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November 18, 2009

Russia may delay launch of \”Angara\” rocket due to funding cuts

Russia may delay launch of “Angara” rocket due to funding cuts

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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Russian space officials have said that the launch of the new Angara carrier rocket might be delayed for about a year due to lack of funds. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, made the announcement today.

“There is a serious delay in the construction of launch facilities [for Angara] due to the shortage of financing from the Defense Ministry. The problem is that this is not in our control, we are doing everything that we can on our part,” Perminov said. He noted that the ministry didn’t completely cut the budget, but lowered it substantially.

Launch facilities for the rocket were initially to be made ready by 2010, with the launch scheduled for the year after that. Perminov commented that the rocket itself was being constructed on schedule.

The Angara rocket, which is being constructed by the Khrunichev center, is intended to transport heavy loads of up to 24.5 metric tons into orbit, but with a low level of impact on the environment. They will be used for both military and civilian purposes, and are to be used in joint space station projects and for launching satellites into orbit.



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Illinois tollway worker jailed for stealing fines

Illinois tollway worker jailed for stealing fines

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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A former employee of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority was sentenced on Monday to one year in prison for stealing fines from the agency.

Thirty-four-year-old Uganda T. Harris from Bellwood was accused of embezzling over $36,000 from the tollway authority in a period of six months. She pleaded guilty to the charges in June. She is to report to the DuPage County jail on November 30 to begin a one-year work-release program that only allows her out to work 40 hours per week. She will also serve four years of probation and will be required to pay the agency $1,000 for insurance coverage in addition to the more than $36,000 she allegedly stole.

Harris had worked as a customer service representative since June 2007. An audit by the tollway authority’s inspector general’s office revealed that she incorrectly classified the fines she collected as coming from I-PASS users, who pay lesser fines, and pocketed the cash. The Illinois State Police later caught Harris with $1,100 in marked $20-bills they used to pay a phony fine during an undercover investigation. She claimed that she did this only rarely and to help those people in desperate need of relief from what she saw as high tollway fines.



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European Union to train Somali security forces

Filed under: Archived,European Union,Piracy,Somalia — admin @ 5:00 am

European Union to train Somali security forces

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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The European Union said on Tuesday that it plans to train hundreds of Somali security forces and possibly expand its anti-piracy mission off Somalia’s coast, in an effort to bring stability to the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

The agreement to train Somali forces was reached during a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Brussels, Belgium. The details of the plan remain sketchy, but the idea is to train the Somalis in Uganda in close collaboration with the Ugandan government – a main supplier of African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

At a press conference on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said up to 2,000 Somali security forces had requested special training to fight against a growing armed insurgency in Somalia.

“How much we’re going to do [train] and how much it’s going to be [must be discussed] with the forces of the African Union and Uganda in particular is something to be discussed. and the same thing goes with the duration,” he said. “Then what is the speed of the distribution of tasks between Ugandan trainers and our trainers. But it will not be a big operation in the sense it will not require trainers in the thousands. It will probably be in the hundreds, not the thousands.”

EU officials remarked that they do not believe the Somali operation will dilute separate efforts to build up a European police training mission in Afghanistan.

The EU also plans to extend its own anti-piracy mission off Somalia’s shores into 2010. Solana said that the 27-member bloc is also considering broadening the operation to target Somali ports and so-called “mother ships” that provide support to the pirates.

“Now some ideas have been placed on the table on making some focalization of the ports in which we know the pirates operate and something with the mother ships, which are really deep into the sea, where […] some pirates get their help from there,” he noted. “This is going to analyzed by the military authorities and by us to see if something can be done.”

Somali pirates have attacked hundreds of vessels in recent years, and are now expanding their terrain. On Tuesday, an EU naval force reported that Somali pirates had captured a chemical tanker with a North Korean crew off the Seychelles Islands. Separately, Spain announced Somali pirates had release a trawler after holding a crew of 36 hostage for more than six weeks.



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Czechs and Slovaks celebrate twenty years since Velvet Revolution

Filed under: Archived,Czech Republic,Europe,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Czechs and Slovaks celebrate twenty years since Velvet Revolution

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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Velvet Revolution with protesters in Wenceslas Square in November 1989
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Czechs and Slovaks yesterday celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of the so-called “Velvet Revolution”, which brought down the then Czechoslovakian Communist regime, with thousands re-enacting the demonstration that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and elections in Poland and Hungary.

David Gaydecka, one of the organisers, was thirteen when he went with his father to participate in the demonstration. “I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I could sense something in the air. I knew this was something important,” he said. “The Wall had come down in Berlin, they were holding elections in Poland and Hungary. Everyone knew that it would come here too, but nobody knew how to do it. It was embarrassing for the Czechs; we were almost the last ones.”

Former dissident and playright Václav Havel, who went on to become President of Czechoslovakia (and first president of the Czech Republic) joined 5,000 students, past and present, who retraced the march. Originally officials had sanctioned the march, but groups splintered away in an attempt to reach Wenceslas Square. The Communist leaders ordered riot police to seal off streets, leading to beatings and two hundred people injured.

This was to prove the government’s downfall with anger throughout the country motivating opposition and the old regime broke down shortly afterwards. “The atmosphere that day was terrible, like a war,” Michael Kocáb, Czech Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, who played a major role in the transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy. “I was just a few yards away when I saw the police beating people. It was the first time that the police did not leave an escape route for us. By then we were used to clashes but somehow we felt that day that it would be an important moment that would lead to change and have an impact on the regime.”

Havel, along with current Czech President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Jan Fischer and hundreds of participants laid flowers and lit candles at a memorial in memory of the violent clashes. “The march set history into motion,” said Havel.



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  • “Thousands to celebrate twenty years since fall of Berlin Wall” — Wikinews, November 9, 2009

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British army bomb disposal expert killed in Afghanistan

Filed under: Afghanistan,Archived,Obituaries,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

British army bomb disposal expert killed in Afghanistan

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A British soldier has been killed in a bomb explosion in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday. The soldier, who came from Braintree, in the English county of Essex, has been named as 28-year-old Corporal Loran Owen Christopher Marlton-Thomas. He was an army bomb disposal expert who was from 33 Engineer Regiment. He had joined the British Army in 1998.

Loren was clearing explosive devices in the Gerishk District of the Helmand Province in the country on Sunday when a bomb explosion seriously injured him. He died on Monday. With the death of this soldier, the total number of military personnel that have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 has increased to 234. Nicola, the wife of the bomb disposal expert, said: “Loren was Army-barmy right back to being a Cadet. He did the job he loved and paid the ultimate price for his friends, comrades and country. We are proud to say we knew and loved him. A true hero in our eyes — you may be gone but you will never ever be forgotten.” She married the soldier, who was nicknamed “Loz”, in June 2008.

Loren’s mother also spoke of her grief. “I’m devastated. I just can’t take in what has happened. All his photos are around the house and I don’t want to think that I won’t see him again,” she commented. “Loren was due home at the end of this month for two weeks and we were planning an early Christmas before he went back. He was coming out of Afghanistan for good in March.”

Not long before his death, the soldier himself spoke to BBC News about his occupation. “Each time we go out, we see a broad spectrum of devices, so it can be from the rudimentary devices all the way to quite well put together component parts,” said Loren. “For the lads who are doing the searching, the colour has drained from their faces quite a few times. For myself, I’m a little further back but still I’m worrying about the guys on the ground so for me it is nerve-wracking as well.”

Lieutenant Colonel David Southall is the Commanding Office of 33 Engineer Regiment. He spoke of Loren: “[He] was a man of great courage and commitment, a gifted Junior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) who was truly passionate about his profession. He revelled in his Search Team Commander role, with skills honed on operations in both Northern Ireland and Iraq. ‘Loz’ was one of life’s optimists who always led from the front; whatever the challenge, you would always find him right in the thick of it. His role, in leading teams to find Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), was undeniably amongst the toughest in Helmand province. Despite this, Loz was one of the most irrepressible and positive Junior Commanders I have met. With a smile on his face, his natural charm, confidence and soldiering skill meant men followed him instinctively. Loz made the ultimate sacrifice whilst striving to rid Afghanistan of IEDs and make the country a safer place for both our troops and the Afghan people. Our thoughts are with his wife, Nicola, and family; we share their grief. Loz will not be forgotten.”



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