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November 30, 2006

US lawsuit challenges church as polling place

US lawsuit challenges church as polling place

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

“Pro-life” banner at the Polling station set up in Emmanuel Catholic Church in Delray Beach, Florida

At its official launch in Washington DC yesterday, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) announced its filing of a lawsuit in Florida challenging the use of a church as a polling place during the recent U.S. midterm elections. The AHLC is representing Jerry Rabinowitz and the action is against Arthur Anderson in his capacity as supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County. But the organization indicates that more lawsuits in other states are expected to follow—all being part of an effort to show that churches are improper polling places because they cannot be religiously and politically neutral and because their use is subject to widespread abuse.

“Churches are currently the most common polling location in America” according to James Hurley, the lead attorney handling the case. Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Hurley noted that while some churches cover or remove religious symbols in those parts of their facilities used as polling places, not all do so, nor is the practice required everywhere. “When asked, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office said there was no rule requiring removal of such religious icons,” Hurley added.

Voting booths at the polling station

Rabinowitz’s complaint is that, because he was assigned to vote at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Delray Beach, Florida, he found it necessary when entering the polling place to “walk past a church-sponsored ‘pro-life’ banner framed by multiple giant crosses before even entering the church” to vote. This caused him to be “extremely upset” regarding the religious setting of the polls. According to Hurley, “Rabinowitz observed many religious symbols in plain view” in the voting area. They were “surrounding the election judges and in direct line above the voting machines. These objects included a sign declaring that ‘Each of Us Matters to God,’ multiple crucifixes, a sign that says ‘God, I Make a Difference,’ a large copy of the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary, and a large poster of the Ten Commandments.” When Rabinowitz objected and “asked election officials to remove or cover them for the remainder of the voting” officials allegedly refused to do so.

“This is clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Hurley concluded, because it “has the primary effect of advancing religion.”

Also speaking at the press conference were the president and executive director of the American Humanist Association, the organization behind the new legal center, and Heidi Bruggink, the center’s legal coordinator. Speaking of the AHLC in general, Bruggink reported, “Our attorney roster includes many accomplished and prominent nontheistic attorneys, including Jim McCollum, Wendy Kaminer, and Michael Newdow.” These three are the most famous members of a legal team that “now consists of twenty-seven committed lawyers supported by several law students” and others.

The litigation challenging churches as polling places is a result of volunteer action nationwide by members of the American Humanist Association. “We put out a call to our members whose polling places were churches, asking them to report what they saw,” said the organization’s president, Mel Lipman. And this is what led to the Florida case and others that are expected to follow.

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New Zealand MPs to receive payrise

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New Zealand MPs to receive payrise – Wikinews, the free news source

New Zealand MPs to receive payrise

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

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New Zealand Members of Parliament will receive thousands more after getting pay increases today.

The pay rises for backbench MPs are between 3.8% and 4.1% which will mean a backbench MP will now earn around NZ$122,500. The pay rises are to counter inflation next year of about 2.5% which will result in MPs receiving more money. Other MPs with senior positions will get rises of between 4% and 8.1%.

This year the Prime Minister’s increase will be worth just over $14,000 – paying her $6,942 a week. Helen Clark, PM of New Zealand, received a 9.4 per cent rise last year, increasing her salary by nearly $30,000 to $347,000. The latest increase will see her salary rise to about $361,000.

National’s multimillionaire John Key has already secured a significant pay rise this week with his election to the leader’s job and is on $216,000.

The pay rise will be backdated to July 1, The New Zealand Herald reported today.

Mr Key told The New Zealand Herald that he would donate a significant amount of his pay check to charitable organisations, as he has done since he first became an MP.

Last year backbenchers got a 4.1% increase in their pay.

Judges are also going to expect a pay rise next year of about 5%.

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Kurdish operating system under investigation by Turkish attorney general

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Kurdish operating system under investigation by Turkish attorney general

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Turkey
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Large portions of the system, such as menu entries, were translated into Kurdish

Previously, we reported that Kurdish Linux was launched in Turkey: Kurdish Ubuntu, a Linux distribution, was promoted this week with a reception in Diyarbakir. Ubuntu was the first Linux distribution to implement Kurdish localization. Kurdish localization in Linux was an important milestone for Turkey due to ethnic conflicts.

According to Milliyet and Radikal, well-known Turkish newspapers, the Diyarbakir Attorney General of the Republic of Turkey started an official investigation on the mayor of Sur (a town in Diyarbakir) and on Ubuntu. Although the official cause of investigation was not specified, in the light of the ethnic conflicts in Turkey, a Kurdish operating system was not welcomed by Turkish officials. Mark Shuttleworth (founder of the Ubuntu Foundation and head developer of Ubuntu) and his team is looking at how to help ameliorate the situation.

Kurdish Ubuntu was prepared by a team of hardworking translators working on the Rosetta web application. In his talk at the reception, the mayor of Sur (a town in Diyarbakir) said that “Whatever language it is in, we wanted it [our service] to be accessible multilingually because multilingualism is our wealth. Our work is being conducted on Kurdish, English, and Turkish language support. … If we can integrate multilingualism, multi-identities, and multi-culturalism in this nation, this region will be a place of peace instead of conflicts.” Mehmed Uzun, a Kurdish writer, speaking about the Kurdish language, told the attendees that “Our most important problem is that the language is not standardized. The Kurdish language should be standardized.” Ubuntu was later distributed to the reception’s attendees.

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Ganguly makes comeback in Indian Test squad

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Ganguly makes comeback in Indian Test squad

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

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The ex-Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly has made a comeback in the Test team after he was unceremoniously dropped for ten months.

Ganguly is expected to play the first test match of the series against South Africa commencing on December 15.

Chairman of selection pane for the Indian team Dilip Vengsarkar said that the team batting had failed in one-dayers in the current series, so there is need to bring back experienced players.

VVS Laxman has been appointed as vice-captain of the test team.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sharad Pawar cleared the air over Greg Chappell-MP dispute by saying that “What happened in Parliament should have no bearing on the incidents taking place in Protea land,”.

Ganguly last played for the team against Pakistan in a test match in Karachi earlier this year.

The sixteen member-team is as follows:

Rahul Dravid (Captain), VVS Laxman (Vice-captain), Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Wicketkeeper), Dinesh Kaarthick, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, VRV Singh, Zaheer Khan and S. Sreesanth.

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Don Brash, ex-leader of New Zealand National Party, leaves politics

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Don Brash, ex-leader of New Zealand National Party, leaves politics

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

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Dr Don Brash.

The ex-leader of New Zealand’s National Party, Dr Don Brash, has announced today that he has left his five year career in politics. Dr Brash had announced last week today that he was stepping down from leader of the National Party.

Dr. Brash was to stay on in politics as long as the new leader, John Key, gave him a senior portfolio and front bench position, where it was thought there would be no room for Dr Brash. However Dr Brash did not comment on whether he had sought that kind of position. The front bench positions and a possible portfolio reorganising will not be announced until tomorrow, Friday.

Over the past few days Dr Brash had been pondering his political career and he said that it is clear that he should leave politics after consulting with friends, colleagues and family including his wife, Je Lan. Dr Brash said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to leave Parliament and I informed John Key of that earlier today.”

At the press conference where he announced his intention to leave, few journalists were there compared to his resignation from leader conference.

Dr Brash will stay in Parliament until next year when he will not return. He said that he wanted to tie up loose knots.

Mr Key, last Thursday, said that he had only a few talks with Dr Brash, one on Tuesday and one this morning, but would not comment on Brash’s future. Dr Brash described those meetings as “constructive.”

When Dr Brash first entered politics in 2002 from being head of the Reserve Bank, he had wanted to make a difference and he said that he leaves with the belief that he had accomplished that. He also believes that National could take out the next election to be held in 2008 as it is in great shape. Dr Brash said: “I entered Parliament in 2002 with the intention of making a difference and I leave believing that I’ve done that. The National Party is in great shape to win the next election and I believe that debate about economic policy and about the Treaty is more mature and more realistic than it was five years ago.”

Dr Brash still claims that the book based around his leaked political emails by Nicky Hager, titled The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception, played no part in his decision to leave.

Next year Katrina Shanks, accountant, will enter politics again to fill in the empty seat made by Dr Brash, she is currently at number 46 on the list. She had been in politics last year but was forced out after the special votes were counted. Ms Shanks said that she feels positive about changing her career but she said that she would have preferred entering politics on election night and not because Dr Brash had left.

Dr Brash announced that he will look into becoming a director at a company but would not be a director at a state owned enterprise, “not with this Government.” He told TV3’s Campbell Live programme that he will now look after his kiwifruit orchard.

Dr Brash said his colleagues reaction was mixed, Dr Brash said some said: “you’ve done a fantastic job for the National Party. Your work on that has finished.”

Related news

  • “New Zealand National Party leader, Don Brash, resigns” — Wikinews, November 23, 2006
  • “NZ National party leader wants book based around his emails published” — Wikinews, November 22, 2006
  • Book written based on leaked political emails, NZ” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “New Zealand political party destroys leaked emails” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006

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Armed troops take control of Suva, Fiji

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Armed troops take control of Suva, Fiji – Wikinews, the free news source

Armed troops take control of Suva, Fiji

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Location of Fiji in Oceania.

Armed Fijian soldiers took control of the streets of Suva, Fiji just before dawn

In a show of force, the troops fired a mortar into the harbour and over Nukulau Island, where George Speight, leader of the Fiji Coup of 2000, is currently serving a term of life imprisonment for his role in the overthrow of the constitutional government. Most of the mortar rounds fell into the ocean.

Soldiers, travelling in a convoy of trucks, set up barricades on key roads that led into the central business district of Suva while others patrolled the city.

Major Neumi Leweni, a military spokesman, said that the activity is not a military coup in disguise. “The exercise is in anticipation of any foreign intervention and the [Fiji military] is taking all precautionary measures.” He pointed out to sea where an Australian black hawk helicopter had crashed and where three Australian warships were moored. Australian officials said the ships were there in case Australian citizens needed to be evacuated.

The black hawk helicopter that had crashed was attempting to land on the HMAS Kanimbla, and its passengers were Special Air Service soldiers. Referring to the crash, Major Leweni said: “[It] just confirms that there are other forces out there and that is exactly why we are doing this exercise”.

Talks in New Zealand between Laisenia Qarase, Prime Minister of Fiji, and , military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama concluded without an agreement. Winston Peters, foreign minister for New Zealand, said the talks were “lengthy, serious and meaningful”, but ultimately unsuccessful. Mr. Qarase said the three hour talks were not long enough to get to any conclusion, “…it was a good start and there is need for further consultations on some of the issues.”

Mr Qarase arrived at Nadi via a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane and then flew on an Air Chatham Islands plan to Suva. He was met by questioning media. Mr Qarase remained quiet. Commodore Bainimarama also said nothing to the awaiting media when he arrived in Fiji on a commercial flight.

Mr Qarase has requested that all regional foreign ministers come to a meeting being held in Sydney, Australia tomorrow that is related to the coup threats.

Countries that are part of the Pacific Forum are able to help other member countries, if the government asks for help.

Ambassadors from the United States of America, Australia and Britain have all met with Fijian military officers to seek insurances that there wasn’t going to be a coup. Major Lewini responded angrily, “[It is] inappropriate for a civilian diplomat to visit a military camp and seek to speak directly to officers,” he said.

“I’m not aware anyone’s threatening foreign intervention. I can assure you New Zealand isn’t,” Helen Clark, Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, said.

At the same time, Andrew Hughes, police commissioner for Fiji, is currently on leave in Brisbane following threats. Moses Driver will now act as the police commissioner.

The military has said they will “clean up” the government if the armed forces do not get three controversial bills passed and all investigations into senior military officers are dropped.

The military has said that they do not need police permission to conduct such exercises.

Related news

  • “Tense stand-off in Fiji amid coup warnings” — Wikinews, November 1, 2006

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November 29, 2006

Two fallen Canadian soldiers return home from Afghanistan

Two fallen Canadian soldiers return home from Afghanistan

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The bodies of two Canadian soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar, Afghanistan were brought back to Canada. Both were from CFB Petawawa located in Petawawa, Ontario.

Their vehicle has intercepted on a road by a suicide bomber. A helicopter came helping all injured and possibly dead soldiers into it where they received medical attention somewhere safe. This time, their vehicle was blown up by a man’s car when he drived into them and detonated his car. Two Canadians were killed, the rest were injured.

Canadian, U.S., Dutch, and British soldiers stood at Kandhar Airfield Thursday to farewell Cpl. Albert Storm and Officer Robert Girouard. A piper played Amazing Grace as the Canadian flag-covered coffins were carried onto the C-130 Hercules aircraft for their flight home.

“It’s very hard for me to do it but I know my colleague, my friend and soldier, is going home to a restful place,” Cpl. Victor Thibault, 38, of Digby, Nova Scotia said to the Canadian Press. “He’s done what he had to do and I believe that’s good… He was a good friend. I will miss him,” he said.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers as well as one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. About 2,500 Canadian troops are serving in Afghanistan.

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Polonium 210 traces found on three British Airways aircraft

Polonium 210 traces found on three British Airways aircraft

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Library picture of BA Boeing 767

Traces of the radioactive substance, Polonium-210 have been found on two British Airways planes. The airline was alerted late Tuesday evening by the UK government that three of its planes were of interest in the investigation into the death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko from radiation poisoning.

Two planes are located at the Heathrow Airport in the UK, and one at the Russian Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow.

The two Heathrow planes were forensically examined Wednesday and the presence of traces of a radioactive substance were confirmed. A British team consisting of what are thought to be police experts is leaving for Russia to test the third plane, according to the BBC.

The public health risk that passengers on the planes under investigation have been poisoned is very low. Up to 33,000 passengers are being urged to contact BA, NHS or their doctor if they have travelled on the 221 European flights which travelled all over Europe, including Russia as far back as “the end of October”. Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA, said: “I am advised that the health risk is actually very low.” 3,000 staff will also be checked out.

The Home Secretary John Reid is expected to make a statement to Parliament concerning the ongoing investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko on Thursday.

All three planes are Boeing 767s used for short haul flight which were taken out of service when the government contacted BA on Tuesday night.

Traces of Polonium-210 have been found at other places that Mr Litvinenko visited in London, Britain.

Pat Troop, chief executive of Health Protection Agency, said: “What we have heard is that it’s either traces or very low levels and what we have learnt so far in our investigation… is that where we have got these areas of low level radiation it doesn’t seem to pose a significant health threat.”

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New Zealand company planning for monorail in Wellington

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New Zealand company planning for monorail in Wellington

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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SkyCabs International, a New Zealand company based in Auckland, New Zealand, has announced that it is planning to build a monorail in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington for about NZ$300 million.

SkyCabs International’s plans are to build a monorail service that starts in Johnsonville which then travels into the central business district (cbd) and then finally goes to Wellington International Airport.

The chief executive of SkyCabs, Hugh Chapman, said that it could be “…economically feasible.” And that the monorail would be “a real opportunity.” The monorail would also be environmentally friendly, according to Mr Chapman.

“SkyCabs’ cabs could run in opposite directions on both sides of the beam – instead of on the top as standard monorails do – at speeds of up to 80kmh and carrying 4800 people an hour in each direction. A monorail around Evans Bay and Oriental Bay would blow tourists’ minds,” said Mr Chapman.

SkyCabs is currently trying to raise $31.2 million so it can built a 600 metre track in Auckland to show investors and the public what the monorail will look like and how it will work as their technology is so far unproven and untested. The possible site is Rainbows End, a theme park in Auckland.

“Potentially, if we can prove it works, the market is about $25.4 billion a year,” Mr Chapman said.

Andrew Cutler, spokesman for the greater Wellington regional council, said: “SkyCabs had briefed some council staff on its ideas. However, given the council and Government recently committed to a $50 million upgrade of the Johnsonville rail line, SkyCabs would certainly not be constructing a Johnsonville-to-city monorail.”

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Hell Pizza condom advertisements: complaints upheld

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Hell Pizza condom advertisements: complaints upheld

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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  • 15 June 2014: Annual Japanese whaling campaign kills 30 minke whales
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A record number of complaints, over 600, against the New Zealand restaurant chain Hell Pizza for its advertising campaign using condoms delivered via letterbox have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Family First “welcomes heavenly decision from ASA on Hells Pizza.”

Hell Pizza delivered sealed foil condoms in a cardboard box to households nationwide. On the outside of the box were the words: “Our pizza for meat lovers!” and the restaurant logo. The inside of the box included the condom and explicit instructions on how to use it. Hell Pizza delivered 70,000 condoms to households. An additional 100,000 were distributed to health and community groups who the chain said were “very supportive.”

Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First, said: “This is a victory for the protection of families from grubby advertising by companies like Hell’s Pizza, and is also a message to other companies who cross the line of what is decent and acceptable to our community. This is a pizza delivery company taking the moral high ground on sex education and telling parents how to give sex education to their kids, implying that all parents have failed at this, and kids as young as five should be exposed to this type of material.”

S. Nicholas filed a formal complaint and said in the complaint:” Any child can open the box take out these condoms and play with them. These are contraceptive devices, not playthings. The package also gave full instructions ‘how to use the condom’ in case some young person wanted to ‘experiment’! It shows lack of taste and is irresponsible.”

Other complainants said that it is inappropriate to promote food with a condom, the text “meat lovers” was offensive, that it undermined family values, and removed the right for families to teach sex education to their children. Condom use instructions that came with the advertising campaign were unnecessary and unacceptable and that there are health and safety issues if the condom broke during delivery.

The ASA said that three code of ethic rules were broken. They were basic principle 4, advertisements should follow a sense of social responsibility to both the consumers and society; rule 4, advertisements should not contain anything generally offensive and rule 5, advertisements should not contain anything that would cause serious widespread offence.

The agency Cinderella, acting on behalf of Hell Pizza, said that they “most certainly did approach this campaign with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society.”

Cinderella said: “From the very beginning, the company’s marketing activities were unconventional and memorable… HELL has built a successful brand by utilizing a limited marketing budget in ways that sought to grab attention and secure significant additional media coverage that would never have been able to be sustained using conventional, paid-for, advertising techniques.”

“LUST and sex are, in our experience, often found not far apart. One generally follows the other. And enjoying great food either before or after is also not such a stretch.”

Replying to the instructions that have to be printed, Cinderella said: “The terms are not really sexually arousing and the suggestion made by one hysterical complainant that they could then go and act out the instructions on the next door child is just not plausible and probably not even physically possible. It borders on insane to believe that this is a credible risk. …there has not been an explosion of sexual assault of children after being exposed to government health warnings.”

The ASA then considered all information given to them by both complainants and the advertiser.

The ASA agreed that the advertisements were in breach of basic principle 4 because: “Unsolicited, unaddressed delivery of a condom to letterboxes to promote a food brand did not meet [the basic principle 4] standard.” The standard “required all advertising to be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society.”

The ASA then reviewed whether or not the advertisement programme had breached rule 4 and rule 5. “The method of distribution was a key factor in considering whether or not the promotion had breached the Rules, taking into account the random context, medium, audience and product. The majority of the Board noted that it was difficult to target specific groups or ages using unaddressed letterbox distribution. In addition, it was concerned that such a method of distribution allowed any member of a household access to the advertising.” The majority of the ASA board did not find the instructions offensive but did agree that it would cause widespread offense. The advertisement programme is in breach of rule 4 and rule 5.

Some of the ASA board said: “…While the promotion had caused offence to some, this was offset by the possibility that the promotion had reached an audience that may not access the safe sex message via other media.”

The ASA decided to uphold the complaints, “complaints were unanimously upheld.”

“Our message to Hell’s Pizza is simple – stay out of the bedroom and get back into the kitchen,” Mr McCoskrie said.

Related news

  • “Pizza ‘lust’ campaign attracts numerous complaints” — Wikinews, November 3, 2006

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