Apr 1
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BellSouth denies phone records were handed over to the NSA

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BellSouth, said in a statement yesterday that the telecommunications company did not hand over customer call records to the National Security Agency or NSA. On May 11, 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA collected millions of call logs from telecommunications companies in 2001 under a contract the NSA claims to have had with the company.

BellSouth said that they conducted a “internal review” and that the review “confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA,” said Jeff Battcher, spokesman for BellSouth.

“We do not believe that any final review will turn up anything different from what we have currently found. There is no link between the NSA and BellSouth that we can find in what we feel is a very exhaustive review. We wouldn’t have made this bold statement if we weren’t confident about this,” added Battcher.

AT&T and Verizon Communications were also said to have handed over customer call logs, but Verizon said on Friday that they don’t “and will not, provide any government agency unfettered access to our customer records or provide information to the government under circumstances that would allow a fishing expedition.”

On Monday, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications asked for help from the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, to investigate whether Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth violated privacy rights under communication laws and regulations.

Apr 1
Blair ally Lord Levy arrested
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Blair ally Lord Levy arrested

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Police have arrested Lord Levy, chief fundraiser to the Labour Party and close associate of Tony Blair. Lord Levy was arrested by the Specialist Crime Directorate of London’s Metropolitan police as part of an on-going investigation into the cash-for-peerages row which has troubled the Labour government since the start of the year. He was bailed on Wednesday afternoon without charge pending further enquiries.

In a statement, Lord Levy said the arrest was “totally unnecessary”. A spokesman also said: “He has not been charged and does not expect to be, as he has committed no offence.”

The cash-for-peerages affair erupted earlier this year, after an independent body reported that Tony Blair had sold peerages (the title of Lord) to businessmen in exchange for secret donations to the Labour Party. This potentially breaks the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act of 1925 which was originally introduced after Prime Minister Lloyd George was caught selling peerages for personal funds.

The ruling Labour Party admitted soon after that it had borrowed over £14 million before the last general election in 2005. The opposition Conservative Party also admitted it had been loaned £16 million by wealthy businessmen. It’s believed that as chief fundraiser, Lord Levy arranged the Labour Party’s loans.

All political parties deny any wrong-doing, although the arrest of one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies is going to provide yet more scandal for the already troubled party.

Downing Street has so far declined to comment on what they call a “party matter” and Levy himself has accused the police of “over-reacting”. Some politicians have commented that the situation could be very serious for Mr. Blair.

Apr 1
Canada’s Don Valley East (Ward 33) city council candidates speak
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Canada’s Don Valley East (Ward 33) city council candidates speak
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley East (Ward 33). One candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Zane Caplan, Shelley Carroll (incumbent), Jim Conlon, Sarah Tsang-Fahey, and Anderson Tung.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

Mar 30
ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech
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ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech

Saturday, February 28, 2009

On Tuesday, the non-profit organization the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a video and press release commemorating 40 years since the landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision involving freedom of speech in the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Tinker case was decided on February 24, 1969. The case involved students in Iowa who chose to wear black armbands with peace symbols in protest of the Vietnam War – in violation of a recent school board policy. In their statement, the ACLU compared issues of freedom of speech in the Tinker case to a more recent case, Gillman v. Holmes County School District, where a school district in Florida forbade students from wearing rainbow symbols in school in support of LGBT rights.

In the Tinker case, John and Mary Beth Tinker and another student decided to wear black armbands with peace symbols to school in protest of the Vietnam War. The school district heard of the students’ plans and decided to ban armbands in school. The three students case were represented by the ACLU of Iowa, and in a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled for the plaintiffs.

It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.

Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the Opinion of the Court: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.”

The Gillman case began in September 2007 when according to students at Ponce de Leon High School in Florida, school officials responded improperly to complaints from a lesbian student that she was being harassed by other students. The ACLU contacted the school district on behalf of junior Heather Gillman, inquiring what form of symbols or slogans relating to LGBT rights would be allowed.

The school district responded saying it would not allow any expression of the sort, because it would “likely be disruptive”, and said the wearing of these types of symbols by students could signify they were part of a “secret/illegal organization”.

The video released by the ACLU includes clips of a deposition given by David Davis, the principal of Ponce de Leon High School in Florida. Davis testified he decided to ban students from wearing rainbow symbols in school because the rainbow is a symbol of “gay pride”, and he said it “could hinder the educational process”. He also testified that these symbols would immediately cause students viewing them to think of homosexual sex. Heather Gillman commented in the ACLU video “It was kind of scary, kinda, because I didn’t know what people would think, but then I figured ‘Who cares what people think, I’m standing up for something I believe in.'”

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On May 13, 2008, a federal judge decided in favor of the plaintiff, and permanently enjoined the school district from infringing upon the First Amendment rights of the students. Matt Coles, director of the ACLU’s national LGBT Project, stated “Schools need to know censorship is illegal, and students need to know their schools can’t get away with it.”

I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends.

In reflecting on the use of the Tinker precedent in the Gillman case, the ACLU cited three instances in which schools “were made to stop illegally censoring students thanks to Tinker v. Des Moines.” These include a 2006 incident where a student in Ohio was instructed by school administrators to remove a t-shirt which read “I support gay marriage”, and a 2007 incident where a teacher and an assistant principal at a school in Virginia told a student she could not wear a t-shirt with overlapping female gender symbols. In both cases the ACLU represented the students and school officials backed down and apologized for their actions.

In a blog post Tuesday by Mary Beth Tinker at Daily Kos, Tinker reflected on the similarities between her case before the Supreme Court of the United States and the more recent federal case of Heather Gillman. “I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends,” wrote Tinker. She encouraged young people to speak out about issues of concern to them and to freely express their thoughts and views. Tinker is currently a nurse in Washington, D.C., and travels the United States speaking to students about their First Amendment rights.

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Mar 30
Canadian Prime Minister Harper plays small role in television show Corner Gas
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Canadian Prime Minister Harper plays small role in television show Corner Gas

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was filming a cameo appearance on the popular sitcom Corner Gas. Corner Gas is filmed about 40 km south of Regina in the tiny farming community of Rouleau.

Harper was filmed in a scene where he was surrounded by a large group of actors playing reporters and photographers. After completing the scene, he got back into his car and a motorcade left the town, which is called Dog River on the show.

“We can’t say much about cameo appearances, because they’re supposed to be a surprise for the viewers, but yes, there was press scrum,” Corner Gas executive producer Virginia Thompson said. “That’s all I can reveal.” “It works well for the show, actually … We were told by the Prime Minister’s Office that he had a sense of humour, but we thought we would wait and see and sure enough, yeah, he delivered.”

When Paul Martin was the leader of the government, he had a cameo on the show last season. Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert has also made an appearance on the show last season.

“The prime minister was not paid for his appearance and had other reasons for coming to Saskatchewan beyond being part of the show”, said Thompson.

Reporters were kept back and not allowed to see how he performed in front of the cameras.

Harper waved goodbye to small town of Rouleau while travelling down Highway 39 away from the set after spending about 1 1/2 hours there. After, Harper planned to meet with members of his Saskatchewan caucus at a barbeque at Sherwood Forest Country Club Tuesday night. Harper is scheduled to tour the RCMP training academy in Regina today.

The episode featuring Harper will air sometime next spring.

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Mar 30
Spelbound declared winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010
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Spelbound declared winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

An acrobatic group known by the name of Spelbound has been declared as the winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010, a televised variety talent show competition broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdom. As the winning act of the show, Spelbound have won £100,000 (US$144,580, €120,313, A$175,079) and a place at The Royal Variety Performance, an annual gala evening that is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family.

In no particular order, the top three acts were revealed to be two dancers known by their stage name of Twist and Pulse, gymnastic group Spelbound and Kieran Gaffney, whose act involves playing on the drum kit. After Kieran Gaffney was revealed to be in third place, Anthony McPartlin, who hosts Britain’s Got Talent with Declan Donnelly, said to Kieran: “Well done Kieran. Kieran, you’re a star, you came back, you got all the way to the final. I know you’ve loved this. You’ve loved this, haven’t you?” In response to this, Kieran Gaffney stated: “Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone for supporting me. Thank you.”

Shortly afterwards, on the episode that was broadcast live on ITV1 on Saturday, Anthony announced: “After tens of thousands of auditons, five semi-finals and an amazing final, this…this is it. One of you is about to walk away with £100,000 and a place at this year’s Royal Variety Performance. The winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010 is…Spelbound!” Glen Murphy from Twist and Pulse commented about finishing in second place, stating: “Yeah, it’s amazing. I can’t even believe it. I can’t believe it at all.”

Alex Uttley, a 24-year-old member of Spelbound, commented on the gymnastic group’s victory, commenting: “Oh, my god. This is unbelieveable. We just want to say thank you to everyone out there. It just shows that all our hard work has paid off.” One of the coaches of Spelbound, named Neil Griffiths, stated about Spelbound: “Oh, they’ve worked so hard over the last few weeks. Um, since the semi-final, we…we really had to pull out the stops to try and up the game. They’ve not known they’ve worked in the gym from six in the morning till twelve…twelve o’clock of the night. I couldn’t have asked for more. Um, it’s a team of coaches. I don’t take all the credit myself. There’s, uh, two people up there that know who they are who’ve been fantastic.”

Spelbound consists of 24-year-old Alex Uttley, Nicholas Illingworth, aged 24, Adam Buckingham, aged 21, 20-year-old Adam McAssey, 19-year-old Douglas Fordyce, 18-year-old Edward Upcott, 18-year-old Leighanne Cowler, 17-year-old Katie Axten, 17-year-old Lauren Kemp, 15-year-old Jonathan Stranks, Abigail Ralph, aged 15, 13-year-old Hollianne Wood and Amy Mackenzie, aged 12. Bookmakers had previously predicted that Spelbound would be the most likely act to become the winner of the series.

The running order for the final started with Twist and Pulse. The second act to perform was Liam McNally, a 14-year-old singer. The running order subsequently continued with 40-year-old impressionist Paul Burling, singer Christopher Stone, aged 28, Tina & Chandi, a woman and dog dancing act, Connected, a five-piece singing group, Kieran Gaffney, aged 12, 22-year-old Tobias Mead, a dancer, 80-year-old singer Janey Cutler and Spelbound in that particular order.

Earlier on in the final, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has stated to Spelbound: “We are hosting the 2012 Olympics and I think ‘what a brilliant opening act’.” Fellow judge Piers Morgan also commented that “[t]he purpose of this show is to identify hidden great British talent. You are that act.” After Spelbound won in the final, another judge, named Simon Cowell, stated that “the right boys and girls won on the night” and that he could “only say on live TV that that was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. Seriously.”

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Mar 29
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Mar 27
Oil spill hits Australia’s Sunshine coastline
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Oil spill hits Australia’s Sunshine coastline

Sunday, March 15, 2009

200,000 litres of oil leaked into waters off the coast of Brisbane from the Pacific Adventurer when their fuel tanks were damaged in rough seas on Wednesday. The figure is about ten times higher than the original estimate of twenty thousand litres of oil. The devastating diesel oil spill has spread along 60 kilometres (37 miles) of the Queensland coast. In addition, 31 containers with 620 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser flew overboard during the violent storm.

Questions are being asked why the Hong Kong cargo ship was out in seas with nine meter waves caused by Cyclone Hamish, a Category 5 tropical cyclone, as well as why the fertiliser containers were not properly secured. One of the overboard containers ruptured the hull of the Pacific Adventurer, causing between 30 to 100 tonnes of oil to spew from the severely damaged ship.

If the ammonium nitrate mixes with the heavy oil, an explosion could occur. None of the containers have been recovered. Some of these may float, but it is believed that they may have sunk which then may cause algal blooms.

Disaster zones have been declared at Bribie and Moreton Islands, and along the Sunshine coast.

The vessel’s owner, Swire Shipping, reported that a second leak began on Friday, when the ship began listing after docking at Hamilton for repairs. “As full soundings of the vessel’s tanks were being taken at the port to determine how much oil had leaked from the vessel, a small quantity of fuel oil escaped from the Pacific Adventurer,” it stated. The ship was brought upright, and a recovery vessel was used to suck up the oil from the water. The leak produced a 500m-long oil slick down the Brisbane River. Booms were placed around this oil spill so that a skimmer could clean up the second spill.

Swire Shipping could face clean up costs of AU$100,000 a day as well as fines up to AU$1.5million (US$977,000; £703,000) if found guilty of environmental breaches or negligence.

Sunshine Coast beaches are slowly starting to be reopened. The beach of Mooloolaba was still closed following reports of burning sensations from swimmers. 12 beaches remain closed; however, 13 have been reopened.

Over 300 state government and council workers are using buckets, rakes and spades in the clean up effort. Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbott says the majority will be gone by Sunday afternoon. The full environmental impact on wildlife is not yet known. One turtle and seven pelicans have been found covered in oil.

There are concerns that the drinking water of Moreton Island is at risk, as the island uses water from the underground water table near the oil spill site.

“Every bucketload of contaminated sand has to be removed from the island by barge, and each bucketload from a front-end loader weighs about one tonne. It’s just an impossible task,” said Mr Trevor Hassard of the Tangalooma Dolphin Education Centre.

The commercial fishing industry has suffered from the incident. Trawlers won’t resume operations until Sunday evening, and any catches will be tested for human consumption.

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Mar 26
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Mar 25
Oil price jumps as Rita heads to refineries
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Oil price jumps as Rita heads to refineries

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oil, natural gas, and gasoline futures prices are all rising in anticipation of the Hurricane Rita landfall on Friday. The market price for crude oil is rising about 1% a day, while gasoline futures rose 5% both Wednesday and Thursday. Natural gas prices are also rising, with NYMEX Henry Hub price index showing an increase of over 3.5% on Thursday. Oil refineries in the path of the storm, despite the pressure exerted by rising oil prices, are expected to increase their prices which in turn will be reflected at the pump.

The price for crude oil is expected to reach US$68 a barrel after reaching the all-time high in the U.S. at $70.85 on Aug 30, in fear of the landing of Rita along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Along the Texas gulf coastline, whose key U.S. oil production facilities were largely untouched by the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina onslaught three weeks ago, production and distribution facilities have been battened down.

Rita was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Friday as it neared the coast. The storm, packing sustained winds of 125 mph, appears headed for the border between Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane force winds extend up to 60 miles from the center, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm, currently, is the third-most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, just behind Gilbert in 1988 and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

Regions of Texas near where the storm is expected to land is home to the biggest concentration of U.S. oil refineries, accounting for 26 percent of the nation’s total capacity. After Katrina made its landfall in Louisiana last month, four damaged refineries in Mississippi and Louisiana were shut down, crippling 5 percent of the US capacity. Eighteen of the 26 refineries in Texas are located on the Gulf of Mexico with a combined distillation capacity of 4 million barrels daily.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Texas coastline, including Galveston, where the nation’s largest oil refinery belonging to Exxon Mobil Corp. is located.

“Some of those refineries in Texas, they’re at sea level. It’s a table top, it floods very easily, said Ed Silliere, vice president of risk management at Energy Merchant LLC in New York.

Plants have shut down as Rita advances. Shell Oil shut down its seventh-largest refinery in Deer Park, Texas. There is no date set for resuming production. Conoco Philips is shutting its Old Ocean, Texas, refinery. BP is pulling some workers from its Texas refinery and shutting parts of the fourth largest plants in US. Valero, the largest U.S. refiner, said it is closing its plants in Texas City and Houston, with the shutdown to be completed by midday Thursday.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed at its meeting in Vienna on Tuesday to effectively suspend its quota system for the first time since 1991 Gulf War to relieve the rising oil price by pumping an estimated additional 2 million barrels of oil a day, which will begin at Oct 1 and last for 3 months.

The head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (the statistical and analytical wing of the U.S. Department of Energy), Guy Caruso, criticized OPEC for constraining production to keep prices high after the 11-member oil cartel pledged to make available the additional 2 million barrels daily.

“Without question,” Caruso said Wednesday when asked during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing whether OPEC has contributed to soaring oil prices, “OPEC policy has been to constrain production and collude… Under the FTC definition of collusion and price-fixing, yes.”

According to OPEC, 62 percent in U.K., and 24 percent of fuel prices in the U.S. consist of taxes. Consuming nations have a responsibility to invest in refineries and to lower taxes if they want lower fuel prices, OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah said. He is the oil minister of Kuwait.

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