U.S. President Barack Obama releases original birth certificate

The White House today released a detailed Hawaii birth certificate in an attempt to put to rest the issue of President Barack Obama’s legitimacy to hold the office of president. Shortly after the unexpected release, the president spoke live on national television, explaining, “We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”

President Obama noted that the issue of his birthplace began during his campaign. “I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree at which this thing just kept on going,” he said, and blamed media culture for perpetuating the controversy. The president did not answer reporters’ questions nor explain why the document was not released until now.

The long form birth certificate released by the White House. Image: The White House.

“We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” he said, noting the severe problems the nation faces and the importance of the decisions that need to be made. Obama said the problems could not be resolved “if we are distracted.”

The U.S. Constitution states that only a “natural born” citizen of the country can become president. Some have contended that Obama was born overseas and is thus disqualified from holding the office. Although a recent poll by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that most Americans believe Obama was “definitely or probably born in the United States”, according to CNN, 40 percent of Republicans doubted Obama is a natural born citizen eligible to be president.

The newly released document, signed by the obstetrician and Obama’s mother, shows that Obama was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961 of a Caucasian mother born in Kansas and and an African father born in Kenya. It was signed on August 7 and 8.

Prominent businessman Donald Trump has been highlighting the question of Obama’s birthplace recently as he mulled over whether to run for the presidency himself, and took credit for its release today. “He should have done it a long time ago,” he told journalists. “I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue.”

Renowned Indian guru Śrī Satya Sai Baba dies aged 84

Śrī Satya Sai Baba, one of India’s most prominent spiritual leaders and revered by millions of followers worldwide, died Sunday in a Puttaparthi hospital, following a cardiac arrest. He was 84 and had been in hospital since last month, suffering from kidney failure and respiratory problems.

Followers and devotees of Śrī Baba considered him to be the manifestation of a “living God” on Earth and believed he had powers of magic, such as being able to pull things from out of thin air.

Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one of Śrī Baba’s followers, as was international test cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

Sathya Sai Baba, Indian spiritual guru.

Worshippers carried Baba’s image through the streets of Bangalore and extra police were deployed in his hometown of Puttaparthi. In Delhi, masses gathered in temples and some refused to accept Baba’s death.

With an estimated six million followers, Baba saw donations allow for the expansion of his home village to include many temples, a hospital offering free medical care, a university, and an airport. His first permanent facility opened 60 years ago.

Born Sathyanarayana Raju, Baba decided at the age of fourteen that he was the reincarnation of 19th-century guru Sai Baba of Shirdi. The legend runs that Baba was stung by a scorpion and then sang religious chants in a language previously unknown to him. He predicted his death in 2019, as well as a third and final reincarnation in Karnataka state in 2023.

Nobody has been appointed to take over running the trust that promotes the faith, which has over 1,200 centres worldwide. There are fears the family and trust could argue, leading to a government takeover. “If the government has to take over the affairs of Sai Baba’s mission that could spell its end,” warned one devotee.

“Some people out of their mean-mindedness are trying to tarnish the image of Sai Baba,” said Baba in 2000, after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him by young men, claims the BBC highlighted in 2004. “I am not after name and fame. So, I do not lose anything by their false allegations. My glory will go on increasing day by day,” Baba added.

Claims that Śrī Baba was a charlatan and allegations of sexual abuse dogged him constantly. In 1993, six people “died violently in the spiritual leader’s private rooms,” The Guardian reported. No full explanation has ever been given for the deaths, though speculation of a money dispute has been raised.

In a statement, current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the death of the guru was an “”irreparable loss” to India, adding, “He was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice.”

The guru’s body is being kept at the hospital amid appeals for his devotees not to flood them to see his body. The public viewing of Śrī Baba’s body will take place Monday and Tuesday, and a funeral will follow. There are to be four days of mourning in his home state, Andhra Pradesh, by decree of the state government.


Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight marks fifty years of human space travel

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off on Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight in history, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours. Tuesday marks the anniversary of Gagarin’s flight and fifty years of human space travel.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, the first human in space, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours.

Celebrations were to take place all over the world and aboard the International Space Station. Yuri’s Night, started in 2001 for fortieth anniversary celebrations, is a global celebration of the history of spaceflight, including the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, the twentieth anniversary of Gagarin’s flight. There were to be more than 400 events in 71 countries celebrating Yuri’s Night this year.

Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes, just under two hours, and consisted of one full orbit around the Earth. His trip to orbit came just four years after the launch of Sputnik 1 and the beginning of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR).

Vostok I capsule used by Yuri Gagarin, now on display at the RKK Energiya Museum outside of Moscow.

The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) also marked the fiftieth anniversary by delivering a message from space. While addressing viewers, station commander Dmitry Kondratyev referred to the portrait of Gagarin floating next to him as a representation of the achievement of “humankind at large”.

A movie, entitled First Orbit, was filmed in parts in space when the orbit of the ISS matched that of Gagarin’s flight. The movie, produced by filmmaker Christopher Riley, was filmed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and matches the radio communications, times, and views of the flight. The film is freely available to the public and made its debut on Tuesday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the human race becoming a space-faring species.

A380 collides with regional jet at JFK airport

On Monday, an Air France Airbus A380, operating as Air France Flight 007, collided with a Comair Bombardier CRJ-700, operating as Comair flight 553/Delta Connection flight 6293 in Delta Connection livery, on a taxiway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The A380 had 520 people onboard, and the smaller plane had 66.

An Air France Airbus A380 Image: Andy Mitchell.

 The Comair jet had just arrived from Boston Logan International Airport, and was stopped on the tarmac, awaiting a gate to offload passengers. The A380 was preparing to depart for Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, and was taxiing along a taxiway when its wingtip struck the tail of the other plane. The impact spun the CRJ around 90 degrees and resulted in some damage to both planes.

A Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ-700 Image: Mark Wagner.

A passenger on board the A380 said that “It really felt just like a speedbump or like hitting a pothole—a jolt—but it didn’t feel right [it felt] like that shouldn’t be happening.”

LiveATC.net captured the recording of the flight deck and ground control communications before and after the incident. In the recording, one can hear controllers giving taxi instructions to the Air France plane, then later a controller calling for emergency personnel to the intersection of taxiways Alpha and Mike.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to investigate the incident, and will study the flight recorders, air traffic control recordings, and data from radar on the ground.

Crisis at stricken Japan nuclear plant escalates to level of Chernobyl; six killed in aftershock

The crisis at a stricken nuclear plant on the northeast coast of Japan is now as severe as the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, officials have said. Radiation is continuing to leak from the plant, which was damaged during the devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami last month, which left thousands dead. Japanese authorities have warned the crisis is now a “major accident” with “wider consequences” than previously thought.

A spokesperson for NISA, the Japanese government nuclear authority, said officials had upgraded the crisis to a level seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale—the same applied to the Chernobyl disaster—because of a number of factors, including the detection of radiation in crops. “We have upgraded the severity level to seven as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean,” he said.

A new magnitude 6.6 aftershock yesterday triggered a mudslide which left six people dead. Image: United States Geological Survey.

 TEPCO, the operator of the plant, has warned radiation was continuing to leak from the site and the magnitude of the crisis could exceed that of Chernobyl. Despite this, Japanese nuclear safety officials have insisted the leakage of radiation was small compared to the devastated plant in the former Soviet Union. “In terms of volume of radioactive materials released, our estimate shows it is about ten percent of what was released by Chernobyl,” one nuclear official said.

The news comes as a new blow after another powerful aftershock yesterday which left at least six people dead after they were killed in a mudslide in the city of Iwaki. The landslide, which destroyed numerous homes, was triggered by a magnitude 6.6 aftershock which came exactly a month after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Fire officials in the city said three people had already been rescued and taken to hospital, and emergency workers were working to free an unknown number of others.

The devastated Fukushima I nuclear power plant pictured five days after the initial earthquake. Image: DigitalGlobe.

Workers at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant returned after they were briefly evacuated following the earthquake, and officials issued tsunami warnings for the northeast coast which were later cancelled. Workers have been fighting a desperate battle to prevent the reactors from overheating and entering meltdown. Raging fires burned into the night after the earthquake, and TEPCO reported widespread power outages; hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses had power cut off.

Reports of the change in severity at the damaged nuclear plant followed the announcement that the exclusion zone around the site was to be expanded. A spokesperson for the government confirmed the radius of the zone would be expanded to include another five communities over the next several weeks. He stressed there was “no need to evacuate immediately” but said concerns had been raised over health risks from the leaking radiation.

The International Nuclear Events Scale; the accidents at the Fukushima I have been elevated to level seven, the highest level on the scale, putting it on par with the Chernobyl disaster, originally the accidents were rated at level five, the same level of the Three Mile Island accident. Image: Silver Spoon.

 The new development at the plant and the aftershock are new blows to a country wounded after the massive earthquake in March, which caused a tsunami that washed away whole towns and villages along the country’s northeast coast. Thousands of bodies have been recovered, and many more are still unaccounted for, many left under mounds of rubble or washed out to sea. More than 150,000 people remain displaced, living in emergency shelters.

Before the aftershock struck yesterday, survivors of the first earthquake marked the time it hit a month ago with a moment of silence across the country. Writing to seven international newspapers, Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, expressed his gratitude to people globally for their support. “Through our own efforts and with the help of the global community, Japan will recover and come back even stronger. We will then repay you for your generous aid,” he wrote. “With this in our hearts, we now stand together dedicated to rebuilding the nation.”

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