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Archive for August 2011

UNIFIL mandate in Lebanon expires

August 31, 2011 - NEW YORK

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was created in 1978 to confirm an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and assist Beirut in restoring effective authority near the border. Since August 2006, in addition to monitoring the cessation of hostilities along the UN’s Blue Line, it is charged with protecting displaced peoples as they return home. Criticism of the UN military force comes from nearly everyone in the region. Nevertheless, most UN observers expect its mandate to be renewed.

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Deadline for United States debt default

August 26, 2011 - WASHINGTON DC

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner now says it will be Aug 2 before the United States could default on its massive debt. His previous estimate was Jul 8. Experts predict economic free fall if the ceiling on borrowing isn’t raised before then. The recent assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden brings into focus his role in the dire economic state of the United States. One analyst asserts that bankrupting the United States was the primary aim of Bin Laden. Another points to the trillions of dollars spent to combat al-Qaeda. The vote on raising the ceiling to increase the borrowing beyond the current limit of US $14 trillion has become a defining issue for the House Republican majority that campaigned in 2010 on promises to dramatically cut government spending and change the way government does business. The Republicans are targeting the country’s entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and want more controls on discretionary spending. Democrats want to see combined spending cuts and revenue raisers.

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World’s oldest woman turns 115

August 26, 2011 - UNITED STATES

Besse Cooper, 114, from Georgia, the world’s oldest person, turns 115 on Aug 26. The title became hers on Feb 2 at the death of Eunice Sanborn, 115, of Texas. A French woman holds the all-time record. Jeanne Calment died at 122 in 1997. Cooper had close competition. Walter Breuning of Montana, who died in April, would have turned 115 in September. The record begs the question of why some people live so long. Some experts credit longevity genes. At least one credits clean living.

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Ceremony marks 1958 shelling and centenary

August 23, 2011 - TAIWAN

A rally originally described as marking the shelling of Kinmen Island by Chinese troops in 1958 appears to evolved into an bell-ringing ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China. President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008 on a platform of dialog with Beijing. He has to tread carefully with the so-called Peace Day event or risks undoing warming cross-Strait relations. A peace bell made from melted down mortar shells will be rung at the ceremony.

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Enigmatic Smile stolen 100 years ago

August 22, 2011 - PARIS

On 22 Aug 1911, France was in a state of shock when the most famous painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th Century portrait Mona Lisa, also known as La Giaconda, was stolen from the Musée du Louvre. The theft set off an investigation full of red herrings and twists that led to the safe return of the portrait in 1913. In the centenary year, another investigation is under way – to identify the real-life woman with the enigmatic smile, the artist’s model.

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NASA shuttle program wraps up — with eulogy to animal pioneers? ;

August 21, 2011 - SPACE

NASA’s shuttle mission ends Jul 21, and the office door closes a month later. The August finale represents an opportunity for eulogizing a host of unwitting space pioneers — monkeys, dogs, mice, cats, spiders and the like. It will be a posthumous tribute: time has claimed the few creatures that survived experiments for systems that would eventually benefit space shuttle astronauts. The first animal spacefarers were given names. In the post-Apollo era, they are mere biological payloads. NASA’s Brief History of Animals in Space records their contribution to spacefaring.

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Scenic former Cuban capital celebrates 500th birthday

August 15, 2011 - CUBA

In 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed the island now Cuba for Spain. Spaniard Diego Velazquez named Baracoa the island’s capital on 15 Aug 1511. Baracoa lies some 680 miles (993 km) east of Havana, the present capital, and close enough to the United States War on Terror camp at Guantanamo Bay to use Washington’s quandary over the prison as a sidebar to features about Baracoa anniversary events, Cuba’s new directions and US Cuba policies. The celebrations began in June.

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Cuban revolutionary and longtime leader Fidel Castro turns 85

August 13, 2011 - CUBA

When Cuban revolutionary and longtime leader Fidel Castro turns 85 on Aug 13, it will be the patriarch’s first birthday without an official title. His brother, Raul Castro, has sat in the hot seat since 2006. His official departure marked a major transition in the island’s history, but there is no sign it has silenced the venerable Fidel. Renowned for 6-hour speeches, he has developed an affection for tweeting.

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50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall

August 13, 2011 - BERLIN

Officially denoted as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart in the East, and as the Wall of Shame in the West – the concrete-and-wire barrier built in 1961 was the Cold War symbol par excellence – the Iron Curtain that separated families, communities and even political ideologies. In 1979, the Wall was the subject of a bizarre law suit. Today, the wall continues to have an impact culturally – even though little of the original barrier is left. To mark the Wall’s 50th anniversary, an exhibition will open in Berlin’s Federal Foreign Office, to be opened by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Its construction eventually included guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches and death traps. From day one it facilitated the cruelest of divisions – mothers from children, workers from jobs and families from their communities. But this was what it was meant to do – stop the free movement of people.

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Scientists continue search for tether access to Space

August 12, 2011 - UNITED STATES

The 2011 Space Elevator Conference and NASA Strong Tether competition will be held at the Microsoft Center in Redmond, Washington state. The event brings together international specialists to continue the search for access to Space that does not require rocket technology. NASA describes the space elevator — a carbon nanotube ribbon stretching from the surface of Earth to a counterweight in Space — as an audacious and outrageous potential mass-transit system for the next century. As part of its Centennial Challenges program, NASA has put up a $2 Million prize purse for tethers that can meet certain specific strength benchmarks. To this point no one has been able to win this prize.

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President Barak Obama turns 50

August 10, 2011 - WASHINGTON DC

When United States President Barak Obama turns 50 on Aug 4, he can count on pomp and parties in both Washington DC and Chicago, his former home. Improving poll numbers would count as a welcome birthday present. The Democrat president’s job is under threat. Republicans, flushed with success after mid-term elections in Nov 2010 that gives them the whip hand in Congress in 2011, are confident they can unseat Obama in the Nov 2012 election. According to a 4 Nov 2010 Gallup poll reported by CNN, the favorability rating for the widely unpopular 43rd US president, George W. Bush, is close to identical with the rating of the 44th president, Obama. They are at 44 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

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Census marks centenary of first count of population and housing

August 9, 2011 - AUSTRALIA

Australia’s first national census was taken in 1911, so the 2011 census marks the centenary. Apr 2-3, the actual date in 1911, could be observed separately. The government describes Census 2011 as the largest data collection ever undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and, logistically, the largest peacetime operation of the Australian Government. A same-sex marriage advocacy group sees a way to be counted as married on the 2011 form, though the law does not recognize such marriages.

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