News & Current Affairs

June 24, 2009

Somalia MPs flee assassinations

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:01 pm

Somalia MPs flee assassinations

Hardline Islamic fighters in Mogadishu on 23 June 2009

Hardline Islamists have been battling pro-government forces since 7 May

Scores of Somali politicians have fled the war-torn Horn of Africa nation in the last month amid escalating clashes.

As few as 280 MPs remain, with 250 needed to make a quorum in the 550-seat assembly, based in the capital.

One MP quit on Wednesday warning the chamber was doomed and 20 others have gone to Kenya in the last week after several high-profile assassinations.

Meanwhile, casualties of recent unrest have had to be flown to Kenya because hospitals in Mogadishu cannot cope.

About 56 patients, mainly government forces, wounded in fighting over the last week have been flown to Nairobi for treatment.

Since 7 May, an alliance of militant Islamist hardliners, which controls parts of the capital and much of southern Somalia, has been locked in ferocious battles with pro-government forces in Mogadishu.

New radio station
It also emerged on Wednesday that the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, Amisom, is to set up a radio station in Mogadishu.

map

The station will support embattled President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s fragile transitional government.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and many reporters faced with death threats have either fled or will not risk working in the country.

Since the latest bout of fighting began last month, 130 lawmakers, including several ministers, have fled to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
About 20 legislators have made their way there in the last week alone, during which time a fellow MP was gunned down, a security minister was killed in a suicide blast, and Mogadishu’s police chief was died in battle.

On Wednesday, Abdullah Haji Ali, an MP for Somaliland, resigned, predicting the parliament was doomed to fail amid the deteriorating security situation and that nine of his colleagues were also ready to go.

Dozens of other Somali MPs are abroad – some in neighbouring Djibouti and others in Europe and the US – with only about 50 on official visits, according to Reuters news agency.

Refugee crisis

The BBC Somali Service says one cannot rule out the possibility of the parliament losing so many MPs it will lack a quorum – threatening the UN-backed government’s ability to function formally.

People rush a wounded civilian to hospital in Mogadishu, on 20 June 2009

Civilians have borne the brunt of the recent violence and many are fleeing

But analysts reckon the president’s position will probably remain safe, as long as the African Union’s 4,300 troops stay in Mogadishu.

At the weekend, Somalia’s interim government urged neighbouring countries to send troops to help.

The Kenyan government says it has not yet decided whether to intervene.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said if Mogadishu falls to the radical Islamists, the consequences would be very grave.

Kenya has a 1,200-km (745-mile) border with Somalia and every day hundreds of refugees try to cross into Kenya.

BBC world affairs correspondent Adam Mynott says Kenya already has more than 300,000 displaced people in camps close to the border.

Ethiopia, another neighbour, which pulled its troops out of Somalia in January after two years, has said it will not intervene again unless it has a “firm international mandate”.

President Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991.

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Right ear is ‘better for hearing’

Filed under: Health and Fitness, Latest, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:50 pm

Right ear is ‘better for hearing’

Ear

The left-side of the brain processes much of what is heard in the right ear

If you want to get someone to do something, ask them in their right ear, say scientists.

Italian researchers found people were better at processing information when requests were made on that side in three separate tests.

They believe this is because the left side of the brain, which is known to be better at processing requests, deals with information from the right ear.

The findings are reported online in the journal Naturwissenschaffen.

We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear
Professor Sophie Scott, of University College London

In the first study, 286 clubbers were observed while they were talking with loud music in the background.

In total, 72% of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener.

In the second study, researchers approached 160 clubbers and mumbled an inaudible, meaningless utterance and waited for the subjects to turn their head and offer either their left or their right ear.

They then asked them for a cigarette.

Overall, 58% offered their right ear for listening and 42% their left.

In the third study, the researchers intentionally addressed 176 clubbers in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette.

The researchers obtained significantly more cigarettes when they spoke to the clubbers’ right ear compared with their left.

Brain

In conclusion, the researchers said: “Talk into the right ear you send your words into a slightly more amenable part of the brain.

“These results seem to be consistent with the hypothesised specialisation of right and left hemispheres.”

Professor Sophie Scott, of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, agreed.

“Most people process speech and language on the left-hand side of the brain and while it is not cut-and-dry a lot of what goes in our right ear will be dealt with by the left-side of the brain.

“The other side of the brain is more involved in things such as interpreting emotion and that is why we have these kind of findings.

“We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear.”

Protesters ‘in new Iran clashes’

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:33 pm

Protesters ‘in new Iran clashes’

Iranian riot police are reported to have clashed with demonstrators defying government decrees to stop street protests over disputed elections.

Eyewitness reports say there have been clashes near the parliament building in the capital Tehran, in the streets around Baharestan Square.

Reporting restrictions in Iran mean the we cannot verify the reports.

The new protests came hours after Iran’s supreme leader said it would “not yield” over the election result.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei again said the result would stand, despite days of protests in which at least 17 people are reported to have died.

The ayatollah has repeatedly demanded that the protests stop, but his calls have gone largely unheeded.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that police beat protesters with batons, fired tear gas and shot into the air to disperse the crowd on Wednesday.

Although some demonstrators fought police, others fled to another square about a mile (2 km) to the north, the witnesses said.

The main protest leader, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, has not been seen in public for days, but his website quoted his wife saying protests would continue.

June 23, 2009

Apple chief Jobs ‘back at work’

Filed under: Latest, Technology News — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 7:17 am

Apple chief Jobs ‘back at work’

Steve Jobs

Analysts say Mr Jobs will likely start back at work on a part-time basis

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has reportedly returned to work following six months of medical leave.

Mr Jobs, 54, who is reported to have had a liver transplant, was expected back at his desk at the end of June.

Apple has refused to comment on the matter but did quote Mr Jobs in a press release on first weekend sales figures for the next generation of iPhones.

The blogosphere has noted several sightings of Apple’s co-founder around its campus in Silicon Valley.

“Jobs is in the house!” declared CNBC’s Jim Goldman, who is regarded as having close ties to Apple.

“Confirmed! Steve Jobs did report for work today, according to employees who have seen him on campus,” wrote Mr Goldman in his TechCheck column.

Reuters news agency quoted sources saying Mr Jobs “was seen leaving the main Apple building in Cupertino and getting into a black car alone that was driven off by men in black suits with ear-pieces.”

Revelations

In 2004, Mr Jobs was treated for pancreatic cancer.

Last year there were fears that the cancer had returned when he appeared at a major Apple event looking thin and gaunt.

Months of rumour ensued and the company’s share price rose and fell as a result.

In January, Mr Jobs revealed that he was being treated for a “hormone imbalance”.

Over a week later he sent an e-mail to employees and told them that his medical problems were more complex than first thought and he would take six months off work to concentrate on his health.

The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Mr Jobs underwent a liver transplant over two months ago, but Apple remained tight-lipped on the subject.

Analysts have predicted that Mr Jobs will stay on as chief executive officer on a part-time basis with a view to moving on to become chairman of the company.

R&B singer admits Rihanna assault

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 7:02 am

R&B singer admits Rihanna assault

Chris Brown in the LA courtroom

Brown will have to attend courses on domestic violence

R&B singer Chris Brown has pleaded guilty in the US to one count of assault on his former girlfriend, pop star Rihanna.

Brown, 19, was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to do six months of community service.

Brown had faced charges of assaulting Rihanna, 21, during a row in February.

The last-minute plea deal came before a hearing at a Los Angeles court at which Rihanna was due to give evidence. She said the sentence was “fair”.

Brown had been facing a potential jail sentence of four years.

His sentence involves five years of supervised probation and six months of community labour, such as picking up litter or removing graffiti.

He will also have to attend courses on domestic violence.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge also ordered Brown and Rihanna to stay at least 50 yards from each other, except at entertainment industry events when the distance is reduced to 10 yards.

Judge Patricia Schnegg told him: “I think it’s commendable that you took responsibility for your conduct, sir.”

Rihanna’s lawyer, Donald Etra, said the singer believed it was a “fair and just resolution” to the case.

Brown, singer of the hits Run It and Kiss Kiss, was questioned by police on 8 February over a complaint of assault.

Rihanna attended the court hearing on Monday

Rihanna was due to give evidence in court

Police said he had been in an argument with an unidentified woman in a parked car in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, which escalated after they left the vehicle.

Both Brown and Rihanna, whose hits include Umbrella, pulled out of that night’s Grammy awards, where they had been due to perform.

He has since said he was “sorry and saddened” by the incident and was seeking counselling.

After reports of the assault emerged, a photograph was posted on a US gossip website which purported to show Rihanna, who hails from Barbados, in the hours after the incident with welts, scratches, bruises and swelling on her face.

After it appeared, the Los Angeles Police Department launched an internal investigation and asked for the public’s help in finding the person who leaked it.

Sarkozy stirs French burka debate

Filed under: Politics News, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:25 am

Sarkozy stirs French burka debate

Montage of women wearing the Islamic veil

The use of the head-to-toe veil is dividing opinion in France

Since this was the first time in almost one and a half centuries that a French president had been allowed to address parliament, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech was already on course to ruffle a few feathers.

The Greens and Communists refused to attend and the Socialists left early, claiming the venue for the address – the Chateau of Versailles, which was home to King Louis XIV – smacked of monarchy and a thirst for power.

But it was the French leader’s attack on the burka that really caused a stir.

He expressed his strong distaste for the head-to-toe Islamic veil, calling it not a sign of religion but a sign of subservience.

“It will not be welcome on French soil,” he said.” We cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, deprived of all identity. That is not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.”

President Sarkozy’s comments have not come out of the blue.

They are in response to a call last week by a group of 65 cross-party MPs, led by the Communist Andre Gerin, who wants a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the spread of the burka in France.

They want to see whether such a spread is indicative of a radicalisation of Islam, whether women are being forced to cover themselves or are doing so voluntarily, and whether wearing the burka undermines French secularism.

Mr Gerin believes the burka “amounts to a breach of individual freedom on our national territory”.

Because, if the mention of monarchy triggers warning bells in France, the mention of religion triggers much louder ones.

Ban in schools

The concept of secularism or “laicite” is sacred in France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
We must not fight the wrong battle. In the republic, the Muslim faith must be respected as much as other religions
Nicolas Sarkozy,
French President

The separation of church and state is jealously guarded by everyone from school teachers to government ministers – and the constitution states the republic “does not recognise, subsidise or remunerate any religious body”.

It underpinned the French Revolution, and has been a basic tenet of the country’s progressive thought since the 18th century when French Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu regarded religion as divisive, benighted and intolerant.

It was this same concept that was invoked five years ago to ban conspicuous signs of religion – including Islamic headscarves – from schools.

That decision sparked controversy and debate across Europe, with critics claiming it stigmatised Muslims at a time when France needed to be stepping up its fight against rife discrimination in the job market, which had caused so many youths of Muslim origin to feel forgotten by French society.

This latest call for a potential ban of the burka has prompted the head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion to warn MPs they risk stigmatising Muslims again.

But the special inquiry does have the backing of Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque and a former head of the Muslim council, who insists that Islam in France should be an “open and convivial Islam that allows people to live side by side”.

He fears that anecdotal evidence that more women are wearing the burka in France is linked to an “excess, a radicalisation” among some Muslims.

Find out about different styles of Muslim headscarf

With five million Muslims living here, France is home to Western Europe’s largest Islamic community and the government will be anxious not to isolate the Muslim population by being seen to be trying to dictate to women what they should wear.

The issue has even split the French cabinet.

Rama Yade, the Muslim human rights minister, said she would be open to a ban if it was aimed at protecting women who wore a burka against their will. The immigration minister, Eric Besson, believes a ban will only create tensions.

President Sarkozy may have given his backing to an open debate on the burka, but he also insisted France needed to make sure it knew exactly what it was debating.

“We must not fight the wrong battle,” he said. “In the republic, the Muslim faith must be respected as much as other religions.”

Six killed in US subway collision

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:03 am

Six killed in US subway collision

Two rush-hour subway trains have collided in Washington DC, leaving at least six people dead and 76 injured.

Carriages of one train came to rest on top of the other after hitting it from behind as it was stationary, although the cause is unclear, officials said.

The female driver of the moving train was among the dead.

The crash – the worst in 33 years of the Metro system – happened above ground between Fort Totten and Takoma Park at 1700 local time (2200 BST).

President Barack Obama said in a statement: “Michelle and I were saddened by the terrible accident in north-east Washington DC. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy.

“I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived immediately to save lives.”

Washington fire chief Dennis Rubin said approximately 200 firefighters were at the scene of the accident.

He said 76 people were treated at the scene and six of those were sent to hospital with critical injuries.

He said the majority were walking wounded.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty described it as “the deadliest accident in the history of our Metro train transit system”.

He added: “We have to at this time continue to act and behave as a rescue scene.”

BBC correspondent Richard Lister said it was possible people were still trapped in the lower of the two train carriages.

He said Mr Rubin had reported that parts of that carriage were 70 to 80% compressed.

‘Ploughed into the back’

The general manager of the Washington subway, John Catoe, said the crash had happened as one train waited for another to clear a station ahead.

He said: “The next train came up behind [the waiting train] and, for reasons we do not know, ploughed into the back.

“We are committed to investigate this accident until we determine why this happened and what must be done to ensure it never happens again.”

Both trains involved in the collision were heading in the direction of Washington rather than to the city’s outlying areas.

This meant the trains were likely to have had less people on them, the Associated Press quoted Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Passenger Jodie Wickett told CNN she had been sitting on one of the six-car trains, sending text messages on her phone, when she felt the impact.

We stopped and then it felt like an explosion… when we were hit it seemed like at full speed by the train behind us
Train passenger

She said: “From that point on, it happened so fast, I flew out of the seat and hit my head.”

Ms Wickett said she stayed at the scene and tried to help.

She added: “People are just in very bad shape. The people that were hurt, the ones that could speak, were calling back as we called out to them.

“Lots of people were upset and crying, but there were no screams.”

Another unnamed passenger said: “I was on the train that got hit. We stopped and then it felt like an explosion… when we were hit it seemed like at full speed by the train behind us.

“It was horrible. The second train – the first car was just absolutely shredded, the second car, the seats were out the window. It was awful.”

Our correspondent added the accident had happened at the peak of rush hour, on what is a popular and busy commuter line.

The accident is the Metro network’s first crash with a passenger fatality since 1982 when three people were killed in a derailment.


Are you in the area? Have you been caught up in events? Send us your comments

June 22, 2009

Miami’s tent city for sex offenders

Filed under: Health and Fitness, Latest, Politics News, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:07 pm

Miami’s tent city for sex offenders

A Miami law is forcing many of the city’s sex offenders to sleep rough under a bridge, reports Emilio San Pedro for the BBC’s Americana programme.

Tents set up by released sex offenders under a road bridge in Miami

As many as 70 released sex offenders live in the camp

The area under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in downtown Miami has in recent years become the unlikely home for a growing community of about 70 convicted sex offenders.

They have ended up living in a makeshift tent city under one of the causeway’s bridges because of a local law which prohibits those who have sexually abused minors from living within 2,500 ft (760m) of anywhere where children congregate, such as schools, libraries and parks.

After the local laws were enacted, Florida’s correctional authorities found there was virtually nowhere else for these people to live and began dropping them off at the bridge.

Some of them have even been issued with driving licences with the bridge listed as their home address.

‘Trash mounting’

“Welcome to American justice,” said Dr Pedro Jose Greer, the Dean of Florida International University’s Department of Humanities, Health and Society, as he met me under the bridge to discuss the squalid conditions at the camp.

“We have people living together with mental and physical illnesses in an environment where people can’t possibly sleep because of the cars going by overhead – where you can smell the urine and see the trash mounting all around us.”

Dr Pedro Greer
This is the stupidest damn law I have ever seen and it’s purely mandated by revenge without any consideration for the well-being of these people
Dr Pedro Greer
Campaigner

Dr Greer has for decades been a leading advocate in Miami for homeless people and their right to receive adequate medical and social services.

He told me that he has become increasingly angry over the last few years at the existence of this camp and the lack of an alternative way to reintegrate these convicted sex offenders into society.

“What we’re doing is we’re saying ‘let’s take the people that we most despise, that did some of the most egregious things in society and let them all get together and not supervise them and let them wander around the community’,” he tells me with a clear sense of frustration in his voice.

“This is the stupidest damn law I have ever seen and it’s purely mandated by revenge without any consideration for the well-being of these people – who deserve better despite the severity of their crimes,” he says.

No money

As we walk around the camp, with its tents and makeshift huts, lack of running water, electricity or any form of sewage, I meet Isaias, a 35-year-old Latino and former US Marine, who has been living at the camp for over two years.

He tells me how the state authorities simply drop offenders like him under the bridge and – as he puts it – let them fend for themselves.

“They don’t give us no water, no food, no portable toilets, no money – nothing,” he tells me.

Julio
I’ve only been here five days but I can’t believe these criminal conditions we live in
Julio

Isaias – who served five years in prison for having sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl and is now out on parole – says that all that he and many of his neighbours under the bridge want is to be able to attempt to lead a normal life and move beyond their criminal past.

“I can’t live with my wife and my daughter. I would like to have a normal life and be able to become a productive member of society again, but society is not giving us that chance,” he tells me.

I then ask him if – as a father himself – if he can understand why society harbours such anger for people who have committed these sorts of crimes.

“I would understand it – yes – as a father but at the same time I cannot expect that a person who committed this kind of crime against my own child should then come out of jail and be forced to live like an animal – as we’re doing here,” he says.

A few metres away I meet Julio – a 62-year-old Cuban immigrant, who served 10 years in prison for abusing a 12-year-old girl. He is a recent arrival at the camp and is finding it very difficult to adjust.

“The conditions here are terrible. I’ve only been here five days but I can’t believe these criminal conditions we live in. I have absolutely nothing and no-one to give me any form of assistance at all. I wonder if I’ll ever get out of here,” he concludes.

Too sensitive

The problem for people like Julio is that the serious nature of the crimes they committed makes it very difficult for them to get much sympathy from the local community or from local politicians – who for the most part have found the issue too sensitive and downright controversial to become involved.

However, earlier this month, one City of Miami commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, did just that.

With the backing of the city government, he wrote a letter to the state governor, Charlie Crist, asking him to shut the camp down.

He based that request on the fact that there is a small island that serves as a weekend park for boaters and their children that lies within the existing local boundaries.

I’m not here to support or endorse anything with regard to sexual offenders. However, they are living in squalor
Marc Sarnoff
City Commissioner

I met Mr Sarnoff on a sunny morning at a local park, where some boys were playing baseball with their coach.

He told me that his top priority remained protecting these children from sex offenders like the ones who lived at the camp.

“Let me be absolutely clear. I’m not here to support or endorse anything with regard to sexual offenders. They are my least bit of concern,” he tells me.

“However, they are living in squalor. I don’t think human beings will stay in that condition. They’re going to start leaving and what we thought was a good law of 2,500 ft to keep them away from our children will eventually push them back into the population.”

Mr Sarnoff hopes that the letter to Governor Crist will force the state either to find some alternative place to house the sex offenders or force some form of legal action that will get the state’s courts, which are not beholden to the desires of the electorate, involved.

For the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others like Dr Greer – who believe the offenders have already served their time in prison and deserve the right to attempt to get on with their lives – the camp’s existence and the desperate conditions there serve as a troubling reflection of the values of modern-day Miami.

“The question is – have we become a society that doesn’t let you die but lets you suffer? Do we just say we’re living in the Middle Ages – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?” Dr Greer told me after we had finished touring the camp.

“I think we’ve gone beyond that.”

Missing for 50 years – US nuclear bomb

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 1:38 pm

Missing for 50 years – US nuclear bomb

Colonel Howard Richardson

Colonel Howard Richardson ditched the bomb off Tybee Island

More than 50 years after a 7,600lb (3,500kg) nuclear bomb was dropped in US waters following a mid-air military collision, the question of whether the missing weapon still poses a threat remains.

In his own mind, retired 87-year-old Colonel Howard Richardson is a hero responsible for one of the most extraordinary displays of aeronautic skill in the history of the US Air Force.

His view carries a lot of weight and he has a large number of supporters – including the Air Force itself which honoured his feat with a Distinguished Flying Cross.

But to others, he is little short of a villain: the man who 50 years ago dropped a nuclear bomb in US waters, a bomb nobody has been able to find and make safe.

‘Top-secret flight’

Shortly after midnight on 5 February 1958, Howard Richardson was on a top-secret training flight for the US Strategic Air Command.

It was the height of the Cold War and the young Major Richardson’s mission was to practise long-distance flights in his B-47 bomber in case he was ordered to fly from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida to any one of the targets the US had identified in Russia.

Colonel Howard Richardson
We thought maybe it was something from outer space, but it could only be another plane
Colonel Howard Richardson

The training was to be as realistic as possible, so on board was a single massive H-bomb – the nuclear weapon he might one day be instructed to drop to start World War III.

As he cruised at 38,000 feet over North Carolina and Georgia, his plane was hit by another military aircraft, gouging a huge hole in the wing and knocking an engine almost off its mountings, leaving it hanging at a perilous angle.

At his home in Mississippi, Colonel Richardson said: “All of a sudden we felt a heavy jolt and a burst of flame out to the right.

“We didn’t know what it was.

“We thought maybe it was something from outer space, but it could only be another plane.”

The colonel thought his number was up. His bomber started plummeting to earth and he struggled with the flight deck to get any kind of response.

“We had ejection seats – I told ’em: ‘Don’t hit the ejection seats just yet. I’m gonna see if we can fly.'”

As he dropped to 20,000 feet, he somehow got the damaged craft under control and levelled out.

He and his co-pilot then made a fateful decision which probably saved both their lives and the lives of countless people on the ground.

B-47 bomber wing

The B-47’s engine was left hanging from the plane

Colonel Richardson told me that the decision was instantaneous – and he still has no doubt it was the right thing to do.

They would ditch their nuclear payload as soon as possible in order to lighten the aircraft for an emergency landing and also to eliminate the danger of an enormous explosion when they made their unsteady arrival at the nearest available runway.

“The tactical doctrine for Strategic Air Command gave me the authority to get rid of it (the bomb) for the safety of the crew – that was the number one priority,” Colonel Richardson said.

He managed to direct the B-47 a mile or two off the coast of Savannah and opened the bomb doors, dropping the bomb somewhere into the shallow waters and light sand near Tybee Island.

He then managed a perfectly executed descent from which he and his crew walked away unscathed.

The pilot of the other aircraft, an F-86 fighter jet, also survived, after his ejector seat shot him clear of his aircraft.

I’ve been living with it now for 51 years
Colonel Howard Richardson

Immediately after the crash, a search was set up to find the unexploded nuclear weapon, buried somewhere too close for comfort to the US’s second-largest seaport and one of its most beautiful cities.

Numerous other searches have followed, both official and unofficial, and each of them has also proved unsuccessful.

So the bomb remains tucked away on the sea-bed, in an area which is frequently dredged by shrimp fishermen, any one of whom could suddenly find that they have netted something a touch larger and scarier than a crustacean.

How dangerous the bomb is after all these years is a matter of hot debate.

The US Air Force insists it is safest to leave it wherever it is, and Colonel Richardson is adamant that it is incapable of a nuclear explosion because it lacks the vital plutonium trigger.

‘Practice mission’

He said these were routinely left out of the bombs used on training flights.

“This was just a practice mission. We were continually working out any problems, that’s why we had to practise – we wanted to be perfect,” he said.

But his case has been vigorously contested by opponents who raise apocalyptic fears of a thermonuclear explosion which could destroy much of the US eastern seaboard.

Fears have also been expressed that the bomb could be located and recovered by a terrorist group, and are even some who believe that may already have happened.

For Colonel Richardson, the event which shaped his life has not ended quite the way he thought it would.

“I’ve been living with it now for 51 years.

“We had an accident and I landed the aircraft safely… I did get a Distinguished Flying Cross from a general for that.

“I thought that would be the story. That’s not the story – everything’s about the nuclear weapon.”

Ethiopia looks to revive past cglories

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 1:28 pm

Ethiopia looks to revive past railway glories

train

A major project is under way to restore Ethiopia’s 100-year-old imperial railway, and there are even plans to build a new national network.

The French built it for the Emperor Menelik in the early 1900s, and French influences are everywhere, from the glazed canopies of the Addis Ababa railway station to the startling sight of the Ethiopian station staff in Dire Dawa talking to each other in French as they dispatch a night goods train down the line to Djibouti.

Like so many rail systems, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway was neglected for years in favour of road transport, but the loss of its main ports when Eritrea gained independence left Ethiopia totally dependent on Djibouti for an outlet to the sea.

Man on empty platform

This passenger may face a long wait for the next train

The country needed the railway more than ever, but the line was in no fit state for intensive use.

The system is narrow, one metre gauge, with steep gradients on the long haul up from sea level to the Ethiopian highlands.

Some stretches of track are more than a century old; crumbling embankments and decaying bridges limit the weight and speed of the trains.

Recently it has been averaging one derailment a week, and attracting so little traffic that for a time staff frequently went unpaid.

But now, with European Union support, a major restoration project is under way.

Spectacular scenery

Almost a third of the track is being re-laid, using heavier weight rails – 40kg per metre instead of the 20kg rails still in use on some stretches of the line.

The section from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa has been closed while the work is going on.

end of the railway line

The railway to nowhere?

A spectacular stretch of line, near the town of Metahara, where the track runs on a narrow causeway across a volcanic lake, has already been completed.

Workers are strengthening bridges, consolidating embankments, and casting 25,000 concrete sleepers to replace the lightweight metal sleepers which were there before.

Meanwhile, a little desultory traffic still runs on the lower stretch of the line from Dire Dawa to Djibouti – a trainload of fruit and vegetables once a week for sale in Djibouti, coffee for export, trainloads of live camels destined for the meat markets of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Coming the other way are all the construction materials needed for the project itself.

When the work is finished, in perhaps 18 months time, the system will still be narrow gauge, but much safer and more robust, able to take heavier trains at faster speeds.

‘Pro-poor’

The railway’s general manager, To’om Terie, who now sits in his comfortable office in Addis Ababa above a silent, deserted station, says he expects a volume of something like 10 trains a day and a comfortable operating profit.

map

Mr To’om, who has worked for the railway for more than 30 years, is happy about the prospects for his own railway, but excited too that national policy now officially embraces rail transport.

The government is starting to plan a completely new rail system, with a further 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of lines.

It is early days yet, and Ethiopia is still looking for partners to build such a network.

But the man in charge of the project, Getachew Betru, confirmed that this would be a standard gauge railway, electrified to take advantage of the abundant, cheap electricity expected to be produced by ambitious new hydro-electric schemes soon to come into operation.

It would be primarily designed to carry freight, and although the proposed routes are still confidential, it might – for instance – serve the coffee-producing areas of western Ethiopia, the light industries of the north, the commercial food producing areas south of Addis Ababa, and the fertile, but as yet undeveloped farmlands near the Sudan border.

Sign in Amharic and French

The French influence is still strong

Mr Getachew talks with enthusiasm about rail transport as the engine of development, and of his conviction that railways are inherently more “pro-poor” than any other transport system – of much more use to Ethiopia’s rural dwellers than an expensive network of tarmac road, driven on mostly by tourists and aid workers.

At the moment the new network is still a dream, but given Ethiopia’s dramatically-rugged terrain, if it does get built, then it will surely be one of the outstanding railway engineering feats of the 21st Century.

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