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April 9, 2009

Transgender woman hired as city manager for Lake Worth, Florida

Transgender woman hired as city manager for Lake Worth, Florida

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Susan Stanton, the former city manager of Largo, Florida, has been hired as the new city manager for Lake Worth. Stanton was fired from her job as Largo’s city manager in 2007, apparently when her gender transition became public knowledge.

Susan Stanton.
Image: personal image of Ms. Stanton.

“We said all along that we’d pick the best candidate regardless and that’s what it’s all about, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t,” said Jeff Clemons, the mayor of Lake Worth. He added that the city’s commission voted in favor of Stanton 4 to 1.

Stanton was the city manager of Largo for 14 years before she was fired by the city’s commissioners in 2007. Stanton alleged that when she went public, the commissioners voted to fire her. Five of the seven city commissioners voted for Stanton’s termination. According to the commission, Stanton was fired because “of poor judgment” and lack of trust.

After her termination, Stanton was in second running for the city manager position of Sarasota, but the commission instead voted in favor of Robert Bartolotta. Stanton has applied for over 100 city manager positions in Florida since 2007. She also began a campaign to enact laws to protect transgender and homosexual people from discrimination in the workplace.



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Missouri town re-elects deceased mayor

Missouri town re-elects deceased mayor – Wikinews, the free news source

Missouri town re-elects deceased mayor

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

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The town of Winfield, Missouri in the United States has re-elected its incumbent mayor for a third term nearly a month after his death. Mayor Harry Stonebraker died of a heart attack on March 11, yet came out on top over opponent Alderman Bernie Panther, with 90% of the vote.

The ballots had been printed and absentee voting was already underway by the time of Stonebraker’s death. County Clerk Elaine Luck commented that Stonebraker was quite popular, especially after his efforts to help the town evacuate during last year’s flooding.

Just nine years ago, the state of Missouri posthumously elected one of its US Senators, when Democratic challenger Mel Carnahan defeated incumbent John Ashcroft, a Republican, after dying several weeks before the election in a plane crash.

“I figured he’d win because he seemed to get even more popular after he died, just like Carnahan,” Luck said.

Luck said an interim mayor would be appointed to serve until a special election in April 2010 can be held and whose winner would fill out the remainder of the two-year term.



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Indonesian court jails Garuda pilot over air disaster

Indonesian court jails Garuda pilot over air disaster

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

A similar Garuda jet
Image: Terence Ong.

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Captain Muhammad Marwoto Komar, the pilot who was controlling Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 when it crashed two years ago, has been jailed for two years. 21 people were killed when the Boeing 737 crashed at Adi Sucipto Airport in Yogyakarta.

The court ruled that Article 479G(b) of the Criminal Code had been breached by Komar — negligence resulting in death. The aircraft had crashed due to the excessive speed that it landed at, with prosecutors originally claiming the crash was deliberate while Komar blamed an issue with the flaps. The charge of intentionally crashing was later dropped.

The court found that as Komar had not notified co-pilot Gagam Salman R. or air traffic control of any issue with the aircraft despite having two minutes to do so he was negligent. Had the airport been aware of the problems on board, they could have readied Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting crews to prevent or contain the fire when the plane departed the runway. As the plane approached the runway the Ground Proximity Warning System sounded fifteen times to inform the flight crew the jet was going too fast for a safe landing.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, half the term prosecutors were seeking. Lead prosecutor Mudin Aristo said that “we’re considering [appealing] the verdict.” M. Assegaf, Komar’s lawyer, has already said that he will appeal. “The case should not have been tried under that article [479G(b)], which is used to regulate terrorists. Captain Marwoto is not a terrorist”, said Assegaf.

Garuda Pilots’ Association president Stephanus Gerardus and Napitupulu of the Federation of Indonesian Pilots both commented that the case should not have been in a criminal court at all but in an aviation court. Garardus commented that “Pilots will be afraid to land their planes because of the threat of imprisonment.”

The judges, who were split in their verdict as one felt that all charges should be dismissed, ruled that the position of such a court was unclear and that it had no jurisdiction to hand down jail sentences. They also said that Law No. 1/2009 on profession courts, which applies to such a court, was not in place at the time of the accident.

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Others felt that the sentence was too light. Then-Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer commented that “it seems a very light sentence frankly. I understand from the evidence that was presented that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the aircraft and that the pilot just landed the plane at far too high a speed, way over the limit of the landing of an aircraft.” Five Australian diplomats and journalists travelling on flight 200 to attend a counter-terrorism conference that Downer appeared at in Indonesia were amongst the dead.

Caroline Mellish, sister of Australian journalist Morgan Mellish who died on the flight, also said the sentence was light. “I don’t feel like justice has been served… And hearing he only got two years made it even harder,” she said. Kevin Keevil, father of AusAID’s Allison Sudradjat, who also died, had a similar opinion.

“It does not give me any peace of mind,” said Keevil. “I have a personal belief that the sentence is inadequate given what transpired on the day, especially in view of the pilot’s behaviour.”

The verdict, which was attended by Komar’s wife and teenage sons, garnered widespread public interest. For the four hours that proceedings lasted the courtroom was at capacity and many people were listening from outside.



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Fiji court rules interim regime unlawful

Filed under: Archived,Fiji,Oceania,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Fiji court rules interim regime unlawful

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Fiji’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the removal of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the appointment of Fiji’s interim regime following the military coup in 2006 was unlawful.

It has ordered President Josefa Iloilo to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament and call elections. However, it has denied former Prime Minister Qarase’s argument that he should be reinstated, instead ruling that the President should appoint an independent person.

Former Prime Minister Qarase welcomed the decision. “We are very happy with the decision of the Court of Appeal today… the Constitution of Fiji 1997 is the supreme law of Fiji and it has to be respected by everybody including the President,” he said.

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that the ruling had created a power vacuum. “There is a vacuum, because the court has not said that (ousted prime minister Laisenia) Qarase comes back as Prime Minister, the court has simply said that the President has to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister, a third party,” he said.

He said the government would be appealing the ruling.

Fiji’s military government was reportedly on alert in anticipation of the ruling, with police manning roadblocks throughout Suva, the capital city.

The case was brought by former Prime Minister Qarase. It questioned whether President Iloilo had constitutional authority to replace the Qarase administration with an interim government headed by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama.

Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party lawyer Brad Walker argued that the President’s powers to dismiss the Prime Minister were constrained by the constitution. State counsel Richard Gordon QC argued that the President had powers to act outside the Constitution to protect the country in times of crisis. But the court ruled that the President’s prerogative powers had been extinguished by the 1997 constitution.

A previous decision by Fiji’s High Court ruled that President Iloilo’s actions were lawful and valid.

The case was heard by Judges Justice Randal Powell, Justice Ian Lloyd and Justice Francis Douglas.



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Election in Moldova instigates rioting mob demanding recount

Election in Moldova instigates rioting mob demanding recount

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Riots in the capital of Moldova
Image: VargaA.

Protests which began Monday escalated to a riot on Wednesday consisting of over 10,000 people in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, protesting the results of Sunday’s 2009 Moldovan parliamentary election, which showed an apparent, narrow victory for the Communist Party (Partidul Comuniştilor din Republica Moldova, PCRM). Demonstrators claim the victory was the result of electoral fraud.

The demonstration escalated to a “flash mob” of between 10,000 to 15,000 communicating via online tools like email, micro-blogging tool Twitter, and social-networking website Facebook. “We sent messages on Twitter but didn’t expect 15,000 people to join in. At the most we expected 1,000”, said Oleg Brega of the activist group Hyde Park.

Police deployed tear gas and water cannons, and fired blanks into the crowd. The rioters threw stones at the riot police and took control of the parliament building and presidential office. A bonfire was built out of parliamentary furniture and all windows below the 7th floor were broken.

Approximately one hundred protesters and 170 police officers are reported as injured. There have been conflicting reports as to whether a female protester died during the altercation.

193 protesters “have been charged with looting, hooliganism, robbery and assault,” said an Interior Ministry spokesperson. This announcement sparked another protest by those demanding the release for those detained.

There is wide speculation about who was to blame for the rioting.

President Voronin
Image: Juergen Lehle.

President Vladimir Voronin has expelled the Romanian ambassador from Moldova, blaming Romania for the violent protests. “We know that certain political forces in Romania are behind this unrest. The Romanian flags fixed on the government buildings in Chisinau attest to this” said Voronin. “Romania is involved in everything that has happened.“ Voronin also blamed the protests on opposition leaders who used violence to seize power, and has described the event as a coup d’état.

Protesters initially insisted on a recount of the election results and are now calling for a new vote, which has been rejected by the government. Rioters were also demanding unification between Moldova and Romania. “In the air, there was a strong expectation of change, but that did not happen”, said OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff.

Dorin Chirtoacă
Image: Dorin Chirtoacă.

“The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting” accused Chişinău mayor Dorin Chirtoacă of the Liberal Party. “It’s impossible that every second person in Moldova voted for the Communists. However, we believe the riots were a provocation and we are now trying to reconcile the crowd. Leaders of all opposition parties are at the scene,” said Larissa Manole of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) proclaimed the PCRM to have won 61 seats in initial counts, enough to guarantee a third term in power for Voronin, who has held the position since 2001. But the Central Election Commission has received evidence of election violations, according to RIA Novosti, and upon recounts conducted of disputed polls, the commission reported that the Communists achieved 49.48% of the Moldovian vote, giving them 60 parliamentary seats — one short of the total needed to win the presidential election. “The electoral commission also granted opposition parties permission to check voter lists, fulfilling one of their chief demands,” said Yuri Ciocan, Central Election Commission secretary.

Voronin will step down in May, however his party could elect a successor with 61 parliamentary seats without any votes from outside parties as well as amend the Constitution. With the PCRM garnering 60 seats, the opposition will have a voice in the presidential election for a new successor.

Riots in the capital of Moldova
Image: VargaA.

The western part of Moldova was a part of Romania from the Romania’s independence until the region was detached by the USSR in 1940 to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. On independence in 1990 the country sought union with Romania but the eastern, Russian- and Ukrainian-inhabited areas of the country declared themselves independent from Moldova and formed the state of Transnistria and movement toward union was halted.

Moldova is Europe’s poorest country, where average income is less than $250 (£168) a month. The country’s neighbours are Romania and Ukraine. Romania is a European Union (EU) state.



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Jews Around the World Recite Special Sun Blessing

Filed under: Archived,Judaism,Religion,World — admin @ 5:00 am

Jews around the world recite special sun blessing

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Massada synagogue
Image: Daniel Ventura.

On Wednesday morning, April 8, Jews gathered around the world to recite the sacred and rare blessing of the sun (birkat hachama in Hebrew), recited only once every 28 years.

The blessing is intended to celebrate the positioning of the sun, stars, and planets in the exact formation in which they were created. Although modern science seems to have disproved such a claim, the blessing is still recited and maintains much symbolic value in the Jewish faith.

The sun or the shape of the sun must be seen in order to recite the “BirkatHachamah” after sunrise but no later than noon. Areas which forecast cloudy or rainy weather were hoping for a glimpse of the sun. A contingency plan would be to raise above the clouds aboard an aircraft to sight the sun and then recite the prayer.

This year also marks the first time in 2,000 years that the prayer was recited at Massada’s ancient synagogue.



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18-year media ban on covering return of fallen soldiers lifted

Filed under: Media,United States,War on Terror — admin @ 5:00 am

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The return of United States war casualties
Image: Colin Mutchler (activefree).

The media were allowed to cover the return of an airman killed in Afghanistan on Monday, ending an 18-year ban that had prevented the publication of images of American war casualties.

The military allowed media access to the service in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the return of the body of Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers of Hopewell, of Virginia, after the family had given permission.

According to the Department of Defense, the 30-year-old airman was killed on April 4 near Helmand province, Afghanistan, after being hit with an improvised explosive device.

The ban had been enacted by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, apparently as a way to shield grieving families. But critics claimed the ban was an attempt to hide the human cost of war. President Barack Obama had asked the United States Department of Defense for a review of the ban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was “never comfortable” with the blanket restriction, according to USA Today.


Sources

  • David Kerley and Ki Mae Huessner “First Photos of Fallen Soldier Ends 18-Year Ban”. ABC News, April 6, 2009
  • JoAnne Allen and Philip Barbara “Media covers US war dead’s return after 18-year ban”. Reuters, April 6, 2009
  • Randall Chase “Media witness return of war casualty at Dover”. The Seattle Times, April 6, 2009
  • Randall Chase “After 18-year ban, media see return of US war dead”. Yahoo! News, April 6, 2009
  • “US lifts ban on war dead photos”. BBC News, February 26, 2009
  • “US permits war dead coverage”. Al Jazeera, April 6, 2009
  • Andrea Stone “Ban on photos of U.S. troops’ coffins lifted”. USA Today, February 27, 2009
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