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January 31, 2015

South African apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock granted parole

Filed under: Africa,Archived,South Africa — admin @ 5:00 am

South African apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock granted parole

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

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South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha yesterday announced he is granting parole to Eugene de Kock, an apartheid-era assassin who has spent twenty years in prison.

A photo from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headquarters shows de Kock with film director Jann Turner.
Image: George Hallett.

After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 de Kock was arrested and subsequently detailed his actions to the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As head of a police ‘counter-insurgency’ unit de Kock took responsibility for murdering and torturing dissidents opposed to white-only rule. His methods included bombings, shootings, and stabbings and he operated internationally and at home. His revelations earned him the nickname “Prime Evil”.

The TRC granted de Kock immunity for most crimes in exchange for his testimony. He was charged with remaining offences, not covered due to limits in TRC power, and in 1996 jailed for life for six murders. Additional convictions include kidnap and attempted murder. He received an additional 212-year term for those crimes. The TRC could only grant immunity where the offence was a human rights violation and the offender gave a full confession.

During his TRC testimony de Kock accused police commanders of ordering murders including those of African National Council (ANC) members. In a 2007 prison interview he said FW de Klerk, the last white President, had hands “soaked in blood”. De Klerk denies de Kock’s allegations he ordered individual murders.

Cquote1.svg It’s mixed feelings, which is something we’ve gotten used to as South Africans Cquote2.svg

—Eddie Makue

In the early nineties de Kock teamed up with anti-ANC party Inkatha to arrange violence within black communities. Internal conflict killed 12,000 in the wake of future President Nelson Mandela’s release. Mandela wrote of fearing “a hidden hand behind the violence[…] attempting to disrupt the negotiations”, by orchestrating the clashes in Natal and Transvaal. He was referring to upcoming elections and a transfer of power away from white rule and apartheid.

Masutha said de Kock was being released “in the interest of reconciliation and nation building”. The date, location, and terms are to remain secret.

Reaction from his victims is varied.

Murder victim Glenack Mama’s widow Sandra welcomed the release. She said to a BBC reporter “I think it will actually close a chapter in our history because we’ve come a long way and I think his release will just once again help with the reconciliation process because there’s still a lot of things that we need to do as a country”. She said “He got the instructions from the top and they [more senior officials] got away with it[…] they’re amongst us today and one man is taking the fall”.

Cquote1.svg I pray that those whom he hurt, those from whom he took loved ones, will find the power within them to forgive him Cquote2.svg

—Desmond Tutu

Eddie Makue said to The Associated Press the release stirred up “mixed feelings, which is something we’ve gotten used to as South Africans”. He was a South African Council of Churches employee in 1988 when de Kock bombed their headquarters. Jane Quin said she was “terribly disappointed” and he should never be released. Her sister Jacqui Quin was murdered in Lesotho in 1985 by de Kock.

TRC chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “I pray that those whom he hurt, those from whom he took loved ones, will find the power within them to forgive him.” He said the release would not be universally welcome but is nonetheless “to our collective credit, as people and as a nation.” Tutu called it “an indictment on our government” that apartheid officials who did not co-operate with the TRC had evaded prosecution.

Whilst in prison de Kock has assisted the recovery of his missing victims’ remains. Remorse and his help to the Missing Persons Task Team were cited by Masutha as reasons to release him, which was initially decided against last July. “[H]is key role has been to introduce us to other former security police who can assist with finding others,” said Task Team leader Madeleine Fullard. Fullard said de Kock had also directly assisted in retrieving two bodies. “He certainly feels lives were wasted for no reason”, she added, describing a meeting with him at one ANC victim’s grave. “He seemed to be quite stressed.”

Masutha also announced yesterday the rejection of a parole application by apartheid killer Clive Derby-Lewis, an ex-MP. Derby-Lewis is serving life for murdering popular South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani. Hani also led the ANC’s militant division. His killing in 1993 sparked rioting. Derby-Lewis sought parole because he has lung cancer. Masutha said in rejecting the application that Derby-Lewis was remorseless.



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Rare megamouth shark found dead in Pio Duran, Philippines

Rare megamouth shark found dead in Pio Duran, Philippines

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

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A megamouth shark was found dead in the Philippines on Wednesday. There have been only fifteen confirmed sightings in the nation and around 60 worldwide.

Preserved head of a megamouth on display in Australia.
Image: “saberwyn”.

The fifteen-foot male was found after reportedly becoming entangled with a fishing net near the Barangay Marigondon neighborhood of Pio Duran, Albay province. Its body was encased with ice pending a necropsy. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Locals have nicknamed the dead shark ‘toothless’, a How to Train Your Dragon movie reference. In truth megamouths can have up to fifty rows of teeth.

Megamouths reach up to eighteen feet. Their name refers to its large head and mouth, used to filter plankton and other small food from the ocean. Occasionally the prey of other sharks and whales, megamouths are thought to live in the Pacific around Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan based on previous sightings. Its true range and population size are however unknown. The first such shark identified was accidentally discovered by the US Navy off the coast of Hawaii when it became stuck in a ship’s anchor. Researchers theorise a white strip on the shark’s head illuminates to attract prey.



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Gas explosion flattens Mexico City maternity hospital

Gas explosion flattens Mexico City maternity hospital

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

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An explosion on Thursday morning destroyed a state maternity hospital in Mexico City, Mexico. A nurse and two babies are dead.

Cquote1.svg I feel grateful to have another chance to keep living, to keep working as a nurse Cquote2.svg

—Ivonne Lugo Durantes, injured survvor

Initially reports placed the fatalities at seven. Local officials including Mexico City Health Secretary Armando Ahued and Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera have since revised the figure downwards. Over 70 people including 20 infants are wounded. Around 100 people were in the building at the time.

The explosion occurred as a truck was resupplying the hospital’s gas tanks, and a leak developed in the supply hose. Driver Julio César Martínez and assistants Carlos Chavez and Salvador Alatorre have been arrested. Chavez and Alatorre spent around fifteen minutes attempting to stem the leak, to no avail. All three are amongst the injured.

Firefighters and federal police entered the ruins to recover trapped survivors. Victims’ relatives, and other bystanders, gathered at police cordons around the scene. “I am still a little bit in shock. It was a nightmare,” said nurse Ivonne Lugo Durantes.

Durantes was rescued after ten minutes trapped beneath debris. She has first degree burns but is “grateful to have another chance to keep living, to keep working as a nurse.” She witnessed other staff rescuing babies amid a conflagration.

New father Jose Eduardo told reporters his wife ran barefoot with their baby to escape. Eduardo said some escaped nude. Witnesses around the hospital reported a strong smell of gas, a large explosion, and flying debris. Ambulances and helicopters were used to evacuate casualties.

President Enrique Pena Nieto and Pope Francis both took to Twitter to express support for the victims.



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Conductor Israel Yinon dies after collapsing on stage

Conductor Israel Yinon dies after collapsing on stage

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

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Yinnon in 2003
Image: Etan J. Tal.

Conductor Israel Yinon died yesterday after collapsing during a performance in Switzerland. The Israeli conductor was directing an orchestra in the city of Lucerne when he suddenly collapsed and fell head first off of the platform. No official cause of death has been announced. He was 59 years old.

Yinon collapsed during the performance of German composer Richard Strauss‘s An Alpine Symphony. An audience member attended to him while others were asked to leave the Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre and musicians exited. Yinon’s girlfriend was playing in the orchestra when he collapsed.

Yinnon was known for showcasing the works of composers killed in the Holocaust. He highlighted symphonies from those such as Pavel Haas and Viktor Ullmann. Through this he gained international recognition including his award of the German critics’ recording prize in 1993. He went on to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Speaking about the work of those composers who became victims of the Holocaust, Yinnon was quoted as saying “Without the Second World War, new music would have sounded quite different.”

Despite his international success he never achieved similar critical acclaim in his home country of Israel. Speaking to the Ynet news website his cousin Yisrael Ganor said “In Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic he was very successful with this material, whereas in Israel he was rarely invited [to conduct]. Once someone famous told him — I don’t remember if it was a musician or journalist — that they would only invite him if there was no one else, or if the budgetary constraints couldn’t cover someone well known.”

Tributes have been paid to the conductor including one from the Jungen Philharmonie Zentralschweiz student orchestra. They said they lost “not only a highly regarded musical colleague and sensitive educator, but a big-hearted friend.” Yinnon had conducted them in 2009 and 2012 concerts.



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January 30, 2015

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

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Friday, January 30, 2015

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Astronomers reported on Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal they have found an ancient solar system with several Earth-like planets.

Artist’s concept of a rocky exoplanet (Kepler-37b). From file.

Image: NASA

They said the system dates roughly to the formation of the Milky Way galaxy. They found the planets orbiting around Kepler-444, about 117 light years from Earth. Researchers investigated Kepler-444 with NASA’s Kepler telescope using a method called astroseismology.

Scientists explain they studied the star and noticed planets passing in front of it because it created a dimming effect in which the star seems less bright for a short period of time, when there are actually planets passing between the observer and the star.

Because these planets are older than Earth, this suggests life might have existed in the early universe, the researchers say.

According to Daniel Huber, part of the research team at the University of Sydney, it takes under ten days for these five planets to orbit the star and all of them are too close to it to sustain life. These planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest compared to Venus.

This month, the number of exoplanets found using the Kepler telescope passed 1,000.


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January 27, 2015

Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68

Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68 – Wikinews, the free news source

Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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Demis Roussos in Baku in 2013.
Image: Urek Meniashvili.

Greek singer Demis Roussos died on Sunday in Athens. The 68-year-old Roussos, born in Egypt, died in a private hospital. No official cause of death has been announced but the hospital said he had been there for some time. Roussos reached international fame in the 1960s and 70s. His hits included Forever and Ever, Quand je t’aime, and Goodbye.

Roussos, whose musical career started with work in cabaret, had success both as a solo artist and as part of a group. He belonged to progressive rock group Aphrodite’s Child. After a successful career with Aphrodite’s Child, Roussos went solo. His single Forever and Ever reached number one in several Single charts in 1973 and topped the UK Singles chart in 1976.

He and his family left Egypt in 1961, when he was a teenager, in the aftermath of the Suez crisis. Before the move he had studied and performed music in a Greek church. He was 17 when he joined group The Idols; while with The Idols he met Vangelis, who he would go on to form Aphrodite’s Child with.

Vangelis released a statement about the death of his former bandmate Roussos. He said “Demis my friend. I have just arrived in London and I’ve been told that you decide to take the long voyage, I’m shocked because I can’t believe that this happened so soon. Nature gave you this magic voice of yours which made millions of people around the world very happy. […] As for me, I keep those special memories that we share together those early days and I wish you to be happy wherever you are. […] Goodbye my friend goodbye. Love Vangelis.”

Another tribute came from fellow Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. Speaking to French radio station RTL, she said “He had a superb voice, he travelled in the world […] he loved what he was doing. He was an artist, a friend. I hope he is in a better world.”

In 1985 he was a captive in the TWA Flight 847 hijacking. He was held for five days, one of which was his 39th birthday.

During his later life Roussos lived in several countries including France, United States and England. In 2013 he was awarded the French Legion of Honour during a ceremony in Athens.



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January 24, 2015

UN Security Council heads to Haiti amid political instability

UN Security Council heads to Haiti amid political instability

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

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Representatives of the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) fifteen member states flew to Haiti yesterday. The nation is moving to hold new elections with President Michel Martelly presently ruling by decree.

President Martelly, seen here in 2012, is ruling by decree after the collapse of parliament.
Image: World Economic Forum.

Martelly swore in a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of nine members yesterday. It is Martelly’s fifth CEP in four years. Last month a presidential commission recommended the prior CEP’s resignation as part of a package of measures to move the country towards new elections. The commission was Martelly’s response to widespread anti-regime protests that started in October. The sometimes-violent protests were triggered by failure to hold elections, some due since 2011.

On January 12 the Senate was reduced to a defunct ten members, with sixteen required for a quorum. Amendments to electoral law were required by the Senate before elections due in 2011 could be held. Rival political factions were unable to resolve disagreements. The lower level of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, also saw all 99 seats vacated.

Also due are municipal elections, with 4,000 local posts needing refilled. A presidential election is due this year and the constitution forbids a consecutive term for Martelly. CEP members were sworn in yesterday at the Supreme Court; the presidential commission also recommended a new head for the court.

This month Martelly installed a new cabinet including opposition members, amongst them appointing Evans Paul as Prime Minister. Paul replaces Laurent Lamothe who resigned last month at the request of Martelly’s commission. Paul was yesterday joined by foreign diplomats to welcome the new CEP in Petionville, the CEP headquarters.

Protests continued around the nation yesterday, with anger directed at foreign leaders who have supported Martelly as well as the local regime. Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the United States, the European Union, and the Organization of American States expressed in a joint statement “support to the president of the republic in the exercise of his constitutional duty to ensure the regular functioning of institutions and the continuity of the state” as parliament’s terms lapsed and power passed to Martelly alone.

The UN is unpopular in Haiti where many blame their peacekeeping force for a 2010 cholera outbreak, which is ongoing with 9,000 deaths. The UN has extended the peacekeeping mission for another year but does plan to reduce troops from around 5,000 to around 2,400. Anti-peacekeeper protests have also focussed on sexual abuse allegations.



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January 22, 2015

Perry out, Abbott in: Texas gets new governor

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

Perry out, Abbott in: Texas gets new governor

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greg Abbott was sworn in on Tuesday as the first new governor for the state of Texas in fourteen years. Abbott replaces Rick Perry, who was elected in three consecutive elections as the state’s Governor. Although Perry was not, Abbott is an attorney and recently served as the state’s Attorney General.

Greg Abbott in 2012.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

During his inauguration speech, Abbott spoke about the issue of border security in the state by saying, “We must do more for the millions of Texans who are tired of seeing our state sovereignty and the rule of law ignored by a federal government that refuses to secure our border”. Abbott in his speech did not address recent drops in state revenue tied to declining oil and gas prices.

Although the state has over a US$1 trillion per-year economy, some economists suggest tough times may be on the horizon as energy prices slump. Fundraising of over US$4.5 million supported the inaugural celebration in the state capital of Austin, including a parade. Abbott is the first Governor in the US to routinely use a wheelchair since George Wallace, former governor of Alabama.



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Japanese Olympic judoka Hitoshi Saito dies aged 54

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

Japanese Olympic judoka Hitoshi Saito dies aged 54

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Japanese judoka Hitoshi Saito, winner of two Olympic gold medals, has died at the age of 54. The cause of death was announced as intrahepatic bile duct cancer. He died in Osaka on Tuesday. As well as a former Olympic and World champion, Saito was the All Japan Judo Federation training committee chairman at the time of his death.

He had been hospitalized since late 2014. In 2013 it was discovered he had a tumour on his gallbladder.

Saito won consecutive Olympic gold medals at the 1984 games in Los Angeles and the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea. He competed in the over 95-kg category. His victory in the Seoul games continued the record of Japan winning a gold in Judo in every Olympic games since the 1964 games, held in Toyko. He was also named World Champion at the 1983 World Judo Championships in the openweight class.

Yasuhiro Yamashita, a fellow Judoka who fought Saito in three consecutive All-Japan judo championship finals, and who also won gold at the 1984 games, commented on his death, “He was my lifetime rival. It is very unfortunate to hear this”. Yamashita won all three finals against Saito.

A tribute came from Tsunekazu Takeda, the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee. He said “It is all very sudden, so I don’t know what to say. […] As a player and coach he really gave it his all, and we had expectations for him so it is unfortunate. I had the impression he was a serious and conscientious person”.

Saito retired in 1989. He later went on to become the coach of the men’s national team leading them to three Olympic gold medals in Athens in 2004. He also took charge of the men’s team during the 2008 Games in Beijing. He became head of the Committee for Enhancement of the All Japan Judo Federation in November 2012.



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January 21, 2015

Ukrainians rally in memory of Donbass dead

Filed under: Archived,Russia,Ukraine — admin @ 5:00 am

Ukrainians rally in memory of Donbass dead

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

“I am – Volnovakha”. Peace march in memory of victims of People’s Republic of Donetsk in Kyiv

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Thousands of Ukrainians in Kyiv took part on Sunday in marches in memory of reported victims of Donetsk People’s Republic militants in a tragedy on January 13 near Volnovakha in Donetsk Oblast. On that day reportedly thirteen people on a bus were killed and sixteen wounded when separatists struck the bus with a Grad missile launcher near a Ukrainian checkpoint.

The same marches also took place in other major Ukrainian cities, including Odessa, Kharkiv, Dniepropetrovsk and Zaporizhia as well as some towns in Donetsk and Luhansk regions under Ukrainian control.

During the march in Kyiv President Poroshenko promised to return Donbass to Ukraine, while participants in Lutsk and Khmelnytsky requested the Goverment to recognise Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as terrorist organisations officially. Mayor of Kiev Vitali Klitschko said, “Here are those, who are disturbed with a problem of terrorism. Those who want to stop this evil.”((uk))

The march ended with a public prayer for victims of terror. The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus’ – Ukraine Filaret, as well as representatives of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Clerical Board of Ukraine’s Muslims, Armenian Apostolic Church took part in this prayer.



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