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September 30, 2005

UN health expert warns Bird Flu could kill 150 million

UN health expert warns Bird Flu could kill 150 million

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Friday, September 30, 2005

A United Nations health expert who is co-ordinating the response to the recent south-east Asian bird flu outbreak, has warned that the disease could kill ‘up to 150 million’ people in the near future.

Dr David Nabarro told the BBC that a new outbreak of bird flu was possible, with migratory birds carrying the disease to Africa or the Middle East where the human death toll “could be anything between 5m and 150m”.

“The consequences in terms of human life when the pandemic does start are going to be extraordinary and very damaging.”

Bird flu — also known as avian influenza — is a type of influenza virulent in birds. It was first identified in Italy in the early 1900s and is now known to exist worldwide. It was not known to affect humans until the first recorded case in Hong Kong in 1997.

Bird flu has spread rapidly through poultry and wild birds in Asia since 2003, killing huge numbers of birds and more than 60 humans.

“It’s like a combination of global warming and HIV/Aids 10 times faster than it’s running at the moment,” Dr Nabarro said.

In contrast to the shock-factor of Dr Nabarro’s comments, the U.N. has distanced themselves from his remarks. The World Health Organization’s official estimate for the death toll in the event of a mutation of the H5N1 virus is between 2 and 7.4 million. WHO influenza spokesman, Dick Thompson, implied that Dr Nabarro would be taken to task over his remarks, stating, “I don’t think you will hear Dr Nabarro say the same sort of thing again.”

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Belgium indicts former Chad dictator accused of humanitarian crimes

Belgium indicts former Chad dictator accused of humanitarian crimes

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Friday, September 30, 2005 Human Rights groups have welcomed the indictment in Belgium of Hissène Habré, former dictator of Chad. Habré, described by the organisation Human Rights Watch as “the African Pinochet”, ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990. He now stands accused of “crimes against humanity” over a series of abuses allegedly committed during his tenure.

A 1992 “Truth Commission” in Chad heard evidence of systematic torture by Habré’s government, and accused the regime of more than 40,000 killings. But the government of Chad, which until very recently, according to Human Rights Watch, included many of Habré’s former associates, has never made any attempt to prosecute him.

Habré, who currently lives in Senegal, was arrested by the authorities there in 2000, charged with torture and crimes against humanity. But the following year the Senegalese high court ruled that Habré could not be prosecuted for crimes committed in another country.

Every state has the right under international law, to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, wherever those crimes were committed.

In practice, Belgium is one of the few countries in the world to have enacted legislation enabling their domestic courts to exercise this right.

In June 2001, four Rwandans were convicted by a Belgian court, under the country’s “universal jurisdiction” law, of participating in the 1994 genocide (recently portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda”).

Belgium recently amended the law to reduce its scope, after a series of highly-controversial attempts to bring cases against serving world leaders, including the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But a number of cases that had already begun were allowed to continue, including the case against Habré.

The government of Senegal recently detained Habré to prevent him from fleeing, following pressure from the United Nations. Belgium has now issued an extradition request.

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September 29, 2005

US military to buy anthrax and bioweapons production systems

US military to buy anthrax and bioweapons production systems

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Anthrax Bacteria

The US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah is looking for a subcontractor to produce the anthrax bacillus anthracis Sterne strain in 1,500 litre quantities. The Sterne strain is not thought to be harmful to humans, but the intended use of the anthrax remains unclear, worrying anti-biological weapons activists. Other recent Dugway contracts for equipment to produce unspecified biolgical agents in 3,000 litre batches are even more concerning to activists.

The contracts were uncovered by The Sunshine Project, a group opposed to biological weapons development based in Germany. The work involved seems to cast doubts on the ability of the US to live up to its commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention. The post 9/11 anthrax attack upon the U.S. used weaponized U.S. Army anthrax [1] [2], most likely produced at Fort Detrick.

A Dugway spokesperson declined to specify what the biological agents would be used for.

Related News

  • “9/11 Anthrax investigation quietly loses urgency” — Wikinews, September 28, 2005

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US Treasury Department unveils new ten-dollar bill

Filed under: Archived,Crime and law,Economy and business,United States — admin @ 5:00 am

US Treasury Department unveils new ten-dollar bill

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

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A new redesigned $10 bill was introduced at a ceremony yesterday on Ellis Island. The new bill adds three new background colors; red, yellow and orange. It continues to feature Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary. The $10 bill is the third US bill to switch from the traditional green. The $20 and $50 bills were redesigned to feature color within the past two years.

The improvements in digital technology have made it much easier for counterfeiters. “Ten years ago, 1 percent of (counterfeit) bills were produced on digital equipment. These days, 56 percent are produced on digital equipment, and the technology is more accessible to the general population,” said Eric Zahren, spokesman for the Secret Service.

According to The Treasury Department, to be able to keep ahead of counterfeiters currency will need to continue to be updated every seven to ten years. The $10 bill was last redesigned in 2000. “The intention was not to create a counterfeit-proof note—which is basically impossible—but one that’s harder to duplicate and easier to authenticate,” said Zahren. This new bill includes many new and enhanced security features such as color-shifting ink, a watermark, microprinting and a security thread

Dawn Haley of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said in a statement “The new $10 note design continues the U.S. Government’s efforts to make our currency safer, smarter, and more secure.” The new $10 bill is expected to go into circulation in early 2006.

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Demosphere.net launches new Wiki

Filed under: Archived,Canada,Internet,Original reporting — admin @ 5:00 am

Demosphere.net launches new Wiki – Wikinews, the free news source

Demosphere.net launches new Wiki

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Demosphere.net, an underground political forum, has started a new wiki[1] on Tuesday to be used for the design of their socio-political voting software, which is currently under development. Using the wiki, the public can collaborate with project members to resolve issues inherent in such a complex system. A Beta version which will let students debate, discuss and vote on issues that affect their community, should be available on college and university campuses for the start of the Fall 2006 Semester.

The wiki uses the MediaWiki platform, and contribution is not limited in any way. The wiki was set up by Jordan Schroder, Project Director and CEO of Democratic Development Solutions[2], a student driven Canadian startup. “Despite the youth of our new wiki, I think students and professionals interested in the project, will find it a great way to have an impact on the software we’re developing…”, Schroder said in an interview. “Wiki technology is incredibly powerful and is exactly the kind of filter the Internet, as a medium, needs to play a more concrete role in long-term global democracy.” He went on to say that he would personally “love to see wiki technology incorporated into the design of our voting software.”

Although he couldn’t say for certain how it might be used in the media-community framework of the future software, he stressed that, “in adopting this technology during our formative and foundation stages, we can hopefully attract individuals with an idea of how it might be best used in the finished product, and who are interested in leadership positions within the project.”

The demosphere.net discussion forums[3], with 45 registered users and over 1100 posts (many of a political nature), are more active than the wiki. While only a few days old, the wiki had, as of September 27th, only two registered users, according to the site stats [4].

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MTV, Warner Music agree on licensing deal

MTV, Warner Music agree on licensing deal

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

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Warner Music agreed on Tuesday to license its music videos to MTV for use on devices such as cell phones and other devices. This deal is said to help the recording industry to gain more revenue, despite declining CD sales. The cost of the deal was not disclosed.

MTV plans to distribute these music videos as short segments and, in the future, offer full-length videos as part of a subscription. In addition, MTV wishes to use these videos in programs similar to VH1’s Driven. Pricing is not available yet.

Warner Music is the first label to license music to MTV for the purpose of offering them on wireless devices. MTV plans to get licenses from other music labels.

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John Roberts sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States

John Roberts sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

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John G. Roberts Jr. was sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States on Thursday, September 29, 2005, hours after being confirmed by the United States Senate by a 78-22 vote. The oath of office was administered by Justice John Paul Stevens, who has served as acting chief justice since the death of William Rehnquist.

President George Bush commented “The Senate has confirmed a man with an astute mind and kind heart. All Americans can be confident that the 17th chief justice of the United States will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence and above all a faithful guardian of the Constitution.”

Roberts gained support from all Republicans and half the Democrats in the Senate.

Now President Bush can turn his attention to the next nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, the position Roberts was slated originally to fill. Many experts say this nomination will be a much more contentious once compared to Robert’s. O’Connor tended to be the key vote when it came to Woman’s Rights, Affirmative Action and abortion.

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Colorado parents burn books

Filed under: Archived,Colorado,Education,United States — admin @ 5:00 am

Colorado parents burn books – Wikinews, the free news source

Colorado parents burn books

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Norwood, Colorado parents recently burned copies of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima after having them pulled from the area high school’s curriculum. Millie Davis, of the National Council of Teachers of English, said “I’m flabbergasted that something like this would be happening in this day and age”. The Hispanic coming-of-age story is commonly included as part of high school curriculums, and won the Premio Quinto Sol national Chicano literary award. The novel explores some minority religious views such as paganism.

The Colorado parents who burned the copies claim they “mainly” object to some profanity in the novel. Rudolfo Anaya, a professor emeritus of English at the University of New Mexico, said “The book should be judged in its entirety. There is some strong language in strong situations, but there is no flippant use of profanity.”

“Bless Me, Ultima” has survived a challenge in New York without being banned, or indeed, burned. It came in 75th on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. By comparison, the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh positions are occupied by Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, respectively.

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Arctic ice cap shrank sharply this summer

Arctic ice cap shrank sharply this summer

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Arctic Ice Cap, which floats on the Arctic Ocean, shrank this summer to what experts believe to be its smallest size in a century. Experts in climate modeling feel this is most likely a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions and will profoundly transform the Arctic later this century.

Dr. Ted Scambos and Dr. Mark Serreze, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado said the change is becoming self-sustaining due to positive feedback effects. Dr. Serreze, said “With all that dark open water, you start to see an increase in Arctic Ocean heat storage. Come autumn and winter that makes it a lot harder to grow ice, and the next spring you’re left with less and thinner ice. And it’s easier to lose even more the next year.”

Dr. Scambos said “The consecutive record-low extents make it pretty certain a long-term decline is underway.”

The Little Ice Age ended a century ago.

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September 28, 2005

U.S. house majority leader DeLay indicted, steps down temporarily

U.S. house majority leader DeLay indicted, steps down temporarily

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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Tom DeLay
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U.S. House of Representatives majority leader Tom DeLay was today indicted in Austin, Texas by a Travis County grand jury on conspiracy charges. DeLay announced that he will step down temporarily from his leadership position.

DeLay has publicly countered that the charges are partisan and thus politically motivated. The charges originate from the District Attorney of Travis County, Ronnie Earle, a Democrat who has prosecuted Democrat and Republican office holders, including U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. [1]

Mr. DeLay’s attorney Steve Brittain said that DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme along with two associates, namely John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, the head of DeLay’s national political committee.

Attorneys for Colyandro and Ellis have filed to have the proceedings moved out of Travis County in order to obtain a fair trial. [2] Travis County, located in central Texas, contains the state capital of Austin and is politically known as a liberal county within a conservative state, as indicated by the most recent presidential elections.

According to the indictment, “the defendants herein, with the intent that a felony be committed, did enter into an agreement with one or more of each other with a general purpose committee known as Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (political action committee) that one or more of them would engage in conduct that would constitute the offense of knowingly making a political contribution in violation of Subchapter D of Chapter 253 of the Texas Election Code…” The indictment does not include specific charges of how DeLay was involved in the conspiracy. Mr. DeLay waived a three-year restriction for the indictment.

Mr. DeLay, upon announcement of the indictment, made a solitary public comment: “I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today.”

Earlier, DeLay denied all charges in the lengthy investigation. Bill White, another of DeLay’s attorneys, said “it’s a skunky indictment if they have one.” DeLay’s spokesman, Kevin Madden, called the indictment “nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat,” referring to prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

According to House Republican party rules, DeLay must resign upon indictment. Party officials told the Associated Press that Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert R-Illinois, will likely recommend Republican David Dreier of California as replacement, while some duties may also go to Majority whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.

DeLay has previously been admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee. In their October 6, 2004 letter to him, the members wrote in part concluding, “…it is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions to assure that you are in full compliance at all times with the applicable House Rules and standards of conduct. We remind you that the House Code of Official Conduct provides the Committee with authority “to deal with any given act or accumulation of acts which, in the judgment of the committee, are severe enough to reflect discredit on the Congress.” [3]

House Republicans earlier eliminated the rule requiring his resignation upon indictment, but reinstated it fearing voters’ outcry.

DeLay’s Political Action Committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, was earlier indicted on charges it accepted corporate contributions mostly from the credit card industry .[4] for use in state legislative elections. Texas law prohibits corporate money from being used in elections, permitting it only for administrative expenses.

Having gained GOP control of Texas’s legislature, DeLay masterminded a redistricting plan in 2004 that allowed the GOP to gain six seats in the U.S. House, formerly won by Democrats, and build a majority in Congress. In one case, one lawmaker switched parties, to maintain office.

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