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June 12, 2007

With pressure from France, Chad and Sudan open door to possible troop deployment

With pressure from France, Chad and Sudan open door to possible troop deployment

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

File:Idriss Déby headshot.jpg

President Idriss Déby of Chad.
Image: Brian Smithson.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

After meeting Sunday with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Chadian President Idriss Déby opened the door to the possible deployment of United Nations (UN) or European Union (EU) troops to Chad’s volatile eastern region. Yesterday, Kouchner met with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Until Sunday, Chad had rejected the idea of allowing military troops in to assist with security at its border with Sudan. In Chad’s eastern region, the government has been fighting an insurgency, which it claims has been supported by Sudan. While dealing with the insurgency, Chad had been amenable to an international police presence, but not a military force.

An estimated 234,000 Sudanese refugees have fled the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan and crossed the border into Chad. In addition, Chad is coping with an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons. The conditions in the camps set up to deal with the refugees have been criticised as inadequate by the aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Refugee camp in Chad.
Image: Mark Knobil.

France’s newly appointed foreign minister, and co-founder of MSF, Bernard Kouchner, and Chad’s President Déby were able to work out some concessions on the use of foreign troops. Following the meeting, Déby was asked by reporters whether he would allow UN or EU military troops to take a role in security and stabilization measures for a humanitarian mission. “Why not,” Déby replied.

Déby revealed that plans for an international force for Chad would be made public by the end of June. “We are agreed on the principle of deploying a force, but there are still some points to resolve, on which we must agree,” said Déby. “The results of the discussions will be made public before the 25th of this month.”

“We have been proposing this to the international community since 2004,” said Déby. But Chad’s Prime Minister, Delwa Kassiré Koumakoye, commented recently that neighbouring countries may take the use of foreign troops as a threat.

On June 9, MSF issued a press release warning of a humanitarian crisis developing in Chad. “It is imperative that the emergency in eastern Chad be fully recognised, that aid organisations provide massive, immediate aid to the IDPs and that the Chadian authorities facilitate humanitarian aid,” said Isabelle Defourny, manager of MSF programmes in Chad.

Progress in Sudan

File:Bernard Kouchner.gif

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Image: Photographic Dept. of the Prime Minister.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Following his visit to Chad, Foreign Minister Kouchner traveled to Sudan where he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sudan has, in the past, rejected the deployment of an international force, and has resisted the use of a UN-African Union (AU) force. During their meeting Monday, al-Bashir told Kouchner that he would only accept troops from Africa.

Kouchner indicated that his meetings with al-Bashir and other officials had been productive and would “lift a certain number of complications” in obtaining agreements with Sudan. He and al-Bashir also discussed the unilateral sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States. Kouchner felt that the sanctions haven’t been useful and that the Sudanese “seem clearly affected by this issue, considering how much they raised it.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed some optimism on the issue of troop deployment and acknowledged he received a letter recently from al-Bashir on the matter. As stated in the letter, al-Bashir has accepted in principal the idea of a UN-AU force of 23,000 troops to be stationed in Darfur. “I sincerely hope that we will be able to have early resolution of this issue,” said Ban.

One roadblock may be al-Bashir’s refusal to accept any force other than African. The UN and AU stated they would attempt to use only African troops, but indicated that non-African troops may be used if that were not possible.

“Darfur cannot be only an African problem,” said Kouchner. “At a certain level, the respect for human rights concerns the whole world.”

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Wikinews Shorts: June 12, 2007

Wikinews Shorts: June 12, 2007 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: June 12, 2007

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A compilation of brief news reports for Tuesday, June 12, 2007.

Thai junta says Thaksin can come home

File photo of Thaksin Shinawatra

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra may return to Thailand if he wishes, interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Council for National Security chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said today.

Thaksin’s lawyer, Noppadon Pattama, indicated that Thaksin, in exile since a coup led by Sonthi last year, will soon return to Thailand so that he may appeal the seizure of his assets by the Assets Examination Committee.

Related

  • “Ex-Thai PM Thaksin’s assets are frozen” — Wikinews, June 11, 2007

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Malaysian official warns of terrorism in Malacca Strait

File:StraitOfMalacca.jpg
The Strait of Malacca separates Sumatra in the south from the Malay Peninsula in the north.

Royal Malaysian Police Inspector-General Musa Hassan said at a maritime security meeting today that there is a “real and possible” threat of terrorism in the Strait of Malacca, which is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The strait, through which passes 40 percent of the world’s trade, has had a drop in incidences of piracy, but Hassan says he fears a LP gas vessel could be commandeered for a suicide mission.

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Singapore and Brunei issue joint banknote

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Singapore and Brunei issue joint banknote

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That Singapore and Brunei are today marking 40 years of currency interchangeability with a special banknote might come as a shock to some.

And it’s not the part about the special banknote, it’s that the two small southeast Asian countries have had interchangeable currencies for 40 years.

Singaporean Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong admits that not a lot of Singaporeans know about it, and that currency from Brunei is routinely refused by Singaporean retailers.

File:Brunei 2006 circulating coins.jpg
Coins circulating in Brunei as of 2006. The currency is interchangeable with Singapore’s.

Location of Brunei.

“They are not used to seeing Bruneian currency,” Goh said at a press conference yesterday in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. He added that he sees the need to educate Singaporean retailers “again and again” on the matter.

Maybe, said Goh, if more money from the tiny, oil-rich sultanate on Borneo was spent in the island republic of Singapore, there would be change.

“If Bruneians spend a lot of money in Singapore, and you have millions of Brunei dollars floating around, there’ll be no problem. So the retailers see the currency, they are not familiar with it,” Goh said.

“So from time to time, we have to tell the retailers that there is an interchangeable agreement with Brunei and the currency must be accepted,” Goh continued.

The 40th anniversary banknote will be an important tool in educating Singaporeans about current interchangeability, Goh said.

“It is a way to tell Singaporeans and also Bruneians that we have these interchangeable currencies… If the currency is not accepted just tell the retailer and explain to them that there is no problem, that they are acceptable to banks,” Goh said.

However, while the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Brunei Currency and Monetary Board will issue the notes into general circulation, it will be a limited issue.

“I think it will become a collectors’ item,” Goh said. “Because it’s the first time we are doing this in 40 years, I think collectors would not circulate them. But it is meant for circulation and can be used like any currency note,” he said.

The front of commemorative note has scenes from both Brunei and Singapore, while the reverse bears Singapore’s coat of arms and the face of Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei. Goh said he thought the design is “very attractive.”

The two countries have maintained currency interchangeability since 1967, when the Singapore dollar and the Brunei dollar replaced the Malaya and British Borneo dollar as legal tender in those countries.

Goh was in Brunei to attend yesterday’s royal banquet, put on by the Sultan of Brunei, on the occasion of the sultan’s daughter’s wedding.

Princess Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah, 31, 11th daughter of the sultan, and Khairul Khalil, 32, exchanged their vows last Thursday, and were presented to the public on Sunday in a lavish, two-week ceremony steeped in Brunei royal and Muslim tradition.

Related news

  • “Wikinews Shorts: June 10, 2007#Sultan of Brunei’s daughter wedded in lavish, two-week ceremony” — Wikinews, June 10, 2007

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Recent \’Earth-like planet\’ found in April \’too hot\’ for life say some scientists

Recent ‘Earth-like planet’ found in April ‘too hot’ for life say some scientists

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Artist’s impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581.
Image: European Southern Observatory.

German and American scientists have announced that the recent planet, Gliese 581c is too hot to host any life that would be found on Earth. It orbits around the star Gliese 581.

“It’s just too hot. I would not recommend mankind to move to that planet right now,” said Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research astronomer who was part of the study, Dr. Manfred Cuntz who also said that the same system that Gliese 581c is in may have another planet that could be comfortable for humans.

The planet, Gliese 581d orbits the same star as Gliese 581c but at a distance of 23 million miles. The researchers say that the planet could have a “greenhouse” effect and that water that may be present on the planet would be liquid. If no greenhouse effect is present, the planet would have frozen water.

“We cannot cool down an atmosphere of a planet, but we can heat it up. Despite the adverse conditions of this planet, at least some primitive forms of life may be able to exist on its surface,” added Cuntz.

File:Gliese 581 c in the habitable zone.svg
A range of theoretical habitable zones with stars of different mass (our solar system is at the centre, a red dwarf similar to Gliese 581 at the bottom).

Some scientists disagree and say that Gliese 581 is very old and that its light is dimmer than that of a newer star.

Scientists began to monitor Gliese 581c right after the announcement of its discovery in April for six weeks using the Microvariability and Oscillations of STars (MOST), operated by the Canadian Space Agency.

“Gliese 581 seems remarkably stable over the six weeks it was monitored by MOST. The brightness of the star changed by only a few tenths of a percent over that time. This level of stability means that it provides a stable source of light — hence heat — to the surface of planet Gliese 581c. The climate there should not be a wild rollercoaster ride that would make it difficult for life to get a foothold,” said astronomer at the University of British Columbia, Jaymie Matthews.

Matthews says that Gliese 581 is much older than the Sun and Earth and that life should have already evolved on the surface.

“So if Gliese 581 has been around for at least that long, it’s more encouraging for the prospects of complex life on any planet around it,” added Matthews.

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Left wing of Atlantis may have been damaged

Left wing of Atlantis may have been damaged

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Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Recent stories
  • 22 July 2011: Space Shuttle Atlantis landing concludes program
  • 8 July 2011: End of an era: Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on final mission in program
  • 27 May 2010: Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center
  • 14 May 2010: Space Shuttle Atlantis launches for the final time
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  • “NASA extends Space Shuttle Atlantis’ mission” — Wikinews, June 12, 2007
About Atlantis

Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

Other NASA Space Shuttles
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NASA has reported that a sensor aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis recorded a force of 1G on the shuttle’s left wing. This could have been a small impact caused by a meteorite or space junk, or a sensor glitch. The anomaly was recorded on reinforced carbon panels 7 and 8 and reported during a mission briefing on Tuesday afternoon by NASA.

Atlantis on the launchpad on August 29, 2006.

“[Sensors recorded a] 1G change at one part of the wing’s leading edge,” said Chairman of the Atlantis Shuttle Mission team, John Shannon who also said that other sensors on Atlantis have not recorded the impact.

Damage resulting from impact to a wing during liftoff caused Space Shuttle Columbia to disintegrate when it was re-entering Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. As required by new routines put in place after the accident, astronauts will now have to use a camera or laser to determine if there is any damage to Atlantis’s left wing or not. NASA has a spacewalk scheduled for today, but it is not known yet during which of the 3 remaining spacewalks they will be inspecting this .

NASA says they do not believe that there is any damage, because the other sensors around the one that reported the anomaly did not register anything out of the ordinary, as they would be expected to do in case of an actual impact. However, they will examine the area to make sure.

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Global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion

Global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released their SIPRI Yearbook 2007. In it they outline a number of world issues including annual global military expenditures. World military expenditure in 2006 is estimated to have reached $1,204 billion in current dollars with 15 countries having the highest spending and accounting for 83 per cent of the world total.

The large increase is the USA’s military. Between September 2001 and June 2006, the US Government provided a total of $432 billion in annual and supplemental appropriations under the heading ‘global war on terrorism’. China’s military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, for the first time surpassing that of Japan and hence making China the largest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world.

The top five military spenders in US$ are:

  • United States $528.7-B
  • United Kingdom $59.2-B
  • France $53.1-B
  • China $49.5-B
  • Japan $43.7-B

See also

  • List of countries and federations by military expenditures



Sources

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “SIPRI Yearbook 2007” — SIPRI, 11 June 2007
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Bail denied in Laos overthrow plot, Hmong protest

Bail denied in Laos overthrow plot, Hmong protest

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  • 28 December 2009: Thailand begins repatriation of Hmong migrants to Laos
  • 9 August 2009: Wikinews Shorts: August 9, 2009
  • 20 June 2007: Suspect in Laos plot detained in Thailand; suspects plead not guilty in California
  • 15 June 2007: 11th suspect arrested in Laos overthrow plot; indictments handed down
  • 12 June 2007: Bail denied in Laos overthrow plot, Hmong protest
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007 File:Vangpao.png

Vang Pao circa 1962 to circa 1964.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Vang Pao, the Hmong military leader charged with plotting to overthrow the government of Laos, was ordered yesterday by a United States federal court judge to remain in custody without bail.

U.S. Magistrate Edmund Brennan ruled that Vang Pao, 77, despite his age and ill health, posed too great a danger and a flight risk to be released.

“It’s not up to private groups to decide which countries the United States should be at war with and at peace with,” Brennan said.

Vang Pao and nine other people, mostly members of the Hmong immigrant community in California’s Central Valley, were arrested last week in a sting operation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Authorities say the group was planning to buy a cache of arms, ship them to Thailand and then smuggle them into Laos, where they would blow up government buildings in Vientiane, the Laotian capital.

Outside the federal courthouse in Sacramento, California yesterday, about 2,000 white-clad supporters rallied for Vang Pao’s release, holding portraits of the former Royal Lao Army general and waving signs saying “Honor your war heroes – don’t jail them” and “Free our leader.”

“He is to us like George Washington is to American citizens,” Vang Zang, a Hmong leader from Minnesota was quoted as saying to the crowd by the Sacramento Bee. “The government has wrongly accused our father. But the moment he is released, he will go up ten times in popularity.”

Vang Pao led a covert Hmong army backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency during the Laotian Civil War, or the “Secret War”, which paralleled the U.S. fight against communism in Vietnam and the Vietnam War.

Since immigrating to the U.S. after the fall of Laos to communism in 1975, Vang Pao has become an American citizen and is viewed as a folk hero by the Hmong people.

Vang Pao’s attorneys are Thomas Heffelfinger, a former federal prosecutor hired by Vang Pao’s supporters, and John Balazs, a court-appointed defense lawyer from Sacramento. They argued that Vang Pao is “a man of peace” and too old and infirm to be jailed. Doing so, Balazs said, “could be a death sentence.”

It’s possible that Vang Pao could safely be released to house arrest and that access to communications devices be restricted, Balaz told the magistrate.

Nonetheless, Balazs also described his client as “a warrior, this is a legal battle, and he’s in it to the end.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Twiss argued that Vang Pao is too dangerous and influential, and could still organize a plot no matter what restrictions were placed on him if he were freed.

“Thousands of people came here on the day of his detention hearing,” Twiss was quoted as saying in an interview with Associated Press. “If General Vang Pao were to pick up a cellphone, is there any doubt they wouldn’t execute his order? To me, it was an indication of his ability to effectuate action indirectly.”


Related news

  • “Ten charged with plot to overthrow Laos government” — Wikinews, June 5, 2007

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Kurdish militants in Iraq declare cease-fire with Turkey

Kurdish militants in Iraq declare cease-fire with Turkey

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Map highlighting the Kurdish areas in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq has declared a “unilateral” cease fire with Turkey, but also said that the party will defend itself with force if necessary.

“We are renewing our declaration to halt attacks against the Turkish army. We want peace and we are ready for negotiations. But if Turkey decides to attack our bases inside Turkey or inside Iraqi Kurdistan, then this unilateral cease-fire will be meaningless. If we are attacked, we will fight back and we have the ability to confront any Turkish aggression,” said PKK Foreign Affairs official, Abdul Rahman Chaderchi.

Turkey has not released a statement on the PKK’s declaration, but the Turkish government has rejected several prior cease-fire declarations by the PKK saying that the government does not negotiate with “terrorists.”

The United States says that the cease-fire should include an end to all of the PKK’s militant activities.

“The PKK is a terrorist organization. We take quite seriously the concerns of the Turkish government. They’ve lost lives … and it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with,” said White House spokesman, Sean McCormack in a statement to the press.

Turkey began to mass their army on the Turkey-Iraq border in the beginning of June, and reports began to circulate in the media that Turkey was preparing for an invasion of Iraq to take out the PKK.

Related News

  • “Reports say Turkish troops enter northern Iraq” — Wikinews, June 6, 2007

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NASA extends Space Shuttle Atlantis\’ mission

NASA extends Space Shuttle Atlantis’ mission

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Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Recent stories
  • 22 July 2011: Space Shuttle Atlantis landing concludes program
  • 8 July 2011: End of an era: Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on final mission in program
  • 27 May 2010: Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center
  • 14 May 2010: Space Shuttle Atlantis launches for the final time
Related News
About Atlantis

Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

Other NASA Space Shuttles
  • Discovery
  • Endeavour
  • Columbia (destroyed)
  • Challenger (destroyed)
Related Wikipedia articles

For more info on U.S. and other human spaceflight initiatives, please explore the links below.

  • Space Shuttle program
  • Human spaceflight
  • List of human spaceflights
  • List of space shuttle missions
  • List of manned spacecraft
  • International Space Station
  • Orion (possible Shuttle successor)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The tear in the TPS of Atlantis.
Image: NASA.

NASA has extended the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission from 11 days to 13 days to attempt to fix a tear of at least four inches in the shuttle’s Thermal Protection System (TPS), which occurred during liftoff on June 8. A fourth spacewalk is also planned to take place.

The tear was discovered when astronauts used the shuttle’s robotic arm with digital cameras placed on the end.

NASA says that the tear is not a major concern for re-entry, but they want to fix the problem before Atlantis returns, to reduce the amount of possible repairs Atlantis might need.

“I don’t want to take the risk of damaging my flight hardware,” said chairman of Atlantis’s mission management team, John Shannon. Shannon said that it was unlikely that the tear would result in a disaster similar to that which occurred with the Space Shuttle Columbia which was lost in 2003 during re-entry.

Atlantis will now return to Earth on June 21, rather than the original return date of June 19.

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