500 stranded melon-headed whales rescued in Philippine bay

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Philippine fishermen, volunteers and authorities with dozens of fishing boats have joined hands in guiding back to sea about 500 disorientated melon-headed whales that were stranded in the shallow waters near the mouth of Manila Bay delta in the Bataan Peninsula.

The gentle mammals were first spotted swimming back and forth and straying very dangerously close (about a mile or 1.6 kilometers) to the shores of the coastal towns of Pilar, Orion and Abucay 135 kilometers northwest of Manila at around at around 4:00 am on Tuesday, said Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commodore Luis Tuazon and Bataan Governor Enrique Garcia Jr.

The Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said its has responded to the reported mass “stranding” of whales off Pilar coastal waters in the province of Bataan where the famous and historic Corregidor Island is located.

Using dozens of fishing boats with machines shut down and bare hands, more than 100 village fishermen and volunteers along with BFAR, local police and Philippine Coast Guard personnel have joined the massive rescue. With great difficulty, the emergency team has waded into the chest-deep water, clapping their hands and hitting the surface to guide and drive the whales farther away from the coastal shore to deeper waters.

“The mammals were at first thought to have been dolphins, but experts then identified them as melon-headed whales,” local veterinarian Mariel Flores said. “This type of whale can be easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins. The mammals have ears that are sensitive to large changes in pressure underwater,” she added.

This type of [melon-headed] whale can be easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins. If their eardrums are damaged they become disorientated and they float up to the surface.

“It looked like they never wanted to leave. They looked sad,” said Rodolfo Joson, a village councilor. Joson and his son, Joey, a fisherman like him, have rushed home at about 4 a.m. to report the pod sighting. “It was still dark when we waded into the water. The whales were about 200 meters from the shore. The water was up to my neck. We first checked their conditions by playing with them. They did not repel us or leave. They were making hooting sounds,” Joson explained the mass beaching. “It seemed they were running away from waters that they didn’t like. Dolphins are happy and strong creatures. They raced with ships,” he added.

A post-mortem examination has revealed that four dead whales found beached farther up north in Abucay, Bataan, include two adult females, one of which was pregnant, while the other gave birth to a calf that also died, said Dr. Lemnuel Aragones of Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport who did the necropsy at the Bataan fisheries office in Balanga City.

This is the first time that such large numbers of dolphins had been stranded in the Philippines. “We are trying to come up with a possible explanation to this unusual occurrence. It could be that the dolphins had lost their bearings and inadvertently ended up on the shallow portion of the coast unable to extricate themselves,” said Dr Lemuel Aragones, Associate Professor at the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.

Dr Aragones, who holds a PhD on Tropical Environmental Studies (Marine Ecology) from Australia’s James Cook University, explained that “the melon-headed whales of the dolphin family have sophisticated navigation systems that operate on a principle similar to sonar instruments used in submarines. Like humans, dolphins also follow a ‘leader’ of their pod. It is possible that the leader of this dolphin [pod] had somehow lost its way. In turn, the leader’s acoustic system, which serves as its guidance system, might have been impaired,” the marine expert elaborated.

Dr Aragones said “BFAR, UPIESM, and the Ocean Adventure Marine Park in Subic started the Philippine Marine Mammals Stranding Network (PMMSN) in 2005 as a response to cetacean strandings or beachings.” She cited the PMMSN training received by BFAR officers in Bataan during Tuesday’s mass beaching. She has asked the government to release funds for marine mammal studies.

The two adults had damaged eardrums, Alberto Venturina, the provincial veterinarian, said. “Dolphins with injured eardrums become disoriented, cannot dive for food and are too weak to swim and just flow with the current. If it’s a sick leader, the animal needs to be identified and taken out of sight of the rest of the pod so the healthy dolphins could be prodded back to sea,” he added.”The two animals were identified as melon-headed dolphins, weighing about 250 to 300 kilograms (550 to 660 pounds),” explained Venturina, adding “the third dolphin was only a month old and measured barely a meter long. Its gender had not yet been determined.”

According to Nelson Bien, head of the Fisheries Resource and Management Division of BFAR Region III, a necropsy by BFAR, the provincial veterinarian, and veterinarians from the Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport has traced the cause of their death to drowning.

The marine doctors have determined that the marine mammals might have drowned after failing to extricate themselves from the fishing nets or “baklad,” explained Dr. Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). “There were no injuries to their ears, like visible lesions, but the possibility of an acoustic problem or trauma is still there,” Dr Lim explained, saying, “more tests, like analysis of tissue samples and MRI tests will have to be done to see if there were other injuries to the animals not visible externally.”

They are sending tissue samples to the University of Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna for analysis. “If it was something like climate change, then it would be a bigger environmental problem,” Lim added.

A fourth and pregnant one was also found dead in the village of Tortugas in the town of Balanga, Bataan, said Bien, saying they were investigating the incident and would conduct a “water quality and water parameter test” to determine why the dolphins beached to shallow waters. The condition of melon-headed whale found at Talisay River and taken to Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport has improved amid forced feeding and treatment of its 2 wounds, said Nilo Ramoso, Biologist III, Pawikan Conservation Project.

Dr. Westly Rosario, BFAR Center chief in Dagupan City, has reported that BFAR personnel were also investigating a “problem in the water, probably chemical pollution,” to explain why the dolphins beached and sought shelter in the shallow waters. The dolphins have faced the same direction and their blowholes above water, they seemed to be avoiding something. “The dolphins were behaving in the same way, they have the same action. People were trying to drive them back into the sea but they refused. There could be chemical pollution somewhere which they were avoiding,” Rosario explained.

Dolphins’ disorientation is sometimes caused by the changes in earth’s magnetic field “that cause the dolphins’ navigational mechanisms to go haywire,” Dr. Edgardo Gomez, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, said, adding that “it could also be chemicals in the water that affected the dolphins, although this should be proven by water tests.” Philippine marine biologist Rizza Salinas said a possible cause for the stranding of large pods of distressed whales is that there could have been illegal dynamite fishing in the area.

“This is very strange. What is also unusual is they appeared disoriented. I am on my way to Bataan on board BFAR’s patrol vessel. We will look into the situation. Our patrol boats are also on their way to the area. We are also getting experts on stranding,” said BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr. Sarmiento, explaining that the highest number of stranded dolphins recorded by the BFAR was only 20 to 30. “It’s something unusual. It’s the first time that such a large pod has entered Manila Bay, and is acting strangely,” Sarmiento added.

“Most strandings are caused by seaquakes, heat wave or disturbances at sea. Such disturbances affect the pressure underwater, which subsequently affects the dolphins’ eardrums and sense of balance, leading to their “disorientation.” The creatures then will avoid diving in deeper parts of the ocean and will swim to shallow areas. They came from the north and were headed towards the South China Sea,” Sarmiento explained, adding that the unusual occurrence may have also been caused when the pod could have been following a sick or injured leader.

Sarmiento has appealed to the public not to inflict harm on the dolphins, which are considered threatened species. “Please do not harm the dolphins because they are already endangered. The authorities should also prevent the people who want to inflict harm on the creatures. They should be arrested, if needed.” Melon-head dolphins are considered threatened species — meaning they are likely to become endangered in the future.

“At around 12 noon, the dolphins were finally guided to the open seas, but residents in Hermosa near Mariveles were surprised to see the dolphins near their shoreline, but around 4:30 pm, all the dolphins have left the shoreline and swam towards into deeper waters,” said Governor Garcia.

“The dolphins swam parallel back to Abucay, Hermosa, and Manila Bay before they were eventually herded farther offshore. There are theories that this phenomenon was a result of the Monday night lunar eclipse. The Fisheries Bureau will know after their tests,” Garcia added.

Having suspected the dolphins’ habitat must have been disrupted, forcing them to flee and seek refuge in shallow waters, Senate of the Philippines Majority Leader, Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday asked experts to probe the cause of the sudden appearance of more than 300 electra dolphins near the shores of Pilar town in Bataan province Tuesday morning.

Senator Zubiri wanted the experts to examine the possibility that an earthquake study, involving an undersea experiment using blasting in the South China Sea by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) – a collaborator of Columbia University – caused the abnormal behavior of the small whales.

Citing an International Union for Conservation of Nature research concluding that the melon-headed whales may have been distracted by the South China Sea study, forcing the dolphins to wander in the shallow waters, Senator Zubiri said that “the earthquake study is a sea floor investigation project in the exclusive economic zone that includes Taiwan, China, Japan and the Philippines for its earthquake research. On top of saving stranded dolphins, we should find the cause for the tragedy in order to avoid them in the future and to be prepared when it occurs again,” he explained.

But according to Erlinton Olavare, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) science research specialist, “no significant event was recorded by their stations in Bolinao, Sta. Cruz and Lubag, near Pilar at the time the dolphins were stranded Tuesday.”

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr. said Bataan Gov. Enrique “Tet” Garcia on Wednesday confirmed there was dynamite fishing in his province. “I asked him [Garcia] and he confirmed it. He also said he was battling this illegal activity,” said Atienza. “The causes of the acoustic trauma could have been sound waves caused by dynamite fishing or sounds emitted by passing ships or seaquakes,” Gov. Garcia said.

“Dolphins are a ‘cohesive’ group and that they follow where their leader takes them. If the leader of the dolphins was sick, then the animal could have committed a “navigational error” and led the rest of the group to shore,” said the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

“The pod of melon-headed whales (dolphins) on Manila Bay were injured by a rather nasty group of more than 120 undersea earthquakes. The swarm started with a small magnitude-4.5 event on December 21, 2008. Things got red-hot on January 3, 2009 when a magnitude-7.6 event erupted near the water’s edge on Papua Island in Indonesia, 700 miles southeast of Davao City in Mindanao. The 7.6 magnitude quake was followed by more than 120 major aftershocks each one capable by itself of inflicting injury on a pod of dolphins,” said Capt. David Williams, a retired marine mammal researcher, a commercial sea captain for 40 years and active whale conservationist.

Capt. Williams explained that whales and dolphins have small air sacs (pterygoid sinuses) that surround each inner ear and help then sense sound direction underwater. A damaged pterygoid air sac results in the loosing of echonavigation and echolocation. “In summary, my Seaquake Theory indicates that barotrauma, as a result of exposure to potent earthquake-induced changes in ambient pressure, solves the centuries-old mystery of why whales and dolphins mass-strand on beaches around the world,” Capt. Williams concluded.

An explosive blast and explosive decompression create a pressure wave that can induce barotrauma. The difference in pressure between internal organs and the outer surface of the body causes injuries to internal organs that contain gas, such as the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and ear.

According to the Natural History Museum experts, whale and dolphins can become confused, mis-read the Earth’s magnetic fields, fear certain sounds and get lost. Since 1913, it has investigated all strandings, more than 11,000 so far, and it runs the UK Whale and Dolphin Stranding Scheme.

New Zealand‘s Project Jonah has claimed that the largest recorded beach stranding was in 1918 when 1,000 pilot whales were stranded on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands.

The last mass beaching in the Philippines was in 1956 when around 12 sperm whales were stranded in a coastal area in Capiz, amid at least 10 yearly strandings that happened in the country involving only one or two animals that were either sick or dying.

Last January this year, Filipino fishermen have also rescued an endangered sea cow. The fishermen aided the beached sea cow to the deep sea, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

The Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra; many-toothed blackfish and electra dolphin) is a cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). As small members of the dolphingroup, it is closely related to the Pygmy Killer Whale and Pilot Whale, and collectively these dolphin species are known by the common name blackfish.

The tender mammal can grow up to 2.7 meters (9 feet) and weigh as much as 210 kilograms (460pounds). With black triangular “mask” on its face, it appears dark gray to black in color, has no discernible beak and its head is shaped like a rounded melon, thus the name. Its primary diet is squid and fish. The Melon-headed whale lives well off-shore in all the world’s tropical and sub-tropical oceans.

At the northern fringes of its range it may also be found in the warm currents of temperate waters. Ordinarily, however, it is found beyond the continental shelf between 20° S and 20° N. The Melon-headed whale is widespread throughout the world’s tropical waters, although not often seen by humans on account of its preference for deep water. It has been found in Ireland, Hawaii and Cebu, in the Philippines.

As social species, they are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 in the United States. In July 2004, between 150 and 200 melon-headed whales occupied the shallow waters of Kauai island in Hawaii for over 28 hours, after which, they were rescued and guided to deeper water. This incident may have been related to nearby United States Navy sonar exercise.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which includes the melon-headed whales in its Red List of threatened species said that the number of whales involved in mass stranding had increased in the last 30 years.

“The melon-headed whales are likely to be “vulnerable” to loud sounds, such as those generated by navy sonar and seismic exploration. Evidence from stranded whales also has indicated that they may have died after swallowing plastic items. It has been predicted that the whales will be affected by global climate change, but the impact is still unclear,” the IUCN explained.

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20 June

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20 June

Tennessee town mulls ‘stop work order’ as construction of controversial grain tanks begins

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Mayor Scott Jewell of the city of Dyer, Tennessee did not issue a “stop work order” to Dyer Grain Company late Tuesday afternoon as had been expected. The order would have temporarily halted construction of new grain storage tanks.

Dyer Grain’s efforts at expansion have been blocked several times over the past few years both by zoning restrictions on the height of structures and by citizens groups who filed suit against the grain company and the city’s board of zoning appeals. The lawsuit was dismissed two months ago. The Dyer City Council then amended the zoning ordinance to include “grain storage tanks and bins” in a section of the ordinance listing exclusions, such as free standing spires and towers, to the regular 40 foot height restriction on buildings.

Several citizens spoke at the November 28 city council meeting to address alleged deficiencies in the building permit issued to Dyer Grain. The citizens claimed that according to the site plan filed with the application for the permit, the location of the tanks will violate another provision in the zoning ordinance restricting the height of all structures to the distance from surrounding property lines plus ten feet. The citizens were also concerned over a “grain conveyor” that will cross a city street. Mayor Jewell indicated that he would contact the Gibson County building inspector (who is contracted by the city to act as the municipal inspector) to research the citizens’ concerns.

Jewell contacted Ricky Bailey, Gibson County Building inspector, on Wednesday. Bailey reportedly could find no deficiencies with the permit and, based on this advice, Jewell chose not to issue the stop work order himself. The City Council could still meet and vote to issue the order. The council meets the second Monday of each month.

“The main problem is that the grain company is in an industrial zone — which is located smack in the middle of a low-density residential zone.” Nathan Reed, an elected Alderman of Dyer said, “The property values in the area have increased (with inflation) but not at the same rate as other properties.”

Normal buildings, such as offices and warehouses, can’t exceed 40′ plus 10′ to the eave. The requested change in the ordinance changes the status of the towers from a building to the same status of an antenna or tower.

Mr Reed added, “The height to the eave is 76′, the height to the top of the tank is 105′, the height to the top of the elevator (atop the tank) is 133′. The 133′ is the only measurement that matters now because the change to the zoning ordinance means this is no longer a “building”, but rather the same as an antenna or tower.”

“The grain company specifically requested that change to the ordinace — which was opposed by several citizens…They can build it as high as they like so long as it conforms to the overal height restriction for towers, spires, etc.”

Mr Reed commented on additional concerns, “The citizens are concerned about the health effects of (additional) grain dust, noise, and grain explosions.”

The new construction is expected to generate annual property tax revenues of $10,000 to $16,000.

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20 June

Scientology protest group celebrates founder’s birthday worldwide

 Correction — March 19, 2008 The next protest is scheduled for April 12, 2008. The article below states April 18 which is incorrect. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Internet group Anonymous today held further protests critical of the Church of Scientology.

The global protests started in Australia where several hundred protesters gathered at different locations for peaceful protests.

In a global speech, the Internet protest movement said Scientology “betrayed the trust of its members, [had] taken their money, their rights, and at times their very lives.” The protesters welcomed the public interest their protests have led to, and claimed they witnessed “an unprecedented flood of Scientologists [joining] us across the world to testify about these abuses.” The group said it would continue with monthly actions.

In a press statement from its European headquarters, Scientology accused the anonymous protesters of “hate speech and hate crimes”, alleging that security measures were necessary because of death threats and bomb threats. This also makes the Church want to “identify members” of the group it brands as “cyber-terrorists”.

Wikinews had correspondents in a number of protest locations to report on the events.

Anonymous states that the next protest is scheduled to take place on April 18, which happens to be the birthday of Suri, the daughter of Tom and Katie Cruise.

Contents

  • 1 Location reports
    • 1.1 Adelaide, Australia
    • 1.2 Atlanta, Georgia
    • 1.3 Austin, Texas
    • 1.4 Boston, Massachusetts
    • 1.5 Brussels, Belgium
    • 1.6 London, England
    • 1.7 Manchester, England
    • 1.8 New York, New York
    • 1.9 Buffalo, New York
    • 1.10 Seattle, Washington
    • 1.11 Sydney, Australia
    • 1.12 Portland, Oregon
  • 2 Related news
  • 3 Sources
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19 June

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19 June

Tips For Making An Online Auto Insurance Purchase

Click Here To Know More About:

By Jim Bassett

Using the internet for obtaining your auto coverage has become easier and safer. Most large companies offer great and simple choices for making life easier when you are shopping for affordable coverage. Saving money starts with online shopping. You save gas and have the benefit of being comfortable at home. This is especially important when you have several companies to contact. Follow these tips for making an online auto insurance purchase.

Making your selections for the parts of your policy you need the most is important. Most companies these days have websites geared towards helping you make the best choices. Forms are provided for you to fill in that helps steer you towards the type of coverage you need for your particular circumstance. In the event you have questions, you can contact an agent by calling or using online chat options.

You may want to personalize some parts of your policy and wonder about being able to do so online. You do have the option of calling provided numbers for each company you look into for coverage. Making sure you always have the information you need for obtaining quotes is also important to have when you speak to an agent as well.

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Drivers should know most companies acquire the information they need from your driving record through the Department of Motor Vehicles. You can also obtain a copy of it for your records. However, you will not need to have this copy for getting a quote. Your driving record plays huge role in the amount of your premiums and insurance companies do have access to it for this reason.

Make a folder for keeping all your vehicle information in. This is especially handy when you are shopping for quotes online. In this folder you should include your vehicle registration information. The registration contains the vehicle identification number that is allotted for your car and only your car. In the event your car is burned or totaled past recognition, this number is generally used for identification.

The kind of car you have is another part of your application you will need to list. The make and model plays another part of how much your premiums are as well. The older your car is, the less value you have to cover with insurance by law. However, you can add the additional and more personalized coverage you prefer also. Cars still financed will have to carry comprehensive and collision for satisfying the lender. Keep these details in mind when applying for your coverage over the internet.

Getting the discounts you qualify for when applying for insurance over the internet is important for you to save as much money as possible. Lower premiums means you making certain you get the breaks you deserve for being a safe driver or for having several security and safety features on your car. Be sure to look on the website you visit for learning more about discounts and how to get them.

Getting the policy you need has never been easier than it is today due to being able to make an online auto insurance purchase. Making sure you have the coverage necessary for remaining legal will help to not only save you money, but also to give you peace of mind. No one ever knows when an accident is going to occur. It is best to remain prepared for one always.

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19 June

Interview with US political activist and philosopher Noam Chomsky

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Noam Chomsky is a professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Linguistics and Philosophy. At the age of 40 he was credited with revolutionizing the field of modern linguistics. He was one of the first opponents of the Vietnam War, and is a self described Libertarian Socialist. At age 80 he continues to write books; his latest book, Hegemony or Survival, was a bestseller in non-fiction. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index Professor Chomsky is the eighth most cited scholar of all time.

On March 13, Professor Chomsky sat down with Michael Dranove for an interview in his MIT office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

((Michael Dranove)) I just wanted to know if you had any thoughts on recent NATO actions and the protests coming up at the 60th NATO conference, I know you’re speaking at the counter-conference.

Could be I give so many talks I can’t remember (laughs).

On the NATO conference, well I mean the obvious question is why should NATO exist? In fact you can ask questions about why it should ever have existed, but now why should it exist. I mean the theory was, whether you believe it or not, that it would be a defensive alliance against potential Soviet aggression, that’s the basic doctrine. Well there’s no defense against Soviet aggression, so whether you believe that doctrine or not that’s gone.

When the Soviet Union collapsed there had been an agreement, a recent agreement, between Gorbachev and the U.S government and the first Bush administration. The agreement was that Gorbachev agreed to a quite remarkable concession: he agreed to let a united Germany join the NATO military alliance. Now it is remarkable in the light of history, the history of the past century, Germany alone had virtually destroyed Russia, twice, and Germany backed by a hostile military alliance, centered in the most phenomenal military power in history, that’s a real threat. Nevertheless he agreed, but there was a quid pro quo, namely that NATO should not expand to the east, so Russia would at least have a kind of security zone. And George Bush and James Baker, secretary of state, agreed that NATO would not expand one inch to the east. Gorbachev also proposed a nuclear free weapons zone in the region, but the U.S wouldn’t consider that.

Okay, so that was the basis on which then shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed. Well, Clinton came into office what did he do? Well one of the first things he did was to back down on the promise of not expanding NATO to the east. Well that’s a significant threat to the Soviet Union, to Russia now that there was no longer any Soviet Union, it was a significant threat to Russia and not surprisingly they responded by beefing up their offensive capacity, not much but some. So they rescinded their pledge not to use nuclear weapons on first strike, NATO had never rescinded it, but they had and started some remilitarization. With Bush, the aggressive militarism of the Bush administration, as predicted, induced Russia to extend further its offensive military capacity; it’s still going on right now. When Bush proposed the missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, Poland and Czechoslovakia, it was a real provocation to the Soviet Union. I mean that was discussed in U.S arms control journals, that they would have to regard as a potential threat to their strategic deterrent, meaning as a first strike weapon. And the claim was that it had to do with Iranian missiles, but forget about that.

Why should we even be debating NATO, is there any reason why it should exist?

Take say on Obama, Obama’s national security advisor James Jones former Marine commandant is on record of favoring expansion of NATO to the south and the east, further expansion of NATO, and also making it an intervention force. And the head of NATO, Hoop Scheffer, he has explained that NATO must take on responsibility for ensuring the security of pipelines and sea lanes, that is NATO must be a guarantor of energy supplies for the West. Well that’s kind of an unending war, so do we want NATO to exist, do we want there to be a Western military alliance that carries out these activities, with no pretense of defense? Well I think that’s a pretty good question; I don’t see why it should, I mean there happens to be no other military alliance remotely comparable — if there happened to be one I’d be opposed to that too. So I think the first question is, what is this all about, why should we even be debating NATO, is there any reason why it should exist?

((Michael Dranove)) We’ve seen mass strikes all around the world, in countries that we wouldn’t expect it. Do think this is a revival of the Left in the West? Or do you think it’s nothing?

It’s really hard to tell. I mean there’s certainly signs of it, and in the United States too, in fact we had a sit down strike in the United States not long ago, which is a very militant labor action. Sit down strikes which began at a significant level in the 1930’s were very threatening to management and ownership, because the sit down strike is one step before workers taking over the factory and running it and kicking out the management, and probably doing a better job. So that’s a frightening idea, and police were called in and so on. Well we just had one in the United States at the Republic Windows and Doors Factory, it’s hard to know, I mean these things are just hard to predict, they may take off, and they may take on a broader scope, they may fizzle away or be diverted.

((Michael Dranove)) Obama has said he’s going to halve the budget. Do you think it’s a little reminiscent of Clinton right before he decided to institute welfare reform, basically destroying half of welfare, do you think Obama is going to take the same course?

There’s nothing much in his budget to suggest otherwise, I mean for example, he didn’t really say much about it, about the welfare system, but he did indicate that they are going to have to reconsider Social Security. Well there’s nothing much about social security that needs reconsideration, it’s in pretty good financial shape, probably as good as it’s been in its history, it’s pretty well guaranteed for decades in advance. As long as any of the famous baby boomers are around social Security will be completely adequate. So its not for them, contrary to what’s being said. If there is a long term problem, which there probably is, there are minor adjustments that could take care of things.

So why bring up Social Security at all? If it’s an issue at all it’s a very minor one. I suspect the reason for bringing it up is, Social Security is regarded as a real threat by power centers, not because of what it does, very efficient low administrative costs, but for two reasons. One reason is that it helps the wrong people. It helps mostly poor people and disabled people and so on, so that’s kind of already wrong, even though it has a regressive tax. But I think a deeper reason is that social security is based on an idea that power centers find extremely disturbing, namely solidarity, concern for others, community, and so on.

If people have a commitment to solidarity, mutual aid, support, and so on, that’s dangerous because that could lead to concern for other things.

The fundamental idea of Social Security is that we care about whether the disabled widow across town has food to eat. And that kind of idea has to be driven out of people’s heads. If people have a commitment to solidarity, mutual aid, support, and so on, that’s dangerous because that could lead to concern for other things. Like, it’s well known, for example, that markets just don’t provide lots of options, which today are crucial options. So for example, markets today permit you to buy one brand of car or another. But a market doesn’t permit you to decide “I don’t want a car, I want a public transportation system”. That’s just not a choice made available on the market. And the same is true on a wide range of other issues of social significance, like whether to help the disabled widow across town. Okay, that’s what communities decide, that’s what democracy is about, that’s what social solidarity is about and mutual aid, and building institutions by people for the benefit of people. And that threatens the system of domination and control right at the heart, so there’s a constant attack on Social Security even though the pretexts aren’t worth paying attention to.

There are other questions on the budget; the budget is called redistributive, I mean, very marginally it is so, but the way it is redistributive to the extent that it is, is by slightly increasing the tax responsibility to the extremely wealthy. Top couple of percent, and the increase is very marginal, doesn’t get anywhere near where it was during the periods of high growth rate and so on. So that’s slightly redistributive, but there are other ways to be redistributive, which are more effective, for example allowing workers to unionize. It’s well known that where workers are allowed to unionize and most of them want to, that does lead to wages, better working conditions, benefits and so on, which is redistributive and also helps turn working people into more of a political force. And instead of being atomized and separated they’re working to together in principle, not that humans function so wonderfully, but at least it’s a move in that direction. And there is a potential legislation on the table that would help unionize, the Employee Free Choice Act. Which Obama has said he’s in favor of, but there’s nothing about it in the budget, in fact there’s nothing in the budget at all as far as I can tell about improving opportunities to unionize, which is an effective redistributive goal.

And there’s a debate right now, it happens to be in this morning’s paper if Obama’s being accused by Democrats, in fact particularly by Democrats, of taking on too much. Well actually he hasn’t taken on very much, the stimulus package; I mean anybody would have tried to work that out with a little variation. And the same with the bailouts which you can like or not, but any President is going to do it. What is claimed is that he’s adding on to it health care reform, which will be very expensive, another hundreds of billions of dollars, and it’s just not the time to do that. I mean, why would health care reform be more expensive? Well it depends which options you pick. If the healthcare reforms maintain the privatized system, yeah, it’s going to be very expensive because it’s a hopelessly inefficient system, it’s very costly, its administrative costs are far greater than Medicare, the government run system. So what that means is that he’s going to maintain a system which we know is inefficient, has poor outcomes, but is a great benefit to insurance companies, financial institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and so on. So it can save money, health care reform can be a method of deficit reduction. Namely by moving to an efficient system that provides health care to everyone, but that’s hardly talked about, its advocates are on the margins and its main advocates aren’t even included in the groups that are discussing it.

And if you look through it case after case there are a lot of questions like that. I mean, take unionization again, this isn’t in the budget but take an example. Obama, a couple of weeks ago, wanted to make a gesture to show his solidarity with the labor movement, which workers, well that’s different (chuckles) with the workers not the labor movement. And he went to go visit an industrial plant in Illinois, the plant was owned by Caterpillar. There was some protest over that, by human rights groups, church groups, and others because of Caterpillar’s really brutal role in destroying what’s left of Palestine. These were real weapons of mass destruction, so there were protests but he went anyway. However, there was a much deeper issue which hasn’t even been raised, which is a comment on our deep ideological indoctrination. I mean Caterpillar was the first industrial organization to resort to scabs, strikebreakers, to break a major strike. This was in the 1980’s, Reagan had already opened the doors with the air controllers, but this is the first in the manufacturing industry to do it. That hadn’t been done in generations. In fact, it was illegal in every industrial country except apartheid South Africa. But that was Caterpillar’s achievement helping to destroy a union by calling in scabs, and if you call in scabs forget about strikes, in other words, or any other labor action. Well that’s the plant Obama went to visit. It’s possible he didn’t know, because the level of indoctrination in our society is so profound that most people wouldn’t even know that. Still I think that it’s instructive, if you’re interested in doing something redistributive, you don’t go to a plant that made labor history by breaking the principle that you can’t break strikes with scabs.

((Michael Dranove)) I live out in Georgia, and a lot of people there are ultra-right wing Ron Paul Libertarians. They’re extremely cynical. Is there any way for people on the left to reach out to them?

I think what you have to do is ask, what makes them Ron Paul Libertarians? I don’t happen to think that makes a lot of sense, but nevertheless underlying it are feelings that do make sense. I mean the feeling for example that the government is our enemy. It’s a very widespread feeling, in fact, that’s been induced by propaganda as well.

So pretty soon it will be April 15th, and the people in your neighborhood are going to have to send in their income taxes. The way they’re going to look at it, and the way they’ve been trained to look at it is that there is some alien force, like maybe from Mars, that is stealing our hard earned money from us and giving it to the government. Okay, well, that would be true in a totalitarian state, but if you had a democratic society you’d look at it the other way around You’d say “great, it’s April 15th, we’re all going to contribute to implement the plans that we jointly decided on for the benefit of all of us.” But that idea is even more frightening than Social Security. It means that we would have a functioning democracy, and no center of concentrated power is ever going to want that, for perfectly obvious reasons. So yes there are efforts, and pretty successful efforts to get people to fear the government as their enemy, not to regard it as the collective population acting in terms of common goals that we’ve decided on which would be what have to happen in a democracy. And is to an extent what does happen in functioning democracies, like Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. It’s kind of what’s happening there more or less. But that’s very remote from what’s happening here.

Well I think Ron Paul supporters can be appealed to on these grounds, they’re also against military intervention, and we can ask “okay, why?” Is it just for their own security, do they want to be richer or something? I doubt it, I think people are concerned because they think we destroyed Iraq and so on. So I think that there are lots of common grounds that can be explored, even if the outcomes, at the moment, look very different. They look different because they’re framed within fixed doctrines. But those doctrines are not graven in stone. They can be undermined.

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19 June

Wikinews interviews U.S. Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Cynthia McKinney, one of the candidates for the Green Party nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

McKinney is a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and held her seat for ten years until being defeated by Denise Majette in 2002. She was the first ever African American woman from her state to be elected to Congress.

We asked her why she made the recent switch to the Green Party. She replied, “Due to the importance of environmental issues, Green issues are the issues of today. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party stress us getting along with each other in harmony with the planet that gives us life.”

When asked about how she would handle Iraq she replied, “I would instruct the Joint Chiefs to draw up a plan for the orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. I would dismantle our military bases in the area, and I would also demand that U.S. and other international corporations relinquish any claims to Iraqi oil or other resources and withdraw as well.”

McKinney is running for president because, basically, she thinks that “it’s time that the people win”.

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19 February

Israel elects 18th Knesset

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The centrist Kadima Party won a plurality of the seats in Knesset, the Israel parliament, in Tuesday’s election beating out the right-wing Likud Party by a single seat.

The ninth and current Israel President Shimon Peres will call on Tzipora Malka “Tzipi” Livni, Kadima party leader to attempt to form a government through a coalition. This will be difficult for Livini as Hard line parties including Likud won a majority of the seats in the Knesset. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu might be tapped to form a coalition government if Livni fails. 65.2% percent of the voting population voted on Tuesday.

The key issue which has faced some 5.3 million registered voters, in 9,000 polling stations nationwide is which leader can best assure the security of the state while chances of a peace deal seem remote amid a campaign that generated little enthusiasm.

Political analysts are predicting that Mr. Netanyahu, not Ms. Livni, will be asked by Israel’s president to form the next government.

Both Ms. Livni and Mr. Netanyahu are courting the third-place Yisrael Beitenu Party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman. Yisrael Beitenu party which won 15 seats is seen as critical in securing the 61 seats required in the country’s 120-seat parliament.

Another possible political scenario would be a power-sharing government between Ms. Livni and Mr. Netanyahu, in which each leader would serve as prime minister for two years, rotating midway through the four year term.

“Netanyahu and Livni complement one another. You have the common sense of Livni and the broader strategic vision of Netanyahu. Bibi needs her and she needs him,” said Daniel Schueftan, a senior Israeli academic and deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, where he also serves as a senior lecturer in the School of Political Sciences.

The Knesset (????) is the legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem. It was first convened on February 14, 1949, following the elections held on January 20th 1949. As the legislative branch of the Israeli government, it enacts laws, elects the president and prime minister (although s/he is ceremonially appointed by the President), supervises the work of the government, reserves the power to remove the President of the State and the State Comptroller from office and to dissolve itself and call new elections.

I believe in the right of the Jewish people to the entire land of Israel. But I was also raised to preserve democratic values.

The composition of the current Knesset was determined by the 2006 election, the Seventeenth Knesset. Though it has not yet happened in the current session, in every Knesset to date (save the remarkably stable 1955 Third), parties have split up during the Knesset’s term, leading to the creation of new parties or resulting in MKs sitting as independents.

Last December, a record 43 parties had registered with the parties registrar, compared to 31 for the 2006 elections, although in the end, only 34 parties submitted a list of candidates. On 12 January 2009, Balad and the United Arab ListTa’al alliance were disqualified by the Central Elections Committee on the grounds that they failed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and called for armed conflict against it. Balad and Ta’al were also disqualified from the 2003 election, but won a Supreme Court case which allowed them to run. On January 21, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 8 to 1, again revoked the ban.

Every 4 years (or sooner if an early election is called, as is often the case), 120 members of the Knesset (MKs) are elected by Israeli citizens who must be at least 18 years old to vote. The Government of Israel must be approved by a majority vote of the Knesset. 120 seats are allocated by party-list proportional representation, using the d’Hondt method. The election threshold for the 2006 election was set at 2% (up from 1.5% in previous elections), which is a little over two seats.

After official results are published (on February 18, in this election), the President of Israel delegates the task of forming a government to the Member of Knesset with the best chance of assembling a majority coalition (usually the leader of the largest party.) That designee has up to 42 days to negotiate with the different parties, and then present his government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. Once the government is approved (by a vote of at least 61 members), he/she becomes Prime Minister.

Kadima leaders believe that Livni can form a coalition with at least Labor, Meretz and Israel Beiteinu. Livni and Netanyahu have started meeting with potential government coalition partners, Livni with Avigdor Lieberman of ultranational party, Yisrael Beiteinu and Netanyahu with Eli Yishai of the Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu (??????????? “????” ???????????) was the 9th Prime Minister of Israel (June 1996 to July 1999) and is Chairman of the conservative Likud Party. He is the first (and to date only) Prime Minister of Israel to be born after the State of Israel’s foundation.

Netanyahu was Finance Minister of Israel until 9 August 2005, having resigned in protest at the Gaza Disengagement Plan advocated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He retook the Likud leadership on 20 December 2005.

As of December 2006, he became the official leader of the Opposition in the Knesset and Chairman of the Likud Party. In August 2007 he retained the Likud leadership by beating Moshe Feiglin in party elections.

On May 4, 2006, Ehud Olmert (???? ??????) became the 12th and current Prime Minister of Israel. He was the mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, was elected to the Knesset and became a minister and an Acting Prime Minister in the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

On January 4, 2006, after Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke, Olmert began exercising the powers of the office of Prime Minister. He led Kadima to a victory in the March 2006 elections (just two months after Sharon had suffered his stroke) and continued on as Acting Prime Minister.

On April 14, 2006, Sharon was declared permanently incapacitated, allowing Olmert to legally become Interim Prime Minister. On 4 May, 2006, Olmert and his new, post-election government were approved by the Knesset, thus Olmert officially became Prime Minister of Israel.

Olmert faced corruption charges amid a challenge for leadership from Kadima by Foreign Minister Tzipora Malka “Tzipi” Livni (?????? ???? “????” ????), age 50, the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel. Livini is a lawyer, mother-of-two and former agent for Mossad Israel’s foreign intelligence agency who has moved from a strongly Zionist nationalist background to become a leading Israeli advocate of a two-state solution with Palestinians.

On July 30, 2008, Olmert announced that he would not seek re-election as party leader and that he would resign from his position as Prime Minister immediately after a new Kadima leader was named. On September 17, 2008, Livni won the election and became the new leader of the Kadima party. She sought to form a new government that would gain support from a majority of the Knesset.

After failing to reach agreement with various parties, Livni’s attempts at forming a new government were unsuccessful and instead an election was scheduled for February 10, 2009. Aside from Livini and Netanyahu, the other candidates were Ehud Barak, the 10th Prime Minister of Israel, and current Minister of Defense, deputy prime minister and leader of Israel’s centre-left Labor Party, and Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu.

The hiatus allowed Olmert to cling to his Prime Minister post for at least a further five months as head of a caretaker government. On December, 2008, Operation Cast Lead was launched on Gaza. The February 10 election came three weeks after a 22-day Israel–Gaza conflict, where Israeli military offensive in the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu faction received 15 Knesset seats, thereby holding the key to the makeup of the 18th Knesset, has on Thursday unexpectedly departed for vacation abroad, leaving his suitors from Kadima and Likud — as well as the Israeli public — in the dark about his intentions.

“Our position is already clear and I know exactly what I am going to tell President Shimon Peres. [But] in order to know whom we are going to recommend, we will wait six more days,” Lieberman said. “I think it is too early and there is no point saying whom we support. I have met with both Livni and Netanyahu and with additional people in the political system but my position is already clear and solid. When we go to the President we will say very clear things,” he added.

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19 February

18-year-old charged for Thanksgiving lesbian assault

Monday, November 26, 2012

An 18-year-old man, Travis Hawkins Jr., was charged yesterday by police in Mobile County, Alabama, for allegedly beating a woman who is romantically involved with his sister. Hawkins was bailed following a charge for second-degree assault.

Mallory Owens, 23, the victim of the attack, is in the USA Medical Center in Mobile, recovering from the injuries. Owens has had to have facial reconstructive surgery and had a broken nose from the assault during Thanksgiving. Owens’ family have told reporters they believe it to be a hate crime and called for the prosecutors to upgrade the charges against Hawkins.

The father of the arrested man, Travis Hawkins Sr., has said they have hired a lawyer for his son, Hawkins Jr.

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18 February