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December 29, 2011

U.S. presidential candidate Gary Johnson leaves GOP to vie for the LP nom

U.S. presidential candidate Gary Johnson leaves GOP to vie for the LP nom

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gary Johnson in January 2011.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson ended his campaign for the Republican Party (GOP) presidential nomination to seek the backing of the Libertarian Party (LP). Johnson made the announcement yesterday during a press conference in Santa Fe. He remarked that it “was both a difficult decision – and an easy one…I have a lot of Republican history, and a lot of Republican supporters. But in the final analysis…I am a Libertarian – that is someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior.”

Johnson, who supports abortion rights, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization, had trouble gaining support for his GOP candidacy. He remained low in the polls and was invited to only two of the fifteen presidential debates. His name was often not included in surveys, and he filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after his exclusion from the November 12 CBS debate. He criticized the GOP establishment for failing to support his efforts. A switch to the LP had been expected for Johnson who argued that “the [GOP] process was not fair and open.”

Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg argued that “almost any third party helps [President Barack] Obama.” A recent poll from Public Policy Polling shows Johnson with nine percent national support in a three-way race with Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Johnson’s presence in the poll erases Romney’s two percent lead in a head-to-head match up with Obama, giving the president a two point edge. Johnson’s 20 to 23 percent support in his home state of New Mexico splits the vote to give Obama an easy victory in the state.

Nevertheless, Johnson seems to believe he can win. In his announcement, he pointed to a survey showing that “sixty three percent of Americans said they wished there was a third choice for 2012.” He maintains that he is that choice.

Johnson joins the field of nine candidates currently seeking the LP nomination including National Guard officer R.J. Harris and Libertarian activist R. Lee Wrights. The party will hold its nominating convention on May 5.



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Russian court rejects move to ban Hindu scripture

Russian court rejects move to ban Hindu scripture

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

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Hare Krishnas protesting against the ban of their scripture outside the Russian Consulate in Kolkata, India. December 19, 2011.
Image: Cinosaur.

A judge in Tomsk, Russia drew a round of applause from the court room as she dismissed charges of extremism against the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, a Russian commented translation of the Bhagavad Gita published by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. This decision put an end to the six-month-long trial of the book accused by the state prosecutors of fostering “social discord” and “incitement to religious hatred”.

The Indian Foreign Ministry, which had been urging Moscow to avert the possible ban they termed as “absurd”, welcomed the verdict calling it “a sensible resolution of a sensitive issue” which “demonstrates yet again that the people of India and Russia have a deep understanding of each other’s cultures and will always reject any attempt to belittle our common civilizational values” and thanked the Russian government for their support. Indian Ambassador to Russia Ajai Mahotra also stated that the court decision “deserves to be applauded”.

The controversial court case on the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient text regarded sacred by millions of Hindus, had threatened to become a stumbling block in traditionally strong Indo-Russian relations as it caused political and societal turmoil in India, with the Indian Parliament stalled over the proposed ban and Hindu activists burning Russian flags. The trial also evoked strong criticism from the international media.



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December 24, 2011

Lansing, Michigan airport designated \’aerotropolis\’

Lansing, Michigan airport designated ‘aerotropolis’

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

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Capital Region International Airport entrance sign.
Image: Dj1997.

On Wednesday the Lansing, Michigan Capital Region International Airport and surrounding land was designated as an “aerotropolis” by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Strategic Fund board. The Next Michigan Development program allows the airport to offer tax incentives in order to attract manufacturing, distribution, and technology businesses to the surrounding area.

Incentives can include property tax abatements or the elimination of most state and local taxes for a specified period of time. To qualify for the incentives, a company would have to start a new venture on airport property or expand an existing one. Additionally, companies need to use a minimum of two out of four transportation modes – freight, air, rail, or water.

The airport, in DeWitt Township, is the second in Michigan to receive an aerotropolis designation. The state’s other aerotropolis is located in the area surrounding Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run airports. In October the city of Lansing and DeWitt Township approved a 425 tax-sharing agreement on the property, designating approximately 850 acres (344 ha) of land as available for future development.



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Gingrich, Perry fail to qualify for Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot

Gingrich, Perry fail to qualify for Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Republican candidates for President of the United States Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have failed to qualify to be on the ballot for the Virginia primary election, scheduled for March 6, Super Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Gingrich, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and Perry, Governor of Texas, did not submit the 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the state’s eleven congressional districts, to the state’s board of elections before the 5:00 PM deadline last Thursday required to gain ballot access, according to the Republican Party of Virginia.

Gingrich’s and Perry’s campaigns both claimed to have more signatures than needed, 11,050 and 11,911 respectively. Volunteers spent last night reviewing the submitted petitions and validating signatures. Reportedly Rick Perry is considering an appeal of the assessment.

Among other major candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and Texas congressman Ron Paul submitted the required petition and qualified for the ballot. On Thursday, it was disclosed that candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum also failed to gain ballot access.

According to the manager of the Gingrich campaign, Michael Krull, the former House Speaker plans to compete in the Virginia primary, despite not gaining ballot access, as a write-in candidate. Krull blamed a “failed system” for the campaign’s inability to gain ballot access. Rick Perry’s campaign manager said he was disappointed by that campaign’s failure to qualify for the ballot. According to a recent poll of 489 Republican voters by Quinnipiac University, Gingrich leads in the state with 30% of support, followed by Mitt Romney at 25% and Ron Paul at 9%.

As Virginia’s delegates to the Republican National Convention are not awarded on a winner-take-all basis, candidates other than the winner of the state’s primary could also gain delegates from the state.



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Colombian crime gang boss, hundreds of members surrender

Colombian crime gang boss, hundreds of members surrender

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

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The boss of a crime gang identified as the Popular Anticommunist (alternatively, Anti-terrorist) Revolutionary Army (PARA) has surrendered to authorities in Colombia. Jose Lopez Montero, also called “Caracho”, handed himself in yesterday.

Skyline of Villavicencio in 2007
Image: Alejo Rendón.

More than 280 other members of the group also gave themselves up to police yesterday and on Thursday. Why the group members gave themselves up en masse is currently uncertain. Caracho recently told Colombian media he had “tired of war”. All of the group members surrendered in Villavicencio, a city located south-east of the capital Bogotá.

Judges have yet to decide upon the legal status of the gang members. The ring members will remain in Villavicencio until they do. The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia has clarified that it did not negotiate with the group members at the time of their surrender. This is understood to be one of the largest mass suspect surrenders in the country for a number of years.

Caracho is accused of conspiracy, while PARA’s members are also accused of a variety of crimes, including murder and illegal drug trade. Prosecutor Nestor Armando Novoa has stated that Caracho may also face further criminal charges due to his leadership in PARA. It is anticipated the members of the gang will say where their weapons are cached.

According to Associated Press, the political stance of the Popular Anticommunist Revolutionary Army is uncertain. Caracho had been the leader of PARA since the death of Pedro Guerrero, also called “Cuchillo” (“Knife”), who was killed in December of last year by falling in a river while trying to escape from police.



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December 23, 2011

Walmart recalls infant formula after baby death

Walmart recalls infant formula after baby death

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Friday, December 23, 2011

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Trypticase containing Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Retail store group Walmart has removed an infant formula from over three thousand of their stores in the United States. The decision was taken in the aftermath of the death of a baby who suffered from Cronobacter sakazakii, an infection which is extremely rare but poses a significant risk to babies born recently and those born prematurely should they contract it. A second newborn baby has also contracted the infection, which is most frequently discovered in plants like rice and wheat.

Ongoing tests are now attempting to establish whether or not the powdered infant formula is connected to the bacterial infection the two babies suffered from in the US state of Missouri. A statement from Walmart says that the company is taking the product Enfamil Newborn Formula off their shelves “out of an abundance of caution”. Speaking on behalf of Walmart, Dianna Gee stated that the group express their “deepest condolences” to the family of Avery Cornett, who died after removal from life support. Gee informed Agence France-Presse that lot number ZP1K7G had been removed and “Walmart customers who may have purchased the item at our stores can return it for a full refund or exchange it for another brand of formula”.

The manufacturer of Enfamil Newborn Formula has also stated that tests made before shipment of the product came back as negative. Chris Perille, a spokesperson for Enfamil manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition, has said: “The batch of our product used by the child’s family tested negative for Cronobacter when it was produced and packaged, and that has been reconfirmed from our batch records following this news”. Mead Johnson are “highly confident in the safety and quality of our products — and the rigorous testing we put them through” and is “working with the health authorities to support their efforts to identify the source or cause of this infant’s infection,” according to Perille. The U.S. government has reportedly made no recall of the product.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has referred the infant formula to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration for examination and has advised parents that “powdered infant formulas are not commercially sterile products” and destroying bacteria amongst the production process may not be possible, while “no exclusively breastfed infants have been reported to have” contracted Cronobacter sakazakii. Pending test completion, “it cannot be determined whether the illness is linked to Enfamil Newborn Formula 12.5 oz. cans lot #ZP1K7G or an outside source”, according to a statement from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The department has also suggested that parents observe the World Health Organisation’s ‘Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula’, which recommends “washing your hands with soap and water, thoroughly sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time”.



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UK to ban hidden credit card fees

Filed under: Archived,Original reporting,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

UK to ban hidden credit card fees – Wikinews, the free news source

UK to ban hidden credit card fees

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Friday, December 23, 2011

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The British government want to ban payment fees and other hidden charges.
Image: Lotus Head.

The British government have vowed to ban payment fees and other hidden and excessive credit card charges. They hope to do so by the end of 2012, following a consultation in the new year.

Hidden fees are often not shown until the end of an ordering process on the web which prevents consumers from making an informed choice and comparing the actual prices of different products and services according to the Office of Fair Trading. Plans are also underway to bring in Europe-wide regulation of credit card fees in 2014.

Mark Hoban, a Treasury Minister, said consumers “have a right to understand the charges they may incur up front and not be hit through a hidden last-minute payment surcharge.” He said the plans announced today will increase “transparency” for consumers, and that consumers currently “feel ripped off”.

The Office of Fair Trading have listed some examples of particularly high charges: with EasyJet charging £8, Ryanair £6, and thetrainline.com £3.50 extra to pay for tickets with credit cards. The consumer group Which? claimed that these surcharges were increasing the cost of air travel by £265,000 a day (or about £97 million per year). The OFT stated that the figure was £300m a year. A Wikinews reporter contacted Which? about this disparity but they had not responded at the time of publication.



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U.S. Congress reaches deal on payroll tax cut extension

U.S. Congress reaches deal on payroll tax cut extension

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Friday, December 23, 2011

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Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner announced yesterday that he would agree to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. In an effort to end the impasse between the House and Senate, Boehner told Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid that he would schedule a House vote on the Senate version of the bill that would extend the tax cut, which was due to expire at the end of the year.

Speaker John Boehner (pictured) announced yesterday that he would agree to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
Image: U.S. Congress.

Speaker Boehner announced the agreement in a brief statement: “Senator Reid and I have reached an agreement that will ensure taxes do not increase for working families on January 1”. Boehner informed other congressmen of the deal in a conference call yesterday evening.

The House may pass the bill via unanimous consent today, which would not require the presence of all members. Boehner and Reid also agreed to a bipartisan negotiation committee to sort out differences and extend the tax cut for an entire year, a goal recently sought by Republicans in the House.

The extension of the payroll tax cut, which would prevent approximately 160 million Americans from seeing a tax increase in 2012, had already been passed by the Senate last weekend. Earlier yesterday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell joined several other Republican Senators in encouraging the House to pass the extension.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that once the House acts, he “will be happy to restart the negotiating process to forge a yearlong extension.” At a news conference, Speaker Boehner issued a statement: “We have fought the good fight. Why not do the right thing for the American people even though it’s not exactly what we want.” President Obama also responded to the development in a statement: “This is good news, just in time for the holidays. This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The tax cut extension impasse began when the House effectively rejected the Senate-approved version of the bill on Tuesday after being faced with opposition from House Republicans, specifically those associated with the Tea Party movement, who advocated for spending cuts and the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.



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Attorney general drops case against Israeli participants in Freedom Flotilla

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Friday, December 23, 2011

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Israeli Defense Forces boarding one of the ships bound for Gaza.
Image: Israeli Defense Forces.

Citizens in Israel who participated in the 2010 ‘Freedom Flotilla’ to Gaza will not be prosecuted, according to a statement released today by the Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein.

Weinstein said the cases had been closed due to “evidentiary and legal difficulties” related to “proving the basis of the office as well as legal questions regarding the jurisdiction of Israeli law on crimes committed abroad.”

Haneen Zoabi, an Israeli Arab and member of the Knesset for the Balad party, was amongst the Israeli citizens who participated in the flotilla. She responded to the dropping of the cases by saying that it “proves what I said all along. My participation in the flotilla was a political act and entirely legal.”

Anastassia Michaeli, a Knesset member for the nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, said the decision to drop the cases was “a boost and reward for terror in Israel and around the globe”.



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December 22, 2011

Two politicians jailed for life over Rwandan genocide

Two politicians jailed for life over Rwandan genocide

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

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The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), supported by the United Nations, has convicted two Rwandan politicians in relation to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The court has sentenced then-National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD) chairman Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera — at that time, Ngirumpatse’s deputy — to life imprisonment having found them guilty over their involvement in a variety of crimes including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, for failing to stop or punish crimes such as rape and murder committed by the youth militia of their party, the Interahamwe, in 1994.

Hutus considered to have extremist views reportedly murdered 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the space of one hundred days, between April and July 1994. The ICTR determined that “the rapes and the sexual crimes carried out on Tutsi girls and women by soldiers and militia, including the Interahamwe, are a natural and predictable consequence of the joint criminal enterprise seeking to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group” before “unanimously condemn[ing] Ngirumpatse to life in jail” and subsequently providing a similar punishment to Karemera. Joseph Nzirorera, a third man accused alongside Ngirumpatse and Karemera, died while the trial was underway.

The ICTR found Ngirumpatse had approved weapons distribution amongst the Interahamwe in April 1994. “At that point in the genocide”, the ICTR panel stated, “it could be assumed the weapons were going to be used to kill Tutsis”.

The ICTR were set up in the city of Arusha in Tanzania with the specific purpose of trying those accused of being most responsible for the crimes relating to the Rwandan genocide. Recently, Theoneste Bagosora — suspected of being amongst those of highest responsibility in the Rwandan genocide — had his life imprisonment punishment reversed by appeal judges at the ICTR and reduced to a 35 year prison sentence. BBC News Online reported anger amongst some Rwandans over this decision for the chief of staff of the defence ministry at the time.



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