Archive for August, 2018

Thomson Corporation and Reuters agree to merge

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22
Aug

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Thomson Corporation and Reuters Group PLC announced Tuesday that they have agreed to combine the two companies. The boards of both Thomson and Reuters will recommend the merger to their shareholders.

The Canadian Thomson-family holding company Woodbridge, which controls 70% of Thomson, has agreed to vote in favour of the deal and the Reuters Founders Share Company, which controls a special share in Reuters, will also support the merger.

Based on the TSX CA$46.36 closing share price of Thomson on May 14, 2007, each Reuters share would be valued at 691 pence and, therefore, the full capital of Reuters valued at approximately £8.7 billion. Cash requirements for the deal are to be provided by Thomson. Woodbridge will own approximately 53 percent of the combined company, other Thomson shareholders 23 percent and Reuters shareholders about 24 percent.

The merger arrangement will leave two separate companies that will be operated as a single entity. The boards of the two companies will be identical as will the senior executive management team. Thomson will be renamed to Thomson-Reuters Corporation, and will be listed on both the TSX and the NYSE. Thomson-Reuters PLC will list on the London Stock Exchange and the NYSE.

Reuters current CEO, Tom Glocer, will become CEO of the combined company while Thomson President and CEO Richard J. Harrington will retire at the completion of the merger.

Thomson has currently 32,000 employees worldwide, with operations in 37 countries and revenues of US$6.6 billion in 2006. Thomson’s major business operations centre around financial information and legal services, with smaller ventures in tax accounting, health care, and the scientific field. Thomson is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, in the United States.

Reuters is one of the world’s largest news agencies, with a total of 16,800 staff in all divisions, but derives more than 90 percent of its revenue from its financial service business. It is the merger of Thomson and Reuter’s financial services divisions that may have been the genesis of the talks. It has been suggested that both companies wanted a better economy of scale to compete with Bloomberg, the American financial services giant.

“We are enormously proud of the evolution of The Thomson Corporation and the value it has created for all our shareholders,” said David Thomson, Chairman of Thomson. “We recognize the rich history of Reuters and are committed to uphold the Reuters Trust Principles.”

The chairman of Reuters, Niall FitzGerald, expressed his satisfaction with the merger. “The shared expertise and complementary strengths of these two companies makes for a strategically compelling and financially attractive combination,” said FitzGerald in a joint press release. “I am especially proud that Reuters journalism will continue to be governed by the powerful Reuter Trust Principles of independence, integrity and freedom from bias.”

The new company is projecting efficiencies of greater than US$500 million per year, by the end of the third year after closing the deal.

Criticisms were raised by Reuters journalists, who voiced concerns in an open letter to the Reuters Founders Share Company. They worried whether or not “a reconstituted Reuters would maintain the high standards of journalism and the integrity, independence and freedom from bias that have shaped the company’s 156-year-old reputation.”

It is expected that the merger will draw the attention of regulators due to the size and nature of the transaction. “Antitrust authorities in Europe and the U.S. are almost certain to apply a more detailed and lengthy review of the acquisition than is typical, because of the limited number of companies that supply prices, data, news and financial tools,” said Simon Baker, analyst, Credit Suisse in London.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live music venues in Edinburgh, Scotland are awaiting a review later this year on the 2005 licensing policy, which places limitations on the volume of amplified music in the city. Investigating into how the policy is affecting the Edinburgh music scene, a group of Wikinews writers interviewed venue owners, academics, the City of Edinburgh Council, and local band The Mean Reds to get different perspectives on the issue.

Since the clause was introduced by the government of the city of Edinburgh, licensed venues have been prohibited from allowing music to be amplified to the extent it is audible to nearby residential properties. This has affected the live music scene, with several venues discontinuing regular events such as open mic nights, and hosting bands and artists.

Currently, the licensing policy allows licensing standards officers to order a venue to cease live music on any particular night, based on a single noise complaint from the public. The volume is not electronically measured to determine if it breaches a decibel volume level. Over roughly the past year there have been 56 separate noise complaints made against 18 venues throughout the city.

A petition to amend the clause has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including the support of bar owners, musicians, and members of the general public.

On November 17, 2014, the government’s Culture and Sport Committee hosted an open forum meeting at Usher Hall. Musicians, venue owners and industry professionals were encouraged to provide their thoughts on how the council could improve live music in the city. Ways to promote live music as a key cultural aspect of Edinburgh were discussed and it was suggested that it could be beneficial to try and replicate the management system of live music of other global cities renowned for their live music scenes. However, the suggestion which prevailed above all others was simply to review the existing licensing policy.

Councillor (Cllr) Norma Austin-Hart, Vice Convenor of the Culture and Sport Committee, is responsible for the working group Music is Audible. The group is comprised of local music professionals, and councillors and officials from Edinburgh Council. A document circulated to the Music is Audible group stated the council aims “to achieve a balance between protecting residents and supporting venues”.

Following standard procedure, when a complaint is made, a Licensing Standards Officer (LSO) is dispatched to investigate the venue and evaluate the level of noise. If deemed to be too loud, the LSO asks the venue to lower the noise level. According to a document provided by the City of Edinburgh Council, “not one single business has lost its license or been closed down because of a breach to the noise condition in Edinburgh.”

In the Scotland Licensing Policy (2005), Clause 6.2 states, “where the operating plan indicates that music is to be played in a premises, the board will consider the imposition of a condition requiring amplified music from those premises to be inaudible in residential property.” According to Cllr Austin-Hart, the high volume of tenement housing in the city centre makes it difficult for music to be inaudible.

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer, venues are given temporary licences that allow them to operate for the duration of the festival and under the condition that “all amplified music and vocals are controlled to the satisfaction of the Director of Services for Communities”, as stated in a document from the council. During the festival, there is an 11 p.m. noise restriction on amplified music, and noise may be measured by Environmental Health staff using sophisticated equipment. Noise is restricted to 65dB(A) from the facades of residential properties; however, complaints from residents still occur. In the document from the council, they note these conditions and limitations for temporary venues would not necessarily be appropriate for permanent licensed premises.

In a phone interview, Cllr Austin-Hart expressed her concern about the unsettlement in Edinburgh regarding live music. She referenced the closure of the well-known Picture House, a venue that has provided entertainment for over half a century, and the community’s opposition to commercial public bar chain Wetherspoon buying the venue. “[It] is a well-known pub that does not play any form of music”, Cllr Austin-Hart said. “[T]hey feel as if it is another blow to Edinburgh’s live music”. “[We] cannot stop Wetherspoon’s from buying this venue; we have no control over this.”

The venue has operated under different names, including the Caley Palais which hosted bands such as Queen and AC/DC. The Picture House opened in 2008.

One of the venues which has been significantly affected by the licensing laws is the Phoenix Bar, on Broughton Street. The bar’s owner, Sam Roberts, was induced to cease live music gigs in March, following a number of noise complaints against the venue. As a result, Ms Roberts was inspired to start the aforementioned petition to have Clause 6.2 of the licensing policy reviewed, in an effort to remove the ‘inaudibility’ statement that is affecting venues and the music scene.

“I think we not only encourage it, but actively support the Edinburgh music scene,” Ms Roberts says of the Phoenix Bar and other venues, “the problem is that it is a dying scene.”

When Ms Roberts purchased the venue in 2013, she continued the existing 30-year legacy established by the previous owners of hosting live acts. Representative of Edinburgh’s colourful music scene, a diverse range of genres have been hosted at the venue. Ms Roberts described the atmosphere when live music acts perform at her venue as “electric”. “The whole community comes together singing, dancing and having a party. Letting their hair down and forgetting their troubles. People go home happy after a brilliant night out. All the staff usually join in; the pub comes alive”. However licensing restrictions have seen a majority of the acts shut down due to noise complaints. “We have put on jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, celtic and pop live acts and have had to close everything down.” “Residents in Edinburgh unfortunately know that the Council policy gives them all the rights in the world, and the pubs and clubs none”, Ms Roberts clarified.

Discussing how inaudibility has affected venues and musicians alike, Ms Roberts stated many pubs have lost profit through the absence of gigs, and trying to soundproof their venue. “It has put many musicians out of work and it has had an enormous effect on earnings in the pub. […] Many clubs and bars have been forced to invest in thousands of pounds worth of soundproofing equipment which has nearly bankrupted them, only to find that even the tiniest bit of noise can still force a closure. It is a ridiculously one-sided situation.” Ms Roberts feels inaudibility is an unfair clause for venues. “I think it very clearly favours residents in Edinburgh and not business. […] Nothing is being done to support local business, and closing down all the live music venues in Edinburgh has hurt financially in so many ways. Not only do you lose money, you lose new faces, you lose the respect of the local musicians, and you begin to lose all hope in a ‘fair go’.”

With the petition holding a considerable number of signatures, Ms Roberts states she is still sceptical of any change occurring. “Over three thousand people have signed the petition and still the council is not moving. They have taken action on petitions with far fewer signatures.” Ms Roberts also added, “Right now I don’t think Edinburgh has much hope of positive change”.

Ms Roberts seems to have lost all hope for positive change in relation to Edinburgh’s music scene, and argues Glasgow is now the regional choice for live music and venues. “[E]veryone in the business knows they have to go to Glasgow for a decent scene. Glasgow City Council get behind their city.”

Ms Martina Cannon, member of local band The Mean Reds, said a regular ‘Open Mic Night’ she hosted at The Parlour on Duke Street has ceased after a number of complaints were made against the venue. “It was a shame because it had built up some momentum over the months it had been running”. She described financial loss to the venue from cancelling the event, as well as loss to her as organiser of the event.

Sneaky Pete’s music bar and club, owned by Nick Stewart, is described on its website as “open and busy every night”.”Many clubs could be defined as bars that host music, but we really are a music venue that serves drinks”, Mr Stewart says. He sees the live music scene as essential for maintaining nightlife in Edinburgh not only because of the economic benefit but more importantly because of the cultural significance. “Music is one of the important things in life. […] it’s emotionally and intellectually engaging, and it adds to the quality of life that people lead.”

Sneaky Pete’s has not been immune to the inaudibility clause. The business has spent about 20,000 pounds on multiple soundproofing fixes designed to quell complaints from neighboring residents. “The business suffered a great deal in between losing the option to do gigs for fear of complaints, and finishing the soundproofing. As I mentioned, we are a music business that serves drinks, not a bar that also has music, so when we lose shows, we lose a great deal of trade”, said Mr Stewart.

He believes there is a better way to go about handling complaints and fixing public nuisances. “The local mandatory condition requiring ‘amplified music and vocals’ to be ‘inaudible’ should be struck from all licenses. The requirement presupposes that nuisance is caused by music venues, when this may not reasonably be said to be the case. […] Nuisance is not defined in the Licensing Act nor is it defined in the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008. However, The Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 states that ‘There are eight key issues to consider when evaluating whether a nuisance exists[…]'”.

The eight key factors are impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance, and avoidability. Stewart believes it is these factors that should be taken into consideration by LSOs responding to complaints instead of the sole factor of “audibility”.He believes multiple steps should be taken before considering revocation of licenses. Firstly, LSOs should determine whether a venue is a nuisance based on the eight factors. Then, the venue should have the opportunity to comply by using methods such as changing the nature of their live performances (e.g. from hard rock to acoustic rock), changing their hours of operation, or soundproofing. If the venue still fails to comply, then a board can review their license with the goal of finding more ways to bring them into compliance as opposed to revoking their license.

Nick Stewart has discussed his proposal at length with Music is Audible and said he means to present his proposal to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Dr Adam Behr, a music academic and research associate at the University of Edinburgh who has conducted research on the cultural value of live music, says live music significantly contributes to the economic performance of cities. He said studies have shown revenue creation and the provision of employment are significant factors which come about as a result of live music. A 2014 report by UK Music showed the economic value generated by live music in the UK in 2013 was £789 million and provided the equivalent of 21,600 full time jobs.

As the music industry is international by nature, Behr says this complicates the way revenue is allocated, “For instance, if an American artist plays a venue owned by a British company at a gig which is promoted by a company that is part British owned but majority owned by, say, Live Nation (a major international entertainment company) — then the flow of revenues might not be as straightforward as it seems [at] first.”

Despite these complexities, Behr highlighted the broader advantages, “There are, of course, ancillary benefits, especially for big gigs […] Obviously other local businesses like bars, restaurants and carparks benefit from increased trade”, he added.

Behr criticised the idea of making music inaudible and called it “unrealistic”. He said it could limit what kind of music can be played at venues and could force vendors to spend a large amount of money on equipment that enables them to meet noise cancelling requirements. He also mentioned the consequences this has for grassroots music venues as more ‘established’ venues within the city would be the only ones able to afford these changes.

Alongside the inaudibility dispute has been the number of sites that have been closing for the past number of years. According to Dr Behr, this has brought attention to the issue of retaining live music venues in the city and has caused the council to re-evaluate its music strategy and overall cultural policy.

This month, Dr Behr said he is to work on a live music census for Edinburgh’s Council which aims to find out what types of music is played, where, and what exactly it brings to the city. This is in an effort to get the Edinburgh city council to see any opportunities it has with live music and the importance of grassroots venues. The census is similar to one conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012 on the extent of live music in the state and its economic benefit.

As for the solution to the inaudibility clause, Behr says the initial step is dialogue, and this has already begun. “Having forum discussion, though, is a start — and an improvement”, he said. “There won’t be an overnight solution, but work is ongoing to try to find one that can stick in the long term.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, said she is unable to comment on her work with the City of Edinburgh Council or on potential changes to the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy. However, she says, “I have been asked to assess the situation and make recommendations in September”.

According to The Scotsman, the Council is working toward helping Edinburgh’s cultural and entertainment scene. Deputy Council Leader Sandy Howat said views of the entertainment industry needs to change and the Council will no longer consider the scene as a “sideline”.

Senior members of the Council, The Scotsman reported, aim to review the planning of the city to make culture more of a priority. Howat said, “If you’re trying to harness a living community and are creating facilities for people living, working and playing then culture should form part of that.”

The review of the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy is set to be reviewed near the end of 2016 but the concept of bringing it forward to this year is still under discussion.

Monday, December 3, 2007

At Thanksgiving dinner David Shankbone told his white middle class family that he was to interview Reverend Al Sharpton that Saturday. The announcement caused an impassioned discussion about the civil rights leader’s work, the problems facing the black community and whether Sharpton helps or hurts his cause. Opinion was divided. “He’s an opportunist.” “He only stirs things up.” “Why do I always see his face when there’s a problem?”

Shankbone went to the National Action Network’s headquarters in Harlem with this Thanksgiving discussion to inform the conversation. Below is his interview with Al Sharpton on everything from Tawana Brawley, his purported feud with Barack Obama, criticism by influential African Americans such as Clarence Page, his experience running for President, to how he never expected he would see fifty (he is now 53). “People would say to me, ‘Now that I hear you, even if I disagree with you I don’t think you’re as bad as I thought,'” said Sharpton. “I would say, ‘Let me ask you a question: what was “bad as you thought”?’ And they couldn’t say. They don’t know why they think you’re bad, they just know you’re supposed to be bad because the right wing tells them you’re bad.”

Contents

  • 1 Sharpton’s beginnings in the movement
  • 2 James Brown: a father to Sharpton
  • 3 Criticism: Sharpton is always there
  • 4 Tawana Brawley to Megan Williams
  • 5 Sharpton and the African-American media
  • 6 Why the need for an Al Sharpton?
  • 7 Al Sharpton and Presidential Politics
  • 8 On Barack Obama
  • 9 The Iraq War
  • 10 Sharpton as a symbol
  • 11 Blacks and whites and talking about race
  • 12 Don Imus, Michael Richards and Dog The Bounty Hunter
  • 13 Sources

byalex

Imagine the situation, Christmas is almost here and you still have a lot of gifts to buy. When you and your spouse calculated the entire amount you still have to pay, you saw that it has exceeded your budget and your funds are extremely tight. Sounds like a similar story? Well, most of us face such situations at some point of our lives.

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If you want to get the required amount of money quickly, then you need to visit a reputed and reliable pawn shop right away. After the recession has hit the global market, very few of us can manage our daily expenses properly and arrange parties or get-togethers. This is why there has been a great resurgence of pawn shops over the last couple of years to face the adverse effects of affected economy. Pawn shops are the best option to get quick cash and they are more reliable than payday loans. Moreover, you would not have to pay high interest rates to get the cash you need.

Perhaps you have some old stuff in your home that you never use, like a DVD, an old SLR camera, or any such items, you can pawn them and get the required cash immediately. Sounds beneficial? Well, it is. You can take a look in your basement or garage to look for things that you can give to a pawn shop such as tools, bikes, musical instruments, jewelries, and many more.

Jewelry is something that can help you get the maximum amount of money as they are more valuable than other items. Moreover, you can also pawn watches as well. If you think, any of the items you are going to pawn is exclusive and you must get extra money for that, then it is always a wise idea to talk to multiple dealers. This will help you get a better idea of how much it is worth. Remember, doing a prior research about the value of the items is important if you don’t want to get ripped off. Multiple opinions will help you avoid such unfortunate circumstances quite easily.

These days, more and more people are using pawn shops. Los Angeles (CA) residents prefer avoiding to get drowned into debt or put extra pressure on your credit cards. Debts often becomes a big headache and make your life miserable. On the other hand, pawn shops give you peace of mind without putting any extra pressure on your shoulder.

Austrian police find dozens dead inside lorry

Posted by: in Uncategorized
19
Aug

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Austrian police today found an estimated 20–50 decomposing corpses in an apparently abandoned lorry.

Roadworkers who spotted the vehicle, which had been there since yesterday at least, alerted police. Responding officers found it full of corpses. The lorry is on the so-called “Eastern Motorway”, the A4, close to the Hungarian border. It was on the hard shoulder between Neusiedl and Parndorf, closer to Parndorf.

The victims are thought to have suffocated. Police are seeking the driver. The Krone published an image of a non-articulated food lorry on the hard shoulder, which they report is the vehicle in question. The photo shows a pool of dark liquid on the ground beside the vehicle.

Video from a passing motorist shows at least one helicopter on-scene. The truck, which has pictures of meat on the side, shows branding for Slovakian food firm Hyza. Earlier today the company’s website sported an apparent anti-immigration graphic, which has since been removed.

Wikinews got in touch with Hyza. “We are truly sorry about [the] tragedy” they told us in a statement. They said they have checked GPS trackers on their fleet and all their vehicles remain in Slovakia. The statement says the lorry in question was one of 21 Hyza vehicles sold on last year. It was then sold again and exported to Hungary, where it is now registered. Hyza told us the new owners have not changed the branding on the vehicle. According to the Bild newspaper, Agrofert — the parent company of Hyza — said in a statement the new owners were required to do so.

Hyza says they will “actively cooperate with Slovak police”, and “express [their] sincere condolences to the bereaved families.”

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner called it “a dark day” and called for European Union-wide measures to protect immigrant refugees and tackle human traffickers. Neighbouring Hungary is constructing a border fence across its entire frontier with Serbia. Yesterday alone saw a record 3,241 attempts to enter Hungary illegally, according to authorities there.

Conflict in Syria and other parts of the world has led refugees to Europe. Once inside, they can move freely inside the Schengen Area, which covers most of the EU.

Austrian police earlier this week arrested three motorists suspected of people smuggling. One driver is accused of moving 34 people, ten of them children, into Austria from Serbia. The group were left by the roadside near Bruck an der Leitha and reported struggling to breathe in the van.

{{tasks|news|re-review}}Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On Monday, Democrats in the United States Senate announced they had gained enough sponsors to perform a congressional review of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s December 2017 reversal of previous rules regulating Internet service providers, commonly called Net Neutrality.

Under the Congressional Review Act, if 30 senators co-sponsor the action, United States Congress can vote on whether to overrule a decision made by a federal agency such as the FCC. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate would have vote in favor, and President Donald Trump would have to sign the review.

On Monday, Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced she was the 30th senator to agree to sponsor the floor vote. “What I’ve heard from the thousands of Missourians who’ve contacted my office is simple — consumers should have protected, free, and open access to the online content of their choosing,” she said in a statement.

The Obama-era Net Neutrality rules were revoked last month. On December 14, as protesters gathered in Washington D.C., the United States Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai voted 3-2 to overturn the 2015 decision, which forbade Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T from blocking individual websites or charging websites or customers more for faster load times.

Specifically, the 2015 decision placed the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act, which established that Internet access must be regulated under the same rules as a utility. Currently, in the U.S., telephones are regulated in this way, but cable television is not. Cable providers can offer bundled services and otherwise select which channels to offer customers; they do not have to offer access to every channel the way ISPs have offered access to the whole Internet. The new rules voted on December 14 transfer the Internet from the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal Trade Commission, which means instead of being forbidden from blocking websites or offering different access speeds, ISPs will only be required to disclose having done so.

Telecom analyst Gigi Sohn, who worked with Pai’s predecessor Tom Wheeler in 2015, said, “There are going to be fast lanes and slow lanes[…] As a consumer, that means some of your favorite websites are going to load more slowly, and it also may mean some of your favorite content goes away because the provider just can’t pay the fee.”

Former Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said, “Net neutrality allowed something like Etsy to hang out a shingle on the web and give it a try”.

Supporters of the new rule argue Net Neutrality regulations were unnecessary. Commissioner Michael O’Reilly pointed out the Internet “has functioned without net neutrality rules for far longer than it has without [sic] them.”

“Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence,” said Chairman Pai, who argued removing the rules would make the Internet freer and more open.

“[T]he internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has,” promised AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn, who said his company would not block websites or discriminate with respect to content.

Opposition was organized almost immediately and was not limited to plans for congressional review: The Attorneys General for the states of New York and Washington have both announced plans for lawsuits against the new rules.. The United States Congress also has the authority to overrule the FCC’s decision by passing legislation. One such bill, House Resolution 4585, or the “Save Net Neutrality Act of 2017,” was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on December 7.

According to a poll conducted the week of December 6 by the University of Maryland, more than 80% of registered U.S. voters opposed the repeal of Net Neutrality, 75% of registered Republicans, 89% of registered Democrats, and 86% of independents, those not registered to either party. Before the vote, the FCC had accepted comments on the measure from the public through its website, FCC.gov. However, there have been allegations that many of the comments offered in support of the rollback were fakes. Before the vote took place, attorneys general from seventeen states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to the FCC asking the vote be delayed until the matter could be investigated.

The FCC’s decision must be published in the U.S. Federal Register before congressional review can take place or any lawsuits filed.

[edit]

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Nearly half a million people packed into Sydney’s “Golden Mile” on Saturday night to applaud the city’s 28th annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Parade organisers estimated the crowd at over 450,000. They lined Oxford St – along the parade’s route – in Sydney’s unofficial gay district, cheering the 6,000 participants and 120 floats.

The Mardi Gras event was the culmination of a month of gay-pride festivities. Many parade participants adopted the theme of the film Brokeback Mountain. The parade was led as usual by the motorcycle group, Dykes on Bikes. Amongst the frivolity and colour, onlookers saw “Kate Moss dancers” snorting ‘cocaine’, and the gun-wielding – apparently gay-friendly – Dick Cheney. A lampoon of Prime Minister John Howard – a pirate ship carrying “Captain Crook” was also featured.

A Mardi Gras participant, Filipino Fyljoy Volefdico, 25, said: “I think within Australia there is really a lot of culture and it’s great when the whole community comes together and celebrates it.”

Jay Lynch, who met his partner at the event two years ago, said: “It has become a meeting ground for gays from around the world and as discrimination continues it’s important we can connect on this level, and continually redefine what it means to the community.”

Chair of the New Mardi Gras board, Marcus Bourget, said the event is about providing a powerful voice for the lesbian and gay community. Describing the parade as “a great Aussie tradition”, Bourget said he was proud of the event. “We’ve run a fairly sophisticated marketing campaign this year, which has led to gradual growth internationally,” he said.

Newcastle woman Donna Newella said Mardi Gras had become many things to many people, “It is not just about gays and lesbians,” she said. “It’s about all different issues that have arisen,” she said “freedom of speech, being able to represent one’s identity and being able to put a political point across.”

The first Mardi Gras took place on June 24, 1978 as a protest against a ban on homosexuality in Australia. It began as an improvised street party following a gay-rights rally. However when a city official interrupted the festivities, things turned ugly. On that night there were 53 arrests and many allegations of police brutality. Homosexuality was later decriminalised in Australia in 1984.

Local businesses realise the economic importance of the event, which is a huge money-spinner, they say. Visitors to Sydney for last year’s Mardi Gras contributed an estimated $46 million to the State’s economy. Organisers say about 6000 international visitors, the majority from Britain and the USA, attended this year’s event.

“We came all the way from America to see this,” Mrs Phyllis Drucker 67, from Los Angeles, said. “We were told it’s the best in the world, and we’re going to have a ball.”

A float entitled “Love Between the Flags” highlighted the need for racial harmony and cultural acceptance following last year’s Cronulla riots. Creative director Graham Browning said the theme of the parade, “I believe”, aimed to reflect political and social issues. The NSW Police service, with 45 members also marched in the parade.

Mardi Gras parade chief Deborah Cheetham, an internationally renowned soprano, rejected suggestions the parade was passe. “Maybe we’re just in that period of transition. It’s not tired,” said Cheetham, who led the parade with her partner and 14-year-old daughter. “There will always be a need for Mardi Gras.”

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the parade was a celebration of Sydney’s diversity. “When you’re a child the thing that really excites you is either Christmas or the Royal Easter Show and I think as an adult Mardi Gras is the only equivalent,” Ms Moore told reporters.

“I didn’t want to miss any of this,” said 17-year-old Jennifer Mackay from outer Sydney, who arrived with three friends 10 hours before the start.

“It’s like Christmas for the gay and lesbian community,” said the parade’s creative director, Graeme Browning.

Monday, October 8, 2007

When a fan connects with a band, it’s often during moments like a drive down a highway at night reflecting on some aspect of his or her life; sitting at home after a fight with a girlfriend; singing in the shower; or celebrating at a party with her friends. Music becomes a soundtrack to an individual’s life, and a connection with the musician forms when the listener is able to peg a perfect moment or feeling to a song. Boston-based mega-member rock group Bang Camaro‘s fan base claims a different level of interaction: they often have learned to play their music before they ever had a moment associated with it. Bang Camaro found fame on the video game Guitar Hero II, where an aspiring rock god uses a guitar-shaped peripheral to play rock music as notes scroll towards him on the screen.

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone journeyed to the Bowery Ballroom to talk to the two founding members of Bang Camaro, Alex Necochea and Bryn Bennett. But when MTV.com shows up at the same time as Wikinews to do an interview, the band must split up. Below is our conversation with Necochea about touring, influence, politics, throwing his corpse out of a plane and flatulent women.


David Shankbone: How’s the tour going?

Alex Necochea: The tours is going great! We just played in Poughkeepsie last night with the OCC house band.

DS: Poughkeepsie, huh?

AN: Yeah! [Laughs] Poughkeepsie, it’s kind of a dark town. Not much of a built-in crowd there.

DS: What kind of crowd is there?

AN: From what I could tell, we played for a lot of Guitar Hero fans and people who heard about us through friends of friends, or came across us on MySpace. That sort of thing. But for the most part a lot of the kids we meet are anywhere between…well, I guess at a club like that they have to be over 18, but usually they are just much younger kids who are video game fans, who have heard about us through Guitar Hero II.

DS: What’s that like to have a fan base that comes from primarily video games? Have you noticed a difference between being known as a local band playing in your city and being known through video games? How would you compare the audience?

AN: It’s different. In our hometown it started off as just a big word of mouth thing. We had twenty guys in the band, so everybody had friends-of-friends. We started a groundswell that way. But when we get out of town, not in New York so much, but when we go to Chicago and Milwaukee and places like that they generally tend to be much younger people. It’s a really big thrill for Bryn and I in that we are meeting kids who are just like us: young video game fans, aspiring musicians, usually males who picked up guitars. They come to us and say, ‘Nobody plays guitar anymore like you guys do!’ or ‘My parents used to listen to music like that!’ It’s just a big thrill for us to meet young kids like that who remind us of ourselves when we were kids.

DS: How does it feel to be looked-up to by the kids, by America’s future?

AN: [Laughs] It’s terrifying! [Laughs]

DS: Do you see parents at the show?

AN: Oh, yeah, oh yeah. Parents with their kids—

DS: That must reduce the crotch grabbing.

AN: [Laughs] Yeah, a little bit of macho posturing. I tell you man, it’s a really big thrill, just to go out and play in towns we’ve never been to. Kids come out and they know all the songs. We’ve had situations where we’ve played New York and girls are in the front row singing along to our guitar solos. Like, wow…we’re on stage playing and we can hear them singing back at us. Something else Bryn and I have noticed is at larger festival shows when we get to the end of our shows we play Push Push Lady Lightning, the kids would just light up and start air guitaring! But not actually playing air guitar, but playing air guitar hero–like, they knew where all the notes were!

DS: Which is a lot different for audiences of many bands.

AN: Absolutely! I can’t imagine other bands having the same experience, because we come from such a unique perspective that a large part of our music is driven by the instrumentals, and that sort of thing.

DS: Your fans are so engaged with your music, far more than most bands have. Most bands they have fans who feel their music speaks to them, but your fans can say, ‘I learned to play guitar on your shit and not on Eleanor Rigby!’

AN: It’s an honor. It’s still unbelievable to me. I had a message from a friend of mine who was at Guitar Center and he heard one of the kids cranking out one of our songs when he was trying out the guitar. To me, it’s like we made it.

DS: At this point of your career, you’re not playing stadiums, but you’re also not playing Otto’s Tiki Lounge on a Tuesday night. When you reflect upon it, what do you think about?

AN: In the past two years, since Bryn and I started this project, we’ve both been playing in bands locally in Boston for years. We had some mixed success, we played large venues in and around Boston. We got to the point where we said fuck it, we just want to have some fun and we’d laugh a lot going over old Ozzy Osbourne stuff we listened to as kids, just giggle about it. Bang Camaro started that way, something for us to do and invite our friends to come sing on it. Now, just two years later, it’s amazing what happens when you stop trying. It’s something not contrived or born of any desire to reach an audience. We just did it for fun, and that spoke to people more than anything else we worked on.

DS: Do you have other areas of your life where you’ve been able to apply that?

AN: [Laughs] You mean as an ethos? Don’t try? [Laughs] You know, not really. I have found the greatest success in the things I have put most of my effort into. This band has been a complete unique experience in that respect, at least in terms of trying to forge a ‘career in music.’ Bryn and I had gotten to the point where we thought maybe this wasn’t the way to go. Bryn was going to go back to his career as a video game programmer and I was just going to find something else to do. So not really, I don’t really apply that in any other portion of my life.

DS: What are some dream projects you’d like to work on?

AN: As a musician, obviously for me it would be to meet and work with some heroes of mine since I was a kid. Like Mutt Lang; he always made my favorite records. At the same time, it has also been a dream of mine to meet people like Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. Those guys made honest sort of rock n’ roll, for lack of a better comparison, the way people like John Lennon or Bob Dylan would. To me those are the artists of my generation. It would be my dream one just to meet those guys and two just to work with them on some level. I’d also be lying to say that it would just be my dream to take this project with twenty of my best friends and take it as far as we can take it. So far in my life it’s been the most rewarding thing.

DS: In the creative process it’s so difficult to be original today. Everything has been done. Do you ever let that trip you up, the Simpsons Did It problem?

AN: No, not really. I found I would end up falling into that cycle playing in indie rock bands, just trying to come up with the next thing, like Radiohead they stopped using guitars and things like that. Trying to kick the ball forward a little bit instead of kicking it side to side. With this band we don’t get hung up on that. We originally just started it as a celebration of the things we loved when we were kids. We’re not out here trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re fortunate in that when we were putting the project together we wanted that big vocal sound. What set us apart was how we went about doing that. We just invited all of our friends because we didn’t want to multi track everything ourselves. Soon after we had to figure out how to pull it off live, and people would approach and say ‘we heard you have this crazy project with all these people.’ The project grew into the live monster it is out of necessity. We’re not rich people, we don’t have refrigerators and the big tour bus. Speaking of dreams, maybe one day we’ll have a tour bus. For now, we travel in two very smelly vans.

DS: If you could choose your own death, how would you die?

AN: [Laughs] I would want to steal what I heard a mutual friend of ours said. He said when he died–it’s not how he died, but this is what I heard–he said when he’s dead, he wants his corpse to be dressed up like Superman and thrown out of an airplane. I thought that would be fitting. But I’m not ready to think about death, not just yet.

DS: You guys have been described as Metal and Glam rock. What would you describe your sound as?

AN: I would call us anthem rock. We’re really not heavy metal. I think our focus is more on writing great singles, as best as we can make them. Pop music. That’s just something Bryn and I grew up on. We’re big fans of melody and big driving hooks, that sort of thing.

DS: Would you say anthem rock more in the Mötley Crüe vane or more in the T. Rex vane?

AN: I would say half and half. Our influences don’t just stop with hair metal and things like that. We draw on things like Thin Lizzy, Boston, bands like that. Not necessarily virtuosic sort of musicianship, but things that are put together. We like to spend the time when we are writing our songs that we are taking all the extraneous crap out of it. We just want to make good, hook-drive pop music.

DS: Does the war in Iraq affect you artistically at all?

AN: [Laughs] No, not at all. No, you could say I’m just like everybody else. I read the paper and blogs, and I’m just as horrified as everybody else. I’m definitely not a fan of this war.

DS: If you had to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, where would you fight?

AN: Oh, the fight was definitely in Afghanistan. Iraq was a much different animal.

DS: Are you more inspired by things in nature or things that are man made?

AN: I would probably have to go with nature. I’m a student of science. I have a degree in environmental geology. When I was 19/20 years old I went through all the regular existential questions people that age go through: why am I here and my place in the universe, that sort of thing.

DS: Did you answer any of them?

AN: Oh, God! I play rock guitar in a twenty man band!

DS: That’s important for a lot of people – you see your audience. You’re giving a lot of inspiration to a lot of people. You don’t know who you might be inspiring to pursue music.

AN: [Laughs] Oh, kids, don’t be like me! I would definitely go with nature over man made.

DS: What’s your favorite curse word?

AN: Fuck.

DS: What’s your favorite euphemism for breasts?

AN: Big guns.

DS: Have you used that recently?

AN: Actually, I think I did use that in the last week, and no comment.

DS: I read that you named the band after fast women and fast cars.

AN: [Laughs] Who told you that? No, Bang Camaro were two words out of the English language that were the two sexiest words we could think of. We put them together and they roll off the tongue. Bang Camaro. It says a lot more than it means.

DS: What sort of qualities do you look for in a woman?

AN: I need a girl who is going to make me laugh. I need a woman who is smarter than I am. A woman who will always keep me guessing. Absolutely. Calling me out for my own jerky bullshit. I like a girl who is fiercely independent, knows what she wants, and doesn’t need me.

DS: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

AN: Oh, man, I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for saying Obama. I would probably go with Obama. There’s just something in his rhetoric and his oratory that is a lot more inspiring than Hillary. Hillary, to me, represents not much of a changing of the guard.

DS: What would be the greatest of misfortunes to befall you?

AN: [Chuckles] Oh, if I were to die alone. No, probably one of my greatest fears is injuring or maiming any of my appendages, to be honest.

DS: Do you have any special things you do to make sure you don’t injure or lose an appendage?

AN: [Chuckles] I don’t keep my hands in my pockets when I am running down stairs.

DS: That’s a conscious choice?

AN: Yes, that’s a conscious choice.

DS: What if you are just walking down stairs?

AN: [Chuckles] You can’t realign the stars, man. Shit will happen, shit will happen.

DS: What possession do you treasure most?

AN: That’s a good question. Probably my cat. I love my cat more than anything.

DS: What’s your cat’s name?

AN: Sadie.

DS: Like Sexy Sadie?

AN: Yeah, like Sexy Sadie. That’s exactly what I named her after. Big John Lennon fan, so I couldn’t resist.

DS: What trait do you deplore most in other people?

AN: I’m a lover, not a fighter. Jealousy, greed. But I try to look for the best in everybody. Who knows.

DS: What do you think are the greatest threats to humanity?

AN: Humanity itself. You can typically read anywhere that humanity is a virus, a plague, on Mother Earth. I really think the greatest threat to humanity is not a meteor or comet hurtling toward the planet, it’s us. We’ll be our own undoing. Bad politics, the spread of…oh, man, I could get in trouble…

DS: Who would you get in trouble with?

AN: No, I don’t know who I could get in trouble with. But I definitely think that capitalism is something that having gone unchecked for so long isn’t doing right in delivering civil freedom. It’s not delivering on its promises. Then again, I play in a rock band and people come pay to see me. I understand it works on both levels.

DS: What would be a bigger turn-off in bed: a woman who spoke in a baby voice, or someone who was overly flatulent?

AN: Oh God! I’d go with the baby talk, man.

DS: You’d prefer the baby talk?

AN: No, I would go with the flatulent woman. At least she’s real.

DS: Have you ever been faced with either scenario?

AN: No, I don’t think women should be flatulent.

DS: At all? Not even if she lets out a little giggle afterwards?

AN: Yeah, well, so be it.

DS: What if she was really flatulent?

AN: Like, extremely flatulent? I’d go more for the flatulence. Baby talk…that’s a real boner killer. Sorry, man.

DS: And you’ve never had a baby talker?

AN: No, not since high school.

DS: In high school?

AN: Oh, yeah. She had to go.

DS: What if she was Dutch oven flatulent?

AN: Is it really one or the other? Can I just go gay?

DS: You can always go gay. It’s the new millennium.

AN: Yeah, well, I’d probably end up with a baby-talking overly flatulent man, I’m sure.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

A unanimously passed United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran has been dismissed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “piece of paper.” Ahmadinejad said that it is in “the best interest of the West” to have a “nuclear Iran” and that Iran will not stop enriching uranium.

“It is a piece of torn paper … by which they aim to scare Iranians … It is in the Westerners’ interests to live with a nuclear Iran,” said Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad also goes on to say that anyone who “backs” the U.N. resolution will “soon regret” their acts. He also added that in “February, Iranians will celebrate” the nation becoming a nuclear power.

“This resolution will not harm Iran and those who backed it will soon regret their superficial act. Iranians are neither worried nor uncomfortable with the resolution … we will celebrate our atomic achievements in February,” added Ahmadinejad.

On December 23, 2006, the U.N. stated that the resolution is “determined to give effect to its unmet 31 July demand that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. The Security Council today imposed sanctions on that country [Iran], blocking the import or export of sensitive nuclear material and equipment and freezing the financial assets of persons or entities supporting its proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems,” reported the press release on the U.N.’s website.

The U.N. also said that Iran must suspend all uranium enrichment and that the sanction would be lifted if the country complies with the U.N..

“Unanimously adopting resolution 1737 (2006) under Article 41 of the Charter’s Chapter VII, the Council decided that Iran should, without further delay, suspend the following proliferation sensitive nuclear activities: all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development; and work on all heavy-water related projects, including the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water. The halt to those activities would be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

The U.N. also stated that “specifically, all States [countries] should prevent the supply, sale or transfer, for the use by or benefit of Iran, of related equipment and technology, if the State determined that such items would contribute to enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy-water related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. The Council decided it would terminate the measures if Iran fully complied with its obligations, or adopt additional ones and possible further decisions if the country did not.”

Iran also said that beginning on “Sunday morning, we [Iran] will begin activities at Natanz” which has “3,000 centrifuges” which they “will drive them with full speed” in response to the U.N.’s resolution.

“From Sunday morning, we will begin activities at Natanz, the site of 3,000-centrifuge machines, and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution,” said Ali Larijani, the top nuclear negotiator for Iran.

The U.N. will review the resolution and Iran’s activities in 60 days.