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July 31, 2008

United States confirms first military death sentence since 1957

United States confirms first military death sentence since 1957

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

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The President of the United States, George W. Bush, has approved the death sentence of an Army Private convicted of multiple rapes and murders.

Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina at the time, was found guilty in courts-martial for the rape and murder of Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, a fellow soldier at Fort Bragg, and civilian taxi driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles. He was also convicted of rape and attempted murder in the case of a another Army Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth.

United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth
Image: US DOD.

Gray’s conviction and death sentence were upheld in the Army Court of Military Review (now the Army Court of Criminal Appeals) and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The case was denied certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States. His sentence was submitted to President Bush for approval, in accordance to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in 2005.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said “while approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted.” Perino also stated that the White House expects additional appeals involving this case.

Silas, a former military attorney who represented Gray on appeal stated that the decision to execute Grey was “disappointing news, as you can imagine.”

Gray has been on deathrow since April 1988. The 1988 tribunal unanimously sentenced Gray to death, and he has been held at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, ever since.

Prior to his court-martial, he pled guilty in a state court in North Carolina to two additional murders and five additional rapes in the Fayetteville area. All the crimes occurred between April 1986 and January 1987, when he was arrested following a rape.

If carried out, Gray’s execution would be the first of an American soldier since Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged in 1961 for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl in Austria.

Six other soldiers are on death row, and in addition the Army is seeking approval for the death sentence of Pvt. Dwight J. Loving, who was sentenced to death for robbing and murdering two taxi drivers in 1988.

President Bush has ordered the executions of three Federal death row inmates during his Administration, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He signed the death warrants of 152 inmates during his time as Governor of Texas.



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Southern Minnesota plane crash kills eight

Southern Minnesota plane crash kills eight

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

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Owatonna, highlighted in red shown within Steele County and Minnesota.
Image: Ixnayonthetimmay and Arkyan.

At least eight people have been killed in a plane crash near the southern Minnesota town of Owatonna, the Associated Press and local media reported Thursday morning.

One person, who had been listed in critical condition as of 11:40 a.m. in the Owatonna hospital has died from injuries sustained in the accident, the Associated Press reported just before 3:00 p.m. that afternoon. At least one person is unaccounted for while investigator determine whether the person boarded the plane in New Jersey, according to the Steele County Sheriff’s Office.

The Raytheon BAE 125-800A commercial jet, seen here in 2007, crashed in Owatonna on July 31, 2008.
Image: Paul Kanagie.

Star Tribune reported that charter flight 81, a Raytheon BAE 125-800A commercial jet, had not landed properly on the 5,500 foot runway at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport just after 9:30 a.m local time en route from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The plane either tried to take off or could not stop in time.

The plane was owned by East Coast Jets Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Aviation Research Group told the Star Tribune that East Coast Jets operates 11 aircraft — Hawker and Lear jets — and employs 21 pilots.

“They have a good safety history,” ARG President Joe Moeggenberg told the Star Tribune, based on federal data. “There were no recent incidents.”

This model of aircraft “has a very good safety record; been around along time,” said Gary Robb, aviation expert and attorney with a Kansas City law firm that represents aviation crash victims.

Gary Robb, an aviation expert and attorney told the Star Tribune that the aircraft “has a very good safety record [and has] been around along time.”

According to the Star Tribune, the pilots have been identified as Clark Keefer of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Dan D’Ambrosio of Hellertown, Pennsylvania. Pilot error has not been identified as a cause for the crash, but investigators caution it is to early for any conclusions to be made.

Graphics released by the Star Tribune show that the plane ended up past the runway it was attempting to land on. The Associated Press reports that debris was scattered 500 feet beyond the runway.

The bodies have been taken to Rochester for examination, while the plane’s data recorders have been flown to Washington, DC.

Both WCCO-TV and the Star Tribune report that the time of the crash coincided with a line of storms moving through the area, though what effect, if any the storm had, is under investigation. Witnesses told the Star Tribune that the worst of the storm had gone at the time of the crash and only light wind and rain remained. The Associated Press confirms from the National Weather Service that “the storms were subsiding at the time of the crash.”

Owatonna resident John Billingsly, a retired pilot who worked at the airport for many years, told the Star Tribune, “I saw the plane making its final approach, and it appeared nothing was wrong. We’d just had a lot of wind, but it had calmed down a bit and mostly subsided by that time.”

The plane, a charter for Viracon, Inc. of Owatonna, was flying customers from “a couple of different companies” to discuss a $2 billion dollar casino and hotel project in Las Vegas, Nevada that Revel Entertainment is building. Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans told the Associated Press that two high-level employees for Revel and an employee of Tishman Construction. Viracon is an architectural glass fabricator and Tishman is assisting Revel.

As of 5:00 a.m Friday, five of the victims, including the two pilots, have been identified by the Associated press.

APG International, a company specializing in glass facades, lost two executives: Marc Rosenberg, the chief operating officer, and Alan Barnett, an assistant project manager, according to the Glassboro, N.J. company’s spokeswoman Amelia Townsend.

The Tishman empoyee, the only victim identified, was project manager Karen Sandland, 44, based in Newark, New Jersey company spokesman Bud Perrone told the Associated Press.

The Revel employee’s idenities were released by the Star Tribune Friday, they are: Tony Craig, 50, of Brigantine, N.J., vice president of construction development; Chris Daul, 44, of Northfield, N.J., vice president of construction development; and Lawrence (Chip) Merrigan, 62, of Absecon N.J., director of field operations.

The crash is the deadliest in Minnesota since October 2002, when Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and seven others died after their chartered twin-engine plane crashed in the woods near Eveleth, in Northern Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent agency responsible for investigation of accidents involving aviation, highway, marine, pipelines and railroads in the United States (except aircraft of the armed forces and the intelligence agencies), will be investigating the crash.

The NTSB reported Friday through the Star Tribute that the agency has 14 investigators working on the crash, with assistance from the FBI.

The NTSB reports two other fatal accidents since 1962 at Owatonna airport. A crash in 1992 killed one and injured another and a crash in 2004 killed four people.



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Sony refreshes VAIO brand for business and entertainment

Sony refreshes VAIO brand for business and entertainment

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The “VAIO Experience 2008” Press Conference in Taiwan.
Image: Rico Shen.

From the middle of July, Sony Corporation refreshed their senior laptop brand VAIO from “Video Audio Integrated Operation” to “Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer”. According to Sony Taiwan Limited, this refreshment is an attempt to relocate the laptop consuming market for business and entertainment factors.

In the “VAIO Experience 2008” press conference in Europe, Sony promoted their new product series for different populations including BZ for business, FW for home entertainment, Z for ultra-slim, and SR for complex applications.

Different with past series, Sony added “Clear Bright” screening technology for high-definition display, and “full-carbon production” features. BD-burning and Intel Centrino 2 processing technologies will be featured in all the new models. For security issue, Sony also embedded fingerprint system to prevent personal data to be stolen. Continued from TZ series, innovative designs including “Green Power Button”, “Situational Switch” are also added in newly-launched series.

“Due to consuming market differences, Sony only promoted BZ series in Europe and America but not included Asia. Although the TICA Show in Taipei will be different, functionality will be the greatest issue when a consumers choose a notebook [computer] before buying.” addressed by executives from Sony Taiwan Limited, during the “VAIO Experience 2008” press conference in Taiwan.

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Man decapitated on Greyhound bus in Manitoba

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Man decapitated on Greyhound bus in Manitoba

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canada
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According to a Canadian Press report published Thursday and a CNN report Friday, 40-year-old Vince Weiguang Li of Edmonton, Alberta has been arrested for allegedly stabbing and decapitating a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, Canada on Wednesday night.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has not confirmed a beheading, which witnesses have described to the press, saying only that the suspect allegedly stabbed the victim around 8:30 p.m. CT on a Greyhound bus traveling east on the Trans-Canada Highway about 20 kilometers west of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day described the attack as “horrific” according to Agence France-Presse and “probably one-of-a-kind in Canadian history” according to the Canadian Press.

While the RCMP has not released the victim’s name, the Canadian Press and CNN have reported that the deceased is Tim McLean, 22, who had been traveling from Edmonton to Winnipeg, where he lived. Two witnesses described the attack to CBC News: Garnet Caton, who was sitting in the seat in front of the victim, and Cody Olmstead, who smoked a cigarette with the victim just minutes shortly before the attack.

“He must have stabbed him 50 times or 60 times,” Caton told CBC News.

Olmstead described the attack: “Like, just everywhere, arms, legs, neck, chest, guts, wherever he could swing it, he got it.”

Caton and Olmstead said that the other passengers fled. When the bus driver, a passing trucker and Caton returned to check on the victim, Caton noticed the victim’s head was gone. Caton said that the attacker then chased them off the bus. CBC News reported that the suspect tried to drive the bus away from the scene, but the driver disabled the engine. Witnesses have said that the attacker then paraded the removed head from a bus window.

“While we were watching the door, he calmly walks up to the front with the head in his hand and the knife and just calmly stares at us and drops the head right in front of us,” Caton told the CBC.

“The guy came to the front of the door with buddy’s head in his hands, decapitated. He dropped the head and went back and started cutting the body back up,” Olmstead described to the Canadian Press. RCMP arrested the suspect at about 1:30 a.m. local time after a three-hour standoff. As of about 3:00 p.m. Thursday, the Canadian Press reported that the RCMP has not yet questioned the subject and had laid no charges, though he was due Friday morning in the Provincial Court of Manitoba in Portage la Prairie, according to a statement posted on the RCMP web site.

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh told the Associated Press that 37 passengers were aboard the bus.



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Israeli PM Olmert to step down in September

Israeli PM Olmert to step down in September

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Israel
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Ehud Olmert, the current Prime Minister of Israel, has said that he will resign from his position as leader after his party’s leadership contest in September. This announcement comes after it was revealed that Olmert is facing involvement in a corruption investigation in Israel.

“I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks from self-appointed fighters for justice who sought to depose me from my position, when the ends sanctified all the means,”said Olmert, during the speech in which he announced his resignation.

A file photograph of Ehud Olmert
Image: Antônio Milena/Agência Brasil.

Despite the fact that Olmert’s term in office was originally set to end in 2010, he has announced that he will quit on September 17.

Gordon Johndroe, White House spokesperson, commented on the resignation. “He George W. Bush wishes him well and will continue to work closely with him [Olmert] while he remains prime minister,” he said. He continued by saying that Olmert and Bush “have been exceptionally close and cooperative.”

Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, also reacted to the resignation. “It’s true that Olmert was enthusiastic about the peace process and he spoke about this process with great attention, but it has not achieved any progress or breakthrough,”he said. His comments were in reference to Olmert’s recent efforts to advance the negotiations on achieving peace in the Middle East.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Olmert’s resignation is a “internal affair,” and that “the Palestinian Authority deals with the prime minister of Israel, regardless if he is Olmert or somebody else.”

Olmert has stated that he would work towards peace “as long as I am in my position.” “I continue to believe wholeheartedly that reaching peace, ending terrorism, strengthening security and establishing a different relationship with our neighbors are the most vital goals for the future of the state of Israel,” Olmert said. However, Olmert’s political weakness and the turmoil his resignation has caused may undo any progress in the Palestinian and Syrian peace talks, as well as slowing in other future discussions.


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England\’s historic Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier destroyed by fire

Filed under: Europe,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

England’s historic Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier destroyed by fire

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

United Kingdom
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On Monday morning at approximately 7:00 am BST (UTC+1) fire fighters arrived at the Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier in North Somerset, England, which had caught fire.

No one was injured in the blaze, which destroyed the pier. Firefighters said they believe the fire started in an area containing deep fat fryers. Smoke could be seen as far away as ten miles.

“Indications are that there were some deep fat fryers in the area where we believe the fire first started,” said chief fire officer Kevin Pearson. “We’re fairly clear about where we think the fire first started and obviously our investigations will concentrate on that area.”

The pier ablaze.
Image: Dave Cozens.

A local hotel operator described the fire as an “inferno” and said of the pier: “It is part of our identity and would really affect trade if we were to lose it.”

The owner of the pier bought it in February of this year, but was in Spain on holiday at the time of the fire. “He is absolutely devastated,” said spokeperson Nigel Heath. “He had a huge personal involvement in the project and was totally committed to it.”

The loss of the pier could affect the resort town of Weston-super-Mare. The Grand Pier itself employed around 100 people, but other businesses also depended on it as an attraction.

“I’m absolutely gutted. This is going to affect us massively. I just felt shivers down my spine. There’s nothing left now – Weston’s doomed,” said Nicky Mager who runs a family business of donkey rides and refreshment outlets in the seafront town.

An USAR team is evaluating if anything can be saved from the pier. The remains are not expected to collapse into the sea as they are on steel girders.

“The USAR team are going there to see if there is anything they can do to help secure the pier,” said Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Helen Shrimpton. “I can say that the pier was all locked up when we arrived and we needed bolt croppers and an angle-grinder to get in.” She also said that investigators are keeping an open mind to the possibility of arson.

This is the second time the Grand Pier, first built in 1904, has been destroyed by fire. In 1930 it burnt down, after which it re-opened in 1933.



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Chinese Wikipedia unblocked across China

Chinese Wikipedia unblocked across China

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The logo of the Chinese Wikipedia
Image: Wikimedia Foundation – All Rights reserved.

Wikinews has confirmed that the unblocking of the Chinese Wikipedia in China has probably been extended to cover the whole of China. Ting Chen, who is currently the community elected board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, said at 09:54 (UTC) today on Wikimedia’s foundation-l mailing list that he has “reports from provinces and cities from very different corners of the country, that the users have direct access.”

Ting Chen, community elected board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, announced that the Chinese Wikipedia was unblocked earlier today
Image: Cary Bass.

Wikinews previously reported that the Chinese Wikipedia was unblocked in China, although that unblock did not cover the whole of the country. Wikipedia user Aphaia has also said that Wikipedia can even be accessed in remote districts such as Fujian. She said that “Fujian is rather near to Taiwan so this lifting would be nationwide, I suppose.” Using a Website Testing tool, Wikinews has also confirmed access in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. However, access to controversial pages such as the article on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 was found to remain restricted.

Despite the fact that the ban has been lifted, the Chinese Wikipedia continues to tell readers a way to get around the firewall. At the top of every page there is a message telling users (who are not logged in) to view Wikipedia using the https server to bypass the block.

Some Wikipedia contributors have said that the block may reappear after the Olympic games have finished. Titan Deng, an active Wikimedia who organized Wikimania 2007 said that “the lift of the ban is brought by the Olympic Game[s] which is going to be held next week.” He then said that “the lift[ing of the block] might end after the Olympic Game[s] finishes.”

The International Olympic Committee warned China in April that it wanted the internet freely accessible for the entire duration of the Olympic Summer Games. Unrestricted access is guaranteed to the 30,000 reporters and media staff expected for the Olympics under Beijing’s “host city contract”.


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British hacker may face Guantanamo, 60-year sentence

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British hacker may face Guantanamo, 60-year sentence

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

United Kingdom
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Beleaguered British computer hacker Gary McKinnon has vowed to fight U.S. extradition proceedings through the European Court of Human Rights. This follows on from yesterday’s rejection of an appeal to the U.K’s Law Lords.

American prosecutors who have pursued the case against McKinnon are offering a stark choice for the ex-systems analyst who allegedly broke into 97 US military and NASA computer systems. Some reports describe his UFO-related hacking efforts as, “the biggest military hack in history”; his lawyers have used alarmist language to describe the attitude of American prosecutors pursing him on six indictments, “American officials involved in this case have stated that they want to see him ‘fry’. The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable.” The plea-bargain offer on the table would see McKinnon face four years in jail if he accepts two of the charges. Estimates on how long a sentence he may face if he refuses this and is successfully prosecuted on all six charges go as high as 70 years. For the 1966 Glasgow-born man this is an effective life sentence.

With terrorism being bandied about as a motivation, and allegations that McKinnon deleted files and disrupted the operation of systems he is alleged to have broken into, an additional concern from his lawyers is that under such circumstances he could be detained at the Guantanamo Bay facility. McKinnon describes himself as a “bumbling hacker” who believed he was working in the public interest to expose a U.S. coverup of files and other information on UFOs.



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British doctor killed while on honeymoon

British doctor killed while on honeymoon

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Antigua and Barbuda
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Catherine Mullany, a newly married British woman, and her husband, Ben Mullany, have been shot while on honeymoon in Antigua. Catherine died on the scene, while Ben is in a critical condition in Hospital.

The families of the Mullanys have described themselves as “deeply shocked and devastated.”

The incident occurred at 05:00 Antigua time (09:00 GMT) on Tuesday, and it is being treated by police as a robbery. A police spokesperson described the incident. “Shortly after 5am this morning officers from the Bolans Police station responding to a call, arrived at Cocos Hotel and Restaurant in the Valley Church area, the scene of a murder.” UK police have been asked to help in the inquiry.

Catherine Mullany was a doctor, who, before her death, planned to become a GP. Ben was a physiotherapy student at the University of the West of England (UWE), which is located in Bristol, England. Mary Price, the Media Relations and Internal Communications Manager for UWE, gave Wikinews the following statement:

Cquote1.svg Ben Mullany is a third year physiotherapy student at the University of the West of England. Ben is a very good student who is greatly valued by staff and his peers. Staff and fellow students are deeply shocked to hear of this tragic incident. Our condolences go to his wife’s family and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. Cquote2.svg
 
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See British man dies five days after wife in honeymoon shooting
 



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Zimbabwe central bank to revalue dollar for a second time

Filed under: Disputed — admin @ 5:00 am

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono announced on Wednesday in a much anticipated monetary statement that a new currency will be introduced at a new rate of ten billion old dollars = one new dollar to tackle the effects of exponential hyperinflation.

Many economic analysts have stated that the move will do nothing to combat the root causes of inflation, and that the zeros would quickly return, predicting a worse situation than the 2006 redenomination aftermath (where 3 zeros were removed) due to the higher rate of inflation. Existing bills will not expire until December 31st but the new notes will become legal tender on August 1st.

“The Zimbabwe dollar will be redenominated by a factor of one to 10, which means we are removing 10 zeros from our monetary value. Ten billion dollars today will be reduced to one dollar with effective from August 1,” Gono said in a television broadcast. This means that two types of money will be present for the rest of the year, and businesses have been told to give prices in both the new and old dollars.

Gono also stated that increased production, particularly in agriculture, would be needed in order to curb inflation, and promised US$10 million to fertilizer manufacturers as well as US$3 million to go into industry.


Sources

  • “Is this the biggest check ever?”. this is london, July 31, 2008
  • Sylvia Manika, Patience Rusere “Zimbabwe Central Bank snips 10 zeros in Currency Redonomination”. VOA news, July 30, 2008
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