April 26, 2009

Australia intercepts refugees

Australia intercepted a boat carrying more than 50 refugees on Saturday off Australia's coast.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus told Yahoo! News the boat was carrying 54 refugees and was stopped in international waters by border patrol officers after a tip from an oil rig.

The refugees and two crew members on the boat were taking onto a navy ship, Debus said.

The ship was stopped near Ashmore Island, where there was an explosion on April 17 on board another ship carrying refugees.

The ship was the eighth to be intercepted or to have made landfall in Australia since January. Refugees from previous ships were mainly from the subcontinent and Afghanistan, but the ethnicity of those on the most recent ship is unknown.

April 19, 2009

Many 'Lost Canadians' gain citizenship

Many unsuspecting people gained Canadian citizenship after an amendment on Canada's Citizenship Act took effect on Friday.

The act was introduced in 1947 as the first citizenship law in Canada. The new amendment will help thousands of people who were either stripped of their citizenship or were told they were not eligible for citizenship, including children of Canadians born abroad who lost citizenship after not registering with the government and those who gained citizenship in another country, according to Yahoo! News, since an old law did not allow dual citizenship.

Danielle Norris, an immigration spokeswoman, told Yahoo! News that the law was amended partly because of the mass evacuation of Canadians living in Lebanon, after Israel attacked in 2006.

Yahoo! News also reported that the immigration department estimates hundreds of thousands of Canadians living abroad could be affected by the amendment.

Though this law helps some, some do not benefit. Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., told Canadian Broadcasting Centre that the law prevents the grandchildren of Canadians who are living abroad from receiving citizenship if they were not born in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told CBC the new rule is in place to prevent those who do not pay taxes from passing citizenship to their children.

April 12, 2009

Riots in Thai capitol

The Thailand prime minister declared a state of emergency on Sunday as protesters took the streets of Bangkok.

Anti-government protesters commandeered buses, seized at least 10 major intersections in the capital and even attacked the prime minister's car with poles, stones and flower pots, according to the Associated Press.

Police told the Guardian there were up to 30,000 protesters around the city.

The prime minister's decree bans gatherings of more than five people, forbids news reports threatening to public order and allows the government to "call up troops to quell unrest," according to the Guardian.

AP reported that there were also protests in areas of northern and northeastern Thailand. One group threatened to block the main bridge between Thailand and Laos that crossed the Mekong River.

The exiled prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, is regarded by most of the protesters as their leader. The pro-Thaksin demonstrators call themselves the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, and believed current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government took power unfairly in December, demanding new elections.

AP reported that a day earlier more than 1,000 protesters swarmed into the venue of an Asian Summit between China, Japan, India and Thailand to discuss the global economic crisis. Vejjajiva was forced to cancel the summit, and the demonstrators declared it a victory.

According to AP, analysts say it will be difficult for him to regain control of the government and calm the people.

April 5, 2009

North Korea lauches missle

North Korea launched a rocket Sunday, despite intense pressure from other countries to stop the launch since it announced the plans a few weeks ago.

Thought by some countries to be a cover for a long-range missile test, North Korea launched a rocket sending its satellite "Kwangmyongsong-2" into orbit, ignoring international warnings, according to the Associated Press.

North Korea claimed to have successfully launched its satellite into orbit, but according to AP the U.S. and South Korea say nothing reached orbit on Sunday.

The U.S., South Korea, Japan and other countries have accused North Korea of using this launch to test the delivery system of a long-range missile which could eventually be able to shoot nuclear missiles as far as Alaska.

South Korean and U.S. governments told AP the liftoff took place at Musudan-ri launch pad in North Korea. The rocket reached Japanese airspace in seven minutes, but the warships from Japan, the U.S., and South Korea did not shoot anything down because no debris hit Japan, officials in Tokyo told AP.

North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command officials told AP that the first stage of the rocket landed in the ocean between Korea and Japan, and the other two stages along with the satellite landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Japan's U.N. mission requested a meeting of the 15-nation Security Council because it believed the launch violates Resolution 1718, which is part of the effort to force North Korea to end ballistic missile-related activities, spokesman Yukata Arima told AP. The meeting will be at 3 p.m. EDT, according to Mexican spokesman Marco Morales.

According to the AP, the talks involving China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea, and the United States had made limited progress in stopping North Korea's activities, and part of those talks involved the Bush administration removing North Korea from a terrorism blacklist. Some lawmakers wanted North Korea to be placed back on that list because of the missle launch, but Obama aides told AP no decision had been made.

"Now is the time for a strong international response, and North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons," Obama said in a speech on nuclear proliferation in the Czech Republic. "All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime ... we must stand shoulder to shoulder to pressure the North Koreans to change course."

March 29, 2009

Spanish courts to open a case against six ex-Bush Administration officials

A Spanish court on Saturday agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six senior officials in the Bush Administration for the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, a leading anti-terror judge, agreed to send the case on to prosecutors, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told the Associated Press.

The officials are former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

According to the Guardian, Boye believes the prosecutor would have little choice other than to approve the prosecution, and that Garzon would issue subpoenas in the next two weeks to make the six former officials present evidence.

Spanish law allows the courts to reach outside of Spain and prosecute in cases of torture or war crimes for universal justice. If arrest warrants were issued, the six accused would risk detention if they travelled outside the U.S., and President Barack Obama would be forced to open proceedings against them or request extradition from Spain.

The officials are charged with allowing interrogation methods like waterboarding suspects at Guantanamo, which the Spanish lawyers believe to have been torture.

President George W. Bush denied that the U.S. tortured anyone, and that all interrogations were lawful. The Obama Administration has acknowledged that they believe torture was committed, but they have not taken the steps toward a criminal inquiry.

According to the Guardian, the lawsuit listed six Spaniards who are said to have suffered directly from the Bush Administration's allowance of what international law might consider questionable interrogation methods. It claimed the six former officials "participated actively and decisively in the creation, approval and execution of a judicial framework that allowed for the deprivation of fundamental rights of a large number of prisoners, the implementation of new interrogation techniques including torture, the legal cover for the treatment of those prisoners, the protection of the people who participated in illegal tortures and, above all, the establishment of impunity for all the government workers, military personnel, doctors and others who participated in the detention centre at Guantánamo."

March 14, 2009

Oil spill off the coast of Australia worse than initially thought

An oil spill off Australia's northeast coast leaked ten times more oil than originally thought, a government official told the Associated Press Saturday.

Dozens of beaches in Queensland along a 37 mile coastline have been declared disaster zones after being covered in heavy fuel oil that spilled from a Swire Shipping ship, the Pacific Adventurer, on Wednesday.

Yahoo! News reported that the spill was initially estimated at 20 to 30 tons (5,300 to 7,900 gallons). Queensland state Deputy Premier Paul Lucas told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Saturday that it is "now apparent" the amount of oil spilled was around 230 tons (60,700 gallons).

Swire Shipping told Yahoo! News that an inspection of the hull by a diver found damage was greater than initially believed.

Containers of fertilizer had slipped from the ship's deck while it was being rocked in the seas by Cyclone Hamish and ripped a hole in a fuel tank.

AP reported that Queensland officials accused the company of misleading the government about the size of the spill. Premier Anna Bligh told AP that the initial estimate lead officials to predict there would be little environmental damage.

National parks at Moreton and Bribie islands were hardest hit by the oil, according to AP. Moreton Bay is a marine sanctuary and home to a range of sea birds as well as turtles, dolphins and pelicans.

The Environmental Protection Agency told AP no dead wildlife has been found so far.

Yahoo! News reported that Swire could face $977,000 in fines if found guilty of environmental or maritime breaches. The Associated Press said Swire could be fined up to $1.3 million and could be liable for up to $160 million more in penalties for causing environmental damage.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority told AP the ship would not be allowed to leave until officials were satisfied the spill had been explained. Yahoo! News reported Swire had to launch a separate clean-up effort on Friday to clean the oil leaked as the ship was being brought to port.

The New York Times reported the Pacific Adventurer lost 31 containers that held 620 metric tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and that the containers have not been found.

Experts fear the fertilizer could cause harmful algal blooms, suffocate fish and kill natural habitats, according to Yahoo! News.

Japan warns North Korea against the planned rocket launch

Japan on Friday warned North Korea, who plans to launch a rocket in April, that it can legally shoot down any threatening object if it falls towards its territory.

North Korea announced its plans to launch a communications satellite into orbit between April 4 and 8, according to the New York Times. The rocket used will fly over Japan and drop fuel stages into the Pacific.

According coordinates Pyongyang provided to the United Nations, the Associated Press reported the rocket's first stage is expected to fall less than 75 miles from Japan's northwestern shore. The second stage should fall in the Pacific between Japan and Hawaii.

The AP reported that the U.S. and other governments have warned North Korea that any rocket launch would violate a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution banning the country from ballistic missile activity. This resolution also banned North Korea from nuclear tests and came after the country detonated its first nuclear device.

The New York Times reported the neighboring countries considered the launch a cover for testing North Korea's Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile.

"Legally speaking, if this object falls toward Japan, we can shoot it down for safety reasons," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told AP.

After a North Korean missile flew over its territory in 1998, Japan has been developing a missile defense system with the United States.

Lance Gatling, an independent defense analyst, told AP that Japan is capable of intercepting a medium-range missile, but the rocket expected to fire next month will be a long-range rocket.

If successful, the rocket will fly over Japan instead of falling towards it. The New York Times reported North Korea has said it will consider any attempt to intercept the rocket "an act of war" and will attack the interceptors.

Paik Hak-soon, a North Korea expert at Sejong Institute near Seoul, told AP that if the launch is successful, it will provide the North an upper hand in future negotiations because it will show that the country has "a delivery vehicle for its nuclear weapons."

March 8, 2009

Suicide bomber kills 28 in Baghdad

Early Sunday morning, a suicide bomber near a Baghdad police academy blew himself up, killing 28 people and injuring 57.

The bombing occured at an intersection between the police academy and the oil ministry. The bomber mingled with the crowd while oil employees were demonstrating, Amar Sami Abdul Hussain, a police lieutenant who was stopping people from going towards the site of the bombing, told the New York Times.

The bomb went off about an hour into the demonstration.

Hussain told the New York Times the police believe an accomplice set off the bomb using a remote control device.

A police officer told The Guardian that the bomber was riding a motorcycle when he drove into the line, but the interior ministry said this had not yet been determined.

Some police reports say the bomber's accomplice was on a motorcycle, and others say that the individual was wearing a suicide vest, the New York Times reported.

The Guardian reported no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

March 1, 2009

Tribunal opens to investigate killing of former Lebanese leader

The United Nations opened a tribunal at The Hague in The Netherlands to identify and prosecute those responsible for the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in a car bombing in 2005.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was set up by the United Nations Security Council because it did not believe the Lebanese government was in a position to hold an independent investigation leading up to the trials.

The chief prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare of Canada, told the International Herald Tribune he would soon ask Lebanon to transfer suspects and evidence and would continue his own investigations.

Syria is believed to be involved in the assassination, but it has denied any involvement. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported the tribunal is likely to ask Lebanon to hand over four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals who had been held since August 2005 on suspicion of murder and terrorist acts but never formally charged.

The tribunal will have eleven judges. Four judges will be Lebanese, but the others include British, Dutch and Italian judges. The names of the judges will be announced when they are sworn in.

Hriri was killed in 2005 when a van packed with explosives blew up.

February 22, 2009

74 killed in Chinese coal mine explosion

A gas explosion in a coal mine in northern China killed at least 74 people early Sunday morning.

The miners were in the Tunlan Coal Mine in Gujiao city in Shanxi province. The explosion occured at 2:17 a.m., a Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, reported.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation, a State Administration of Work Safety duty officer, Zhang, told Yahoo! News.

According to the New York Times, 436 people were wroking underground at the time of the explosion. 114 miners had been hospitalized, with six listed in critical condition, according to rescue workers. The miners were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The ventilation system in the mine had broken down and the miners were told to try to escape. A survivor told Xinhua the power supply underground was cut off and the miners had to walk to the surface.

Rescuers with breathing equipment and helmets with headlamps were deployed into the mine to help carry out miners, Xinhua said.

The explosion was the deadliest coal-mining accident in China in more than a year. Xinhua said the mine had among the best facilities of any mine in China, and that there had been no major accidents there in five years before the explosion occurred.

February 15, 2009

30 killed in U.S. airstrike in Pakistan.

Two missiles suspected to be fired from American aircraft killed more than 30 people in Pakistan on Saturday.

The missiles struck three compounds by the Pakistan border with Afghanistan, and one of the compounds Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and his fighters sometimes gathered at, officials and residents told the New York Times.

The Los Angeles Times reported most of the people thought to be killed were Taliban or Al Qaeda. Sources told the paper the dead included Arabs and Uzbeks.

An anonymous official who was not authorized to speak to the press told the New York Times Mehsud was not killed in the airstrike. If the missiles had been fired at him, it would be the first time American missiles were aimed at him.

February 8, 2009

Japanese man accused of major fraud

Japanese police arrested a businessman Thursday who they believe to have defrauded thousands of investors of $2.5 billion over eight years.

Kazutsugi Nami, the chairman of bankrupt bedding supplier Ladies & Gentlemen, or L&G, and 21 other executives were arrested by the Metropolitan, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectural police departments in Tokyo a Metropolitan Police Department official said to the International Herald Tribune.

In what could be the biggest scam in Japanese history, Nami promised investors cash returns of 36 percent a year for their money. The investment also gave investors Enten, or Paradise Yen, a virtual currency that they were told would become legal tender in a post-recession era, according to the Guardian.

In September 2007, L&G filed for bankruptcy. Earlier that year L&G refused to allow investors to cancel membership and began paying them in dividends.

Pirates release Ukrainian ship

Pirates off the coast of Somalia released a Ukrainian ship carrying arms and tanks Thursday after they received a $3.2 million ransom.

The ship, MV Faina, had been held for five months by the pirates, the Guardian reported.

The U.S. Navy told the Associated Press it did not want to endanger the lives of the 147 seamen held as hostages by the pirates on other hijacked ships by seizing the pirates that took the MV Faina.

The initial demanded ransom was $35 million, but after five months $3.2 million was agreed on.

The hijacking of the MV Faina, whose cargo included grenade launchers and 33 Russian-made taks, brought attention to the piracy activities off the coast of Somalia. Countries across the globe, including the United States, India, Britain, France, Germany, China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, have sent warships to patrol the area in an anti-piracy campaign.

“It showed Somali piracy no longer affected just small coastal vessels but important and dangerous cargos,? said Roger Middleton, a London-based analyst, to the Associated Press.

January 31, 2009

North Korea Cuts Ties with South Korea

North Korea announced it was nullifying agreements for non-aggression with South Korea on Friday, increasing the tension between the two countries.

The majority of analysts featured in reports believe the intentions behind this move are to gain the attention of United States President Barack Obama as well as force South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to soften his stance against North Korea.

"The North probably believes that this type of thing is the most effective way of getting the upper hand with the US ahead of negotiations by raising tension," Korea University professor Yoo Ho-yeol told Reuters, as reported in the Guardian.

South Korean officials are still wary of the announcement, and urge the North to lower tensions with dialogue. The New York Times reports Lee predicts the dialogue between the two neighboring countries will resume “before long.?

“Of all the countries in the world, who cares the most sincerely about North Korea? The United States? Japan? China? Russia? North Korea must realize that it’s South Korea,? Lee said in a live round-table television discussion.

Lee Byung-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, a policy advisory board in Seoul, believes otherwise. He predicts North Korea will strengthen ties with the U.S. while ignoring South Korea.

“It doesn’t appear that it will just end up as empty words from the North,? he told the New York Times.