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July 31, 2011

British police launch computer hacking investigation

British police launch computer hacking investigation

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

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The Metropolitan Police, a British police force based in the capital city of London, has announced its intention to commence a new investigation related to allegations of computer hacking. The force has received numerous allegations of computer and email hacking relating to journalists since January of this year, prompting the launch of the probe, codenamed Operation Tuleta. According to a spokesperson for Scotland Yard, computer hacking allegations have already been brought into account, but now, “some aspects of that operation are being moved towards investigation”.

These allegations occurred during Operation Weeting, which has investigated alleged phone hacking offences. The Metropolitan Police said that the computer hacking claims were not within the remit of the phone hacking allegation probe, so a separate investigation had to be launched. Operation Tuleta consists of a fresh team of detectives, who will provide information to Operation Weeting deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers.

Meanwhile, the legal representatives for Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator for the former British publication News of the World (NotW) have stated that he was proceeding “on the instructions of others”. Sara Payne, the mother of the murdered girl Sarah Payne, was informed that Mulcaire possibly hacked into her phone and gathered her contact information. Payne was said to be “very distressed and upset” by the allegations. Mulcaire was sentenced to prison in January 2007 along with Clive Goodman, the royal editor for the NotW.

The final edition of the NotW was published this July, amid the phone hacking scandal within News Corporation. A public inquiry relating to the affair was launched, triggered by allegations of phone hacking and police corruption.



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July 29, 2011

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Grant Stott, and Bryony Hare opening the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
Street theater for the opening
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening

Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

Press preview

A ‘God of the Sea’ carving from the Cook Islands, on display in the World Cultures Galleries.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged Entrance Hall.
Image: Brian McNeil.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

The bridge joining the Old College to the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

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The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh‘s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

The guided tour

View of the Grand Gallery from the south-east corner.
Image: Brian McNeil.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The Millennium Clock, centred in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton‘s Crystal Palace.

Newly-installed escalator in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

History of the Museum

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University‘s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

The renovation

A GE 950. The oldest colour television in the world, build to a design by pioneer John Logie Baird.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny’ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Captain Cook’s clock, a Shelton regulator, taken on his first voyage to the Pacific to observe the transit of Venus in Tahiti.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

Galleries and exhibits

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged, ground floor.
The first floor, with the Grand Gallery.
Second floor, including the Ancient Egypt gallery.
Top floor, including the Looking East gallery.

A collection of local signs in the Window on the World; not readily accessible, the red tramways sign may be a sore point with some Edinburgh residents.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The World Cultures Galleries

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

A display housing musical instruments from around the world, on show in the Performance & Lives gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

An interactive tonal matrix, constructed by Portugese-Angolan artist Victor Garna.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The Natural World Galleries

A range of sea creatures are suspended in the open space, with giant screens showing them in their natural habitat.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

The head of the cast life-size T-Rex
Life-size replica of T-Rex
A pair of peacocks fighting
A giraffe shown using his long tongue to forage
The elephant that wouldn't leave; this exhibit stayed in a corner through the renovations

At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

A giant centrepiece in the Restless Earth gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

The more familiar, the “Refreshed Galleries”

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Buddha figures sit alongside a gyrocopter in the Window on the World.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

A display of Egyptian shabtis, statues thought to act as servants to the dead in the afterlife.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

The Scottish Galleries

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

The modern extension, housing the Scottish Galleries.
Image: Maccoinnich.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

A replica Carnyx war horn being played at the museum opening.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

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July 28, 2011

Televisión Nacional de Chile acknowledges \’error\’ for using \’hooded delinquent\’ videos in news programme

Filed under: Chile — admin @ 5:00 am

Televisión Nacional de Chile acknowledges ‘error’ for using ‘hooded delinquent’ videos in news programme

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Journalist Amaro Gómez-Pablos presenting a news report on the Chilean student protests, with the ‘hooded delinquent’ video in the background.
Image: Televisión Nacional de Chile.

Leonidas Montes, president of the executive board of Chilean television channel Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN) said on Tuesday in a statement to the Chilean Journalists Association that he acknowledged the channel had “commited an error” when it used videos of ‘hooded delinquents’ (encapuchados) to present reports on the on-going student protests in the country, on TVN’s news programme 24 Horas. The statement was released the day after more than 60 university students attempted to interrupt the broadcasting of 24 Horas; the students accused the “channel of all Chileans” to “not giving enough coverage to the student protests, and for supporting the Government in education-related news.”

Online newspaper Otra Prensa! reported on July 13 that TVN had, at least three times, used videos of a ‘hooded delinquent’ to present reports on the student protests: on June 14, 26; and July 11. The journalists presenting the reports were, chronologically, Amaro Gómez-Pablos, Gonzalo Ramírez, and Consuelo Saavedra. “The picture simply is not part of the news, it isn’t necessary to use ink to note the evident political purpose it’s following,” Otra Prensa!‘s editor Luis Cuello wrote on July 13. The online newspaper also cited the 17th Article of the Code of Ethics of the Chilean Journalists Association: “The graphic material and the headlines should also be concordant with the texts provided, so the reader, viewer or listener isn’t inducted into confusion or deception.”

Logo of Televisión Nacional de Chile.

The online newspaper denounced the use of the videos before the Chilean Journalists Association on July 14; vice-president of the association, Giacomo Marasso, said on Twitter that TVN was “evidently trying to distort information;” while Marcelo Castillo, president of the association told Cambio 21 that “[TVN] is trying to reduce the students protests only to what is doing a group of ‘hooded delinquents’. TVN is the channel of all the Chileans, it just cannot give this kind of messages.” Additionally, that same day, Javiera Montecinos, student of the University of Concepción denounced Televisión Nacional before the Consejo Nacional de Televisión (National Council of Television) for the misuse of images against the student protests; the organization accepted the denouncement.

Mayor of Santiago Pablo Zalaquett in 2009.
Image: Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Aside, Mayor of Santiago, Pablo Zalaquett linked the student protests with the increase of the delinquency in the city. “It is related to the occupations of schools, high schools and universities, and the mass marches,” adding that it was “conflictive” that there were “so many youngsters without classes […] A youngster in the street can be tempted to do whatever thing.”

The Chilean Journalists Association said on Tuesday that the Code of Ethics “explicitly sanctions this kind of manipulation [of the information],” and that members of the association are going to present the case to the Ethics Tribunal of the same organization. “We appreciate the attitude of the board of TVN, but we will pay attention to the fulfillment of basic ethical standards for the exercise of the profession,” Marcelo Castillo said.



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July 26, 2011

Norwegian police lower death toll in massacre

Norwegian police lower death toll in massacre

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Flowers in front of the Oslo Cathedral the day after the attacks.
Image: Bjoertvedt.

Norwegian police have revised their estimate of total deaths in Friday’s attacks on Oslo and Utøya, now reporting that an estimated total of 76 people were killed, rather than the 93 previously reported. Of these, 68 were in Utøya and eight were from the bombing in Oslo. The police have not yet been willing to give a final figure for the death toll.

“This figure could still go up,” said National Police Commissioner Oeystein Maeland. “The search [for bodies] is ongoing.”

Previously significantly higher death tolls had been reported from the shootings on the island of Utøya, but were revised downwards. Maeland explained that the situation on Friday was “chaotic” and that some bodies may have been counted twice as police focused on helping the injured.

Meanwhile the toll from the bombing in the centre of Oslo that took place hours earlier was revised upwards from seven to eight.



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Nguyen Cao Ky, former leader of South Vietnam, dies aged 80

Nguyen Cao Ky, former leader of South Vietnam, dies aged 80

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Ky (left) with U.S President Lyndon Johnson in 1966
Image: White House.

Nguyen Cao Ky, the former Prime Minister of South Vietnam has died at the age of 80 in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia. His death was announced by his nephew who said he died in a hospital while being treated for a respiratory infection. Ky, who was the commander of the South Vietnamese Air Force became the Prime Minister in 1965.

When Ky was born, Vietnam was under French colonial rule. He joined the Communist resistance at the age of 16 but was later sent abroad by the French controlled government to train as a pilot. He never saw any military combat. After the French were defeated and the country was divided in 1954, Ky fled south and joined the South Vietnamese Air Force, backed by the Americans.

In 1965, at the age of 34, Ky became the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. He held the post up until 1967 when he became Vice President under Nguyen Van Thieu. When Communist troops began to attack Saigon, Ky fled to an American Naval ship and moved to the United States in 1975.

While in America, he opened up his own liquor store. After being accused of corruption back in his home country he spoke out saying “If I had stolen millions of dollars I could live like a king in this country, but obviously I don’t live like a king.” He later said in his book, “When a former national leader becomes a storekeeper, it is news.”

In 2004 he returned to the spotlight when, at the offer of the Communist government he became the highest-ranking former South Vietnamese official to return to the country.

Many Vietnamese-born people who fled to America around the same time as Ky have spoke about his death. Political activist Ky Ngo remarked “The overwhelming thought in the community was he was a traitor and most Vietnamese did not trust him. Anyone can go back to the homeland, that’s fine, but when you go and openly support the communist movement and criticize the former South Vietnam’s government, you lose respect.”

Van Tran, a member of the California legislature, said “From a political standpoint, he represented parts of the Vietnam War at its height. With his passing, that era goes with him as well. Many leaders of the South Vietnamese government have passed on, and it’s basically the wheel of time turning — that page of history is turning to another generation.”



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July 25, 2011

Six dead in shooting at Texas roller skating rink

Filed under: Archived,Crime and law,North America,Texas,United States — admin @ 5:00 am

Six dead in shooting at Texas roller skating rink

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Monday, July 25, 2011

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Grand Prairie is a suburb of Dallas
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Six people have died after a shooting at a roller skating rink in Grand Prairie, Texas. The shooting happened at a children’s birthday party on Saturday at around 7:10pm after a domestic dispute. The gunman is among the dead after a self inflicted gunshot. Four other people were injured in the shooting.

John Brimmer, a spokesman for the Grand Prairie Police Department said “This was a domestic situation that went south in a hurry. The shooting lasted only seconds.”

The entire rink had been rented out by a family for a private party. All of the dead were either teenagers or adults attending the celebration.

Brimmer added at the end of his statement, “Thankfully we don’t have things like this happen with any kind of regularity. We are a community of give or take 160,000 people and it’s a great city and for something like this to happen is just horrible.”



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July 24, 2011

US to host North Korean diplomat for nuclear talks

US to host North Korean diplomat for nuclear talks

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that a North Korean diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, is to travel to the US to discuss the possibility of resuming international discussion of North Korea’s nuclear program.

Clinton said that the visit will take place “later this week,” while South Korean news agency Yonhap said that it will occur on Thursday. The announcement comes after diplomats from both North and South Korea held unexpected talks on Friday at a regional security conference in Indonesia.

According to Clinton, the planned talks will include officials from various branches of the US government, and will discuss the “next steps necessary to resume denuclearisation negotiations through the six-party talks,” which include the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia. In addition to the nuclear talks, Yonhap said that US food aid to North Korea will also be discussed.

In a statement, Clinton said that she wants any talks to make meaningful progress. “We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table […] We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take. And we have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun said on Sunday that the two Koreas are at “the crossroads of detente and the vicious cycle of escalating tension” and that they must “make the best use of [the] opportunity of dialogue and make a bold decision to settle the fundamental issue.”



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Train accident in China kills at least 43

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

Train accident in China kills at least 43

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Map showing location of Wenzhou

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Two high-speed bullet trains crashed close to Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province of eastern China on Saturday. At least 43 passengers were found dead and over 200 are injured, according to the China state-run news agency Xinhua, with 12 in critical condition.

The collision occurred on a bridge after one train was struck by lightning, forcing it to stop, and was subsequently struck by a second train around 2030 local time (1230 UTC). The trains involved were the D3115 service from Hangzhou to Fuzhou, the train that was stopped at the time of the collision, and the D301 service from Beijing to Fuzhou.

As a result of the collision, two cars from the first train fell off the bridge, as well as four cars from the second train. One of the cars landed on its side, and another ended up lying vertically against the bridge. According to CCTV, a state-run broadcaster, upwards of 1,400 people were on the two trains: more than 900 on the stopped train and more than 500 on the second one.

One passenger, Liu Hongtao, is reported as saying: “The train suddenly shook violently, casting luggage all around. Passengers cried for help but no crew responded.”

The government have said they will be launching an “urgent overhaul” of rail safety following the crash, the first derailment since the introduction of 155 miles per hour high-speed rail service in China four years ago, and three railway officials were also fired by the ministry of railways, which said the officials may be investigated.

On Sunday, rescuers found a small child unconscious in the wreckage, about 21 hours after the crash, who was sent to a hospital. According to a rescue worker, the child, four years old, “could still move his hands” when he was located.




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Protests over housing costs sweep across Israel

Protests over housing costs sweep across Israel

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A ‘tent city’ protest in Tel Aviv.
Image: Itzuvit.

Placards and banners at the Tel Aviv tent city.
Image: Itzuvit.

Israelis have been gathering across the country to protest against the rising costs of housing, with “tent cities” being erected in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Haifa, and Kiryat Shemona. On Saturday night tens of thousands marched from the encampment on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, which has been a focal point for the protestors, to the Tel Aviv Museum.

Rents in Tel Aviv are said to have risen by over 60 percent in four years. Buying costs have soared too, with estate agent Eli Melloul stating that the average price for an Israeli apartment has now reached 1 million shekels ($295,000). The demonstrators are urging the government to intervene and help reduce prices. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged swift action, including streamlining planning and building regulations, and constructing 6,000 housing units. However none of these units are set for Tel Aviv. Some are calling for him to resign over the issue, and several members of the Knesset also joined Saturday’s march.

The protests have largely been composed of young people and students, organised using social media such as Facebook. They follow a recent Facebook campaign to boycott cottage cheese (a staple food in Israel), which succeeded in driving down prices. Elderly people have also begun to join the movement to show their solidarity.

Daphni Leef, credited with starting the protest movement, addressed the crowd at Tel Aviv Museum. “Under these conditions we will soon have no dreams”, she said. “There is no time to dream when you’re constantly looking to cover your rent. There’s no time to dream when you’re constantly looking to cover a mortgage.”

She also blamed Netanyahu personally in her speech: “You, Bibi, with your wild policy and your irresponsibility, you pushed us into a nadir. You, Mr. Netanyahu, caused us – the Facebook generation – to head to the streets and protest.”



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Norway gunman defends actions as \’gruesome but necessary\’

Norway gunman defends actions as ‘gruesome but necessary’

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

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Breivik’s Facebook profile picture.
Image: Anders Behring Breivik.

Further details on the motives of the man behind the attacks that killed over 92 people in Utøya and Oslo, Norway have been released. Geir Lippestad, the lawyer for the arrested gunman Anders Behring Breivik, said that Breivik considered his actions necessary:

“He thought it was gruesome having to commit these acts, but in his head they were necessary.” Lippestad also noted that Breivik had planned the attacks “for some while” before pursuing them.

These statements may confirm reports that the act had an extremist political motive. Documents and videos circulating on the Internet indicated that Breivik was politically opposed to multiculturalism and what he describes as “cultural Marxists”.

Breivik has been charged with terrorism and is due to appear in court on Monday.



 
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See Norwegian police lower death toll in massacre, July 26, 2011
 

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