GAO reveals $1.6 billion spent on public relations by the Bush administration in 2003-2005

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A new 154-page Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says seven federal departments together spent US$1.6 billion on 343 contracts with public relations firms, advertising agencies, and media organizations, as well as individuals involved in such activities.

Congressional Democrats requested the report after several incidents surfaced in which journalists or commentators were paid to promote the Bush administrations programs, but did not disclose the financing, so called payola. In one case, Armstrong Williams was paid $186,000 for promotions of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. The administrations position was that an agencies’ mission includes spreading information about federal programs.

At that time, the GAO had independent objections to the ready-to-air news stories the administration’s provided to TV stations in order to promote it policies. The administration claimed the burden of disclosure falls to the TV stations.

Congress has now inserted a provision into an annual spending bill requiring federal agencies to include “a clear notification” within the text or audio of a prepackaged news story that it was prepared or paid for by the government.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said “Careful oversight of this spending is essential given the track record of the Bush administration, which has used taxpayer dollars to fund covert propaganda within the United States.”

The seven agencies covered by the report are Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs.

Australian government paves way for nuclear waste dump in Northern Territory

Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Australian Senate has passed legislation to force a national nuclear waste dump on the Northern Territory (NT). Despite opposition from Aboriginal land owners, the NT government, environment groups and Labor the Federal Government can now officially build a nuclear waste repository in the NT after the legislation for the waste dump passed the Senate today. The Radioactive Waste Management Bill was passed with 34 in favour and 29 against.

The two bills override the Northern Territory’s objection to the radioactive waste dump after the South Australian government opposed a previous preferred site near Woomera. According to Federal Labor opposition MP, Warren Snowdon, it is the first time since 1978 that Territory law has been overridden. “It’s an absolute disaster and it shows contempt for the Northern Territory community, it shows absolute contempt for land use planning in the Northern Territory,” he said.

The Territory Labor Government has been a resolute opponent of the plan, saying a nuclear dump will expose residents to a new security threat.

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, says transporting nuclear waste to the Territory would make it vulnerable to terrorists looking to make a dirty bomb. Ms Martin says experts on the issue have raised concerns about security at a national nuclear waste facility.

She says scientific debate played no part in the Federal Government’s decision to build a dump in the Territory and nuclear waste could be a target while it is being moved to the Territory. “You’d have to look at how far around a country you’re going to be transporting things like intermediate nuclear level waste,” she said.

“And if you’re going to put such a nuclear facility in the middle of central Australia you’ve got to get the waste there by road and that’s thousands of kilometres.” She says the Commonwealth should not expect any cooperation from her Government.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Craig Pierce says there would be no point trying to use low level waste to make a dirty bomb because the waste is mostly gloves and labcoats. “It simply would make no sense to get this material and want to blow it up,” he said.

“It would have no impact at all. On the intermediate level, that will have a high level of security when it is transported. It won’t be transported for very far on road, on land, and it will have an appropriate level of security.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it expected community anger would escalate, now the bills had passed. “Last year the federal government gave the people of the NT an absolute categorical assurance there would be no dump in the NT,” ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said. “Today they have broken this promise and bulldozed through bad law in an attempt to gag community concern.”

“Under the government’s proposal, 130 truckloads of radioactive waste would be driven from Sydney’s Lucas Heights reactor, through NSW, to an as-yet unnamed site in the NT in the first year alone, with dumping to continue for decades,” he said.

The Australian Greens say the legislation could be manipulated to allow waste from other countries to be stored in the Northern Territory. The party is angry that amendments they proposed were not considered when the bill was passed. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the legislation is not strong enough.

“In the bill, there were some provisions to supposedly keep out international waste,” she said. “We don’t think they go far enough and that they are open to manipulation and interpretation. So what we were trying to do is absolutely positively ensure that international waste will not be brought into this facility.”

The NT Environment Centre’s Gary Scott has hinted at civil disobedience similar to that seen during the anti-uranium mining protests at Jabiluka. “I don’t think Territorians are going to take this lying down unless that is in front of bulldozers,” Mr Scott said.

The Centre’s Peter Robertson has emphasised the importance of the waste dump for the federal government to realise its plans for a second nuclear reactor. “If we get the dump, Sydney gets the reactor”. Establishing a national waste dump is a precondition for the operating license for the proposed OPAL nuclear reactor which will replace Lucas Heights in Sydney.

Robertson pointed out that the issue of waste is creating an international crisis for the nuclear industry, with no storage plans for the more than 250,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste currently in existence.

A detailed study of three Defence sites – Fishers Ridge, 43 km south-east of Katherine, Harts Range, 100 km north-east of Alice Springs, and Mount Everard, 27 km north-west of Alice Springs – will be conducted next year, with the facility to be operational by 2011.

Traditional owners of Athenge Alhere – an estate group of the Arrernte Nation – have voiced their dissent to the nuclear dump and say they don’t want waste from Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor brought to their land. “Because the land we take care of, because all our ancestors lived in this land and hunted on this land as well, so it’s mainly because of the animals and the next generation of our kids and their children, so we still say no,” traditional owner Benedict Stevens said.

Coalition MPs, including Northern Territory Country Liberal senator Nigel Scullion, secured a number of amendments to the bill. They included the ability of the NT government and indigenous land councils to decide on other site options, a prohibition on the storage of high level and overseas waste and the free storage of the NT’s own waste.

The South Australian Government says tenacity staved off a nuclear dump on its land. SA Environment Minister, John Hill, says there could be a federal election before the facility’s finally built. “It will take them some time to construct this facility and that gives you some opportunities,” he said.

Mr Hill says waste should be stored closer to Lucas Heights in Sydney where it is generated. Radioactive waste is currently stored at over 100 locations across the country, including in hospital basements in major capital cities and at universities.

Update: NT farmers have threatened to take action if a site near their farms is selected for the dump. Fishers Ridge, south of Katherine, is one of three Commonwealth sites earmarked for the facility. Sharon Shaw’s farm 12 kilometres from the Fishers Ridge site. “The thing that worries us the most, it’s on top of a Tindal Aquifer which really concerns us in the fact that there’s many sink holes that turn up every wet as the ground is always shifting,” she said. “Any normal person without an environmental degree or anything would realise that this ground is unstable.”

Triple limb-reattachment fails – boy loses foot

Tuesday, April 5, 2005Terry Vo, the 10-year old Australian boy who had two hands and a foot reattached by surgeons after losing them in an accident, has had to have the foot re-amputated. He will be given a prosthetic foot in its place.

The operation to re-attach three limbs was thought to have been a first – but was ultimately unsuccessful, with the foot having died inside, and receiving insufficient blood supply following the surgery to reattach it.

“That would lead to the small muscles in the foot actually constricting, the toes bending over and a deformed …. foot that is sort of clawed over and doesn’t have good sensation,” said plastic surgeon, Mr Robert Love today, on Australia’s ABC Radio.

“Even if you can get all of that to survive, he [would be] worse off than having had an amputation.”

“What is very disappointing is that for the first two days after [the operation] the foot looked absolutely magnificent,” he said.

Terry’s hands were healing well, said the surgeon. The prosthetic foot would allow him to walk normally, since his knee was intact.

Wikinews Shorts: May 7, 2007

A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, May 7, 2007.

A 30 meter section of a gas pipeline in Luka (near Kiev) in Ukraine has been destroyed by an explosion. Although supplies to Europe via this pipeline have stopped, Ukrainian Energy Minister Georgi E. Boyko said that supplies to Europe would not be affected.

“There are no changes in volumes of gas being transported,” Yuri Korolchuk said. “Volumes due to pass through the damaged section are being redirected through the Soyuz pipeline.”

Normal flows are reported in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.


Copper prices are rising. Between record copper imports from China, and a mining strike in Peru, the prices have climbed to over $8100 (United States dollars) a tonne, for a gain of $575 dollars over the last week. However the upward trend is not new, it has been climbing for quite some time. In April 2003, the price of copper was under $2000 a tonne.

The metal market has been tending up due to growth in the Chinese industrial production. This trickles down to the local level, where the buying price at scrap yards is ever climbing, making scrap metal collection a more profitable endeavour for individual people using pick up trucks or other such vehicles to collect and cash in the scrap metal at metal buying yards. It can be collected via agreements with businesses, from the garbage, or, sometimes, by theft.

Copper prices fell today on the NYMEX commodity exchange from US$3.7545 per pound to US$3.7125 based on the July futures contract.


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

One man was killed and another injured by an exploding backpack in the parking lot of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The explosion happened at 4 a.m. PDT when the victim tried to remove a the object left on top of his car.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are on the scene. Aerial images did not show any apparent damage.

“We believe the victim was the intended target of this,” Bill Cassell said, spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “This is being treated as a homicide in which the weapon used to cause death is a non-traditional weapon.”

Both of the victims worked at the Luxor.


Pfizer and Microsoft team up against Viagra spam

Sunday, February 13, 2005

New York –”Buy cheap Viagra through us – no prescription required!” Anyone with an active email account will recognize lines like this one. According to some reports, unsolicited advertisements (spam) for Viagra and similar drugs account for one in four spam messages.


Spamming remains one of the biggest problems facing email users today. While users and systems administrators have improved their defenses against unsolicited email, many spammers now insert random words or characters into their letters in order to bypass filters. The Wikipedia article Stopping email abuse provides an overview of the various strategies employed by companies, Internet users and systems administrators to deal with the issue.

Ever since pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promised to cure erectile dysfunction once and for all with its blue pills containing the drug sildenafil citrate, spammers have tried to tap into male anxiety by offering prescription-free sales of unapproved “generic” Viagra and clones such as Cialis soft tabs. Legislation like the U.S. CAN-SPAM act has done little to stem the tide of email advertising the products.

Now Pfizer has entered a pledge with Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company, to address the problem. The joint effort will focus on lawsuits against spammers as well as the companies they advertise. “Pfizer is joining with Microsoft on these actions as part of our shared pledge to reduce the sale of these products and to fight the senders of unsolicited e-mail that overwhelms people’s inboxes,” said Jeff Kindler, executive vice president at Pfizer.

Microsoft has filed civil actions against spammers advertising the websites CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct. Pfizer has filed lawsuits against the two companies, and has taken actions against websites which use the word “Viagra” in their domain names. Sales of controlled drugs from Canadian pharmacies to the United States are illegal, but most drugs sold in Canada have nevertheless undergone testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is not the case for many of the Viagra clones sold by Internet companies and manufactured in countries like China and India. While it was not clear that CanadianPharmacy was actually shipping drugs from Canada, Pfizer’s general counsel, Beth Levine, claimed that the company filled orders using a call center in Montreal, reported the Toronto Star.

For Microsoft’s part, they allege that the joint effort with Pfizer is part of their “multi-pronged attack on the barrage of spam.” As the creator of the popular email program Outlook, Microsoft has been criticized in the past for the product’s spam filtering process. Recently, Microsoft added anti-spam measures to its popular Exchange server. Exchange 2003 now includes support for accessing so-called real-time block lists, or RTBLs. An RTBL is a list of the IP addresses maintained by a third party; the addresses on the list are those of mailservers thought to have sent spam recently. Exchange 2003 can query the list for each message it receives.

Wikinews interviews Great Britain men’s national wheelchair basketball player Joni Pollock

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homebush Bay, New South Wales —Wikinews sat down with Great Britain men’s national wheelchair basketball player Joni Pollock before a practice session at the Rollers & Gliders World Challenge in Sydney.

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British-born Pollock was born with the condition spina bifida. He explained he could walk with difficulty up until age twelve or thirteen, after which he began using a wheelchair. Shortly after this, he began playing wheelchair basketball. He attended a disabilities tournament for children with disabilities in England, where he tried both wheelchair basketball, since he came from a town where team sports were popular; and wheelchair tennis, as he’d played with an able-bodied friend. Ultimately, he chose wheelchair basketball as it was a team sport.

Wikinews asked Pollock about being loud towards his team mates during the match on July 20 between the Australian Rollers and the Great Britain Bulldogs. He said he was out of wheelchair basketball for nine months due to a pressure sore and surgery on his shoulder, and has been making a comeback since January, with the doctors and physiotherapists giving him the all-clear in April. On that night, he said, the Australian team used bullying tactics and some of his teammates on the British team didn’t step up to win the game. He also said that no matter what team his team plays against, he has a target on his back because of his calibre of playing in the game, and his team failed to to understand it that night, leaving him frustrated with his team and himself; and, he hates coming to Australia during a Paralympic year since the home town —that is, Australian— referees do not protect the visiting team from the home team’s dirty playing, which puts the British team’s gold medal prospects in jeopardy.

Wikinews also asked Pollock his opinions regarding Oscar Pistorius. Pollock believes Pistorius shouldn’t be competing in the Olympics if other Paralympic athletes can’t compete. He also mentioned reservations about certain technical aspects, such as whether Pistorius would be the same height if he still had his legs rather then his prosthetic legs. Asked about 5 point players playing in wheelchair basketball, he said he believes 5 point players can play with other point players but not in the Paralympics, and said 5 point players currently play in the domestic league but not at the elite level, to boost the number of players participating and to help the development of the game.

Wikinews also questioned him about tattoos worn by members of the British team. In previous years, he said, only one or two forwards had tattoos, but now almost everyone has one as having tattoos is currently in fashion. He said he got his first tattoo at the age of sixteen and only recently had it removed. He also has tattoos on his right arm, depicting the logos of the Paralympics and World championships in which he competed.

Pollocks’s team begins its London campaign on August 30, against the Germany men’s national wheelchair basketball team.

The Importance Of Property Law Services In St. Louis, Mo


Real estate is the type of investment that should be part of a well-diversified portfolio. The fact is, anyone purchasing a piece of real estate is technically an investor. If a person buys a house to live in, this is an investment. If an individual purchases a large piece of land for future development, this is an investment. People who purchase multiple homes or condominiums to rent are also investing in real estate. However, whether an individual is buying or selling real estate, he or she will probably need property law services in St. Louis, MO.

Many times, the role of a real estate attorney and a realtor can be confused. The fact is that there are certain services that both a real estate attorney and a realtor can provide. One of those things is the negotiations of terms when it comes to buying or selling a piece of property. A realtor can negotiate price and other terms. However, by using someone who understands the nuances of a real estate contract, a person might get better terms and conditions than they would by using a realtor.

Another area where property law services in St. Louis, MO, benefits an individual buying or selling property is the creation of a contract. When a person has purchased a piece of property and is looking to rent or lease the property to an individual or business, an attorney can draft a lease agreement. In addition, when purchasing or selling a piece of property, conveying the title, drafting sale agreements, and reviewing every aspect of the transition is precisely what a real estate attorney does.

Lastly, should the need arise for litigation, perhaps somebody in the buying and selling process has breached a contract agreement, an attorney can advise the client as to what they should do. Property law services in St. Louis, MO, are also good to have if a home is facing foreclosure.

There are far more details to the role of a real estate attorney that can be mentioned here. If you feel you have a need for these legal services, a visit to the offices of Van Dillen & Flood, P.C. may be in order.

Electric vehicles can be less green than classic fuel cars, Norwegian study finds

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Norwegian University of Science and Technology study released Thursday found electric vehicles have a potential for higher eco-toxicity and greenhouse impact than conventional cars. The study includes an examination of the electric car’s life cycle as a whole rather than a study of the electric car’s environmental impact during the use phase.

The researchers conducted a comparison of the environmental impact of electric cars in view of different ratios of green-to-fuel electricity energy sources. In the case of mostly coal- or oil-based electricity supply, electric cars are disadvantageous compared to classic diesel cars with the greenhouse effect impact being up to two times larger.

The researchers found that in Europe, electric cars pose a “10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles”.

The researchers suggest to improve eco-friendliness of electric vehicles by “reducing vehicle production supply chain impacts and promoting clean electricity sources in decision making regarding electricity infrastructure” and using the electric cars for a longer time, so that the use phase plays a more important role in the electric vehicle life cycle.

NFL star Michael Vick indicted for running dog fighting operation

Friday, July 20, 2007

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three other men were indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy related to a dog fighting operation. The charges included buying, breeding and training pit bull dogs, transporting the dogs across state lines to illegally participate in fights, and gambling on the fights.

The indictments stemmed from a search of Vick’s Smithfield, Virginia home in April, in which 54 pit bulls were removed, along with equipment used in dog fighting.

The indictment said that Vick had bought the property in Smithfield for US$34,000 to run the dog fighting under the name “Bad Newz Kennels” with two other people named in the indictment. Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips, and Tony Taylor were all named in the indictment along with Vick.

The indictment stated that Vick took part in the killing of eight dogs that didn’t pass test fights, called “rolling”. The pit bulls were allegedly killed by hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog onto the ground.

If convicted of both portions of the conspiracy charge, Vick could face six years in prison and a $350,000 fine. His property, located in Surry County, would be subject to forfeiture under U.S. laws dealing with illegal activities that are carried out at an interstate level. The indictment alleges that the dog fighting operation, involving American Pit Bull Terriers, spilled over into Alabama, North Carolina and New York.

Vick has a court date on July 26 for a bond hearing and to hear the charges. Vick has said that he had a kennel operation on the property, but had no involvement or knowledge of a dog fighting ring.

Two fallen Canadian soldiers return home from Afghanistan

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The bodies of two Canadian soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar, Afghanistan were brought back to Canada. Both were from CFB Petawawa located in Petawawa, Ontario.

Their vehicle has intercepted on a road by a suicide bomber. A helicopter came helping all injured and possibly dead soldiers into it where they received medical attention somewhere safe. This time, their vehicle was blown up by a man’s car when he drived into them and detonated his car. Two Canadians were killed, the rest were injured.

Canadian, U.S., Dutch, and British soldiers stood at Kandhar Airfield Thursday to farewell Cpl. Albert Storm and Officer Robert Girouard. A piper played Amazing Grace as the Canadian flag-covered coffins were carried onto the C-130 Hercules aircraft for their flight home.

“It’s very hard for me to do it but I know my colleague, my friend and soldier, is going home to a restful place,” Cpl. Victor Thibault, 38, of Digby, Nova Scotia said to the Canadian Press. “He’s done what he had to do and I believe that’s good… He was a good friend. I will miss him,” he said.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers as well as one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. About 2,500 Canadian troops are serving in Afghanistan.