Month: September 2019

Bush bids farewell to Washington

Bush and his wife Laura watched new president Barack Obama take the oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol, before departing.

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They were flown from the city to Andrews Air Force Base, from where they will take the former Air Force One to Crawford, Texas.

Many of the crowds gathered to watch Obama\’s inauguration waved to the helicopter as it took Bush on his final sweep over The Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue.

For the first time since January 20, 2001, his helicopter was not called Marine One and the plane was not Air Force One – both call signs reserved for the US president in office.

Bush\’s departure brought the curtain down on eight turbulent years that end with the outgoing president leaving unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Unpopular leader

Over his term\’s final months, the unpopular leader worked to convince the US public and future historians that he should get credit for guiding the country through a rocky time marked by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Earlier, Bush hosted his successor Obama for a private coffee before they climbed aboard the armoured limousine taking them to the Democrat\’s inauguration.

The outgoing leader followed the custom of leaving a note for the incoming president in the top drawer of the massive Resolute Desk – made from the timbers of the British ship of the same name – in the Oval office.

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to give details of the confidential letter, but said he focused on “the fabulous new chapter president-elect Obama is about to start, and that he wishes him the very best”.

In his last hours before leaving office, Bush spoke by telephone with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and former White House chief of staff Andy Card, Perino told reporters.

The outgoing president also took a final walk through the Oval Office, thanked staff, and “gave me a big kiss on the forehead, which I will never forget”, said the spokeswoman.

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Kennedy collapses at Obama lunch

Kennedy, the brother of assassinated US President John F Kennedy and Senator Bobby Kennedy, has been suffering from a brain tumour for some months.

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Witnesses report that the ailing 76-year-old suffered a series of violent convulsions. He was treated by paramedics at the scene, and taken away in a wheelchair.

After a battery of tests, doctors treating Kennedy said it appeared the incident was caused by fatigue.

“Senator Edward Kennedy experienced a seizure today while attending a luncheon for President Barack Obama in the US Capitol,” Dr Edward Aulisi of Washington Hospital Centre said.

“After testing, we believe the incident was brought on by simple fatigue. Senator Kennedy is awake, talking with family and friends, and feeling well.”

President rushed to senator\’s side

Kennedy\’s close friends and senators John Kerry and Chris Dodd accompanied him to the ambulance and said Kennedy appeared to be conscious.

“He\’ll be OK, the good news is, he\’s going to be fine – that\’s the best news,” Dodd told reporters, adding Kennedy had said: “\’I\’ll be OK, I\’ll see you later.\'”

Former Vice President Walter Mondale said Kennedy was swapping stories with others at their table when “something happened. I don\’t know what it was, he just stopped.”

“It was really kind of a shock to us all,” he added.

Senator Jay Rockefeller told reporters the new president rushed over to Kennedy\’s side in the Statuary Hall at the US Congress.

“There was a call for silence throughout the room,” he said. “The president went over immediately. The lights went down, just to reduce the heat, I think.”

Obama\’s tribute to Kennedy

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said that after the scare, Kennedy\’s condition had gradually improved as he was taken to the ambulance.

“I\’m not a doctor, but it looked like a seizure,” he said. “It was painful to him but as he gradually was able to calm down, as he got into the ambulance, he kind of looked over at me and smiled, that old wry smile that I know things are going to be all right.”

He was taken to the Washington Hospital Centre, where staff say he is awake, and being assessed by doctors. He is likely to stay in hospital overnight.

CNN reports the senator is now well enough to talk to members of his family.

Obama acknowledged there were concerns about the health of Ted Kennedy, paying tribute to the senator in his speech to the dignitaries gathered on Capitol Hill.

Malignant brain tumour

“He was there when the Voting Rights Act passed, along with John Lewis who was a warrior for justice.

“And so I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him. And I think that\’s true for all of us,” Obama said.

There were also early reports that Senator Robert Byrd, at 91 one of the US\’s oldest politicians, had been taken ill during the lunch.

The pair were seated at the same table, and had earlier been shown in television pictures; Kennedy, who has been ill since last May, looked remarkably healthy.

Kennedy underwent surgery for a malignant brain tumour last year after suffering a seizure.

The Massachusetts senator, first elected in 1962, made a high profile endorsement of Obama during the primary campaign and gave an emotional address at the Democratic National Convention in August.

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Rio Tinto Alcan to slash 1,100 jobs

“Plans are in place to reduce the workforce by approximately 1,100 roles — 300 contractors and 800 employee roles,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.

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“In addition, substantial cost reduction programmes are being implemented across all Rio Tinto Alcan facilities.”

Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto bought Canadian aluminium group Alcan for 38.1 billion dollars in 2007.

Rio Tinto Alcan said that “in response to global economic conditions,” it would cut its aluminium production by six percent and shut the Beauharnois smelter in Quebec.

The facility, which employs 220 people, will cease smelting activities in the second quarter of 2009, it added.

“Our goal is to align production with customer demand and reduce our operating costs as much as possible,” Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Dick Evans said in a statement.

“Increasing efficiency throughout our operations and streamlining our organisation will be crucial to achieving our objectives and preserving value for shareholders.

“We are taking steps towards optimising our world class portfolio of lowcost, long life assets, the majority of which are in the lowest half of the industry cost curve,” Evans added.

Rio Tinto repeatedly rejected a takeover offer pursued throughout much of 2008 by rival BHP Billiton, which eventually dropped its bid in November, citing a deteriorating economic climate.

Jacynthe Cote, president and chief executive officer, Primary Metal, Rio Tinto Alcan, said Tuesday that the ongoing worldwide downturn had forced the group to make “difficult” choices about cutting jobs.

“The global economic downturn has meant that we must make difficult but necessary choices for our organisation and we will make sure that those affected are treated with fairness and respect,” said Cote.

“We will continue to honour our commitments to employees, customers, governments, communities and other key stakeholders.”

Cote, who will become chief executive of Rio Tinto Alcan on February 1, is currently carrying out a full review of the division.

Last week, Rio Tinto announced the appointment of Jim Leng, currently deputy chairman of India\’s Tata Steel, as its new chairman. Leng will take over from current chairman Paul Skinner on April 20.

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World welcomes President Obama

British PM Gordon Brown said Obama\’s coming to power marked a “new chapter in both American history and the world\’s history”.

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“The whole world is watching the inauguration of President Obama, witnessing a new chapter in both American history and the world\’s history,” he said.

“He\’s not only the first black American president but he sets out with the determination to solve the world\’s problems,” he added.

New Zealand PM John Key has written to the new President to congratulate him on his new job.

In his letter, Key said Obama\’s leadership would be “crucial” in addressing the challenges the world faced.

Kenyan villagers celebrate

“Our common democratic values and traditions, and long history of co-operating closely to promote international security and prosperity, point to our shared interests across a wide range of issues,” Key said.

President Obama could count on New Zealand to be a good friend and partner, he wrote.

Meanwhile, in Obama\’s late father\’s Kenyan home, Kogelo, villagers were enraptured by television images of his swearing-in ceremony.

“Now we are sure that he really did win and is the President of the United States. Before this moment, it was hard to even imagine,” said Julius Omondi, 21.

Watching the inauguration on a giant screen surrounded by a message reading “Congratulations, our son, our hope,” Josephine Awuor, 30, said Obama\’s accession to the world\’s most powerful office had changed her life.

“I want to pray for a long and productive life for Obama as president. We the people of Kogelo, our minds and our eyes are now open because now we don\’t feel so small, we don\’t feel of so small value anymore,” she said.

Germans, Americans party in Berlin

In Berlin, thousands of Germans and Americans turned out for a party thrown by Democrats Abroad in the city where Obama held the biggest rally of his campaign – before a rapturous crowd of 200,000 – in July last year.

“America was always the example we looked up to and I believe it can become that again,” said Dorothea Kleffel, 46, an executive assistant.

“Under Bush all that faith we had in America was trampled on and betrayed but I feel hopeful again tonight. I have my fingers crossed for Obama!”

US troops in Iraq wept tears of joy as Obama was sworn in.

“I am very proud to see the change in America,” said Sergeant Carla Bruce who has been stationed in the country for the last 15 months.

“To see an African-American rise to such high level. I hope he will work on the economy and get our budget back in order. I also hope that he will get the troops out smartly.”

US troops weep with joy

Her husband, Sergeant Shawn Bruce, also wiped away tears of pride as he watched Obama\’s televised inaugural speech, in which he reiterated a promise to withdraw from Iraq.

“I dedicated all my life to this country which I adore, and now I am so happy to see an African American as the president of the United States,” he said.

“With his election, the ceiling for accomplishment has changed and I am very proud to see my children growing up in this great country.”

Meanwhile, in Basra, dozens of Iraqis from the Movement of Free Iraqis, the country\’s only association of black people, handed out cakes and sweets in celebration.

“The blacks in Iraq are so happy they are overflowing with joy and tears as they watch this great victory of President Obama for freedom and democracy,” said the movement\’s secretary general, Jalal Dhiab.

“The choice of the Americans of Obama is not only a victory for blacks, but whites and all other races,” he said.

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Scientists to solve Galileo astronomical riddle

Italian scientists are trying to get Galileo\’s DNA in order to figure out how the astronomer forged groundbreaking theories on the universe while gradually becoming blind, a historian said.

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Scientists at Florence\’s Institute and Museum of the History of Science want to exhume the body of 17th Century astronomer Galileo Galilei to find out exactly what he could see through his telescope.

The Italian astronomer who built on the work of predecessor Nicolaus Copernicus to develop modern astronomy with the sun as the centre of the universe had a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind.

“If we succeed, thanks to DNA, in understanding how this disease distorted his sight, it could bring about important discoveries for the history of science,” said the institute\’s director, Paolo Galluzzi.

“We could explain certain mistakes that Galileo made: why he described the planet Saturn as having \’lateral ears\’ rather than having seen it encircled by rings for example,” said Galluzzi.

Replication sought

In an effort to recreate what Galileo — who lived from 1564 to 1642 — saw, the scientific team has made an exact replica of his telescope.

They now want to get DNA proof of what ophthalmologists have said was a genetic eye disease and thereby more fully understand the conditions under which he made observations that revolutionised our understanding of the cosmos.

It will take the team one year to raise the 300,000 euros (390,000 dollars) needed to finance the project and clear administrative hurdles to open Galileo\’s tomb in Florence\’s Santa Croce Basilica, Galluzzi said.

Galileo celebrated

The United Nations proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo\’s observations.

In 1609, he discovered spots on the Sun, craters and peaks on the surface of the Moon and satellites orbiting Jupiter, thereby confirming Copernicus\’s theory that planets orbit the Sun rather than the Earth.

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