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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.

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GM posts first annual loss since 1992

Friday, January 27, 2006

General Motors Corporation (GM) has posted its first annual loss since 1992. GM reported losing US$4.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005 and a total loss of $8.6 billion for the entire year.

GM admitted Thursday night that the loss could swell further as it pays pensions and healthcare costs to thousands of former workers. GM warned that the amount calculated for last year is preliminary and could rise before it is officially reported to the US securities and exchanges commission in March.

The loss was far greater than analysts predicted. Ford, the second of the big three American car manufacturers, beat predictions earlier in the week. In contrast, Toyota is expected to report that it will beat last year’s profit of $11 billion.

GM’s automotive division lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, driven by losses in North America. This has been attributed to GM’s shrinking market share, which has been taken by Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Nissan.

A further $1.3 billion was lost in restructuring charges. As part of the restructure, GM plans to cut 30,000 jobs and close 12 facilities by 2008.

An aide for Kirk Kerkorian, GMs largest individual investor (at 9.9%), has called on the company to halve its $1.1 billion annual dividend, cut executive pay and sell Saab.

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Anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo beaten by the police

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Egyptian riot police and government supporters have dispersed Saturday demonstration against President Hosni Mubarak’s fifth re-election campaign.

Several hundred demonstrators from Kifaya, a movement against re-election of Mr Mubarak, as well as from other pro-reform organisations were to gather in Cairo’s main square, but they were attacked by the security forces and plain-clothes police on their way.

Eyewitnesses reported that the protesters were beaten, kicked in the head, and finally thrown into police trucks.

19 members of Kifaya were arrested and they are still held, according to the organisation statement. Ayman Barakat, Mr Mubarak’s most serious opponent in the upcoming election was among those arrested, but is now freed.

Mr Mubarak announced that he would stand in the election on Thursday. Under international pressure he introduced several serious constitutional reforms, including first in 24 years presidential elections with more than one candidate. However, opposition leaders say that is ‘no guarantee’ the elections will be fair.

Australian refugee contractor accused of breaching its duty of care

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Australian refugee contractor accused of breaching its duty of care
Author: RdBXvzh4

30 Oct

Friday, December 30, 2005

Contents

  • 1 Richard Niyonsaba
  • 2 Denial of food
  • 3 Background and Criticisms
  • 4 Sources

The Australian Centre for Languages, a company which has a multi-million dollar contract with the Australian government to provide refugee services, has been accused of breaching its duty of care following the death of a chronically ill child and allegations of failing to provide three women in their care with food.

Harp seal hunt approved by Canada, activists call for boycott of Canadian seafood

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Harp seal hunt approved by Canada, activists call for boycott of Canadian seafood
Author: RdBXvzh4

30 Oct

March 23, 2005

Ottawa says it will allow the harvest of 320,000 young seals this year, prompting a backlash from international environmental activists who call for a boycott of the Canadian fisheries products.

The seal hunt is an annual event on the ice floes off the east coast of Canada where the seal nurseries give birth. This year’s hunt begins March 29, and lasts for two months.

The government reports the harp seal population is large and healthy. “The harp seal herd – the most important seal herd for this industry – is estimated at around five million animals, nearly the highest level ever recorded, and almost triple what it was in the 1970s,” a Department of Fisheries and Oceans statement said. Large scale hunts will continue to be allowed until the harp seal population drops below four million.

Environmental activists protest and observe the hunt annually, but this year’s larger number of seals has brought a bigger response. Observers are already in the hunt area, and officials said if too many show up they will be prevented from interfering with the hunt. The annual protests, and the publication of photos of the hunt, are a public relations problem for Canada.

Protests were held in 50 cities around the world last week, and activists say they would press consumers and restaurants to avoid Canadian fish for at least the duration of the hunt.

“We’re going to be encouraging consumers to enter into dialogue with their grocery stores and their restaurants and say ‘Please don’t serve Canadian seafood’ or ‘I won’t buy Canadian seafood until this hunt is over’,” said Pat Ragan of the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] to Reuters.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare sponsored two independent veterinary teams to observe the 2001 hunt which concluded the animals are often (42% of the time) killed in an inhumane manner and not in accordance with Canada’s own laws.

Baby attacked by dog in New York

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Baby attacked by dog in New York
Author: RdBXvzh4

30 Oct

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An eight-month old boy, Andrew, was attacked and killed by a Doberman pinscher in Brooklyn, New York. The dog was a three-year old named Mackabee, who is also neutered.

The grandmother was babysitting the boy. While she was in the kitchen she heard the boy scream and ran next door to a neighbor for help. The neighbor took the dog off the boy, rescued him and brought him to his house to try and perform CPR on the boy, while he called 911 for help.

Police said the baby’s head was in bad shape and the dog broke the boy’s skull. Andrew was sent to Kings County Medical.

The doctors tried to save his life by working on him for nearly an hour, but the boy died at 3:06 pm local time. The parents of the child were not home at the time of the incident. The dog was shot with a tranquilizer and was sent to a care center. The city Department of Health is investigating. The dog may have to be put down because of the incident.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the Doberman Pinscher is not frequently involved in fatal attacks on humans in comparison to several other dog breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers and others.

Sallie Mae leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about student loans

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Sallie Mae leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about student loans
Author: RdBXvzh4

13 Oct

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about student loans in the United States shows Sallie Mae leads all lending institutions in complaints. Of the 4,851 complaints dating back to March 2012 when the CFPB first began collecting student loan data, 2,262 or 46.6% of all complaints were about the lender. US Federal Reserve data from 2010/2011 shows Sallie Mae is the nation’s largest student loan lender, responsible for 25% of the market

The other major lenders in this space include Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, PNC, and Discover. In complaints, AES/PHEAA came in second with 546, or 11.3% of all complaints. Wells Fargo, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase each had between 5% and 7.5% of all complaints, totaling 918 complaints between them. 78 other lending institutions round out the list of organizations with complaints filed against them for student loans.

Few of the complaints originate from people with problems with federal student loans. Less than 1%, 35 total, are for these types of loans, with Sallie Mae accounting for the bulk of complaints with 17 total. 14 other lending institutions have 3 or fewer complaints. For non-federal student loans, Sallie Mae is still the leader for complaints, with 2245 or 46.6% of all non-federal student loan complaints.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sorts complaints into three issues: Problems when you are unable to pay, Repaying your loan, and Getting a loan. None of the federal loans had complaints about getting a loan. For non-federal loans, 65.5% of the 4,816 complaints related to loan repayment. Sallie Mae led in total complaints in this category with 1467. They were followed by AES/PHEAA with 356, Wells Fargo with 231, Citibank with 201, Discover with 158, JPMorgan Chase with 154, ACS Education Services with 143, and KeyBank NA with 116. CFPB says loan repayment issues include a basket of claim types including “fees, billing, deferment, forbearance, fraud, and credit reporting.” Problems when you are unable pay accounts for 30.8% of the complaints. Sallie Mae had 698 complaints. They were followed by AES/PHEAA with 181, JPMorgan Chase with 106, Wells Fargo with 104, Citibank with 70, and KeyBank NA with 58. Many of the complaints are, according to the CFPB, because borrowers have difficulty getting deferrments on loan repayment as a result of being unable to find employment.

The total complaints against Sallie Mae for September of this year is 2 fewer than the same time last year. The company’s performance this year compared to last year has been mixed. March and June numbers were down over 150 complaints from the same month a year before. April, May, July and August all saw increases of 17–43. Of the top six lenders by volume of complaints, only AES/PHEAA and Citibank saw drops every month between March and September from the total volume in the previous year. Wells Fargo had a gain of 1 in August and 6 in May from the previous year. JPMorgan Chase had a difference of 0 from the same month last year for April, 3 more this year for May, and 4 more for August. Discover saw an increase every month from the same period last year except for September. When the total complaints differences from year to year for March to September are counted, this year has 571 fewer complaints against the top six lenders.

Most, 1470, of the complaints against Sallie Mae were closed with explanations. 10.2% were closed with monetary relief. 7.7% were closed with non-monetary relief. 2.1% were closed with relief and 12.1% were closed without relief. AES/PHEAA’s complaint closure picture was much different. 40.1% of AES/PHEAA’s 546 complaints were closed with non-monetary relief, 35.3% were closed with explanations and 21.2% were closed without relief. Of the eight lending institutions with 100 or more complaints filed against them, Discover was the institution most likely to result in a closure with monetary relief with 12.9% of all their closures ending this way. Citibank was the institution with the highest percentage of closures ending with no relief at 26.0%.

Complaints over student loan lenders were geographically distributed, coming from 3,447 different zip codes. The largest cluster of complaints is for 20001, a Washington D.C. zip code with 10 complaints originating from there. 07950, the zip code for Morris Plains, New Jersey, and 37013, the zip code for Antioch, Tennessee, each had 8 complaints originating from them. Zip codes for Patchogue, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington D.C.; and Arlington, Virginia each had 7 complaints originating from them. By volume of complaints by state, New York led with 497, with California second with 467, Pennsylvania third with 303, Florida fourth with 288 and Ohio fifth with 219 complaints. US Territories largely occupied the bottom spots. The Northern Marianas Islands, with a population of around 50,000, had 1 complaint. The U.S. Armed Forces – Pacific had 3. North Dakota and U.S. Armed Forces – Europe had 5 complaints each. South Dakota had 7. Wyoming had 8. Puerto Rico and Alaska had 9 each. Rounding out the bottom five states by volume of complaints, Mississippi had 11.

With the possibility of a United States government federal shutdown looming on October 1, student loans may be impacted because of potential for an automatic increase in interest rates.

Gay marriage banned in three states; other ballot measures decided

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Gay marriage banned in three states; other ballot measures decided
Author: RdBXvzh4

10 Oct

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Voters in California, Florida and Arizona voted on Tuesday to ban gay marriage, bringing about a victory for conservatives on a day which did not bring many conservative wins.

Meanwhile, voters in Colorado, South Dakota and California voted on measures which would have restricted abortion in those states. In Massachusetts and Michigan, voters passed measures that loosen marijuana laws. Finally, in the state of Washington a measure was passed that allows physician-assisted suicide.

The California ballot measure, Proposition 8, overturns the recent June ruling by the California State Supreme Court in the case In re Marriage Cases which reversed a 1977 statute passed by the California State Legislature and a 2000 ballot measure, Proposition 22, which also banned same-sex marriage by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The wording of Proposition 8 is identical to Proposition 22. It was noted that many of the African-Americans and Latinos who cast their votes for Obama, also voted for the measure. The measure passed at 52% to 48%.

Lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres noted, “This morning, when it was clear that Proposition 8 had passed in California, I can’t explain the feeling I had. I was saddened beyond belief. Here we just had a giant step toward equality and then on the very next day, we took a giant step away.”

Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen.

Singer Melissa Etheridge, who is also a lesbian, stated that she would no longer pay taxes due to the passing of Proposition 8, announcing in a blog post, “Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen.”

Also in California, voters rejected a measure which would require parental notification for a minor to receive an abortion. The measure was rejected with the same percentage as Proposition 8, 52% to 48%. Meanwhile in Colorado, voters rejected a measure that would define life as beginning at conception. While the measure did not specifically mention abortion it would have required legislators and courts to confront legal rights for fetuses – effectively preventing abortion. The measure was defeated in a wide margin, 73% to 27%

In South Dakota, voters also defeated an anti-abortion measure which would have outlawed abortion in all cases except in the case of rape, incest or if the mother’s health was in serious question. If passed, the law would most likely have been challenged as unconstitutional.

In Michigan, voters approved a measure which legalizes medical marijuana. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, voters approved a ballot question that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana in which the possession of an ounce or less would be punishable by a $100 fine. The measure will also require minors under the age 18 to participate in and complete a drug awareness program and do community service. Failure to do so, would net the minor a $1,000 fine.

“Tonight’s results represent a sea change. Voters have spectacularly rejected eight years of the most intense government war on marijuana since the days of ‘Reefer Madness,'” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “The people were ahead of the politicians on this issue; they recognize and want a more sensible approach to our marijuana policy,” said Whitney Taylor, the chair of Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, which backed the Massachusetts proposition.

Also, in Massachusetts, voters overwhelmingly, in every single Massachusetts city and town, rejected a ballot measure which would have eliminated the state income tax by 2010, the ballot measure was sponsored by the Committee for Small Government, which is headed up by two libertarians, Michael Cloud, a Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2002 and Carla Howell, Libertarian Party candidate for governor in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election.

The last time the income tax elimination measure was on the ballot was in 2002, where it was defeated, narrowly by 45.3%. This stunned supporters of the income tax, who mounted a fierce campaign against the measure this time warning Massachusetts residents that repealing the income tax would have drastic effects on the state’s finances, leading to cuts in services, education and local aid.

Finally, voters passed a question which bans dog racing in Massachusetts, which will lead to the closure of Massachusetts’ two greyhound racing tracks, Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park.

The campaign against dog racing was headed up by the Committee to Protect Dogs and endorsed by GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals along with other animal protection organizations who claimed that dog racing was inhumane as the dogs were stuffed into cramped cages and endured injuries. The measure was opposed by the park owners including George Carney who owns the Rayham-Taunton park and Charles Sarkis, a restaurateur who owns Wonderland.

“We did it. We did it for the dogs,” said Carey Thiel, executive director of GREY2K USA. “For 75 years, greyhounds in our state have endured terrible confinement and suffered serious injuries. We’re better than that,” Thiel added.

One campaign supporter, Sandy Bigelow noted, “It means everything. We’ve worked so hard for the dogs and they heard us. It feels so good. Oh, God, it feels so good.”

George Carney said of the results, “It’s not a very pleasant thing right now. Some of these people have been here 40 years. Here’s a company that did nothing wrong, paid their federal taxes on time, paid the town on time. The town is going to be a severe loser, and a lot of people here dedicated their life to the company.”

We did it. We did it for the dogs.

Both sides used emotionally-charged advertisements, the anti-racing side showing “sad-eyed greyhounds,” while the pro-racing side highlighted the workers who would be out of work when the tracks close.

Both measures must now come before the Massachusetts Governor’s Council for approval.

A ballot initiative approved by voters in the north-western state of Washington will make it the second state to permit physician-assisted suicide. Initiative 1000 follows the ten-year-old example of the Death With Dignity Act of neighboring Oregon, and will allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for a terminally ill patient to administer themselves. It was approved by a margin of 16%, and the ‘Yes’ campaign outspent the ‘No’ campaign by more than three-to-one. The law comes into effect in 2009.

Experts: obesity is a bigger threat than AIDS or bird flu

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Experts: obesity is a bigger threat than AIDS or bird flu
Author: RdBXvzh4

4 Oct

Friday, September 8, 2006

From September 3 to 8, experts gathered at the 10th International Congress on Obesity in Sydney, Australia, to discuss what they call the worldwide “obesity epidemic”. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 billion people in the world today are overweight, and 300 million of those are obese. “Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer“, a WHO fact sheet states. According to AP, experts at the conference “have warned that obesity is a bigger threat than AIDS or bird flu, and will easily overwhelm the world’s health care systems if urgent action is not taken”.

Of particular concern is the large number of overweight children. Dr. Stephan Rossner from Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital, a leading obesity expert who was present at the conference, has warned that as a result of the increasing number of overweight children, “we will have, within a decade or two, a number of young people who are on kidney dialysis. There will not be organs for everybody”. UK-based International Obesity Task Force has said that junk food manufacturers target children, for example, through Internet advertising, chat rooms, text messages, and “advergames” on websites. Politicians are not doing enough to address the problem of obesity, including childhood obesity, the experts said.

According to Wikipedia, examples of junk food include, but are not limited to: hamburgers, pizza, candy, soda, and salty foods like potato chips and french fries. A well-known piece of junk food is the Big Mac. The US version of just one Big Mac burger contains 48% of calories from fat, 47% US Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of fat, 52% RDA of saturated fat, 26% RDA of cholesterol, 42% RDA of sodium, and little nutritional value. It also has 18% of calories from protein. According to WHO, most people need only about 5% calories from protein. Staples such as rice, corn, baked potatoes, pinto beans, as well as fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, oranges, and strawberries, provide more than this required amount of protein without the unhealthy amounts of fats or sodium, without cholesterol, and with plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Both WHO and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define overweight in adults as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or above, and obese as a BMI of 30 or above. To combat overweight and obesity, WHO recommends that, among other things, people should be taking the following steps

  • eating more fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains;
  • engaging in daily moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes;
  • cutting the amount of fatty, sugary foods in the diet;
  • moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated vegetable-oil based fats.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns as head of IMF

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns as head of IMF
Author: RdBXvzh4

30 Sep

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as the head of the International Monetary Fund after he was arrested and charged with sexually attacking a chambermaid at a hotel in New York. In a statement to the executive board of the IMF, he said he was resigning from his position “with immediate effect” to “devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence.” Officials at the IMF said they would soon be releasing information about his successor.

In the statement to the board, he said it was “with infinite sadness” that he had to resign, and paid tribute to the IMF. “To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me,” he said.

The politician is currently being held at the notorious Rikers Island, where he has been put on suicide watch, after a judge at a court in Manhattan denied him bail for fears he was a flight risk after he reportedly tried to flee the country on a passenger jet. In court earlier this week, where Strauss-Kahn appeared tired, he denied the charges against him and offered $1,000,000 bail, but the judge refused.

Prosecutors allege Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted a chambermaid at a luxury hotel near Times Square. “The maid described being forcibly attacked, locked in the room and sexually assaulted,” a spokesperson for the New York Police Department said.

Detectives said the politician was detained in the first class cabin of the Air France passenger plane which was minutes from leaving for Paris. Strauss-Kahn had reportedly fled the hotel “in a hurry” after the attack, leaving a number of personal effects behind. He was charged with committing a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.

Investigators have this week continued to search the hotel room where the alleged attack took place, removing a piece of carpet in the suite which they hope will prove the allegation by the chambermaid that he forced her to have oral sex. Benjamin Brafman, the lawyer defending Strauss-Kahn, said forensic evidence found in the room at the Sofitel New York hotel “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter”.

Strauss-Kahn is to make another court appearance to plead for bail again this morning, Brafman said; the defence is reportedly considering telling the judge he will surrender his passport, wear an electronic tag, and remain under strict living conditions.

The IMF has said it will soon release information about Strauss-Kahn’s successor; John Lipsky, the deputy head, has been acting as head since the arrest at the weekend. The incident comes at a critical time for the IMF as it tries to the financial states of struggling eurozone countries. Strauss-Kahn was meant to discuss the bailouts of Greece and Portugal with European Union financial officials at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week.

Before his arrest he was expected to announce his candicacy in the race for the French presidency, and analysts suggested he posed a real threat to Nicolas Sarkozy, but the charges will likely put and end to the hopes of his supporters.