Egypt freezes Mubarak’s assets, bans him from travel

Cairo, (PTI) Egypt today put a freeze on the assets of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family and imposed a travel ban on him and his clan, two weeks after a mass uprising threw out his regime.

Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, Served as the fourth President of Egypt, from 1981 to 2011.

The general prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud ordered the financial assets inside the country of Mubarak and his family members be frozen, Al Jazeera reported.

The move comes close on the heels of an order seeking the freezing of the family’s financial assets in foreign countries, following which the foreign ministry approached foreign governments and financial institutions. The order also imposed a travel ban on the former president and his family pending further investigation.

The ban would apply to wife Suzanne, and his two sons Ala and Gamal, and their wives. Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11 after being at the helm of the country for 32 years.

Space Shuttle Discovery arrives at International Space Station – Final time in its career

The Space Shuttle Discovery, flying the STS-133 mission, has successfully rendezvoused and docked with the International Space Station (ISS) today at 18:14 UTC for what is scheduled to be the final time in its career.

Discovery is delivering six astronauts to the orbiting outpost, as well as station parts and supplies including the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo, the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 and Robonaut2, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space.

The docking, Discovery’s 13th and final scheduled docking, occurred two minutes ahead of schedule, having been originally scheduled for 19:16 GMT today.

The Space Shuttle Discovery (pictured docked to ISS) has docked with the International Space Station for what is scheduled to be the final time on the STS-133 mission today. Image: NASA.

The hatch between the space shuttle and the ISS was opened at 20:16 UTC, after which the crew members of Expedition 26 welcomed the crew of STS-133 aboard the station. The crew then participated in a safety briefing with Expedition 26 commander Scott Kelly, while Shuttle Flight Director Bryan Lunney took part in a mission status briefing on the ground which began at 20:50 UTC.

Later on today, crew members Nicole Stott and Michael Barratt are scheduled to move the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 from the payload bay using the shuttle’s robotic arm to the station’s own robot arm for placement on the exterior of the orbital laboratory.

Official STS-133 crew portrait. From left to right: Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Eric Boe, Steven Lindsey, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen Image: NASA.

There was a delay in the docking mechanism’s ability to make a seal between the two spacecraft during docking operations, so activities occurring later on in the day, including the transfer of ELC-4, may be delayed. This was primarily because of a mis-alignment between the docking systems of the shuttle and station due to gravitational effects. The entire delay took up approximately 40 minutes.

During Discovery’s approach to the station earlier on today, the crew of Expedition 26 took pictures of the shuttle’s underside from the station’s windows in order to assist in analysis of the heat shield of the spacecraft.

NASA officials are debating whether or not to extend the mission an additional day for a photo shoot of the International Space Station, as it is currently host to six docked spacecraft from the United States, Russia, Europe, and Japan. A decision regarding this possibility is expected on Tuesday.

STS-133 is Space Shuttle Discovery’s 39th and final scheduled mission into space and the program’s 35th mission to the ISS, as well as the 133rd in the entire Shuttle Program. There are two flights remaining before the retirement of the fleet that are still in planning: STS-134 and STS-135.

France calls on Libyan leader to step down

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has stated during a news conference that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi “must leave,” calling the leader to step down. His comments were made during a press conference with the Turkish president Abdullah Gül in Ankara. Sarkozy also stated that military action to remove Gaddafi isn’t ruled out.

“Our stance is clear. Mr Gaddafi must go. The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions. Regarding a military intervention … France would consider any initiative of this type with extreme caution and reserve,” said Sarkozy. The United Kingdom is also calling for an arms embargo along with an investigation into war crimes be conducted against Gaddafi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s call on Gaddafi to step down comes after violence on Friday alone has left at least five people dead in Tripoli, the capitol of Libya, when security personnel fired on demonstrators. At least 500 people are suspected to have been killed in Tripoli with over 2,000 injured. Gunshots were heard in several parts of the city on Friday. Navi Pillay, head of the human rights division of the United Nations says thousands in Libya could have been killed since the uprising began. Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at 300.

“We think this needs to be brought to the International Criminal Court. We also think that people who still cooperate with Gadhafi should be punished,” added Sarkozy.

Reports say security forces loyal to Gaddafi have used rocket propelled grenades, snipers, anti aircraft guns and foreign mercenaries to repel protesters. Gaddafi blames Osama bin laden and people on hallucinogenic drugs for the mass protests in the country. “(The protesters’) ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” he said on Thursday.

In a speech that aired on Libyan State TV today, Gaddafi said to supporters in Green Square in Tripoli, “We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people. Prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil. [We can] retaliate against them [the opposition]. You, the youth, be comfortable… dance, sing, stay up all night.”

Space Shuttle Discovery launches on final mission

At 4:53 p.m. (EDT), Space Shuttle Discovery took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its final mission, STS-133. Its mission is to deliver and install onto the International Space Station (ISS), the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo, the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 and provide critical spare components for the station. Six astronauts, Steve Lindsey, Eric Boe, Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen, are participating in the mission. The shuttle is also carrying Robonaut2, the first dexterous humanoid robot to be in space. Although its first priority will be to test its operation in microgravity, upgrades could eventually allow it to fulfill its ultimate purpose of becoming an astronaut helper on boring or dangerous tasks.

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on its final mission, STS-133 (crew pictured), today. Image: NASA.

The launch of Discovery, which was supposed to occur at 4:50 p.m., was delayed for three minutes due to a technical problem in the shuttle’s command system and a chipped heat shield tile near the crew hatch which needed to be patched. The launch was also repeatedly postponed since November 1 due to various technical problems with the shuttle’s systems and a hydrogen leak in the fuel tank along with cracks and bad weather. A small piece of foam broke off during the launch but NASA has reported that it is unlikely to cause problems.

Discovery and the crew of STS-133 are scheduled to spend just under two weeks in space and aboard the ISS, logging 4.5 million additional miles of flight.

Space Shuttle Discovery launches on the STS-133 mission. Image: JoshuaZ.

The launch comes just hours after an unmanned automated European cargo spacecraft, ATV-2, docked with the orbiting outpost to deliver supplies and equipment to the crew.

STS-133 is scheduled to be the final mission of Discovery, with its first being STS-41-D in 1984. Discovery flew 39 flights in its operational history, including the current mission, delivering several payloads to space including the Hubble Space Telescope and visiting two different space stations: Mir and the ISS. STS-133 is the 133rd shuttle mission and the 35th mission to the ISS. Discovery is the oldest surviving shuttle, and has flown more missions than any other shuttle. It was also the first shuttle to fly after the Challenger disaster and was the first shuttle to fly after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Later, Discovery became the first shuttle to fly a Russian cosmonaut.

After the current mission, there will be at most two remaining shuttle flights. Endeavor has one more mission remaining, and if an emergency rescue is needed or more funding is secured, Atlantis will also fly once more before the entire fleet is retired.

“The shuttle has provided an amazing capacity for this country to gather data. I think we’re still sorting through a lot of it, trying to figure out what all we’ve learned from it. This chapter in our space history known as the space shuttle has been incredible,” said Bryan Lunney, lead space shuttle flight director for the mission.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden

On Thursday, a British court ordered Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, to be extradited to Sweden. Assange, a 39 year old Australian, has been accused by two Swedish women of sexual assaults against them.

Assange’s lawyers have the option of appealing against this decision, and have decided to do so. Assange has denied the claims of sexual abuse, claiming the allegations to be politically motivated because his website recently published secret US diplomatic cables. Earlier, during the hearing, Assange claimed that rape cases in Sweden were “tried in secret behind closed doors in a flagrant denial of justice”, and termed the country “the Saudi Arabia of feminism.”

Julian Paul Assange

Judge Howard Riddle, in his verdict, declared the allegations made by the two Swedish women a valid reason for extradition and also attested the validity of Sweden’s demand to send Assange to the country for further questioning.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, lawyer for Assange suggested the latter could be extradited to the United States, on charges concerning the release of 250,000 US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, where he could be sentenced to death penalty. His Swedish counterpart, Clare Montgomery QC, stated that while Assange’s trial would be held in private, the arguments raised in the trial would be released to the public. She also assured that Sweden was going to provide “protection” against the alleged risk of Assange’s extradition to the US, terming it as a “threat and violation.” The European Court of Human Rights has also agreed to intervene if Assange was subjected to an “inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial” in the US, she added.

Assange had been granted bail in December, but has been electronically monitored ever since.

Assange has been accused of raping a sleeping woman, during his visit to Stockholm last year. Another woman has alleged that the Wikileaks founder sexual assaulted her thrice. If the Swedish court declares him guilty, he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

Paul Stephens, the Australian ambassador to Sweden, had earlier written to the country’s Justice Minister, appealing that if Assange was extradited, his hearing “would proceed in accordance with due process and the provisions prescribed under Swedish law, as well as applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms.”

Assange is likely to remain in custody, since bail is not granted in Sweden before a trial or the accused being released.

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