NATO leaders meet for two day summit in Wales

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Leaders from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) member states met in Wales over Thursday to Friday in a summit addressing the organisation’s role in Afghanistan and new threats from Russia and the Islamic State.

Since the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal countries involved in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan, have been committed to full transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. This would mark the end of ISAF’s 13 year mission in Afghanistan, with troops changing to a training and assistance role.

Plans had originally intended for Afghanistan’s new President, or President-elect, to attend this year’s summit, but due to the political situation and ongoing election process it is still unknown who will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai. Bismullah Khan Muhammadi, the country’s defence minister, instead attended the summit in the absence of a President.

This political stalemate has put at risk NATO plans for a continuing military presence in the country, with troops expected to pull out at the end of the year without new security agreements being signed, signature not possible without a new President in place. NATO members have urged Afghanistan’s presidential candidates to reach an agreement, with officials indicating that if no agreement can be reached by the end of the month, then troops would begin to leave.

On Thursday, NATO leaders pledged support for Ukraine at a meeting with the country’s President, Petro Poroshenko, in the face of recent moves from Russia. On their website, NATO outlined four areas where the alliance would provide support for Ukraine, “rehabilitation for injured troops, cyber defence, logistics, and command and control and communications”, with assistance expected to have a monetary value of about 15 million euros (about US$19 million).

On Friday, peace talks in Minsk, Belarus resulted in a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and rebel forces, whom NATO has accused Russia of supporting in their bid for separation of eastern regions of Ukraine. The UK said sanctions being prepared are likely to go ahead, regardless of the outcome of these talks, until it is seen that Russia is acting upon them.

On Friday morning, a meeting of ten countries chaired by the UK and US agreed to jointly working to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State in the Middle East. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, stated after the meeting that the group should aim to make firm plans and raise support from within the region affected before the UN General Assembly annual meeting later this month. Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, also said it was clear that regional support was needed, adding “with a new and inclusive Government of Iraq leading the efforts”.

It was also announced NATO would help a non-sectarian Iraqi government, on request, to build defence capabilities in Iraq to help fight the Islamic State, as well as coordinating the humanitarian airlift of supplies.

Plans for a Readiness Action Plan were agreed at the summit. Speaking on Monday before the summit, NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described this as a response to “Russia’s aggressive behaviour”, but outlined how he hoped it would increase the responsiveness of the alliance to face any security challenge.

These plans aim to allow reinforcements to reach any NATO member state within 48 hours, in what Rasmussen described as a “spearhead” of the preexisting Response Force. This requires logistical, and headquarters facilities to be set up in Eastern European countries, the ones most under threat from an attack by Russia, or the Islamic State. These plans are also to be rehearsed through joint military exercises.

Report urges Kenya to ban plastic bags

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005File:Plastic bag stock sized.jpg

They are cheap, useful, and very plentiful, and that is exactly the problem, according to researchers. A report issued on Feb. 23 by a cadre of environment and economics researchers suggested that Kenya should ban the common plastic bag that one gets at the checkout counter of grocery stores, and place a levy on other plastic bags, all to combat the country’s environmental problems stemming from the bags’ popularity.

Thousands continue to flee fighting in Yemen

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The United Nations refugee agency reports thousands of civilians continue to flee their homes in northern Yemen as fighting between government troops and Al Houti rebel forces enters a fifth month. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the situation in the Saada province remains particularly tense as more people arrive there.

The U.N. refugee agency reports clashes have broken out in a number of districts in the Saada province as more people arrive. It says the situation in the Razeh district is particularly serious.

The UNHCR says the civilian population there faces restrictions of movement and lacks basic services such as electricity and water. It says shortages of food and other commodities are pushing prices up sharply and an increasing number of people cannot afford to buy what they need.

U.N. refugee spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the influx of huge numbers of people in neighboring Hajjah and Amran provinces is putting a strain on shelter and aid.

There are now some 21,000 IDPs living in a camp initially designed to shelter up to 10,000 people

“Over the past month alone, the IDP [internally displaced people] population of al-Mazrak One camp in Hajjah governorate has doubled. There are now some 21,000 IDPs living in a camp initially designed to shelter up to 10,000 people and overcrowding is presently the top concern for us,” he said. “At least some 500 families in al-Mazrak camp are sharing their tents, normally meant for one family, with one or two other households. We estimate another 1,300 families who are accommodated in 48 large communal tents in four transit areas of the camp, are presently waiting for allocation of a family tent.”

The UNHCR reports overcrowding in the camp is hampering delivery of humanitarian services. The agency says it reached an agreement with Yemeni authorities this week to build a third camp. And, plans are underway to set up a camp that would potentially house some 7,000 people.

Mahecic says the number of IDPs settling with local populations outside the camps has increased as well. He says local communities are bearing the brunt of the continuing displacement in Yemen. He says aid agencies are looking at ways they can assist host families.

The U.N. refugee agency reports an estimated 175,000 people have been affected by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest crisis.

Retired U.S. vets sue Donald Rumsfeld for excessive service cutbacks

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

One thousand residents of the Defense Department-managed Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. filed a class-action lawsuit on May 24, asserting that the cut-backs in medical and dental services imposed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are illegal. The operating budget for the home was reduced from $63 million in 2004 to $58 million for 2005. The residents cite cuts in on-site X-ray, electrocardiogram, physical and dental services, and the closing of the home’s main clinic and an on-site pharmacy.

Chief Financial Officer Steve McManus responded that the changes not only save money but also achieved improved efficiencies. “We’re really trying to improve the benefits to our residents,” he said.

Most of the home’s costs are paid for by a trust fund and monthly fees paid by residents. By law, the Armed Forces Retirement Homes are required to fund, “on-site primary care, medical care and a continuum of long-term care services.”

Mississippi tornado kills at least ten

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

At least ten people are dead after a large, destructive tornado tore through Yazoo City, Mississippi yesterday. The tornado has been rated an EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, and is estimated to have had at most 170 mph winds.

Five of the deaths were in Choctaw County, four in Yazoo County, and one in Holmes County. 21 people have been hospitalized as a result of the storm, and others have been trapped in cars and houses. Multiple injuries resulted from cars being blown off of Interstate 55 during the storm.

The tornado moved along a path 97 miles long and 1.75 miles wide at its widest point. Among damaged or destroyed buildings included at least twenty houses, a church, and several businesses. According to Yazoo City mayor McArthur Straughter, the storm ripped the roofs off of every building in the area. Fallen trees and debris are hindering access to some parts of Yazoo City and Yazoo County. Before ravaging the city, the tornado damaged a chemical plant in Louisiana, causing a nitrogen leak and several injuries.

The Salvation Army is aiding relief efforts by providing hot meals, coffee, cold drinks, and spiritual counseling to tornado victims in Yazoo and Warren Counties.

The tornado occurred on the third, and most active, day of a severe weather outbreak that had previously affected areas of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, the latter two of which were also effected during Saturday’s outbreak. The Storm Prediction Center has received 104 reports of tornadoes so far during this outbreak.

Category:Science and technology

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CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Max Lombardi running in Cambridge

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Friday, September 26, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. New Democratic Party candidate Max Lombardi is standing for election in the riding of Cambridge. Lombardi is an information technology specialist who has lived in Cambridge for 25 years.

Held since 2004 by Conservative Gary Goodyear, the riding of Cambridge includes the city of Cambridge, Ontario and the Township of North Dumfries, Ontario. Also running in the riding are Gord Zeilstra (Liberal) and Scott Cosman (Green).

Wikinews contacted Max Lombardi, to talk about the issues facing Canadians, and what they and their party would do to address them. Wikinews is in the process of contacting every candidate, in every riding across the country, no matter their political stripe. All interviews are conducted over e-mail, and interviews are published unedited, allowing candidates to impart their full message to our readers, uninterrupted.

For more information, visit the campaign’s official website, listed below.

Briton to fly hang glider across the UK

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Friday, September 2, 2005

A man from North London is currently training for an attempt at flying a hang glider across the UK from land’s End to John O’Groats.

Shola Ogunlokun a 41 year old married father of 3 who had never flown a hangglider before taking up this challenge said yesterday “I aim to fulfill a dream offlying, use the challenge as an opportunity to meet the people of Britain andencourage people of similar ethnic backgrounds as me to pursue their dreams”.

Shola is on stage 2 of a 3 stage training programme, and has flown a glider offa 2000ft mountain on completion of stage 1 of his training. He is currentlylooking for sponsors and in talks with a TV production about making adocumentary of his attempt.

The flight attempt is currently planned for around Autumn next year, should takebetween 5-7 days, and Shola would like to spend the night of each flight at thehome of a local in the town he lands. If successful, Shola will be the firstperson to have flown a hang glider across the UK over this distance.

Shola has an online diary charting his progress at http://mbchallenge.blogspot.comFor further details, or to contact Shola, please visit his website:http://www.meet-britain.org.uk

Author of My Billion Year Contract reflects on life in elite Scientology group

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wikinews interviewed author Nancy Many about her book My Billion Year Contract, and asked her about life working in the elite Scientology group known as the “Sea Org“. Many joined Scientology in the early 1970s, and after leaving in 1996 she later testified against the organization. Published in October, Many’s book has gone on to become one of the top selling new books on Scientology at Amazon.com.

Soft drink foes cheer victory, lament remaining junk foods in schools

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Monday, May 8, 2006

Last week’s announcement that most soda manufacturers will stop selling their sugary products in U.S. schools did not mention that avoiding lawsuits was part of the motivation for the self-imposed ban. Some of those who threatened legal action to stop the soda sales are patting themselves on the back over the agreement, while lamenting that the deal did not go far enough, and now plan to press for more restrictions.

“Though there is room for improvement — sugary “sports” drinks still will be sold in schools, for instance — this voluntary agreement is certainly good enough that CSPI will drop its planned lawsuit against Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Cadbury-Schweppes and their bottlers,” said Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest . “I hope this settlement contributes to the momentum that is building in Congress for legislation that would require USDA to update its standards for foods sold outside of school meals. That would enable USDA to eliminate the sale of candy, cookies, French fries, potato chips, and other snack foods, as well as sports drinks, that are standard fare in school vending machines and stores.”

In the wake of the announcement of the agreement by the three largest soft drink companies, their bottlers and the public health advocacy group, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Jacobson thanked his team of litigators for “negotiating effectively with the soft-drink industry over the past six months, and for demonstrating that the judicial system can play an important role in spurring public health advances.”

Richard Daynard, a law professor and president of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which threatened the soft-drink industry with lawsuits, said in an institute press release, “The industry agreement with the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association comes after sustained pressure from potential litigation and negotiations with public health groups and their lawyers. It is a credit to the role of litigation and the legal system as a component of effective public health strategy.”

“This agreement demonstrates the potential of public health litigation to help control the obesity epidemic,” he said.

In an email exchange with the James Logan Courier, Margo Wootan, director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public interest, said, “Last week’s announcement that soft drink companies will pull all sugary sodas from schools is great step toward improving school foods. This agreement is the culmination of the tremendous national momentum on improving school foods — from the local policies (in LA, NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, etc.), state bills (in 2005, 200 bills were introduced in 40 states to get soda and junk foods out of schools), the strong bipartisan bill pending in the U.S. Congress, and threats of litigation against soda companies.”

“While today’s agreement is a huge step forward, it is by no means the last step” wrote Wootan, ” We still have a lot of work to do to improve school foods.”

The agreement, announced Wednesday morning by the William J. Clinton Foundation, means that the nation’s biggest beverage distributors, and the American Beverage Association, will pull their soda products from vending machines and cafeterias in schools serving about 35 million students, according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative between the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Under the agreement, high schools will still be able to purchase drinks such as diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, sports drinks, flavored water, seltzer and low-calorie sports drinks for resale to students.

The companies plan to stop soda sales at 75 percent of the nation’s public schools by the 2008-2009 school year, and at all schools in the following school year. The speed of the changes will depend in part on school districts’ willingness to change their contracts with the beverage distributors.

Some food activists criticized the deal for not going far enough and undermining efforts to go further.

Michele Simon, the director of the Center for Informed Food Choices, based in Oakland, Ca., called the deal “bogus” and a “PR stunt” by “Big Cola” in an effort to “sugar coat it’s image.”

“This announcement could potentially undermine ongoing grassroots efforts, state legislation, and other enforceable policies,” wrote Simon in an article at www.commondreams.org,” For example, in Massachusetts where a stronger bill is pending, a local advocate is worried about the adverse impact, since legislators could easily think that Clinton has taken care of the problem and ignore the bill. What was already an uphill battle—getting schools and legislatures to take this problem seriously—was just made worse, not better, by this bogus agreement.

“Even from a health standpoint, the deal is hardly impressive. Diet soda full of artificial sweeteners, sports drinks high in sugar, and other empty-calorie beverages with zero nutritional value are still allowed in high schools,” Simon wrote, “Also, parents concerned about soda advertising in schools will not be pleased with the agreement. Not a word is mentioned about the ubiquitous marketing children are subjected to daily in the form of branded score boards, school supplies, sports bags, and cups (just to name a few), which is required by exclusive Coke and Pepsi contracts. “

She’s not the only one criticizing the deal.“ While the initial details are promising, PHAI is concerned about some aspects of the agreement as it is being reported,” Daynard said in the press release. “The continual sale of “sports drinks” is a cause for concern. While they have a role for marathon runners and others engaged in sustained strenuous sports, for most students “sports drinks” are just another form of sugar water. Furthermore, the change in beverages offered must be carefully monitored and cannot depend entirely on the schools’ willingness and ability to alter existing contracts. Soda companies have spent decades pushing these unhealthy drinks on children and should bear the responsibility for their removal. PHAI is also concerned about the enforcement of this agreement and its silence on industry marketing activities in the school system,” he said.

“Importantly, the agreement doesn’t address the sale of chips, candy, snack cakes, ice cream, or any of the other high-fat, high-calorie, high-salt foods that are sold widely in schools,” said Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “This is a voluntary agreement and is not enforceable, we need Senator Harkin’s school foods bill to lock in the beverage standards and give them the force of law.”

Even the diet drinks, which will still be offered, need to go, said Ross Getman, an attorney in Syracuse, NY. Getman has advocated that soda should not be sold in public schools and that long-term “pouring rights” agreements, which give a company exclusive access to sell their brands at a school, are illegal for a variety of reasons.

Getman, who contends that some diet sodas are contaminated with benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, said the soda “industry gets an “F” for incomplete” for “the industry’s failure to pull all soda from school and to recall products.”

Schools account for about $700 million in U.S. soft-drink sales, less than 1 percent total revenue for Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury, the nation’s largest soda companies.

Ten of the largest U.S. school districts have already removed soft drinks from vending machines, according to Getman. States including California, Maine and Connecticut have also banned sugary sodas in schools.