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Electronic voting disputed in France

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In France, voting has traditionally been a low-tech experience: voters isolate themselves in a booth, put a pre-printed sheet of paper indicating their candidate of choice into an envelope. After officials verify the voter’s identity, the voter drops the envelope into the ballot box and signs the voting roll. French electoral law rather strictly codifies the proceedings. Since 1988, ballot boxes must be transparent so that voters and observers can witness that no envelopes are present at the start of the vote and that no envelopes are added except those of the duly counted and authorized voters. Candidates can send representatives to witness every part of the process. In the evening, votes are counted by volunteers under heavy supervision, following specific procedures.

In the past, voting machines, though authorized by law, were scarce. But this year, during presidential elections (the first round was April 22, the second is on May 6), the country is shaken by controversy about the machines intended to count about 1.5 million votes.

As in the United States, there is a group of academic computer scientists that oppose voting machines. They argue that voting machines replace a public, easily understandable counting process, where large-scale fraud would entail large-scale corruption, by an opaque process where votes are counted by machines that voters have to blindly trust. Voting machines have to be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, but this approval is based on confidential reports by private companies. Opponents to the machines point out that the Ministry was long held by Nicolas Sarkozy, who happens to be the leading candidate. Opponents also list a number of weaknesses and discrepancies that have occurred in other countries using voting machines.

All main political parties except UMP, Mr Sarkozy’s ruling party, oppose the voting machines. Some citizens have filed for court injunctions against the voting machines. Opponents have given detailed instructions that voting witnesses should check whether the machines correspond exactly to an approved type, including software versions, and fulfill all legal conditions. In a sign of the frenzy over the issue, on April 12 the Ministry of the Interior issued a last-minute authorization for a specific model (hardware, firmware). The stakes are high: votes on unapproved machines should be canceled by the Constitutional Council for the official count.

The opposition has crystallized on the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. Issy’s mayor, André Santini is a well-known technophile; his city organizes a “World E-Gov Forum”. Here too, last minute fixes are at work. The machines delivered to the city are of a yet-to-be-approved type. The manufacturer, the American company ES&S voting systems, is now delivering older 2005 machines. Le Monde reports that other municipalities have already replaced their recent machines by an older, approved, model.

Proponents of the machines, such as the French company France Élection, claim they are being defamed and dispute the competence of their critics. Elected officials supporting the machines claim the machines save on paper, time, and the need to find volunteers to count votes.

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Egyptian treasures found in ancient tomb

Friday, March 13, 2009

A team of archaeologists excavating an Ancient Egyptian tomb have discovered golden jewelry in a recently-discovered lower chamber at the Valley of the Kings burial site in Luxor, Egypt.

Two golden rings and five golden earrings were found in the tomb of Djehuty, an 18th-dynasty official of Queen Hatshepsut, and were probably the property of Djehuty or his family.

The discovery was announced by Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s current Minister of Culture.

Djehuty was overseer of the treasury and overseer of works for the Queen. Hatshepsut reigned approximately 1479–1458 BCE. Djehuty was responsible for managing the huge amounts of precious goods brought in from Egypt’s military expedition to Punt in the Horn of Africa and the vast building projects of Hatshepsut which have made the female pharaoh one of the most-remembered of any from ancient Egypt.

Djehuty died after Hatshepsut did, sometime during the reign of Thutmosis III. Both Hatshepsut’s and Thutmosis’s names are recorded on the tomb. In a fashion typical of ancient Egyptian rivalries, Hatshepsut’s name was partly obscured on the monument over the tomb sometime after the queen’s death.

The team, led by José Manuel Galán of the National Research Center (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC), in Madrid, Spain, had been excavating the tomb, designated TT11 and located in the necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’, since 2002. While much of Djehuty’s funerary equipment was lost to fire in antiquity, the lower chamber of his tomb was concealed at the end of a three-meter shaft and discovered at the end of 2008.

A superficial description of the tomb itself was recorded almost two hundred years ago by 19th-century French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion, rubble blocking the entrance hindered excavation until the 21st century. In that time, emphasis in Egyptology has changed from the cataloging of treasures to the investigation of ancient culture, life and religion.

Since excavation began, Djehuty’s tomb has yielded a number of surprises. It was discovered that the tomb was re-used repeatedly up to and during the Greco-Roman period. There is an unusual face-on depiction of pharaoh Thutmosis III hunting ducks, and the mummy of a young, bejewelled, as-yet unidentified woman.

In 2007, 44 preserved bunches of flowers thought to be from Djehuty’s funeral were found in the site. In their 8th season of excavation, which ended on February 22, 2009, the team also found considerable evidence that below Djehuty’s tomb is a network of burial sites from the 11th dynasty, four thousand years old.

The lower chamber also displays passages from the Egyptian funerary text the Book of the Dead on its walls and a colorful mural of the goddess Nut, an embodiment of the heavens, on the ceiling. The names of Djehuty and his parents were also intact in the second chamber; the names were defaced in the previously-known first chamber of the tomb, which had also been looted.

According to a press release from Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Djehuty’s tomb is only the fifth known decorated burial chamber of the 18th dynasty. An additional unusual feature of the tomb is that its upper chamber is decorated in relief, rather than simply paint. When the excavation is completed, Dr Galán’s team plans to open the site to the public as the carved stoneworks will not be destroyed by tourists’ activities as paint would.

The identification of Djehuty is a complicated one, as a number of officials of the 18th dynasty bore the name, including a general and several governors. The name itself is an alternate transliteration of the name of the Egyptian god usually written in English as Thoth.

Large bomb defused in Northern Ireland

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Large bomb defused in Northern Ireland
Author:

27 May

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A 600 lb bomb which was found in Northern Ireland has been defused by a bomb disposal team.

The bomb was found on the side of a road near the village of Forkhill in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. It was defused by an expert bomb disposal team from the Irish Army. The explosives were home-made and weighed 600 lb (270 kg). It is believed that the bomb was planted there by dissident republicans.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland believed that there could have been a “devastating outcome” — and that they were also potentially targets of the bombers. Chief Inspector Sam Cordner said: “The actions of terrorist criminals in planting this device in the Forkhill area put local people and police officers at significant risk.”

Their actions were reckless and dangerous in the extreme

“Their actions were reckless and dangerous in the extreme. Their target may have been the police, but they did not care who they killed or injured. It is only through the hard work and professionalism of police officers and their military colleagues that the area has been made safe,” Cordner said.

20 people had to evacuate their homes while the bomb was safely defused. Authorities took the device and will conduct a forensic examination.

Sizzler salad bars shut after rat poison found in food

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Sizzler salad bars shut after rat poison found in food
Author:

27 May

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Sizzler Restaurant franchise in Australia has closed the salad bars in all of its 29 restaurants across the country, after rat poison was discovered in food at two of the chain’s outlets in Brisbane. Self-serve salad bars at the restaurants have been closed in response to a sabotage scare. Sizzler Australia Managing Director Bo Ryan said customer safety was always the restaurant chain’s first priority.

A media release on the Sizzler website states: “As a precautionary measure and because customer health and safety is our number one priority, we have temporarily closed salad bars in all Sizzler Restaurants. We sincerely apologise for this major inconvenience.”

Police said green pellets were found in pasta sauce at a Sizzler restaurant in Brisbane’s inner-west on January 20. A regular customer at the Toowong restaurant told Sizzler staff she had found something odd in her bolognese pasta sauce. Similar pellets were found in a vegetable soup at Sizzler’s Myer Centre outlet in the city about 5pm on Saturday.

Bo Ryan said the decision to close all of its Australian salad bars was made after laboratory tests confirmed that the substance in the pasta sauce was indeed rat poison. He said trainees who tasted the poisoned soup had been been taken to hospital by ambulance as a precaution, but had suffered no ill effects.

Queensland Police Inspector Bob Hytch said no one had been reported ill as a result of eating the poisoned food and there had been no extortion threats. Sarah Kenny, a university student, said she and two friends had eaten spaghetti bolognese that “tasted really weird”.

“The inconvenience to customers and the economic impact on the company and its 1600 employees will be severe, but as a family restaurant our first priority is the welfare of our diners,” said Bo Ryan. “Steak and seafood and a limited range of salads would continue to be available.” He hopes that customers will understand the action was taken in their best interests, and that “they can be patient while temporary product security procedures are developed and implemented in all restaurants.”

The 29 Australian Sizzler Restaurants, along with 107 Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets are operated by the Collins Foods Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Worldwide Restaurant Concepts Inc. Mr Ryan said Sizzler was assessing measures which could be taken to prevent a recurrence of the sabotage. “As soon as new measures are introduced, over and above existing strict protocols, we will reassess the situation,” he said.

How To Save Time And Money With Plants In Containers And Herbaceous Borders

Submitted by: John Schofield

Here are some tips on saving time and money with plants in containers and herbaceous borders:

Plants in containers

Removing dead flowers: Summer-flowering plants in hanging-baskets, window boxes, troughs and other containers can be brightened up quickly by using sharp scissors to snip off dead flowers. This extends their flowering period and prevents decaying flowers spreading infection to others.

Where daily watering is difficult: Add water-retaining materials to the compost when planting the container. Use moisture-retaining liners when planting a hanging-basket.

YouTube Preview Image

Easy watering: When watering hanging-baskets, or a large group of pots, tie the end of a hosepipe to a 1.2m (4ft) long cane. It is then possible to direct the water more easily into pots: when watering a hanging-basket, bend over the tip of the hosepipe (it can be held in place with a piece of wire, perhaps from a wire clothes hanger). Alternatively, use proprietary hosepipe fittings.

Recycling growing-bags: Where a growing-bag has been used to grow vegetables, perhaps tomatoes in a greenhouse or lettuces on a patio, at the end of the season remove the plants and place the bag in a shed. In the following spring, mix a general fertilizer with the compost and plant with culinary herbs, such as mints that need to have their roots constricted. Half-hardy annuals can also be planted in this medium.

Rejuvenating dry hanging-baskets: Where the compost in a hanging-basket has become exceptionally dry, lower the basket and immerse the compost in a large bowl or bucket of water. Wait until air bubbles cease to rise, then replace the basket on its supporting bracket. First-aid watering: During very hot days -or when a hanging-basket cannot be watered – place a few ice cubes on the compost. These will melt gradually and the water will become available to the plants. Grouping plants in pots: Position plants in pots in a group, rather than spreading them over a large area. This helps to create a more impressive display, as well as slightly reducing the amount and frequency of water they require.

Keeping herbaceous borders smart and tidy

Removing dead flowers: Cutting off dead flowers is time-consuming, but it certainly prolongs the display as well as preventing plants developing seeds at the expense of growth and flowers. Use sharp secateurs or scissors and cut them immediately above a leaf. Place the dead flowers on a compost heap rather than just dropping them on the soil.

Supporting plants: Some herbaceous plants are self-supporting, while others need unobtrusive support. The traditional way to support herbaceous plants is to push twiggy sticks around them while they are still small, so that foliage and flowers grow through them. Proprietary metal supports are available.

Mulching the soil: In spring, shallowly fork around established plants, removing weeds and ensuring that the soil does not have a crusty cap that prevents air and water entering the ground. Thoroughly water the soil, then form a 5cm (2in) thick mulch of well-decayed garden compost over the surface. Alternatively, use a mulch formed of shredded bark.

Autumn tidiness: During autumn, herbaceous plants die down to soil-level; the old stems can be cut down to soil-level, removed and added to a compost heap. This creates a smart and tidy border throughout winter. Alternatively, the stems and old leaves are left in place throughout winter, so that they create an attractive feature when covered in frost.

Re-firm plants in spring: In spring, use the heel of your boot to firm soil around herbaceous plants planted during the previous autumn. This ensures soil is in close contact with the roots and that growth will begin as soon as the weather allows.

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Somali pirates release Greek ship, 19 sailors

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Somali pirates release Greek ship, 19 sailors
Author:

27 May

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

According to East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme Kenyan chapter head, Andrew Mwangura, the Greek freighter MV Captain Stephanos and all its 19 crew, consisting of 17 Filipinos, one Chinese and a Ukrainian, had been released late Monday, after 78 days in captivity. It was unclear, however, if any ransom was paid. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said that “there are [still] 91 Filipino seafarers on board six ships still with Somali pirates.”

Somali pirates seized the Bahamas-flagged vessel on September 21 near the Horn of Africa, as the bulk carrier, was cruising in the Gulf of Aden en route and transporting coal to Europe. The captors locked the crew inside the vessel and they were not fed well. The vessel is now headed to Italy and will sail from there to Greece, to meet the ship owners.

Reuters reported that “a surge in attacks at sea this year in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean off Somalia has pushed up insurance costs, brought the gangs tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and prompted foreign warships to rush to the area.”

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2008 Leisure Taiwan launched in Taipei World Trade Center

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2008 Leisure Taiwan launched in Taipei World Trade Center
Author:

26 May

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This year’s Leisure Taiwan trade show (a.k.a Taiwan Sport Recreation and Leisure Show) started yesterday, with 131 companies participating including sports media companies such as ESPN and VideoLand Television, businesses selling sports equipment and fitness clubs.

There were also a variety of sports being played in the arena built for the trade show. The events included a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, free style shooting, and bicycle test-riding. In addition, conferences discussed issues related to sports and physical education.

A major topic in the trade show was energy-efficiency and, as a result, bicycles and similar sports equipment were being heavily promoted.

Next Tuesday, companies from the electronics industry plan to promote their industry at “2008 Digital E-Park.” In previous years, organizations from the electronics industry have showcased their products at Leisure Taiwan instead of at the Digital E-Park, so this move has reduced the number of markets covered by Leisure Taiwan.

Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners

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Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners
Author:

26 May

Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Buffalo, New York —Savarino Construction Services Corp. has proposed a $7 million hotel project at the Forest and Elmwood Avenue intersection, according to The Buffalo News. The proposal calls for a 5-story, 45,000 square-foot 80-room hotel with underground parking for at least 50 vehicles, and 4,500 square-feet of retail space on the lower level.

Hans Mobius, the owner of the five properties to be purchased in the plan (1109 to 1121 Elmwood), reportedly signed a contract with Savarino to assemble the development.

“We saw a huge opportunity to bring something to the Elmwood Village that will make sense and bring a service that’s currently not available,” said Eva Hassett, vice president of Savarino. “Elmwood is such a wonderful place to eat, shop, walk and spend time. We believe this project will add to that vibrant environment.”

Some business owners in the area see it differently. Wikinews interviewed 2 of the 4 owners whose business’s would be demolished if the development goes through.

Nancy Pollina, of Don Apparel at 1119 Elmwood, who found out about the development only yesterday, said she is “utterly” against the proposal. Her apparel shop has stood at the same location for nearly 14 years. She has volunteered in the community, and helped create several gardens around bus shelters in the city, and served on Forever Elmwood Board for six years as head of Beautification. Patty Morris co-owns Don Apparel with Pollina.

“To say this is a good looking project, I want to say the emperor has no clothes. This [project] does not take into consideration the needs of the college students. I have been told by college students, these shops here, are the reason they leave the campus,” said Mrs. Pollina.

Buffalo State College is 500-feet from the intersection.

Michael Faust, the owner of Mondo Video said, “Well, I do not really want to get kicked out of here. The landlord was very open, and the deal he made with me when I moved in here was ‘the rent is cheap and I [the landlord] will not fix anything and that will not change.'” Faust said he first learned of the development plan, “about 48 hours ago. I found out on Tuesday when the Buffalo News called and asked for my opinion on this.” Faust has not said if he will make plans to relocate. “We have to see if this [house] is going to get knocked down first,” said Faust.

An “informational” meeting, where citizens can voice opinions and learn about the proposal, will be held on Tuesday February 21, 2006 at 5:00pm (eastern), at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center Gallery at Buffalo State College, Rockwell Hall.

Executive director of Forever Elmwood Corporation, Justin P. Azzarella would not comment on whether or not the organization supports the development, saying, “you will just have to come to the meeting.”

Forever Elmwood Corp. is designed to preserve and protect the unique and historic nature of Elmwood Avenue and its surrounding neighborhoods and encourage neighborhood commercial revitalization. The organization was founded in 1994.

Nearly two years ago, the Forever Elmwood Corp. assisted in the blocking of the demolition of the Edward Atwater house at 1089 Elmwood next to Pano’s Restaurant which is at 1081 Elmwood. Owner Pano Georgiadis wanted to expand his restaurant onto the property where the house now stands, but the Common Council denied his permit to demolish saying the house is a historical landmark and needs to be protected. Georgiadis, who has a bleeding ulcer, said that all the court cases landed him in the hospital. “I got a bleeding ulcer, and since then, I don’t care about this house anymore, or this city. I just go to work every day. I think [preservationists] are parasites,” said Georgiadis.

Georgiadis will not be attending Tuesday’s meeting saying, “I will be out of town.”

In 1995 Hans Mobius proposed a plan to develop a Walgreens, that was to be placed in the same location, but residents and business owners shot down the proposal. Walgreens eventually withdrew its request for a variance after pressure from the community.

Results of 2005 United Kingdom General Election

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Results of 2005 United Kingdom General Election
Author:

26 May

Friday, May 6, 2005

The United Kingdom General Election
Labour Conservative Lib Dems
355 197 62
DUP SNP Sinn Féin
7 6 5
Plaid Cymru SDLP UUP
3 3 1
RESPECT IKHH Ind.  
1 1 1  
Other Wikinews election coverage:
  • Theresa May’s Conservative Party wins UK election but loses majority, leaving Brexit plan in question
  • Seven killed, forty-eight injured in attack on London Bridge
  • Theresa May calls for June general election
  • Jeremy Corbyn wins UK labour leadership election
  • Category:2015 United Kingdom general election
Full election 2005 coverage.
Background:
Wikipedia, Wikinews’ sibling project, has in-depth background articles on:

At 21:00 UTC yesterday, the polls closed in the United Kingdom general election. With only a handful of seats left to declare, Labour reached the 324 seats necessary to form a majority in the House of Commons, with the result in Corby at 03:28 UTC.

The Conservative Party remains the Opposition party, with the Liberal Democrats being the third largest party in the House of Commons.

Both the Labour victory and the reduced majority were widely predicted by opinion polls before the election. The BBC/ITV exit poll predicted Tony Blair a majority of 66 seats, which continued to be forecast as the final result as declarations were made. Some early results in the north-east indicated a bigger swing away from Labour than the opinion polls had been suggesting, but later results confirmed the survey.

Overall, there has been no clear swing in votes between the parties. Many seats have seen large swings, but in many different directions, with perhaps the national swing of 5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat being the most dramatic with many much larger local swings.

The new Labour government has been elected with the lowest proportion of the popular vote ever – just 35.2%. However, the Tories only gained 32.3% barely more than the last election in 2001. The biggest winners in terms of popular vote were the Liberal Democrats led by Charles Kennedy, who secured 22.1% of the vote. With 645 of 646 seats declared so far, this has given the Liberal Democrats another 11 seats in Parliament, but the Conservatives have gained another 33 seats. Labour have lost 47.

As a result, Tony Blair is forecast to be governing with a majority of 66 in the new Parliament. However, on some major issues such as university fees and anti-terror laws, many Labour MPs have voted against their leadership. With a greatly reduced majority, Tony Blair may be forced to water down many more controversial policies in order to guarantee their passage through the House of Commons. Speaking on BBC News, commentator David Dimbleby pointed out the uncertainty of such possibilities, and noted that a majority of 66 was larger than the 43 seat majority won by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom general election, 1979.

One surprise vote was the election of ex-Labour member George Galloway in Bethnal Green & Bow, in East London. The area has a very high number of Muslims in it, and Galloway moved from his home in Scotland in order to gain their anti-war support. He ousted Britain’s only second female black MP, Oona King, in the process.

Robert Kilroy-Silk, the ex-talkshow host who was sacked from the BBC after writing racist newspaper articles, only came fourth in his election in Erewash in the East Midlands. His party, Veritas, which fielded 65 candidates across the country, stood for withdrawing from the European Union and blocking immigration.

Turnout in the general election is 60%, up 2% on 2001.

For comparison: