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August 31, 2013

Hawaiian Airlines announces iPad mini in-flight service

Hawaiian Airlines announces iPad mini in-flight service

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

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An iPad mini.
Image: Chris Kelly.
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A Boeing 767-300 of Hawaii Airlines in 2003.
Image: Aero Icarus.

On Thursday Hawaiian Airlines announced all their Boeing 767-300 aircraft would be fitted with iPad mini tablets made by Apple for in-flight entertainment from September 1. The new gadget would be served on 14 routes connecting Hawaii with mainland USA, Asia, and the South Pacific.

Passengers in business class would be able to use the tablet for free while economy class passengers would need to pay $15 when purchasing the service before boarding (or $17 if purchased during the flight). The airline offered such price with the help of Bluebox Avionics, a company specializing in in-flight services.

The airline has purchased 1,500 iPad minis to replace old in-flight entertainment devices. Each tablet would have at least 100 hours of new Hollywood movies.

The new service was planned to be introduced on flights connecting Honolulu with Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Seattle, Phoenix, Fukuoka, Sendai, Seoul, Brisbane, Papeete, and Pago Pago; and Kahului with San Jose, Oakland, and Seattle.

The carrier becomes the first US airline to offer iPads as an in-flight service. In 2010 Jetstar, a subsidiary of Qantas, became the first airline in the world to introduce such a service in a test pilot on two services from Melbourne. During the next few years Iceland Express, airBaltic, and British Airways joined in. In March Qantas began offering iPads on flights connecting Honolulu and Sydney.



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August 30, 2013

UK beer, soft drinks delivery drivers vote to strike

Filed under: Labor — admin @ 5:00 am

UK beer, soft drinks delivery drivers vote to strike

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Friday, August 30, 2013

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Workers including drivers for Kuehne and Nagel Drinks Logistics (KNDL) have voted in favour of striking. KNDL, which delivers beer and soft drinks to about 30,000 locations in the UK, was in talks with Unite yesterday to try and resolve the dispute.

Trailers belonging to the firm, from file.
Image: G®iffen.

The vote is a response to a proposed restructuring in which a number of operations currently performed at the firm’s 29 distribution centres would be relocated to three new ‘super-hubs’. Although no distribution centre closures are currently planned, the union says workers fear future job losses, and are also concerned products will spend more time on the road, spoiling the taste of beer.

A Unite official said “We have tried to engage with the company but they have repeatedly failed to resolve this dispute.” A KDNL spokeswoman said “We are committed to continuing dialogue with Unite in order to reach a resolution before any action is taken.” She also pointed out Unite is yet to decide dates for the strike; Unite has described “one final chance” to resolve the dispute.

A Unite ballot of 970 KNDL employees produced a turnout of 64% of which 85% voted to strike. The distribution centres involved are mostly in England, but sites in Aberdeen, Dundee, Bathgate, and Inverness in Scotland and Swansea in Wales are also affected.

KNDL delivers high-profile brands including Britvic soft drinks and and Heineken, Kronenbourg, and Fosters beer. Customers include chains Weatherspoons, Enterprise Inns, and Trust Inns, and airports, cinemas, and leisure centres. Even Premier League football clubs are among KNDL’s delivery rounds.


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UK House of Commons vote against Syria intervention

Filed under: Archived,Politics and conflicts,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

UK House of Commons vote against Syria intervention

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Friday, August 30, 2013

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The United Kingdom House of Commons voted 272–285 last night against proposed possible military action against Syria following claims the Assad regime used chemical weapons against civilians. The government motion was defeated by opposition from the Labour Party, as well as rebel MPs from both the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties.

David Cameron argued the recent events in Syria were a “humanitarian catastrophe, and if there are no consequences for it, there is nothing to stop Assad and other dictators from using these weapons again and again”. The motion rejected by the Commons said the House “agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action”, and such action would be “legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons”.

Thirty Conservative MPs and nine Liberal Democrats voted against their party against military intervention. Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the proposal to go to war was an “ill-thought through action”, it lacked international support, and Cameron had acted in a “cavalier and reckless” manner.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg said the sole intention of the government’s motion was to “relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring and disrupting the further use of chemical weapons. Nothing more, nothing less. Not invasion. Not regime change… President Obama’s intentions are highly limited and so are ours.”

The former foreign secretary and Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind said during the debate: “The Assad regime in Damascus are watching very carefully as to whether they will get away with what they have done.”

Opposition came also from Britain’s smaller parties: Caroline Lucas from the Green Party said the actions “cannot be justified”, and expressed concern that the United Kingdom would be “flouting international law” by going into Syria. Respect MP George Galloway argued there was “no compelling evidence” of Syrian government involvement in the chemical weapons attack.

Labour proposed an opposing motion that called for the government to present “compelling” evidence before action, which was rejected as well as the government’s motion. The defeat of the government motion for military intervention has surprised some. Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said “Parliament is entirely unpredictable sometimes and I don’t think many people saw this coming.”

Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, confirmed that following the vote, the country would not participate in any action in Syria, but he noted he expected the United States to carry on without the UK, anticipating “the US and other countries will continue to look at responses to the chemical attack. They will be disappointed that Britain will not be involved. I don’t expect that the lack of British participation will stop any action.”

Hammond noted the rejection of military intervention would strain the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States.

The former leader of the British Army, General Lord Dannatt, said the vote in the Commons was a “victory for common sense”.

The United States has said they will still seek military action against the Syrian regime. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel said the US would seek to build an “international coalition”. Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House, reacted to the British vote by saying: “The US will continue to consult with the UK Government — one of our closest allies and friends.”

Hayden said that President Obama “will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States”, and that Obama “believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States… countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable”.

Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the White House had told them “beyond a doubt […] chemical weapons were used, and used intentionally by the Assad regime”, and that there is evidence from intercepted communications of involvement by “high-level Syrian officials”.

The Parliamentary vote on intervention in Syria is on the front pages of many of the national newspapers in Britain, with The Times claiming Cameron was “humiliated” by the vote.



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August 29, 2013

Estimated 300-ton radioactive leak at Fukushima rated \’serious incident\’ by watchdog

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Estimated 300-ton radioactive leak at Fukushima rated ‘serious incident’ by watchdog

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

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Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, yesterday said the revealed leaking of an estimated 300 metric tons of radioactive water at the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was a “serious incident”, level three on the seven-part international scale.

A diagram marking the various points of the power plant where accidents occurred in the wake of the 2011 tsunami.
Image: Sodacan.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), who run the plant, announced the leak last week and the new accident’s level-three rating was made after consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority notes this estimate may be overstated as it relies on the leaking tank being full before the leak began.

There is no gauge to measure water quantities inside the tank, used to store contaminated water after the initial accident. Water is being collected at a rate of 400 tons per day, and an unknown quantity of radioactive groundwater is flowing into the sea.

Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi has already announced increased governmental supervision of TEPCO’s leak mitigation after two other leaks this year. Motegi said TEPCO’s antileak methods were like “whack-a-mole“. Nuclear Regulation Authority disaster taskforce leader Shinji Kinjo has said TEPCO fails to document inspections and is poor at monitoring the tanks on the site. TEPCO staff had said water levels in the tank had remained constant.

Shunichi Tanaka, head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said “We have no idea whether it’s actually 300 tons that leaked. We need to look into this issue more.” TEPCO initially said the leak was small when it was found in July and the watchdog gave it a level one “anomaly” rating at the time. Inspectors now say radiation below this tank stands at 100 millisieverts per hour, and another at the facility has a level of 70 millisieverts per hour.

“One hundred millisieverts per hour is equivalent to the limit for accumulated exposure over five years for nuclear workers; so it can be said that we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour,” said TEPCO boss Masayuki Ono last week. TEPCO shares dropped yesterday by 2.6% to 497 yen.


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Archbishop of Canterbury: Church\’s attitude to same-sex marriage considered \’wicked\’ by the young

Archbishop of Canterbury: Church’s attitude to same-sex marriage considered ‘wicked’ by the young

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, stated yesterday that he thought the Church of England’s view on same-sex marriage and homosexuality as out-of-step with the views of society but defended his vote against the same-sex marriage bill earlier this year. Welby also said Christians needed to “repent” for their homophobic treatment of gay and lesbian people.

Speaking at an event organised by the Evangelical Alliance, Welby said the Church was “deeply and profoundly divided” over the question of same-sex marriage, and noted younger people found the Church’s view on the topic to be “wicked”:

“We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we’re saying is incomprehensible but also think that we’re plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.”

Despite this, he said he did not regret voting against the same-sex marriage bill, but he wishes to keep an open mind and listen to those in the Church who have a different opinion from him.

Canterbury Cathedral.
Image: Hans Musil.

Welby also stated he thinks the Church needed to stress the things they are for rather than against: “One of [the] things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic”. Welby stated the Church needed to make “an alliance with the poor”.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, responded to Welby’s comments: “It is a tiny bit rich to say he has great sympathy for gay people when in the 10 years since the introduction of civil partnerships the Church has doggedly refused to bless people’s long term partnerships even though they are happy to have services for pets and even canals.”

Benjamin Cohen, publisher of the PinkNews website, welcomed the Archbishop’s acknowledgment that most younger people support same-sex marriage and explained the nature of people’s reaction to the Church’s views: “They do see that attacking gay people for the gender of the person that they love is as evil and incomprehensible as attacking someone for being born black or disabled. People don’t chose to be gay just like they don’t chose their race.”



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August 28, 2013

UN observers in Syria fired upon as report alleges US warplanes readying attack

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

UN observers in Syria fired upon as report alleges US warplanes readying attack

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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On Monday, the convoy used by a United Nations (UN) investigation team while gathering evidence of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria of August 21, was fired upon by snipers.

No injuries were reported in the attack, but the UN says at least one vehicle was destroyed and several were shot at. It’s not clear whether rebels or the Syrian army were responsible for the attack. The team left the scene and returned at a later time with a new vehicle.

“What I am told is that despite the very difficult circumstances, our team replaced their car and returned to the suburbs of Damascus to carry out their investigation,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement on Monday. Both the rebels and Syrian government are said to have been granted “safe” passage while performing their investigation which has to be completed in 14 days, not including any possible extensions.

The team arrived on August 18 and is investigating the scene of an alleged chemical weapons attack that occurred on August 21 in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Reports say anywhere between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in the attack which is being blamed on government forces, something they deny. “We hope that the results will clarify the issue and will help to dispel numerous speculations around the alleged use of the Syrian chemical weapons while simultaneously creating a positive background for the moves towards the start of the political process of settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Aleksandr Lukashevich, Russia’s foreign minister, said on August 22.

This isn’t the first time a UN convoy has been targeted in Syria. In May 2012 a convoy was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while one of their human rights groups reported a Syrian military attack on civilians at a nearby funeral in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Three Marked UN vehicles were damaged in the attack but no one was injured.

The latest attack on the UN comes as a US government official called their current investigation “too late to be credible.” Following the alleged chemical attack on August 21, the Syrian army heavily bombed the area against what they called rebel strongholds. “The fact is that much of the evidence could have been destroyed by that artillery bombardment,” said William Hague the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom on Sunday. The United States (U.S.) says the attacks are “corrupting” any evidence the team might have come in contact with.

Two reports by the British newspaper The Guardian suggest the U.S. might not wait for the team to finish their investigation. According to the reports, U.S. transport planes have been arriving within 100 miles of Syria in Cyprus. The Guardian cites sources which say U.S. Forces are “ready to go” in the event a strike on Syria is ordered.

“We are prepared, we have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take, if he wishes to take any of the options he’s asked for,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Tuesday.

According to the newspaper’s report, commercial airline pilots claim to have observed C-130 transport planes visually and fighter jet formations by radar. The newspaper also claims residents say military activity has been increased. According to Wikileaks, the whistle blowing website, a document shows the U.S. would use Cyprus as the main base of operations to launch an airstrike against Syria. The document is part of a 2012 leak labeled the “Global Intelligence Files” which consists of emails from within the global intelligence firm Stratfor.

“The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and French would fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how much recce comes out of there,” says part of an email in a communication by Stratfor employees. Recce is an abbreviation for reconnaissance.

Civilians began protesting against Assad in March of 2011. One of the first cities government forces began to attack in an effort to stop the protests was Homs. In July of that year, at least one person was killed and dozens injured when government forces opened fire on protesters. Late that month, government forces launched an offensive against protesters across the nation, resulting in around 100 deaths in the city of Hama and several dozen more in other parts of the country.



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August 27, 2013

Iraq: Shootings, bombings kill dozens in Baghdad, Baquba, Qiyara, Madaen

Iraq: Shootings, bombings kill dozens in Baghdad, Baquba, Qiyara, Madaen

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

As many as 47 people are reported dead and 113 wounded as bombs and shooting erupted across Iraq Sunday. Baghdad and Baquba, particularly, each sustained multiple blasts.

The United Nations says violence in Iraq July killed over 1,000 people, more than in any other month since 2008. Sunni militants are reportedly gaining strength in Iraq.

Amongst the incidents: A car bomb near a Baquba housing complex killed 11 and wounded 34, according to police. Military sources said five soldiers were killed at a fake checkpoint near Qiyara, north of Baghdad, and their bodies were burned. In Madaen, two separate bombings reportedly killed seven and injured 30. Two explosions also rocked the capital, Baghdad, killing an additional twelve people and wounding 45, according to officials. A car bomb in Balad killed at least four and wounded several more, including a judge who was driving past.

No group has claimed responsibility for the incidents.



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August 26, 2013

United States spies accused of illegally bugging the United Nations headquarters

United States spies accused of illegally bugging the United Nations headquarters

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Monday, August 26, 2013

File photo of the sign of the National Security Agency headquarters.
Image: National Security Agency.

German weekly publication Der Spiegel yesterday accused the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) of spying on the United Nations headquarters in New York. The magazine claims to have access to official NSA documents, provided by former NSA and CIA computer specialist and current fugitive Edward Snowden.

If the allegations of bugging are confirmed, it would mean that the United States has breached International Treaties including the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The Treaty states that countries must not carry out covert operations that relate to the UN’s activities.

“The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action”, the Convention stipulates.

The documents analysed by Der Spiegel indicate that the NSA runs bugging programs in more than 80 embassies and consulates across the globe, in what is reportedly called the “Special Collection Service”.

Der Spiegel claimed that, according to their intelligence, the NSA was able to bug the UN headquarters by hacking into its video conferencing system in the summer of 2012. Their article included quotes from the leaked documents like ““The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!)”.

Allegedly, decoded UN communications rose from 12 to 458 within three weeks of the NSA gaining access. Analysed documents also indicated the NSA found evidence Chinese spies were also monitoring the UN, and began logging what the Chinese were accessing.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the European Union are said to be among the organisations NSA spies have been targeting. The US government has previously denied any wrongdoing by the NSA, although President Barack Obama this month announced plans to curb government spying activities.



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Migrant train derails in Tabasco, Mexico

Migrant train derails in Tabasco, Mexico

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Monday, August 26, 2013

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At least five people have died and sixteen were injured in a train derailment in Tabasco, Mexico yesterday, according to the director of Tabasco civil protection. The cargo train is often used by migrants.

The derailment occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m local time (8:00 a.m UTC), with eight of the twelve cars overturning. The state government reported that at least 250 Honduras citizens were traveling on the train, which had a scrap metal cargo. The train company and rescue workers continue to search the wreckage and treat survivors, but the remote and marshy site hinders efforts. Two cranes have been dispatched to assist.

Mario Bustillos Borge, the Red Cross chief in Tabasco, noted that current information on the numbers deceased and injured was hard to confirm due to the complex nature of the rescue. “There are some very high estimates, and others that are more conservative,” he said. The first car and the engine, which did not overturn, were used to transport the injured to a local hospital in Veracruz.

The train, dubbed ‘The Beast‘ by locals, was headed north from the Guatemalan border at the time of the accident. Migrants regularly try to hitch a ride to the US by climbing onto its roof or in between cars. Preliminary reports suggest that the tracks had shifted following heavy rains.



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Hundreds of Czech far-right activists detained after anti-Roma protests

Hundreds of Czech far-right activists detained after anti-Roma protests

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Monday, August 26, 2013

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Romani population average estimate – the size of the wheel represents the average estimate of Roma population in that country.
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Romani people in Lviv Ukraine.
Image: Водник.

Rallies against the Roma ethnic minority in eight Czech Republic cities Saturday have resulted in 75 to 100 far-right activists being detained.

Violent clashes occurred between police and the demonstrators, some of who threw stones at the police forces. The largest rally occurred in the city of Ostrava where between 600 and 800 protestors attacked the police and at least 60 were detained. Seven other cities, including Prague, saw similar protests.

Amnesty International confirmed that the demonstrations had been planned in advance and warned the Czech Republic government earlier this month.

“We have seen a deeply worrying trend over the past year with entrenched discrimination against Roma reaching new heights. This is a fundamental issue that the Czech authorities can’t ignore,” Amnesty International’s John Dalhuisen said.

There are between 250,000 and 300,000 Roma people within the Czech Republic. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights conducted a poll in 2011 that found over 80 per cent of the Roma people surveyed had been subject to discrimination in the past year.



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