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July 31, 2010

US President Barack Obama test drives Chevy Volt in Michigan

US President Barack Obama test drives Chevy Volt in Michigan

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

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President Barack Obama, with Assembly Manager Teri Quigley, gets behind the wheel of a new Chevy Volt during his tour of the General Motors Auto Plant in Hamtramck, Mich., July 30, 2010.
Image: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

United States President Barack Obama test drove a Chevrolet Volt Friday during a visit to a plant in Michigan. The visit was part of a larger trip to the Detroit area to discuss the progress of Obama’s bailout of the auto industry earlier in his administration.

As the president toured the factory, managers invited him to test drive the Volt, which will soon be manufactured there. After consulting reluctant top aides and Secret Service personnel, Obama accepted. “I hope it has an air bag,” said press secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama hopped into the car with assembly manager Teri Quigley, buckled his seat belt, and crept forward about ten feet (three meters). As he got out he remarked that the ride was “pretty smooth”.

Obama visited the Detroit area to defend his controversial decision to invest US$50 billion in the failing auto industry last year. “It’s estimated we would have lost another million jobs had we not stepped in,” said Obama. Instead, job growth totaled 50,000 workers this year, the largest since 1999. Obama warns, though, that recovery is not yet complete.

This was the second time Obama drove a car since early 2007, when as a presidential candidate he requested Secret Service protection. The first was a Dodge Charger, which he drove a few months ago at a Secret Service training facility.



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Deadly flooding in Pakistan kills hundreds

Deadly flooding in Pakistan kills hundreds

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Pakistan
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The worst flooding in 80 years in Pakistan has left at least 800 people dead, and affected over a million more. The floods were caused by heavy monsoon rains and have destroyed homes in the country, especially in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department said that twelve inches of rain fell over a 36 hour period. Sohail Rahman, reporting for Al Jazeera from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, said that Islamabad experienced a “deluge of water” flowing south from Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. He went on to say that “floods have really affected the infrastructure in and around the province. The people in the affected areas were quite critical in the first 24 hours, saying that the authorities were not doing enough.”

Rescue operations have been hampered by the weather; while seventeen helicopters are operating, with more to come, they cannot operate in all areas due to the weather, and just 48 boats are available for use by rescue crews.

Earlier this week, bad weather shrouded Islamabad when a passenger plane crashed, killing all 152 on board.


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  • “Plane crash in Pakistani capital kills 152” — Wikinews, July 28, 2010

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Bus crash kills six, injures Iraqi minister in Jordan

Bus crash kills six, injures Iraqi minister in Jordan

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

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On Thursday evening, a bus crash in Jordan killed two British women and four Iraqis and injured 28 people, including the Iraqi minister of science and technology Raed Fahmy.

Officials say the bus was returning from the Dead Sea to the Jordanian capital of Amman, when it overturned on a steep turn near the Dead Sea. The two women killed were employees of the United Nations Development Program.

Police say four Iraqis, including Fahmy, remain hospitalized. Fahmy, who is said to have broken his shoulder, is being treated at the King Hussein Medical Center in Amman.

The British Embassy in Amman refused to give any more details about the crash or its victims.



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After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill still threatens Gulf coast

After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill still threatens Gulf coast

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Deepwater Horizon disaster
Other stories about the Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 24 April 2011: U.S. Coast Guard investigation finds ‘poor safety culture’ contributed to Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • 16 April 2011: Experts raise serious questions over safety of U.S. oil industry and warn another spill may be ‘unavoidable’
  • 30 March 2011: BP lose laptop containing sensitive claimant data
  • 21 October 2010: Scientist demands end to US ‘addiction to oil’
  • 20 September 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say
NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

Several workers wash a pelican caught in the spill
Image: International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Development Driller II digs a relief well in order to permanently close the leaking well.
Image: Barry Bena/US Coast Guard.

Wednesday marked the 100th day since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and although the leaking well was recently capped, the estimated three million or more barrels of oil already in the Gulf of Mexico are still causing trouble for many residents of the Gulf coast.

There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of the spill, including how it has affected the environment and natural habitats of the Gulf as well as whether residents of the area will be able to return to their jobs and livelihoods now that the leak has been capped. US government officials say that, even after the oil well is permanently sealed, workers will still have a lot to do, including the removal of around 20 million feet (6.1 million metres) of containment boom. “I would characterize this as the first 100 days. There’s a lot of work in front of us,” said Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the US Coast Guard.

Authorities will use submarines to assess damage underwater, while teams on the ground assess the shoreline. While removing oil from beaches is expected to be fairly straightforward, cleaning the marshlands will be particularly difficult, as boats are needed to maneuver through small channels and workers are unable to stand on solid ground. At least 638 miles (1,027 kilometres) of the Gulf coast have been hit by the oil.

The government is focusing on both cleaning sensitive coastal regions and looking for underwater oil plumes, but is also probing into what may have been the largest accidental oil spill. The US Justice Department, as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, are all investigating what contributed to the disaster. The Washington Post reported one team is looking into whether a close relationship between BP and government regulators played a role in the spill. The Post also said that Deepwater Horizon operator Transocean as well as oil services group Halliburton were being investigated.

BP officials say that they will try to perform the “static kill” process on Monday, a process which involves pumping a thick mixture of mud and cement down into the cap currently stopping the leak. At the end of next week, one of two relief wells currently being drilled should reach the leaking well, and officials will then know if the static kill has worked. It is hoped that this “bottom kill” operation will be able to permanently seal the damaged well.

Even though BP is close to sealing the oil reservoir, it still faces legal battles, economic struggles, and internal changes. On Tuesday, BP announced Tony Hayward would step down from his position as the company’s chief executive. His replacement, American Bob Dudley, will be the first non-British CEO of the company.

On Thursday, lawyers met at Boise, Idaho hearing to determine how around 200 various lawsuits against BP will play out. Depending on whether the suits can be consolidated, BP could be facing years of legal disputes. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton had already blamed each other for the disaster during a May hearing before the US Senate. Federal regulatory officials were criticized for allegedly taking bribes and not thoroughly inspecting the oil rig.

The company also reported a quarterly loss of US$16.9 billion and said it has allocated US$32.2 billion to pay for the spill. BP has a US$20 billion fund to help make up for the massive losses of the Gulf fishing, oil, and tourism industries and will pay damages for each of the millions of barrels of oil lost in the disaster.

BP says that it is the “responsible party” for cleaning up the spill because it owned the leaking well and had leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, but claims that it is not responsible for the entire spill.



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Afghans riot after civilians die in crash

Filed under: Afghanistan,Archived — admin @ 5:00 am

Afghans riot after civilians die in crash

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Afghanistan
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Riots were ignited in Afghanistan yesterday, after a crash involving a U.S. sports utility vehicle claimed the lives of several Afghan civilians.

Details surrounding the crash, in Kabul, are still unclear, although Afghanis who saw the crash blame U.S. forces for the incident. “The civilian vehicle was trying to get into the main road when the two foreign vehicles hit it and killed all four occupants,” said one bystander, “People gathered around the crash site to see what happened, got angry and started attacking the foreigners.” Some witnesses say a person was killed when U.S. contractors opened fire on a gathering crowd, but the U.S. embassy denies this charge.

Police fired shots in the air to disperse rioters who chanted “death to America” and “death to Karzai”. Security forces say that the incident could provoke widespread riots, as happened after a similar incident in May 2006 sparked riots in Kabul.



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‘Black box’ found near crash site of Airblue flight

Filed under: Aviation,Islamabad,Pakistan — admin @ 5:00 am

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Depsite the nickname, black boxes are usually painted orange to aid in their recovery after a crash.
Image: Olli-Jukka Paloneva.

Investigators have found the black box of an Airblue flight that crashed into the Margalla Hills of ‘s capital city on Wednesday. The flight data recorder was also recovered earlier today. Airblue Flight 202 departed from Karachi, Pakistan, and was bound for the capital when it crashed into the Margalla Hills due to bad weather conditions. All 152 people aboard, including the 6 crewmembers, were killed.

Junaid Amin, the head of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, told CNN that “The plane’s voice and the flight data recorders have been found at the crash site and the analysis of the data and completing the crash investigation could take several months.” He further said that “The items will be sent to Germany or France since Pakistan doesn’t have facilities to perform the analyses.”

The black box records communication data and technical information such as speed and altitude, as well as conversations in the airplane cockpit. It could thus help investigators determine why the plane crashed.

The aircraft involved, photographed a month before the crash
Image: Richard Vandervord.

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July 30, 2010

Up to 140 feared dead as boat sinks in DR Congo

Up to 140 feared dead as boat sinks in DR Congo

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
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Kasai river from above
Image: NASA.
Bandundu province is in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Image: Morwen / Wikipedia.

Friday, July 30, 2010

As many as 140 people are feared dead after a boat sank on the Kasai River, a tributary of the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The central African country, of equivalent size to western Europe, has very poor road infrastructure, meaning that many people travel on boats, which are often overloaded. The boat involved in the accident was travelling to the capital city, Kinshasa, from the town of Mushie. The accident occurred in the province of Bandundu, approximately 30 km (20 miles) from the provincial capital, where officials reportedly held a crisis meeting to deal with the incident.

The boat is believed to have been overweight, carrying at least 180 passengers as well as goods. It is the dry season in the Congo, so the river is shallow. The sinking was reportedly the result of hitting a mud bank, causing the vessel to capsize.

Lambert Mende, the Congolese information minister, said in a statement that at least 80 people had been confirmed dead while 76 were thought to have survived. However, the local police later announced a provisional death toll of 138, and possibly more.

Safety standards are poor in the Democratic Republic, with overcrowding common on boats, which often do not carry lifejackets and are forced to navigate poorly marked waterways, meaning that fatal accidents are not uncommon in the country.


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Medical helicopter crashes in Tucson, Arizona, kills all on board

Medical helicopter crashes in Tucson, Arizona, kills all on board

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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Eurocopter AS350B3 is an aircraft type commonly used for medical evacuation (file photo)
Image: Benjamint444 / Wikimedia Commons.

A medical helicopter crashed into a fence just outside a house in Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday afternoon, killing all three crew members on board. The crash occurred at 1:42 p.m. Arizona time (21:42 UTC) at the intersection of Glenn Street and Park Avenue. Eyewitness Ricardo Carrasco said that he saw the rotors stop working and the helicopter start plummeting towards the ground, with the pilot attempting to steer it away from the house.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the helicopter was a Eurocopter AS350B3 flown in the LifeNet Arizona fleet. It was operated by the Colorado-based Air Methods Corporation, which specializes in flying emergency medical helicopters.

“This is a sad day for all of us at Air Methods and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of our employees who perished while on duty,” Air Methods Corporation CEO Aaron Todd said after the crash.

Two other fatal aviation accidents were reported in the United States on Wednesday. In Alaska, a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport plane crashed while preparing for an air show, killing all four crew members. Earlier, Delaware, Ohio city councilman and airport commissioner James Moore died when his rented light plane crashed and caught fire close to the city’s airport.



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July deadliest month for US in Afghanistan War

Filed under: Afghanistan,Archived — admin @ 5:00 am

July deadliest month for US in Afghanistan War

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Friday, July 30, 2010

American casualties in the Afghanistan War have hit a new high this month. Civilian casualties have also risen.
Image: Brian Ybarbo.

Three US troops died in two separate blasts yesterday, and three more died today, increasing the American death toll in Afghanistan for July to 66, and making this month the deadliest month for American involvement in the nine-year war.

A NATO statement released on Friday stated that three troops had been killed by two blasts, and US officials said those killed were Americans. Another NATO statement released today confirmed the deaths of three more troops.

Though this month has been deadliest for the US, June was the most deadly month for NATO as a whole, with 104 troops, including 60 Americans, killed. In this month, 86 troops have been killed, including the 66 aforementioned Americans. The death totals for Taliban fighters and Afghan civilians have been harder to count, although in recent months, civilian casualties have been on the rise.

As US President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 extra reinforcements to beat back a rising Taliban, casualties have increased as well, as US and NATO commanders had warned. There are currently over 150,000 NATO and US troops in the Asian country. However, President Obama has promised to begin withdrawing troops in about a year’s time.



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French woman admits to killing her eight infants

Filed under: Archived,Crime and law,Europe,France — admin @ 5:00 am

French woman admits to killing her eight infants

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Friday, July 30, 2010

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Cottrez’s Facebook profile photo

French prosecutors confirmed on Thursday that nursing assistant Dominique Cottrez killed her eight newborn infants and buried their remains. Prosecutors called the case “non-standard… given the large number of newborns.”

According to prosecutors, Cottrez, in her 40s, is heavy-set and she was able to hide her eight pregnancies. Cottrez did not want to visit a doctor for contraceptives nor did she want more children.

Cottrez admitted to strangling eight infants and hiding the remains in garbage bags. The killings occurred over a time span of several years, from 1989 to 2006 or 2007. Prosecutors charged her with “deliberate homicides of minors under the age of 15,” which could cause Cottrez to serve a life sentence in prison.

New homeowners of the Cottrez’s former house discovered bags with the remains of two infants. Investigators discovered an additional six children in the Cottrez’s house in Villers-au-Tertre.

Cottrez’s husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, was unaware of the killings.



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