Dixie Chicks, Blige, Underwood big Grammy winners

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Dixie Chicks won the award album in the song of Not Ready To Make Nice. Finally overcame controversy to dominate the 2007 Grammy Awards on Sunday night, winning five statuettes including the two coveted awards for Record and Song of the Year (for “Not Ready To Make Nice”). The country/rock trio, led by Martie Maguire, often criticized for their political views, also won for their album Taking the Long Way.

Mary J. Blige, who went into the Grammies with the most nominations, ended up winning three, while American Idol winner Carrie Underwood won two, including Best New Artist and for her song “Jesus Take The Wheel“. With completion of the “big three” music awards (which includes the American Music Awards held in November, and the Billboard Music Awards held in December), Blige and Underwood were the only two artists to sweep all three major awards this season.

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News briefs:August 02, 2010

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UN Report: Earth ecosystem in peril

Thursday, March 31, 2005A report Tuesday from a United Nations-backed project, consulting more than 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, and written over the last four years, warns that 60 percent of the basics of life on Earth — water, food, timber, clean air — are currently being used in ways which degrade them. Furthermore, fisheries and fresh water use-patterns are unsustainable, and getting worse.

“The harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years,” according to a press release from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a massive four-year study begun in 2001.

“We’ve had many reports on environmental degradation, but for the first time we’re now able to draw connections between ecosystem services and human well-being,” Cristian Samper, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington and a chief architect of the study, told the Christian Science Monitor.

The project’s Synthesis Report, first in a series of eleven documents and published yesterday, explains the objective: “to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and to establish the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and their contributions to human well-being.”

It then goes on to report on four main findings:

  • Changes over the last 50 years to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel, have effected substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
  • Net gains in human well-being and economic development are offset by growing costs, in the form ecosystem degradation, the possibility of abrupt and unpredictable ecosystem changes, and worsened poverty for some groups. Unless addressed, these problems will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
  • Ecosystem degradation could grow significantly worse over the next 50 years, presenting a barrier to meeting UN Millennium Development Goals.
  • The challenge of reversing the degradation while meeting increasing ecological demands can be partially met under some scenarios, but only with significant changes in policies, institutions and practices — changes that are not currently under way.

Walter Reid, the study’s director, speaking at yesterday’s London launch of the report said it shows that over the last 50 years “humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable time in human history.”

“This has resulted in substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth,” he said.

It is unclear what this will mean to future generations or the possible emergence of new diseases, absence of fresh water and the continuing decline of fisheries and completely unpredictable weather.

With half of the urban populations of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean suffering from several diseases associated with these problems, the death toll is reaching 1.7 million people a year. Entire species of mammals, birds and amphibians are disappearing from the planet at nearly 1,000 times the natural rate, according to the study. Oxygen-depleted coastal waters and rivers result from overuse of nitrogen fertilizer – an effect known as “nutrient loading” which leads to continuing biodiversity loss.

With the United States’ non-participation in the Kyoto Treaty, former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth, president of this U.N. Foundation, says “U.S. leadership is critical in providing much-needed expertise, technological capabilities and ingenuity to restore ecosystems.

“We can take steps at home to reduce our nation’s adverse impact on the global environment.”

“At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning,” said the 45-member board.

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Media round-up: April Fools’ Day 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Many media outlets traditionally deliberately spread hoaxes on April Fools’ Day, including notable quality sources such as National Geographic and Science.

The popular British tabloid The Sun wrote that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to undergo stretch surgery to make him taller than his wife, Italian artist and model Carla Bruni. The report claimed the 5 foot 5 inch leader would be made 5 inches taller in one year using a method by Israeli professor Ura Schmuck. The Sun noted that during his visit to Britain last week, Sarkozy had high-heel shoes while his wife wore a pair of flat pumps.

The Guardian on the other hand ran an article that suggested that Carla would head an initiative by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring more glamour, good taste and sophistication to the U.K. general population. This would involve collaboration with Marks & Spencer for high-street fashion and Jamie Oliver for meals and wine.

BBC News had real-looking footage of flying penguins fronted by documentary host Terry Jones, which were actually an advertisement for its new iPlayer.

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Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, on animal rights and the film about her life

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Last night HBO premiered I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA. Since its inception, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has made headlines and raised eyebrows. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the movement against animal testing and their efforts have raised the suffering animals experience in a broad spectrum of consumer goods production and food processing into a cause célèbre.

PETA first made headlines in the Silver Spring monkeys case, when Alex Pacheco, then a student at George Washington University, volunteered at a lab run by Edward Taub, who was testing neuroplasticity on live monkeys. Taub had cut sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to the monkeys’ fingers, hands, arms, legs; with some of the monkeys, he had severed the entire spinal column. He then tried to force the monkeys to use their limbs by exposing them to persistent electric shock, prolonged physical restraint of an intact arm or leg, and by withholding food. With footage obtained by Pacheco, Taub was convicted of six counts of animal cruelty—largely as a result of the monkeys’ reported living conditions—making them “the most famous lab animals in history,” according to psychiatrist Norman Doidge. Taub’s conviction was later overturned on appeal and the monkeys were eventually euthanized.

PETA was born.

In the subsequent decades they ran the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty against Europe’s largest animal-testing facility (footage showed staff punching beagle puppies in the face, shouting at them, and simulating sex acts while taking blood samples); against Covance, the United State’s largest importer of primates for laboratory research (evidence was found that they were dissecting monkeys at its Vienna, Virginia laboratory while the animals were still alive); against General Motors for using live animals in crash tests; against L’Oreal for testing cosmetics on animals; against the use of fur for fashion and fur farms; against Smithfield Foods for torturing Butterball turkeys; and against fast food chains, most recently against KFC through the launch of their website kentuckyfriedcruelty.com.

They have launched campaigns and engaged in stunts that are designed for media attention. In 1996, PETA activists famously threw a dead raccoon onto the table of Anna Wintour, the fur supporting editor-in-chief of Vogue, while she was dining at the Four Seasons in New York, and left bloody paw prints and the words “Fur Hag” on the steps of her home. They ran a campaign entitled Holocaust on your Plate that consisted of eight 60-square-foot panels, each juxtaposing images of the Holocaust with images of factory farming. Photographs of concentration camp inmates in wooden bunks were shown next to photographs of caged chickens, and piled bodies of Holocaust victims next to a pile of pig carcasses. In 2003 in Jerusalem, after a donkey was loaded with explosives and blown up in a terrorist attack, Newkirk sent a letter to then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat to keep animals out of the conflict. As the film shows, they also took over Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s Paris boutique and smeared blood on the windows to protest his use of fur in his clothing.

The group’s tactics have been criticized. Co-founder Pacheco, who is no longer with PETA, called them “stupid human tricks.” Some feminists criticize their campaigns featuring the Lettuce Ladies and “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads as objectifying women. Of their Holocaust on a Plate campaign, Anti-Defamation League Chairman Abraham Foxman said “The effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent.” (Newkirk later issued an apology for any hurt it caused). Perhaps most controversial amongst politicians, the public and even other animal rights organizations is PETA’s refusal to condemn the actions of the Animal Liberation Front, which in January 2005 was named as a terrorist threat by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

David Shankbone attended the pre-release screening of I Am An Animal at HBO’s offices in New York City on November 12, and the following day he sat down with Ingrid Newkirk to discuss her perspectives on PETA, animal rights, her responses to criticism lodged against her and to discuss her on-going life’s work to raise human awareness of animal suffering. Below is her interview.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Contents

  • 1 The HBO film about her life
  • 2 PETA, animal rights groups and the Animal Liberation Front
  • 3 Newkirk on humans and other animals
  • 4 Religion and animals
  • 5 Fashion and animals
  • 6 Newkirk on the worst corporate animal abusers
  • 7 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
  • 8 Ingrid Newkirk on Ingrid Newkirk
  • 9 External links
  • 10 Sources
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Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

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Scottish Justice Secretary ‘acutely aware of unusual publicity’ in Kular case

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wikinews has obtained a letter by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to former Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont in response to questions raised by our correspondent about the Mikaeel Kular murder case. Wikinews has investigated possible contempt by media publishing potentially prejudicial material, and MacAskill wrote he has “been following the case of Mikaeel Kular and [is] acutely aware of the unusual publicity this case has attracted.”

When Mikaeel Kular, three, vanished from his Edinburgh home last month police and volunteers scoured the capital for him. His body was found in Fife just before midnight on January 17, and his mother was arrested on January 18. That’s when Wikinews first reported on possible widespread contempt by UK and Scottish media.

Our correspondent is based in Scotland and has been advised by a lawyer not to identify anybody detained until they have appeared in court, even if they have been arrested and charged. Professor James Chalmers of the University of Glasgow has since reviewed our coverage and confirmed this position. Despite that a large number of major media outlets identified Rosdeep Adekoya, nee Kular, 33, as the arrested individual.

Adekoya has since been in Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with murdering her son. She is in custody pending indictment and trial, but any eyewitness evidence may be tainted because her image has been widely published. This is common practice elsewhere in the UK but Scottish justice works differently and courts have viewed publication of photos as potentially prejudicial. Professor Pamela Ferguson of the University of Dundee notes “journalists do seem to be walking a dangerous line if publishing photos etc of suspects.” Crown Office, which is in overall charge of prosecutions, has indicated to journalists that no further comment will be made at least until indictment.

MacAskill however expressed confidence in the Scottish court system to deal with the situation. “I am confident… the courts themselves will intervene if they believe publicity is in danger of being prejudicial.” He also wrote to Lamont that he has faith in the court to successfully direct any jury that may try the case in order to maintain fairness.

The courts have said that the only safe route to avoid committing a contempt is to avoid publishing a photograph

The Contempt of Court Act 1981 is designed to prevent prejudicial material going in front of juries before trial. Although UK-wide legislation, the law is interpreted differently north of the border than in England and Wales. Witnesses in Scotland may be asked to identify accused persons standing in the dock. The BBC College of Journalism advises legal advice be sought ahead of publishing photos and notes it has previously been ruled contempt. The BBC used the accused’s photo prominently in their own online coverage.

Chalmers explains: “It may be a contempt of court to create a substantial risk of serious prejudice to someone’s right to a fair trial. A photograph might do this in a case where identification is an issue; on the face of it, that does not seem especially likely in this case, but it is impossible to know for certain at this point. The courts have said that the only safe route to avoid committing a contempt is to avoid publishing a photograph, but that does not mean that publishing a photograph is automatically a contempt.” MacAskill noted “the kind of issue that publicity might raise may become apparent only during the trial itself.”

Contempt has been a considerable issue in the UK in recent years after high-profile cases. In one instance a charge against serial killer Levi Bellfield was dropped owing to publicity while the jury were deliberating; in another, newspapers were fined and sued for libel over reporting on the arrest of a suspect who turned out to be innocent in a prominent investigation.

A proposal was mooted to ban identification of suspects arrested anywhere in the UK, but this was subsequently shelved. MacAskill confirmed “the Scottish Government is content with the way the courts are operating the rules on contempt of court in Scotland at the moment and has no plans to make changes.” He also wrote of the difficulties with trying to individually cover all eventualities with prescriptive legislation, saying “A trial for a sexual offence will raise very different issues — particularly of protecting victims — from those that are raised by a tax fraud trial.”

MacAskill says it is the Scottish Government’s position that the task of “counterbalancing the public interest in reporting with upholding the criminal law should be left to those whose job it is to do so — the courts and the judiciary, acting in the individual circumstances of the case”.

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Experts: obesity is a bigger threat than AIDS or bird flu

Friday, September 8, 2006

From September 3 to 8, experts gathered at the 10th International Congress on Obesity in Sydney, Australia, to discuss what they call the worldwide “obesity epidemic”. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 billion people in the world today are overweight, and 300 million of those are obese. “Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer“, a WHO fact sheet states. According to AP, experts at the conference “have warned that obesity is a bigger threat than AIDS or bird flu, and will easily overwhelm the world’s health care systems if urgent action is not taken”.

Of particular concern is the large number of overweight children. Dr. Stephan Rossner from Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital, a leading obesity expert who was present at the conference, has warned that as a result of the increasing number of overweight children, “we will have, within a decade or two, a number of young people who are on kidney dialysis. There will not be organs for everybody”. UK-based International Obesity Task Force has said that junk food manufacturers target children, for example, through Internet advertising, chat rooms, text messages, and “advergames” on websites. Politicians are not doing enough to address the problem of obesity, including childhood obesity, the experts said.

According to Wikipedia, examples of junk food include, but are not limited to: hamburgers, pizza, candy, soda, and salty foods like potato chips and french fries. A well-known piece of junk food is the Big Mac. The US version of just one Big Mac burger contains 48% of calories from fat, 47% US Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of fat, 52% RDA of saturated fat, 26% RDA of cholesterol, 42% RDA of sodium, and little nutritional value. It also has 18% of calories from protein. According to WHO, most people need only about 5% calories from protein. Staples such as rice, corn, baked potatoes, pinto beans, as well as fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, oranges, and strawberries, provide more than this required amount of protein without the unhealthy amounts of fats or sodium, without cholesterol, and with plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Both WHO and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define overweight in adults as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or above, and obese as a BMI of 30 or above. To combat overweight and obesity, WHO recommends that, among other things, people should be taking the following steps

  • eating more fruit and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains;
  • engaging in daily moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes;
  • cutting the amount of fatty, sugary foods in the diet;
  • moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated vegetable-oil based fats.
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U.S. superbug expected to emerge in Canada

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

An infectious superbug spreading in the United States is to “emerge in force” in Canada, doctors fear. The bacteria have been reported popping up in day care centers and locker rooms across the U.S. Usually elderly or very ill hospital patients get the disease.

More than 2 million U.S. residents are infected every year, the Centers for Disease Control estimates.

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on Tuesday said that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are “spreading with alarming rapidity.” The bacteria can cause boils, pimples, or in extreme cases, flesh-eating disease, and more.

“The resistant bacteria is an old foe with new fangs: a pathogen combining virulence, resistance and an ability to disseminate at large,” wrote Dr. John Conly, medical professor and an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary.

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario are the provinces which already have had MRSA in hospitals.

A 30-year-old Calgary, Alberta man died last year of lung abscesses associated with the infection, as well as a three-month old toddler in Toronto, Ontario.

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios, last summer, suffered from an infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus in his leg. Pitcher Ty Taubenheim had a similar infection on his foot.

Doctors are currently investigating some Calgary residents, who could be one of the first Canadian reports of MRSA outside of a hospital setting.

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