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Archive for March 2011

Russia launches Soyuz rocket named after Yuri Gagarin

March 30, 2011 - KAZAKHSTAN

Russia’s Soyuz TMA-21 will carry the name of Yuri Gagarin on its hull when it blasts off with a crew of three from Baikonur for the International Space Station on Mar 30. The naming of the rocket after the cosmonaut pays tribute to the feat that made him famous 50 years ago on Apr 12, circling Earth in his Vostok spacecraft, the first human to do so. The Expedition 27 crew will walk in space, welcome the last NASA space shuttle to the ISS and conduct over 40 experiments. Russia has proclaimed 2011 the Year of Russian Cosmonautics, and has announced its intention of reclaiming its position as the front runner in the Space race.

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Torch lighting kicks off relay for Wuchang Uprising centenary

March 29, 2011 - UNITED STATES

Honolulu hosts the torch lighting ceremony that kicks off a global 100-city relay marking the centenary of the Wuchang Uprising, Sun Yat-sen, which led to the overthrow of China’s Qing dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China on 1 Jan 1912. The relay finishes at the United Hearts rally at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei on Oct 9, the eve of the centenary of the uprising. Sun lived in Honolulu as a teen. He established the Revive China Society on 24 Nov 1894, which began the revolution.

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Post-suicide photo of Heinrich Himmler auctioned

March 29, 2011 - ENGLAND

Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler’s Reichsführer, the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, committed suicide on 23 May 1945 before an interrogation by allies. A Bristol firm, Dreweatt’s, is auctioning a photo of him taken minutes after he bit into a cyanide pill at a sale of military memorabilia. Himmler oversaw the Gestapo and concentration camps and is regarded as the prime architect of the Holocaust. The photo is expected to fetch 2000-3000 UK Pounds (US $3253-4880). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Himmler is widely remembered for his fanatical adherence to Nazi racist ideology. More than any other individual, Himmler was the man who created the network of state terror by which the Third Reich suppressed its opposition, eliminated its internal enemies, and compelled obedience from the German citizenry.

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Action to mark Earth Hour 2011

March 26, 2011 - WORLD

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide in some 128 countries participated in Earth Hour 2010 by switching off their lights for an hour to take a stand against climate change. The organizers call Earth Hour the world’s largest climate change initiative. They want participants this year to go farther than lights out at 8:30 pm (local time) on 26 Mar 2011, such as year-round action for the cause. One activist is pressing Facebook to shut down for an hour.

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Hungary heads first summit of its EU presidency

March 24, 2011 - BRUSSELS

European Union leaders meet for the first summit of the Hungarian EU presidency. The pressing events on their plates include uprisings, particularly the Libyan unrest. They have agreed to impose sanctions on Libya. Europe’s continuing debt crisis will also be top of the list for discussion. Host Hungary has averted an EU scold by agreeing to amend its new media law.

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Runoff election to decide Haitian presidency

March 20, 2011 - HAITI

The rivals in the runoff election to decide the presidency of Haiti are now former first lady Mirlande Manigat and singer Michel Martelly. Jude Celestin, the government-backed candidate, has withdrawn after international pressure. The initial results showed that Celestin finished second ahead of Martelly in the Nov 28 election, but monitors reported vote-rigging in favour of Celestin. The runoff is seen as a step in speeding Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake that killed over 220,000 people.

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NASA MESSENGER reaches orbit around Mercury

March 17, 2011 - SPACE

NASA’s MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft transitions from orbiting the Sun on Mar 17 and becomes the first probe to orbit the planet Mercury. The spacecraft’s six and a half years of interplanetary flight were the warm-up for the new orbital insertion. Entering orbit about Mercury will require the probe to perform the largest propulsive maneuver of the entire mission.The probe has produced several science firsts on previous fly-bys and is returning hundreds of new photos and measurements of the planet’s surface, atmosphere and magnetic field. The previous flybys by MESSENGER and Mariner 10 provided data only about Mercury’s eastern hemisphere,” explains Brian Anderson of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, known as APL, in Laurel, Md. The most recent flyby gave us our first measurements on Mercury’s western hemisphere, and with them we discovered that the planet’s magnetic field is highly symmetric.

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Bangladesh counts its citizens

March 15, 2011 - BANGLADESH

Bangladesh conducts its fifth census in March, and concern has been voiced that the count has been preceded by too little publicity to ensure full public participation. One of the problems is the country’s distraction with the World Cup Cricket tournament, the dates of which overlap census day in a cricket-mad country. Garment factories have been ordered to shut until the final on Apr 2 so power cuts won’t affect the television viewing experience of the country’s avid cricket fans.

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Tickets for 2012 Olympics go on sale amid dispute

March 15, 2011 - UNITED KINGDOM

The 6.6 million public tickets for the 2012 Summer Olympics, priced from UK 20 pounds to 725 pounds for the 100 metres athletic final, go on sale from Mar 15. The date highlights a dispute over the new 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium in London, which is expected to be decided by March. Two Premier League football clubs are bidding for the UK 537 million pound (US $853 million) arena after the Olympics. One wants to raze the structure. The Tottenham Hotspur club proposes tearing down the structure and building its 60,000-seat football-only stadium on the East London site, formerly an industrial area. Its proposal includes refurbishing the dilapidated Crystal Palace athletics stadium in south London into a 25,000-seat venue for track and field. The West Ham United club would convert the stadium into a venue for both football and athletics.

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European leaders invited to hear controversial eurozone proposal

March 11, 2011 - BRUSSELS

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has invited European Union-eurozone leaders to a summit to hear a controversial Franco-German proposal. The so-called harmonization pact would see EU states adopt a common corporate tax base, harmonize retirement ages, eliminate the indexation of wages to inflation and amend their constitutions to rigidly limit government debt. Few, if any, of the other members of the club appear ready to buy it. In a Reuters interview, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini criticized discussion of EU level tax harmonization and constitutional changes as premature. Luxembourg, Austria and Spain have also expressed reservations about the proposed pact. “We will not allow our social model to be undone,” Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said.

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French, German leaders promise bank measures by G20 summit

March 11, 2011 - FRANCE

On Oct 9 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to outline a bank recapitalization plan to arrest Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, which threatens global financial stability, in time for the Group of 20 Summit on Nov 3. Euro zone countries want a strategy that strengthens Europe’s banks and stops the contagion spreading to larger euro zone countries, while reducing Greece’s debt burden. Unanimous agreement has been elusive.

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NATO defense ministers meet at HQ

March 10, 2011 - BRUSSELS

NATO defense ministers will assess plans for countering the anticipated Spring offensive by Taliban militants returning from havens in neighboring Pakistan. A massive effort by United States and NATO forces has failed to dent Taliban numerical strength, and civilian and NATO troop deaths have surged. Quagmire describes Afghanistan in a word for most people, so ministers are unlikely to find support at home for anything but an exit strategy.The United States and its NATO allies plan to spend US $11.6 billion in 2011 building Afghanistan’s security forces, according to the Washington Post in January, the largest yearly sum to date. In financially-strapped member countries of the Alliance, the level of expenditure is increasing the unpopularity of the war.

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