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June 30, 2010

US airlines eke out US$12 million profit in first quarter

US airlines eke out US$12 million profit in first quarter

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

U.S airlines as a whole posted a US$12 million profit in the first quarter of 2010 as “ancillary” services propped them up.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

US airlines in the first quarter of 2010 managed to eke out a US$12 million profit, mostly from “ancillary” services like checked baggage fees, pet transportation fees and more.

Compared to the first quarter of 2009, checked baggage fees soared 33% to $769 million. The airlines also reaped $554 million in reservation change fees, and made $534 million from other ancillary sources; such services (including checked baggage fees, reservation change fees, etc.) made up 21.7% of Spirit Airlines’ income, the highest in the industry.

The US airline industry is made up of 21 carriers, according to the U.S Department of Transportation.

The five “network” or legacy carriers—including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways—continue to struggle and posted a $163 million loss as a group. Delta Air Lines had the highest profit, at $107 million, while American Airlines was at the other side of the carriers, with a $322 million loss.

Low-cost carriers fared better, posting a $115 million profit as a group, with Southwest Airlines having the largest profit, at $54 million, while Allegiant Air’s profit margins were the highest of the budget carriers at 20%. Regional airlines made a $60 million profit.

The world’s airlines expect a US$2.5 billion profit as a whole, despite an earlier forcast of a loss. However, many investors and groups, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are somewhat doubtful of this number, as oil prices are expected to remain volatile, leading to the possibility of high prices cutting into airlines’ profits.



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Explosion at University of Missouri-Columbia leaves four injured

Explosion at University of Missouri-Columbia leaves four injured

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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A pile of debris sits outside Schweitzer Hall as cleanup crews went through the building.

Workers began replacing the building’s windows on Tuesday.

An explosion at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) on Monday afternoon left four people injured, authorities say.

The explosion occurred in a science laboratory in Schweitzer Hall around 2:20 p.m. CDT (1920 UTC) Monday. The source of the explosion was first thought to have been a 2,000-pound (907.2-kilogramme) hydrogen tank, but fire officials later said that this was not the case. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Columbia Fire Department.

The Columbia Fire Department arrived at Schweitzer Hall after a report of a structure fire, but found that most of the fire had already been extinguished by the building’s fire sprinkler system. The remaining flames were put out by firefighters, one of whom said it looked as if “a bomb went off in the lab”.

Of the four hurt in the blast, one was a research scientist, one a graduate student, and the other two postdoctoral fellows. Three were treated for mild injuries and released from University Hospital, while the fourth was in good condition after being taken to the hospital’s burn unit for life-threatening injuries. A school spokesperson said that the university was not allowed to release the names of the victims.

Authorities initially believed that a large container of hydrogen gas had exploded, but investigators later said that the tank was intact. Fire officials also retracted an earlier statement that said the incident had been a result of human error. In a Monday night news release, the fire department said that lab workers had turned on the hydrogen but did not recognize warning signs indicating a dangerously high level of hydrogen gas in the lab, so they left the gas supply running. The report said the explosion occurred after the gas reached a source of ignition. However, the department said Tuesday that the investigation into the explosion is still ongoing and that they were not certain human error was the cause.

The investigation should determine the cost of repairs for the building, as well as whether the school should implement new procedures to avoid similar incidents in the future. The lab where the explosion took place will be totally rebuilt.

Schweitzer Hall houses Mizzou’s biochemistry department, which is part of the medical and agricultural programs. The building’s single classroom is located in the basement and was not in use at the time. The explosion happened on a third-story lab assigned to Judy Wall, a university professor, who was in her office across from the lab during the incident and referred inquiries to the news bureau. Other labs in the building were not disturbed, and Schweitzer Hall was established to be structurally sound, although nearly twenty windows had been shattered from the blast. The building reopened Tuesday for researchers to continue working.



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Braidwood Inquiry finds Dziekanski tasering in British Columbia unjustified

Braidwood Inquiry finds Dziekanski tasering in British Columbia unjustified

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crime and law
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Five deployments of the taser and the physical struggle with the four Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers contributed substantially to the death of Robert Dziekanski is the chief finding of the inquiry led by retired British Columbia Appeal Court Justice Thomas R. Braidwood.

Speaking at a June 18 media conference following the release of the report on the second phase of the inquiry into the events at Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007 Mr. Braidwood concluded “that the constable was not justified in deploying the weapon, and that neither that constable nor the corporal honestly perceived that Mr. Dziekanski was intending to attack any of the officers. I also concluded that the two other constables, during their testimony before me, offered patently unbelievable after-the-fact rationalizations of their police notes and their statements to the [RCMP Integrated Homicide Investigation Team] investigators.”

RCMP Commissioner William J.S. Elliott responded to Mr.Braidwood’s report in a press release saying “The RCMP acknowledges that its handling of this incident failed at many levels and we agree that events that took place at the Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007, should have unfolded differently. It is clear that our policies and training in place at the time were deficient. We acknowledge that the actions of our members who dealt with Mr. Dziekanski also fell short, including the fact that our officers did not take enough time to try to de-escalate the situation and did not provide an appropriate level of care to Mr. Dziekanski.”

30% This tragic case is, at its heart, the story of shameful conduct by a few officers. It ought not to reflect unfairly on the many thousands of RCMP and other police officers who have, through years of public service, protected our communities and earned a well-deserved reputation in doing so. 30%

—The Honourable Thomas Braidwood, QC

The mandate of the Braidwood commissions of inquiry, launched by the government of British Columbia (BC) in February 2008, included reporting on and making recommendations about the appropriate use of conducted energy weapons. Sworn evidence was received from 91 witnesses over 61 days. The second phase was “to provide the Dziekanski family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances of Mr. Robert Dziekanski’s death and to make recommendations the Commissioner considers necessary and appropriate” as per the commission’s web site.

The government of BC has already moved to “severely [restrict] the use of Tasers by all police, sheriff’s and corrections officers, and developing standardized police training for Taser use, crisis intervention, and responding to emotionally disturbed people” according to a June 18, 2010 press release. The province also plans to create “a new civilian-led unit to investigate all independent municipal police- and RCMP-related deaths and serious incidents” within the next 12 months.

Mr. Braidwood criticised the Canada Border Services Agency whose changes in response to the incident were “minor and few” but had high praise for Vancouver International Airport’s “exceptional steps in the aftermath of Mr. Dziekanski’s death to identify inadequacies in its policies, practices, and procedures, and to remedy them.”



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  • “Video of man tasered at Vancouver airport released” — Wikinews, November 15, 2007

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Explosion at Mizzou leaves four injured

Filed under: Disasters and accidents — admin @ 5:00 am

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A pile of debris sits outside Schweitzer Hall as cleanup crews went through the building.

Workers began replacing the building’s windows on Tuesday.

An explosion at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) on Monday afternoon left four people injured, authorities say.

The explosion occurred in a science laboratory in Schweitzer Hall around 2:20 p.m. CDT (1920 UTC) Monday. The source of the explosion was first thought to have been a 2,000-pound (907.2-kilogramme) hydrogen tank, but fire officials later said that this was not the case. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by the Columbia Fire Department.

The Columbia Fire Department arrived at Schweitzer Hall after a report of a structure fire, but found that most of the fire had already been extinguished by the building’s fire sprinkler system. The remaining flames were put out by firefighters, one of whom said it looked as if “a bomb went off in the lab.”

Of the four hurt in the blast, one was a research scientist, one a graduate student, and the other two postdoctoral fellows. Three were treated for mild injuries and released from University Hospital, while the fourth was in good condition after being taken to the hospital’s burn unit for life-threatening injuries. A school spokesperson said that the university was not allowed to release the names of the victims.

Authorities initially believed that a large container of hydrogen gas had exploded, but investigators later said that the tank was intact. Fire officials also retracted an earlier statement that said the incident had been a result of human error. In a Monday night news release, the fire department said that lab workers had turned on the hydrogen but did not recognize warning signs indicating a dangerously high level of hydrogen gas in the lab, so they left the gas supply running. The report said the explosion occurred after the gas reached a source of ignition. However, the department said Tuesday that the investigation into the explosion is still ongoing and that they were not certain human error was the cause.

The investigation should determine the cost of repairs for the building, as well as whether the school should implement new procedures to avoid similar incidents in the future. The lab where the explosion took place will be totally rebuilt.

Schweitzer Hall houses Mizzou’s biochemistry department, which part of the medical and agricultural programs. The building’s single classroom is located in the basement and was not in use at the time. The explosion happened on a third-story lab assigned to Judy Wall, a university professor, who was in her office across from the lab during the incident and referred inquiries to the news bureau. Other labs in the building were not disturbed, and Schweitzer Hall was established to be structurally sound, although nearly twenty windows had been shattered from the blast. The building reopened Tuesday for researchers to continue working.



Sources

  • Janese Silvey “Cause of MU blast unknown” – Columbia Daily Tribune, June 29, 2010
  • Missourian Staff “Four injured in lab explosion at MU” – Columbia Missourian, June 29, 2010
  • “Mizzou explosion victims recovering, building reopens” – KSDK, June 29, 2010
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June 29, 2010

Wikimedia Foundation addresses controversial content conflict

Wikimedia Foundation addresses controversial content conflict

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Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Executive Director (pictured in 2007)
Image: Paula Wilson.

The Wikimedia Foundation has taken action in response to last month’s image controversy on their Commons project, requesting Executive Director Sue Gardner to examine the issue, and communicating with the wider community about their concerns.

Ms Gardner has hired fellow journalist and former broadcasting executive Robert Harris to carry out this study. Ms Gardner and Mr Harris worked together for seventeen years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In early May Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales deleted scores of images which were targeted as possible pornography, despite community resistance to the campaign. Wales eventually surrendered his rights to delete files, but the controversy over the perceived censorship caused many long-term contributors to rethink their involvement – some have curtailed the time they invest in the site while others have left the project entirely.

Commons Administrator Adam Cuerden expressed his frustration over the deletions when he spoke to Wikinews last month. “He [Wales] basically lied to us from the start. First, by acting as if this was for legal reasons. Second, by pretending he was listening to us, right up to his art deletion.” The community irritation led to current efforts to draft a policy regarding sexual content for the site which hosts millions of openly-licensed media.

The Foundation’s response is a measured one, according to Foundation Board of Trustees member Jan-Bart de Vreede. “The board thinks that this is an important issue,” he told Wikinews yesterday, “we realise that there are many point of view on this. The one thing we don’t want to do is draw hasty conclusions. We have therefore asked Sue to do more research into the matter. Our aim would be to get a complete picture of all the aspects and then see if we need next steps. If there are to be next steps, we will take these together with the community.”



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US Senator Robert Byrd dies at age 92

US Senator Robert Byrd dies at age 92 – Wikinews, the free news source

US Senator Robert Byrd dies at age 92

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving member of the United States Congress died yesterday at the age of 92.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia (1917-2010)
Image: United States Senate.

A spokesman for the Democratic Senator from the state of West Virginia said Byrd had been hospitalized since last week. At first he was thought to have been suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration but other medical conditions developed. On Sunday, his condition was described as “serious”.

Byrd was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952 and to the U.S. Senate in 1958. He suffered from ill health in recent years but retained his reputation for securing millions in federal funding for his home state.

Throughout his career in the U.S Senate he held positions including Senate Majority Whip, Majority Leader twice and Minority Leader once. Due to his status as the longest serving Senator, Byrd was serving as President pro tempore of the United States Senate, which made him third in line in the Presidential line of succession. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has been sworn in as the new President pro tempore.

Byrd served nine terms in the Senate and was labeled by critics as the “King of Pork”. He used his former chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee to steer over one billion dollars in federal aid to West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country, described by him as, “one of the rock bottomest [sic] of states”.

Byrd took the title to heart and had no apologies about it, saying, “Pork, to the critic, is service to the people who enjoy some of the good things in life, and I’ve been happy to bring to West Virginia the projects to which they refer. I have no apology for it.”

Byrd was originally born as Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. on November 20, 1917. He grew up in the coal mining regions of southern West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, who adopted him following the death of his mother in the 1918 flu pandemic. He was the valedictorian of his high school class, but could not afford college and did not attend university courses until his 30s and 40s.

The Senator had a fondness for history, and included excerpts of poetry, Shakespeare, Greek and Roman classics along with verses from the Bible in his Senate speeches. He considered himself a staunch defender of United States Constitution, and carried a copy of it in his pocket. Byrd was versed in parliamentary procedure using some of the Senate’s arcane rules to his advantage. He received awards from the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians for significant contributions to history.

Byrd had his share of controversy. He was at one time a member of the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the top officer of his local chapter and once held racial segregationist views. Byrd was involved in the filibuster against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he voted against. Byrd later explicitly and repeatedly denounced his former segregationist views.

Byrd is the only Senator to have voted against the nominations of African-American Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Marshall’s successor following his retirement, Clarence Thomas. Byrd’s opposition of Thomas was based on the testimony of Anita Hill who accused Thomas of sexually harassing her and due to the fact that Byrd felt Thomas was “injecting racism” into the debate by using the phrase “high-tech lynching of uppity blacks” in his defense against the allegations.

Byrd, who supported the Vietnam War, was one of the most outspoken critics of the War in Iraq. He voted against the Iraq War Resolution. Byrd spoke on the eve the invasion saying, “Today I weep for my country. […] No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination.”



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Jimmie Johnson wins 2010 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR race in New Hampshire

Filed under: NASCAR,Sports — admin @ 5:00 am

Jimmie Johnson wins 2010 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR race in New Hampshire

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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File photo of Jimmie Johnson.
Image: Kim Phillips.

Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson won his second consecutive race of the season on Sunday during the 2010 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was his fifth victory in the 2010 season of the US’s leading professional stock car series, drawing him level with Denny Hamlin for the most wins. The victory earned Johnson 190 points (including a 5 point bonus), moving him closer to point leader Kevin Harvick, but he is still 105 points behind in second position.

With eight laps remaining, Kurt Busch, who was running second, bumped Johnson to become the leader, but Johnson returned the favor a couple laps later to the lead the final two laps. Johnson said, “Kurt knocked me out of the way. At that point, I thought, I don’t care if I win or finish. I’m going to run into him one way or the other … I tried once and moved him. (I thought) I’ve got to hit him harder. The second time I did and moved him out of the way.” Tony Stewart finished in the second position, ahead of Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon in third and fourth. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano and A. J. Allmendinger rounded out the top ten positions. The race had total of four cautions and sixteen lead changes among nine different drivers. Kasey Kahne led the most laps by leading 110.

Cquote1.svg “I’m not good at doing that stuff. Usually, I crash myself in the process. So I tried it once and moved him … The second time, I moved him out of the way and got by him.” Cquote2.svg

—Jimmie Johnson speaking about bumping Kurt Busch.

In the point standings, Harvick and Johnson remained in the first and second position. Kyle Busch, because of his accident with Jeff Burton maintained the third position while his team mate Hamlin is fourth. Gordon, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Burton followed in the top-eight points positions. Stewart move up one position after finishing second and is in the ninth position, as Greg Biffle fell to tenth. Mark Martin and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-twelve, and is currently in the Chase.

Official Top-10 Race Results for the 2010 Lenox Industrial Tools 301
Position Car Number Driver
1 48 Jimmie Johnson
2 14 Tony Stewart
3 2 Kurt Busch
4 24 Jeff Gordon
5 29 Kevin Harvick
6 39 Ryan Newman
7 33 Clint Bowyer
8 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
9 33 Joey Logano
10 43 A. J. Allmendinger

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Eleven alleged Russian spies arrested in US

Eleven alleged Russian spies arrested in US

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US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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The United States announced the arrest of eleven people accused of acting as spies for Russia, breaking up what the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) called a “long term, deep cover” spy ring within the US.

Those arrested were, according to the US government, members of a spy ring that had existed for several years, involving Russian agents adopting civilian identities. All are charged with acting as unlawful agents for Russia, which carries a sentence of a prison term up to five years. Nine were charged with money laundering, a crime that carries a prison term of up to twenty years.

According to the US government, the suspects had been trained by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service to obtain information about US military policies, including those concerned with nuclear weapons, as well as intelligence about leadership at the CIA and the White House.

The FBI said that to obtain those objectives, the suspects were instructed to live as American citizens under false names, some as married couples. Some suspects were able to achieve ties with prominent US citizens, including a scientist working with nuclear weapons and a New York financier who had ties to officials within the US government.

Communication with Russian authorities was allegedly via several disparate methods, including unique wireless internet connections or pictures posted on the Internet with hidden messages, as well as more traditional methods such as burying messages or swapping bags between agents.

The Russian Foreign Ministry told the AFP that they are investigating the allegations, but say that “there are a lot of contradictions.” No further comment has been made.

Names of those accused

Names in quotes are cover names, while those not in quotes are real names of the alleged agents. Couples are on the same bullet, while those living alone are separate. Locations are where the suspects were arrested.

  • “Richard and Cynthia Murphy” (Montclair, New Jersey)
  • Vicky Paleaz (Yonkers, New York)
  • “Juan Lazaro” (Yonkers, New York)
  • Anna Chapman (Manhattan, New York City)
  • Mikhail Zemenko (Arlington, Virginia)
  • “Michael Zottoli” and “Patricia Mills” (Arlington, Virginia)
  • “Donald Howard Heathfield” and “Tracy Lee Ann Foley” (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • “Christopher R. Metsos” (Larnaca, Cyprus)

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 27.



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Czech train derails, at least one dead

Czech train derails, at least one dead – Wikinews, the free news source

Czech train derails, at least one dead

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Local news websites published pictures of badly damaged City Elefant double deck cars similar to this vehicle
Image: ŠJů (Czech Wikipedia).

According to media reports, at least one person was killed and several more were injured when a train derailed in the Czech Republic yesterday. The incident occurred near Ústí nad Labem in the north of the country.

Ústí is an industrial city in the Elbe river valley
Image: User:Miaow Miaow (Wikimedia Commons).

As a result of the crash, the train was seriously damaged. At least six people were injured with wounds of varying seriousness, all of which were hospitalised; conflicting media reports, however, suggested that the number of hurt passengers was substantially more. According to Czech media, the dead man was the train’s driver.

According to the press-secretary of the local fire department, the train went off the rails a few hundred metres from the station.

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the train derailed when crossing a railroad switch 58 km/h faster than authorized. The safe speed limit is 120 km/h when the switch, also known as a turnout or a set of points, is set to a straight path, and 50 km/h when the switch is set to divert the train to another track. In this case, the switch was set to divert, but the train’s speed is reported to have been 108 km/h.

The accident happened on one of the most important railroads in the country, which is double-tracked, electrified and used daily by long-distance international trains. Therefore it is checked often, and investigators consider track failure to be improbable. Investigators have ruled out signal malfunction. Media reports suggest two possible reasons for the derailment: driver’s error or brake malfunction.

Train operations on the line from Ústí nad Labem to the capital Prague had to be cancelled as a result of the crash.



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Australian Prime Minister announces new cabinet

Filed under: Australia,Julia Gillard,Kevin Rudd,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Australian Prime Minister announces new cabinet

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Australia
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Julia Gillard (pictured in 2005) keeps most federal ministers in their posts
Image: Adam Carr (Wikipedia).

Australia’s first woman prime minister (PM), Julia Gillard, has announced the cabinet she’ll be taking to the federal election, with no mention of former PM Kevin Rudd.

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) voted Mr Rudd out of parliamentary leadership in a special caucus election last week. “The new leader elected unopposed is Julia Gillard and the deputy will be Wayne Swan,” Senator Michael Forshaw told media after the caucus.

The key differences between Ms Gillard’s and Mr Rudd’s cabinet are Simon Crean becoming Minister of Education, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion, replacing Gillard; and Stephen Smith adding Minister for Trade, replacing Crean, to his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In a statement Mr Rudd said, “[u]ltimately, decisions on Cabinet appointments are a matter for the Prime Minister” and he is respectful of her decision. Ms Gillard said, however, that she would be happy to include Mr Rudd as a senior cabinet minister after the election.

The next election is constitutionally due in early 2011 but Ms Gillard has indicated that it will be held this year.



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