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Jan
2017

Adama Barrow inaugurated as president after Gambian election upset

GAMBIA (WNF) - The tiny West African nation made history in December with its first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965, and President-Elect Adama Barrow will take office in the third week of January. (January 21, 2017
He defeated Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994 and has held power since, in the December presidential election. The long-time leader, who once vowed to bury opposition figures “nine feet deep,” conceded defeat but his opponents do not expect him to go quietly. They suspect that he has “bunkers and treasure” at his farm near the Senegal border and could start a rebel movement from there, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, and there is already talk of prosecuting him for war crimes.

Barrow, a property developer with no former political experience, won the presidential nomination in 2016 to lead an opposition coalition of seven parties. According to the AFP news agency, it was the largest alliance of its kind since independence.

Gambia’s newly elected president Barrow says he will free the country’s political prisoners, reverse the former administration’s decision to leave the International Criminal court and lead a transition government for only three years. On the electoral campaign trail, he promised to revive the country's economy, which has forced thousands of Gambians to make the perilous journey to Europe. #21952 Published: 12/07/2016

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22 Jan
2017

Socialists choose presidential candidate

FRANCE (WNF) - The Socialists hold a primary contest for the party’s candidate in the 2017 presidential election. President Francois Hollande will not be one of the rivals of frontrunner Manuel Valls in the crowded field.
Hollande decided not to run because of his record-low approval ratings.

Ex-prime minister Valls is widely expected to win the first round in the field of at least 12 candidates.

If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the vote, a second round will be held on Jan 29 between the two candidates with the most votes.

The Bloomberg news service reports that disenchantment with Socialist government policies is so high that even Hollande alternatives, such as Valls or Lille Mayor Martine Aubry, could lose to centre-right candidate Francois Fillon or far-right party leader Marine Le Pen in the first round.

The Socialists’ chances would improve if the left-leaning parties came together to field a single candidate, but the prospects for agreement are considered to be low. #21710 Updated: 12/08/2016 UPDATED DEC 2016 TO INCLUDE DATE, FILLON WIN

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23 Jan
2017

Aerodynamic discs now known as Frisbees arrived 60 years ago

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The Wham-O company first marketed the Frisbee, then known as the Pluto Platter, on Jan 23, 1957, in California. Sixty years on, some 60 manufacturers produce the flying plastic discs and Frisbee games have become an Olympic sport. The characteristic flinging of the discs has entered the language as “Frisbee-ing.”
The design was patented in Dec 1957, and Pluto Platters were renamed Frisbees in 1958.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized flying disc sports, including Ultimate Frisbee, in Aug 2015. The BBC, which reported the IOC decision, notes that Ultimate, as it is commonly known, is the most popular of the games and originated in the United States in the 1960s. Played indoors or outdoors, Ultimate is a non-contact, mixed-team game that is particularly popular with university students.

The 30-year-old World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) looks after the interests of the sport, which includes Ultimate Frisbee, Disc Golf and Freestyle. The discs, which have a curved lip and measure roughly 8-10 inches across, are played in organised games in some 58 countries.

According to the History.com account, students from universities near the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport would fling empty pie tins to each other, yelling “Frisbie!” as they let go. In 1948, two inventors, Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni, invented a plastic version of the tin that could fly further and more accurately than the pie plates. The modern design was patented in Dec 1957 by Ed Headrick, who invented Frisbee Golf. There is also Freestyle Frisbee, with choreographed routines set to music and multiple discs in play. #21638 Published: 05/11/2016

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23 Jan
2017

Executive board shortlists candidates for WHO Director-General

SWITZERLAND (WNF) - The 140th meeting of the World Health Organization Executive Board in Geneva will shortlist candidates for WHO Director-General and compile the agenda for the agency’s 70th General Assembly in May.
Reuters reports that the six candidates to replace Director-General Margaret Chan, whose tenure ends in June are: Britain’s David Nabarro, UN special envoy for Ebola during the crisis in 2014-15; Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, a former health minister; former Pakistan minister Sania Nishtar; French former health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy; Italy’s Flavia Bustreo, who is a WHO assistant director-general; and a former health minister of Hungary, Miklós Szócska. The agency’s 194 member states will select one of the finalists at the May assembly.

The headaches of the moment for the WHO agenda in May include the Zika virus crisis, inadequate numbers of health professionals in developing countries at a time of great need for them, antibiotic-resistant bacteria – so-called superbugs – and underfunding. The New York Times, reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis and the underfunding of United Nations agencies, noted that WHO is only 27 per cent funded following years of cutbacks. Underfunding in 2014 is also blamed for slowing the WHO response to the Ebola crisis. #21844 Published: 09/28/2016

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24 Jan
2017

Academy announces nominees for Oscars

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles announces the contenders for Oscar honors ahead of the awards ceremony in February. The nominations will be scanned to see if the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite still applies.
Explaining the hashtag and a near uproar about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Times notes that when the Academy announced its 2016 Oscar nominees, only white actors and actresses were among the picks in the top four categories for the second year in a row.

Eight movies with diverse casts and crews are vying for Oscar inclusion this year, and at least two – Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, and Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis – can count on nomination. For the hashtag to be retired, the contenders with diversity credentials will need to land one or another of the major awards.

As its top picks for Best Picture, the film industry publication Indiewire lists (alphabetically) Arrival, Fences, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Loving, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight. The publication lists most of the stars of the top predictions as likely contenders for the acting awards. #21979 Published: 12/22/2016

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27 Jan
2017

U.S. moonshot began 50 years ago with a disaster

UNITED STATES (WNF) - NASA commemorates the 50th anniversary of the deaths of the pioneers of the U.S. moonshot, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The crew of Apollo 1, they perished in a flash fire in their space capsule on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mistakes uncovered during the inquiry helped NASA to engineer safer Apollo missions on the way to the historic Moon landing of Jul 20, 1969.
The three astronauts may be honored by a new monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Apollo 1 Memorial Act was introduced in Congress in Sep 2016.,

They died on Jan 27, 1967, during preflight tests at the Kennedy Space Center for the first low-orbit flight of the new Apollo command and service module. Had the flight, set for Feb 21, happened, Flight Commander Grissom would have kept the module in orbit for 14 days, six more days than was needed to reach, land on and return from the Moon. Apollo 2 and Apollo 3 had already been scheduled. Apollo missions were suspended for 20 months after the accident, with Apollo 7 finally fulfilling the goals of Apollo 1.

Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 landed astronauts on the Moon. The programme was retired with the 17th landing in Dec 1972.

The subsequent inquiry highlighted five major mistakes. Experts then and since have pointed to the Soviet Union’s lead in the space race as a contributing factor. The Soviets had launched Sputnik a decade earlier and had been racking up firsts in Space. NASA raced to be first to the Moon, with lapses that contributed to the the loss of Apollo 1.

According to NASA, “the Board’s investigation revealed many deficiencies in design and engineering, manufacture, and quality control. As a result of the investigation, major modifications in design, materials, and procedures were implemented.”

The safety changes helped save astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission, when an oxygen tank exploded en route to the moon in Apr 1970.

The Apollo 1 anniversary marks a solemn week at NASA, falling the day before the 31st anniversary of the Challenger explosion on Jan 28, 1986, in which seven astronauts died. Four days later marks the anniversary of the Columbia shuttle breakup of Feb 1, 2003, which killed another seven-strong team. #21639 Published: 05/11/2016

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27 Jan
2017

50th anniversary of Outer Space Treaty a prompt for revisions

UNITED NATIONS (WNF) - The Outer Space Treaty opened for signatures 50 years ago, and the anniversary will expose the Cold War relic to a new round of scrutiny. The main question is whether it offers protection against 21st Century realities, which include the exploitation of Space and threats to the satellites that are now vital to warfare and everyday life on Earth.
The treaty was written to ensure the peaceful use of Space and came into force on Oct 10, 1967. In the words of the U.S. Department of Defense, the pact sought to prevent "a new form of colonial competition and the possible damage that self-seeking exploitation might cause.”

Fifty years on, there are many more players looking to exploit Space. In 1967 the negotiations involved only a handful of spacefaring powers and today’s realities were in the realm of science fiction. Today, systems located in Space play a massive part in terrestrial military and non-military operations: from reconnaissance to GPS, to communications.

An article in Nature News on the 40th anniversary observes that the treaty remains in force, but looks increasingly vulnerable as a protection against the militarisation of Space. It cites the findings of a United Nations conference in 2007 that concluded military uses of Space “are well underway and likely to expand.”

The treaty has no protection against the commercial exploitation of Space. Private entities have joined governments in sizing up asteroids and other space property for the presumed abundance of volatiles, water and metals in them, and for eventual occupation. Within as little as 20 years, according to many experts, these pursuits will begin raising questions – with possible hostilities – concerning property rights and sovereignty in Space. Previous calls for revisions haven’t prospered: there is no sign today’s players are willing to discuss restrictions on their dreams. #21669 Published: 06/03/2016

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28 Jan
2017

Start of Chinese Year of the Rooster an occasion for a new timepiece

CHINA (WNF) - The Year of the Fire Rooster promises to be a good year for timepiece manufacturers as the noisy bird, the alarm clock of yore, is the epitome of punctuality.
Its punctual crowing, while puffing chest feathers and showing off a scarlet comb, gets people out of bed and off to work. The depictions by luxury watchmakers salute the birds’ most colorful traits in precious metals and, in some cases, with diamonds.

Forbes Magazine notes that luxury brands saluting the bugler bird in 2017 include Ulysse Nardin, Jaquet Droz, Chopard, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin. Each brand has depicted the rooster in a decidedly different mode.

The day is celebrated with families getting together to eat foods that bring luck, present small amounts of money to children and exchange gifts.

The Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar Chinese New Year or Chinese Spring Festival, ends on Feb 2, 2017.

Rooster is the 10th in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. The years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029. #21944 Published: 12/13/2016

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