Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lady Amaretta, Baroness Orleans Graduates

The Lady Amaretta Sollicito, Baroness Orleans graduated from Baker County High School this past Friday.

Those who follow the Peerage of the Dominion are aware that the Baroness wed Trey Sollicito and relocated to his family estate when she was 16 years of age. Two years, and two children later, the Baroness has now finished her high school education, and walked with her classmates at an open air graduation ceremony in East Florida.

The Marquess and Marchioness of Mobile attended the graduation ceremony, with the Marchioness attending a private gala held in the graduate's honour later that evening.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beckham visits British troops in Afghanistan

English footballer David Beckham today arrived in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the location of some of the most fierce fighting in the ongoing battle against the Taliban insurgency and the location of approximately 8,000 British soldiers and Royal Marines on a "morale boosting" mission. It is expected that he will spend the weekend in the country, visiting both Camp Bastion and the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Thirty-five year old Beckham, former captain of the England national football team, left on Friday, telling reported that he had "nothing but admiration" for the personnel serving in Afghanistan and that he had "wanted to visit Afghanistan for a long time and I hope that in some small way it helps remind everyone at home what an amazing job they are doing out here in very difficult conditions. I feel very humble."

The footballer will hold a question and answer session with British troops. He said that the hoped "to do something useful" in Afghanistan, having missed out on the upcoming World Cup due to injury. Beckham is also due to meet groups of Afghan children as well as other soldiers serving in Helmand, including Canadian, Dutch and Estonian forces.

Three British cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary William Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell also arrived in Afghanistan today on a separate, diplomatic, mission. They met with American General Stanley McChrystal, the NATO commander in the country and will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai later today in the first official visit from the United Kingdom to Afghanistan since the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was formed after the UK general election two weeks ago.

Hague, who discussed Afghanistan with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, described the operation in the country as "our most urgent priority" while Fox emphasised that he wished to see a speeding up of the process leading to the withdrawal of British troops, saying "[n]ational security is the focus now. We [the United Kingdom] are not a global policeman."

Beckham's visit comes as the deployment in southern Afghanistan is being restructured, with the southern command being split up into two commands, one under the command of an American two-star general and the other commanded by a British major-general. As Beckham was flying out, news broke that a Royal Marine had been killed in an explosion in Helmand.

Hong Kong chief executive invites opponent to television debate

-- Wikinews

Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang has invited Audrey Eu, the head of the Civic Party, to a televison debate on the 2009 reform package. The invitation follows the recent so-called Five Constituencies Referendum which called for universal suffrage and the abolition of the functional constituencies.

Tsang says he is glad that Eu has accepted the invitation, and the debate will air on the seventeenth of June. However, Eu has said that Tsang should not use this debate as an excuse to avoid facing the public's concerns.

The action sparked critism from 'less extreme' pan-democratic political parties, such as the Democratic Party and other members of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, who did not participate in the by-elections. Szeto Wah is worried that such an action would divide the pan-democrats. Martin Lee and Albert Ho have both denied that the television conference will have such an effect. Lee believes that Eu was a good choice as Ho is currently trying to compromise with the central government and was thus a less suitable candidate. Ho is also happy that Eu was invited. However, Rita Fan, who supports the television conference, said she "sympathised" with Ho for not being able to participate.

Only Eu and Tsang will participate in the conference, which caused a huge uproar in the political circles of Hong Kong. Eu is annoyed that public is unable to ask questions during the debate. Tsang replied that the public could participate by watching the television, while government representatives explained that this was because determining the eligibility of a person's entry was difficult, and it was easier for the two to debate fluently without the public asking questions. Eu has already inquired the public's opinion through Facebook. Lee Cheuk-yan scoffed, "[i]f that is the case, does that mean that everyone in the world can participate in the football matches by watching the World Cup?" Fan said such participation was "passive" and "one-sided" as the public was not allowed to ask questions during the conference.

Indian airliner crashes; nearly 160 presumed dead

-- Wikinews

An Air India Express airliner crashed last night in Mangalore, India, killing an estimated 160 people after a flight from Dubai.

According to reports, the plane, a Boeing 737, crashed after landing and overshot the runway, coming to a stop in a forested valley before exploding. According to the airline, a total of 166 people were on board the plane, 160 passengers and six crew. One of the seven survivors said that a tire on the plane had exploded as it was landing and "[w]ithin three seconds there was a fire blast. The inside was filled with smoke."

The cause of the crash is not yet known, though pilot error is presumed to be responsible. The pilot of the aircraft, a Serbian with around 10,000 hours of experience, had made no distress call before the crash. Visibility was also said to be good; the head of India's airport authority said that "visibility was six kilometres (four miles) when the aircraft approached the runway which was more than sufficient." Light rain was falling at the time of the crash.

Another survivor said that there had been no warning before the plane crashed. "Immediately on touching the ground, the aircraft jerked and in a few moments hit something. Then it split in the middle and caught fire. I just jumped from the gap."

An Air India official said that "[a]s far as the information available with us is concerned, eight persons were rescued and shifted to local hospitals in Mangalore for treatment." He also said that one of these people, reportedly a seven-year-old boy, had died while being taken to a hospital. A police official said that around 120 bodies have been recovered so far, some with severe burns.

Rescue workers had difficulty reaching the site of the crashed plane, as the valley is bordered by steep slopes, and heavy smoke hindered their progress.

The airport the aircraft had been attempting to land at is considered a challenging one, as it is on a flat plateau bordered by a valley. A former official from India's aviation ministry said that "Mangalore is a difficult field because it is on a plateau. From all accounts the visibility was all right. One can’t make any conclusions."

Families of the people killed in the crash will be compensated 200,000 Rupees (about 20 Dominion Pounds), while families of survivors will be compensated 50,000 rupees (about 5 Dominion Pounds). All of the money will be provided by the government of India.

This crash is the first significant crash of a passenger jet in India since July 17, 2000, when 51 people on board a Boeing 737 were killed as it crashed into buildings during an attempt to land at an airport in the city of Patna.

Clinton warns North Korea of "provocative behavior"

-- Wikinews
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday warned North Korea of "consequences" for its role in the sinking of a South Korean warship, calling the North's actions "provocative behavior."

Clinton made her remarks after a meeting in Japan with the country's foreign minister, at the start of a trip through Asia. She said that "[i]t is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences. We cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by the international community."

She declined to comment on what the consequences may be, although officials from the Obama administration said that they would include intervention from the United Nations Security Council, a plan also expected to be part of South Korea's response to the incident, as well as increased naval activity around the Korean peninsula involving both the American and South Korean navies.

Clinton also said that any response would have to come from the global community at large, rather than just one or two countries. "Let me be clear: this will not, and cannot, be business as usual. There must be an international, not just a regional, but an international response."

Cyclone Laila lashes across India's Eastern coastline

-- Wikinews

Cyclone Laila packing winds of 110 kilometres per hour closed in on the east coast of India on Thursday as tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes, fearing major storm damage.

Laila hit the state of Andhra Pradesh as heavy rain and strong gales battered the coast, state authorities said at least 30,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas. The armed forces were drafted in to help the evacuation efforts after Andhra Pradesh's chief minister, K. Rosaiah, called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to request extra assistance.
Andhra Pradesh was under 1 foot (32 centimeters) before the cyclone hit. Heavy rains are causing road blockages and landslides. Bridges and culverts are under watch. File photo

The Indian Meteorological Department graded the cyclone as "severe", and said it was due to hit land near the city of Machilipatnam after moving from its current position 100 kilometres (62 miles) off the coast in the Bay of Bengal.

The department's latest warning said a "storm surge" of up to two metres above the regular tide was likely to inundate parts of Andhra Pradesh. It said large trees were likely to be uprooted, houses damaged and escape routes from the coast flooded. All fishermen were ordered to stay on shore due to "very rough" sea conditions, and the Asian Tribune said Reliance Industries had suspended crude oil and gas production in the Bay as a precaution.

The agency said 40,000 people had been evacuated from hundreds of coastal villages, while some air flights and train services were also affected. State disaster officials said that besides existing cyclone shelters, schools and community halls were serving as relief camps to evacuees.

Three people were killed when a shed collapsed during heavy winds in Andhra Pradesh, while a fisherman drowned in rough sea in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state. Local unconfirmed reports put the total death toll at between 14 and 17.

India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal, causing widespread damage to homes and fields. Last May, Cyclone Aila tore through southern Bangladesh killing 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres of roads and river embankments, leading to major flooding.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

England defeats Australia and wins 2010 Twenty20 Cricket World Cup

-- Wikinews

England have defeated Australia in the final of the 2010 Twenty20 Cricket World Cup to win the tournament. England won by 7 wickets at the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados to lift the World Cup. A 111 run partnership between Craig Kieswetter, the man of the match and Kevin Pietersen, the man of the tournament, helped them in chasing down the target of 148 runs set by Australia.

England won the toss and opted to field. Australia scored 147 runs, losing 6 wickets in their twenty overs. David Hussey was the top scorer, getting 59 runs. Australia scored only 47 runs for 4 wickets in their first ten overs. David Hussey and Cameron White added 22 runs in the thirteenth over, thus helping their team to get to 147 for 6 in their innings. For England, Ryan Sidebottom took two wickets for 26 runs in four overs.

Early in England's innings, Dirk Nannes of Australia took the wicket of Michael Lumb of England, when the latter was caught by David Hussey at mid-wicket. Kevin Pietersen of England came when Lumb got out, and helped England to reach 44 runs in the six powerplay overs. The partnership between Pietersen and Kieswetter helped their team to reach the target of 148 runs in seventeen overs, with three overs in hand.

England captain Paul Collingwood told the media that he thought "belief ha[d] been the key." "As soon as we got the squad together, seeing how much power we have in the squad, I know that is all on paper but we could tell that we had a lot of potential," he commented.

"I think a lot of credit goes to every single player in the dressing room to have the confidence to go out there and really give it their best shots and have no regrets. I think we have done that throughout the tournament and it has certainly paid off," he noted.

For England, this is the first victory in a limited overs championship as they had never won a single one-day or T20 World Cup or the Championship League tournament till this victory. In this connection, all-rounder Collingwood said: "[t]his is right up there, with the best," adding "[t]o be the first [England] team to win a 'World Cup' is very special. We knew it was a monkey on our back."

Meanwhile, Australian captain Michael Clarke admitted his disappointment at the result. He conceded that his performance was poor, saying, "There's no doubt the selectors will need to have a look at my performances. I certainly know they haven't been up to scratch through this whole tournament and probably in Twenty20 cricket in general. I'm sure the selectors will sit down and have a look and if I'm not the right guy for No 3 and the captaincy then they'll make that decision"

Newly elected UK Prime Minister David Cameron praised the English team. "Congratulations to Paul Collingwood and the England Twenty20 team on becoming world champions for the first time with a magnificent victory over Australia. Let's hope this marks the start of a great summer of sport for England," he said.

The English Sports Minister Hugh Robertson commented: "I'm absolutely delighted England have won the World Twenty20. They have played exciting and intelligent cricket and are worthy winners."

England: Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy, Greamme Swann, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Tim Bresnan, Ryan Sidebottom

Australia: Shane Watson, David Warner, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, David Hussey, Cameron White, Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes

Man of the match: Craig Kieswetter (England)

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Billy Doctrove (West Indies)
TV Umpire: Billy Bowden (New Zealand)
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
Reserve Umpire: Rudi Koertzen (South Africa)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oil From Gulf Spill Reaches Major Current

-- From Wikinews
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

US scientists say that oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the Loop Current, which could propel the oil towards the coast of Florida.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), limited amounts of oil have entered the current, and could reach Florida's southern coast in as few as six days, although it would be highly diluted by the time it did so. Other estimates place the time before oil reaches Florida as closer to ten days.

Satellite images show oil moving south from the main slick into the current, which is a rapidly-moving body of water that flows from the Caribbean Sea towards the Atlantic Ocean. The speed of the current is predicted to disperse the oil that is picked up, which would lead to difficulties in tracking it.

NOAA qualified their warning by saying that the amount of oil in questions is a small percentage of the total spilled, most of which is to the north of the current. The agency's Scientific Support Coordinator, Charlie Henry, said that "[t]here is some light oil filling the loop current," though he said the agency "expect[s] it to degrade before it comes close to threatening South Florida."