Truthout | News in Brief (9)

The New York Times and the Guardian UK reported Tuesday that a new ash cloud arising from the Icelandic volcanic eruption was thought to be spreading south, halting cautious attempts to resume normal air travel in Europe. Scientists say the volcanic ash can severely damage jet engines, endangering the life of anyone on board.

The cloud is drifting toward Britain, so far the worst affected European country. An estimate 400,000 Britons are stranded outside the country.

The six days of severe flight restrictions have lasted twice as long as the three-day shutting down of American airspace following the 9/11 attacks.

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The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Supreme Court threw down a federal law Tuesday aimed at banning videos that show graphic violence against animals, arguing that it violates the First Amendment right of free speech.

The justices voted 8-1 to let go of the case of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Virginia, who was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made of pit bull fights.

The law was originally enacted in 1999 to reduce the sales of “crush videos,” in which women are shown crushing small animals to death wearing high-heeled shoes.

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The Associated Press reported that the Shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven astronauts returned safely to Earth Tuesday, wrapping up their 15-day, 6 million-mile journey to the International Space Station.

Following a rare flyover of American’s heartland, the shuttle’s touchdown was delayed by rain and fog before it was welcomed to Cape Canaveral, Florida, by Mission Control. “Welcome home,” Mission Control congratulated them.

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The New York Times reported Tuesday that a December cyber-attack on Google computers hit the company’s password system, which controls access by millions of users across the world to all the web services provided by the company. According to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation, the intruders did not appear to have stolen passwords of Gmail users.

The program, code-named Gaia for the Greek Goddess of the Earth, allows Google users and employees to sign in only once to access various services such as email and business applications. The attack in December was a lightning raid, taking less than two days, according to the source. This is the first time the software has been described publicly since a technical conference four years ago.

Though Google has made clear that it has taken all steps to protect the security of its staff and users, independent computer experts say that intruders may find weaknesses of which Google might not even be aware.

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Global Post and the BBC reported that Sri Lankans had voted Tuesday in two districts where ballots were canceled due to violence at polling stations earlier in the month. With more than 1,000 police officers and soldiers supervising, election monitors reported no mayhem such as that which occurred on April 8.

The repeat poll will make little difference to the outcome of the election, in which President Mahinda Tajapaksa’s coalition has commanded a parliamentary majority.

These parliamentary elections are the first held since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. The civil war had been ongoing since 1983.