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Archive for January 2011

Country in dire straits holds general election

January 31, 2011 - NIGER

Niger’s presidential and legislative election is aimed at restoring civilian rule after a military coup in February. The military ousted President Mamadou Tandja, who had been in power for 10 years and had changed the constitution so he could extend his powers and term of office. A new constitution shapes the election, which could be complicated by the landlocked country’s misfortunes: widespread famine from floods, drought and crop failures. Ten candidates have been approved to run.

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Ethiopia hosts 16th Ordinary Session of African Union leaders

January 30, 2011 - ADDIS ABABA

The 16th Ordinary Summit of the African Union meets to talk about Shared Values and the host of pressing problems on the continent. These include Somali Islamist rebels, the contested presidency of the Ivory Coast and the aftermath of the independence vote in the south of Sudan. The rebels sent a bloody message to the bloc during the World Cup — bomb attacks in Kampala that killed 76 people. The summit might see a decision on intervening in the Ivory Coast dispute.

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Space shuttle Challenger exploded 25 years ago

January 28, 2011 - UNITED STATES

Six crew members and a civilian died on 28 Jan 1986 when NASA space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The images of the shuttle breaking apart shocked the nation. Recording one of two severe crisis times for NASA, the images are about to pass into history with the shuttle program. The other crisis was the fire aboard Columbia, which killed its crew of seven. The eighth anniversary of the Colombia accident falls just four days after Challenger’s 25th. William McCool, Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was Israel’s first astronaut

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Crewmembers reach the Red Planet in simulated Mars mission

January 28, 2011 - MOSCOW

Six crewmembers land on the Red Planet and start surface operations in the first full-duration simulation of a manned flight to Mars. The Mars500 crew began the 520-day isolation project on Jun 3 and the simulated departure from Earth orbit on Jun 14. A noted British astronomer regards manned space missions as superfluous, an opinion that implicitly questions the value of the ambitious simulation under way in Russia. There is no sign spacefarer nations are listening to him. The Moscow Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, with support from the European Space Agency, aims to simulate almost all aspects of a journey to the Red Planet, with a 250-day outward trip, a 30-day stay on its surface, and a 240-day return flight. The present simulation is the last phase of an experiment that began in 2007. The first phase of 14 days tested the facilities and operational procedures. The second phase followed in 2009, when four Russian and two European crewmembers were shut into the facility for 105 days. Russian engineer Alexei Sitev, Russian surgeon Sukhrob Kamolov, Russian general practitioner Alexander Smolevsky, Italian Diego Urbina, China’s Wang Yue and Roman Charles from France are the members of the present team.

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President Yoweri Museveni marks 25 years in power

January 26, 2011 - UGANDA

President Yoweri Museveni has long passed two milestones: longest-serving president of Uganda and longest-serving East-African leader. His third arrives on Jan 26, when he marks 25 years in power. The date invites speculation on whether he will chance a fair contest in the 2011 election, or contrive to stay in power until a coup or death overtakes him. The anniversary also invites a look at the wins and losses for Uganda attached to his now almost unbreakable hold on power. The recent discovery of oil promises an influx of unprecedented wealth and investment for a country where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line. He has taken small steps towards multiparty democracy, but a 2005 constitutional reform to remove term limits from the presidency suggests neither he nor his ruling party is interested in sharing power or any newfound wealth.

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41st World Economic Forum meets at Davos

January 26, 2011 - SWITZERLAND

Some 2500 leaders from economic, scientific and government circles in 88 countries, including heads of state, meet at the Swiss mountain resort town, Davos, for the 41st annual World Economic Forum. They plan to explore ways to mend global economic systems. Developments that could influence the recommendations include the decline of the European, Japanese and United States currencies, and China’s decision to allow the yuan to float more freely.According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian and Canadian dollars are joining the basket of elite currencies for central bankers seeking alternatives to deteriorating government credit quality in Europe, the United States and Japan. China pledged on 19 Jun to make the yuan more flexible, while ruling out a one-time revaluation of the currency been pegged at 6.83 yuan per dollar for two years.

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Canada’s “Great One” Wayne Gretzky turns 50

January 26, 2011 - CANADA

Canadian ice-hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who holds the National Hockey League record for points and is widely considered the game’s greatest player, turns 50. His fans, in a country obsessed with hockey, can expect replays of highlights from Gretzky’s greatest games among the birthday tributes. He was chosen to light the cauldron at the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. Canada’s men’s and women’s teams went on to win hockey gold medals.

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Saadiyat Beach Classic offers preview of futuristic vision

January 25, 2011 - ABU DHABI

The Saadiyat Beach Classic merits attention because of its celebrity golfers. The venue, Saadiyat Island, merits even more because of the galloping development there. The United Arab Emirates has used its oil wealth to establish a cultural district for art museums that include the Guggenheim and Louvre. Luxury housing and 29 5-star hotels are also planned for the island, described as the only site in the world where buildings designed by five Pritzker Architecture Prize winners will be found. The new Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is itself a notable facility, but eyes are more likely to be on the host, golfing icon and nine-times major tournament winner Gary Player. Celebrity golfers will be invited to this second Classic.

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Strife-torn country plans presidential election

January 23, 2011 - AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The presidential vote is set for Jan 23, but another postponement is possible. Apr and May 2010 dates were cancelled because of strife, and nothing has changed. The government suggests it might go ahead with the vote if it can count on more international help. It’s a forceful appeal as longstanding instability in CAR, a country the size of France, the former CAR colonial power, has discouraged major development of its gold, uranium and diamond deposits. A price has been put on the help by the international community — a guarantee from President Francois Bozize of free and fair elections, with results that are acceptable to all.

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Sundance Film Festival — with viewing of “classic 9/11 movie” set in 1865?

January 20, 2011 - MOVIES

Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford is likely to screen his new film, The Conspirator, at the prestigious event in Utah, which showcases independent films. The film by the star best known as the pistol-packing Sundance Kid in the 1969 is an historical drama set in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Los Angeles Times film critic Patrick Goldstein refers to it as a classic 9/11 movie.

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John F. Kennedy Jr. inaugurated as president 50 years ago

January 20, 2011 - WASHINGTON DC

When John F. Kennedy Jr. was sworn in as 35th United States president on 20 Jan 1961, he commanded Americans in his inaugural address to: ask not what your country can do for you [to] ask what you can do for your country. The 50th anniversary invites new scrutiny of the 35th president’s legacy, comparisons with the 44th president, comparisons of their inaugural speeches, and the parsing of Kennedy’s speech for relevance to today’s issues — and particularly for its rhetorical flourishes. One, in the passage above, is a form of chiasmus called antimetabole.

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