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March 31, 2011

US President Obama considering supplying arms to Libyan rebels

US President Obama considering supplying arms to Libyan rebels

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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United States President Barack Obama revealed Tuesday that he is considering supplying arms to Libyan rebels, among other things. Obama was quoted as saying, “if we [USA] wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could.”

During an interview with NBC News, Obama disclosed he is, “not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in. We’re still making an assessment partly about what Gaddafi’s forces are going to be doing.” Obama also informed that he would be willing to negotiate a deal with Gaddafi; however, one clause would involve Gadaffi resigning from the leadership post.

Obama does not believe it is time for formal negotiations yet as he does not think Gaddafi has reached the point where he needs a quick way out.

Also mentioned in the interview was the strategy being used in Libya. “What we’ve also done is put Gaddafi back on his heels — at this point. In addition to maintaining a no-fly zone, protecting civilian populations, we also have political tools, diplomatic tools, sanctions, freezing his assets, all of which continue to tighten the noose.”

Obama reiterated that same view on ABC News saying in an interview, “I think what we’re seeing is that the circle around Gaddafi understands that the noose is tightening, that their days are probably numbered, and they are going to have to think through what their next steps are.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with CBS News, Obama said of the rebels leaders that U.S. officials have met with are “[F]ully vetted, so we have a clear sense of who they are, and so far they’re saying the right things, and most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors, people who appear to be credible.”

This comes after the NATO supreme commander, Admiral James G. Stavridis said there were “flickers” of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah in Libya. In response, Obama said on CBS, “[T]hat doesn’t mean that all the people, among all the people who opposed Qaddafi, there might not be elements that are unfriendly to the United States and our interests. That’s why I think it’s important for us not to jump in with both feet.”

As for the rebels themselves, Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the rebels told the New York Times, “We ask for political support more than arms, but if we have both, that would be good.”



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Scotland\’s oldest detainee facing attempted murder charges

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

Scotland’s oldest detainee facing attempted murder charges

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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A man thought to be the oldest person ever held in custody in Scotland is facing charges of attempted murder. Sylvester ‘Eddie’ Nowak, 98, is imprisoned in hospital for psychiatric evaluation after a court appearence; it is alleged he used a knife and axe to attack two police officers.

Nowak had been alone in his home in Scone, Perthshire on Tuesday after leaving hospital on Monday. A carer became alarmed for his well-being and summoned police. Tayside Police said in a statement two officers attended “which would be deemed appropriate. This incident happened upon their arrival and then a number of further officers attended at the scene to assist.”

It is claimed Nowak attacked WPC Shona Beattie, 42, with a knife and WPC Katie Deas, 23, with both an axe and a knife. Beattie was wounded in the arm and hospitalised after an ambulance trip, and underwent surgery on Wednesday. Deas was uninjured.

Polish World War Two veteran Nowak has extreme hearing difficulty, his initial court appearance before Perth Sheriff Court delayed to move the case to a second courtroom with equipment catering for hearing aids. Two more hours of delay followed when Nowak remained unable to hear and Wednesday’s hearing ultimately took place in the original room. He was helped by guards from security firm Reliance as he walked.

Nowak is an ex-prisoner of the Nazis but escaped to Italy before settling in the UK. Previously living in Dundee, he has lived in his Scone home since the 1960s. He has no relatives in Scotland. 81-year-old friend and neighbour Jim Grant paints a picture of a highly independant individual.

“Eddie keeps himself to himself… He never wanted any help and turned down all offers from the social services. He never answered the door or his phone to anyone, carers included. I had a secret knock on his window which is how he knew to let me in.” Grant says all Nowak’s family live in Poland.

Following the private court appearance, Sheriff Peter Hammond sent Nowak to the Murray Royal, a mental hospital, for assessment. The order lasts 28 days, and Nowak is anticipated to be back in court later.



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Libyan foreign minister defects to the UK

Libyan foreign minister defects to the UK

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Libyan foreign minister Mussa Kussa has fled to the United Kingdom and has announced that he is no longer willing to work for Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

A spokesman for the UK government said Kussa “arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will.” He added: “Moussa Kussa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi’s government and his role was to represent the regime internationally—something that he is no longer willing to do. We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.”

Kussa is the highest ranking government official of Libya to defect as of late, and is a blow to Gaddaffi, as his government in recent weeks has been trying to crush rebellions that have sprung-up after a series of protests and revolutions occurred throughout the Middle East, demanding their leaders step down from power.

Before the defection, it was reported government forces have recently taken back the port-town of Ras Lanuf and the nearby town of Bin Jawad.

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Japanese nuclear officials race to avoid disaster as radiation levels in sea rocket

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 5:00 am

Japanese nuclear officials race to avoid disaster as radiation levels in sea rocket

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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Radiation levels have rocketed in the sea near the Fukushima I nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, as government officials admitted on Wednesday they are fighting a constant battle to halt the growing nuclear crisis which began after the which struck the country earlier this month. The news comes after the chief executive of plant operator Tepco, Masataka Shimizu, was hospitalized with exhaustion on Tuesday.

Levels of Iodine-131 off the coast of the plant were recorded to be almost 3,400 times the legal limit, the Japanese nuclear safety authority, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa), said. The levels of radiation are the highest recorded since the crisis began. Officials are now struggling to find how radiation is leaking from the plant, and have prohibited fishing in the area. A spokesperson for Nisa insisted there was no immediate threat to humans from the leakage into the sea. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent [the levels of radiation] from rising,” he said.

The situation at the nuclear plant is considered dire after the Japanese government accepted an offer of assistance from the United States and France. An experienced nuclear engineer has warned the reactor core at No. 2 reactor at the plant may have melted. Workers at the plant are battling to cool the reactors and stop further radiation leakage.

If the crisis continues to escalate, the Japanese economy could sustain serious damage as fisherman are banned from working in the area of contaminated water. “The worst-case scenario is that this drags on not one month or two months or six months, but for two years, or indefinitely,” an analyst, based in Tokyo, said. “Japan will be bypassed. That is the real nightmare scenario.” A spokesperson for the Japanese government warned officials “are not yet in a situation” to say when the race to avert the crisis from escalating will end.

Masataka Shimizu, the chief executive of Tepco, was transported to hospital with dizziness and hypertension as criticism of the company continues to build. Last week, three workers stepped into contaminated cooling water as they tried to replace cables at one of the reactors of the plant and two were hospitalized. The workers have now been released from the hospital.

Tepco has apologized to those affected by the nuclear emergency in a statement released March 18. “We sincerely apologize to all the people living in the surrounding area of the power station and people in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as to the people of society for causing such great concern and nuisance,” the company said in the statement. The sale of numerous vegetables grown near the plant has been banned by authorities after they tested positive for radiation. Officials have also warned parents not to give tap water to infants after it emerged that it may have become contaminated. A large area around the plant has been evacuated.



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India\’s population increases by 181 million in ten years

India’s population increases by 181 million in ten years

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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India’s 2011 census reports that its population has increased by 181 million in the span of one decade, a figure 17.6 percent greater than 2001. The census results, publicised today, show the population of India now stands at 1.21 billion. C. Chandramauli, the commissioner of the census, said India’s population represents “over 17 percent of the world population, [while] India is 2.4 percent of the world’s surface area.”

According to BBC News Online, the current population of the country is in excess of the populations of Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil and the United States put together. While India’s population has increased by more than 17 percent since the 2001 census, this growth rate is the lowest since India achieved independence in 1947. Between 1991 and 2011, the population growth rate has steadily decreased. Approximately 25 percent of Indians over the age of seven were found to be illiterate in the 2011 census, a decrease of 10 percent from the census held ten years ago. The increase in literate females is greater than that of males, the new census reports.

The findings have suggested a preference of male over female children. For every one thousand boys below the age of seven, there were 914 girls, a decrease from the 2001 census, which reported 927 female for every one thousand male children. Chandramauli called this discovery “a matter of grave concern. This is the lowest ever in the demographic history of the country,” he said, and noted “[t]he last census in 2001 had warned us about this, the tendency has worsened.” This pattern continues although the Indian government has prohibited hospitals from disclosing the gender of an unborn child.

According to The Washington Post, parents in much of India abort female fetuses and murder young female children for financial reasons. Incidents like this occur more frequently in the better educated and the richer Indian states, including Punjab and Gujarat. G.K. Pillai, the home secretary, has claimed that “[w]hatever policy measures we have been following in the last 40 years will need a complete review now. They have not been effective”.

There are now 940 female adults for every one thousand men, in contrast to 2001, when there were 933 women per thousand males. However, in the capital, Delhi, only 866 females were counted for every one thousand males.

Throughout the states of India, the population growth rate varies significantly. This results in an inequality in the allocation of funds and is a problem, experts say. According to Management Institute of Population and Development consultant Devendra Kothari: “Our federal government sends funds to the states according to their population. This means that the states that have worked harder to reduce their population growth get less money from New Delhi”. Kothari continued: “The states with lesser population send fewer members to the Indian parliament. Their financial and political clout will go down.”

Over the course of the approaching year, concluding census figures will be publicised, according to officials.



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Ed to wed: UK Labour leader Miliband announces engagement to Justine Thornton

Ed to wed: UK Labour leader Miliband announces engagement to Justine Thornton

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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Ed Miliband in 2010.

Ed Miliband — the current leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom — and Justine Thornton, his long-term partner, have announced that they are now engaged to each other. They are anticipated to marry in Nottingham, England on May 27.

The couple, who have been in a relationship for five years, currently have two children — Daniel, aged twenty-one months, and Samuel, who was born in November 2010. Until now, they had been “too busy” to perform the act of marriage, due to various occurrences; according to The Daily Telegraph, this includes Ed’s work in the 2010 UK general election, the birth of their son Daniel, and Ed’s appearance at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

41-year-old Miliband proposed to 40-year-old Thornton at Primrose Hill, a short distance from their residence in the northern area of London, in 2010. Marion Miliband, the mother of Ed, was the first individual to be notified of this news. David Miliband, his brother and a fellow UK politician, was “the person I told after my mother”, Ed stated; he “is delighted for me and he will obviously be there”.

According to Miliband, of all the guests at the wedding, “family and close friends” will be amongst the approximately fifty individuals receiving invitations to “something that has been on our minds for some time”, describing the upcoming day as “fun”. He has stated there will be no best man present at the ceremony, contrary to speculation that the role would be given to David. After the wedding, Ed and Justine are intending to have a honeymoon in a secret location.

“This is going to be a fantastic day for us both and I feel incredibly privileged to be marrying someone so beautiful and who is such a special person,” Ed commented, speaking to English newspaper the Doncaster Free Press. Miliband continued by explaining that “[i]t’s the right time for us to do this and I’m really looking forward to a lovely day. We’re going to have a party in Doncaster when we get back from honeymoon — which will be in an undisclosed location” and that “[a]t the end of the day we’re in our 40s and we’ve got two kids — so it wasn’t a case of me suddenly popping the question. This is just something we think is right for us.”

Justine Thornton, Ed’s fianceé noted: “Ed wasn’t even an MP when I met him and at the end of the day I am marrying him because of who he is and not because of what he’s doing now. We’re planning on a small ceremony, all at the hotel with everything at the same place and we’re looking forward to it very much.”

Miliband was asked if he thought it was important to be married in case he becomes the next prime minister. He replied: “I think people are pretty relaxed about this. I don’t think people care one way or the other about what other people do in their lives as long as they show responsibility to each other.”



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British haulage managing director Edward Stobart dies at age 56

British haulage managing director Edward Stobart dies at age 56

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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Edward Stobart, famed for his construction of the Eddie Stobart truck empire and being its chief executive officer for over thirty years, has died at the age of 56. In a statement, the Stobart Group commented: “It is with great sadness and regret that Stobart Group shares the news that Edward Stobart, son of Eddie Stobart, passed away at 8:10 AM this morning at University Hospital Coventry, after heart problems yesterday.”

When Eddie Stobart — Edward’s father, who is aged over eighty — created the company during the 1950s in Cumbria in northern England, it originally involved itself in the business of agriculture. In the 1970s, the business was given the name Eddie Stobart Limited and became a haulage service. Eddie Stobart then handed over the company to his son. The enterprise subsequently became the most popular of that industry within the United Kingdom, according to BBC News Online; it extended to include transportation by air and railways, as well as warehousing and management of logistics.

Due to the cult following that they had achieved via a fanbase of ‘Stobart spotters’, which involves the observation of their company’s uniquely named vehicles, the Stobart Group decided to create an official followers’ group, which now has in excess of twenty-five thousand members. Eddie Stobart-branded merchandise has also been released.

William Stobert — the brother of Edward Stobart — and Andrew Tinkler purchased the business from Edward in 2004. Edward subsequently relocated to the Midlands and took over what was to become an unsuccessful truck trailer building firm in 2009.

Edward Stobart experienced his death in Coventry, England at 0810 BST (0710 UTC) on Thursday. The Stobart Group have expressed their condolences to “Edward’s wife Mandy, his children and family at this difficult time.”

Haulage firm Preston’s of Potto’s chairwoman Ann Preston described Edward as “the most iconic figure that has ever been in this industry” and that the death of a man who “was very passionate about road transport” and “didn’t want to do anything else” since he was a child was “a massive loss”. The Stobart Members’ Club have stated: “The club’s members will certainly have fond memories of the man who started the phenomenon off, created the iconic Eddie Stobart brand and made it cool to spot lorries. Stobart Spotting will continue and the legacy of Edward Stobart will live on.”



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All change for Nottingham, England trams as new operator announced

All change for Nottingham, England trams as new operator announced

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two of Nottingham’s trams are pictured at the Wilkinson Street tram stop, home of the network’s depot.
Image: Thryduulf, Wikimedia Commons.

In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, it emerged on Monday that Arrow Light Rail — the existing operators of Nottingham, England’s Express Transit (NET) system — were to have their contract ripped up, after the preferred bidder for the construction of Phase 2 was announced. The change means that the entire network will be able to be integrated throughout, rather than having two operators effectively running two separate systems.

Nottingham City Council have selected Tramlink Nottingham as their preferred bidder to construct and operate the NET Phase Two lines to Chilwell and Clifton, and will now enter talks with the consortium, made up of Alstom, Keolis, Trent Barton, VINCI Construction UK, OFI Infravia and Meridiam Infrastructure, to finalise the exact details of the contract. It is expected that the concessionary contract will be awarded during the coming summer, with construction starting before the end of the year. The contract will run for 23 years.

Cquote1.svg We received two very strong bids but Tramlink Nottingham has come out on top. We look forward to working with them to develop their proposals before awarding the full contract. Cquote2.svg

—Jane Todd, chief executive for Nottingham City Council

Tramlink Nottingham chairman Roger Harrison said: “Building on Arrow’s successful legacy, we are excited to be taking forward the next chapter in Nottingham’s tram story.

“Our focus now will be on working with Nottingham City Council to ensure NET Phase Two can be introduced at the earliest opportunity.”

The reshuffle of operating consortium means that Nottingham City Transport (NCT) — the main provider of bus services within Nottingham — will have no part to play in the extended network, despite the numerous awards and high satisfaction levels NET has had since its opening; it is the only one of Britain’s five light rail networks to be an instant success.

“We’re obviously very disappointed not to be part of the selected preferred consortium. Nottingham’s tram has won numerous awards and after seven years passengers continue to praise its operation. We would have relished the opportunity to have been part of this continuing success,” said NCT’s Managing Director Mark Fowles.

But the council stresses that they are still committed to the future of the company.

“This decision in no way reflects the excellent job Arrow Light Rail Limited has done operating the tram since its launch. Annual customer satisfaction figures remain very high and this is testament to this operation,” added Jane Todd. “The decision to appoint a new consortium to build and operate the extended tram network was made on the basis of selecting the best proposal to meet the council’s objectives for the future of the tram system. The overall offer from the Tramlink Nottingham consortium was stronger. Although disappointing for NCT it is nonetheless good news for the integration of public transport services that the city’s other major bus operator, Trent Barton, is part of the preferred bidder. I am certain NCT will continue to provide award winning bus services for the people of Nottingham.”

22 Citadis trams, similar to those in Paris, will be seen in Nottingham as part of the Phase Two plans.
Image: Greenski, Wikimedia Commons.

Staff currently employed by Arrow Light Rail are expected to be transferred over to Tramlink Nottingham around August, when further details of the contract will become clear. Other changes that are proposed for the network include ‘smart card’ ticketing — similar to the highly successful Oyster scheme that is in use across Transport for London‘s service — and the phasing out of tram conductors in favour of on-platform ticketing machines. Current conductors will be offered new roles within the company, though talks are still on-going about how to combat any potential fare-dodgers.

Furthermore, an additional 22 tram vehicles will be built by consortium member Alstom for the extended network, though these will be of a different design to the 15 existing vehicles, which were built by Bombardier to their Incentro design for the system’s opening. The new trams will be part of Alstom’s Citadis family, and will bring the total tram fleet to 37. This will also allow for service frequencies to be increased and for overcrowding to be eased at peak times.

Ticketing arrangements for the network will also change when the new consortium takes over. Currently, combined tickets, cards and passes can be used for the tram and NCT buses, but these are due to be phased out and replaced with the new smart cards in time for the opening of the extensions. Prior to that, passengers will be able to use combined tickets, cards and passes for the tram and Trent Barton buses, in a similar arrangement to that which is already offered for NCT.

Pat Armstrong, director for NET, said: “The move is very much towards more sophisticated smart ticketing, like the Oyster card in London. You use the same card but the money goes back to the company you are travelling with.”

The extended network, new trams and numerous other changes should be fully operational by the end of 2014, but NET users and tramway enthusiasts had mixed views on the matter:

“I think it’s a bad idea to phase out the conductors,” said Andrew Blood, assistant editor of the Tramways Monthly e-magazine, “Not only do they help with revenue protection, but they are also responsible for the high passenger satisfaction levels on the system. In short, they keep tram users feeling safe.”

Greg Smith, from Hucknall, was pleased that service levels were going to increase: “The fact that the trams will be running more frequently is a massive bonus in my eyes. The service we get at [the Hucknall] end of the line is great already, but if [the trams] are running more frequently it’s just another advantage of the system over the bus.” But he was also wary of on-platform ticketing being brought into place: “I’m not sure that losing the conductors in favour of ticket machines is the way to go, though.”



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  • “Nottingham Express Transit extensions get Government approval” — Wikinews, March 28, 2011

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March 30, 2011

Gaddafi loyalists go on offensive, rebels pushed back

Gaddafi loyalists go on offensive, rebels pushed back

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Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Image: U.S. Navy.

Libya
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Troops loyal to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi launched an offensive Tuesday and managed to push rebel forces out of the town of Bin Jawad. This comes as world powers met the same day to discuss the future of the country.

Rebels disclosed that their troops in Bin Jawad came under heavy artillery and rocket fire, after which they made a hasty retreat. Rebels who were still in the open desert sought cover and fired at Gaddafi troops as they appeared. One rebel warrior said that the shelling was too much for them to handle, A rebel fighter, Ashraf Mohammed, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “[t]he Gaddafi guys hit us with Grads [rockets] and they came round our flanks.”

Rebel forces retreated to the city of Ras Lanuf, which they had captured days before on Sunday, where they recuperated. However, they were not completely safe there as they came under heavy gunfire at the western fringe of town and had to defend themselves with any weapons that they could find.

Civilians also retreated from the war zone. One man criticized rebel troops, telling them to “[g]et yourselves up there and stop posing for pictures.”

Today’s battle marked a shift of momentum in favour of government troops; earlier this week rebels held the advantage over pro-Gaddafi forces as they made their westward march with little to no resistance.



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Forces loyal to Ouattara plan to seal Ivory Coast border

Forces loyal to Ouattara plan to seal Ivory Coast border

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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After a battle for the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue, armed forces loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara have announced an effort to seal the border between the Ivory Coast and Liberia.

On Monday, Ouattara forces, dubbed New Forces, and those loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who claims to be the winner of a disputed election last fall, began fighting in Duekoue, a western town of strategic importance due to its position at a crossroads, with access to both Liberia and Guinea.

According to a spokesperson for Ouattara, Seydou Ouattara, the New Forces won the battle, the latest in a series of settlements they have taken control of in recent weeks, and have moved south towards the town of Guiglo.

The New Forces also announced they plan to seal the Ivory Coast—Liberia border, as Gbagbo is accused of importing Liberians to fight in his forces. Spokesperson Ouattara said that “[t]oday’s operation will prevent Gbagbo from recruiting and training Liberians as he has been doing.”

According to the United Nations, around 460 people have died in violence since the disputed elections, and another million have left the country.



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