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April 25, 2009

U.S. journalist jailed in Iran on hunger strike

A U.S. journalist jailed in Iran for allegedly spying for the United States is on a hunger strike, her father told CNN.

Roxana Saberi, 31 and a dual American-Iranian citizen, entered her fifth day of the hunger strike on Sunday, the StarTribune reported.

"She said that she has started a hunger strike and this is the fifth day and that she will continue until she is free. I tried to tell her that this can be dangerous, but she didn't give me any time to protest," her father, Reza Saberi, said and StarTribune reported.

Roxana Saberi was detained in January and was sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-day trial behind closed doors last week, CNN reported.

President Obama and other U.S. and international officials denounced Iranian courts actions, according to CNN. They called the accusations baseless and demanded for her release, the StarTribune reported.

Roxana Saberi's legal team has said it will appeal her conviction, according to CNN.

Roxana Saberi is originally from Fargo, N.D., and has living in Iran since 2003. She free lanced for National Public Radio and British Broadcasting Corporation and was in Iran writing a book on the culture, according to the StarTribune.

April 19, 2009

Ashton Kutcher beats CNN on Twitter

Ashton Kutcher, 31, is best known for his acting on "That 70s Show" and his marriage to Demi Moore, 15 years his senior. But not anymore. (FOX News)

Kutcher became the first Twitter user to gain more than one million "followers" on Twitter late Thursday evening, according to Los Angeles Times.

For a few days before Thursday, Kutcher had been racing CNN's breaking news feed (http://twitter.com/cnnbrk) with his own account (http://twitter.com/aplusk) to become the first "Twitter Millionaire," FOX News reported.

Just before midnight on Thursday, Kutcher's account reached the final number. Kutcher broadcast a live stream of himself, Moore, and friends watching the numbers, according to FOX News.

The group being broadcast celebrated with champagne and cheers as the one million mark was reached, FOX News reported.

Kutcher said he would donate 10,000 mosquito nets to the medical charity Malaria No More if he won. Just after the number was announced, Kutcher flashed a check for $100,000, the presumed amount for the nets, made out to the charity, FOX News reported.

CNN also declared on Tuesday that win or lose, they would match Kutcher's donation to the charity, according to FOX News.

Two Doctors without Borders staff kidnapped

Two Doctors without Borders staff members were kidnapped Sunday in Somalia.

A three-car convoy of Doctors without Borders workers was traveling from Rabbure to Hudurin in southwestern Somalia when gunmen seized the group, according to CNN.

There were approximately 25 gunmen traveling in two trucks, according to a source at the site and reported by The Canadian Press.

An aid worker who did not want to be identified told The Canadian Press that the Somalian staff who were with the two hostages were released.

The nationality of one hostage is European, but the other is still unknown, The Canadian Press reported.

Rabbure is in the Bakole region, which is under the control of the group al-Shabaab. The group al-Shabaab is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, according to CNN.

April 9, 2009

Twitter traffic surges

Traffic to the social-networking site Twitter has risen 700 percent within the last year, according to new measurements from comScore.

Worldwide traffic on Twitter approached 10 million visitors in February. Traffic to the U.S. site alone has hit four million, a 1,000 percent increase from last year at this time, according to IT Pro.

Adults 35 and older are leading the Twitter trend, accounting for the majority of users, USA Today reported.

"Not only teenagers and college students can be counted among the 'technologically inclined,' which means that trends are much more prone to take off in older age segments than they used to," the comScore report stated, and USA Today reported.

Dead man re-elected as mayor of Missouri town

The mayor of Winfield, Mo., was re-elected for a fourth term on Tuesday, nearly a month after his death.

Ballots had already been printed and absentee voting had begun when Harry Stonebraker died of a heart attack on March 11. He was 69, the BBC reported.

When the town voted for their mayor, he was the clear winner with 206 votes, or 90 percent. Alderman Bernie Panther was his competition and held the other 23 votes, according to the Associated Press.

Lincoln County Clerk Elaine Lust told the Associated Press that she was not surprised Stonebraker won. He had been a popular mayor who led the community after flooding damaged houses and farmland in 2008, Lust said.

Stonebraker had been a lifelong resident of the Winfield area, which is roughly 50 miles north-west of St. Louis. He was a retired construction superintendent and was serving his third two-year term as mayor when he died, the Associated Press reported.

April 5, 2009

Powerful earthquake strikes Italy

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck central-Italy Monday morning local time.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake hit at 0132 GMT at 53 miles north-east of Rome, the capital city, Reuters reported.

The earthquake was first scaled at a 6.7 but was later lowered to a 6.3, according to Reuters.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, but there were two other earthquakes that had hit the area Sunday that had not caused any damage, according to the BBC.

The earthquake was strong enough to wake up residents of Rome, Reuters reported.

March 29, 2009

Earth Hour a success across the world

More than 2,800 cities worldwide participated in Earth Hour from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to UPI.

Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture in which cities, businesses and homeowners turn off their lights for an hour. This dark hour draws attention to global warming and climate change, CNN and UPI reported.

People in 83 countries and all 24 time zones turned off their lights in honor of this event, according to UPI.

Earth Hour began in Sydney two years ago, and this year hundreds of people gathered at the city's harbor to watch the lights go off at 8:30 p.m., according to the event organizers and UPI.

The "Birds Nest" Olympic Stadium in China, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Colosseum in Rome, Big Ben in London, and the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington were only a few historic landmarks that switched off their lights in contribution to the event, the Associated Press reported.

"Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign," Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley told the Associated Press. "It's always around street parties, not street protests, it's the idea of hope, not despair. And I think that's something that's been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around."

March 12, 2009

Disaster declared in Australia after oil spill

Authorities declared parts of Australia's northeast coast a disaster area Friday.

A ship lost more than 30 tons of oil Thursday, causing at least 60 kilometers of beach coastline to be contaminated with the oil slick, according to Reuters.

Moreton Island, Bribie Island and southern parts of the Sunshine Coast were declared disaster zones, according to Reuters.

"It may well be the worst environmental disaster Queensland has ever seen," Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh told Australian Associated Press.

The ship was damaged in heavy seas from the tropical cyclone Hamish, which hit the waters off of Australia with winds greater than 125 km/h, according to CNN International.

A ship also spilled at least 30 containers of chemicals in the heavy seas, Australian officials told CNN International.

The authorities are still trying to assess the affect the ammonium nitrate would have on marine life, CNN International reported.

March 8, 2009

Two British military members killed in Northern Ireland

Two British military members were shot dead and four others were wounded in a shooting incident at an army base in Northern Ireland, police said Saturday.

Pizza was being delivered in Massarene, in Antrim County, when gunmen opened fire from a passing car at about 9:40 p.m., shooting soliders and delivery drivers, eyewitnesses told CNN.

Two military personnel and two civilians were taken to the hospital in Antrim with serious injuries after the attack, which occurred 200 yards from a police station where suspected militants were believed to be detained and questioned recently.

"We haven't lost a soldier or policeman to terror in quite some time," David Burnside, an assembly member from the loyalist Ulster Unionist Party who also represents south Antrim, told CNN. "We had hoped these days were behind us."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, condemned the attack, calling it an 'act of criminal barbarism,' the Belfast Telegraph reported.

February 28, 2009

Two British tourists die in French Alps

Two British tourists fell down a steep valley to their deaths on a ski resort in the French Alps, police reported Friday.

The two men, 27-year-old Richard Ryan and 28-year-old Christopher Lockwood, went missing after a night out in the Deux Alps resort Wednesday, BBC News reported.

They were reportedly taking a short cut back to their chalet from the bar and fell off of a cliff into the "Black Coombe" ravine near the Deux Alps ski station, BBC News stated.

Fellow skiers told the police that the two men had gone missing on Thursday, but the bodies were not found until Friday, according to French rescuers and reported by Yahoo News.

February 22, 2009

Gas blast kills 74 miners in China

At least 74 people died in a mine explosion in northern China early Sunday, according to Xinhua, a state news agency, The New York Times reported.

The Tunlan Coal Mine in Shanxi Province exploded at 2:17 a.m., when 436 people were reportedly working underground, The New York Times reported.

Rescue workers told Xinhua that 114 miners were hospitalized and six were in critical condition. Dozens were reported to still be trapped within the mine by the StarTribune.

The injured miners suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and death.

The mine, in the city of Gujiao, is run by the Shanxi Coking Coal Group, which is one of China’s largest producers of coking coal, The New York Times reported.

Even though the Shanxi Coking Coal Group had a reputation for safety as no accident had occurred for five years, China’s mining industry is declared the worlds deadliest. About 3,200 miners died in accidents last year, which was 15 percent less than the previous year. StarTribune

February 12, 2009

Earthquakes hit northeastern Indonesia

A powerful series of earthquakes struck near the Talaud Islands north of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, officials said on Thursday.

At least 49 people have been injured and the earthquakes damaged about 500 homes and other buildings, Reuters reported.

According to Dr. Arikalang, head of the health ministry in the Talaud region, the damage is concentrated on the islands of Karakelong, Kabaruang, Selebahu and Sangir. This is the northeastern tip of Sulawesi Island, about 1,550 miles from Jakarta, CNN International reported.

The U.S. Geological survey measured the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.2, and said that more than 20 aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher followed. Reuters

The full extent of the aftermath is not yet known, but it is estimated that 3,000 people fled the coastal areas to the surrounding hills for safety, Priyadi Kardono, an official with the National Disaster Coordinating Agency, said.

The Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysics Agency said that no tsunamis were generated, according to CNN International.

Indonesia is situated within the “Ring of Fire? where volcanoes and fault lines make the area privy to earthquakes. Three major tectonic plates collided to form the quakes, Indonesia’s Meteorological and Geophysics Agency said. CNN International

February 8, 2009

Fires in Australia kill 14

Fourteen people died and up to 40 are presumed dead as one of the worst fires in history blazed across southern Australia Saturday. Guardian

Due to a heat wave, tinder-dry leaves and strong winds, more than 40 blazes across the southern state of Victoria and neighboring New South Wales started, according to The New York Times.

Six people were killed in their escape car at Kinglake, while four deaths were reported near Wandong, three at Strathewen and one in Clonbinane.

Meanwhile, firefighters were trying to put out flames on 10 different fronts. Arsonists are believed to be responsible for some of the blazes, the Guardian reported.

"This is an absolute tragedy for the state and we believe the figure may even get worse," Kiernan Walshe, state deputy police commissioner, told The New York Times.

This is the worst fire in Australia since a wildfire on what is called Ash Wednesday in 1983 where 75 died. The New York Times

February 1, 2009

Google glitch causes error messages

Google Inc.’s internet search service had a glitch in service for an hour Saturday morning due to human error. (The Wall Street Journal)

According to The Official Google Blog, an incorrect function was applied to a list of websites which may install harmful software onto user’s servers.

During a routine update, the incorrect function was applied to indicate that all websites were harmful, causing a box saying “This site may harm your computer? to pop up.

Error messages appeared between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., making a service disruption for approximately 40 minutes. The error was reversed by an on-call site reliability team. (The Official Google Blog)

Mr. Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesperson, told The New York Times, “Our Web search is extremely reliable, and that’s why when an interruption occurs, even if it’s for a matter of minutes, for a Saturday morning, people notice it.?

100 dead from explosion in Kenya

Over 100 died in an overturned gasoline tanker explosion Saturday, according to Kenyan officials.

Villagers started stealing fuel into plastic cans once the overturn occurred and Kenyan police were trying to stop the looters when one lit a match and threw it into the spilt gasoline, causing an explosion.

At least 113 people died and another 178 were severely burned, the Kenyan Red Cross told The New York Times.

The burn victims were overcrowding nearby hospitals in a report by StarTribune.

“They were lying there, saying, 'Give me aid, please call someone,'" Joseph Rotich, Molo resident told StarTribune. “I am so sad, so sad. When they heard this lorry had fuel, they came to get the fuel because it was free.?

The tanker overturned around 7 p.m. near the town of Molo in Rift Valley.