Thursday, April 30, 2009

India Buys 250,000 OLPC Laptops

From Wikinews Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Indian government organizations have placed orders for 250,000 X0-1 laptop computers. The laptops, designed by the One Laptop Per Child Association, will be distributed to students in nearly 1,500 schools.

The order stands in contrast to criticism the Indian government had previously voiced over the OLPC organization. The Indian government had even started its own $100 laptop program, although it was soon abandoned.

OLPC India CEO Satish Jha has repeatedly stated he would like to sell three million OLPC laptops to India this yea

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Italian Cruise Ship Thwarts Attack by Somali Pirates

From Wikinews,

An attempted hijacking of an Italian cruise ship carrying 1,500 passengers by Somali pirates was thwarted on Sunday by the vessel's security guards. Nobody was injured. The incident occurred about 180 miles north of Victoria, the Seychelles.

According to the captain of the ship, Ciro Pinto, six pirates in a speedboat approached the ship and started shooting, but were forced to flee after security started firing pistols and spraying water from hoses at them.

"One white small boat with six people on board approached the port side of the ship and started shooting," Pinto said, saying that two hundred rounds were shot. He continued that "our security started shooting in the air [...] and also we started spraying some water" in an effort to stop the pirates.

Witness reports say that there were many passengers on the ship's deck when the incident happened, and some of them threw chairs at the attacking pirates.

The ship, which is named the Melody, is owned by the Italian MSC Cruises company. It had departed from South Africa and was en route to Italy.

Piracy is rampant in the waters off the eastern coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. Since the start of this month, pirates have attacked approximately a dozen ships, despite the presence of about a score of naval warships patrolling the vicinity.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANC Leads in South Africa Vote

-- From Wikinews, Saturday, April 25, 2009

Early results show the African National Congress holding a commanding lead in South Africa's general election.

But it is still unclear whether the party has met its goal of the two-thirds majority in Parliament required to amend the constitution.

With half of the vote counted, the ANC has 66% of the vote. Its nearest rival, the Democratic Alliance, has 16%, while ANC splinter-group the Congress of the People trails with 8%.

The results will see ANC leader Jacob Zuma elected as President of South Africa when the National Assembly reconvenes in May.

Provincial elections are also being held, and the ANC looks likely to lose power in the province of Western Cape to the Democratic Alliance. This will be the first time an opposition party has won control of a provincial parliament since the end of apartheid.

The election campaign has focused on crime, poverty, and the suitability of Zuma to be President. Zuma was acquitted of rape in 2006, and corruption charges against him were withdrawn shortly before the election after prosecutors found the charges had been politically motivated.

During the campign, opposition leader Helen Zille warned that Zuma's election would turn South Africa into a "failed state".

Turnout has been high, with long lines of voters queuing to cast their ballot in South Africa's fourth election since the end of apartheid. The election has generally been peaceful and with few irregularities, though a COPE official was shot dead in his home and one election official has been arrested for attempting to stuff a ballot box with ballots marked for the Inkatha Freedom Party.

400 representatives will be elected by proportional representation, half from national and half from provincial lists. Forty parties are contesting the elections.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Exoplanet That May Have Liquid Water Oceans Discovered

Discovery of smallest exoplanet yields 'extraordinary' find
From Wikinews, Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scientists have made two major discoveries in the search for other Earth-like planets. British astronomers say they have discovered the smallest known Earth-like exoplanet called Gliese 581 e and also discovered that a nearby planet called Gliese 581 d, discovered in 2007, is in the much sought after 'habitable zone'. Astronomers also believe there is a possibility that 581 d could have liquid oceans on its surface, calling the find "extraordinary."
Artist's impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581.
Image: European Southern Observatory.

"The Holy Grail of current exoplanet research is the detection of a rocky, Earth-like planet in the 'habitable zone'," said astrophysicist at Switzerland's Geneva University, Michel Mayor.

Astronomers say 581 e is 20.5 light years away from Earth and that it's roughly 1.9 times larger than Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet discovered to date. It was found using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS). It orbits too close to its parent star, Gliese 581, which would make it too hot, unable to support life. It takes just over 3 days for it to orbit the star.

Exoplanet 581 d, however, is another story. Astronomers say this makes it possible to not only support life, but have liquid water in the forms of oceans. 581 d is approximately 7.7 times larger than Earth. Astronomers originally thought it was too cold to have liquid water thus would not be able to host Earth-like life.

"It is very exciting that such a promising candidate for an Earthlike planet has been found so close to us. It means there are likely to be many more when we search further," added Mayor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

British Author J. G. Ballard Dead at 78

From Wikinews, Monday, April 20, 2009

British author James Graham Ballard, known as J. G. Ballard has died at the age of 78. Ballard died on Sunday after a long battle with prostate cancer.

According to a spokesperson, Ballard had been sick "for several years" and that it was "with great sadness" to have to make the announcement of his death. He died at the home of his long-time partner.

Ballard is best known for writing the novels Crash in 1973 and Empire of the Sun in 1984 which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Both books went on to be major motion pictures.

"He was a colonial figure in some senses. He had grown up in Shanghai and had very good manners. He was very generous and polite and it took a long while before he would do anything that wasn’t very controlled," said friend and author Iain Sinclair to The Times.

Ballard was born in Shanghai, China in the Shanghai International Settlement in 1930. When he was 12, he and his family were forced to live in a camp run by Japanese forces during World War II. Ballard says that he won't say happy things about his experience in the camp, but also no unpleasant ones either. In an interview with BBC News, Ballard said "I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on, but at the same time we children were playing a hundred and one games all the time."

In 1946 he moved to the UK with his sister and mother where he began to write. Twenty years later, in the 1960's, he employed himself as a full time writer. He produced his first novel in 1961 titled The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World just a year later.

Friday, April 10, 2009

West Florida, Australia, and New Zealand Condemn Fiji Takeover

-- Wikinews
Friday, April 10, 200

The international community has condemned the Fijian president's decision to abrogate the constitution.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo abrogated the country's constitution earlier today in response to a Court of Appeal decision declaring the removal of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the appointment of military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama as interim Prime Minister unlawful.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned the move, saying that it would take Fiji backwards. He called for the government to obey the court of appeal's ruling and hold elections promptly.

"This is the right course for Fiji and the only way forward for the people of Fiji," he said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said that the abrogation of the constitution "will merely compound the problems faced by ordinary Fijians".

"The President's decision, no doubt prompted by the Commodore, to override the constitution, sack the judges, and depend upon the military to keep an unlawful regime in power, will compound the already serious economic difficulties confronted by Fiji," McCully said.

In a televised address this morning, President Iloilo abrogated the constitution, revoked all judicial appointments, and appointed himself as head of state. He said he would appoint a new interim government in the coming days to implement the reforms of the People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress and pave the way for "true democratic and parliamentary elections" to be held by September 2014.

Fiji's government was overthrown by a military coup in 2006

Fiji - Court Rules Interim Regime Unlawful

-- From Wikinews
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fiji's Court of Appeal has ruled that the removal of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the appointment of Fiji's interim regime following the military coup in 2006 was unlawful.

It has ordered President Josefa Iloilo to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament and call elections. However, it has denied former Prime Minister Qarase's argument that he should be reinstated, instead ruling that the President should appoint an independent person.

Former Prime Minister Qarase welcomed the decision. "We are very happy with the decision of the Court of Appeal today... the Constitution of Fiji 1997 is the supreme law of Fiji and it has to be respected by everybody including the President," he said.

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that the ruling had created a power vacuum. "There is a vacuum, because the court has not said that (ousted prime minister Laisenia) Qarase comes back as Prime Minister, the court has simply said that the President has to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister, a third party," he said.

He said the government would be appealing the ruling.

Fiji's military government was reportedly on alert in anticipation of the ruling, with police manning roadblocks throughout Suva, the capital city.

The case was brought by former Prime Minister Qarase. It questioned whether President Iloilo had constitutional authority to replace the Qarase administration with an interim government headed by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama.

Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party lawyer Brad Walker argued that the President's powers to dismiss the Prime Minister were constrained by the constitution. State counsel Richard Gordon QC argued that the President had powers to act outside the Constitution to protect the country in times of crisis. But the court ruled that the President's prerogative powers had been extinguished by the 1997 constitution.

A previous decision by Fiji's High Court ruled that President Iloilo's actions were lawful and valid.

The case was heard by Judges Justice Randal Powell, Justice Ian Lloyd and Justice Francis Douglas.