February 26, 2009

War dead photo ban lifted

Per BBC News: The U.S. Defense Department has eradicated the previous ban on news organizations showing photographs of coffins containing military personal killed in combat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said pictures will be allowed only if the families of the deceased agree. This overturns the 18 year policy that was first implemented by George H. Bush during the first Gulf War, as reported by BBC NEWS.

Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly 5,000 flag-draped coffins have not been photographed, according to BBC.

Twitter users speak up and share mixed views:

@ceeceem1( New York City): good idea to show the coffins. mayb we'll realize wat this war is really doing 2 ppl

@JenLynch(Westchester, NY): RT @CubanaLAF Pentagon lifts ban on coverage of war coffins: http://bit.ly/T1Nfq (expand) -very personal family matter, should media be there?

@chickieleighc:(Vancouver, WA) "Official: Pentagon allows coverage of war coffins." http://tinyurl.com/ctrt5m (expand) FINALLY. We are allowed see the REAL cost of war.

@peggymadsen:(Silverthorne, CO) @NorahODonnell Ban should never have begun. These are merely post-horror coffins; copious photos of war for all to see is best preventative.

@JackWeingart:(Washington D.C.) Score for journalists! Pentagon lifts ban on media coverage of coffins of war dead as they arrive at dover air force base in delaware.

(Boston) Why would "War Coffins" be hidden from the public eye?, Its reality why hide it? http://bit.ly/n3z0V

@Ranba_Ral:(Ohio) #tcot New administration to allow press vultures to hound families of our fallen to photograph their coffins *gag*


"Snowmageddon" takes over Minnesota, Twitter

Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a wintry blast of snow--aptly dubbed "snowmageddon"--hit the Twin Cities area hard Thursday afternoon, making for a hectic rush hour commute and the No. 1 trending topic in the Twitterverse. Snow started falling around noon, fell at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour and is expected to top out at six inches in the metro area, per the article.

Twitterers reacted with a mix of humor and advice. 

@chrispollard (St. Charles, Minn.): I hear that Michael Bay has bought the movie rights to #snowmageddon

@Pfutz: #snowmageddon, just got off the phone with Sven, said most of this snow should melt off by this evening...

@nicolenetland (Minneapolis/St.Paul): Commute home wins for most sketchy of the season. Visibility was wicked bad. Be safe tweeps #snowmageddon.

For others, "Snowmageddon" was underwhelming at best. It was also labeled as "Twype," or "Twitter hype that doesn't deliver on the goods," according to @ASI_was_saying.

@jeremyk (Edina, Minn.): This #snowmageddon is overrated. A few inches? Disappointment.

A sense of community permeated the tweets, and everyone wanted to chip in.

@passepartout (USA): #snowmageddon just connected a lot of MN tweeps. I have 9 new followers. I've never been part of something like this before.

The nasty weather also caused officials at the University of Minnesota to cancel Thursday evening classes--a rare event for the school.

An influx of #snowmageddon twitpics also crashed Twitpic.com during peak use.


Mexico on edge of civil war

Per CNN, the war against drug cartels in Mexico is having a high cost on the civil society who are becoming victims of the crossfire between criminal, militaries and police officers.

Dennis Blair, director of U.S. National Intelligence, spoke to the Federal Congress on Wednesday about the seriousness of the problem of government corruption and drug traffickers and argues that the government of Felipe Calderon had lost control of some parts of Mexico, per the Los Angeles Times.

In some cities, a state of anarchy and violence is growing, causing a collective hysteria and insecurity for visitors, international students and families, according to CNN. 

Twitterers reacted to the news.

@Reptil (Guanatos, Mexico): "En escuelas de Tampico quieren organizar simulacros de balaceras" -->http://xiki.to/O4p !mexico ("In schools they want to organize Tampico mock shootings" -> http://xiki.to/O4p !mexico)

@RodrigoMX (Baja, Mexico): @shaine el fenomeno de la violencia es culpa de Estados Unidos.Mexico no produce armas. (The phenomenon of violence is the fault of U.S.A, Mexico States is not producing weapons.)

@treo700 (Maricopa, Az.): @bluestbutterfly No, civil war in Mexico. The drug war is not good. I live close to the border and can tell you its bad.

@ahdiaz (Las Cruces, New Mexico): Mexico is a complete mess. President Calderon is combating narco-terrorism with the civil war era guns the U.S. has provided him.


Largest known freshwater giant stingray found

As per National Geographic: Photographs and video of the the largest recorded Giant Freshwater Stingray in Thailand's Mekong River system have been released. The behemoth, also known as the Whipray, measures 6.9 feet by 6.6 feet and is estimated to weight between 550 and 990 pounds. Scientists found that the stingray had lost its tail and if it had been intact, scientists estimate that the ray would have been 14.8 to 16.4 feet long. Currently this giant holds the record for largest freshwater fish.

Zeb Hogan, a University of Nevada Biologist, and his colleagues are part of the Megafishes Project that is trying to document the 20 giant freshwater fish in the world. Hogan told National Geographic that he is hopeful the giant stingray is making a comeback in the Mekong River system.

Little is known about the giant stingray because it was first documented by scientist in 1989.

davecriswell: (New Hampshire) I'm testing out the Google Hot Trends gadget for iGoogle. "Giant Stingray" is number 5 today?!

oelibrarian: (New York) hear about the giant stingray? Seven feet across and over 700 lbs! And I'm not kidding either!

LBCreations: (Catskills, New York) OH MY GOSH did you hear about the 800 lb stingray?! caught in Thailand, it was a tagging expedition, so they released her and shes pregnant!

filadelphonic: (Philadelphia, PA) So biologists in Thailand caught a 7 by 7 stingray that weighs 800 lbs and released it back into the wild? Not cool.

EvilSue: (Perth, Western Australia) http://bit.ly/ZovD5 (expand) giant stingray caught in Thailand - biggest fish ever caught on rod and reel. 350kg yowza!!

P_o_D: (London, UK) Giant stingray 'the size of a garden shed' is landed by British angler rhttp://bit.ly/srLXa (expand)


Thousands of refugees fleeing Darfur

Per CNN, "Thousands of people have fled recent violence in south Darfur, seeking security and shelter at a refugee camp in north Darfur, the United Nations said Wednesday."

The war-torn western region of Sudan was also in the news Tuesday when U.S. President Barack Obama announced he planned to send a special envoy to Darfur, according to the Chicago Tribune. Actor George Clooney had been advocating for such an envoy, per the article.

A handful of Twitter accounts appear to exist for actual refugees in the region. They list their location as "Darfur" and link to the Facebook Group "Darfur Facebook Profiles." Through other linking, it appears they may (or may not) be related to the organization Save Darfur.

These profiles give a glimpse into what life is like for a refugee, and include pictures through TwitPic.

@Oumar_Darfur (East Chad, formerly Darfur): Many children of Darfur draw pictures of war, violence, guns, death. What do people do in your country when children draw these things?

@Zaineb_Darfur (Chad, formerly Darfur): http://twitpic.com/1lnd4 - School is a place to learn but also to get together with friends-everyone wishes it did not end at primary level.

@Adef_Darfur (Chad, formerly Darfur): -Family would be one child larger, but he died during the escape from Darfur.

Some Twitter users have been interacting with the refugees.

@chellanglo: @Oumar_Darfur tell your brother he's in my prayers too!

@gaylemaree @Oumar_Darfur Oh it's my beautiful soccer boy's here - in spirit!! I'll have to have a word to @iact about forgetting to tell me!

Note: Do you have more information on these Twitter accounts and how they originated? Are you aware of anyone else twittering in the region? Please contact us at @breakingtweets.


Iran tests first nuclear power plant: success

Per Al Jazeera, in a move that has already provoked fear and bluster, Iran announced it has successfully tested its first nuclear power plant. The Persian Gulf power says its long-delayed plant could begin producing power within months. Iran, who built the plant with help from Russia, claims it has only peaceful aims.

It's not the first time a Middle East nation has solicited help from superpowers in building large domestic infrastructure projects. However, Israel, who maintains a nuclear stockpile, issued a threatening statement (per AFP) about its own military might, and called for immediate action to stop Iran.

In Africa, some wondered whether Iran might help Kenya develop nuclear electricity and expand developing nations' ties to each other and minimize reliance on the West, as Xinhua reported.

(Nairobi): @bankelele Whats your take on Iran's interest to do biz with Kenya? Me thinks its a good deal. Besides they promising a nuclear power plant!

@bankelele (Nairobi): @SupremeGREAM Iran not going to help us with nuclear, I'd rather we talked to India or South Africa

Some criticized Israel for threatening war with Iran.

@rensefeed: Insane Israel Lobbies For War On Iran http://ur1.ca/1xlr

Others talked about fuel use itself.

@StephenBove (San Francisco, Calif.): If we're so concerned about Iran's nukes, why not offer to buy them enough solar panels to quench their electric thirst? Lots of sun there.