US Congress may re-establish the Luxury Tax
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US Congress may re-establish the Luxury Tax

Monday, December 11, 2006

There are suppositions that the US Democratic Congress may re-establish the luxury taxes, which were already once introduced in the 1990s. The suppositions resulted in the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors commissioning a report on various tax issues.

Material goods such as jewelry, watches, expensive furs, jet planes, boats, yachts, and luxury cars had already been subjected to additional taxes back in 1990. After 3 years these taxes were repealed, though the luxury automobiles tax was still active for the next 13 years.

Rodderick A. DeArment, a representative of law firm and lobbyist Covington and Burling, guided the report. The report outlined the fact that, in 1993, the Congress did not collect as much money from the luxury taxes as it had predicted. It also stated that although its ravaging effect on employment in several industries was sensible, “the turnover that occurred in Congress made it possible for the new group to learn the same lessons again”.

The luxury tax could produce unpredictable effects for the watch industry and the report was meant to inform the members of this branch about the effects of these taxes on this luxury goods’ industry.

One dead after bus and bicycle crash in Hampshire, England
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One dead after bus and bicycle crash in Hampshire, England

Monday, July 19, 2010

A person has died after being involved in a collision between a bus and a bicycle in Hampshire in the south of England, United Kingdom. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was cycling in the seaside resort of Southsea when a number 700 Stagecoach single-decker bus, which was travelling from Brighton to Southsea, collided with her bicycle at approximately 1315 BST (1215 UTC) on Saturday. A helicopter transported the woman to Southampton General Hospital, where she died at approximately 1630 BST (1530 UTC) on the same day.

None of the occupants of the bus were injured. The 53-year-old bus driver has now been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. Hampshire Constabulary is requesting any witnesses to the accident to contact them. PC Phil Hunt also mentioned: “We are also trying to trace the passengers, who left the scene before we could speak to them.”

The road traffic accident occurred in an area where Portsmouth City Council had been intending to place a new cycle route, but the plans to do so were cancelled last week. The plans, which would have cost £250,000 (US$382,373, €296,481, A$441,126), were said to have been cancelled due to financial difficulties.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum vice chair Jon Spencer has stated: “Sadly, we’ve had to wait less than a week for a brutal illustration of why we need this cycle route.” The vice chair of the local cycling group continued: “The road at Clarence Pier is very narrow, very crowded by parked cars and very busy. It is the most popular part of the seafront but at the moment it is a no-go area for cyclists. The city council are obviously happy for this to remain the case.”

This terrible accident is yet another reminder that large vehicles, busy traffic and cyclists are not a happy mix.

John Holland, the chair of the Forum, wrote on PompeyBUG, a local cycling Internet forum: “Portsmouth Cycle Forum is very sad to learn of the death in a road accident of a woman cyclist at Clarence Esplanade on Saturday 17 July. Our thoughts lie with her family and friends to whom send our deepest condolences. The cyclist was involved in collision with a bus in the vicinity of Pier Road and Clarence Esplanade, close to Clarence Pier.

“This terrible accident is yet another reminder that large vehicles, busy traffic and cyclists are not a happy mix. Whilst it will be some time before the details are made public, we urge the Portsmouth City Council to press ahead with making this section of our seafront much safer and calmer for all. Almost exactly one year ago, a cyclist was seriously injured Clarence Esplanade when a car reversed blindly from a parking bay into the road.

“Portsmouth City Council is on the verge of postponing Phase 2 of the Southsea Seafront Cycle Route. Had this been in place yesterday then this awful incident might have been avoided. We urge councillors to think again. A safe and segregated cycle route can be built – one which doesn’t loose any car parking, one which doesn’t stop people looking out to sea from their cars, one which doesn’t involve cycling on the promenade. We will be pushing hard for this – we don’t want any more injuries and fatalities on our seafront roads.”

Glasgow cannabis enthusiasts celebrate ‘green’ on city green
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Glasgow cannabis enthusiasts celebrate ‘green’ on city green

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Coinciding with Easter Sunday, Glasgow Cannabis Social Club’s annual 420 event was held on Glasgow Green, under sunny blue skies, and overlooking the river Clyde. Despite the city’s council attempting to revoke permission for the gathering at the last minute, police were happy for it to go-ahead with approximately a dozen officers attending in high-visibility vests.

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The Daily Record reported five arrests were made for minor offences, likely smoking and possession of small quantities of cannabis. Taking a less-sensational — and more accurate — line of reporting, the Monday edition of Glasgow’s Evening News stated five were referred to the Procurator Fiscal who is responsible for deciding if charges should be brought.

Official figures provided by the police were that 150 attended. With people coming and going, Wikinews reporters estimated upwards of 200 attended, compared to nearly 700 who had signed up for the event on Facebook. Hemp goods were advertised and on sale at the event, and some attendees were seen drinking cannabis-themed energy drinks.

“I was searched and charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act (which is a lot of bollocks)” one attendee noted online, adding “not fair to happen on a brilliant day like it was, other than that I had a great day!” A second said they were openly smoking and ignored by police, who “were only really focusing on people who looked particularly young”.

Cannabis seeds were openly and legally sold at the event and a hydroponics supplier brought a motortrike towing an advertising trailer. Actually growing cannabis is, however, illegal in the UK.

With the event openly advocating the legalisation of cannabis, speakers put their arguments for this to a receptive crowd. Retired police officer James Duffy, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, spoke of the failed United States alcohol prohibition policy; stressing such policies needlessly bring people into contact with criminal elements. Highlighting other countries where legalisation has been implemented, he pointed out such led to lower crime, and lower drug use overall.

One speaker, who produced a bottle of cannabis oil he had received through the post, asserted this cured his prostate cancer. Others highlighted the current use of Sativex by the National Health Service, with a cost in-excess of £150 for a single bottle of GW Pharmaceuticals patented spray — as-compared to the oil shown to the crowd, with a manufacturing cost of approximately £10.

Similar ‘420’ pro-cannabis events were held globally.

BBC support song making chart impact
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BBC support song making chart impact

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A song released yesterday in support of the BBC is making an impact on several UK music charts.

Stand-up comic Mitch Benn wrote I’m Proud of the BBC in response to the criticism the licence fee-funded corporation has received from its commercial competitors and the right-wing press. The Conservative-led coalition government announced two weeks ago that the licence fee is to be frozen for six years, and that the BBC will take over responsibility from the Foreign Office for funding the World Service.

You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service.

The song, loosely inspired by Billy Joel, lists many of the BBC’s achievements. Benn, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s satirical programme The Now Show, decided to release I’m Proud of the BBC as a single after realising that it was provoking emotional responses from audiences during his nationwide tour. He told BBC Radio 5 Live that the song was receiving standing ovations, and people were wiping away tears. A video was filmed last month outside of Broadcasting House, White City and Television Centre with a cast of volunteers recruited from the social networking site Twitter.

The song was officially released as a ‘download-only’ track on Monday. Yesterday’s charts reveal that it has reached pole position on Amazon’s rock chart, and is listed as the 14th most downloaded track overall. iTunes listed it as the 64th most downloaded song. Fans have created two Facebook groups to promote the single in an attempt to get it to a good position in the UK Singles Chart, which would force the BBC’s commercial rivals to play the track.

Benn says that he has always been a supporter of the BBC, and yesterday compared it to the emergency services. “You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service.” He points out that he only receives a small percentage of his income from the corporation; last night he played with his band The Distractions at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.

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Iconic London mural could be restored
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Iconic London mural could be restored

Monday, September 20, 2010

One of London’s most well known murals could be restored after years of neglect if plans by a group of community activists gain public support. The Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens on London’s Tottenham Court Road was created by two mural artists and commissioned by Camden Council in 1980, but the mural has since decayed and been vandalised.

Plans will be presented at a public meeting this Tuesday, to include details of the restoration and promote local public space in contrast to potential commercial developments and the focus of the London 2012 Olympics. If enough funds are raised from charitable trusts and public donations the mural could be restored during the summer of 2011.

Plans to be put forward by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, and the London Mural Preservation Society, will present ways to fund not only the restoration work but also projects to raise awareness of conservation, heritage, and the residential and working community. The heritage and mural project hopes to involve many local people who could learn new conservation skills. Also planned are workshops with local children to involve them in their heritage, an exhibition by local artists, guided tours and a celebratory event at the end of the restoration project. In addition to this, a booklet would be produced containing collected oral histories of the people involved and a preservation trust to protect the mural in future years.

The playful painting was created on a Camden Council-owned building in 1980 by artists Mick Jones, (son of the late Jack Jones, trade union leader) and Simon Barber and is a mash up of scenes depicting problems faced by the neighbourhood over the preceding decade.

There is also a caricature of poet Dylan Thomas, who lived in Fitzrovia, and a mocking portrayal of then leader of the Greater London Council, Conservative politician Horace Cutler, who is pictured as a bat-like creature. Other characters include an anonymous greedy developer and a property speculator counting piles of cash.

Peter Whyatt of the neighbourhood association is jointly leading the project to restore the mural. Yesterday he told Wikinews he had a number of concerns about the possible success of the project.

“There are a great number of problems with getting this project off the ground and we also need to act pretty quickly for a number of reasons,” said Mr Whyatt.

“Firstly the mural is in a terrible state and deteriorating quickly. There is more graffiti being daubed on the site every month because one bit of graffiti attracts another bit. We really need to start the work in the next 12 months because going through another winter with the condition of the wall will causes more problems and inevitably more expense. We want to keep as much original artwork on the site as possible to keep the costs down. This is a big mural and it will be expensive to restore,” he continued.

“And that brings me to my second concern: cost. If we don’t get other community organisations on board to bid for money for this with us and to involve their beneficiaries and volunteers, it will be very difficult to secure the money needed. Money is very tight at the moment because to the current financial climate. We need to get support at this meeting on Tuesday and some firm commitments from people and organisations to get involved.

“Lastly there is a danger of a commercial development on the site. A public-private partnership to create a new art feature. Because of the existing mural’s subject matter – it mocks property speculators, and land developers, etc – a commercial scheme probably backed by a property developer would not want to restore the mural’s original message. They’d want some “good news” scheme, some greenwash idea that paints them in a positive light.

“However, despite these problems, Camden Council have offered to do a condition survey on the mural. This will save us a lot of money. But having said that there are five council departments to deal with to get permission for this restoration work, and they don’t always talk to each other.

“But if the public and local voluntary organisations show their support, we can make it happen,” Mr Whyatt concluded.

The mural restoration will be just one part of a year long project of heritage and conservation awareness-raising. “The project is not just about the mural but also wider plans to promote awareness of heritage and conservation in an area of London under threat from commercial development. In fact the bulk of the project is about the heritage and conservation and the mural is just one part of it, and the most visible because of its situation,” Mr Whyatt later added.

There will be a public meeting about the heritage and mural project at 7.30 pm tomorrow (Tuesday), at the Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street. The public can also comment about the proposals on the Fitzrovia Heritage and Mural website.

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South African apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock granted parole
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South African apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock granted parole

Saturday, January 31, 2015

South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha yesterday announced he is granting parole to Eugene de Kock, an apartheid-era assassin who has spent twenty years in prison.

After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 de Kock was arrested and subsequently detailed his actions to the nation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As head of a police ‘counter-insurgency’ unit de Kock took responsibility for murdering and torturing dissidents opposed to white-only rule. His methods included bombings, shootings, and stabbings and he operated internationally and at home. His revelations earned him the nickname “Prime Evil”.

The TRC granted de Kock immunity for most crimes in exchange for his testimony. He was charged with remaining offences, not covered due to limits in TRC power, and in 1996 jailed for life for six murders. Additional convictions include kidnap and attempted murder. He received an additional 212-year term for those crimes. The TRC could only grant immunity where the offence was a human rights violation and the offender gave a full confession.

During his TRC testimony de Kock accused police commanders of ordering murders including those of African National Council (ANC) members. In a 2007 prison interview he said FW de Klerk, the last white President, had hands “soaked in blood”. De Klerk denies de Kock’s allegations he ordered individual murders.

It’s mixed feelings, which is something we’ve gotten used to as South Africans

In the early nineties de Kock teamed up with anti-ANC party Inkatha to arrange violence within black communities. Internal conflict killed 12,000 in the wake of future President Nelson Mandela’s release. Mandela wrote of fearing “a hidden hand behind the violence[…] attempting to disrupt the negotiations”, by orchestrating the clashes in Natal and Transvaal. He was referring to upcoming elections and a transfer of power away from white rule and apartheid.

Masutha said de Kock was being released “in the interest of reconciliation and nation building”. The date, location, and terms are to remain secret.

Reaction from his victims is varied.

Murder victim Glenack Mama’s widow Sandra welcomed the release. She said to a BBC reporter “I think it will actually close a chapter in our history because we’ve come a long way and I think his release will just once again help with the reconciliation process because there’s still a lot of things that we need to do as a country”. She said “He got the instructions from the top and they [more senior officials] got away with it[…] they’re amongst us today and one man is taking the fall”.

I pray that those whom he hurt, those from whom he took loved ones, will find the power within them to forgive him

Eddie Makue said to The Associated Press the release stirred up “mixed feelings, which is something we’ve gotten used to as South Africans”. He was a South African Council of Churches employee in 1988 when de Kock bombed their headquarters. Jane Quin said she was “terribly disappointed” and he should never be released. Her sister Jacqui Quin was murdered in Lesotho in 1985 by de Kock.

TRC chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “I pray that those whom he hurt, those from whom he took loved ones, will find the power within them to forgive him.” He said the release would not be universally welcome but is nonetheless “to our collective credit, as people and as a nation.” Tutu called it “an indictment on our government” that apartheid officials who did not co-operate with the TRC had evaded prosecution.

Whilst in prison de Kock has assisted the recovery of his missing victims’ remains. Remorse and his help to the Missing Persons Task Team were cited by Masutha as reasons to release him, which was initially decided against last July. “[H]is key role has been to introduce us to other former security police who can assist with finding others,” said Task Team leader Madeleine Fullard. Fullard said de Kock had also directly assisted in retrieving two bodies. “He certainly feels lives were wasted for no reason”, she added, describing a meeting with him at one ANC victim’s grave. “He seemed to be quite stressed.”

Masutha also announced yesterday the rejection of a parole application by apartheid killer Clive Derby-Lewis, an ex-MP. Derby-Lewis is serving life for murdering popular South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani. Hani also led the ANC’s militant division. His killing in 1993 sparked rioting. Derby-Lewis sought parole because he has lung cancer. Masutha said in rejecting the application that Derby-Lewis was remorseless.

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Football: Varane agrees to sign contract extension with Real Madrid
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Football: Varane agrees to sign contract extension with Real Madrid

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Yesterday, French defender Raphaël Varane agreed to sign a contract extension with Spanish capital football club Real Madrid, the club announced via their official website. The new contract, scheduled to be signed today, would run until June 2022.

Now-24-year-old Varane joined Los Blancos from French club RC Lens in 2011. After arriving at Santiago Bernabeu at age 18, Varane has featured in 196 matches for the club.

Since Varane joined, the French international has won thirteen trophies including three UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cups, two LaLiga titles, and two FIFA Club World Cups.

Per the previous contract, Varane was tied to Real Madrid until June 2020. Earlier, Varane’s compatriot Karim Benzema, Brazilian defender Marcelo, and Spanish midfielder Isco and his compatriot Dani Carvajal, signed contract extensions with Madrid. Except for Benzema’s, their contracts run until June 2022. Benzema’s extension runs until June 2021.

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New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban
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New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Jersey has reversed its plans for a state-wide ban on bikini waxing after salon owners from across the state spoke out against the proposal.

The New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling planned to consider a ban on so-called “Brazilian waxes” in response to two women who reported being injured during a wax.

But state Consumer Affairs Director David Szuchman, who oversees the board, asked them to abandon the ban in favor of reviewing and establishing safeguards for those who provide the service.

“Many commentators have noted that the procedure could be safely performed,” Szuchman wrote in a letter to state board President Ronald Jerome Brown, according to the Asbury Park Press. “I, therefore, believe that there are alternative means to address any public health issues identified by the board.

Salon owners from across the state expressed relief with Szuchman’s decision.

“It was an unnecessary issue,” spa owner Linda Orsuto told the Associated Press. “In New Jersey especially, where the government has been picking our pockets for so long, it was like, ‘Just stay out of our pants, will you?'”

Although millions of Americans get bikini waxes, which generally cost between $50 and $60 per session, the practice comes with risks. Skin care experts say the hot wax can irritate delicate skin in the bikini area, and result in infections, ingrown hairs and rashes.

Waxing on the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted in New Jersey. Although state statutes have always banned bikini waxing, the laws are seldom enforced because the wording is unclear.

If the measure had passed, New Jersey might have become the only US state to ban the practice outright.

Although Szuchman’s letter was crafted more as a recommendation than an order, media reports said the ban would likely never be approved without his support because his office oversees the board.

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United States: State of Hawaii criticized by head of Federal Communications Commission over incoming missile alert mistake
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United States: State of Hawaii criticized by head of Federal Communications Commission over incoming missile alert mistake

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Sunday, the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, described the erroneous alert, sent on Saturday, warning of an imminent nuclear missile strike, as an “absolutely unacceptable” mistake by the Emergency Management Agency of the state of Hawaii. He emphasized that the FCC would “focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again.”

At 8:07 am local time on Saturday, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) sent out the following alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” It appeared on people’s mobile phones throughout the state and caused widespread panic. It took 38 minutes for the state to retract the warning, which Pai said made the error worse. Vern Miyagi, the HI-EMA’s administrator, stated that an employee had mistakenly sent out the alert during a test performed at shift change. On Sunday, Cindy McMillan, communications director for state governor David Ige, clarified that after accidentally pressing the button to send the alert, the employee had gone on to accidentally confirm the command. Richard Rapoza, spokesperson for HI-EMA, said the employee had since been reassigned.

Pai said that FCC analysis of the incident showed that the state had failed to put “reasonable safeguards or process controls” in place to prevent a false alert from being sent. According to The New York Times, the state will now require two people to authorize the issuance of an alert. Also, a “cancellation template” will be created to solve the problem of quickly sending corrections over the mobile phone networks.

Both HI-EMA administrator Miyagi and Hawaii governor Ige apologized for the mistake, with Ige saying “I, too, am extremely upset about this.” Tulsi Gabbard, a House Representative from Hawaii, referred to an “epic failure of leadership” in an interview with ABC News.

Tests by North Korea of missiles that, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, could strike Hawaii 20 minutes after launch have heightened tensions in the state. Air raid sirens used in the Cold War have been reactivated there.

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Wheelchair-bound Australian rescued in New Orleans
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Wheelchair-bound Australian rescued in New Orleans

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

A 75 year old wheelchair-bound Australian man has been rescued from his home in New Orleans. Keith Faulkner was rescued by a neighbour after floodwaters stranded him in his home for five days. Mr Faulkner is suffering from cancer. He was left behind by his family as floodwaters rose.

“When the flooding started his family had no choice but to leave themselves, and he was left in the house as best they could manage,” the Australian ambassador to the United States said.

The man was eventually moved by neighbours to a nursing home in Lafayette.

“He was rescued by a neighbour after five days stranded in his house and he’s been in a nursing home in Lafayette, Louisiana,” said Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has been criticised for the lack of support provided to Australian victims of the disaster. The Labor Party has been particularly scathing in its attacks.

“The bottom line is this: when it comes to helping Australians on the ground, the Australian Government has failed miserably to persuade its closest friend and ally – the United States Government – to allow Australian consular officials access to help our own people,” said opposition defence spokesman Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd was referring to the US governments refusal of a request by Australian consular officials to enter New Orleans and search for Australians.

“You need a few days to allow people to assess the situation and to deploy personnel. But a week later, we have one official go in and can only stay there until night-time and then has to skedaddle out of there. I mean, what’s happening here? It’s just not good enough,” he added.

Some people have been critical of the Australians caught in the disaster. Former Federal Liberal Pary Minister Wilson Tuckey attacked the victims, suggesting that they should have left New Orleans earlier.

“Why was the woman quoted by the Leader of the Opposition today so insistent, not that the Prime Minister get her out of her problems, but the Australian taxpayer get her out of her problems, when in fact all the warnings we heard here in Australia [said it] was unwise to stay,” he said.

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