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WikiLeaks Founder Released on Bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, was released from British custody on bail Thursday.

Assange, 39, appeared before the press and cheering supporters after a judge dismissed him on 200,000 pounds ($312,000) bail.

“It’s great to smell fresh air of London again,” the Australian founder of the controversial whistle-blowing website told the crowd, according to Reuters.

“I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations,” he added.

As a condition of bail, Assange is off to a 10-room country home in eastern England owned by a WikiLeaks supporter. The mansion, called Ellingham Hall, has a fast internet connection that will allow Assange to continue working on his website, The Associated Press reported.

Assange must keep to a curfew, report to police daily, and wear an electronic tag, Reuters said.

He will return to court for a full extradition hearing in early February.

Last month, WikiLeaks released a cache of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables. U.S. authorities claimed the leak damaged international relations.

Posted in Organizations, People, Politics & Politicians0 Comments

Yoko Ono Donates $55K to Storm Victims

MANILA, Philippines, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Artist and singer Yoko Ono has donated about $55,000 to aid victims of last September’s Tropical Storm Ondoy, the Philippine Embassy in Japan said.

Nearly 500 people were killed and thousands left homeless when the storm hit the Pacific region.

GMANews.tv said the wife of the late British rock ‘n’ roll icon John Lennon visited the Philippine Embassy in Fujimi, Tokyo, before Christmas to pledge the donation.

“(Ono) learned about the very severe and continuing conditions of the ‘Ondoy’ victims and decided to take action. As a mother herself, she feels deep sympathy and love for suffering children,” said a statement from the embassy.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Natural Disasters, People0 Comments

Pope Benedict XVI Urges Respect for Environment

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 2 (UPI) — Pope Benedict XVI used his New Year’s Day address to appeal for peace and the protection of the natural environment.

Speaking Friday while celebrating Mass at the Vatican, Benedict asserted for there to be peace among people, mankind must “protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation.”

The Roman Catholic spiritual leader’s message was titled “If You Want Peace, Respect Creation.” In it, he urged Catholics to consider the consequences of environmental pollution.

“It is becoming more and more evident,” he said, “that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view.”

In the New Year’s homily, which serves a companion the the pope’s Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” address, Benedict asked rhetorically, “Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?”

He then answered by saying, “All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.”

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, People0 Comments

Asian Survivors Remember Tsunami Victims

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Dec. 26 (UPI) — Memorial services were held in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh Saturday to remember those killed five years ago in a devastating tsunami, witnesses said.

About 150,000 people died in and around the Indonesian city Dec. 26, 2005, when an undersea earthquake off Sumatra triggered large waves that killed a total of 250,000 people in 14 countries. Indonesian Vice President Boediono said a prayer at a mass grave site of the tsunami victims, CNN reported, while grieving residents wept and left flowers.

One woman who said her teenage children died in the tsunami told the U.S. broadcaster: “We are only human. We’ll never really forget. We still feel the trauma. And when there is another earthquake, all we can do is run and pray.”

Other tsunami-affected areas also held remembrances. In Thailand, Buddhist monks chanted prayers and grieving relatives came to the beaches to hold pictures of lost loved ones. Hundreds of tourists returned to Phuket island to hold a moment of silence to commemorate the catastrophe, the BBC reported.

Services were also held in Sri Lanka Saturday, where mourners prayed next to mass graves and observed silence at the exact moment the tsunami hit, the British broadcaster said.

“This time of year is a period for reflection for many people around the world,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a statement. “For the people of Sri Lanka it brings back acutely painful memories, but also for the first time in many years, a genuine sense of hope.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 6.0 magnitude undersea earthquake struck near Indonesia Saturday, but CNN said there were no reports of injury or damage and no tsunami warnings were issued.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Natural Disasters, Nature & Ecosystems, Other, People0 Comments

White Christmas Possible for Many with Winter Snow Storm

OMAHA, Dec. 24 (UPI) — The massive winter storm swept across the U.S. Plains and Midwest Christmas Eve, promising to intensify in much of the region, forecasters said.

Officials report as many as six people may have died in weather-related accidents on Nebraska roads with the worst yet to come in the Omaha and Lincoln areas. Blizzard-like conditions were expected by nightfall.

“Travel will be treacherous, and in some locations impossible, over the Christmas holiday,” Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley, told the Omaha World-Herald.

The storm system was expected to intensify as it moves up the Missouri Valley and strikes the Midwest, forecasters said. Freezing rain was causing travel problems in Iowa, Illinois, central Wisconsin and western Michigan. An ice storm warning was in effect in the Chicago area.

The Minnesota forecast called for one of the deepest Christmas snows on record across the region. The storm was expected to linger into Saturday, bringing 48 to 60 hours of snowfall with possibly 16 to 22 inches in a wide band from the Iowa border through the Twin Cities to Duluth and the Arrowhead.

Travel was expected to be hazardous in northwest and north-central Iowa with up to 14 inches of blowing snow.

South Dakota officials declared a state of emergency and said they expect part of their interstate highway system will be closed.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Climate Science & Weather, People0 Comments

Department of Energy Must Upgrade Computer Security, Says Inspector

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) — An Inspector General’s report finds the U.S. Department of Energy has been dragging its feet on computer security, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Delays in upgrading security on computer systems at the department’s Office of Science could be both dangerous and costly, the report said. The office is responsible for research in a number of areas and manages nuclear facilities at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., and facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

“Any system that is not as secure as it should be could be subject to compromise,” said Rickey Hass, deputy inspector general for audit services. “There are literally thousands of people who scan systems to try to gain access.”

The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy reviewed the office’s spending on computer security in 2008, $287 million for the year. The report said the seven field offices have not upgraded security to a high enough level.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Nuclear, Office, People, Policy, Law, & Government, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

U.N. Summit Once Coined as 'Hopenhagen' Turns into 'Flopenhagen'

BERLIN, Dec. 21 (UPI) — World leaders failed to put aside their national interests to save the climate at an utterly chaotic U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Representatives from nearly 200 countries met in Copenhagen for the past two weeks to hammer out a legally binding climate-protection treaty.

In the end, they got an accord that world leaders did not adopt, but “took note of,” meaning that it isn’t legally binding. The text includes a pledge to cap the temperature rise at 3.6 F, but it doesn’t spell out emissions-reduction targets for developed or developing countries. This is below experts’ most modest expectations. Instead of Hopenhagen, the Danish city is now called Flopenhagen.

The so-called Copenhagen Accord is the consensus negotiated by a number of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma.

In the end, all the pledges by world leaders, including Obama, proved empty words, as neither the world’s biggest economy — the United States — nor the world’s biggest emitter — China — was willing to move on key issues.

British Premier Gordon Brown said a few countries held the talks “to ransom,” until they culminated in what many say is a lukewarm compromise.

“This is the best that we can get?” asked Kim Naodoo, the head of Greenpeace International. “Then essentially what the most powerful countries and particularly the United States is saying is that we are issuing a death warrant for people in small island states.”

But there is a glimmer of hope.

In an positive side to the accord, developed countries promised $30 billion in aid for poorer nations trying to deal with climate change between 2010 and 2012, a fund that is due to rise to as much as $100 billion a year by 2020.

And leaders have pledged to work hard in 2010 to get a legally binding agreement by the end of 2010 in Mexico City, where the next COP will take place.

In the United States, Obama will try to push through a clean energy and climate bill that might encourage China to boost its emissions reduction pledges as well. Yet Obama did not come to Copenhagen willing to boost America’s reduction pledges to soothe China, and it remains to be seen whether Beijing really drops the blocking attitude it brought to the recent summit.

“We should be conscious that a huge challenge lies ahead of us,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Next year’s conference in Mexico has to achieve “all the things we were supposed to achieve” in Copenhagen, he said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, International Relations & Treaties, People, Policy, Law, & Government0 Comments

Winter Storm Pummels East Coast

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) — Officials in Virginia say three people have died in a massive snowstorm that has dumped ten to 20 inches of snow on the region.

Traffic was shut down along Interstates 77 and 81, while over 29,000 customers were without power in the Shenandoah Valley, CNN reported Saturday

Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, told CNN there were hundreds of vehicles abandoned or stuck on roads. “There is already 1 to 2 feet of snow on the roads, and snow is still falling,” he said Saturday

The National Weather Service on Saturday issued winter storm warnings for metro areas including Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as for southern New England states.

Parts of Maryland, and Long Island, N.Y., were under blizzard warnings.

On Friday, the storm brought inches of rain to Florida and snow to the mountains of North Carolina as it headed north.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, People0 Comments

NASA Remembers Its 2009 Accomplishments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) — NASA says it will remember 2009 as the year during which it discovered water on the moon and mapped Earth’s location in the Milky Way galaxy.

It was also the year the Hubble Space Telescope was upgraded, the number of people living on the International Space Station was increased and an unprecedented survey of polar ice was started.

Here are some of the other events NASA considers among the year’s top space-related accomplishments:

– Four shuttle flights were made to the International Space Station to complete its power-generating capacity, activate Japan’s Kibo laboratory and expand the station’s interior volume to nearly 26,000 cubic feet.

– The initial flight of the Ares I-X test rocket was conducted to help develop future launch vehicles.

– NASA scientists, aside from discovering water molecules in the polar regions of the moon, also found hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, in lunar soil.

– The space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter began mapping the moon’s terrain from an altitude of 31 miles, to return more data about the moon than any other previous satellite.

– NASA scientists determined methane and carbon monoxide have a significantly more powerful impact on global warming than previously thought.

– Space agency scientists achieved the first definitive detection of methane and its global variation in Mars’ atmosphere, suggesting the planet is biologically or geologically active, or both.

– NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing by highlighting 49 notable examples of how space agency innovations result in significant advances in healthcare, transportation, consumer goods, environmental protection, computer technology and industrial productivity.

People can vote on which event they consider the top NASA event of 2009 at http://www.nasa.gov/news/09_YIR_poll.html.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydrogen, Other, People, Science, Space, & Technology, Transportation0 Comments

200 Protesters Arrested at U.N. Climate Change Summit

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Protesters, angry over the lack of progress during a climate change summit, set fire to temporary barricades in Copenhagen, Denmark, police said.

Authorities said they used tear gas to disperse the crowd for the first time since the climate change summit began last week, The New York Times reported Tuesday. About 200 protesters were arrested.

Police said they expected clashes with protesters to escalate as the talks conclude this week.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was expected to arrive at the U.N.-sponsored summit Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule, to try to goose progress at the talks.

Early Tuesday, lines of government delegates and representatives of environmental organizations trying to get in to the conference stretched several hundred yards outside the conference facility, the Times reported. Thousands of participants endured hours-long waits to pick up credentials Monday.

The United Nations said in an e-mailed statement more than 45,000 people applied to attend the conference, nearly triple the facility’s capacity.

“An overwhelming number of those who applied arrived on Monday, causing congestion in the area outside the U.N. venue, which is under the control of the Danish police,” the statement said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, People0 Comments

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