Archive for October, 2018

31
Oct

Former Chilean President Pinochet suffers heart attack

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, 91, has suffered a heart attack early this morning. His son, Marco Antonio, declared that his father had received his last rites from a Catholic priest and that “he is in the hands of God and the doctors”. Pinochet underwent a bypass surgery in the Hospital Militar in Santiago and his condition is reported to be critical but stable. Doctors have reported he is also suffering from pulmonary edema.

Pinochet came to power in 1973 when the Chilean armed forces led a coup which deposed the left-wing president Salvador Allende. Allende’s rule had seen a growing polarization of Chilean society, economic crisis, and terrorist activity from far-left groups. Pinochet set about exterminating his opposition, mainly socalists and communists, and suspended the constiution. His neoliberal economic policies, carried out by the “Chicago Boys“, a group of Chilean economists influenced by Milton Friedman, were able to reduce the rampant hyperinflation and stabilize the economy. In 1981, a plebiscite approved a new constitution drafted by Pinochet’s government. As the new constitution decreed, another plebiscite took place in 1988 to determine whether Pinochet should remain in power. The “No” option won and Pinochet stepped down. He remained as head of the army and senator until 1998, when he relinquished these positions. He was arrested that year in London for human rights violations, but was able to return to Chile. He is currently under investigation by Chilean officials over tax evasion and human rights violatons. He had recently accepted “responsibility” for “everything that was done” during his government, “which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration”.

31
Oct

ARM: 2010 worst year for Afghanistan since US invasion

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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The Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), an Afghan human-rights group, stated yesterday that 2010 was the worst year in terms of violence for the country since US-led troops occupied the country in 2001.

The ARM says that civilian deaths have risen and that Taliban insurgents have not been defeated despite a surge in troops in Afghanistan. “In terms of insecurity, 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Not only have the number of security incidents increased, the space and depth of the insurgency and counter-insurgency-related violence have maximised dramatically,” the ARM said.

ARM’s figures state that over 1,074 civilians were killed and over 1,500 wounded in war violence in the first half of this year, an slight increase over 1,059 deaths in the same time period in 2009. “Up to 1,200 security incidents were recorded in June, the highest number of incidents compared to any month since 2002,” the ARM commented.

According to the ARM, over half of civilian deaths in the first six months of this year were caused by Taliban insurgents that showed “little or no respect for the safety and protection of non-combatants in their armed rebellion against the government and its foreign supporters.” The group also said that the second highest cause of civilian deaths were suicide attacks by the Taliban. The suicide attacks killed 127 people. Also, the ARM reported that a reduction of US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) air strikes reduced their share of civilians killed. The air strike reduction had been ordered by the former commander of foreign forces, General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by US president Barack Obama for making rude comments about top White House government officials.

In December of last year, US president Barack Obama sent an additional 30,000 soldiers into the country in an effort to halt the Taliban’s influence in the region. However, the ARM says in its mid-year report, titled “Civilian Casualties of Conflict”, that the move failed to have any lasting effect, and that “the insurgency has become more resilient, multi-structured and deadly”.

According to the ARM, most of the injuries and deaths were attributed homemade bombs — otherwise known as improvised explosive devices. These bombs are considered the Taliban’s main weapon.

140,000 soldiers from both the US and NATO are stationed in Afghanistan; another 10,000 are scheduled to enter the landlocked Asian country in the next few weeks. Over 350 US and NATO troops have been killed so far this year, compared with 520 last year. Over 30 troops have been killed in the first 12 days of July.

30
Oct

Trojan Nuclear Power Plant cooling tower demolished

Sunday, May 21, 2006

At 7 a.m. PDT the 499-foot water cooling tower of the Trojan Nuclear Power plant was imploded using dynamite. The cooling tower, which is located in Rainier, Oregon, is the largest in the world to be demolished. For the past thirty years the tower has been an icon of the Pacific Northwest.

Controlled Demolition Incorporated, which was hired to bring down the tower, used approximately 3,300 sticks of dynamite. The company also imploded the King Dome in Seattle, Washington in 2000. Prior to the implosion, Interstate 5 and Highway 30 as well as river traffic on the Columbia River was blocked as a precaution.

The plant, which is owned by Portland General Electric, began operation in May 1976 and was shut down in January 1993 due to structural problems. It was decommissioned in 1999 when the reactor was taken upstream by barge to Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Some fuel rods are buried at the site, although they are in a casket over 900 feet from where the cooling tower sits.

30
Oct

Tornadoes damage hundreds of Missouri homes, force closure of airport

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An EF4 tornado struck near St. Louis, Missouri Friday night, forcing the closure of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and damaging over 2,700 buildings in St. Louis County. The National Weather Service also confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in neighboring St. Charles County and an EF2 touched down in Pontoon Beach, Illinois.

The city of Bridgeton, in North St. Louis County, was hit by the EF4 tornado. According to the National Weather Service, it was the most powerful tornado to touch down in the St. Louis region since 1967, with winds ranging from 166 and 200 miles (267 and 322 kilometres) per hour. Aftereffects of that tornado were also reported in Maryland Heights, Missouri.

One official estimated that anywhere from 50 to 200 homes in the Maryland Heights and Bridgeton areas incurred damage, but early numbers released by St. Louis County indicate that over 2,000 buildings in those two cities had suffered “noticeable damage,” which does not include minor damage. Around 30,000 people in the region did not have power Saturday, out of a total of 47,000 affected residents.

Authorities with search and rescue dogs went door-to-door Saturday, looking for possibly trapped residents. Aerial imagery was being used in damage assessment. Area residents unaffected by the tornado were assisting those that lost their homes, reported St. Louis television station KSDK.

The Harmann Estates neighborhood of Bridgeton was heavily damaged during the storm, with many residences losing roofs and siding. Officials have already condemned some of the subdivision’s homes. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley reported 25 homes in Bridgeton and Berkeley, Missouri as being completely destroyed and an additional 35 as uninhabitable.

Granite City, Illinois was struck by the EF2 tornado, while New Melle, Missouri was hit by the EF1. Fourteen New Melle homes sustained minor damage, while four were heavily damaged.

The storm also caused the temporary shutdown of two major St. Louis highways. Portions of Interstate 70 and Interstate 270 were closed Friday night due to fallen power lines and storm debris. Both blocked sections have since reopened, but officials said it would take a few days to remove all the debris, which they pushed onto the roadsides.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which is immediately west of Berkeley, suffered heavy damage Friday night from the same tornado, and was forced to halt all regular operations Saturday while crews worked to clear the affected terminals. Eight flights had been forced to land in Kansas City, Missouri Friday night due to the tornado. About 500 people were in Lambert Airport when the tornado hit. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson said other US airports were not affected by Lambert’s shutdown. Lambert is not an airline hub and is significantly less busy than it was ten years ago.

In a Saturday press conference, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Lambert’s director, said the airfield and Terminal 2 were “fully functional,” but the main terminal’s Concourse C had been severely impacted by the storm. That terminal, which sustained the heaviest damage, serves Air Tran, American Airlines, Cape Air, and Frontier Airlines. The total cost of repairs at Lambert is expected to be in the millions of dollars, but Hamm-Niebruegge said the airport does not yet have a good estimate.

It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying.

One passenger of a waiting plane at Lambert told KSDK that heavy winds pushed the aircraft about 20 feet (6.1 metres) while it was still attached to the gate. Two other planes on the tarmac were unable to return to the airport, so passengers were bused back. Five planes—four operated by American and one by Southwest Airlines—suffered damage, and some will undergo major repairs.

Some travelers inside the airport received medical attention for minor injuries caused by flying glass. A handful of people were transported to a local hospital for additional treatment, but all were later released. “We get to the terminal and lights were out, glass everywhere, blood everywhere from people had been cut,” recalled one witness. Another person at the airport reported, “The ceiling was falling. The glass was hitting us in the face. Hail and rain were coming in. The wind was blowing debris all over the place. It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying.”

On Saturday, it was evident that Concourse C would not be open for some time, said Mayor of St. Louis Francis Slay. A large section of its roof was missing and around half of its windows had been blown out by the high winds. Debris and water from the storm were present inside the airport as crews worked to restore power and assess damage to the terminal. Missing windows had been boarded up, ruined carpet had been removed, and the control tower was functional by Saturday afternoon. The power was back on by 7:40 p.m. CDT (00:40 UTC) that evening.

The airport resumed outgoing flight services Sunday, although several incoming flights landed at Lambert Saturday evening. Slay said the airport will be running at 70 percent capacity until mid-week, depending on the availability of airline crew members and planes. Airlines using Concourse C will have their operations temporarily relocated, he added. On Sunday, Southwest was operating at normal capacity, while AirTran moved to Concourse B and canceled four of its eleven scheduled flights. A spokesperson for American said the airline would have planes ready for normal Monday operations. American had previously canceled all St. Louis flights scheduled for Sunday.

It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing

On Saturday afternoon, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon arrived at Lambert and visited areas devastated by the tornado. He originally planned to tour Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, and Berkeley, but Nixon was only able to tour Berkeley due to an approaching line of storms. While in St. Louis, the governor said 750 Missouri homes had been damaged by Friday’s tornadoes and that federal assistance was forthcoming. Nixon reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was involved in assessing storm damage, as well as that US President Barack Obama had already contacted him, promising relief funds. US Representative Lacy Clay, said Saturday that he would brief Obama on the situation.

The state declared the affected areas of St. Louis County a disaster area. No one has reported serious injuries or deaths as a result of the storm, although some people were treated for minor injuries. “It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing,” Slay said.

29
Oct

Australian Budget for 2006-2007 released

Tuesday, May 9, 2006The Australian Budget (Appropriation Bill No. 1) for 2006-2007 was released by the Australian Liberal PartyAustralian National Party coalition government treasurer, Peter Costello (Higgins, Liberal).

Costello noted the resilience of the economy against natural disasters and terrorism, and through “disciplined and prudent management” the Government was able to “repay Labor’s debt” of quoted 96 billion dollars of net debt and the Government was now “debt-free”.

Costello noted that the Government budget was in “surplus for the ninth time” with a forecast surplus of 10.8 billion.

Contents

  • 1 Infrastructure
  • 2 Tax reform
  • 3 Assistance to families
  • 4 Defence
  • 5 Conclusions
  • 6 Sources
28
Oct

Israeli ex-minister Yaakov Neeman dies aged 77

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Yaakov Neeman, an Israeli politician who served as justice minister and finance minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, died in his Jerusalem home on Sunday. He was 77.

Born in 1939 in Tel Aviv, Neeman, alongside future President Chaim Herzog, founded law firm Herzog, Fox and Neeman in 1972. He was appointed finance minister in 1979, a position he held until 1981. He was later appointed justice minister by Netanyahu, based on his legal training and loyalty.

Unusually for a senior minister, he had never served in the Knesset. He held the job for two months before resigning; he was being investigated for perjury. Michael Ben-Yair, Attorney General of the day, launched the probe after Neeman testified at a bribery trial. Neeman was cleared.

Neeman regained the Justice Ministry post in 1997, resigning again the next year. He blamed insufficient support from Netanyahu and resumed law. In 2009 Netanyahu was reelected, again appointing Neeman minister of justice. In 2013 this role passed to the Hatnua party’s Tzipi Livni.

Neeman’s last resignation, in 2013, came as he was under investigation by the Israel Tax Authority for evading tax via his law company. The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court ultimately acquitted him.

Outside law and politics Neeman was also an industrialist. He worked with Israel Aircraft Industries, airline El Al, and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. In 1986 he was credited as key to convincing business partner Herzog, who was then president, with pardoning members of the Israel Security Agency; after a bus was hijacked, security forces shot dead two Palestinians once the hijack had concluded.

Neeman specialised in tax law. A fluent English speaker, he had degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York University. His wife and six children survive him.

Current President Reuven Rivlin spoke of a good lawyer and advisor whose wisdom he had sought as recently as last week. “The entire Justice Department bows his head”, said current Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Herzog’s son Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union, spoke of “a tender-hearted, broad-minded and generous man” who “was a mentor and close friend for tens of years.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Neeman was “a unique figure in our public life, blessed with talent and pleasantness, who believed in his heritage and his people with his entire body.” Netanyahu called Neeman “one of the senior jurists in the country, of a sharp mind and a warm Jewish heart.”

26
Oct

Market maker Bernard L. Madoff arrested in $50B ‘giant Ponzi scheme’

 Correction — January 10, 2009 This article incorrectly states that Mr Madoff attended Hofstra University Law School. His education was actually with Hofstra College, which he graduated from in 1960. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top broker and Wall Street adviser Bernard L. Madoff, aged 70, was arrested and charged by the FBI on Thursday with a single count of securities fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud. He allegedly told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that his $50 billion business “is all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme (since at least 2005).” Mr. Madoff faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5 million. FBI agent Theodore Cacioppi said Mr. Madoff’s investment advisory business had “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in investors’ losses of approximately $50 billion dollars.”

The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market is also the founder and primary owner of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he launched in 1960. The firm is one of the top market maker firms on Wall Street. He founded his family firm with an initial investment of $5,000, after attending Hofstra University Law School. He saved the money earned from a job lifeguarding at Rockaway Beach in Queens and a part time job installing underground sprinkler systems.

A force in Wall Street trading for nearly 50 years, he has been active in the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), a self-regulatory organization for the U.S. securities industry. His firm was one of the five most active firms in the development of the NASDAQ, having been known for “paying for order flow,” in other word paying a broker to execute a customer’s order through Madoff. He argued that the payment to the broker did not alter the price that the customer received. He ran the investment advisory as a secretive business, however.

Dan Horwitz, counsel of Mr. Madoff, in an interview, said that “he is a longstanding leader in the financial-services industry with an unblemished record; he is a person of integrity; he intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event.” Mr. Madoff was released on his own recognizance on the same day of his arrest, after his 2 sons turned him in, and posting $10 million bail secured by his Manhattan apartment. Without entering any plea, the Court set the preliminary hearing for January 12.

Madoff’s hedge fund scheme may rank among the biggest fraud in history. When former energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, one of the largest at the time, it had $63.4 billion in assets. The scheme would dwarf past Ponzis, and it would further be nearly five times the telecommunication company WorldCom fraud and bankruptcy proceedings in 2002.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a separate civil suit on Thursday against Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and its eponymous founder Mr. Madoff. It was docketed as “U.S. v. Madoff,” 08-MAG-02735, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). SEC, New York associate director of enforcement, Andrew M. Calamari, asked the judge to issue seizure orders on the firm and its assets, and appoint a receiver. The SEC pleads, among others, that “it was an ongoing $50 billion swindle; our complaint alleges a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions.” It further accused the defendant of “paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other, different investors” for years. Madoff’s hedge fund business had previously claimed to have served between 11 and 25 clients and had $17.1 billion in assets under management. But virtually all of the assets were missing.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Louis L. Stanton on Thursday appointed Lee Richards, a Manhattan lawyer, as the firm’s receiver. A hearing is set for Friday, for a ruling on the SEC’s petition to grant plenary powers to the receiver over the entire firm, and an absolute asset sequestration.

Doug Kass, president of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management said that “this is a major blow to confidence that is already shattered — anyone on the fence will probably try to take their money out.”

25
Oct

Israel announces 10 month halt to settlement construction in West Bank

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, told a news conference earlier today that there will be a ten-month stop in the construction of new settlement housing in the West Bank. The Israeli cabinet approved the move by a margin of eleven to one.

“We have been told by our friends that once Israel takes the first meaningful steps towards peace, the Arab world and the Palestinians will follow,” said Netanyahu following the cabinet’s endorsement of the move. “Well, the government of Israel has taken a very big step towards peace today, and I hope the Palestinian and the Arab world will work with us to forge a new beginning for our children and theirs.”

The freeze was made “out of broad national interests with the aim of encouraging negotiations with our Palestinian neighbours,” he continued. “When the period of freeze ends my government will return to the previous policy of building in Judea and Samaria [the Jewish name for the West Bank].”

“This is a far-reaching and painful step […] We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach an historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu later said.

Under the plan, construction permits for new residential buildings would be put on hold for ten months. The government said that “natural growth” — characterised by the construction of homes by young people, who were raised in the settlements and want to build houses for their own families — would be exempt from the freeze. Parts of the West Bank that Israel annexed to the Jerusalem municipality would also be excluded from the freeze. The building of schools and places of worship, which will enable settlers to live what Netanyahu described as “normal lives”, will also continue.

“We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements,” he commented.

The prime minister added that there would be no change to Israel’s existing policy on the issue of Jerusalem. “Regarding Jerusalem, our sovereign capital, our position is well-known. We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital,” he said.

Several members of the Israeli cabinet expressed their disapproval at the proposal, with the conservative, ultra-Orthodox Shas party boycotting the cabinet meetings.

“I think it’s a complete crumbling of Netanyahu’s position and is contrary to all of his electoral promises. He promised an end to unilateral steps, and here we see him after only a few months in office giving up, even though there is no reciprocity from the Palestinians,” said the head of the main settler lobby, Danny Dayan, to the Christian Science Monitor. We are 300,000 citizens, living in 150 communities. It is impossible to freeze us. I don’t how it will happen, but we will break this freeze.”

Many Palestinians also criticised the proposal, mainly because East Jerusalem was not included in the settlement freeze. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a Palestinian spokesman, said to the Wafa news agency that Palestine “rejects returning to peace talks without the complete cessation of settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad also rejected the plan. “The exclusion of east Jerusalem is a very, very serious problem for us. We are not looking for the resumption of the process just for the sake of it, for it to falter a week or two down the road,”

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordanian control, following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The Jewish state annexed that part of the city in a move that was not recognized by the international community.

Earlier this week, on a visit to Argentina, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stepped up his campaign to put international pressure on Israel to stop building on lands that Palestinians say are their own. Abbas urged US president Barack Obama, as well as leaders of other nations that support Israel, to press the Jewish state to end its construction of settlements on occupied lands.

Netanyahu has in the past offered to restrain settlement growth, but today’s announcement was the first time that he set a clear timeframe.

25
Oct

Australia: Victorian government to trial driverless vehicles on public roads

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Yesterday, the state government of Victoria, Australia announced their decision to trial self-driving vehicles on two of the state’s major connecting motorways, the CityLink and Tullamarine Freeway. The trial is to use autonomous vehicles from automobile companies including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Tesla. The two-year trial is to have three phases.

The cars are to drive alongside commuters, but in public testing a driver is always to be present, as Victorian law requires drivers always keep a hand on the steering wheel. However, in occasional closures of the Burnley Tunnel, with no other drivers to endanger, the cars are to be tested with nobody in the vehicle.

Lane assist, cruise control, and recognition of traffic signs are in the trial’s first phase, expected to complete before the end of the year. This includes monitoring how the driver-less cars respond to road conditions, including lane markings and electronic speed signs.

“Victoria is at the forefront of automated vehicle technology — we’re investing in this trial to explore ways that this technology can be used to reduce crashes and keep people safe on our roads”, said Luke Donnellan, the Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety. He noted, “Ninety per cent of the fault of accidents is human error […] so we know that if we can take out human error we will have less accidents”.

Tim Hansen, Victoria Police’s Acting Assistant Commissioner, said that police had founded a project team to investigate how self-driving vehicles would change policing on roads. “Can we intercept vehicles more safely to avoid pursuits and ramming?”, he asked.

The trial is a partnership between the state government, Victoria’s road management authority VicRoads, owner of the CityLink toll road Transurban, and insurance company RACV.

24
Oct

Private helicopter crashes in UK

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Police earlier released a statement reporting that a private helicopter carrying several people had vanished following the Champions League football semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium.

The helicopter left Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport on Tuesday night at around 11pm, and was heading for a private landing site near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire when it vanished. It is believed to have left radar screens at around 12.30am.

A police spokeswoman said: “Details are sketchy at the moment. The helicopter, we believe, had about four or five people on board and was a twin-engine Twin Squirrel. It left John Lennon Airport in Liverpool at about 11pm and was on its way to a private address near Peterborough. It appears to have disappeared off the radar. At the moment we are trying to find out more. The best case scenario is that it has made an emergency landing somewhere.”

The wreckage of the helicopter was found in woodlands near Wansford, in Cambridgeshire. The pilot has been named as Stephen Holdich, co-owner of operating company Atlas Helicopters.

Also on board were Jonathan Waller and Phillip Carter, as well as other people yet to be named. It is believed one of the others on board was Mr Carter’s teenage son, Andrew. It has been released that the people found on board are deceased.

In 1996 Chelsea vice chairman Matthew Harding was killed when his helicopter, also a Twin Squirrel, crashed while returning from a match against Bolton Wanderers.