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Friday, April 30, 2010

German Test Jet Used for Analysis of Volcanic Ash

A jet owned by the German Air Research Center, which is equipped with devices and sensors to analyze the ash emitted by the volcano in Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland, arrived in the country yesterday.


“The jet can tell us about the distribution of the ash and it can, to a certain degree, fly into the ash cloud, although it cannot be exposed to too much ash,” Haraldur Ólafsson, professor in meteorology at the University of Iceland, told Morgunbladid.

On their way to the country, the crew of the test jet didn’t notice much ash above Iceland’s southwestern corner. The jet took a few dives above Eyjafjallajökull to collect samples, which will be analyzed today.

Ólafsson said it is clear that the ash level will be low. The jet will go on another expedition today and is expected to return to Germany on Sunday.

The cost of the expeditions, approximately ISK 30 million (USD 233,000, EUR 175,000), will only be covered by Iceland to a small extent—the largest part will be paid for by the German Ministry of Transport and the British Meteorological Office.

Ólafsson explained that significant interests are at stake. “In the past days the forecasts that have come from the British Met Office have been rather bleak and more pessimistic than what considered reasonable compared to the current situation of the eruption”.

“The reason [for the testing] is that it is costly to close the airspace and it is very important to have confirmation of whether there is a real danger,” Ólafsson said, adding that the risk factor of ash in the atmosphere has never been analyzed directly before.

“It has been evaluated visually. People have measured the height of the ash plume on radars and visually from airplanes,” Ólafsson explained. “Significant uncertainty lies in these measurements, which explains why the forecasts have been questionable”.

Iceland Review

Stanishev Keeps Control over Bulgarian Socialists despite Criticism


by BGNES

After tumultuous debates, the National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has decided to convene an emergency party congress in the fall of 2010.

According to political commentators, the party leader Sergey Stanishev, who is facing increasing internal opposition, has managed to keep the situation under control by getting an approval for his idea to hold a party congress in the fall instead of in the summer of 2010, as was demanded by his intra-party opponents.

“If someone has enough confidence in themselves, let them run for the position of Chair of the BSP, let them state it clearly, there is enough time,” Stanishev declared during Friday’s meeting of the National Council of the Socialist Party.

He said that the rumors that appeared over the past week that the internal opposition in the party was preparing the holding of an emergency congress in the summer in order to elect a new leader and had even started collecting signatures in favor of his ousting had started to overshadow the worthy initiatives of the Socialists.

“I have not grabbed desperately on to the Chair position but I am also not used to evading responsibility. I would like to believe that there will be peace and internal consolidation within the BSP after this meeting, instead of new fights and criticism,” Stanishev said in his speech.

“Comrade Stanishev, why don’t you answer two questions – do you intend to be the leader of the party during the local elections in October 2011? Are you ready to become our candidate for President?,” asked the Mayor of Blagoevgrad, Kostadin Paskalev.

“Nine months after the parliamentary elections, given the absolutely incompetent present government, we are still at rock bottom. I am not taking part in any plots. Several months ago I stated that I will demand Stanishev’s resignation if the Socialist Party is doing poorly,” he elaborated.

“Bulgaria is being governed by a triumvirate – PM Boyko Borisov – who is either on TV, or on the phone; Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov who is arresting strippers with machine guns, and all Finance Minister Simeon Djankov who is in charge of all other issues having to do with economy, education, social policy, etc,” stated BSP National Council member Ivelin Nikolov who believes the Socialists are the only force that can stop the GERB government.

“I don’t think that this is the right time to decide on our candidate for the Presidency. This will be like running from the wind. Such decisions have to be careful and adequate to the situation,” Stanishev has replied.

“I intend to be the leader of the BSP during the local elections in 2011. My ambition is to lift up the party after the severe defeat that we suffered in the last elections,” the Socialist leader vowed.

Before the meeting of the National Council of the BSP on Friday, one of its senior members and former head of the State Agency for Youth and Sports, Vesela Lecheva said on TV that the only figure which could unite the leftist forces in Bulgaria was the acting President, Georgi Parvanov.

According to the decision adopted Friday with 78 votes in favor and 19 abstaining, the BSP will hold an emergency congress on October 16, 2010, as proposed by Sergey Stanishev.

The new congress will be held exactly an year after the last party congress, also an emergency one, which was called up after the staggering parliamentary election loss in July, when the BSP got only 18% of the votes vs. 40% for Borisov’s GERB party.

Stanishev did not resign after the loss submitting his resignation only on the day of the party congress, October 18, 2010, only to be reelected a couple of hours later with 60% of the votes of the delegates. He faced three other competitors none of whom managed to muster more than 15%.

Novinite

'Die Fremde' takes top honours at Tribeca Film Festival

New German film “Die Fremde,” or “When We Leave,” took home two top awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress on Thursday night at the ninth annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.


The film, writer and director Feo Aladag’s first full-length feature, tells the story of a young Turkish-German woman called Umay, played by actress Sibel Kekilli, who struggles against the will of her traditional Muslim family to escape an abusive relationship.

“'When We Leave' examines one woman’s struggle for personal freedom. It’s a theme that is often explored – but rarely told with such humanity, subtlety, craftsmanship or immediacy, as in tonight’s winning entry,” the jury said in a statement. “The result is a film that balances complex social issues with honest human yearnings”.

The jury also lauded actress Kekilli, who first gained attention for her performance in Fatih Akin’s award-winning 2004 film “Gegen die Wand,” or “Head-On,” for her “brilliant” performance.

“By turns this actress was joy and sorrow, and love and hope, a woman both strong enough to stand against generations of Muslim traditions and vulnerable enough to express the pain of a daughter cast aside by all who have loved her,” the statement said.

This year’s festival included 85 features and 47 short films from 38 countries. Theevent was founded by Robert De NiroJane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center with the aim of encouraging economic and cultural development in the lower Manhattan district.


The Local | Germany

Nigeria: Militant group claims oil pipeline attack


LAGOS, Nigeria — A militant group claimed Friday to have attacked an oil pipeline in Nigeria that is operated by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which said no such assault took place.
A statement sent by a group calling itself the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Niger Delta said it carried out the attack on the pipeline at Buguma. A Shell spokesman, though, said oil production in the region showed no signs of a disruption.
The group also threatened to strike again in the coming days.
"We shall strike in a way that the international community will be forced to come into this conflict," it said in the statement.
Militants in the troubled Niger Delta have attacked pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company employees and fought government troops since January 2006.
Even claims of attacks have affected global oil prices in the past. Nigeria exported almost 1 million barrels of crude a day to U.S. in January alone, more than Saudi Arabia.
Associated Press

Rachel Alexandra loses second straight race


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Steve Asmussen still thinks the world of Rachel Alexandra, even if she isn't as quick as she was last year.
The superstar filly lost her second straight race on Friday, by a head to Unrivaled Belle in her return to Churchill Downs for the $400,000 La Troienne Stakes.
"We need to pet on her, let her realize who she is — that she's still the 2009 Horse of the Year — and we're very proud of her for that," Asmussen said. "But on a racing standpoint, to win you've got to go faster".
Rachel Alexandra lost again as the heavy favorite. This time, she was sent off at 1-5 odds by a crowd who cheered her introduction as she bucked in the post parade.
She was upset as the 1-20 favorite in her season debut in New Orleans last month, causing co-owner Jess Jackson to pull her out of a highly touted matchup with female rival Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.
"The defeat last time put a whole lot more pressure on this one," Asmussen said.
Zardana, Zenyatta's stablemate, won by three-quarters of a length in New Orleans with Rachel second. The California-based mare was the 5-1 second choice Friday, but finished fifth in the six-horse field.
A year ago to the day, Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks by an astonishing 20 1/4 lengths, then went on to beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes and win her next four starts. She was voted Horse of the Year over Zenyatta, who is 16-0.
Zenyatta has won both her starts this year, in her home state of California and in the Apple Blossom. Her next start could be June 13 in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Unrivaled Belle covered 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.97. She paid $20.80, $3.40 and $2.80 at 9-1 odds. Rachel Alexandra returned $2.10 and $2.10, while Peru-bred Morena paid $4.80 to show.
Asumussen said Rachel Alexandra showed improvement off last month's loss.
"I was definitely a lot more positive today with how she acted, how relaxed she was and how steady it was," he said. "There was a lot of positive in that, just not quite as quick."
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux and trained by Bill Mott — both Hall of Famers — Unrivaled Belle won her second straight stakes. She won the Rampart at Gulfstream Park last month.
"She's an ultimate talent so we can't let her gallop alone," Desormeaux said about Rachel. "I risked using my filly up but I didn't want to be second, I wanted to win so I truly feel like the mouse that got the cheese."
Before the race, Unrivaled Belle appeared anxious. She broke away from the traditional post parade, galloped up the far turn by herself and arrived at the starting gate well before the others. She circled several times behind the gate while waiting to load.
Whatever pre-race jitters she had disappeared once the gate opened.
"My filly ran huge," Mott said. "I don't think it was that the other mare (Rachel) ran poorly. She ran her race, too. We just outdid her."
Rachel Alexandra broke sharply and got into a back-and-forth duel with Be Fair. Rachel took a brief lead heading into the backstretch and they continued to battle until Rachel regained the lead midway on the final turn.
But she immediately had company as Unrivaled Belle came up to challenge. Those two went head-to-head through the stretch, with Calvin Borel on the rail going to a left-handed whip on Rachel Alexandra. Borel had no comment afterward.
"I thought we were going to get beat again," Desormeaux said. "I passed her in the lane then she got me at the eighth pole and I was like, 'Well, there's the class prevailing,' but Unrivaled Belle would not give in. She regained the advantage and would not return the favor."
Associated Press

Garda chief to warn GRA on political interference

By Barry Duggan and Tom Brady


GARDA Commissioner Fachtna Murphy will issue a stern warning to the leadership of the Garda Representative Association(GRA) today that their intervention into the political arena must not be repeated.
Mr Murphy has summoned GRA president Damien McCarthy and general secretary PJ Stone to garda headquarters to deliver a clear message to them about their future conduct and tell them they must not attempt to politicise the force.
Ahead of the meeting, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has demanded that the GRA apologise to the Irish people for the "disrespect" they displayed to the State's institutions this week.
Standing alongside each other at a graduation ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday, Mr Ahern said the commissioner would speak for him also at today's meeting with the GRA.
"Myself and the Garda Commissioner have discussed this today. The attitude of the GRA was wrong," Mr Ahern said.
"What happened over the last couple of days showed disrespect to the institutions of the State. This is not like teachers' conferences or nurses' conferences. These are the very people who have been given a special position under the Constitution to enforce the law," he said.
"In relation to issues that they targeted in the speeches about corruption, it is completely different. From that point of view, I do think they owe the Irish people an apology for the disrespect they have showed to the institutions of the State. That was exemplified by what was said in the Oireachtas and Seanad yesterday," Mr Ahern commented.
Mr Murphy said he would not say publicly what his words would be to the management of the GRA.
However, he added: "I think I have made it loud and clear since it happened last Tuesday that I don't support any adverse commentary about politicians or anybody else".
"Gratuitous comments about corruption have no place in An Garda Siochana," he said.
Mr Murphy told the 267 garda officers graduating that when they don the uniform of An Garda Siochana, "we put politics and other issues like that aside".
"We have to police this State in an impartial and professional manner," Mr Murphy said.
Mr Murphy added he wanted to state clearly, "there is no place for the gardai in the cut and thrust of political rhetoric and debate".
"We must be conscious at all times not to compromise our independence by appearing to engage in the political arena".
Controversy
He said gardai "should earn headlines for our successes and achievements rather than court controversy".
Mr Ahern also ruled out any notions of a trade union for the gardai. "I have heard some comments in the last 24 hours about the formation of a trade union.
"As long as I am minister and as long as this Government is in office, there will be no question of the GRA getting trade union status for the very reasons why the gardai were set up originally to be apolitical," Mr Ahern said.
"The straying into politics over the last couple of days ... we can't countenance straying into the political arena because that completely is at variance with the word 'impartiality' which is in the oath of the guards," he added.
Mr Ahern said he believed the GRA had undermined themselves in recent days.
"The rank and file guards -- who I have always had great respect for as a practicing solicitor and a minister -- are badly served by some of the comments that were made in the last few days," he said.
Yesterday, former GRA president Michael O'Boyce declined to comment on Mr Ahern's call for the organisation to apologise to the Irish people.
"I haven't seen it so I have no comment at all to make," he said. "I am now an ordinary member of the GRA so whatever official comment they want to make they can make it".
Mr O'Boyce also declined to comment on calls for his own resignation from the Garda Siochana in light of the controversial planned address that never happened at the GRA conference in Limerick. No one from the GRA was available for comment last night.
- Barry Duggan and Tom Brady
The Irish Independent

Indian officials: Stampede kills five

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN


New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Five women were killed in a stampede outside a spiritual center in northern India, officials said Friday.
Bad weather was partly to blame for the crush that occurred at the gate of the Dera Sacha Sauda commune in the northern India state of Haryana around midnight, authorities said.
About 60,000 people had assembled at the institution in the Sirsa district for a ceremony, said district commissioner Yudhbir Singh Khayalia.
The incident happened when the congregation was walking on a road leading to the spiritual retreat, a spokesman said.
Deadly stampedes have occurred at large religious events in India. Many of them have been blamed on facilities that could not handle the large crowds that gathered.
Just last month, 63 people were killed after a stampede broke out at a temple offering free food in the northern India state of Uttar Pradesh.
CNN