will be 30-32c/share on revenue of between $10.6-$10.8 billion. For fiscal 2006, earnings were 11% higher than the previous year, at $12.6 billion on revenues of $44.28 billion, or $1.20 per share. In the year-ago quarter, Microsoft reported net income of $3.70 billion, with legal expenses of 5 cents per share plus tax benefits of 9 cents per share. This produced a net income of 34 cents per share for the quarter, opposed to the 31 cents which would have occurred without the tax benefits. For the previous fiscal year, income was $12.25 billion on revenue of $39.79 billion, or $1.13 per share.

Microsoft held an audio web-cast at 2:30 p.m. PDT (5:30 p.m. EDT) July 20 with Chris Liddell, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Frank Brod, corporate vice president and chief accounting officer, and Colleen Healy, general manager of Investor Relations. The session may be accessed at the Microsoft website. The web-cast will be available for replay through the close of business on July 20, 2007.

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Khmer Rouge \”Butcher\” dies ahead of trial

Khmer Rouge “Butcher” dies ahead of trial

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Ta Mok, also known as the “Butcher”, military commander of the Khmer Rouge regime which terrorised Cambodia in the 1970s, has died in a military hospital in Phnom Penh. He was facing trial for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the regime’s rule.

Ta Mok had been in detention since 1999 and was recently transferred to prison hospital suffering from high blood pressure and Tuberculosis. The 82-year old had slipped into coma a week ago and died of natural causes, “given his poor health and respiratory problems,” a doctor told Reuters today.

Ta Mok’s real name is not known, but reported to be Ek Choeun or Oeung Choeun. He joined the Khmer Rouge after being part of anti-French colonial and anti-Japanese resistance movements, rising to become the Maoist group’s Chief-of-Staff. He is believed to have directed the purges of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, in which an estimated 1.7 million people were tortured and killed in what is now referred to as “the killing fields”, earning him the name “The Butcher”. After the fall of the regime, he continued to lead a faction, until captured by the Cambodian forces in 1999.

His death leaves only one surviving Khmer Rouge commander, Kang Kek Leu (“Duch”), the chief of the Tuol Sleng S-21 interrogation centre to face trial. Most of the other surviving regime leaders are also in poor health. The regime leader Pol Pot died in 1998, also before facing trial. This has prompted questions about whether the trials have been delayed too long. The trials are to be conducted before a special tribunal created by Cambodia, with support from the United Nations.

A spokesman for the tribunal, Reach Sambath, said on Friday that a “key resource of information” had passed away.

Youk Chang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia which is studying the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, said his death was “outrageous”. “Some people may be happy with this,” he told AP, “but not the victims who have been waiting for justice for a long time,”

Ta Mok’s nephew Morm Mol said he was “saddened” by his uncle’s death.

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Kent Hovind faces a 58-count federal indictment

Filed under: AutoArchived,Crime and law,Kent Hovind,North America,Religion — admin @ 5:00 am

Kent Hovind faces a 58-count federal indictment

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Creationist Kent Hovind was arrested and plead not guilty in a Florida federal court to 58 charges of filing a frivolous lawsuits, false complaints, making threats against investigators and those cooperating with the investigation, and includes failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes.

Last Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis heard the charges in which Kent Hovind professed not to understand why he is being prosecuted asserting “I still don’t understand what I’m being charged for and who is charging me.”

Legal and taxes issues are nothing new for Kent Hovind, who often calls himself “Dr. Dino.” He has been in legal trouble with the IRS for at least 17 years on his claims that he is employed by God, receives no income, has no expenses and owns no property.

Hovind’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kafahni Nkrumah, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis that the Hovinds “did not want to enter a plea because he does not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter.”

When Davis said he would enter a plea for Hovind if he continued to refuse, Hovind said he was entering a not guilty plea “under duress.” In the exchange Davis asked Hovind “if he wrote and spoke English, this man who claims a doctorate said, ‘To some degree’.”

Jo Hovind, who is facing 44 charges stood with her husband’s hand on her shoulder and “reiterated the gist of his statements.”

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers will preside over the September 5th trial.

Davis made Hovind surrender his passport, guns, and will not allow him to leave the court’s juristition since they consider him a flight risk. On July 21, 2006 a missionary group in South Africa filed a petition to lift the travel restrictions. In part, Hovind claims the travel restrictions “violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Hovind’s public defender Kafahni Nkrumah, states “Mr. Hovind contends that the conditions imposed upon him by Magistrate Davis impose a burden on the free exercise of defendant’s religion, in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

No date to hear the appeal against the travel restrictions is scheduled.

Recent case

In an unrelated case on July 7, 2006 the United States Tax Court (Docket number 011894-05L) found that Hovind was deficient in paying his federal income taxes in tax years 1995-97 in the amount of $504,957.24. The Tax Court found that the IRS had a valid, perfected lien on Hovind’s property in that amount.

The IRS is currently levying against Hovind’s property to satisfy his unpaid tax liabilities. In the memorandum opinion the judge noted that Hovind’s “organizational structure . . . was based on various questionable trust documents purchased from Glen Stoll, a known promoter of tax avoidance schemes.” Moreover, Hovind’s defense was based on “bizarre arguments” and “some of which constitute tax protestor arguments involving excise taxes and the alleged ‘100% voluntary’ nature of the income tax.”

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Israel masses troops, tanks along Lebanon border

Filed under: 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict — admin @ 5:00 am

Israel masses troops, tanks along Lebanon border

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Friday, July 21, 2006

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2006 Lebanon War
Recent news

The conflict zone

Wikipedia links
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  • Lebanon
  • 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict

Israel has warned civilians in Southern Lebanon to leave their homes and villages and move into the city of Beirut as Israel masses tanks, armored personnel carriers, bulldozers and at least 5 battalions of troops totaling at least 3,000 reserves along its border with Lebanon. Villagers were warned to leave the area before 2:00 p.m. in at least 12 villages in Lebanon that border Israel.

Chief of the Israeli army, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz says that operations conducted on the ground will be limited. “We shall carry out limited ground operations as necessary in order to strike at the terrorism which strikes at us.”, Halutz said during a press conference. Senior Israeli army commanders have left open the possibility that a large-scale ground invasion would soon be launched. “It’s possible that in the coming days our ground operations will increase,” said Israeli Brigadier-General Alon Friedman

The Lebanese government has warned Israel that if an invasion occurs, the Lebanese army would engage in battle with Israel’s army.”The Lebanese Army will resist and defend the country and prove that it is an army worth of respect,” said Elias Murr, Lebanon’s Defense Minister. “Our constitutional duty is to defend Lebanon as a Lebanese army. This is our role. But for the resistance (Hezbollah) to enter the army and fight alongside the army, this is not an option”.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said that Lebanon are not going to “let anybody take our land. We are not going to let them come back and take it.” However, according to Mail & Guardian Online which is quoting an anonymous Israeli military official, there will not be a “full-scale incursion into Lebanon.”

On the other hand, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora was quoted in the Milan-based daily “Corriere della Sera” calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah. “It’s not a mystery that Hezbollah answers to the political agendas of Tehran and Damascus,” Siniora said to the Corriere. “The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire.” Siniora later denied the interview, but “Corriere della Sera” stands by its report. “The interview was recorded,” a senior staff member said.

“The important thing now is to restore full Lebanese sovereignty in the south, dismantling any armed militia parallel to the national army,” said Siniora. “The Syrians are inside our home and we are still too weak to defend ourselves. The terrible memories of the civil war are still too alive and no one is ready to take up arms.”

So far, Lebanon’s army has not engaged in battle with Israel’s army except for firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli warplanes.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah issued a strongly worded statement indicating, as he has before, that he will not release any Israeli prisoners except through a prisoner-exchange. Nasrallah stated that Israeli reports of having destroyed half of Hezbollah’s missile stores were erroneous and that, “the leadership of Hezbollah has not been touched.” He promised “more surprises”.

While Nasrallah asks for an exchange of Israeli-held prisoners for two IDF soldiers captured by a Hezbollah incursion into Israel following the G8 summit, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an immediate cease-fire between the two bordering nations on Thursday. But the UN holds little sway in Lebanon.

The Lebanese government is the first elected by a popular vote following last year’s resignation of the Syrian backed government of Omar Karami in February. Demonstrations and pressure from the international community led to a complete withdrawal by Syria and free and democratic elections in June. The current Israel-Lebanon crisis is the most serious challenge faced by the relatively inexperienced government.

Related news

  • “Lebanese politician George Hawi assassinated as historic elections end” — Wikinews, June 21, 2005
  • “Syria: Lebanon pullout is “full and complete”, UN to verify” — Wikinews, April 27, 2005
  • Lebanese Government resigns amid protests” — Wikinews, February 28, 2005

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Indonesia\’s president visits victims of tsunami

Indonesia’s president visits victims of tsunami

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Map showing location of earthquake

Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, visited the area worst hit by the tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Java Monday afternoon. Mr Yudhoyono toured the small town of Pangandaran meeting people who were staying in a temporary camp. Many of them are too scared to return home after the huge wave killed nearly 550 people. The tsunami was produced by an underwater earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale.

At the camp, Mr Yudhoyono told one woman to “be strong”. According to a relief worker, about 3,000 people have taken refuge at the site, but only about 500 of them have lost their homes. She said people are too scared to go home because they live on the coast, a sentiment shared by one woman who told AFP: “I did not lose my home, and my husband and child are safe, but we are still traumatised by the tsunami and are too afraid to return home in case another one comes.”

West Java Governor Danny Setiawan told journalists that officials are persuading people to return home, and he said a return to normality “could take five to six years”.

Aid workers are working to provide relief to the 15,500 people who have been left homeless as a result of the two-meter high wave. Yesterday, 15 tonnes of rice and 1,600 boxes of instant noodles were dropped, but some residents have said government assistance is necessary for them to regain their livelihoods. One woman told Reuters, “I don’t have anything, only 5,000 rupiah (£0.30, $0.55) in my wallet. The government should give us money to buy houses and a boat.”

It is estimated over 300 people are still missing, and the army and police are using helicopters, boats and mechanical diggers in the hope of recovering survivors. Lieutenant Colonel Tri Yuniarta has told his 350-strong rescue team in Pangandaran to finish collecting bodies trapped under debris by next Monday.

The Indonesian government has been criticised for failing to inform residents that a tsunami was looming. After the underwater earthquake was detected, US and Japanese agencies issued warning notices, but the government has admitted it was unable to transmit the bulletins to coastal areas. Speaking yesterday, Mr Yudhoyono vowed to hasten efforts to build an early warning system planned after the 2004 Asian tsunami. “We want to expedite efforts to get infrastructure for the tsunami warning system in place,” AP quoted him as saying. “I will work with parliament to get the budget”.

Survivors have described the tsunami, which struck a 200km stretch of Java’s southern coast. A Belgian tourist said he was in a beach side bar when the wave hit. “I saw this big cloud of dark sea water coming up to me”.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific Rim of Fire where 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur.

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper assigned airforce aircraft to pick up Canadians in Lebanon

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper assigned airforce aircraft to pick up Canadians in Lebanon

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Friday, July 21, 2006

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper fulfilled his promise to use his own assigned airforce aircraft to pick up Canadians fleeing from the assault on Lebanon and who are currently stranded in Cyprus.

About one hundred people were taken on board the Prime Minister’s aircraft and flown out of Cyprus with Harper.

Harper, who greeted the evacuees, told the media in an interview that the situation was challenging for the government due to the numbers of Canadians fleeing the war torn region by boat to Cyprus.

Canada has one of the largest groups of nationals in Lebanon of any country in the world, and has already seen eight citizens killed in an Israeli air strike to date.

“Today has been a successful day, as far as the evacuation has gone,” “Nothing is perfect in ideal circumstances, and this is a war zone.” said, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

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St. Louis hit by massive power outages after 80 m.p.h. winds, National Guard mobilized

St. Louis hit by massive power outages after 80 m.p.h. winds, National Guard mobilized

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Friday, July 21, 2006

A storm has knocked out power during a heat wave in the Greater St. Louis Area.

80 mph (130 km/h) winds accompanied by heavy rain caused many tree limbs to fall, some onto cars, some onto thoroughfares, and some on high-tension power lines that supply the city. It also caused at least three building collapses.

After 160,000 people have had their power restored, but 500,000 others are still without power. Three hundred national guardsmen joined volunteers, policemen and firefighters in aiding people during the crisis.

Vulnerable residents in nursing homes and centers for the elderly are being evacuated. Cookies and water are being distributed to those needing them. With temperatures were nearing 100°F (38°C), ice was in short supply as customers grabbed all they could get their hands on.

“I’ve never seen this many people without power, this much debris, buildings collapsed, lines down,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.

The local power company, AmerenUE, estimated that as of 10:26 p.m. local Central time on the 20th, 418,195 customers had no electricity.

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