All posts by ezandona

Balotelli strikes again

By Edoardo Zandona’

Mario Balotelli when playing for Inter Milan. Credit: Steindy.

Since his arrival at Manchester City for £24 million pounds last summer, Italian striker Mario Balotelli has gained more attention for his off the field antics than for his performances on the pitch.

The Sun reports today about his latest exploit. Apparently, the footballer tried to start a fight with Jenny Thompson, an escort already involved in Wayne Rooney’s scandal, in a restaurant in Manchester after the Man City – Aston Villa game on March 2. According to the tabloid’s reconstruction, Balotelli approached the woman with a “Rooney, Rooney” chant, and taunted her with laughing and vulgar gestures. He then blew a raspberry in the face of one of the commensals, Sam Birch, and invited him to “come outside”.

Birch told the Sun: “He was acting crazy. I think he is unhinged”. Balotelli’s record in Manchester City so far is disappointing. While only scoring 6 goals in 12 appearances with the Sky Blues, he has collected 9 yellow cards and 2 red cards, earning him a ‘bad boy’ reputation.

Grassmarket Community Project says: ‘Count on us!’

Credit: Daniel Schwen

By Edoardo Zandona’

Worried about filling in the census? Now you can ask somebody to help you out.

The Grassmarket Community Project will hold a drop-in session next Tuesday from 10-3pm, to help those struggling to complete this unpleasant but necessary duty. The charity describes it as a “learning and training project for the officially excluded”.

The first Scottish census for 10 years will arrive in 2.5 millions households by March 27. It will include, for the first time, questions about same-sex civil partnerships, as a result of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Tune into Susannah Radford on Edinburgh Napier News Radio at 2.30 pm to find out more.

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Air raids continue over Libya

Warfare in Libya. Credit: B.R.Q

By Edoardo Zandona’

Several air raids were conducted last night by the coalition forces over Libyan cities. In Adjabiyah, French planes destroyed an artillery battery belonging to Gaddafi’s army and British Tornadoes threw missiles on Libyan tanks. Residents reported other air raids in Tripoli and Sirte, followed by distant explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire, that also hit the Colonel’s bunker-residence in Bab al-Aziziya.

Meanwhile, clashes between Gaddafi’s and rebel forces continue in the town of Misrata.

British and French government announced today they are ready to work on a ‘political and diplomatic solution’ for the Libya crisis. This decision arrived after NATO said it will take over Libya’s no-fly zone, and it is ready to assume ‘broader responsibility’. The Alliance said their plan is to accomplish the ‘Odyssey Dawn’ mission in 90 days, but may be extended or shortened. NATO has already managed to involve the first Arab country in the conflict with the United Arab Emirates ready to send 12 planes to enforce the no-fly zone. Continue reading Air raids continue over Libya

Round-up of the Middle Eastern conflict

Protesters in Syria. Credit: thephotostrand.

By Edoardo Zandona’

While battles on the ground and air raid attacks from the coalition continue in Libya, other countries in the Middle East are still experiencing turmoil. Here are the last updates country by country.

Syria: Syrian police forces arrested at least three demonstrators today after thousands gathered in the Syrian capital of Damascus for the funeral march of those dead in the last days’ demonstrations. According to the opposition forces, 100 have been killed by riot squads during protests in the city of Daraa. The Syrian government claimed only ten people died in Wednesday’s turmoil, and denied having ordered the police to open fire on the protesters, as stated by the Asharq al Aswat newspaper.

Yesterday, President Bashar al-Assad promised the start of a series of reforms in the country, including the lifting of the state of emergency which has been in place since 1963. The government also announced measures to fight corruption, to raise workers’ wages and to relax restrictions over the media.

Yemen: Tens of thousands of people have gathered today in the capital Sanaa in what is believed to be the biggest anti-government rally so far. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in charge since 1978, while addressing his supporters, said he is ready to hand over power, but only to ‘safe hands’. He also urged his supporters to ‘stand firm’. The rallies are coming a week after 50 have been killed in protests.

The situation in the country seems about to explode. The Free Yemeni movement tweeted: “Taqyeer square screams right now: ‘The people want to overthrow the regime, Saleh you are going down tonight and no other night’.” A BBC correspondent reported that ‘the city is very tense and anxious, with a sense of history in the making’.

Latest reports say that government troops fired warning shots on the protesters.

Jordan: Supporters of Jordanian government have clashed last night with opposition forces, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit. King Abdullah’s supporters threw stones to the demonstrators who gathered on Thursday in the capital Amman. On Wednesday King Abdullah sent a letter to Jordanian newspapers, urging the Prime Minister to push through parliamentary reforms.

Head of Edinburgh Zoo suspended

Edinburgh Zoo will soon welcomes two Chinese giant pandas

By Edoardo Zandona

Gary Wilson, the chief executive for Edinburgh Zoo was suspended yesterday after ‘anonymous allegations’ were made against him.

The nature of the allegations remains unknown, but a spokeswoman for the attraction said they are going to be treated ‘extremely seriously’. She also revealed that an internal and external examination are under way, although the police are not involved.

The suspension arrives immediately after the zoo announced the arrival of two specimen of giant pandas from China. Mr Wilson was responsible for all the zoo’s major projects, including the pandas import.

Edinburgh Zoo is owned by the Royal Zoo Society of Scotland, and is one of Britain’s biggest zoos. It opened in July 1913 and it attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.

 

Libya declares ceasefire

By Edoardo Zandona’

UPDATE (15:06) Libyan Youth Movement reports via Twitter: “very large explosions heard and continuing west of Tripoli”. You can follow their tweets here.

UPDATE (14:57) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the international community had “no other choice” but to take action after the killing of civilians in Libya. She stated: “This resolution is an important step, but the US and its partners will continue to explore other ways of ending the Libyan crisis”.

UPDATE (14:50) Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero declared that “the international community will not be deceived by the Libyan regime”, and it will “verify its enforcement of the resolution”. Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini announced that Italy is going to shut down its embassy in Libya.

UPDATE (14:42) BBC’s diplomatic correspondant James Robbins said “the ceasefire is a classic tactic from Colonel Gaddafi and it will not stop military preparations”.

UPDATE (14:12) Despite the announced ceasefire, bombardments and crashes between rebels and loyalist troops continue in the city of Misrata. Arabic network Al-Arabiya said 25 people have been killed in the bombardments. CNN broadcasted an interview of a witness stating: “There isn’t any ceasefire in Libya, they are bombing us in this very second. Misrata is on fire”.

UPDATE (14:02) NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared: “NATO is completing its plan in order to be ready to take appropriate action in support of the U.N. Security Council’s resolution”. The organization decided to speed up planning for military action in Libya, but whether to intervene in the conflict has not been decided yet.

UPDATE (13:40) First replies to Libya’s declaration of ceasefire from Western countries’ leaders. The French government declared that “the threat in Libya is unchanged”. David Cameron told the BBC that “Gaddafi will be judged by his deeds, not by his words”.

Following the U.N. resolution imposing Libya a no-fly zone, the country declared a ceasefire to assure the protection of civilian population. Libya’s Foreign minister Mousa Koussa declared journalists in Tripoli that the country “agrees with the resolution” and will therefore suspend the planned offensive on the rebels in Benghazi. The minister explained: “Libya is part of the United Nations and must accept the Security Council’s resolution”. He added that Libya will protect the foreigners in the country and their assets. The Libyan government’s announcement has already made the oil price drop of 3 dollars per barrel.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

UN authorizes military intervention in Libya

David Cameron making his speech in the British parliament

By Edoardo Zandona’

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution last night endorsing military forces to intervene against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The decision was made in an emergency meeting, after Gaddafi warned rebels in Benghazi that loyalist forces will conduct an attack to the city with “no mercy and no pity”. Continue reading UN authorizes military intervention in Libya

Japan considers burying damaged plant while threat level rises

Explosions in the Fukushima nuclear plant (Picture by daveeza)

By Edoardo Zandona’

The last resort to stem the radiation leakage in Fukushima damaged nuclear plant may be to bury it in sand and concrete, Japanese engineers suggest. This method was similar to the final solution used in Chernobyl to contain the catastrophe, and it is now being considered as the ultimate resource to deal with the nuclear crisis in Japan. This suggestion comes immediately after the threat level for the accident has been raised from 4 to 5 on a 1-7 scale. Continue reading Japan considers burying damaged plant while threat level rises

Emergency relief fund set up for tsunami victims.

(Image courtesy of: YouReporter.it)

A relief fund has been set up by the GlobalGiving organization to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan last night. The aim of the project is to collect $90,000 to “disburse funds to organizations providing relief and emergency services”, and it is meant to be the first step of a series of international actions for support.

If you wish to contribute to the cause, you can access the project’s webpage here.

New violent assault on a Russian journalist

By Edoardo Zandonà

A Russian journalist working for a local newspaper near Moscow was severely beaten on Monday just outside his office, and had to be hospitalised with a concussion and other minor injuries. This is the second case in just two days of a journalist being violently assaulted in Russia, after Oleg Kashin, a reporter for the popular daily newspaper Kommersant, was badly injured and is now in a coma.

The journalist, named Anatoly Adamchuk, was reporting plans of cutting down trees in the Khimki forest near Moscow to build a controversial highway, and his colleagues believe this could be the motive for the attack. Adamchuk had previously written about the arrest of several youths aged between 11 and 14 who were protesting against the highway’s construction.

Anastasia Grigoriyeva, a colleague of Adamchuk from the weekly paper Zhukovskie Vesti, said he was beaten up “just ten metres away from our editorial office.” “He didn’t see their faces, but he heard them cry out the name of our publication several times,” she added.

Oleg Kashin, who was assaulted last Saturday, had also reported protest actions and conflicts in Khimki about the construction of the new highway. Kashin had to be put in a medically induced coma after the attack, which caused him fractures in both legs and fingers, a broken jaw and a damaged skull. Kommersant’s editor Mikhail Mikhailin believes the attack was linked to Kashin’s work, in particular to his extensive coverage of anti-governmental demonstrations.

“The thing that bothers me is that at the moment of the beating, they broke his fingers,” said Mikhailin in an interview, “It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing.”

The Kremlin immediately condemned the attack on Kashin, which was classed as attempted murder. President Dmitrij Medvedev declared via Twitter that “the criminals must be punished”, and he instructed the prosecutor general and the interior ministry to take special control of the investigation.

Despite the government’s efforts to distance themselves from the assailers, rights groups still complain the Kremlin has not done enough to stop violent attacks on journalists.

Russia’s human right commissioner, Vladimir P. Lukin, said attacks on journalists “have become systematic” in Russia, mostly because they are never punished. “You cannot provide bodyguards to each journalist”, he explained. “The only way to somehow oppose these attacks is to improve the quality of work of law enforcement.”

Since 2000 there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists in Russia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Russia is ranked eighth among the countries were journalists are killed regularly and their murders remain unsolved, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a reporter.

BP used toxic dispersants to treat the oil spill

BP logo.

By Edoardo Zandonà

The dispersants British Petroleum used to help control the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer may be even more toxic than the oil itself, a recent report by Al Jazeera says. Several residents in the Gulf, who have been exposed to the dispersants, are dealing with a large variety of chemical-related intoxications, which are having increasingly serious effects on their health.

The symptoms the residents are reporting range from respiratory disorders to internal haemorrhages. Since the middle of last summer, 56 people from the counties of Mobile and Baldwin in Alabama had to receive treatment for intoxications linked with the disaster. Accounts of similar illnesses have also been reported in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, the states who were mainly affected by the spill.

Bob Naman, chemist at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, conducted studies on Corexit, the dispersant used by BP. He explained that its higher toxicity is caused by the chemical compounds the dispersant create when mixed with crude oil. “I’m scared of what I’m finding,” he added. “These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit and generate other cyclic compounds that aren’t good. Many have double bonds, and many are on the EPA’s danger list. This is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.”

BP admitted to have used at least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit, which is banned in several countries, in order to sink and break up the oil on the sea surface. The dispersant was sprayed all over the contaminated area since last May despite concerns about its toxicity raised by EPA.

According to Al Jazeera, the number of cases of chemical intoxication across the Gulf Coast is growing. Residents report several shocking symptoms after exposure to the chemical, such as urine discoloration, skin rashes and copious bleeding. Many people stated they started to feel better as soon as they moved in non-contaminated areas.

“What I’m seeing are toxified people who have been chemically poisoned,” says Trisha Springstead, a nurse in Brooksville, Florida. “They have sore throats, respiratory problems, neurological problems, lesions, sores, and ulcers. These people have been poisoned and they are dying.”

Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist and marine biologist, explained: “The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber. Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known.”

“People are already dying from this,” Dr. Ott added. “I don’t think we’ll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska, people are dropping dead now.”

State of emergency declared after toxic mud spill in Hungary

 

The village of Devecser devastated by the toxic sludge.

 

By Edoardo Zandonà

Hungarian government declared a state of emergency today after a massive sludge spill from an aluminia factory put in serious danger the lives of about 7000 people distributed in three different counties. Emergency workers are now trying to stop the toxic mud spread, as well as to find the six people who are still missing.

The leak started yesterday after the breaking of a dam in the industrial waste reservoir of the Ajkai Timfoldgyar Zrt alumina factory. So far, the spill already caused four deaths, while another 120 residing in the nearby villages were led to the hospital after being subjected to chemical burns. The flood also deeply damaged several buildings and facilities in the region, leading to the evacuation of 400 residents.

Hungarian Environment Minister Zoltan Illes described the event as “Hungary’s worst chemical accident”. He referred to it as an “ecological catastrophe”, and he stated it will need at least one year and tens of millions dollars to completely clean up the area from the 2cm deep layer of soil covering the region. Illes added that, if the leak would not be immediately recovered, the Raba and Danube rivers could be at risk of contamination as well.

According to what Gyorgy Bakondi, head of the National Disaster Unit, declared today, there are three major tasks to fulfil for the cleaning crews. The first one and the more important is to “close the burst in the dam by the afternoon”, and after that “cleaning off the red sludge from the walls of houses, and off streets”, and protecting the waters from contamination.

Police is still investigating on what could have been the real origin of the disaster. Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said the spill could have been caused by human error, and there was no sign of it being due to natural causes. MAL Zrt, the current owner of the factory, rejected any responsibility in the disaster, stating there had been no previous sign of the impending catastrophe, since the last inspection of the factory on Monday didn’t show anything suspicious.

The sludge is believed to have a caustic effect on the skin, due to its highly alkaline structure, and since the presence of heavy metals in it, it’s considered slightly radioactive and could cause lung cancer if inhaled. Greenpeace experts said the impact of the spill could be much worse than the cyanide spill which happened in Baia Mare, Romania, in 2000, contaminating the Tisza and Danube river with the toxic substance.