Sarkozy appoints François Fillon as Prime Minister of France

Thursday, May 17, 2007File:Francois fillon1.jpg

The new President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed François Fillon to head the new French government. Fillon’s predecessor Dominique de Villepin stepped down yesterday, and formally handed over the post during a ceremony today.

The nomination did not come as a surprise after the British newspaper the Financial Times had reported on May 8 that Sarkozy had introduced Fillon to Tony Blair in a telephone conversation.

François Fillon (53) has been the political advisor of Sarkozy in the UMP for the past 2 years, and he was Sarko’s campaign leader during the recent presidential elections. Fillon has experience in negotiating with the trade unions, having undertaken controversial reforms of the 35-hour workweek and the pension system. Sarkozy in his inauguration speech on Wednesday reiterated his plans to reform the French labour and social system, and Fillon will have to oversee these reforms as the new Prime Minister. Sarkozy said he wants to make the economy more flexible and lessen social tensions.

I expect I’ll end up being the first French premier with a Welsh wife.

The Guardian reported that Fillon is an Anglophile; his wife Penelope Clarke, with whom he has 5 children, was born in Wales. Ideologically, Fillon is being described as a moderate left-leaning member of the conservative UMP party.

Fillon had his first experience as a minister in 1993 when he became Minister for the Higher education and Research under PM Édouard Balladur. He later became Minister for the Post office, Telecommunications and Space, then Minister for the social Affairs, Work and Solidarity, and finally Minister for national Education, the Higher education and Research. At the university, he studied public law and political sciences.

Sarkozy might announce his cabinet of 15 ministers as early as Friday, half of which are going to be women, he said. Fillon will lead the UMP in the parliamentary elections next month. A poll on Wednesday predicted a 1.5% increase in votes for the UMP, up to 40%, compared to 28% status-quo for the allied socialists.

Reports say that Sarkozy has offered the foreign minister post to Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, who is seen as being on the left in French politics.

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the day, marking exactly one year since the outbreak of protests leading to 83-year-old longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The country’s decades-long emergency rule was partially lifted this week; meanwhile, a possible economic meltdown looms and a newly-elected parliament held their first meeting on Monday.

Despite the new parliament, military rule introduced following Mubarak’s fall last spring remains. Echoing the demands from a year ago, some protesters are demanding the military relinquish power; there are doubts an elected civilian leader will be permitted to replace the army.

The brief unity against Mubarak has since fragmented, with Secularists and Islamists marking the revolution’s anniversary splitting to opposing sides of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square and chanting at each other. Initial demonstrations last year were mainly from young secularists; now, Islamic parties hold most of the new parliament’s seats — the country’s first democratic one in six decades.

Salafis hold 25% of the seats and 47% are held by the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought supporters to Cairo for the anniversary. Tahrir Square alone contained tens of thousands of people, some witnesses putting the crowd at 150,000 strong. It’s the largest number on the streets since the revolution.

Military rulers planned celebrations including pyrotechnics, commemorative coins, and air displays. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces took power after last year’s February 11 resignation of Mubarak.

Alaa al-Aswani, a pro-democracy activist writing in al-Masry al-Youm, said: “We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution,” — to “live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice”

Alexandria in the north and the eastern port city of Suez also saw large gatherings. It was bitter fighting in Suez led to the first of the revolution’s 850 casualties in ousting Mubarak. “We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand over power to civilians,” said protestor Mohamed Ismail.

“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the struggle,” chanted crowds in Alexandria, a reference to the 850 ‘martyrs of the revolution’. No convictions are in yet although Mubarak is on trial. Photos of the dead were displayed in Tahrir Square. Young Tahrir chanters went with “Down with military rule” and “Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets”.

If the protestors demanding the military leave power get their way, the Islamists celebrating election victory face a variety of challenges. For now, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — whose career featured twenty years as defence minister under Mubarak — rules the nation and promises to cede power following presidential elections this year.

The economy is troubled and unemployment is up since Mubarak left. With tourism and foreign investment greatly lower than usual, budget and payment deficits are up — with the Central Bank eating into its reserves in a bid to keep the Egyptian pound from losing too much value.

Last week the nation sought US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF insists upon funding also being secured from other donors, and strong support from Egypt’s leaders. IMF estimates say the money could be handed over in a few months — whereas Egypt wanted it in a matter of weeks.

The country has managed to bolster trade with the United States and Jordan. Amr Abul Ata, Egyptian ambassador to the fellow Middle-East state, told The Jordan Times in an interview for the anniversary that trade between the nations increased in 2011, and he expects another increase this year. This despite insurgent attacks reducing Egyptian gas production — alongside electricity the main export to Jordan. Jordan exports foodstuffs to Egypt and has just signed a deal increasing the prices it pays for gas. 2011 trade between the countries was worth US$1 billion.

The anniversary also saw a new trade deal with the US, signed by foreign trade and industry minister Mahmoud Eisa and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. President Barack Obama promises work to improve U.S. investment in, and trade with, nations changing political systems after the Arab Spring. Details remain to be agreed, but various proposals include US assistance for Egyptian small and medium enterprises. Both nations intend subjecting plans to ministerial scrutiny.

The U.S. hailed “several historic milestones in its transition to democracy” within a matter of days of Egypt’s revolution. This despite U.S.-Egypt ties being close during Mubarak’s rule.

US$1 billion in grants has been received already from Qatar and Saudi Arabia but army rulers refused to take loans from Gulf nations despite offers-in-principle coming from nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Foreign aid has trickled in; no money at all has been sent from G8 nations, despite the G8 Deauville Partnership earmarking US$20 billion for Arab Spring nations.

A total of US$7 billion was promised from the Gulf. The United Kingdom pledged to split £110 million between Egypt and Arab Spring initiator Tunisia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says G8 money should start arriving in June, when the presidential election is scheduled.

The African Development Bank approved US$1.5 billion in loans whilst Mubarak still held power but, despite discussions since last March, no further funding has been agreed. The IMF offered a cheap loan six months ago, but was turned away. Foreign investment last year fell from US$6 billion to $375 million.

Rights, justice and public order remain contentious issues. Tantawi lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, a day before the revolution’s anniversary, but left it in place to deal with the exception of ‘thuggery’. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Islamist Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.”

The same day, Amnesty International released a report on its efforts to establish basic human rights and end the death penalty in the country. Despite sending a ten-point manifesto to all 54 political parties, only the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (of the Egyptian Bloc liberals) and the left-wing Popular Socialist Alliance Party signed up. Measures included religious freedom, help to the impoverished, and rights for women. Elections did see a handful of women win seats in the new parliament.

The largest parliamentary group is the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Amnesty say did not respond. Oral assurances on all but female rights and abolition of the death penalty were given by Al-Nour, the Salafist runners-up in the elections, but no written declaration or signature.

“We challenge the new parliament to use the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and gender equality,” said Amnesty, noting that the first seven points were less contentious amongst the twelve responding parties. There was general agreement for free speech, free assembly, fair trials, investigating Mubarak’s 30-year rule for atrocities, and lifting the state of emergency. A more mixed response was given to ensuring no discrimination against LGBT individuals, whilst two parties claimed reports of Coptic Christian persecution are exaggerated.

Mubarak himself is a prominent contender for the death penalty, currently on trial for the killings of protesters. The five-man prosecution team are also seeking death for six senior police officers and the chief of security in the same case. Corruption offences are also being tried, with Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak accused alongside their father Hosni.

The prosecution case has been hampered by changes in witness testimony and there are complaints of Interior Ministry obstruction in producing evidence. Tantawi has testified in a closed hearing that Mubarak never ordered protesters shot.

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Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an ex-MP and real estate billionaire, is another death penalty candidate. He, alongside Ahmed Sukkari, was initially sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. A new trial was granted on procedural grounds and he is now serving a fifteen-year term for paying Sukkari US$2 million to slit 30-year-old’s Tamim’s throat in Dubai. Her assassin was caught when police followed him back to his hotel and found a shirt stained with her blood; he was in custody within two hours of the murder.

The court of appeals is now set to hear another trial for both men after the convictions were once more ruled unsound.

A military crackdown took place last November, the morning after a major protest, and sparking off days of violence. Egypt was wary of a repeat this week, with police and military massed near Tahrir Square whilst volunteers manned checkpoints into the square itself.

The military has pardoned and released at least 2,000 prisoners jailed following military trials, prominently including a blogger imprisoned for defaming the army and deemed troublesome for supporting Israel. 26-year-old Maikel Nabil was given a three year sentence in April. He has been on hunger strike alleging abuse at the hands of his captors. He wants normalised relations with Israel. Thousands have now left Tora prison in Cairo.

Tomatoes, watermelons, peppers reduce stroke risk, Finnish study suggests

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Finnish study has indicated that having higher body levels of lycopene — a red chemical occurring in tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, peppers, and papaya — may reduce the risk of stroke. The research for the study, which is in the issue of medical journal Neurology released today, examined 1,031 men aged between 42 and 61 over a period of twelve years on average.

The study, which was financed by the Lapland Central Hospital, found that the men with higher amounts of lycopene in their blood system experienced fewer strokes than men with lower levels. Eleven strokes occurred amongst the 259 men in the highest of the four lycopene level categories while 25 of the 258 men in the categories with the lowest lycopene level categories experienced strokes. This suggests a stroke was 55% less likely if one had a high amount of the chemical in one’s diet than if one had a low amount.

“The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” said Dr Jouni Karppi of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland. Eating these types of foods in such quantities “would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research”, the primary author of the study continued. He added that inflammation and blood clotting — the cause of ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke — occurred less frequently.

In the US state of New York, Lenox Hill Hospital Center for Stroke and Neuro-Endovascular Surgery director Dr. Rafael Ortiz said that, alongside exercise and non-smoking, “diet is very important” for reducing the likelihood of stroke. However, these results “should not deter people from eating other types of fruit and vegetables as they all have health benefits and remain an important part of a staple diet”, according to Dr Clare Walton of The Stroke Association in the UK.

The results came as part of a wider study on cardiovascular disease development risks. The United States Department of Agriculture also registers high concentrations of lycopene in tomato purées, pastes and sauces. All those surveyed lived in, or in close proximity to, the Finnish town of Kuopio, where the University of Eastern Finland is located.

On the campaign trail, July 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The following is the ninth in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail: the rules of third party candidate polling are examined, a third party activist causes four other parties to lose their place on the Illinois presidential ballot, and the new vice presidential nominee of the Justice Party speaks with Wikinews.

Contents

  • 1 Summary
  • 2 Polling rules restrict and fuel third party campaigns
  • 3 Ballot access denied in Illinois
  • 4 Wikinews interviews newly-selected Justice Party VP nominee
  • 5 Related news
  • 6 Sources

Cars big winner as 34th Annual Annie Awards handed out

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cars drove home the big prize last night, from the 34th Annual Annie Awards. The animation industry’s highest honor, ASIFA-Hollywood’s Annies recognise contributions to animation, writing, directing, storyboarding, voice acting, composing, and much more.

As mentioned, Pixar took home the big prize last night, after facing stiff competition from four other Happy Feet, Monster House, Open Season, and Over the Hedge.

But the biggest winner of the night didn’t get a “Best Animated Feature” nod at all. Flushed Away won five feature animation categories including Animated Effects (Scott Cegielski), Character Animation (Gabe Hordos), Production Design (Pierre-Olivier Vincent), Voice Acting (Sir Ian McKellan as Toad), Writing (Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan, and Will Davies).

Over The Hedge won awards for Directing (Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick), Storyboarding (Gary Graham), and Character Design (Nicolas Marlet).

Of little surprise, Randy Newman won an Annie for Cars in the “Music in an Animated Feature Production” category. Newman has won many Oscars for his movie music, and has a nomination this year for the song “Our Town”. Newman didn’t attend the Annies, instead picking up a Grammy for “Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media”.

DisneyToon Studios’ Bambi II won “Best Home Entertainment Production”, while “Best Animated Short Subject” went to Blue Sky Studios’ No Time For Nuts, which is based on Ice Age.

“Best Animated Video Game” went to Flushed Away The Game, while a United Airlines ad named “Dragon” won a “Best Animated Television Commercial” Annie for DUCK Studios.

Contents

  • 1 Foster an Annie fav on TV
  • 2 Wikinews was there
  • 3 Related news
  • 4 Sources

Mars orbiter finds widespread evidence of water-bearing minerals

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence of hydrated silica or opal, a form of mineral, over large areas in the Martian surface, including in the large martian canyon called Valles Marineris. The discovery was made by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) instrument on the orbiter. The findings are published by Ralph Milliken of Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other scientists in the November issue of the journal Geology.

Opaline minerals were first found recently on Mars by Spirit rover in the Gusev crater. The present find points to more widespread occurrence of the minerals in comparatively younger strata of Mars. The find indicates that liquid water might have been present on the surface of Mars for a longer time than previously thought. The previous view was that liquid water disappeared from the Martian surface three billion years ago. Now it is estimated that water could have been present as late as two billion years ago.

The presence of opal not only indicates water, but also that it was there long enough to alter some of the rocks. CRISM, which detected the mineral measures visible and infrared reflection spectra in 544 channels and has 20 times better resolution than previously deployed instruments.

This is an exciting discovery because it extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life.

Hydrated minerals such as opal that indicate presence of water is yet another evidence of presence of liquid water on Mars. Opal found on Earth’s surface usually contain 3 – 10% water, but can be as high as 20%. Other water-bearing minerals found earlier are phyllosilicates and hydrated sulfates. Presence of liquid water is also suggested by suspected water-sculpted land forms on Mars, such as gullies and river channels. Currently water is present only as ice at both polar caps of Mars.

A number of outcrops of opaline minerals are found as thin layers over large distances, rimming the Valles Marineris canyon. It is expected that Martian explorations for past or present life will have to focus on similar younger terrains with hydrated minerals.

“This is an exciting discovery because it extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life,” said Scott Murchie, from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, one of the co-authors.

Blasts in Mexico rips gas and oil pipelines

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oil and gas pipelines in Mexico were attacked in six different places Monday, forcing the evacuation of approximately 12,000 residents. The six blasts were to reported to have happened at about 2:00 a.m on Monday morning.

The company who owns the pipelines, Petroleos Mexicanos, shut down all lines after the attack.

No deaths as a result of the explosions were reported, however; the blasts were blamed for the death of two 70 year old women who died from heart attacks.

Mexican officials have called the blasts “premeditated” and at least one rebel group (most notably EPR) has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Australian Parliament hears reply to Budget

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Australian House of Representatives heard the traditional right-of-reply to the Budget released May 9, from the Australian Labor Party, led by Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand), plus Budget replies from minor parties in the Australian Senate.

While the Budget is politically popular, having as one of its main features significant tax reform, Beazley focused on the omissions in the Budget, such as the failure to address a skills shortage.

Contents

  • 1 Opposition reply
  • 2 Minor parties
    • 2.1 Australian Democrats
  • 3 Australian Greens
  • 4 Family First
  • 5 Sources

Twin bomb blasts in 2 Philippine malls kill 6, injure 38

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twin blasts, allegedly caused by improvised explosive devices, rocked two upscale malls in the main financial district in Aguinaldo Street in Iligan City on Thursday. At least three people were killed and forty-seven were wounded when two improvised crude bombs exploded and damaged the Unicity Commercial Center at 1:35 p.m. and the nearby Jerry’s Shoppers Plaza 10 minutes later.

The mall blasts occurred a day before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s scheduled visit to the City, her maternal hometown. Lanao del Norte police Superintendent Dimacuta Sanggacala said he “corrected the earlier report that six people had been killed, saying that some of those whom they thought were dead were seriously hurt.” “Forty-five people were injured and being treated at the Sanitarium City Hospital and Dr. Uy City Hospital,” he added.

The City of Iligan (Cebuano: Dakbayan sa Iligan; Filipino: Lungsod ng Iligan) is a highly urbanized city North of the province of Lanao del Norte, Philippines, and the province’s former capital. It is approximately 795 kilometers southeast of Manila with a population of 308,046 people as of 2007.

The provincial police said that CCTV video footages from both malls show two men both wearing scarfs, had placed the explosives inside bags and left at the package or baggage counters of the malls. An L-300 van was also destroyed in the blasts. The local SOCO forces, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (bomb experts) and the bomb-sniffing K9 unit of the 403rd Brigade were immediately dispatched to search the site for more victims.

Col. Nicanor Dolojan, commander of the Army’s 403rd said that “our suspect here are the lawless MILF group because of the type of the (improvised explosive device) that were used. That IED manifest their signature, using mortar rounds. Terrorism, which is their real intention, to sow terror in the area.That is our initial findings.” Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said that his local government received several “threats to bomb establishments – department stores, churches, schools, public places, and markets.”

Continuous clashes began in August between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, after the High Court annulled a Memorandum of Agreement on peace. Reuters reported that “five people were wounded in two blasts on December 4 in another part of Mindanao, which army officials blamed on rogue Muslim rebels fighting a long-running insurgency in the south.” “There have been at least three bomb attacks on bus terminals in the south since July as violence escalated after Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, failed to sign a territory deal in August.” it added. In November, three people were also injured in the blasts of the Traveler’s Inn and the Caprice Lodge in Iligan City.

The Abu Sayyaf Group (lang-ar????? ??? ????; Jam??ah Ab? Sayy?f, ASG), also known as ‘al-Harakat al-Islamiyya’ is one of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern islands of the Philippines, in Bangsamoro (Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao) where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for a state, independent of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The Times of India reported that “the southern Philippines region of Mindanao is the hotbed of a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency that has, in recent years, been suspected of harbouring Islamic militants with ties to the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden.”