Category:June 4, 2010

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Today on Wikinews : Thousands mourn the death of the activists killed in the Gaza flotilla incident; The World Health Organization continues to rank the H1N1 virus at the highest possible threat rating; SpaceX successfully launches the commercial Falcon 9 rocket and, in history, 2 brothers invent a contraption to carry humans into the sky ... but it's not the brothers you think.

Today is Friday, June 4th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.


Turkey mourns flotilla dead (0:42)

Tens of thousands attended the funeral of the nine Turkish nationals, including one teen of dual U.S.-Turkish citizenship, on Thursday for those who died in Israel's Gaza flotilla raid while released activists arrived to their home countries yesterday and today.

There was widespread anger from those attending the funeral and Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that Turkey would act calmly, saying "Turkey will never forget such an attack on its ships and its people in international waters. The relations between Israel and Turkey will never be the same again, unless Israel apologizes."

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that soldiers were acting in self-defense and said the activists were not peace activists but "violent supporters of terrorism". Israel has stated that of the 7 soldiers wounded during the assault, 2 were shot with weapons wrestled from Israeli forces. But Swedish activist Mattias Gardell scoffed at such statements, replying, "the Israelis started shooting first. We had no weapons, the Israelis had weapons".

The youngest of the nine activists killed, Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old high school student, was shot in the head and chest. He was born in Troy, New York, but moved to Turkey when he was two. He will be buried in his family's hometown of Kayseri in central Turkey on Friday. A United States State Department spokesman said it would probe the death of the Turkish-American killed, but said the FBI were not involved "at this point."

The incident occurred when activists had attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Another vessel, the Irish ship MV Rachel Corrie, is arriving some time this weekend and will be the next ship to challenge the blockade.

As the flames of anger spread across the middle east over the Gaza flotilla incident,

Large fires kill many in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2:33)

At least 114 people have been killed by fires in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

According to local fire official Nazrul Islam, the fire started in an apartment complex when an electrical transformer exploded. The fire that started at about 8:45pm local time on Thursday then spread to six or seven other buildings in the densely populated Najiranazar neighborhood of old Dhaka.

Witnesses said that fueling the flames were chemicals from illegal home-based factories in the Kayettuli neighborhood which is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Dhaka.

The fire was brought under control after three hours of effort on Friday morning, leaving at least 114 dead and a further 40 injured of which 10 to 12 are in critical condition. The current casualties follows the death of 25 in a previous fire on Tuesday.

People living in densely populated areas not only have to contend with the spread of fire, but also the increased threat of infectious disease and

WHO: H1N1 influenza virus still a pandemic (3:34)

The World Health Organization says that the H1N1 influenza virus, although not as intense as it has been in the past, still poses a threat and the pandemic is not yet over.

Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the organization, told the Reuters news service that "We're still in the pandemic,"

Margaret Chan, the organization's director, commented that the pandemic alert level will remain at six, the highest possible rating. She noted that the WHO may look at the situation again in July and see if a revision is necessary then.

An emergency committee consisting of fifteen advisers stated that countries should remain on the lookout for the pandemic, and encouraged measures to be implemented for disease surveillance and control. The panel was held on Tuesday, but Chan didn't announce the comments until yesterday.

Irish 1901 census goes online (5:28)

The earliest surviving complete census of Ireland has been put freely online.

It contains more than 4.5 million records from 850,000 households across the 32 counties on the night of Sunday March 31 1901. The Census of Ireland, 1911 records, went online in 2009 and have attracted more than 260 million hits.

The 1901 census lists James Joyce, the famous poet and writer, as a 19-year-old student living with his family in Fairview, Dublin as well as a 22-year-old Pádraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Most of the census records from the 19th century have been lost due to various reasons including a fire at the Public Records Office during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Digitisation of the records has cost almost €4 million and the work has been carried out by the National Archives of Ireland in partnership with Library and Archives Canada.

In the near future, the names of the first commercial astronauts may also become just as well known as Joyce and Pearse because

SpaceX launches first Falcon 9 rocket (6:34)

Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket for the first time at 2:45 pm local time from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida in the United States.

The Falcon 9, second in the Falcon series of rockets, has a first stage that is powered by nine Merlin 1C engines, and a second stage powered by one Merlin vacuum engine. Today's inaugural launch carried the Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit (DSQU), a boilerplate version Dragon capsule. The Dragon is intended to take cargo — and possibly people — to the International Space Station through NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.

The program is intended to help develop commercial space transportation, a goal that fits with President Obama's recent change of direction for NASA. Under President Obama's new plan, NASA would hand over the mundane task of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launches to private companies, and instead concentrate on new technology development.

However, no private firms yet have the capability to independently launch humans into space, without NASA assistance. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk hopes that the Falcon 9 will eventually fill the void in human rated commercial rockets, but he also recognizes the inherent risk and danger of rocket launches. "There's nothing more fear and anxiety-inducing than a rocket launch," said Musk.

Not everyone agrees with President Obama and Elon Musk. Republican Senator Richard Shelby doesn't think private firms are ready for the challenge of taking humans into space, preferring that government funding be directed to NASA instead. "Today the commercial providers that NASA has contracted with cannot even carry the trash back from the space station, much less carry humans to or from space safely," the Senator said.

Although today's launch succeeded, Musk had said earlier neither the success nor failure of the Falcon 9 would be the ultimate arbitrator of the fate of NASA's new commercial-friendly direction. "They sort of focus everything on us and try to create a situation where our first launch of Falcon 9 is somehow a verdict on the president's policy, which is not right," he said.

On this day in history (9:03)

With the success of the commercial SpaceX rocket, let's look back on this day in history when an astute businessman and his head-in-the-clouds brother take the first tentative steps towards the dream of human flight.

We first need to begin in the year 1777 where in southeastern France, in Avignon, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, the son of a paper manufacturer was contemplating a particularly vexing military problem of the day. 65 years previously, Spain had ceded Gibraltar to the Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht thus ending the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain was keen to retake the peninsula but an assault on the fortress of Gibraltar had been impossible as the garrison had proved impregnable by both sea and land.

Why Joseph was contemplating this matter is unknown, but as the 12th child in the family, he possessed a typical inventor's temperament. Joseph was a maverick and dreamer, and was impractical in terms of business and personal affairs, quite unlike his younger brother, Jacques-Étienne who had a much more even and businesslike temperament and had been chosen to run the family business after the death of their father in 1772.

So, while his younger brother, who is commonly referred to as simple Étienne, was toiling away incorporating the latest Dutch innovations of the day into the family paper mills, Joseph sat before a fire one evening watching laundry dry over a fire and observed how the cloth billowed upwards with the embers from the fire. Joseph then began to muse on the possibility of an air assault at Gibraltar using troops lifted by the same force that was billowing the cloth over the fire. He believed that contained within the smoke was a special gas, which he called 'Montgolfier Gas', with a special property he called levity.

As a result of these musings, Joseph set about building a box-like chamber 1 meter cubed out of very thin wood and covering the sides and top with lightweight taffeta cloth, a crisp, smooth woven fabric made from silk. He then crumpled and lit some paper under the bottom of the box and the contraption quickly lifted off its stand and collided with the ceiling.

Amazed, he recruited his brother Étienne saying "Get in a supply of taffeta and of cordage, quickly, and you will see one of the most astonishing sights in the world". One can only imagine what crazy scheme Étienne must have assumed his brother was getting into, but he agreed and the two brothers set about building a contraption 3 times larger in scale, however, the lifting force was so great that they lost control of their craft on its very first test flight on 14 December 1782 as the device floated nearly 2 kilometers and was then destroyed after landing by the "indiscretion" of passersby.

Even with the accident, the brothers saw this as a major success and they decided to make a public demonstration of a balloon in order to establish their claim to its invention. They constructed a globe-shaped balloon made of sackcloth with three thin layers of paper inside. The envelope could contain nearly 28,000 cubic feet of air, weighed 500 lbs and was constructed of four pieces (a dome and three lateral bands), and was all held together with 1,800 buttons. A reinforcing "fish net" of cord covered the outside of the envelope.

On 4 June 1783, they flew the craft as their first public demonstration at Annonay, France in front of a group of dignitaries who were amazed as the flight covered 2 km, lasted 10 minutes, and had an estimated altitude of 5,200 - 6,600 ft. Word of the success quickly reached Paris and Etienne, the epitome of sober virtues; always modest in clothes and manner, went to the capital to make further demonstrations and to solidify the brothers' claim to the invention of flight. Joseph, given his unkempt appearance and shyness (he never married), remained with the family.

Étienne was already well connected as he had already been awarded by the government of France a grant to establish the Montgolfier factory as a model for other French papermakers due to his penchant for technical innovation. This, combined with the widespread acclaim of the demonstration, allowed him to collaborate with a successful wallpaper manufacturer and they constructed a 37,500-cubic-foot envelope of taffeta coated with a varnish of alum, which has fireproofing properties. The balloon was sky blue and decorated with golden flourishes, signs of the zodiac and suns.

However, there was some concern about the effects of flight into the upper atmosphere on living creatures. King Louis XVI himself suggested to launch two criminals to test the effects, but it is most likely that the inventors decided to send a sheep, duck, and rooster aloft first. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted aloft and was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes.

The demonstration was performed before a crowd at the royal palace in Versailles, before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet and landed safely after flying.

On October 15th, 1783, Étienne became the first human to lift off the earth, making at least one tethered flight from the yard of their workshop.

These early flights made a sensation and numerous engravings commemorated the events. In December of 1783 in recognition of their achievement, their father Pierre was elevated to the nobility and the hereditary appellation of de Montgolfier by King Louis XVI.


And together with SpaceX and the Montgolfier brothers, we lift off into the weekend as those are the top headlines for Friday, June 4th, 2010

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