Archive for the 'Current Events' Category

Obama releases birth certificate to end “birther” issue

On April 27, the White House released President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate in response to rumors started by “birthers”, people that believe Obama was not born in the U.S., therefore making him ineligible to be president. It has been confirmed that New York real estate entreprenuer and possible Republican candidate Donald Trump has recently revived this rumor, after following the birther conspiracy since Obama was elected in 2008.
“Birther” theorists have insisted since the beginning of the 2008 campaign that Obama was actually born in his father’s native Kenya, however, an authentic birth certificate has been released showing that he was born in Hawaii, in an effort to put an end to what Obama says is “pure silliness”. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” Mr Obama said. “We’ve got better stuff to do. I have better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve, and I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them – not on this,” Obama said in his televised discussion about the issue on Wednesday. The White House released copies of the original birth certificate accompanied with a stamp verifying its authenticity. White House officials say that they had been given a waiver by Hawaii public health officials as the state’s policy in realease of long-form birth records after recieving a letter of request from president Obama and his attorney. The document shows Barack Hussein Obama II was born 4 August 1961 at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, to Barack Hussein Obama, a 25-year-old student, and Stanley Ann Dunham, 18, and includes the signature of the attending physician. Donald Trump has claimed credit for Mr. Obama’s decision to publicize the release of his birth records, saying  “I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish, he should have done it a long time ago.” Whether the nationwide release of the document has satisfied hard-core birthers or not is still unclear, however, cheif executive of a birther-oriented website, Joseph Farah has said on his website that “the document raises as many questions as it answers”.

Sources:
BBC News and New York Times

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Texas wildfires rage from border to border

Texas firefighters continue to battle raging wildfires that sweep the state and have burned more than one million acres so far. The fires are said to have been created due to one of the worst droughts of the century, extremely high temperatures, and gusting winds, all of which are ideal conditions for wildfires to spread.

A wildfire threatens a home in Strawn, Texas.

Several towns have been evacuated after more than 200 homes have been destroyed, and flames are now close to one of the state’s largest cities, Fort Worth. As Sarah Wheaton stated in her New York Times article, “one of the biggest fires, covering parts of Stephens and Palo Pinto Counties, about 100 miles west of Dallas, has destroyed at least 31 homes and threatened more than 600. Four smaller fires converged into one, known as the Possum Kingdom Complex, to cover about 147,065 acres.”
Stated in a BBC News article was a letter to President Obama sent by Gov. Rick Perry, requesting federal emergency assistance and stating that the fires have threatened or had affected all but two of Texas’ 254 counties. In response to this letter, firefighters from more than 34 states nationwide are involved in helping combat these fires. Planes have been dropping water and fire retardant on the burning areas while firefighers submerge threatened homes. Weather forecasters predict a 30% chance of rain over the next few days which could possibly ease conditions, but as of now the Texas Forest Service is currently fighting more than 20 active fires across the state, which continue to grow and are showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/us/20wildfires.html?scp=1&sq=texas%20wildfires&st=cse

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13141268

Air France jumbo jet clips small plane at NY airport in collision

On monday night, an Air France Airbus clipped the tail of a commuter plane while taking off at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. Captured videos of the collision show the smaller plane spinning violently out of control on its wheels as showers of sparks fall from the impact point just after Air France hit.

Damaged left wing tip of the Air France Airbus A380 after the collision

The Paris-bound jet carried 495 passengers including 25 crew, and the Comair jet carried 62 passengers and 4 crew. Fortunately, passengers on both planes were not injured during the accident, however pilots on the Comair Flight ordered passengers to make an immediate emergency exit on the tarmac. The fire department was called for cautionary purposes shortly after. Both aircraft were towed to a nearby hangar for inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration, where the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, which is said to have been capable of causing serious damage. Air France has agreed to co-operate with the investigation.

http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2011/04/air-france-a380-comair-clip-photos/155668/1

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13052948

Virginia Tech fined $55,000 over 2007 shooting

Officers rush to the crime scene after a gunman shot dozens of people at Viriginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The U.S. government has fined Virginia Tech University $55,000 for not promptly warning students of a shooter on the loose at the start of the 2007 massacre that occured on campus, killing 32 people. A December 2010 report says that the school did not notify students as soon as possible, which is required by the Clercy Act, after a shooting that left 2 students dead at West Ambler Johnston residence hall on the morning of April 16, 2007. The shooter, identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui returned to the same hall more than two hours later and killed 30 more people before pulling the trigger on himself. The Clercy Act was established in 1990 after 19-year-old Jeanne Ann Clery was raped and murdered while asleep in her dorn at Lehigh University. The law requires all universities to disclose information about crimes on or near their campuses, however the $55,000 for two violations of the act is the maximum allowed, says Federal officials. “Because Virginia Tech failed to notify its students and staff of the initial shootings on a timely basis, thousands continued to travel on campus, without warning,” the education department wrote in a letter announcing the fine. “Had an appropriate timely warning been sent earlier to the campus community, more individuals could have acted on the information and made decisions about their own safety.” According to officials, the school waited two hours and fifteen minutes before issuing a vague warning about the shooting, after students had already left for morning classes, meaning there were a number of students still on campus before Cho began his second rampage. It has been reported that Virginia Tech will repeal.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/03/29/virginia.tech.fine/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12900196

Japan faces radiation during nuclear power plant battle

On Tuesday, an unpredicted series of dangerous explosions in the reactors at three of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants were triggered by last Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami, causing rising fear of levels in radiation that could dramatically affect human health, Japanese officials have said. The crisis with Japan’s reactors began on Friday, when the magnitude- 9.0 quake cut power to the plants.

"The damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant sends a column of smoke over the town of Okuma in the Futaba District of Fukushima following an explosion that injured 11 workers." --DIGITAL GLOBE, AFP/GETTY IMAGES @ USAtoday.com

Soon after the rumble, the tsunami took out the plants’ backup generators, which were being used to power the cooling systems for the reactor cores. In one reactor at the Fukishima Dai-ichi plant, nuclear fuel rods were exposed when they were dangerously drained of cooling water. In the other two reactors, the roofs of the surrounding buildings have been blown off due to sudden explosions caused by hydrogen build-up in the outer buildings that surround the reactor. As radiation levels near the plants rise and officials struggle to tame reactors, people are being thouroughly checked for radiation exposure and contamination. “Radiation levels around Fukushima for one hour’s exposure rose to eight times the legal limit for exposure in one year,” said the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. So far Japan has evacuated nearly 200,000 people from the areas near the plants, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has distributed more than 230,000 units of iodine to evacuation centers as a precaution. Iodine is a substance that can counteract radiation’s effects on the thyroid. Cautious steps are currently being taken to successfuly cool the reactor without any furthur incidents. Nuclear engineer John Gilligan of North Carolina State University believes that the reactors should cool in the next few weeks, and that engineers will continue to have to vent small amounts of radioactive gas from the reactors for the next few months to keep the pressure off.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-03-15-1Aquake15_ST_N.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12740843

Four Americans held on hijacked yacht killed by Somali “pirates”

On Tuesday, February 22, four American hostages hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman have been killed, U.S. defense officials say. The yacht, owned and sailed by Scott and Jean Adam of California, and accompanied by couple Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, was hijacked while the two couples were sailing though Somalia’s pirate infested seas.

Scott and Jean Adam first set sail on the 58-foot Quest in 2002.

According to the US military, four Navy warships – including an aircraft carrier – had been carefully shadowing the hijacked yacht, called the Quest, for days, hoping to prevent the pirates from disembarking with the hostages. They were in the process of negotiating with the pirates, when Navy Seals rushed to the yacht in assult craft after hearing gunshots fired from the boat. It has been said by military officials that the Navy Seals killed two pirates while trying to take control of the ship. “As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” Gen James Mattis of US Central Command Commander stated.It is still unclear why the pirates killed the hostages, however Maritime analysts suppose either accidentally during a firefight, or possibly out of revenge for the Somali pirates killed by American forces during a similar hostage situation in 2009. We do know, however, that Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast. The New York Times reassures that the U.S. Navy captured a total of 13 pirates; killed two, and found the remains of two already dead on the boat.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12541297

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/africa/23pirates.html?pagewanted=1&ref=us

U.S. anti-drug agents shot in Mexico attack; one dead

On Tuesday, February 15, a U.S. law enforcement agent was shot dead and a second wounded  in a roadside attack in Mexico city. The two agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were fired upon while traveling on the highway between Monterrey and the Mexican capital, where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the agents were “shot in the line of duty.”  One of the agents was badly wounded and later died from his injuries, and the second remains in stable condition and is expected to recover. It is not yet clear wether or not the shooting was drug-related, however, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is currently working with Mexican authorities to investigate the killing. As stated in the Washington Post, “more than 34,000 people have died in drug violence in the past four years as Mexico wages a U.S.-backed fight against criminal organizations, which have grown rich and powerful on proceeds from drug sales to the United States.” Although high levels of violence among competeting drug lords are common in Mexico and continue to increase, U.S. officials are rarely targeted. As stated in the BBC article, many politicians in the Southern United States are calling for more to be done in the effort to stop drug smugglers and human traffickers from entering the U.S.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/15/AR2011021506693.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12476900