UK MPs elect John Bercow as new Speaker of the House of Commons
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UK MPs elect John Bercow as new Speaker of the House of Commons

Monday, June 22, 2009

Following the resignation of Speaker Michael Martin, which took effect yesterday, members of the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Houses of Parliament, today elected John Bercow as the new Speaker of the House.

The three rounds of voting were held as a secret ballot of all Members of the Commons. Each round eliminated from subsequent rounds any candidates with less than 5% support, with the winner to be the candidate who, in any round, achieved a simple majority of the vote. This was a new system for electing the Speaker, and the first time that the Speaker has been elected by secret ballot.

In the first round of voting, there were 10 candidates: Margaret Beckett, Sir George Young, Ann Widdecombe, Sir Alan Beith, John Bercow, Richard Shepherd, Sir Michael Lord, Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Alan Haselhurst, and Parmjit Dhanda. All candidates made brief speeches in the chamber at 13:30 UTC (14:30 BST) immediately before the vote.

Four candidates were eliminated by this round — Cormack, Dhanda, Lord, and Shepherd — leaving six candidates to go forward to the second round of voting.

Results of the first round
Candidate Votes
Beckett 74
Beith 55
Bercow 179
Cormack 13
Dhanda 26
Haselhurst 66
Lord 9
Sheperd 15
Widdecombe 44
Young 112

In the second round, Widdecombe was eliminated, leaving five candidates to go forward to the third. All candidates apart from Bercow and Young lost ground. Young gained more votes than Bercow, but Bercow remained in the lead.

Results of the second round
Candidate Votes Change from round 1
Beckett 70 -4
Beith 46 -9
Bercow 221 +42
Haselhurst 57 -9
Widdecombe 30 -14
Young 174 +62

In the third round, all remaining candidates except two, Bercow and Young, withdrew from the contest, after an appeal to do so from the Father of the House, Alan Williams. This appeal was motivated by the length of each round of voting, which required 600 ballot papers to be printed, marked, and counted.

Results of the second round
Candidate Votes Change from round 2
Bercow 322 +101
Young 271 +97

In both the first and second rounds of voting, one ballot was spoiled. Although the ballot was secret and the identity of the person whose ballot it was could thus not be confirmed, John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, claimed it was him. “None of them have got a strong reforming agenda,” said Mann. “Some of the speeches were shocking, after what we have been through recently.”

After confirmation by a unanimous acclamation, with no “noes” voiced, John Bercow became the Speaker-elect for the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons. In accordance with tradition, he was physically dragged to the chair. At 19:31 UTC (20:31 BST) he delivered a 5 minute speech, paying tribute to the other candidates, before sitting in the chair itself. In that speech he paid tribute to his mother, pointing out that she had taken a keen interest in proceedings.

He also said: “I want just to say this about the responsibility of the office. The Speaker has the responsibility to immediately and permanently cast aside all his or her previous political views. I said it —”. Here he was interrupted by members anticipating the end of his sentence, and calls to “come and join the Labour Party”. He resumed “I said it and I meant it. My promise to this house is to be completely impartial, that is what it’s about. I will do my best faithfully, honourably and respectfully to do my best in the months ahead.”

His first three acts as Speaker-elect were to call upon the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Leader of the Opposition David Cameron, and the leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg to speak. Brown and Cameron both commented upon Bercow’s hobby of playing tennis, with Brown observing that Bercow had now permanently taken the position of umpire. The Prime Minister said that on the matter of Bercow’s casting aside of his past political views, “some of us thought you had done that some time ago”. Cameron also pointed out that Bercow was the first Jewish Speaker to be elected by the House in its history.

Cameron and Clegg both reminded Bercow of the comments made by Parmjit Dhanda, who had said in his candidacy speech earlier that afternoon: “All of the 10 (candidates) is capable of doing the job but … do we all really get it? Do we understand the level of crisis out there. Do we understand the level of public’s anger.”

Bercow’s election as Speaker elect remained subject to Royal Approbation. This was not given in person by the Queen.

At 20:51 UTC (21:51 BST), the Lords Commissioners assembled on the Woolsack in the House of Lords, and summoned the House of Commons via Black Rod, who in turn summoned the Commons at 20:54 UTC (21:54 BST). The clerk of the House of Lords read the Royal Commission, authorizing the Lords Commissioners to speak in the name of the Queen. At 21:01 UTC (22:01 BST) the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw, spoke for the Lords Commissioners and declared Bercow to be the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Bercow’s first act as Speaker, after returning to the Commons and formally notifying it of events in the Lords, at 21:06 UTC (22:06 BST) was to call upon the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman. She proposed a motion, carried by acclamation without dissent, for the Commons to call upon the Queen to elevate the previous Speaker, Michael Martin, to the House of Lords. Bercow’s second act was again to call upon Harman, who proposed a motion to adjourn, again carried by acclamation without dissent.

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment
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National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

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Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

Have you any photos of the museum, or its exhibits?

The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh’s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University’s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

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Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny‘ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

  • Ground floor
  • First floor
  • Second floor
  • Top floor

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

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At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

Kidney Doctor: Discussing Kidney Failure

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If you reside in Salt Lake City and are experiencing trouble with your kidneys, your primary care physician will send you to see a nephrologist – a kidney doctor. He or she will examine them closely, run several tests, including blood work and talk to you about your concerns. One issue that may crop up is potential kidney failure.

What Is Kidney Failure?

The importance of the kidneys to your well-being cannot be overstressed. They filter the blood, disposing of waste products and control the production of red blood cells in your body. The kidneys also regulate your blood pressure. Kidney failure – the inability of the kidney to perform these tasks, results in certain physical manifestations. Your body swells up; you may retain fluid and, overall, you lack energy. Kidney failure can also result in serious health issues, although, initially, you may not experience any obvious ill effects.

Causal Factors

Your kidney doctor will explain potential causes of kidney failure. The type you have will influence the kind of treatment possible. The two most common causes of End-stage renal diseases (ESRD) are:

1. Diabetes2. High Blood Pressure

If you do not suffer from either, kidney failure may be the result of some form of genetic or autoimmune diseases, Nephrotic syndrome or problems in the urinary tract. Once the diagnosis is sure and causal factors investigated, treatment may follow.

Your Kidney Doctor and Kidney Failure

Your doctor in Salt Lake City may be able to treat kidney failure by addressing the underlying cause. In some instances, such as heart attack, drug abuse, and urinary tract problems, the problem may disappear following treatment of the cause. However, in many cases, the only approach is such drastic measures as dialysis or a transplant. Only by consulting with a kidney doctor will you know how to best treat the health problem.

Man banned from keeping animals after forcing cat to inhale cannabis
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Man banned from keeping animals after forcing cat to inhale cannabis

Friday, September 11, 2009

A 19 year old from South Tyneside, England has been banned from looking after animals after stealing a cat and forcing it to inhale cannabis.

Mark Kane, from South Shields, England, was banned from looking after animals for 10 years after causing “unnecessary suffering” to a tabby cat in January 2009. Kane was originally sentenced to three months in jail which was suspended two years. Kane also has to pay £100 (US$167) in fines.

Kane had stolen the cat from a friend of his girlfriend. A mobile phone camera recorded the incident and showed Kane putting the cat into a bag, inhaling some cannabis and blowing it into the bag. He then swung the bag around his head in a similar fashion to a lasso. The cat survived the attack but it ran off afterwards and has yet to have been found. During the video Kane is quoted as saying “This cat is getting stoned off its head” and “Get it stoned to fuck”.

This was a vile offence.

Kane was prosecuted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a court in South Shields. He was found guilty and sentenced to twelve weeks in prison, two years suspension and a ten year ban from looking after animals as well as being ordered to pay £100 costs. In a previous court hearing, Kane had also admitted two counts of cruelty to animals.

Chairman of the Bench Ken Buck said, “We do think the charges of animal cruelty are appalling in nature and caused real stress and unnecessary suffering to a domestic pet which was in your care.” Clive McKeag, who was prosecuting Kane on behalf of the RSPCA described the attack as “sadistic and wicked” and stated: “This was a vile offence.”

In regards to the case, RSPCA inspector Claire Hunt said, “He thought it was a funny thing to do to a defenseless animal.” Claire also stated that she was happy with Kane’s sentencing saying, “It deters people from doing the same thing.”

10,000 refuse to pay U.S. taxes to protest Iraq war
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10,000 refuse to pay U.S. taxes to protest Iraq war

Sunday, April 16, 2006

An estimated 10,000 conscientious objectors chose to withhold some or all of their U.S. income taxes due Monday, April 17, in protest to the use of US military power in Iraq. Some plan to instead donate their required tax to charity.

The Internal Revenue Service does not distinguish tax resistors from any other person behind on their taxes, and will apply the same fines and interest used against the other Americans who do not pay their taxes on time. Legal action is possible for extreme cases, but more commonly the IRS uses wage or bank account garnishing.

The tax protestors are well aware of these risks, yet refuse to pay on principle. Jim Allen, who served in the Army for 20 years and now teaches at St. Louis University, acknowledges that he will likely end up paying more due to the fines than he is refusing to pay today. “I am not opposed to paying taxes, but I am when such a large percent is going to pay for war. Sooner or later, they’re going to get their money, but until that happens, I’m going to continue protesting. This is too important not to.” Allen and his wife withheld $1300 – or 42% of what the couple owes the IRS, estimating this to be the proportion of his taxes that would otherwise go to military spending.

Other protestors simply refuse to file at all. Becky Pierce of Boston fills out a 1040 to determine her tax, but then donates that amount to charity without filing. Pierce says she follows in the footsteps of American protesters like Henry David Thoreau, a protester of the Mexican-American War who went to jail rather than pay taxes. “You need to have control of your money,” Pierce says. “I’m a self-employed carpenter. No one is reporting what I make. That’s why I can go unnoticed.”

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Indonesian anti-corruption chief convicted of murder
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Indonesian anti-corruption chief convicted of murder

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Indonesian court has convicted the former head of the country’s anti-corruption agency of murder. The prosecution of Antasari Azhar and three others has been controversial, with some fearing the so-called “Judicial Mafia” played a role.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) already saw a proven plot to discredit it and frame its senior members. Shortly after Azhar’s arrest in May last year police came to take away Bibit Rianto and Chandra Hamzah, two deputy commissioners, to face trial for corruption. The trial, instead, unveiled a plot to convict the men of offences they had not committed. Protests in the street ensued, and locals gave corrupt officials the joint nickname of the “Judicial Mafia”.

The scandal resulted in the resignations of a chief detective and a deputy attorney general; the KPK had begun probing the attorney general’s office and that of the national police. During Azhar’s time as chair the KPK has exposed bribery at the former and prosecuted an in-law relative of the president during the country’s election preparations, with a jail sentence being the result.

The defendants had claimed political elements orchestrated a conspiracy to see the quartet convicted. The judges disagreed, with judge Herri Swantoro telling the court, “Defendant Antasari Azhar has been legitimately proven guilty of participating in persuading the carrying out of a premeditated murder.” The court’s judgement ran to 179 pages.

The case saw the four accused of plotting the March 2009 murder of tycoon Nasruddin Zulkarnaen, shot dead in his car by a motorbike assassin in Jakarta. Zulkarnaen was Azhar’s golfing partner and the businessman was alleged by the prosecution to have been blackmailing the KPK leader, who is a former prosecutor.

Azhar is alleged to have had an affair with one of Zulkarnaen’s wives, a golf caddie. With Zulkarnaen threatening to inform the press and parliament, Azhar is alleged to have plotted murder with several other officials. Police commissioner Wiliardi Wizar was accused of locating the assassins used; he claimed his senior had ordered him to testify he had been told by Azhar to kill Zulkarnaen.

Media mogul Sigid Haryo Wibisono stood accused of financing the contract killing, and businessman Jerry Hermawan Lo of arranging a meeting with the gunmen. All three were convicted alongside Azhar, who received an eighteen-year prison sentence. Wizar was jailed for twelve years, Wibisono for fifteen and Lo for five. All intend to appeal the verdicts.

One person who feels the court got it wrong is a human rights lawyer who defended Bibit and Chandra. “I think that this is all still a mystery,” said Taufik Basari. “I don’t think the judge had all the necessary facts to warrant a verdict of eighteen years.”

Despite the conviction of his relative, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono retained the presidency last June by a landslide majority. Originally elected in 2004, Yudhoyono has used an anti-corruption stance in his campaigns, heaping praise upon the KPK which Azhar was head of from December 2007 until his arrest.

The four new convicts join five men convicted of the murder in December. Alleged to have comprised the gang behind the shooting, they received sentences varying from seventeen to eighteen years imprisonment.

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4 Reasons To Use A Physical Therapist While Recovering From A Bone Injury

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Physical therapy is extremely common for bone injuries such as ankle, wrist, and hip fractures. It is extremely important to keep the joint from stiffening, as this could limit your long-term range of motion and mobility. In order to keep the area moving without causing further damage, however, you should consult with a specialized physical therapist. Here are four reasons to use a physical therapist while you are recovering from a bone injury:

1. Reduce Pain and Swelling

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Whether you are recovering from a major surgery or a bone injury of any kind, consider including physical therapy in your treatment plan. Medicine can reduce swelling, but it can also mask the source of the pain or the root of the problem. Physical therapy can help to pinpoint problem areas, which can then be targeted with specific therapies. In general, the exercises, stretches, and targeted massage treatments that your physical therapist may use can greatly reduce the amount of pain and swelling in the area.

2. Alone, You Could Cause More Harm Than Good

If the idea of seeing a physical therapist regularly does not appeal to you, you may be tempted to take control of your recovery. This could include looking up stretching exercises online, or attempting to massage the affected area by yourself to relieve pain. Although it’s important to stay involved throughout the process, you could easily do more harm than good by attempting to fix things yourself. Seek advice and recommendations from a doctor or physical therapist before touching or moving the injured area.

3. Therapists Offer Specialized Treatments

A skilled physical therapist can help you recover from your bone injury by using a series of stretches, exercises, and massage techniques. Physical therapists are specially licensed to practice as therapists, which means they have the knowledge required to help you heal without accidentally causing problems or deepening your injury. Your physical therapist will gradually help you regain your flexibility and range of motion, keeping things lined up so that your bones will heal properly. In addition, physical therapy centers include a variety of equipment designed for healing and rehabilitation.

4. Preventative Care and Whole Body Well-Being

Your physical therapist will likely be interested in more than your bone injury. He or she should be invested in your overall health and will look for ways to help you avoid causing a similar injury in the future. Your therapist may suggest daily stretches and exercise that can be used to increase your overall flexibility. Besides, adding to your exercise routine will strengthen your muscles, tighten your core, and help prevent against heart disease and other illnesses.To learn more about how a physical therapist can be helpful in recovering from bone injury, visit us online. We can be found at www.suburbanortho.com.

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China sets up US$10 billion credit line with European nations
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China sets up US$10 billion credit line with European nations

Sunday, April 29, 2012

China has pledged US$10 billion in credit to back joint projects with Central and Eastern European countries. Visiting Chinese Premiere Wen Jiabao announced the deal at a business forum in Warsaw, Poland, and said he hopes the deal will facilitate the two sides’ cooperation.

To boost business and trade, Wen said that China wants to help with infrastructure projects, including new technologies and green economy sectors. Also discussed at the Economic Forum was a new investment cooperation fund which would initially boast US$500 million to assist Chinese investments in the region. He also announced a plan to expand the Chinese market with other countries with hopes to build trade exchange to US$100 billion before the year 2015.

“China will work with countries in Central and Eastern Europe to mutually open the markets and to increase the trade exchange to $100 billion before 2015,” Wen said.

He said trade volume between China and central and eastern European countries reached 52.9 billion US dollars in 2011 and had grown 27.6 percent a year on average since 2001, when it was only 4.3 billion US dollars.

Thus far, the largest Chinese investment has been a €1.2 billion (US$1.6 billion) deal made by China’s Wanhua Industrial Group that gained full control of Borsodchem, a Hungarian chemicals firm. Other recent investments were made in Serbia, where a €170 million (US$225 million) bridge was built over the Danube river in Belgrade.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland happily welcomed the Chinese investment, noting the country’s uprising economy and European leadership role. Both Wen and Tusk enthused about the potential they say their partnership has and encouraged others in the region to form similar agreements.

The Chinese are “very pragmatic” in business, Andrzej Pawelec of Agrihortus company said, who is seeking new partners in China to sell its beverages. “If they see a good and honest business proposal, they are always open.”

Wen started his official visit to Poland on Wednesday. Poland is the last leg of a four-nation Europe tour that included visits to Iceland and Sweden and the opening ceremony of the Hannover Fair in Germany.

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GM and Chrysler receive Canadian loans amid US restructuring ultimata
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GM and Chrysler receive Canadian loans amid US restructuring ultimata

Friday, April 3, 2009

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler will receive bridge loans from the government of Canada and the provincial government of Ontario, however no more will be forthcoming from either Canadian or US governments unless the companies can reinvent themselves.

“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy. We are doing this on the assumption that we obviously cannot afford either in the United States or Canada a catastrophic short-term collapse.” said Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

“We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success,” said Barack Obama, President of the United States. “These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.”File:Sinsheim quer.jpg

Chrysler will receive CA$1 billion and may in fact be eligible for as much as CA$4 billion. If Chrysler succeeds in the next 30 days with a restructuring plan it would be eligible for a US$6 billion loan. A part of Chrysler’s restructuring plan must include a partnership with Fiat within 30 days to appease the US administration. Fiat is a supplier of smaller fuel-efficient vehicles, and the merger will help Chrysler to be viable in the North American market. A Chrysler court bankruptcy would inevitably lead to it being sold off.

As a part of Chrysler’s restructuring plans, Tom LaSorda, the president of Chrysler announced that Canadian operations would fold if it does not receive both the US commitment of $2.3 billion of aid and a new Canadian Auto Workers CAW contract to reduce all-in costs by CA$19 per hour. As a result of this announcement Chrysler’s auto sales volume in Canada dropped 23% compared to March of 2008.

GM has until the end of May to restructure its company to receive up to CA$7.5 billion. As part of the companies restructuring, General Motor’s chief executive Rick Wagoner was replaced Sunday with Fritz Henderson, the current chief operating officer. Henderson spoke out on Tuesday that GM has submitted a restructuring plan which would close five plants, and this may be increased to meet the requirements for financial aid. He is in full compliance with Obama’s auto task force to seek bankruptcy if GM cannot negotiate with their unions, bondholders and others.

GM recently brought forward the “GM Total Confidence” program providing consumer purchase protection for customers who lose their job for economic reasons within the first two years from purchase. As a result of Chrysler’s restructuring announcement in Canada, GM’s Canadian vehicle sales volume fell only 17.3% compared to 2008, an increase from the previous month.

GM must reduce some of its legacy costs which include its pensions and union health care costs. A part of GM’s ailments arose from investing in supplying truck and SUVs during an economy of high gas prices when consumers were demanding fuel efficient vehicles.

Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Industry, is hoping that the CAW will support the restructuring process and re-negotiate their agreement. Whereas a United Auto Workers negotiator has said, “I don’t see how the UAW will do anything until they see what the bondholders will give up.”

The Obama administration is looking toward bankruptcy proceedings for the automakers, “as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. [It will] quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down. What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognise that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts.” said Obama.

The auto parts suppliers and IT software exporters in India have already been affected by the declining auto sales. GM and Chrysler software contracts provide US$300 to 350 million a year to vendors in India. As well these two major automakers usually award US$1 billion contracts to auto parts suppliers. “We are worried and closely watching the developments in the US to gauge the impact. The decline in auto sales in the US has already hit the order books of Indian suppliers,” said a Delhi auto parts supplier.

“Going forward, the industry will undoubtedly be smaller, but if our efforts are successful it will be viable and it will support good jobs for Canadians,” said Clements.

Betty Sutton, Ohio’s Congresswoman put forward the CARS act which provides a US$3,000 to 5,000 incentive for those who trade in their vehicle for a fuel-efficient car. “It clearly stimulates the economy, and it gets the consumer into the showroom and gets them buying again. But importantly — and this is what I particularly like about it — it really helps the environment quite a bit in two respects.” said William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company has not come forward with requests for assistance.

Since December GM and Chrysler have received US$17.4 billion government loans.

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Norwegian politicians face voter suppression allegations
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Norwegian politicians face voter suppression allegations

Monday, September 14, 2009

A viral election joke has landed several politicians in hot water as Norway goes to the polls to elect its parliament today. A hoax message turning voters away from polling stations is circulating in digital media. The message was also passed on by politicians, who have used social media like Twitter and YouTube to interact with the voters during the campaign. The targeted party is not laughing, and is warning that the activity could be seen as voter suppression.

“Due to full polling stations, Progress Party voters should send their vote by SMS [Standard Modular System] with shortcode FRP to 2009″ That message, and variations of it, was the joke circulating in social media such as Facebook and Twitter or by mobile phone messages.

Norway has taken significant steps towards e-government, such as a trial letting pre-calculated tax returns be filed by SMS. In this context, the General Secretary of the Progress Party, Geir Mo, said that the message was “sabotaging democracy”, because the damage would be done even if just one person believed the message. Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, one of the politicians who passed the message on, refused to apologize for doing it.

The main issue in the election has been whether voters should let the Labour Party dominated majority coalition government stay in power, or vote them out by voting for opposition parties.

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