Thursday, August 30, 2018

On Tuesday, two officers of cotton farming conglomerate Norman Farming in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for alleged fraud of the government. Queensland Police alleged over the past seven years the farmers submitted fraudulent claims to receive funding from Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, resulting in an approximately AUD20 million dishonest personal financial gain. The Court laid charges and released the defendants on bail.

According to the results of the investigation by Police, the two men allegedly falsified documents, including invoices, misrepresenting work from contractors as earthwork supposedly in aid of improving water irrigation efficiency. The two allegedly presented farming-related work on their property on six projects as aimed at improving the efficiency of water irrigation at their property near Goondiwindi.

Police arrested the chief executive officer (CEO) of the conglomerate, 43-year-old John Norman, and the conglomerate’s chief financial officer, 53-year-old Stephen Evans. They appeared in Court represented by their lawyers. In the Court they were charged, Norman with six and Evans with four counts of aggravated fraud, Norman with six and Evans with four counts of fraudulently producing or using a false record. Police opposed bail, however the Magistrate released the two on bail conditionally, requiring they surrender their passports.

According to reports by Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Guardian, neighbours of Norman Farming had complained to the authorities about Norman Farming’s work resulting in excessive removal of floodwater from the McIntyre river, leading to reduced availability of water for the farmers downstream.

Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy provided the funding as a part of its Healthy Head Waters scheme. Detective Inspector Mick Dowie said the Department did not have the authority of police to compel provision of documents, leading to difficulty with verifying the invoices which the two submitted in their application.

Dowie said the investigation took over a year to complete, including analysis of accounting reports.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

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Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

Have you any photos of the museum, or its exhibits?

The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh’s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University’s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

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Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny‘ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

  • Ground floor
  • First floor
  • Second floor
  • Top floor

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

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At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Glasgow —Last weekend, December 8, The Reid Foundation, a left-leaning think-tank, launched The Common Weal, a vision for a more socially just and inclusive post-Independence Scotland. Five- to six-hundred turned up for the event, billed as “[a] ‘revolution’ … with T-shirts and dancing” by the Sunday Herald, and held in The Arches club and theatre, under Glasgow’s Central Street Station.

Wikinews’ Brian McNeil travelled to Glasgow to attend, walking through the city’s festively decorated George Square, and busy shopping streets, to the venue under Hielanman’s Umbrella.

More known for theatre, live music, and club nights, organisers in The Arches confirmed around 800 had signed up for the free Sunday afternoon event. The crowd was a mix of all ages, including families with young childen. Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai entertained the early arrivals by DJ-ing until the launch video for the Common Weal was screened.

The Common Weal present themselves as “an emerging movement which is developing a vision for economic and social development in Scotland which is distinct and different from the political orthodoxy that dominates politics and economics in London.” Contrasting current “me first politics” against concerns of ordinary Scots, the launch video’s opening, monochrome half, stresses everyday common concerns: “Will I have a pension I can survive on when I retire?”, “I miss my local library”, “Public transport is so bad it’s hard to get to work”; and, “Why can we always find money to bail out banks but not to protect public services?”, “Why is it always the poor, the disabled, and immigrants who get the blame?”

The preferred vision offered by the Common Weal, “Not me first, all of us first”, makes up the more-aspirational second-half of the film, advocating a national fund for industry, taking the nation’s energy into collective ownership, building quality new public housing, strengthening the welfare state, and ending tax evasion. Throughout the event a distinction between these ‘popular politics’, which experience wide support, and the derogatory ‘populist’ label, often used to dismiss such calls for a fairer society, was emphasised.

Comedienne Janey Godley took over following the film, to compère the afternoon, and introduce Reid Foundation director Robin McAlpine. With the mixed audience, Godley made avoiding profanity — due to the presence of children — a theme of her warm-up; although, the humour remained fairly adult in nature.

McAlpine sketched out the movement’s hopes and plans. After thanking those who were giving their time for free, he characterised modern politics as “[…] a game that is played by a small number of professionals, in a small number of rooms, in a small number of expensively-rented premises, across Scotland — and across Britain. It’s become a thing people do as a profession, and the rest of us are all supposed to applaud them — or stand back — nod our heads every four years, and be glad for it.” With a receptive audience, he continued: “The idea that politics is something that ordinary people cannae talk about is one of the great achievements of the right-wing [over] the last thirty to forty years in Britain”; remarking, to applause, “they scared us aff.”

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On discussions around the country, he claimed that “across Scottish politics, […] the people that want this, … ‘me first’ politics, there’s not many of them. The people that want Common Weal politics, all of us first politics, I’m meeting them everywhere. […] Everyone I meet wants this, a decent politics that puts people first. […] We wanted to find a way to communicate an idea of a politics which work for all the people who those politics seek to govern, not just a few of them. People don’t understand or recognise the language of politics any more, so we want to change that language.”.

Crediting the Sunday Herald newspaper for an opportunity to share some ideas underpinning the Common Weal, McAlpine was scathing in his criticism of mainstream coverage of the independence debate: “There’s this massive debate. It’s not in the mainstream.” Seeking to “get a real debate going, about a really strong vision for a future for Scotland, it’s hard. They’re still doing IFS, accounting this, and another paper from a Whitehall that. And, we’ll all debate things that nobody really cares about, interminably, until they all go away for good.” On the current political debate, he remarked: “If mainstream politics fails to recognise what is really going on in Scotland just now, then that is its problem. […] Someone is going to offer ordinary people what they want, and when they do, everything will change.”

Urging the crowd to get involved, he said: “If we can create a popular politics, that ordinary people care about, and talk about, and work[s], we can take a grip of Scotland. We can decide the future politics of Scotland, and standing around waiting for professional politicians to,… disappoint us less than they always do, does not have to be the way we do this anymore.” He concluded, “It genuinely is time for a politics that puts all of us first.”

Janey Godley took the microphone, as McAlpine left the stage to cheers and applause; joking about the ‘rabble-rousing’ tone of the speech she then introduced David Whyte of Tangent Design, creator of the Common Weal’s logo.

Whyte explained they hoped the simple image would come to represent the “all of us first” philosophy, and “a new way of doing things”. He was not the first to jokingly remark that the four-line graphic — a triangle, with a balanced line on top of it — would be an easily-applied piece of graffiti.

Politics, and the launch of the movement’s logo, then took more of a back-seat; the rest of the event more in-keeping with having a party, and the festive decorations elsewhere around the city centre. Godley, and fellow Scottish joker Bruce Morton, provided more barbed comedy. Singer Karine Polwart encouraged the crowd to sing along to a song she said was written on her way to the party, and Actor Tam Dean Burn read a speech from the 16th century Scottish play “Satire of the three estates” — given by the character John Common Weal, representing the common man — where the deeds and behaviour of the ruling classes are such that, if done by a common man, they’d be hanged.

Scotland’s Independence referendum is to take place next year, September 18. This was a repeated election pledge of the Scottish National Party (SNP) — who moved from leading a minority government, to an outright majority in the devolved parliament’s 2011 general election — making good on their promise by announcing in January 2011 their intent to hold the referendum in autumn 2014.

The question being put to the electorate is: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” A “Yes” vote would be followed with negotiations to bring to an end the early eighteenth-century ‘Union of the Parliaments’. The SNP has proposed Scotland retain Elizabeth II as head of state, a position she holds on the basis of the century-earlier Union of the Crowns.



Friday, April 11, 2008

New ‘deadly’ sexual enhancement products have been found in Singaporean markets and can cause serious side effects on users.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) announced the presence of the illegal drugs, known as Power 1 Walnut, Santi bovine penis erecting capsule, Zhong Hua Niu Bian and fake Cialis, which have been discovered over the past 3 months. Santi bovine penis erecting capsule has been found to contain high amounts of glibenclamide, a potent drug used to treat diabetes. The tablets also contain sildenafil and tadalafil – potent western medicines used to treat erectile dysfunction. Zhong Hua Niu Bian also contains sildenafil and glibenclamide.

High consumption of the tablets can be potentially deadly as the glibenclamide in the capsules can lead to drastically reduced blood sugar levels which can lead to seizures, stroke, coma or death. Consuming half of a Power 1 Walnut capsule has led to unconsciousness and frothing at the mouth.

Consumption of Power 1 Walnut has led to the death of a middle age man last week who fell into a coma. Currently, one death and two cases of coma have been reported from the total of 89 hospitalised cases linked with the consumption of the illegal drugs. It has been revealed that patients obtained the drugs by purchasing them from illegal peddlers located in various parts of Singapore.

The HSA has advised people to stop consuming the drugs and to report on any cases of consumption to them.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lai Changxing, dubbed the Bandit King, has been given a life sentence for years of smuggling and corruption that added up to billions of US dollars or Pounds sterling. The Chinese court described the values as “massive”.

Lai smuggled goods worth more than £2 billion into Xiamen, bypassing more than £1 billion in import duty. He paid 64 local officials a total of almost £4 million in bribes, giving him effective control of the city from 1995 to 1999. He fled China after becoming a wanted man in 1999 and went to Canada via Hong Kong; the following year, Premier Zhu Rongji said “If Lai was executed three times over, it would not be too much”.

As head of the Yuanhua Group, Lai smuggled in cars, chemicals, oil, cigarettes, and other goods. He distributed bundles of cash to the poor, owned and played for his local football team, built stadia, owned a bulletproof Mercedes that once belonged to President Jiang Zemin, and attempted to construct a tower that would have been the nation’s tallest building. He attained local popularity for funding construction projects including schools, hundreds of tower blocks, and the local airport.

As well as money, officials were offered alcohol and prostitutes. Many were offered time at Lai’s seven-storey brothel, the Red Mansion, and feasted at a replica of the Forbidden City.

State TV has broadcast footage depicting a banquet table with a tiger skin laid upon it, cars given to officials, a young woman alleged to have been donated as a lover, and a sackful of gold rings. The case’s prominence was such that Liu Liying, boss of the national Central Discipline Inspection Committee, took charge of bringing Lai down.

Subsequent investigations have examined more than 1,000 suspects with police at one stage turning over an entire hotel to the probe, filling rooms with suspects. National newspaper The People’s Daily has suggested it is the most serious economic crime in modern Chinese history. He was the nation’s top car importer and one of the main traders in oil and imported cigarettes.

Hundreds of officials have been convicted and it is estimated hundreds more remain. Fellow life-sentence prisoners from the case include the city’s deputy mayor and its head of customs. The nation’s former vice-minister for security, Li Jizhou, has a suspended death sentence. Other suspects have killed themselves.

The sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious

Upon his escape from the nation Lai became China’s most-wanted fugitive. Twelve years of negotiations ended with a Chinese promise Lai would be spared the death penalty, and Canada extradited him last year. Numerous lower-ranking members of Lai’s empire have already been given life imprisonment or death sentences. With execution off the table, the court gave Lai the highest sentence possible: in addition to the life term, he received fifteen years for bribery and had all his possessions confiscated.

The court justified the “double sentence” on the grounds “the sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious”. “The crimes involve massive sums and particularly serious circumstances,” court officials told Xinhua. Lai had denied corruption at his trial, although he accepted exploiting loopholes to avoid import duty.

“I don’t have a good family background,” Lai said previously in a press interview. “I have to do things step by step by myself. That’s how people came to respect me. I never fussed about big money.” Lai was born as one of eight siblings in the midst of famine.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tuesday, World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. In discussing Iceland, it suggests mandatory paid parental leave for mother and father have played an important role in changing norms in the country. Parents have a government mandated nine months leave, three for the mother, three for the father and three to to distribute between the two. Leave is paid at 80% of their wages. The report describes the changes in gender relations in Iceland as “promising” in terms of impact at work and at home.

Iceland’s boys and girls mean scores for the Programme for International Student Assessment mathematics test were nearly identical with boys just edging out girls with both scores around 510. Girls outperformed boys on the literacy test with a mean score of approximately 525 to 480. Iceland’s girls mathematics performance was similar to that of girls from Estonia, Germany and Belgium. Their performance on literacy was similar to Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia and Belgium.File:MargretSverrisdottir.jpg

Mortality rates in Iceland for 1,000 people aged 15–60 sits at 56, significantly better than the United States at 107, China at 113, India at 213, Iraq at 285, Afghanistan at 479, Malawi at 481 and Zimbabwe at 772. One of the reasons the report cites for Iceland’s relatively low mortality rate is it not located in a conflict country or in an HIV/AIDS affected country.

Iceland was one of 23 countries that currently have over 30% of its Parliamentarians who are female. Other countries with over 30% representation include Rwanda, Argentina, Cuba, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. In the mid-1990s, there were only 5 countries. The report cites the 1983 creation of the Women’s Alliance, an all women’s political party, as bringing additional attention to women’s issues and deliberately attempting to increase the representation of women in Icelandic politics.

Despite some of the good news highlighted in the report about Icelandic women, there exists a systematic gender difference in earning potential. Icelandic women in both the private and public sector earn approximately 22% less than their male counterparts. Icelandic men have slightly more access to the Internet than Icelandic women by about 2%. Despite this slight disadvantage for Icelandic women, it is much better than some countries where the percentage differences are much greater. These countries include Austria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.



Friday, April 7, 2006Legislators in the Massachusetts General Court, their name for the state legislature, approved legislation on Tuesday, April 4, that would make it the first state in the United States to require all residents to have health insurance and impose penalties for non-compliance. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who is expected to run for U.S. President in 2008, is expected to sign the bill.

The bill passed the lower house, the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 155-2, and unanimously by the state senate. The Democratic Party holds supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.

Among the bill’s provisions are these:

  1. Businesses that employ more than 10 people are required to provide health insurance for all staff or face fines of $295 per year per uninsured worker.
  2. Individuals will be required to enroll in a health plan by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties.
  3. Health insurers will provide partially to fully subsidized coverage for low-income residents.

At least one other state (Hawaii) requires employers to provide employee health insurance, but no other state holds individuals accountable for coverage.



Friday, February 3, 2006

The publishing of a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Copenhagen newspaper sparked a string of harsh and in some places violent reactions in the Middle East, forcing European leaders to try to calm the situation.

This backlash started in late September 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. The images ranged from serious to comical in nature; a particularly controversial cartoon portrays Mohammad with a bomb wrapped in his turban. The Jutland-based newspaper states that the images were meant to inspire some level of public debate over the image of Islam in Europe, and had no direct aim of offending anyone.

However, many Muslims follow the doctrine of aniconism concerning the portrayal of Mohammad. This tenet of Islam states that the Prophet Mohammad should not be depicted in any type of art, regardless of the intent of the piece. This belief, along with the potentially insensitive nature of some of the caricatures, have caused offense to many Muslims in the Arab world.

In the past month, the controversy over these cartoons escalated. The cartoons were re-published last month in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands (where the latter two nations have large Muslim populations), and have begun to re-circulate throughout the Middle East.

Many Danish companies have been targeted for boycotts. As Wikinews reported last week, Arla Foods, Denmark’s top dairy company, has seen their sales fall to zero in some Middle East nations. Carrefour, a French retail chain, has pulled all Danish products from its shelves in the region. Earlier this week, protests were held throughout the region, including the Gaza Strip in Jerusalem, where Hamas supporters led an assault and protest that surrounded the European Union offices for Israel.

Hamas members, some armed with guns, stormed the EU office (which is primarily staffed by Arabs) and demanded apologies from EU member states, saying they would otherwise face serious consequences. “It will be a suitable reaction, and it won’t be predictable,” said Abu Hafss, a member of the Al Quds Brigade (an affiliate of the group Islamic Jihad), in a press conference outside the EU offices. And the Abu al-Reesh Brigades, a group related to the late Yassir Arafat’s Fatah party, warned that EU member states had 10 hours to apologize for the cartoons or their citizens would be “in danger”.

Jamila Al Shanty, a newly elected Hamas legislator, stated that more rallies will be planned in protest of the cartoons. “We are angry – very, very, very angry,” Al Shanty said today, adding that “No one can say a bad word about our prophet.”

The Iranian newspaper Hamshari daily has stated that on February 8 it will publish anti-semitic cartoons in response to the Danish cartoons, apparently failing to notice that Denmark has only a tiny Jewish population, since most escaped to Sweden during the World War II Holocaust. The newspaper says that the cartoons will lampoon the Holocaust despite denials by the Iranian government that the Holocaust even happened.

Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first published the cartoons did issue an apology to Arab countries on Monday, shortly after the EU office incident. But with the support of the government of Denmark, the newspaper had earlier defended its actions fiercely, citing the universal right to free press, and its duty to serve democratic traditions by inspiring debate. Indeed, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, said “We are talking about an issue with fundamental significance to how democracies work.” In fact, some European pundits have placed more fault on Muslims for refusing to “accept Western standards of free speech and pluralism”. When the cartoons were originally published in 2005 they were intended to highlight and redress the unequal restrictions applied to Islamic content in European newspapers in comparison with content referring to other religions. The cartoons are also self-referential, with one character in the cartoons writing in Arabic on a blackboard “Jyllands-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs”, and another cartoon showing a cartoonist having to work in hiding because one of the cartoons he is drawing includes an image of the Prophet Mohammad. The text around the cartoons stated:

“The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. […] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him. […]”

However, some world leaders have elected to help defuse what could be a major social crisis in Europe and the Middle East. France’s foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that freedom of the press should be exercised “in the spirit of tolerance”, sentiments which were echoed by United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan. Ursula Plassnik, foreign minister of Austria, said that the European community must “clearly condemn” acts which insult religion. And Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, warned Europe that “any insult to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is an insult to more than one billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated.”

Rasmussen, in an interview with Arabic TV Al arabia, said that “…Danish government condemns any expression and any action which offends people’s religious feelings…” and also said that he does not understand why, as the cartoons were originally published in September, the situation has only truly started to deteriorate in the past week.

In Denmark, there are counter-demonstrations by moderate Muslims saying they don’t want the images banned. Munira Mirza commented that many Muslims “want to be able to say: ‘Hey we’re not children, we can handle criticism, we don’t need special protection – we’re equal’. Many don’t want to be treated as a special group, seen as worthy of more protection from criticism than other groups because of their apparent victim status.”

Religious satirist Stewart Lee commented that Jyllands-Posten had “tried to deal with a subject they don’t know enough about, and this is one of the teething problems of the cross-over of cultures in the world. I’m sure the level of offence is far greater than would have been intended.”

The director (Directeur de publication) of “France Soir“, a French national newspaper was fired in response for publishing a cartoon titled: “Yes, we have the right to (joke about) characterise God” (Oui, on a le droit de caricaturer Dieu). The “France-Soir” web site is presently offline. The cartoon is partially visible on a nouvelobs.com website.

Today, Libération, another French national newspaper, is publishing two of the “Mohammad Cartoons”. Other newspapers across France are asking for their rights to freedom of the press to be defended.

Charlie Hebdo, a well-known satirical newspaper, will publish articles to support cartoonists, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The general reaction in France seems to be that most citizens except religious people (Catholics, Muslims,…) are astounded by the level of anger against the “Mohammad Cartoons”.

On February 9 2006 Queensland Premier Peter Beattie gave The Courier Mail Newspaper his blessings in publishing the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons/depictions of Muhammad stating that he is a firm believer in free speech and ones freedom of expression.On the very same day he got his legal representative to write to the author of this site photoduck.com demanding he censor material relating to him and his Government.

Although many newspapers have not republished the cartoons in order to avoid backlashes, the drawings have appeared on the Internet and are being revealed at a number of Web sites and blogs. On January 30th, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin placed the drawings on her blog, and encouraged others to do the same.



Contents

  • 1 Wikinews News Brief [Date]
    • 1.1 Introduction
  • 2 Events of worldwide notability, military action, disasters etc.
    • 2.1 Violence takes place in Chad capital N’djamena as military and rebels clash
    • 2.2 High level al-Qaeda leader reported dead
    • 2.3 International manhunt for alleged kidney harvester
  • 3 Non-disastrous local events with notable impact and dead celebrities
    • 3.1 Envelopes containing white powder sent to Church of Scientology locations in southern California, USA
    • 3.2 Vermont town to vote on charging US President, Vice President of war crimes
  • 4 Business, commerce and academia
    • 4.1 Microsoft bids $44 billion for Yahoo!
  • 5 Arts and culture
  • 6 Frivolities and trivia
    • 6.1 Brechin thrown out of Scottish Cup after dispute
    • 6.2 Footer

[edit]



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