Queen Beatrix to abdicate throne

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On Monday at 19:00 local time (1800 UTC), Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands held a speech on radio and television, announcing she will abdicate the throne on April 30. Prince Willem-Alexander is to become King of the Netherlands.

Prior to the Queen’s announcement, local media suggested she would abdicate. Following the Queen’s address, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte‘s response was broadcast.

In her speech, she stated her main considerations for laying down the Crown were the culmination of several events; among those are her 75th birthday on January 31, and the upcoming celebration of the 200-year anniversary of the Dutch monarchy. She also stated the “time has come for a new generation to take responsibility.”Read More The Queen expressed her gratitude toward the people of the Dutch Kingdom for their ongoing support during her reign.


Rebels shoot East Timor president

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José Ramos-Horta, President of East Timor, has been shot by rebel soldiers in an attack on his home near the capital of Dili. He is now undergoing treatment at the Royal Darwin Hospital’s intensive care unit in Darwin, Australia.

The military is blaming the shooting on rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who, along with another attacker, was shot and killed by the president’s guards. “The attack was carried out by Alfredo’s group,” said military spokesman Domingos da Camara. Reinado, a former major, was charged with murder after leading rebel soldiers in the 2006 East Timor crisis.

Camara said the shooting took place at 4:30 am local time, when two cars passed the president’s residence in Areia Branca, two kilometers outside of the capital. According to Camara, the group “assaulted him, but after rapid reaction by security, his attackers fled”. One of the president’s guards was killed in the attack, Camara said.

Ramos-Horta’s current condition is serious, but stable, according to doctors at the Royal Darwin Hospital. “This is a very traumatic and a nasty event – high-velocity, high-powered weapons shooting somebody in the chest in the abdomen are nasty injuries, but we would be very hopeful and cognoscente of a good recovery,” said Len Notaras, the hospital superintendent. Notaras says he has found three bullet wounds, two in the stomach and one in the back.

The president was initially taken to a hospital at an Australian military base in Dili. He was then flown by airplane to Darwin and driven to the hospital under police escort. His sister and mother are in Darwin with him. Ramos-Horta is currently in an induced coma, and it is unclear when the doctors will begin operating.

Januario Freitas, a neighbor of the president, said his wound looked “serious”. Maria Gabriela Carrascalao, the president’s sister-in-law, said, “He was able to talk. We don’t know how far is the damage, let’s hope that he’s not very, very serious.”

Australian and East Timorean troops stepped up sercurity around the capital, while United Nations police sealed off the road leading to Ramos-Horta’s house. “UNPol is in a high state of alert in Dili,” UN spokeswoman Allison Cooper said.

Local media reported that the home of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao had also come under attack, but a statement released by the United Nations said Gusmao was safe in his office and working with international forces.

“The prime minister is in control of the situation,” said East Timor foreign minister Zacarias da Costa. “I think the country is safe. We have the support of the Australian and New Zealand military here … and I believe our own defenses are capable of handling those problems.”

Australia agreed to send 120 more soldiers and up to 70 police to Dili. Australian foreign minister Steven Smith says the troops could be used to capture the other members of Reinado’s group, who he believes attempted a coordinated assassination. “This wasn’t a coincidence, this was a deliberate assassination attempt to take out the Prime Minister and the President – the two key figures in the duly elected East Timorese Government, and that’s why the events of the day are effectively so shocking,” Smith said.

This story has updates
See State of emergency declared in East Timor
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Japan blames design, maintenance for explosion on China Airlines jet

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Japan’s Transportation Safety Board has blamed a combination of poor design and a maintenance error for a fire and explosions that destroyed a passenger jet.

The China Airlines Boeing 737-800 had landed at Naha Airport in 2007 and had just parked and shut its engines down when a fire broke out on the right hand engine, quickly moving to the wing and the tarmac beneath. Ground staff alerted the crew and an evacuation commenced.

The burnt-out wreckage
Image: Thomas Mitchell.

In just three minutes and 27 seconds all the 157 passengers had evacuated, but the flight crew remained. The first officer was midway through evacuating and the captain still in the cockpit when the first explosion occurred, blasting the first officer to the ground. The captain escaped immediately afterwards and no-one was injured.

It was approximately five minutes before the first airport fire engine began to spray foam on the fuselage, by which time two more explosions had occurred. The structure collapsed shortly afterwards while other fire crews arrived from both the airport and the city.

A similar aircraft in flight
Image: Ellery Cheng.

The final report has confirmed that during mandatory scheduled maintenance conducted per Boeing’s recommendations about a month and a half prior to the jet’s destruction, a washer had come off a bolt in the wing. As a result, the bolt had fallen off. When the jet arrived at Naha, it used its slats to assist the landing.

However, the bolt had worked its way into the track that one of these slats moved on, and as the slat was retracted after the landing the bolt became trapped between the slat and a fuel tank, which it punched through. Fuel then leaked out and dribbled onto the hot engine, starting the fire that then consumed the aircraft. The fire only started when the engine was shut down, as before then the fuel had been blown away by the force produced.

The report criticised the design of the bolt, as it “was unable to prevent the assembly from falling off if the washer is not installed.” It further commented that neither Boeing nor China Airlines had considered the fact that the bolt’s location was difficult to access when planning the maintenance to the aircraft. The fact that maintenance workers had not reported the difficulty of the work was also found to have contributed to the washer’s absence going undetected. As part of the job, the nut on the end of the bolt was replaced, but the engineer couldn’t see the bolt’s head and didn’t check the washer.

As a result of the accident the aviation authorities of Boeing’s and China Airlines’ home countries — the United States and Taiwan respectively — have been sent recommendations to review procedures to ensure the accident cannot be … Read More

Senate committee investigating six televangelists

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United States Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked for the financial records of six prominent televangelist ministries for possible financial misconduct, CBS News reported. The six groups were led by Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Half of these people (Hinn, Copeland and Dollar) are members of the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University, which is currently being accused of wr … Read More

BBC News website expands RSS license terms to allow commercial use

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The BBC announced today that it plans to expand the license terms on its numerous RSS feeds to allow other websites to reuse its content. The license currently proscribes that the feeds are only for “personal use,” according to BBC editor Peter Clifton. According to Clifton’s statement, “in May we’ll be happy for outside websites to dip in and take our headlines.” The announcement did not specify whether the new license would allow the use of entire articles, or just the headlines.

The BBC currently has 18 feeds, ranging in topic from Business and Technology to Health and Entertainment. They also provide feeds with regional news, focusing on, for example, Scotland or Northern Ireland. In its current setup, the BBC provides a headline plus a lead sentence in its feeds.

RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) is a protocol that allows users to aggregate articles from many sources in a program called a “news reader” or “aggregator.” A news reader works by reading simple files from user-targeted websites and parsing them into a presentab … Read More

Hearing testimony; U.S. soldiers took turns raping 14 year old Iraqi girl before killing her

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In testimony given before a U.S. military hearing, criminal investigator Benjamin Bierce narrated his account of how an incident involving five soldiers involved the serial rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl prior to shooting her. The hearing will determine whether four current U.S. soldiers have to face a court martial hearing; an additional former soldier allegedly involved in the incident, Steven D. Green, was recently discharged from the military and has pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges in federal court in Kentucky.

According to Bierce, a U.S. Special Agent investigating the incident, the brutal attack which saw Abeer Qassim al-Janabi slain and her parents and younger sister murdered was premeditated. Citing a sworn statement from Army Specialist James Barker, the five accused were said to have plotted the rape whilst drinking whisky and playing cards. According to Agent Bierce, Spc. Barker said that Pte. Spielman grabbed the girl while Pte. Green seized her father and they then took them into the house and Sgt. Cortez and Spc. Barker followed them inside.

Pte. Green supposedly led the father, mother and younger sister into the bedroom and closed the door, while the teenage girl remained in the living room with the other Americans, Spc. Barker’s statement said.

Sgt. Cortez then allegedly pushed the girl to the floor, pulled up her dress and tore off her underwear while she was struggling, Bierce said, again citing Spc. Barker’s statement. Sgt. Cortez appeared to then rape Abeer and afterward, Spc. Barker tried to rape the girl, the statement said.

Then Pte. Green came out of the bedroom with an AK-47 rifle and announced: “They’re all dead. I just killed them,” according to Spc. Barker’s statement.

Then Sgt. Cortez held Abeer down while Pte. Green raped the girl; according to Spc. Barker’s statement. Pte. Green then picked up the AK-47 and shot Abeer once, waited, and then shot her a few more times, the U.S. official, Agent Bierce, said, quoting from Spc. Barker’s statement.

Spc. Barker said that he then poured kerosene lamp fuel on the girl’s body but Barker did not say who set it on fire.

Gary Griesmyer, another Special Agent, quoted Sgt. Cortez as telling him that the teenage girl was crying and talking in Arabic and that Spc. Barker told her to “shut up.”

Private Justin Watt testified that Pte. Howard told him before the incident that Pte. Green, Sgt. Cortez and Spc. Barker were planning to rape a girl, and Pte. Howard was going to be the lookout.

Watt testified that he heard Mr. Green say, “I want to kill and hurt a lot of Iraqis.” Green has been discharged from the military and has pleaded not guilty in a federal court in Kentucky where he will stand trial; he will not be facing a court martial regardless of what occurrs in the Baghdad hearing.

“If you have the power to make something right, you should do it. Investigation is not my job. But if something went down — something terrible like that — then it’s my obligation to come forward,” Watt said.

Watt also said life for some of the soldiers in the B Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, was horrible while they were manning a military post in nearby Yusufiyah. Some lived in a “dilapidated, abandoned water treatment facility” he said.

Pfc. Watt, who is identified as the whistle-blowing soldier who disclosed the attack during a counseling session, also said; “I feared for my safety at the TCP (traffic control point). It’s like this, I find out that guys in my squad, guys I trusted with my life, are allegedly responsible for one of the most brutal rapes/murders I’ve ever seen. And everyone has a weapon and grenades.”

Pfc. Justin Cross testified that deadly attacks by insurgents sapped morale and raised combat stress in the U.S. Army unit that included the soldiers accused of raping and murdering Abeer. He said that the “mentally draining” living conditions of the combat unit was a factor.

“It drives you nuts. You feel like every step you might get blown up. You just hit a point where you’re like, ‘If I die today, I die.’ You’re just walking a death walk.” Pfc. Cross told the hearing.

An article 32 hearing, like this, seeks to determine if a soldiers should face court martial. Its similar to that of a preliminary hearing or a grand jury proceeding in civ … Read More

Jack Kilby, Nobel laureate and inventor of integrated circuit, dies at 81

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Winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2000 for his work on developing the integrated circuit, Jack Kilby died after battling cancer on Monday, June 20, 2005, in Dallas at the age of 81. After years of claims, Kilby agreed to share credit for the invention with Robert Noyce, the co-founder of chip maker Intel.

His contribution to the pioneering breakthrough of the integrated circuit was made by Kilby during his employment with Texas Instruments (TI) in 1958. He also is credited with co-inventing the handheld calculator which made TI the leader in early consumer electronics development. The integrated circuit paved the way in the development of the microchip used today in computers, DVD players, interactive video games and cell phones.

Kilby’s work includes the awarding of 60 patents. It was said of him in a statement by TI chairman Tom Engihous that, “In my opinion, there are only a handful of people whose works have truly transformed the world and the way we live in it — Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Jack Kilby.”

In his first year working with TI, Kilby’s work on what became the forerunner to the microchip was an invention he fabricated by using a sliver of germanium on a glass slide. This invention was the predecessor to the semiconductor that ultimately replaced vacuum tubes and switching wires then in use as the transistor devices. The invention also led to solid state electronics able to withstand more shock and impact in handling.

Kilby is recognised for his ‘seminal thought’ on the integrated circuit by being awarded the Robert N. Noyce Award in 1995, the Semiconductor Industry Association’s highest honor. He is survived by two daughters and five grandchildren.<br style="clea … Read More