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November 30, 2007

Sudanese protesters demand death for British teacher

Sudanese protesters demand death for British teacher

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Roughly 600 enraged Sudanese protesters, some armed with knives and sticks, converged on Khartoum’s Martyrs’ Square after Friday Prayers to demand the death of Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed yesterday for allowing her class of 7-year-olds to name a teddy bear Mohammad, one of the most common names in the Arab world.

A number of prominent Sudanese clerics ignored government instructions not to inflame the situation, although they stopped short of directly calling for her death. By the end of Friday Prayers passions were running high.

Sheikh Hussein Mubarak told thousands of the faithful gathered for the Muslim day of prayer that the court’s “verdict was lenient out of fear of criticism from human rights organisations, America and the West”, and he denounced “those who try to defend democracy and human rights and insult the Prophet.” He claimed Ms Gibbons was part of a campaign to transform Sudan from an Islamic state into a Christian state.

Sheikh Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, told worshippers at the city’s Martyr’s Mosque that Gillian Gibbons had deliberately named her class’s teddy bear Mohammed with the intention of insulting Islam. “Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion.”

Leaflets distributed earlier in the week by Sudanese Muslim groups had condemned Gibbons as an “infidel” and accused her of “the pollution of children’s mentality”. They promised a “popular release of anger” at demonstrations on Friday.

An angry crowd of around 600 protesters – some reports say thousands – gathered at Martyrs’ Square, outside the presidential palace. The mob chanted slogans like, “those who insult the Prophet of Islam should be punished with bullets”, “No tolerance: Execution,” “Kill her, kill her by firing squad,” and “Shame, shame on the UK.” Newspaper pictures of Ms Gibbons were set on fire, and foreign journalists were threatened, and forced to leave.

Hundreds of riot police were deployed but they did not break up the demonstration.

Britain’s Foreign Office is understood to be arranging further talks with the Sudanese government today.

Boris Johnson, an English MP writing in The Times in London, has welcomed Muslim opposition in Britain to the events in Sudan and called for muslims to publicly demonstrate their outrage:

“the voices we need to hear now belong to Britain’s vast, sensible Muslim majority… Their arguments will be heard with respect in Khartoum, since they cannot be said to be founded on any kind of cultural imperialism, or to be actuated by Islamophobia.
“More importantly, a strong protest by British Muslims against the imprisonment of Gillian Gibbons would help to contradict the growing ranks of pessimists and neo-cons – the people who say that the real problem is Islam, the religion itself.”

Ms Gibbons’ son John, from Liverpool, has asked that British people angered by his mother’s jail sentence should not turn against Muslims.

“We have had a lot of support from Muslims in Britain, in Sudan and across the world… I do not want this to lead to any anti-Muslims feeling in this country.”



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Science curriculum director resigns from Texas Education Agency

Science curriculum director resigns from Texas Education Agency

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Christine Comer resigned this month as the director of the science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) director after more than nine years. Comer said her resignation was due to pressure from officials who claimed she had given the appearance of criticizing the teaching of intelligent design.

According to documents obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, “Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation by Barbara Forrest, a critic of the intelligent design/creationist movement. Forrest served as an expert witness at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. At Dover, intelligent design was ruled “a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.” There is widespread scientific support for evolution, while creationism has been described as pseudoscience by the scientific community.

Comer’s resignation comes shortly ahead of the TEA’s State Board of Education (SBOE) reviews of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which determine what should be taught in the classrooms and what textbooks are bought.

The advocacy group Texas Citizens for Science have released a statement saying, in part, “The real reason [Comer] was forced to resign is because the top TEA administrators and some SBOE members wanted her out of the picture before the state science standards—the science TEKS—were reviewed, revised, and rewritten next year. Plans are underway by some SBOE members and TEA administrators to diminish the requirement to teach about evolutionary biology in the Biology TEKS and to require instead that biology instructors ‘Teach the Controversy’ about the ‘weaknesses’ of evolution, that is, teach the Creationist-inspired and -created bogus controversy about evolution that doesn’t exist within legitimate science.”

Professor PZ Myers, biology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, wrote that Forrest is “exactly the kind of person boards of education ought to consult before going down the road of attempting to legislate religion into the public schools.”

In reaction to the news Forrest told National Center for Science Education, “In my talk, I simply told the truth — about the history of the ‘intelligent design’ movement, about the complete rejection of its claims by the scientific community, and about the Kitzmiller trial and my involvement in it. Maybe the TEA can’t afford to take a position on what constitutes good science education — maybe it must remain neutral on whether or not to lie to students about evolution — but if so, that’s just sad.”

Agency officials declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.

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Minnesota oil pipeline explosion and fire kills two

Minnesota oil pipeline explosion and fire kills two

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Friday, November 30, 2007

A major oil pipeline in Minnesota exploded and caught fire, killing two workers. The pipeline carries oil from Saskatchewan, Canada to close to Chicago, United States, representing 16% of America’s total oil imports.

The section of the pipe that exploded was undergoing maintenance at the time to address a pinhole leak first identified three weeks earlier, and patched at the time with a metal sleeve. On Wednesday, the entire section was removed and replaced with a new one. When oil was reintroduced on Thursday morning, oil leaked where the new section joined the pre-existing pipe, triggering the fatal explosion.

The fire was extinguished later the same day.

The line is split between four separate pipes. After the explosion, all four pipes were shut down, resulting in the global price surge, but this subsided for the most part after it became clear that the three undamaged pipelines had returned to normal operation, restoring 80% of the line’s capacity, and that the accident pipe is expected to be back in use in a matter of days.

“There were no problems found in that area where the leak occurred,” reporters were told by Larry Springer, spokesman for Enbridge, the Canadian company that owns the line. High-tech equipment had been through the line in 2006 to check for any signs of problems.

Enbridge identified the deceased as Dave Mussati Jr. and Steve Arnovich, both of whom were contract workers based in Superior, Wisconsin. The damaged section of pipe is in Clearbrook, which is approximately 350 miles Northwest of Minneapolis.

Enbridge metallurgists have been sent to examine the failed section in an effort to determin the cause of the accident. Other Enbridge workers are working to clear spilled oil from the site. It is expected that once this is complete, the pipe will return to service.

Global crude oil prices temporarily spiked by over US$4 per barrel but closed yesterday slightly above original prices.



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Hostage taker surrenders peacefully at Hillary Clinton\’s New Hampshire campaign office

Hostage taker surrenders peacefully at Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign office

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Map highlighting location of Rochester.
Image: User: Assawyer.

A man claiming to have had a bomb is reported by WMUR to have surrendered peacefully at the campaign office of Senator Hillary Clinton in the small New Hampshire city of Rochester.

Three individuals, which includes a child, were taken hostage and were later released without injury. Earlier reports stated that there might have been a fourth hostage. The adults are said to be campaign employees.

The hostage taker is being named by media as Leeland Eisenberg from Somersworth, N.H., a white male in his “40s with salt and pepper hair” and is known to police by prior incidents which includes family issues and he is also reported to have a history of emotional and mental health problems. According to the son of the hostage taker, he talked to a witness and said his father had been drinking last night and strapped road flares to his chest and said he was going to talk to Senator Clinton.

WMUR cameras captured on live TV an armored car pulling up in front of the office and shortly after Leeland was seen walking out of the building, dropped something on the ground and surrendered to police. It is said that Leeland believed the U.S. government “is coming after him” and that there was a conspiracy to have him caught. Leeland has been taken to the local police station in Rochester.

After the scene was evacuated of all hostages and the suspect, police used a robot to examine the reported device or bomb that Leeland was said to have.

According to the DNC chairman Howard Dean, Senator Clinton has cancelled a speech at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Vienna, Virginia and all other events today to deal with the situation. Her husband, former US President Bill Clinton canceled a speech in New York City. Senators Barack Obama and John Edwards also have campaign offices down the street which have been closed and locked down along with the rest of downtown Rochester. Clinton’s campaign offices located in Des Moines, Iowa have also been closed on a temporary basis.

“Unfortunately as some of you know, there is a hostage situation in New Hampshire involving a Clinton campaign staff person. The details are sketchy at this time, but understandably Sen. Clinton is now dealing with this very difficult problem and she is not going to be able to join us today. And we will keep them in our prayers and hope for a resolution to this situation in New Hampshire,” said Dean at a press conference.

The incident began at around 1:00 p.m. (eastern time).



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British teacher convicted of insulting Islam in Sudan

British teacher convicted of insulting Islam in Sudan

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher arrested in Sudan on Sunday for naming a teddy bear Muhammad, was charged on Wednesday, and tried, convicted, and sentenced yesterday to 15 days imprisonment for “insulting religion.” The 54-year-old mother of two avoided a possible 40 lashes, but will be deported at the end of her sentence, which will run from the date of her arrest.

Following the speedy trial, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned Sudanese ambassador Omer Siddig to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to explain the verdict. During the 45 minute meeting Mr Miliband expressed “in the strongest terms” the government’s concern at the sentence, and spoke by telephone to the Sudanese acting foreign minister.

The trial

According to early reports, parents had complained that Ms Gibbons had insulted the Prophet Muhammad, but when she was charged on Wednesday, this was revealed to be false. It was Sara Khawad, a secretary at the Unity High School where Ms Gibbons taught, who had complained to the Education Ministry and provoked Ms Gibbons’ arrest last weekend.

Early Thursday morning, as vehicles filled with riot police watched the area and the press and colleagues of Ms Gibbons were denied access to the criminal courthouse in Khartoum, the trial got underway. The head of her legal team, Kamal Djizouri, was also denied access for a time.

Ms Khawad was one of four witnesses from the prosecution. Also testifying against Ms Gibbons was an accountant from the school.

Gillian Gibbons wept as she testified that she never wanted to insult Islam. She had allowed her six and seven year old pupils to vote on the name for a teddy bear that was part of a class project. The children had voted by 20 votes to 3 to name the bear Muhammad.

At the end of a seven-hour trial, the court found her guilty of “insulting the faith of Muslims”. The Judge, Mohammed Youssef, rejected prosecution calls for a harsher sentence on the charge of “inciting religious hatred”, which carries a punishment of up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine.

After the trial, Ms Gibbons was taken to the crowded women’s prison in Omdurman to begin the remaining 11 days of her sentence. Although the prison is more comfortable than many in Sudan, conditions are not good, and Ms Gibbons will have to rely on wellwishers to supply her with food and water.

An appeal against the sentence is expected.

Reactions in Sudan

The Assembly of the Ulemas, a body of Islamic clerics, said on Wednesday that Ms Gibbon’s action was “another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam”, and called for the harshest penalties to be applied. After Ms Gibbons was charged, a pickup truck drove through the Sudanese capital calling for protests against the alleged insult.

Some members of Ms Gibbons’ defense team reported receiving death threats.

The authorities quickly scheduled the trial, and issued instructions to clerics not to deliver inflammatory sermons at Friday prayers about the case or against foreigners.

Major General Abdeen al-Tahir of the Khartoum police stated that protests would not be permitted.

After the trial, Ms Gibbons’ chief lawyer described the verdict as “not bad”, and her colleagues expressed relief that the sentence was not harsher.

The lawyer stated that the complaint was an act of revenge. Isam Abu Hasabu, director of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, claimed Khawad had been arguing with the principal before the incident.

The school, which according to press reports has issued a public apology and sacked Ms Gibbons, has been closed for security reasons since her arrest. The director said he was happy with the verdict: “It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and ­attention.”

Omar El Faroug Hassan Shumena, a legal consultant in Khartoum, said that he believed the judge had concluded the trial in a single day to reduce the chance of disorder after Friday Prayers.

International reaction

Catherine Wolthuizen, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said Mrs Gibbons’ punishment was still “harsh”. She said: “It was a very speedy justice process.

After Ms Gibbons was charged, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) stated that they were appalled at the decision and called on the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, to intervene to secure Ms Gibbons’ release.

After the sentence, they further stated:

“This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities. They grossly overreacted in this sad affair and this episode. Gillian should never have been arrested, let alone charged and convicted of committing a crime. We hope that Gillian will be able to return home without much further delay.”

Ibrahim Mogra, also of the MCB, stated: “I’m utterly disappointed with this decision… The question that I would want the judiciary there and the authorities to ponder over is: How does this help the cause of Islam? What kind of message and image are we portraying about our religion and our culture?”

Mike Blakemore of Amnesty International said: “The sentence is a mockery of justice and Amnesty International consider Gillian to be a prisoner of conscience. She should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “I can’t see any justification for this at all. I think that this is an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at best a minor cultural faux pas. And I think that it’s done the Sudanese government no credit whatever.”

According to the BBC, the press in Sudan and the Middle East have largely ignored the case, but bloggers from Sudan have heaped scorn on the Sudanese authorities.



Related news

  • “British teacher faces 40 lashes over teddy bear’s name” — Wikinews, November 28, 2007

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German pilot Elly Beinhorn dies, aged 100

German pilot Elly Beinhorn dies, aged 100

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Elly Beinhorn, a German pilot who was a long-distance-flying pioneer in her Klemm monoplane has died at the age of 100 on Wednesday, November 28.

Beinhorn was born Elly Beinhorn-Rosemeyer on May 30, 1907 in Hanover, Germany. In 1928, Beinhorn attended a lecture by famed aviator Hermann Köhl, who had recently completed a historic East-West Atlantic crossing. This lecture is described as the spark that ignited her interest in aviation.

At age 21, Beinhorn had a little money from an inheritance and against the wishes of her parents moved to Spandau in Berlin and learnt to fly at Berlin-Staaken airport under the tutelage of instructor Otto Thomsen. She had soon learnt to fly solo in a small Klemm KL-20, but her money was running out, so it was suggested she give aerobatic displays at weekends; financially rewarding, but personally unsatisfying.

After World War II, Beinhorn briefly took up gliding due to the ban on powered flight in Germany. But she soon moved to Switzerland to continue flying planes.

Beinhorn is survived by her daughter Stephanie.

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Daredevil Evel Knievel dies at age 69

Daredevil Evel Knievel dies at age 69 – Wikinews, the free news source

Daredevil Evel Knievel dies at age 69

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Knievel in 1970 at his Florida home.
Image: Sean.

Daredevil Evel Knievel has died today at the age of 69, according to a family member.

Knievel’s granddaughter, Krysten Knievel confirms that he died after his health failed due to diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. In 1999 he also underwent a liver transplant after complications from hepatitis C. He was born Robert Craig Knievel Jr. on October 17, 1938 in Butte, Montana.

Knievel will likely be most remembered for a failed stunt he tried to perform in Idaho. He attempted to jump over the Snake River Canyon with a rocket powered motorcycle, which ended in a premature ejection of the parachute and the motorcycle’s subsequent fall into the canyon, resulting in minor injuries to Knievel.

“No king or prince has lived a better life. You’re looking at a guy who’s really done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better, not only for me but for the ones I loved,” said Knievel in an Associated Press interview in 2006.

Knievel is survived by four children, ten grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Knievel retired in 1980.



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November 29, 2007

Wikimedia Foundation among World Economic Forum\’s 2008 Technology Pioneers

Wikimedia Foundation among World Economic Forum’s 2008 Technology Pioneers

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

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.

Out of a record number of applications and 273 nominees, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has chosen the Wikimedia Foundation as one of the 2008 Pioneers of Technology. 38 other organisations or companies have also been selected for the list of pioneers.

“Technology Pioneers are companies that have been identified as developing and applying highly transformational and innovative technologies in the areas of energy, biotechnology and health, and information technology,” said a press release issued by the Forum.

The World Economic Forum’s logo for the 2008 award.

The Wikimedia Foundation was chosen in part because of the ability to provide free, collaborative knowledge which is distributed by people all over the world and its involvement in “the development of life changing technology innovation” with the “potential for long-term impact on business and society, demonstrating visionary leadership and having a proven technology,” referring to Wikipedia, Wikinews, Wikiversity and Wikimedia Commons.

“We are honored that the Wikimedia Foundation was chosen as a technology pioneer. However, I must point out that the organisation itself is only partly responsible of our amazing success in developing and applying highly transformational and innovative technologies in the area of information. The real recognition goes to the thousands of Wikimedians, editors and developers of MediaWiki, all over the world, who have been the source and the spirit of our projects in the past seven years. The award really goes to them,” said Chair of the WMF Board of Trustees, Florence Devouard.

“The nomination is a reminder of the amazing things humans can accomplish when working collaboratively and positively together. It is also the inspiration we need to continue empowering world citizens to share in the sum of all human knowledge. Allow me to use this opportunity to say to all those who have worked so hard to make Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects so valuable: thank you,” added Devouard.

Among some of the requirements for a company to qualify or be nominated to be a technology pioneer, they must meet a certain criteria such as “innovative technology, potential of impact on society, growth and sustainability, proof of concept, leadership and status meaning the organization cannot already be a member of the Forum or affiliated with it.

“By partnering with the best brains and the smartest ideas in the world, organizations can deliver innovation at the speed of their customers’ lives. The Technology Pioneers 2008 will make great innovation partners for any organization that chooses to do business with them,” said technology officer Matt Bross.

The winners are chosen by a panel of technology experts for the WEF.

Among other organizations or companies to be given the honor includes, 23andMe.com, NuLens Ltd., RainDance Technologies Cima NanoTech Inc. and Silver Spring Networks. The companies come from the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands and Russia. What makes the Wikimedia Foundation unique, is they are apparently the only non-profit organisation on the list.

The WEF, founded in 1971, operates on an international and independent level and is “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.”

Forty-seven other companies and organisations became pioneers in 2007.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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Venus was once more Earth-like than previously thought

Filed under: Archived,Environment,Europe,Science and technology,Space,Venus — admin @ 5:00 am

Venus was once more Earth-like than previously thought

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Artist’s impression of Venus Express orbiting Venus. Image credit: ESA.

New data from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission suggest that Venus was once Earth-like but later evolved in a different way. The findings, published in the journal Nature on Thursday, also confirm that there is lightning on Venus.

“The two planets were, in fact, very similar in the earlier days of the solar system,” said Venus Express team scientist Hakan Svendem, “And they have then evolved in different directions, but according to the same rules and explanations.” Professor Fred Taylor of the University of Oxford, another scientist on the mission, said “Our new data make it possible to construct a scenario in which Venus started out like the Earth – possibly including a habitable environment, billions of years ago – and then evolved to the state we see now.”

Unlike the Earth, Venus lacks a magnetic shield to protect it from the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun. As a result, hydrogen, helium, and oxygen are blown away from the atmosphere on Venus much faster than on Earth. The scientists believe that Venus may once have had liquid water oceans on its surface which, as a result of the solar wind, were largely removed during the first billion years after the formation of the Solar System. “Eventually the oceans boiled off, and all the water ended up as water vapor in the atmosphere,” Svedhem said.

Data from the magnetometer instrument on Venus Express confirm that there is lightning on Venus, a once controversial idea. In fact, the findings suggest that lightning is more common on Venus than on Earth.

Unlike the Earth, Venus has undergone runaway greenhouse warming and now has an average surface temperature of 467 degrees Celsius. Some believe that studying how this change came about could lead to insights into how to prevent undesired climate change on Earth. “Understanding the influencing factors of global warming on Venus could help us in mitigating the threat here on Earth,” said United Kingdom Minister for Science and Innovation Ian Pearson.



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Utah taser incident triggers debate and death threats

Filed under: Archived,Crime and law,North America,United States,Utah — admin @ 5:00 am

Utah taser incident triggers debate and death threats

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

A taser, although this is an M26 military-grade taser, the one used by trooper Gardner probably looked similar

On September 14, 2007, Jared Massey was pulled over by Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) trooper John Gardner for speeding on U.S. Route 40 near Vernal in Utah, United States. Trooper Gardner issued a citation which Massey refused to sign. After some debate about where the sign posting the speed limit was, trooper Gardner asked Massey to step out of his vehicle.

Massey, a 28-year-old telephone company employee, appears in the video to be under the impression that he and the officer would walk back to the nearby traffic sign. Trooper Gardner appears to be under a different impression. He orders Massey, who is still pointing at the sign, to stop and then draws his taser at Massey. Massey turns and begins to walk back toward his vehicle, turning his head toward Gardner, who is now behind Massey. Massey says, “what the heck are you doing?” and Gardner orders him to “turn around and put your hands behind your back.” Massey does not and replies, “what the heck is wrong with you?” Shortly after, Gardner fires his taser.

Allegedly, Gardner triggers the electrodes a second time while Massey is on the ground, but this is not entirely clear from the video. Massey’s wife emerges from the vehicle, clearly distraught, but Gardner orders her to return to the vehicle under threat of “going to jail, too.”

Massey filed a complaint against the UHP and obtained the video footage, which was recorded from the trooper’s vehicle, in a public records request under the process of discovery.

On November 19, Massey posted the video on YouTube, when he felt that the UHP’s internal investigation was not progressing. “There’s been no response, no action, no notifying us ‘Hey, we’re looking at this’,” Massey told Vernal Express. “To us it seems like they’re stonewalling it; trying to brush it under the rug so that nothing would happen.”

The posting on YouTube encourages people to call the UHP and express their displeasure. However, many have posted online death-threats against the trooper.

This is an unintended consequence, says Massey. “I wish people would have some common decency every once in awhile [sic],” he said in an interview with Fox on Monday. “When I posted the video it wasn’t to vilify the guy, demean him or destroy him, and that’s one of the things I hate about this.”

“I wish people would realize and think about this: Trooper Gardner is a real person, he’s got a real family. Real lives are being affected,” he added.

Under Utah law, one has to sign a citation to acknowledge receipt, whether or not one protests its validity.

The stated purpose of the taser is for it to be used under circumstances where use of lethal force would be the alternative. However, its use by police departments, in cases where non-lethal force would normally be used (pre-taser era), has resulted in some deaths, thereby leading the use of the device to be controversial.



Related news

  • “Video of man tasered at Vancouver airport released” — Wikinews, November 15, 2007

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Taser

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