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Security threats directed at US Democrats

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into threats made against Democratic members of the US House of Representatives. The threats were directed at members of Congress who supported the recent health care reform legislation.

Virginia’s 5th district representative Tom Perriello’s brother’s home had its gas line cut early Wednesday. Another Democrat, Louise Slaughter of New York’s 28th district, had a brick thrown through her offices window.

House Majority leader Steny Hoyer held a press conference about the threats and multiple instances of vandalism involving the offices of Congresspersons who voted on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Hoyer said that “[t]he incidents of threats whether in person or through telephones or through other communication devices, have given great concern to members, for the safety of themselves and their families.”

House Minority leader John Boehner said that the incidents show the American peoples’ feelings for the new bill, but “violence and threats are unacceptable.” He added, “that’s not the American way, we need to take that anger and channel it into positive change.”



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United States begins testing equipment for demolition of a major VX nerve gas stockpile

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Testing began on a chemical reactor at the Newport Chemical Depot near Terre Haute, Indiana on Friday morning. If successful, the reactor will be put to use destroying the large VX nerve gas stockpiles stored at the facility over the course of the next two years. After the disposal project experienced several delays, the facility announced it would begin pumping VX into a completed disposal unit for testing. The unit consists of a chemical reactor in which the VX will be mixed with water and sodium hydroxide, heated to 194°F while mixed with paddles. The resulting chemical, called hydrolysate, is chemically similar to commercial drain cleaners and has similar properties. If the test is successfully completed , the unit will continue processing the VX until the entire stockpile has been neutralized, a process projected to take two years. Administrators expect to complete testing on May 10, 2005.

According to the controversial plan, the finished waste product would be shipped to New Jersey for final reprocessing. The inert chemical would then be emptied into the Delaware River where natural attenuation would occur.

Residents near the proposed river disposal site in New Jersey oppose this idea. The contractor for the final component of this disposal would be the DuPont Corporation.

NCD is a bulk chemical storage and destruction facility in west central Indiana, thirty miles north of Terre Haute. Originally founded during World War II to produce RDX, a conventional explosive, it later became a site for chemical weapons manufacturing during the Cold War. It is now used to securely store and gradually neutralize part of the US stockpile of VX.

VX was manufactured by the U.S. in the 1950s and 60’s as a deterrent to possible Soviet Union use. It was never deployed, and the manufacture was halted in 1969 after an order signed by then-president Richard Nixon.

In 1999, the Army announced it awarded a disposal contract to Parsons Infrastructure & Technology, Inc., a business unit of Parsons Corporation. Some 220 civilian Parsons employees work at the facility, which is supervised by an Army officer reporting to the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, and a board of civilian government overseers called the Indiana Citizens’ Advisory Commission, some of whose members are appointed by the state governor.

Security at the facility is controversial. A private security service, supplemented by a complement of Indiana National Guard soldiers, guarded the facility until April 14, 2005, when the soldiers were withdrawn. An Indianapolis television station has questioned security measures in some of its special reports.



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Navy helping New Orleans pets

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Spanish word “tortuga” means “turtle.” But in the wake of the New Orleans disaster, the USS Tortuga is helping other animals.

For nearly two weeks now, sailors from Tortuga’s repair division have devoted much of their time during this disaster relief operation to ensure the health and comfort of displaced pets.

September 4th, just after the ship moored to a pier at Naval Support Activity (NSA) New Orleans, HT1(SW) Mark Hanley and DC1(SW) Antony Graves gathered materials from the repair shop on board to construct a kennel along the levee. The facility they made soon became a popular shelter for the homeless animals of the storm.

Tortuga’s search and rescue team brought aboard more than 170 displaced citizens during this past week, providing them with food, water, medical aid and a place to sleep.

Tortuga’s makeshift kennel, named ‘Camp Milo & Otis,’ has housed as many as 90 dogs, eight cats, one rabbit, one guinea pig, a pair of parakeets and a flightless pigeon during the past week of operation.

Currently, there are 14 dogs that remain in Tortuga’s care, as many of the other pets have been taken to animal shelters in the area for extra medical attention, or been claimed by their owners upon arrival to Tortuga. The pets that Tortuga has registered have all been in the hands of professional veterinarians assigned to provide expert medical attention to the members of Camp Milo & Otis.

Dr. Kelly Crowdis and Dr. Latina Gambles, both from Tuskegee University and Christian Veterinary Missions, have treated many of the pets for infection, dehydration, malnourishment and broken bones at the Camp during the past week.

“The animals were bathed and assessed before physical interaction with the sailors,” said Dr. Crowdis. “They’ve been given immunizations, antibiotics and medications based on their medical needs.”

Dr. Crowdis added, “What these sailors have done on their own has been such a heart-warming thing. As an animal lover, it is so comforting to know that everyone cares about the animals in addition to the human lives rescued from the storm. I’m very pleased with these guys for taking the initiative to construct this kennel.”

Graves, Hanley and other members of their division have consistently bathed, fed, walked and given special attention to every dog, every day.

“We play with them,” said Hanley. “We take them out of their kennels to give them attention every day. And we’ll continue to do that for as long as our ship’s mission keeps us here.”

September 11th, the Agricultural Center at Louisiana State University donated supplies to “Camp Milo & Otis” in support of Tortuga’s efforts to help the animal victims.

”We got medical supplies, bowls, food, cages, leashes, collars, toys, cat litter and cleaning supplies from these people yesterday,” said Graves. “It’s nice to know that so many people out there have heard about what our ship is doing, and responded by donating so much to support us the best they can.”

A photo gallery of unclaimed pets is on the USS Tortuga’s web site.

As part of disaster plans, the Department of Homeland Security has also deployed Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams to provide medical care to pets and livestock, as well as provide any needed veterinary medical care for search and rescue dogs.

There are over 3,850 animals being sheltered around the state. If someone is looking for a pet they should contact their nearest Humane Society or go online to http://www.petfinder.org// . More information is also available at http://www.vetmed.lsu.edu//.



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Batman star Adam West dies aged 88

Monday, June 12, 2017

On Friday night, Adam West, a US actor best known for his role as Batman in 1960s television series Batman, died at the age of 88 in Los Angeles, his family spokesperson said. Before his death, West “fought a short but brave battle with leukemia”, his family said via Facebook.

Actors Ben Affleck, Val Kilmer, and Mark Hamill, comic book writer Frank Miller, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as well as author Neil Gaiman paid tribute to Adam West via Twitter. Affleck and Kilmer portrayed the titular character in, the 2016 film Batman v Superman and the 1995 film Batman Forever respectively.

Burt Ward, who played the role of Batman’s sidekick Robin in the TV series with West, paid tribute via The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Julie Newmar, who played the role of Catwoman in the 1960s show, paid tribute as well via the BBC World Service radio program Newshour.DC Entertainment president and CEO Geoff Johns and publisher Jim Lee paid tribute via DC Comics’s official blog.

Adam West, younger of the two brothers, was born on September 19, 1928 in Washington. His father was a wheat farmer and his mother was a pianist and an opera singer. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in English literature from Whitman College and worked as a station master at Stanford while he was a graduate student.

West worked at McClatchy station in Sacramento, California before moving to Hawaii, where he hosted a weekday show in the late 1950s. He moved to Hollywood, California in 1959 and signed a contract with Warner Bros. He appeared in multiple series before portraying Detective Sergeant Steve Nelson in the 1959–62 television series, The Detectives, from 1961 to 1962. His film debut was the 1959 film The Young Philadelphians, starring Paul Newman. Before Batman, West appeared in many films throughout the 1960s.

Lyle Waggoner and Adam West auditioned for the role of Batman while Peter Deyell and Burt Ward auditioned for the role of Robin. Batman TV series debuted on January 12, 1966 on the ABC network. Though the first season was a success, two subsequent seasons had a significant drop in the Nielsen ratings, and it was cancelled in March 1968.

After Batman, West was given typecast roles throughout his career. He voiced Batman in animated shows, like The New Adventures of Batman, Legends of the Superheroes, and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. He also voiced a role in an Academy Award-nominated 1997 short film Redux Riding Hood. He also voiced the role of Mayor Adam West in Family Guy, which MacFarlane called an “alternative universe” version of West.

West married Marcelle in 1970; each had two children from their previous marriages. After the marriage, the couple had two children. West is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.



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Governor of Illinois arrested on suspicion of corruption

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Democratic governor of Illinois in the United States, Rod Blagojevich, 51, along with his chief of staff John Harris, 46, were arrested Tuesday morning by the FBI on federal corruption charges.

The Chicago Tribune reports that federal agents raided Blagojevich’s home this morning and took him into federal custody. The arrest comes after a three-year investigation into Blagojevich’s “pay-to-play politics.”

Specifically, the Department of Justice alleged that Blagojevich attempted to sell the Senate seat previously held by President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich, as governor, has the sole authority to appoint someone to complete Obama’s term. Authorities believe the process to select a new senator was tainted after authorities secretly recorded several of Blagojevich’s conversations. They believe that he was attempting to sell the seat in exchange for financial benefit for himself and his wife.

Documents from the FBI and from U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald identify the people whom Blagojevich was considering as Senate Candidates 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. According to Fitzgerald’s press release, Blagojevich told an advisor that he wanted to “get some (money) up front, maybe.”

In Illinois, a new state ethics law will take effect on January 1, 2009, so Blagojevich was trying to embezzle as much money as he could before that date, said Fitzgerald.

Authorities also believe that Blagojevich was trying to withhold state financial assistance from the owner of the Tribune, the Tribune Company, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. They allege he was trying to get members of the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune fired by threatening to complicate the sale of Wrigley Field by Tribune Company.

On December 8, Blagojevich responded to the reports that federal authorities had wiretapped his phone conversations, saying that “I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful and the things I’m interested in are always lawful.”

If convicted, Blagojevich could face up to 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

This is not the first time in Illinois history that a governor has been arrested for corruption charges. In 2006, George Ryan was indicted and is now serving a 6½-year prison term.



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Penske Auto selected to buy General Motors’ Saturn unit

Friday, June 5, 2009

General Motors Corporation (GM), an American automaker which has filed for bankruptcy protection, announced on Friday that the Penske Automotive Group (PAG) was selected to purchase Saturn Corporation. The transaction should be completed in October.

The purchase includes rights to the Saturn brand, its five current models and its dealership network. Two models would be discontinued, the Sky and Astra. GM would continue building the Aura sedan, the SUV’s, Vue and Outlook for at least two more years.

Saturn has 350 dealers across the United States. The dealers employ more than 13,000 jobs and sell only the Saturn autos. Canadian Saturn dealers are not included in the deal.

According to Penske future Saturn vehicles will be fuel economy focused. An expert indicated that this would move Saturn back to its roots of a entry level car company. PAG is in talks with several international automakers to replace GM after 2011. Automotive News reports that Renault Samsung Motors of Korea is the most likely candidate.

Penske wants Jill Lajdziak, Saturn’s general manager, and Tom LaSorda, former Chrysler President to head up the company when it is independent of GM.

Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc Township, Genesee County, Michigan, is in talks to take a partial ownership in a new Saturn lead by Penske.



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US salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, brand recalls product

Sunday, January 11, 2009

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an outbreak of salmonella that has affected at least 399 people in 42 different U.S. states has been linked to King Nut, an American brand of peanut butter. In Minnesota, the state’s Health Department announced that bacteria tests for the disease on a tub of creamy King Nut peanut butter had tested positive for the disease, initiating a recall by its distributor in Solon, King Nut Companies.

Workers found evidence from these tests that the brand caused the outbreak. This has not been completely proven, however, as the Food and Drug Administration and King Nut itself are still conducting tests to discover if the case is isolated or related to the nationwide incident.

According to a statement made by the Health Department, the brand is used in many places including schools, hospitals, some restaurants and retirement homes, 20 alone being in Minnesota. A tub of peanut butter used inside of a retirement home where many of its citizens had become sick was tested positive by Minnesota’s health department.

We are very sorry this happened. We are taking immediate and voluntary action because the health and safety of those who use our products is always our highest priority.

Yesterday, King Nut Companies recalled all peanut butter distributed by their company. The president of King Nut Companies, Martin Kanan, said in a statement yesterday, “We are very sorry this happened. We are taking immediate and voluntary action because the health and safety of those who use our products is always our highest priority.”

In a web statement, King Nut told all of its customers to “put on hold all of their peanut butter in question. A recall of this product will be announced Monday morning. At this point it is unclear what Peanut Corporation of America will do with regard to this case or the national case of the salmonella outbreak.” The Peanut Corporation of America, located in Lynchburg but also operating in the states of Texas and Georgia, is the manufacturer for King Nut.

Salmonellosis is an infection of salmonella bacteria that usually results in diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms are normally developed 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected, and can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Most of the time, the infected person will recover from the disease, but younger and older people have higher risks of it developing and becoming serious. Rarely, salmonella can cause hospitalization, and very rarely, it can lead to death.



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British TV presenter Rico Daniels tells Wikinews about being ‘The Salvager’

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rico Daniels is a British TV presenter living in France who is known for his two television series — The Salvager — whilst he still lived in the UK and then Le Salvager after he moved to France. Rico has been in a variety of jobs but his passion is now his profession – he turns unwanted ‘junk’ into unusual pieces of furniture. Rico’s creations and the methods used to fabricate them are the subject of the Salvager shows.

Rico spoke to Wikinews in January about his inspiration and early life, future plans, other hobbies and more. Read on for the full exclusive interview, published for the first time:



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Nurseries not harmful to children, says new UK study

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A new study by a professor at the University of Oxford has concluded that attending nursery school does not have harmful effects upon “the vast majority” of children under two years old. The research contrasts with the views of other writers in the field, who argue that pre-school children achieve the best results when cared for by their parents full-time.

Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at the university, has based her findings upon data from the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project. This has been running since 1996, tracking the development of 3,000 children to discover the effects upon their development of pre-school care and education.

Sylva told The Sunday Times that “[a] lot of parents worry unnecessarily about this issue but my research shows that the vast majority of children are not impaired on any measure by attending nursery under the age of two”, although she admits that there is an increased risk for children from deprived background, and for boys. Those attending better-quality nurseries go on to make better relationships when they start school, she says, and urges parents to check the standards of nurseries for themselves.

Her conclusions come in the wake of a vast expansion in nursery care provision in the United Kingdom in recent years, aimed at getting mothers of young children back to work. One study states that 5% of “middle-class” parents in Britain put their children in full-time nursery care.

According to others such as the child psychologist Oliver James, however, full-time care by parents gives the best results for children. James states that there is evidence that nursery care is “highly stressful and can be harmful”, since levels of the hormone cortisol double after one hour in day care, and raised levels can be detected for some months afterwards. Sylva agrees, though, that some children who attend nursery before they are two are slightly more aggressive at primary school – a finding in line with other research – but says that this aggression disappears by the time the child reaches eleven.

Sylva, a Professorial Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, was awarded the OBE in 2008. She is a former special advisor to the UK House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.



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Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

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

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?