December 29, 2012

Czech plane crashes in Moskow

A passenger jet crashed after making a hard landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. At least four people were killed and four critically injured, says the Interior Ministry. Officials believe the cause could be pilot error.
Two people were reportedly found dead at the scene, while a 27-year-old woman died on the way to hospital. Whether the fourth person died at the scene or in the ambulance remains unclear. Those killed are the captain, the co-pilot, the flight engineer and a flight attendant, the Emergencies Ministry declared.
Four people taken to Moscow hospitals – three flight attendants and a technical staff – remain in a critical condition. They have sustained traumatic brain injuries, say medical officials.
The plane was flying in from Pardubice, the Czech Republic, and was carrying eight to twelve people according to various reports. Vnukovo Airport says that everyone onboard were the crew. Pardubice Airport confirms that:
“There was only the crew aboard. No Czech nationals were among them. Before taking off the operating company checked all the plane’s systems and said they were functioning normally,” Pardubice's press-service told The service added the plane, tail number RA-64047, had taken tourists to Pardubice and was going back without any passengers.
Two more people might have been on board the crashed plane as ten people had registered for the flight, reports Interfax citing sources. But as emergency crews wrapped up their search operation, they failed to find anybody else. It appears that passers-by could have rushed at least one injured person to hospital on their own car.
Two black boxes were recovered from the scene of the passenger jet crash, according tot he Investigative Committee.
Both flight data recorders have been found. Investigators are examining them. Then they will be handed over to decoding experts,” the official spokesman of Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said.
A criminal case over possible flight safety violations has been opened in connection with the Vnukovo plane crash. The preliminary cause of the TU-204 accident is pilots’ error, Markin added.
The incident took place at around 16:35 local time (12:35 GMT). Preliminary reports say the jet, which belongs to Russian low-cost airline Red Wings, crashed after taking a second landing attempt. It rolled out from the runway into Kievskoye Highway, fell into three pieces and caught fire. The fire area of 100 square meters was extinguished by firefighters, officials said.
Media allege that Vnukovo firefighting cars were on repair so the first emergency crews appeared on the scene no earlier than 50 minutes after the blaze broke out.
The circumstances of the incident are being clarified. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered to set up a special investigation group to look into the accident.
Earlier, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry confirmed that the plane had to make a forced landing.

Adolf Hitler praying statue causes controversy in Warsaw

VoidSnake: Now back to my hibernation...zzzzzzz

The work, "HIM" by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, has drawn many visitors since it was installed last month. It is visible only from a distance, and the artist doesn't make explicit what Hitler is praying for, but the broader point, organisers say, is to make people reflect on the nature of evil.

One Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, this week called the statue's placement "a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims."

"As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only 'prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth," the group's Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement.

However, many others are praising the artwork, saying it has a strong emotional impact. And organisers defend putting it on display in the former ghetto.

Fabio Cavallucci, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, which oversaw the installation, said, "There is no intention from the side of the artist or the centre to insult Jewish memory."

December 28, 2012

Russia puts end to U.S. adoptions

CNN on the Russian bill

President Putin has signed a bill preventing American families from adopting Russian children. According to CNN, the new legislation may be seen as a retaliation for the so called "Magnitsky Act", which was signed by President Obama on December 14. The Magnitsky Act is designed to impose "U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia", and is named after a Russian lawyer who died 2009 in a detention center in Moscow. Russian officials however, are citing concerns over maltreatment of U.S.-adopted Russian children as the cause for signing the new bill. Meanwhile, UNICEF are stressing the importance of finding alternatives to the institutionalization of Russian orphans; "'including permanent foster care, domestic adoption and inter-country adoption'". It is unclear whether children already selected for adoption will be allowed to move to the U.S.

December 24, 2012

December 23, 2012

S&P cuts Cyprus rating to CCC+

Standard and Poor's slashed Cyprus' credit rating Thursday by two notches to CCC+, saying the eurozone member was facing increasing financial pressure, with bailout negotiations still unfinished.

"With the government's financing options increasingly limited -- coupled with what we view as the hesitant attitude of Cyprus' eurozone partners toward sharing the cost of a severe banking crisis -- we view the risk of a sovereign debt default as considerable and rising," the ratings agency said.
The S&P downgrade puts Cyprus even further into junk territory. It also issued a negative outlook.

Drugged bears used as test pilots during Cold War

io9 on the flying bears

The "science" blog io9 has exposed information about testing practices used by the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. When developing the B-58 Hustler, a supersonic jet bomber used between 1962-70, black bears from the U.S. and the Himalayas were used to test the functionality of the plane´s capsule ejection system. The bear, presumably not actually piloting the plane, would sit in the capsule which would then be ejected from the plane with a rocket engine and subsequently fall to the ground with a parachute. Having first used unemployed people as test subjects in ground-based trials, drugged bears and chimps were used for high altitude testing, some of them suffering fractures and other internal injuries.

December 22, 2012

Russia demands action over UN helicopter downed in South Sudan

The helicopter was apparently shot down on Friday while on a reconnaissance mission in eastern Jonglei state.
The UN strongly condemned the "shooting down... of a clearly marked UN helicopter" by South Sudanese forces.
South Sudanese officials have given conflicting accounts of why the helicopter may have been downed.
"We call on the government of South Sudan to carry out the necessary investigation, punish the guilty and take every measure to guarantee that this never happens again," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

December 19, 2012

Wallpaper: Nordic Christmas

Hello, readers! Here is another wallpaper for you to enjoy, hopefully you'll do so even if you're from Estonia. They can not into Nordic, but were happy to be invited to their Christmas party. I've made a few different versions based on the requests made to VoidSnake, if you want some other obscure aspect ratio, go ahead and ask. Downloads are beneath preview.

~ CineHeathen


December 18, 2012

Wallpaper: Holiday Mayhem

Greetings everyone, as a bonus for the PolandBall News audience I have created a special holiday themed wallpaper for you to enjoy. A lot of effort and caffeine went into this and I hope you find it to your liking as much as I enjoyed creating it. A preview is shown at the end of this post with a link to download it, the resolution is 1920x1080, requests for other sizes can be made.

In terms of regular comic posts, my output will return to normal some days after Christmas day.

CineHeathen has also created one for you guys, so be expecting it.

-- VoidSnake


December 15, 2012

Dozens dead, including 20 children, in one of the worst massacres in US history

More than two dozen people, including as many as 20 children, have been killed during a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut outside of New York City early Friday.
Follow live updates here.
The total death toll now stands at 28, police say. This includes 20 children and six adults killed at the school, the suspected attacker and his mother killed at the second scene.
According to preliminary reports, a gunman opened fire inside of an office at Sandy Hook Elementary at around 9:40 a.m. Friday. Police have verified that the suspected shooter has been found dead on the scene.
Three weapons have been recovered from the slain gunman, reportedly identified by law enforcement as 20-year-old, Adam Lanza. Police say the suspect was the son of Nancy Lanza, a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook, who was also among the dead. Her body was found in their residence in Newton, a law enforcement source told CNN. The suspect’s older brother, Ryan, is being questioned by the authorities.
There also have been reports that guns used in the rampage were legally purchased and registered to the suspected shooter's mother.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the school’s principal and psychologist are also among the deceased.

Both state and local police are still on the scene at Sandy Hook and the superintendent has ordered all schools in the district, both public and private, to be placed on lockdown. Lt. J. Paul Vance of the state police department said that both on-duty and off-duty officers responded to the emergency.
Sandy Hook, around 12 miles from the town of Danbury, CT, normally has around 600 students in grades kindergarten through four.
Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, tells CNN three victims have been sent to a hospital in his city in “very serious” condition, though he declined to comment on their age or identity.
Upon being appointed as principal of Sandy Hook in 2010, Dawn Hochsprung told the Newtown Bee, "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day.”
In an emotional statement on the shooting President Obama said the country's leaders must "take meaningful action" regardless of politics, in response to the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The president had apparent difficulty speaking and used his index finger to wipe tears away from the corner of his eyes.
"The majority of those who died were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said. "They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own…"

December 13, 2012

North Korean satellite in orbit after rocket launch

A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korean officials said Thursday, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.
Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch they say is nothing but a test of banned ballistic missile technology.
The launch of a three-stage rocket — similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California — raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.

Also in relation to:

Large goat burns in Sweden

The Local on the burning goat
Also: video

Last night (at midnight, local time) a straw goat was burned down in Gävle, Sweden. A big straw goat has been erected in the small town at Christmas every year since 1966. 35 of those goats, including the first as well as the latest one, has been burned down or otherwise sabotaged by citizens. The burning of the goat in Gävle is seen as something of a Christmas tradition by many, and its fate is a matter of national interest each year. This year´s goat survived an attempt to torch it the day it was inaugurated, but came to an unfortunate end on the late Wednesday evening at the hands of unknown arsonists.

December 11, 2012

EU Receives Nobel Peace Prize

The European Union has received this year's Nobel Peace Prize in the Norwegian capital for promoting peace and human rights in Europe for six decades following the devastation of World War II.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and president of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz collected their Nobel diplomas and medals at a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall.
Prize committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland cited the 27-nation bloc for helping "a continent of war to becoming a continent of peace. In this process the European Union has figured most prominently."

December 8, 2012

Nurse who took prank call about royal Kate found dead

A nurse who answered a prank call at the London hospital that was treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate for morning sickness has been found dead, the hospital said on Friday, in a suspected suicide.

The death comes days after the King Edward VII hospital apologised for being duped by an Australian radio station and relaying details about Kate's condition which made headlines around the globe.

"It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha," John Lofthouse, the King Edward's chief executive told reporters outside the central London hospital.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."

Police said they had been called at 9:35 a.m. (0935 GMT) about a woman found unconscious at an address near the hospital. The woman was pronounced dead after ambulance staff arrived.

London Blitz: Bomb Sight interactive map created

An interactive map showing the location of bombs dropped on London during World War II has been created.
It reveals the devastation caused by the Blitz over eight months.
The year-long project, called Bomb Sight, was devised by a team from the University of Portsmouth using data from the National Archives.

Dr Kate Jones, the University of Portsmouth geographer who devised the project, said: "When you look at these maps and see the proliferation of bombs dropped on the capital, it does illustrate the meaning of the word Blitz, which comes from the German meaning lightning.
"It seems astonishing that London survived the onslaught."

December 7, 2012

‘Tintin in the Congo’ not racist, Belgian court rules

“Tintin in the Congo” - a classic 1920s comic strip about Belgium's celebrated fictional boy reporter - is not racist, a Brussels court ruled on Wednesday.
The Brussels Appeals Court upheld a 2011 ruling against Congolese immigrant Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo and the Belgian Council of Black Associations, who wanted the book banned.
In 2010 Mbutu, who lives in Belgium, Congo’s former colonial ruler, said Tintin employed a little black helper who was seen as “stupid and without qualities”.
“It makes people think that blacks have not evolved,” he said.
In one scene, a black woman prostrates herself before Tintin, saying: “White man very great. White mister is big juju man.”
Alain Amici, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the court in 2011: “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.”
Not so, said Brussels judges, for whom “Tintin in the Congo” is full of “gentle and candid humour”.

Swedish artist uses 'ashes from Holocaust victims'

Artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff said that he stole the ashes from the Majdanek camp during a visit in 1989.
The camp, now a museum in Poland, has called the alleged theft an "unimaginably barbaric act".
The artist said the ashes were mixed with water and used to paint a series of grey streaks in the small painting.
Salomon Schulman, a key figure in Sweden's Jewish community, told Swedish television that the art was "repulsive in the extreme", according to news website The Local.
Writing in the Sydsvenskan newspaper, Mr Schulman questioned whether it should be called art.
"Who knows, some of the ashes might come from some of my relatives," he wrote.

December 6, 2012

NATO occupies health clinic in Afghanistan

The Guardian on the hostile takeover
SR International; shorter article by Swedish public service radio

NATO-led ISAF troops invaded and vandalised a health clinic in Afghanistan in late October, before occupying it for several days. According to the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (which runs the clinic together with the Afghan health ministry), the American and Afghan soldiers held the staff captive and used the clinic as jail and for interrogations, among other things. The Swedish Committee are now accusing ISAF for breaking international law and acting in violation of the Geneva conventions. ISAF, on the other hand, are claiming that the takeover was "unintentional", to which the Swedish Committee are expressing disbelief as the signs around the clinic are "too clear for a mix-up to happen".

Americans sign petition to build killer ‘Star Wars’ space station

Marijuana, secession and now ‘Star Wars’: Thousands of Americans have signed yet another bizarre online White House petition, this one to “secure funding and resources” to build the ‘Death Star’ space station from the popular sci-fi film.
­“By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense,” the petition on the White House website reads.
The document, created on November 14 by a resident of Colorado, has already collected over 5,000 signatures. The petition needs around 20,000 more by December 14 for it to be formally reviewed by the White House staff.
The Death Star is the planet-destroying space station built by the Galactic Empire in the wildly popular sci-fi movie saga ‘Star Wars,’ directed by George Lucas. The franchise is adored by millions of fans around the world.
Earlier this year, students at Lehigh University in the US calculated the hypothetical cost of building a Death Star at $8.52 quadrillion – roughly 13,000 times the world’s GDP.
The White House’s petition platform, which allows anyone to offer suggestions to the government, is relatively new and was created to provide citizens with “new way to create or join the petition encouraging government to take action on the range of issues.”
The move has resulted in a cornucopia of bizarre petitions: Adopting the Gray Wolf to join the Bald Eagle as the national mascot; legalizing the use of magic mushrooms and mescaline; even to “shut down White House petitions, since they never get a sincere response… and are ultimately worthless.
The most popular petition on the website so far calls for the peaceful secession of Texas, which has collected over 110,000 signatures.

Tycoon's builders knock down chateau 'by mistake'

With its twin outside staircase and arched entrances, the Chateau de Bellevue was one of the most eye-catching sights in Yvrac, a wine-making village nestling among the famous vineyards of Bordeaux.

Beautiful, but tired and in need of repair when bought by Dmitry Stroskin, a Russian millionaire, the chateau received a renovation permit and was due to be restored to its former glory.

Instead, it was razed by a Polish building firm. Workmen were supposed to demolish only a separate smaller building in the grounds of the estate, but that is the only one still standing.

Villagers are furious about the "accident" and local authorities have opened an investigation.

December 5, 2012

Ex-Greek PM's mother linked to $550m Swiss account

Greece's civil war over naming and shaming suspected tax evaders intensified following the claim by police that former prime minister George Papandreou's octogenarian mother was behind a Swiss bank account of mutual funds worth $550m (£342m).
Allegations that US-born Margaret Papandreou was on the so-called "Lagarde list", identifying Greeks who had stockpiled fortunes in Switzerland, provoked uproar after two popular newspapers published the claims on Sunday.
Citing high-level officials at the crisis-hit country's financial crime squad, SDOE, the two weeklies, To Vima and Proto Thema, named Papandreou as the primary beneficiary of one of the biggest accounts on the list of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC. The American issued a vehement denial. "Why such lies? Why such attacks? Is it because my family never served this country's interest groups?" she asked.

December 4, 2012

US Marines in Japan banned from drinking outside bases

A severer ban on off-base drinking issued Sunday by U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) has now applied to all U. S. Marines across Japan, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported Monday.

The U.S. forces in Okinawa said Monday that the order, which originally applied to bases in the Japan's southernmost prefecture, has now covered all U.S. Marine Corps personnel throughout the country, including bases in western Japan.

According to the order, all U.S. servicemen in Okinawa are banned from drinking at any hour of the day outside bases with the only exception of staying in their own homes.

Drinking and selling liquor are also banned within U.S. bases from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. local time, and anyone who leaves bases after sunset and is found to have drunk will be prevented from leaving their bases.

On Nov. 30, a U.S. serviceman was arrested by Japanese police for drunk driving which injured two people as his car crashed into three other vehicles in Okinawa.

As of now, drinking has become a troublesome issue of the U.S. forces in Japan as increasing crimes and offenses have been committed by drunken U.S. soldiers.

Rocket rethink: Moscow advises Pyongyang against launch

Russia has urged North Korea to revise its decision on a satellite rocket launch scheduled for later in the month, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement says.
While acknowledging the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s right to “peaceful space exploration,” Moscow has called on the DPRK to “revise its decision on the rocket launch," according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Monday.
The Foreign Ministry said Russia “regretted” the announcement by the North Korean Committee for Space Technology that it would launch a satellite rocket in the period December 10-22, the statement says.
"We have drawn the attention of the North Korean side many times to the impermissibility of ignoring UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which unequivocally prohibits the DPRK from launching rockets employing ballistic technology," the ministry said on its webpage.
As a member of the United Nations, North Korea is obliged the fulfill UN Security Council resolutions that are mandatory for all member-nations of the international body, the Foreign Ministry stressed.
The Russian statement took a diplomatic approach to Pyongyang’s determination to test rockets, holding out promises of “international cooperation” in the event that North Korea canceled rocket launches.
"Russia, together with its partners in the six-party talks, is ready to continue efforts to settle problems of the Korean peninsula,” the statement read. Talks with the international community could “result in the cancellation of sanction restrictions with regard to Pyongyang,” as well as “the establishment of conditions for the full-scale involvement of DPRK in international cooperation in various spheres.”
North Korea could benefit from “peaceful space exploration and nuclear power engineering cooperation” if it agrees to cooperate with the international community, the ministry said.

Vatican unveils Pope's Twitter account @pontifex

A spokesman said Pope Benedict XVI wanted to "reach out to everyone" with tweets translated into eight languages.
The first tweet from his account, whose name means both pontiff and builder of bridges, is expected on 12 December.
Last year, the Pope sent his first tweet last year from a Vatican account to launch the Holy See's news information portal.
"We are going to get a spiritual message. The Pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no-one is going to be putting words into the Pope's mouth," Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican said.
"He will tweet what he wants to tweet," he added, though the leader of the world's 1.2 billion or so Roman Catholics is expected to sign off, rather than write, each individual tweet himself.

December 2, 2012

Unicorn lair 'discovered' in North Korea

In what appears to be a genuine world exclusive, the inimitable Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has now broken the incredible news that archaeologists in Pyongyang have discovered a unicorn's lair.
Or rather, the report says that they have "recently reconfirmed" the lair of one of the unicorns ridden by the ancient Korean King Tongmyong, founder of a kingdom which ruled parts of China and the Korean peninsula from the the 3rd century BC to 7th century AD.
The KCNA goes on to state that the location happens to be 200 metres from a temple in the North Korean capital, adding: "A rectangular rock carved with words "Unicorn Lair" stands in front of the lair."

December 1, 2012

Spain reveals shipwreck treasure

Spanish authorities have revealed some of the treasures from a ship that sank more than 200 years ago.
The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes galleon sank off Portugal's coast near the straits of Gibraltar in 1804 with more than 500,000 silver coins.
Spain won a five-year legal dispute to claim ownership for the treasures found by a US firm.
Only a small portion of the treasure, estimated to be worth $500m (£310m; 385m euros) has been displayed.

Building tensions: Israel authorizes construction of 3,000 new settlements

Israeli authorities will allow the construction of 3,000 new settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The decision follows Thursday’s UN General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestinians’ diplomatic status to ‘non-member observer state’.
Celebrations within Palestine that the UN has implicitly recognized its right to statehood might be short-lived according to the latest Israeli media reports.
Apart from approving construction on 3,000 new housing units in the occupied territories, Israel’s “security cabinet,” a forum of nine top Israeli ministers lead by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will also go ahead with planning procedures for another 1,000 housing units in the area E1 that connects Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

Advent calendar: 1st of December

The advent calendar updates daily at this page.