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December 10, 2006

Russia considering libel suits over reporting on Litvinenko

Russia considering libel suits over reporting on Litvinenko

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Russia Today TV, Moscow’s English-language satellite television channel, reported that Russian government officials are considering filing libel suits against international journalists over their reporting on the poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko was a strong critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and shortly before he died in London from radiation poisoning in late November, Litvinenko accused Putin of ordering his assassination. Putin and other Russian officials strongly denied any prior knowledge of a plot to kill Litvinenko.

According to a report posted late Friday on the Russia Today TV web site, the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Media is gathering publications worldwide to be studied for libelous and offensive comments against Russia in their coverage of the Litvinenko’s case. Russia Today TV reported that the Russian government intends to file law suits for libel against international media if there is evidence of journalistic misconduct.

In a Voice of America interview shortly before he was poisoned by a radioactive substance polonium-210, former Russian spy Litvinenko had accused Putin of ordering the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya to silence her and intimidate other independent journalists. She had been killed by an unknown assailant in Moscow in early October.

Several senior Russian politicians have said that the deaths of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko were playing into the hands of Russia’s enemies and, therefore, could not have been authorized by Moscow.

The Russian government’s warnings aimed at international journalists follow Putin’s largely successful efforts to bring major media outlets in Russia under government control and to limit media criticism of his policies. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nongovernmental organization, has called Putin one of the world’s top “Predators of Press Freedom.”

FreeMediaOnline.org, a California-based nonprofit organization which monitors media and supports press freedom worldwide, said that the latest warnings issued by the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Media would prove a major embarrassment for Putin and for Russia if they were carried out. An article on the FreeMediaOnline.org web site claims that even if there is no direct link between the two assassinations and the Kremlin, Putin is ultimately responsible for the climate of lawlessness and suppression of free media that may have contributed to these murders.

FreeMediaOnline.org also noted that uncovering the truth about the murders of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko would be difficult because independent journalists in Russia have been either silenced or intimidated by President Putin’s media advisors, government regulators, and security services.

Putin insists he is a strong supporter of democracy and press freedom. In a speech to Russian television broadcasters in late November 2006, Putin said that the development of Russian state and society would be unthinkable without independent media, without the possibility of listening to different points of view, and without television.

Putin’s critics point out that he has successfully placed under the Kremlin’s control all major nationwide television channels. According to FreeMediaOnline.org, journalists working for these channels no longer dare to offer any significant criticism of Mr. Putin’s policies. The organization warned that restrictions on media freedom in Russia have emboldened criminal elements to engage in illegal activities.

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New Zealand minister calls for ban on using mobile phones while driving

Filed under: Archived,New Zealand — admin @ 5:00 am

New Zealand minister calls for ban on using mobile phones while driving

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

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Harry Doynhoven, minister for transport safety, has called for a ban on using mobile phones (cellphones) while driving in New Zealand. The ban comes just days after a teenager was killed after allegedly driving while texting on their mobile phone.

Mr Duynhoven said that it is time to ban hand-held mobile phones in cars. “I would love to ban it. If I were a benign dictator, it would be gone by lunchtime.” Mr Duynhoven believes that a campaign to educate the public is needed to combat the number of people who die while using their mobile phones while driving. One of the new ways to combat this is suspected to be new road safety measure. The new initiatives will be announced on Wednesday.

“I hope that sufficient parliamentarians who read the reports of another young person who obviously wasn’t concentrating on her driving will say it’s about time something was done,” Mr Duynhoven said, “However such a ban would be very difficult to police.”

A report, prepared by the Ministry of Transport, will be shown to the government on the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. Peter Burke, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said: “There’s no law against using a cellphone at the moment. There’s the whole issue of driver distraction of which cellphone use is a part. But there’s been no decision on it yet. Anyone who texts while you’re driving is pushing the limits. I don’t think anyone would condone texting while driving, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Every year around four fatal crashes occur because the drivers are using their mobile phones while driving. Around 50 non fatal crashes occur each year for the same reason. However the police expect that the actual number is higher.

“A lot of drivers are unfortunately their own worst enemy – they’re busy talking and texting on the phone and fail to pay attention to what’s going on around them. The results can be, and often are, crashes which cause injury and death,” Rob Lee, spokesman for the police, said.

Sharleen Lloyd, 16-years-old, was killed when she drove her car into a parked trailer after it left the road because she was allegedly texting (SMS) on her mobile phone. Her passenger and boyfriend, Matthew Smit, had non fatal injuries. Andrew Hicks died when he crashed into a powerpole as a result from using his cellphone while driving.

Many countries already have a ban in place of using a mobile phone while driving, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Mr Duynhoven said: “But in countries where they have bans, they still have people using cellphones while driving. The issue is changing behaviour.”

However New Zealand does currently have a law which enables police to prosecute someone who doesn’t give attention or care to driving.

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New Ishaqi controversy set off by US air raid

New Ishaqi controversy set off by US air raid

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Iraq War
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In December 2006 the United States military conducted an air raid on Ishaqi, a village northwest of Baghdad. U.S.-led coalition forces said they were looking through several buildings near Lake Tharthar, in the province of Salahuddin, when Al Qaeda linked militants launched an attack. The U.S. military then said coalition troops returned fire, killing two of the insurgents. As the firefight continued, troops called in the contentious air strikes. The U.S. military said 20 al-Qaeda insurgents, including two women, were killed in the raid.

Local officials in Jalameda claimed there were actually 17 victims and that they included five men, six women, and five children. Locals of the area claiming to be relatives showed the children’s bodies to journalists and Al Jazeera claimed to have exclusive footage that confirms children were among the victims of the US air raid.

Iraqi reaction included mourners firing into the air overnight as they buried the victims of the raid. Hundreds of chanting residents of Jalameda marched through Ishaqi overnight firing shots and carrying banners that read: “The people of Ishaqi condemn the mass killing by the occupation forces”. Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the largest Sunni political bloc in parliament, said, “We ask the Americans to be merciful. They kill civilians alleging they are terrorists. Ishaqi is a catastrophe.”

The Agence France Presse news agency passed its own photographs of the dead children to Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, a US military spokesman, asking for an explanation on the latest allegations. Garver replied, “We’ve checked with the troops who conducted this operation – there were no children found among the terrorists killed.” Garver continued, “I see nothing in the photos that indicates those children were in the houses that our forces received fire from and subsequently destroyed with the air strike.”

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Japan opposes resumption of six-party talks on North Korea\’s nuclear program

Japan opposes resumption of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Japanese official has stated that Japan is opposed to re-entering into six-party talks between the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and North Korea in regards to the N. Korean nuclear weapons program stating that N. Korea must “compromise.”

“It’s fine if North Korea can bring some contribution to peace, but simply starting talks is not meaningful,” said the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s policy research council in Japan, Shoichi Nakagawa.

“The situation has changed since the last six-party talks in September last year. North Korea has conducted missile test launches and undertaken a nuclear test. Talks shouldn’t re-open without careful consideration,” added Nakagawa. North Korea successfully tested a nuclear missile on October 9, 2006.

“[We expect] early and concrete results. We believe it is necessary for North Korea to show concrete actions toward the abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs,” said Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan.

Six-party talks are said to resume on December 18, 2006.

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  • “Six-Party talks to resume on North Korea’s nuclear program” — Wikinews, December 9, 2006

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Home Secretary says about 30 major conspiracies threaten UK this Christmas

Home Secretary says about 30 major conspiracies threaten UK this Christmas

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

John Reid, UK Home Secretary, alerted the country to the very high risk of terrorist attack during the Christmas season. He said on GMTV’s Sunday programme, that he knew of approximately thirty conspiracies that were preparing to attack and that the level of alert on the MI5 web site now stands at the second highest level “severe”.

The Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre (JTAC) reports that the most serious threat comes from Al Quaida and similar networks of Islamist extremists. They are described by MI5 as “radicalised individuals who are using a distorted Islamic faith to justify violence. They are a very small proportion of the Muslim community in UK.”

The scale of threat is described as “potentially increasing and not likely to diminish significantly for some years”. Mr Reid said that the threat is likely to “continue for longer than a generation”. He reminded the country that republican terrorism continued for thirty years. According to JTAC those who threaten the country at present include dissident republican Irish groups which will not accept the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (April 1998).

A further threat arises from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. In 2003-2004, the Security Services claim to have disrupted some 30 “proven or suspected attempts” to obtain materials or information related to WMD for other countries.

As part of the counter terrorist activity, trials have now started of the use of biometric identification at London Heathrow airport where passengers willing to submit their details are fast tracked through passport control.

Whereas MI5 points to Iraq as having become a “dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe”, Mr Reid referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict saying that “it fuels international terrorism”. Prime Minister Blair said at a recent press conference with President Bush that he is preparing to engage in peace talks with Israel and Palestine.

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Canadian jazz star Diana Krall gives birth to twin boys

Canadian jazz star Diana Krall gives birth to twin boys

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

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Canadian jazz star Diana Krall has given birth Wednesday to twin boys named Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James in New York City, where the couple live.

“We are ecstatic!” and the “mother and sons are doing splendidly,” reads a statement released by Krall and her husband, English musician Elvis Costello, best known for songs such as “Pump It Up” and “Alison”.

The twins are Krall’s first children. Costello already has a child from an earlier marriage.

Costello, 52, and Krall, 42, shared the birth of their two sons on their third wedding anniversary.

“I have twins on my mother’s side,” Krall told People magazine in September.

Krall, born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, who is a Grammy award winner, and was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2005, released her latest album titled “From This Moment On” in September.

The couple married three years ago in a ceremony held at Elton John’s mansion in Surrey, England in December 2003. Paul McCartney and Pamela Wallin, Canada’s consul general to New York were invited among the 150 guests.

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Planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars line up, visible to naked eye

Planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars line up, visible to naked eye

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

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Stargazers in Massachusetts will get a rare show on Sunday night, just before the local Sunrise.

The planets Mars, Mercury and Jupiter will line up and will be seen in clear skies at least 45 minutes before sunrise, and will be seen each morning until December 14, 2006.

“Jupiter will be very bright and it will look like it has two bright lights next to it, and they won’t twinkle because they’re planets. When I look at something like this, I realize that all the powers on Earth, all the emperors, all the money, cannot change it one iota. We are observers, but the wonderful part of that is that we are the only species on this planet that can observe it and understand it,” said television show host of Star Gazer, Jack Horkheimer. He is also director of the Space Transit Planetarium in Miami, Florida.

This will be the closest planet-lineup to Earth until 2053. The previous closest viewing occurred in 1925.

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Discovery launches after scrubbed attempt

Discovery launches after scrubbed attempt

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Discovery starts its SSMEs as it launches on mission STS-116

Space shuttle mission STS-116 began today with its successful launch at 8:48pm EST (01:47 GMT). Liftoff was uneventful with no immediate problems. Last Thursday’s launch attempt was scrubbed due to low, dense cloud cover. It is the first Space Shuttle night launch in over four years and the last mission planned for pad 39b.

In the complex mission Discovery will first dock with the International Space Station. In three spacewalks the astronauts will install a segment of the station’s integrated truss and replace the orbital laboratory’s power wiring system.

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