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February 28, 2006

Venezuela\’s government to restrict flights to the US

Venezuela’s government to restrict flights to the US

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The U.S. Department of State says that the Venezuelan government’s measure to restrict flights to the United States violates the agreement of 1953.

In a press release the Venezuelan Institute for Aviation (Inac) announced the decision to “reduce” starting on March 1st all operations of American airlines in Venezuela.

Later, the official Institution ordered Delta and Continental Airlines the suspension of all of its activities in Venezuelan territory. It also ordered American Airlines to reduce the frequency of its flights to and from the United States.

Venezuela argues that the American Aviation Services does not respect the terms of the agreement between both countries that allows the operations of US-based companies and vice versa.

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Two zoo bears killed after biting four-year-old boy

Two zoo bears killed after biting four-year-old boy

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Maymont Zoo in Richmond, Virginia killed two black bears for their involvement in the biting of a 4-year-old boy. The boy sustained minor injuries after reaching his hands through the fence.

Citizens expressed outrage when it was reported the bears were destroyed and their carcasses disposed of by the zoo at a city landfill. The furor caused an investigation by Mayor Wilder into the decision by the zoo. A report issued by WTVR during the Monday evening news said that a “bear monument” would be erected in memory.

When informed on Monday of the zoo’s decision to destroy the bears, the mother of the boy said she wept for the bears. The bite wounds will require the boy to under-go treatment for rabies.

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Thinktank recommends changes to Australian student fees

Filed under: Archived,Australia — admin @ 5:00 am

Thinktank recommends changes to Australian student fees

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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The Centre for Independent Studies has released a paper calling for reform of university student fees system. The paper, authored by Andrew Norton, argues that the cap on loans to full fee paying students is too low. The current cap allows for loans during a lifetime of AU$50,950.

“Setting the FEE-HELP limit at this amount biases the market against courses that are long or have high per year costs, or both,” argues Norton in the paper. “The loan cap is a crude way of controlling lending, taking no account of course costs or capacity to repay.”

According to Norton, this undermines student choice and competition. He argues that the system should function more like commercial lending.

“A truly radical reform would make student loans mimic commercial loans: students with good earning prospects could borrow large sums, other students could borrow less, and some could not borrow at all,” he said. “Instead of denying or limiting loans to people doing high cost courses, as now occurs, the government could deny loans to people who are unlikely to repay.”

The paper was criticised by Senator Kerry Nettle, Education Spokesperson for the Australian Greens. She argued that the changes would mean an increase in costs to students already struggling to pay, and called on Education Minister Julie Bishop to rule out the changes.

“To consider refusing loans to those deemed less able to repay would further cut off higher education for Australians from low socio-economic backgrounds,” she said. “Julie Bishop should use her address to the National Press Club tomorrow to rule out any moves to further deregulate the HECS system.”

“Student fees have spiralled upward under the Howard government and any further deregulation would just make a bad system worse,” she added.

Australian student fees system

The Australian government has a system of subsidising student tuition fees. This system has undergone many changes during the Howard government. There are currently three strands:

  • HECS-HELP for students receiving federal government tuition subsidies
  • FEE-HELP for full-fee students
  • OS-HELP for study overseas

The Centre for Independent Studies

On its website, The Centre for Independent Studies describes itself as “the leading independent public policy ‘think tank’ within Australasia. The CIS is actively engaged in support of a free enterprise economy and a free society under limited government where individuals can prosper and fully develop their talents. By critical recommendations to public policy and encouraging debate amongst leading academics, politicians and journalists, the CIS aims to build a better society.” It claims to be funded by “private sector donations-from individuals, companies and charitable trusts-as well as subscriptions and books sales.”

In a press release the Greens described the think-tank as “rightwing”.

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Residents and business owners attend \”private\” meeting on Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal

Residents and business owners attend “private” meeting on Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Recent Developments
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Residents, business owners and developers attended a low profile, “private” neighborhood meeting about the Elmwood Village Hotel proposal and redesign in Buffalo, New York last night. At least 50 people from the Penhurst block, the Claremont block, the Granger block and various other locations attended. A representative from Forever Elmwood was also at the meeting. Joel Golombeck, City Councilman for the Elmwood area, was also among the attendees.

The Elmwood Village Hotel is a seven million dollar proposal by Savarino Construction Services Corp. The hotel would be built on the intersection of Elmwood and Forest Aves. in Buffalo. In order for the hotel to be built, the demolition of at least five currently occupied buildings will be required.

Computer generated redesign of the Elmwood Village Hotel proposal.
Image: Savarino Companies.

Golombeck found out about the proposal just three weeks ago when Sam Savarino of Savarino Construction Services Corp. called Golombeck.

Golombeck said that he was asked, by the City of Buffalo to “approve” the proposal “tomorrow”, (February 28, 2006). When asked to do so Golombeck replied, “That is just not possible. I did not realize how fast tracked this plan was. My first question to Savarino was, did you talk to the neighborhood?”

Golombeck also stated that he would not approve or deny the proposal until a reasonable amount of time was given to the community to make a judgment on the new design.

Golombeck also stated that the City of Buffalo wanted Savarino to obtain both 605 Forest and 607 Forest for the proposal, but, according to Golombeck, Savarino “does not want to do that.” In order for the two buildings to be included in the development, Savarino will have to apply for a C-2 zoning permit. It is unknown if an attempt will be made to obtain those properties or make the zoning changes.

Wendy Pierce of Forever Elmwood stated that she had found out about the proposal only “two weeks ago from today.” She also stated that the original design “felt too massive.” Pierce also stated that she wanted to “speak more with the block clubs and residents” around the area.

Ms. pierce also stated that “other options” for parking will be looked into “if possible.”

The new design will have less retail space and now has at lease three conference rooms. Parking has been increased to a total of fifty-five spaces, both underground and above.

Rocco Termini, a Buffalo developer also attended the meeting still stating that the hotel would “destroy Elmwood’s urban streetscape.” Mr. Termini has proposed a second development that would not include a hotel, but increase retail shops to at least seven.

The City of Buffalo Planning Board is still scheduled to meet at 8:00a.m Tuesday. The Common Council is still expected to meet at 2:00p.m. on the same day.

Joel Golombeck is expected to attend both meetings.

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Former AWB chairman paid almost $1,000,000 by AusAID

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Former AWB chairman paid almost $1,000,000 by AusAID

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Australia
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Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Cole Inquiry

It has been revealed at the Cole inquiry that former Australian Wheat Board chairman Trevor Flugge was paid almost AU$1,000,000 by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to provide “agricultural assistance” to Iraq for less than one year. The Prime Minister today defended the payment, saying that Mr Flugge’s background and experience justified the sum.

The Opposition attacked the government over the issue, suggesting that the money was wasted and could have been better spent helping children.

“AusAid is now tied up in the wheat for weapons scandal, [having] spent almost $700,000 sending Trevor Flugge off to Iraq to take photos of himself with guns,” said Bob Sercombe, Labor spokesman on overseas aid and Pacific Island affairs.

“Every dollar spent on Trevor Flugge is one less dollar for spending on children in developing countries.”

During an interview today Prime Minister John Howard defended the payment of money to Mr Flugge, arguing that he had the appropriate skills.

“Well you have to look at the availability of people, you have to look at the fact that we wanted to have somebody in that position who knew a lot about the wheat industry generally, about agriculture and certainly somebody who on his track record to them was somebody who would look to the interests of the Australian wheat industry. When you know and appreciate and acknowledge the value of wheat exports to this country, having somebody with the background that Flugge had in the wheat industry able to look after Australia’s interests,” Mr Howard said.

It was also revealed at a recent Senate estimates hearing that ninety percent of Australia’s foreign aid budget goes to Australian companies. The revelation was made by an AusAID official, Dereck Rooken-Smith.

According to Tim O’Conner of AID/WATCH, the news comes as no surprise. “For ten years now the Howard government has focused on advancing business and strategic interests through the aid program,” he said.

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Da Vinci Code publisher Random House in court

Da Vinci Code publisher Random House in court

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Da Vinci Code cover (U.K.)

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who jointly wrote together with a third author, a 1982 Non-Fiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have taken The Da Vinci Code publisher Random House, to court claiming that The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail storyline has been stolen by Dan Brown.

The third author of Holy Blood and the Holy Grail Henry Lincoln, is not involved in the case.

Random House is the of publisher of both The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.

The central theme of the two books is that the bloodline from a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene survives today.

Random House has denied the claim and, Random House chief executive Gail Rebuck says in a statement that she believed the lawsuit was without merit.

“As publisher of both The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, we are genuinely saddened that two of the three authors of HBHG have chosen to bring this litigation against us…Random House takes no pleasure in defending a legal action that it believes is without merit and we are confident that we will prevail.”

If this case is successful it could threaten the film; starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen from opening.

The Da Vinci Code is a fiction book and has over 36 million copies in print worldwide. The dust jacket for the novel apparently includes longitude and latitude coordinates which lead to the CIA headquarters near Langley, Virginia.

Brown’s next book, The Solomon Key, is rumoured to be about the Yale Skull and Bones society. Notable alumni of the society include current United States President George W. Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, and Massachusettes Senator John Kerry.

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Cyclone Emma crosses West Australian coast

Cyclone Emma crosses West Australian coast

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

File:Weather-map-WA-28FEB06.jpg
Satellite image from Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology 28 February 2006

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) say ex-tropical cyclone “Emma” has weakened below tropical cyclone intensity, after crossing the coast at 11am WST near Mardie in Western Australia (WA) today. Widespread squally thunderstorms with heavy rain and flooding are expected as the system moves further south. Approximately 280 millimetres of rain was recorded at Karratha in 36 hours.

The cyclone bore down on Australia’s Pilbara region, bringing with it winds of up to 105kph. Dampier’s port was closed, some flights to the region were cancelled and communities in the storm’s path were battening down.

Cyclone Emma was west of Karratha and northeast of Onslow at 8am (WST) today, and travelling south at 23kph. The weather bureau said by the time the category one storm crosses the coast between Dampier and Onslow the worst of the weather will have passed.

“Most of the weather is travelling ahead of the system”, weather forecaster Andrew Burton said. “They’ve probably had the worst weather by now, and by the time the system crosses the coast it will all be over really.”

People near the communities of Onslow, Karratha, Dampier, Mardie, Point Sampson, Roebourne and Wickham were warned the storm could cause gales with gusts of up to 105kph. At Karratha, torrential rain has left parts of the town awash. Roebourne shire airport spokesman Alan Wright said there was flooding on the road to Karratha airport.

Six people were rescued after two cars were swept away by flood water dumped by the cyclone, oil and mining operations were shut down, Karratha, Tom Price and Pannawonica suffered localised flooding and three Pilbara schools had minor classroom and roof damage.

Western Australia

Fire and Emergency Services (FESA) issued an “all clear with caution” alert an hour after Emma crossed the coast and began breaking up as it moved inland. A spokesperson said: “With a category one cyclone you are not looking at destructive winds and in this case the rain that preceded the cyclone was the biggest issue. But residents should only proceed outside with caution as there may be downed powerlines, fallen trees, broken water and sewage lines, loose roof sheeting and debris.”

Cyclone Emma’s approach sparked a series of precautionary shutdowns of mining, oil and shipping operations. Open cut mining operations around Tom Price were shut. Guests at the Fortescue River Roadhouse, 1425km north of Perth, were stranded because of flooding.

The weather also forced Woodside Mining to cease production at two of its operations in the Pilbara region. The company said it expected no major impact from the production interruption at the North West Shelf with operations to start producing again when the weather improves.

Cyclone Emma is the third cyclone of WA’s cyclone season, which runs between November and April, with most activity in the latter half of the period. The Bureau of Meteorology say they are watching another developing tropical low that could impact WA over the weekend.

The first major tropical storm this year was category three cyclone Clare which battered Dampier and brought flooding rains to mining regions and much of the wheatbelt in early January. A week later category two cyclone Daryl threatened North West WA but moved off the coast.

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India and U.S.A. work toward nuclear fuel agreement

India and U.S.A. work toward nuclear fuel agreement

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006 File:India facilities.gif

India’s Nuclear Facilities. credit: AtomicArchives.com
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

With U.S. President George W Bush preparing for a March 2 visit to India, the two countries’ diplomatic teams are pressing hard to reach agreement on a landmark nuclear fuel agreement.

India’s booming economy, with 8% annual growth, has led to large expenditures to both its civilian and military infrastructure but few of those contracts have fallen to U.S. firms. The U.S. trade deficit with India nearly doubled between 2001 and 2005, to $10 billion.

A trade agreement between India and the United States regarding nuclear fuel, a key for India’s rapidly expanding economy and for U.S. corporations – the deal would pave the way for expanded high-tech trade – appears to be stalled over agreement as to which of India’s reactors are civilian and which are military.

“We are doing very hard bargaining,” Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters on Monday.

The agreement aims to reassure the U.S. Congress that nuclear technology sharing will not be used to produce nuclear weapons. The two parties have been working to separate India’s civilian and military nuclear programs.

“The decision of what facilities may be identified as civilian will be made by India alone and not by anyone else,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told lawmakers Monday.

DNA India reports a late-night call between India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday night may have carried information the Indian administration was waiting for; their government sources indicate a declaration of intent will be signed by Mr. Singh and Mr. Bush, who will arrive in India on Wednesday.

Indian-U.S. relations have been poor throughout the cold war period and up to present. When India detonated a nuclear device in 1998, effectively announcing it was a nuclear power, the U.S. applied economic sanctions, further complicating the relationship.

The U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2001 when the White House searched for partnerships following the 9/11 attacks. This helped begin new dialogues between New Delhi and Washington. An agreement signed in July 2005 on nuclear technology sharing laid the groundwork for the accord being worked on now.

The current accord has the support of Mohamed ElBaradei, the NATO head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. India has never been known to have sold or traded nuclear technology.



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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg India and weapons of mass destruction

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English Wikipedia has over 1 million registered users

Filed under: Archived,Original reporting,Wikimedia Foundation,Wikipedia — admin @ 5:00 am

English Wikipedia has over 1 million registered users

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

At 2:02 UTC on February 28, 2006, the millionth user account for the English Wikipedia project was created. The user is known as Romulus32, though little else is known about this person. Jfingers88 first identified this account as the one millionth, and this fact was confirmed by Jacoplane and Titoxd. [1]

Recently, there has been increasing excitement concerning the still impending millionth article for the English Wikipedia. [2] However, little attention has been called to the number of users, which has just passed a million, and continues to grow much faster than the number of articles.

Wikimedia founder Jimbo Wales has yet to comment on this milestone for Wikipedia and Wikimedia.

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February 27, 2006

Six teenagers die in car accident in Victoria, several others injured

Filed under: Archived,Australia,Melbourne — admin @ 5:00 am

Six teenagers die in car accident in Victoria, several others injured

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Monday, February 27, 2006

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Six teenagers were killed in a horrific road accident near Mildura in north-western Victoria, Australia late at night on February 18.

Cassandra Manners, aged 16, Stevie-Lee Weight, 15, Cory Dowling, 16, Shane Hirst, 16, and his sister, Abby Hirst, 17, died at the scene. Josephine Calvi, 16, was flown to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where she later died of head injuries. Seven other teenagers were injured, including 15-year-old Marco Medici who is now in a stable but critical condition in The Alfred Hospital in .

The accident occurred after the teenagers left a 16th birthday party and walked along Myall Road, Cardross, south-east of Mildura. A car allegedly came speeding around a bend, hit the gravel on the side of the road, lost control and struck the group. The alleged driver, later identified as 34-year-old Thomas Graham Towle, fled the scene on foot, leaving his 10-year-old daughter and four-year-old son in the car. Towle was later arrested by police in Redcliffs. He was taken to Mildura police station for questioning.

Towle has been charged with six charges of culpable driving causing death, four charges of negligently causing serious injury, one charge of failing to stop and one charge of failing to render assistance after an accident. Towle faced Mildura Magistrates’ Court on February 20. Magistrate John Dugdale remanded him into custody to reappear before the court on June 26.

Meanwhile, the town of Mildura and surrounding areas is in deep mourning. Premier Steve Bracks said the State Government will provide $AU40,000 for counselling and support services.

Around 3,000 people attended the funeral for Josephine Calvi today. Funeral services for the other five teenagers were held last week.

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