NASCAR: Trevor Bayne wins the 2011 Daytona 500

Wood Brothers Racing driver Trevor Bayne, who qualified thirty-second, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2011 Daytona 500 held on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, United States. This became his first win of his career, and his first at Daytona International Speedway. Throughout the course of the race there were 16 cautions and 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers.

File photo of Trevor Bayne. Image: Royalbroil.

Bayne had only one start in the series before the race, and by winning it, became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in history at age 20. The win also gave Wood Brothers Racing their second Daytona 500 win, which their first was in the 1976 Daytona 500. Following Bayne, Carl Edwards finished in the second position, ahead of David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch. Juan Pablo Montoya followed Busch in sixth, while Regan Smith could only manage seventh.

Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, and Mark Martin rounded out the top ten finishers in the race. Ryan Newman led the most laps during the race with 37, but finished 22nd. Following the race, Bayne described his enjoyment of winning the race, “I keep thinking I’m dreaming. Our first 500 — are you kidding me? To win our first one in our second-ever Cup race, I mean this is just incredible. Wow, this is unbelievable. How cool is it to see the Wood Brothers back in Victory Lane? It’s crazy to get my first win before a Nationwide win — I didn’t know how to get to Victory Lane.”

Afterward, second placed Edwards said, “Look, right now this is going to be a long night for me. I’m going to go back to the motor home, I’m going to watch the replay, think about a hundred things I could have done, think about, ‘Man, what would it have been like to [win] the race?” Following the race, Edwards was the Drivers’ Championship leader with 42 points. Next, Gilliland and Labonte was tied for second, only one point behind Edwards. Kurt Busch was placed fourth with 40 points, ahead of Montoya and Smith in fifth and sixth. Kyle Busch, Menard, Martin, and A. J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-ten point positions.

The 2011 season will continue on February 27, 2011 at Phoenix International Raceway for the 2011 Subway Fresh Fit 500. The race will be televised on Fox at 3:00 p.m. EST.

Investigation launched after two military aircraft nearly collide with passenger airliner

New safety procedures are to be implemented after an American Airlines Boeing 777 came close to colliding with two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft off the coast of New York, United States, last month. Radar data indicates the aircraft came within 1 miles (2 km) of each other before the flight crew of the Boeing 777 took evasive action as an alarm sounded in the cockpit of the jet.


An American Airlines Boeing 777. Image: Adrian Pingstone.

An aviation official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the traffic collision avoidance system alarm which sounded in the cockpit of the passenger jet, which had 259 people aboard, “may be what saved the day,” since C-17 cargo aircraft are not highly manoeuvrable. Investigators have reportedly found the aircraft would have collided head-on.


A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. Image: U.S. Air Force.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a “major investigation” into the incident, and confirmed there were no injuries in the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration, the government department responsible for aviation in the U.S., said in a statement air traffic controllers are “reviewing a variety of procedures including the handling of formation flights, aircraft near sector boundaries.”

Egyptian president will not seek re-election in September after protests

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has announced that he will not seek re-election in September 2011, after an uprising against him across the country. Mubarak stated on state television, “I will say with all honesty and without looking at this particular situation that I was not intent on standing for the next elections, because I have spent enough time in serving Egypt.” Mubarak added, “I am now careful to conclude my work for Egypt by presenting Egypt to the next government in a constitutional way which will protect Egypt.”

President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak with George W. Bush.

Soon after his announcement, protesters filled the street, demanding that he resign immediately. United States president Barack Obama spoke with Mubarak after the announcement to discuss the situation in Egypt. Obama said at the White House, “[Mubarak] recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that change must take place. […] My belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”

The country has released statements since Sunday calling for a “orderly transition”, with interim leadership to prepare for the September election. United States Senator John F. Kerry called upon Hosni to work to create “an interim, caretaker government as soon as possible to oversee an orderly transition in the coming months.” In Egypt, the address sparked rioting after, as citizens were angered that the president refused to resign at once. The popular uprising in Egypt began on January 25, 2011, in the wake of the Tunisian uprising weeks before.

Sweden aims to extradite Assanage to US: lawyer

Julian Assange’s lawyer in Britain has accused Swedish authorities of secretly planning to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, in an interview with a German newspaper to appear tomorrow.


Julian Paul Assange

Attorney Mark Stephens told the weekly Die Zeit that he believed Swedish officials were cooperating with US authorities with an eye to extraditing Assange as soon as the Americans have built a criminal case against him.

“We are hearing that the Swedish are prepared to drop the rape charges against Julian as soon as the Americans demand his extradition,” he said, citing sources in Washington and Stockholm.

Stephens called the Swedish charges against his client a “holding case” to buy time until the United States can prosecute him themselves over WikiLeaks’ mass release of classified US documents.

Wikileaks cable disclosure shows Arab fears of Iranian ambitions

Sunday night’s release of leaked United States diplomatic cables shows widespread concern in the Arab world over Iran’s ambitions to build a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century”.

Wikileaks, so far, have released under 300 of the quarter million plus diplomatic communications posted to them on a memory stick. The small sample shows, over several months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain asserting that further sanctions against Iran will likely have no effect.

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Early November last year, General David Petraeus discussed the situation with King Hamad of Bahrain, who argued for the use of force to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions; stating: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In that meeting concern was expressed that more Arab involvement in Iraq was needed to frustrate Iranian plans. Petraeus was told Bahrain sought Egyptians and Saudis support, but talks with the latter revealed no interest in taking a leading rôle.

The King did welcome the prospect of India becoming involved in the region as a stabilising influence.

A mid-December meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, saw the subject brought up again. In a discussion that touched on the two countries renewable energy plans, and reliable movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the Prince asserted Iran saw itself as spearheading a campaign for a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century.” Alleging Iran has established “emirates” in Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Southern Iraq, Yemen, and South Lebanon, his picture of Iranian nuclear ambitions is “Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time.”

The Prince was keen to stress that those in power are the same people who, in 1979, seized the US embassy in Tehran.

Subsequent talks between a congressional appropriations sub-committee and UAE’s Foreign Minister were the scene of equally serious predictions. The sub-committee, consisting of Nita Lowey, Tom Cole, Barbara Lee, and Donna Edwards, heard from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that if Iran became a nuclear state the rest of the region would likely follow suit.

Plans to keep the fifteen-millions-plus barrels of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz each day moving were discussed. Whilst keen to weaken Iranian ties with China, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the US$50 billion in trade between the two; this being considered an obstacle to China backing, and enforcing, a stronger sanctions regime.

The sub-committee’s Emirates host, like many in the region, stated progress on the Israeli peace process was a good route to de-escalation.

A meeting in Febuary this year with Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah was the scene of comparable warnings. Alongside discussions on travel restrictions to be enforced against former Guantanamo Bay detainees, he described Iran as the “beating heart” of Islamic Extremism.

Concerns over Iran’s involvement in Yemen were discussed, with the minister saying Iran is intent on exporting its revolution; that its nuclear ambitions can only be thwarted by force.

Updating the US on perceived Iranian actions, he claimed they were attempting to infiltrate Egypt by recruiting the poor. And, they were becoming involved in the drugs trade, shipping narcotics into Yemen to fund millitants.

The cable on the Kuwait meeting closes referring recipients to a wiki page: Wikinews believes this is probably a page on the US State Department’s Diplopedia; an internal project, based on the same technology as Wikipedia and intended for use building dossiers on countries, regions, their politicians, and diplomats.

A cable originating in London from January this year is corroborated by later U.S. news reports; hinting that the Iranian government may indeed be using tactics more reminiscent of the cold-war.

In the opening weeks of the year, London-based Voice of America commentator, Ali Reza Nourizadeh was advised that Mohammed Reza Sadeqinia intended to target him for assassination, along with others. Sadeqinia was previously arrested in California, and prosecuted for attempting to hire a hit man. The target at that time was reported to be Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd, one of the main figures behind Tondar — a loose collection of in-exile Iranians opposed to the current regime.

Tehran insists Tondar is a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being responsible for a 2008 bombing that killed 14.

Sadeqinia, who worked as a painter in Ann Arbour, was arrested on July 28, 2009 near Los Angeles International Airport in posession of thousands of dollars and an Iranian passport. FBI investigations into his possible Iranian government ties were still ongoing a month before his scheduled release in July this year.

Found guilty by Los Angeles Superior Court of attempting to hire someone to murder Sharmahd, he had been expected to spend around a year in jail. Tondar spokesman Iman Afar, in the lead up to Sedeqina’s release, expressed concern for his own safety and that of others in the L.A. area.

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