Monday, 27 June 2011

World Cup: Nigerians organise road show to promote culture

Postdam (Germany) – Nigeria on Sunday used the female world cup tournament to organised a road show to promote the country’s rich cultural values.
The road show which took place at Luisenplatz Square, Postdam , a federal capital city of Brandenburg State, was organised simultaneously with public viewing of the Nigeria/ France match.
At the Luisenplatz Square observed that some Nigeria musicians displayed their talents to attract crowd to the square.
Mrs Mary Bruder, the organiser of the road show, said the aim of the event was to showcase Nigeria’s cultural values through displayed arts and crafts, traditional wears and food as well as the musical performance.
“We want to use the football to showcase our culture; we have invited musicians to entertain people that could not go to watch the match at Sinsheim Stadium, in south –west Germany.
“We are using this show to promote Nigeria’s image to the Germans and because a lot of them are celebrating with us and this is making them to learn about our cultural values.
“A lot of Germans have come to buy our traditional wears at our exhibition stand, some have also bought our art and craft items among others items.
Similarly, Mrs Irene Johnson, a media consultant who spoke on behalf of Moreno Group Plc, said the show had enabled Germans to learn about Nigeria’s culture through their participation in the show.
“The company believes that football is a festival to be celebrated so the company is supporting Nigeria to promote its image and to celebrate its participation in the world cup.
“It doesn’t matter if Nigeria does not win the match, what matters is that the country has used the opportunity to promote its culture values,’’ she said.
The show was sponsored by Moreno group PLC, an Italian company based in Nigeria, with the support of Nigeria Embassy in Berlin. (NAN

Egypt army vows to stop virginity tests on female protester

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s military has vowed to stop virginity tests on female protesters, Amnesty International said on Monday, after a top official said the tests were necessary to head off possible charges of rape.
“The head of Egypt’s military intelligence has promised Amnesty International that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ after defending their use, during a meeting with the organisation on Sunday,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had discussed the issue with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty.
Sisi is a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The general was the first identified Egyptian military official to acknowledge that forced virginity tests have taken place.
“He said virginity tests were carried out to protect the army against possible allegations of rape, and added that the army does not intend to detain women again,” an Amnesty statement said on Sunday.
On May 31, Amnesty called on the authorities in Egypt to bring to justice those responsible for forced virginity tests on female protesters, slamming it as “nothing less than torture.”
Amnesty’s statement came after an apparent admission by an unnamed army general to CNN that women detained on March 9 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square had been subjected to virginity tests.
A senior military official on May 31 denied to AFP reports that the army had conducted such tests, saying “these allegations are baseless.”
Amnesty opposes forced virginity tests under any circumstances.
“Sisi said people alleging abuses should complain to the military prosecutor and could also post their complaints on the SCAF Facebook page,” the Amnesty statement said.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

High-speed 'space wedge' on track

he European Space Agency (Esa) is pressing ahead with its re-entry demonstrator known as the IXV, which it expects to launch in 2013.

This distinctive wedge-shaped vehicle will be put at an altitude above 400km from where it will begin its flight back to Earth.

Its suite of sensors should give engineers new insights into how objects fall back through the atmosphere.

Ultimately, the data should inform better spacecraft design.

Even probes sent to land on other worlds like Mars should benefit from the knowledge.

"IXV is providing Europe with important technologies and a step to more ambitious programmes in the future," said Antonio Fabrizi, one of Esa's senior directors.

He signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show that will lead to manufacture of the demonstrator by Thales Alenia Space in Italy.

The company's facility in Turin has spent the past two years researching the concept.

The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) is a car-sized, two-tonne automated craft that can be seen as a follow-on to the Advanced Re-entry Demonstrator flown by Esa in 1998.

But whereas ARD was a traditional cone-shaped object, IXV is very different; it has flaps and thrusters to control its descent trajectory. A ceramic heatshield on its underside will prevent IXV from burning up.

The vehicle will launch from French Guiana in South America on Esa's forthcoming small rocket, Vega.

The top stage of Vega will put IXV on a sub-orbital trajectory around the Earth that will bring the demonstrator down in Pacific. A parachute will be deployed to bring it to a gentle splash-down. The whole mission should last about an hour.

The knowledge gained from the flight is expected to feed into materials research and the computer models that are used to describe the energetic physics that occurs when an object plunges through atmospheric gases at several kilometres per second.

Europe's expertise on re-entry technologies is more limited than, say, the US, and it is looking to boost its knowledge with a number of flight demos.

Later this year Esa will also launch its EXPERT (eXPErimental Reentry Testbed) vehicle.

This is smaller than the IXV at just over 1.5m in length and weighing slightly less than 450kg; but again, it will be packed with sensors.

EXPERT will launch to just over 100km on a submarine missile before falling back to the ground and landing by parachute.

Thales Alenia Space is also leading this project industrially, too.

"We are growing a competency in re-entry in our company and this will feed into future missions," Luigi Pasquali, the president and CEO of Thales Alenia Space (Italy), told BBC News.

Although only one flight of the IXV is currently planned, its recovery from the ocean would allow further experimental flights to be conducted.

Syria: Refugees flee border camps as troops deploy

Hundreds of Syrian refugees are fleeing across the border into Turkey to escape an assault by Syrian troops in the area, witnesses say.

Tanks and snipers have entered the village of Khirbet al-Jouz - a base for makeshift refugee camps.

One group of people broke through barbed wire to cross the border close to the Turkish village of Guvecci.

More than 1,300 people are estimated to have been killed in the government crackdown on the popular uprising.

Thousands more protesters have been detained since the crackdown began in March, opposition activists say.

The recent military offensive in the north of the country forced thousands of Syrians to flee towards Turkey.

Many crossed the border, but a significant number opted to camp on the Syrian side of the border - preferring to remain on Syrian soil as long as possible.

One man said 2,130 people in his camp had fled Khirbet al-Jouz to avoid being attacked by the army, which was surrounding the numerous camps on the Syrian side of the border.

"This is a way of terrorising people," the man told BBC Arabic.

"Our group here is informing the world of what is going on inside Syria. [The authorities] don't like it, so they want to either arrest or kill these people, so that there are no more people who can follow the news from inside Syria. It is just terror for everybody."
Turkish mobilisation

Syrian troops reportedly stormed Khirbet al-Jouz early on Thursday morning. Tanks and soldiers were seen on roads around the village, snipers were spotted on roof tops, and one witness saw a machine gun position being established.

A watchtower which had been flying a Turkish flag - put there by Syrians grateful for Turkey's help - was now flying a Syrian flag, witnesses said.

Villagers and journalists in Guvecci could see military activity across the border.

Umit Bektas, a Reuters photographer positioned on a hillside on the Turkish side of the border, said he had seen armoured vehicles taking up positions on the Syrian hillside, apparently with the aim of preventing more fleeing Syrians from reaching the camps next to the border.

Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of people broke through barbed wire to cross into Turkey, while another group of several hundred people were spotted further down the same road.

They were taken in more than 30 buses to refugee camps in Turkey, Bektas told the BBC Newshour programme.

Those fleeing were expected to join some 11,000 Syrians already taking refuge at tent cities erected by the Turkish Red Crescent in the border province of Hatay.

Meanwhile, Turkish forces have mobilised along the border.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says it is not clear how the Turkish government - increasingly critical of Syria - will respond to seeing troops harrying refugees who had assumed they were under de facto Turkish protection.

Meanwhile, Damascus says it has eased restrictions to allow opposition figures to attend a conference there on Monday, says the BBC's Lina Sinjab in the capital.

However, only independents - those not affiliated to opposition groups - will be allowed to attend. Signatories of the 2005 Damascus Declaration - a joint call for reform by Syria's most well-known intellectuals and dissidents - are also barred.

Are you in Syria? Are you in Turkey? Do you live near the Turkish border? Are you a refugee who has crossed the Turkish border? How has this movement affected you? Send us your comments and experiences.

Brazilians try to set new mass gay wedding record

Dozens of gay and lesbian couples have tied the knots under Brazil's new same-sex union laws in a bid to set a new world record for mass gay weddings.

Nearly 50 homosexual couples exchanged vows under Brazil's landmark law in an attempt to break a world record.

Brazil's Federal Supreme Court legally recognized same-sex partnerships in May, in a landmark case for gay rights in a country with the world's largest population of Roman Catholics.