Wikinews Shorts: January 21, 2009

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

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Obama requests halt to Guantanamo trials

A Guantanamo Bay court room
Image: Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Thompson.

One of President Barack Obama's first acts of office was to request a suspension of the military commission hearings in Guantanamo Bay, a United States base on the island of Cuba.

The legal motion, signed last night by Obama and the US Department of Defense, is due to be heard today by two judges chairing the commissions. It requests that the hearings be halted until May 20.

The military commissions were created by the Bush administration, and are similar to military trials of alleged criminals. The accused were captured outside the United States, including in Afghanistan, on suspicion of involvement in terrorist or insurgent acts. Hundreds of enemy combatants have been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since the detention center opened 2002.

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New York Jets hire new head coach

Giants Stadium is home of the Jets and the Giants
Image: Doc Searls.

On Monday, the New York Jets hired Raven's defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, to be their new head coach. No further details were included in Monday's announcement. The Jets failed to make the 2008–09 playoffs in American football's National Football League (NFL).

Ravens linebacker, Bart Scott, stated "I think it's a gain for them and a loss for us, but it's well-deserved, it was a long time coming."

Coming into New York, Rex is faced with his first challenge: the future of quarterback Brett Favre. Favre has already decided to take a few weeks to decide whether or not to stay in the NFL for the upcoming season.

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Two strong earthquakes strike the South Pacific

Raoul Island
Image: NASA/JSC.

On Monday, two earthquakes of magnitude greater than 6.0 struck the South Pacific. These are the strongest earthquakes since the magnitude 7.4 quake in the North Pacific last Thursday. No damage was reported.

First, an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude struck the Kermadec Islands, about 1000 kilometres (600 miles) north east of New Zealand's North Island. The quake hit at 2.11 am local time, (1411 UTC Sunday), 95 km south of Raoul Island. Later, at 0335 UTC (2.35 pm New Caledonia time) a magnitude 6.5 quake occurred 120 km (75 miles) south east of Hunter Island in the Loyalty Islands, part of the French territory of New Caledonia. After the second quake, the United States Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a bulletin saying that "earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers of the earthquake epicenter." Both of the quakes began just 10 km below the surface.

Hunter Island (île Hunter in French) is an uninhabited island claimed by Vanuatu and France. It is about 600 km east of Nouméa, the New Caledonia capital, and 1600 km north of New Zealand. A magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit 145 km west of the island only last Thursday.

The Kermadec Islands, owned by New Zealand, are largely uninhabited, apart from Department of Conservation staff and volunteers. This is the fifth earthquake of magnitude greater than 6.0 to hit the islands in four months.

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