Category:June 10, 2010

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UK minor faces charges for calling Scientology ‘cult’ at protest

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

News media in the United Kingdom are reporting that a boy under the age of 18 was served with a court summons by City of London Police because he held a placard calling Scientology a “cult” at a peaceful protest on May 10. Human rights activists have criticized the decision to issue the 15-year-old the summons as an affront to freedom of speech, and representatives for the City of London Police force explained the actions of the police.

The placard used by the boy, and the written warning issued by City of London Police Image: nickstone333.

Individuals from the group Anonymous were protesting Scientology in the fourth protest in as many months, as part of the anti-Scientology movement Project Chanology. The Project Chanology movement began when the Church of Scientology attempted to get a leaked Scientology promotional video featuring Tom Cruise removed from websites YouTube and Gawker.com.

Members of Anonymous were motivated by the actions of the Church of Scientology, and bombarded Scientology websites and were successful in taking some of them down. Anonymous later changed tactics towards legal measures, and held international protests against Scientology on February 10, March 15, April 12, and most recently May 10.

At the May 10 protest, the 15-year-old boy was present and held up a placard which stated: “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult,” with a mention at the bottom of the sign to the anti-Scientology website Xenu.net. He attended the protest held outside the Church of Scientology building on Queen Victoria Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In a post made by the boy on the anti-Scientology website Enturbulation.org, he stated: “Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector.” The website describes itself as “A Source for Information on Dianetics and the Scientology Organization”. Using the pseudonym “EpicNoseGuy” at the Enturbulation.org message board, the boy goes on to describe how he was “strongly advised” by police to remove the placard.

City of London Police cited section five of the Public Order Act 1986 to the boy, which deals with “harassment, alarm or distress“. In response, the boy cited a 1984 judgment given by Mr. Justice Latey in the Family Division of the High Court of Justice of Her Majesty’s Courts of Justice of England and Wales, in which Latey called Scientology a “cult” and said it was “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”. In the actual 1984 judgment made by Judge Latey, he stated: “Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious. […] In my judgement it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. […] It is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought, living and relationships with others.” According to the boy’s post at Enturbulation.org, the City of London Police told him he had 15 minutes to remove the sign in question. He was given a court summons by the police about a half-hour later, and his sign was removed and taken by the police as evidence.

I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech.

In videos of the May 10 protest posted to YouTube, City of London Police can be seen telling protesters not to use the word “cult” in their signs. Protesters discussed the issue with police and stated that they had checked with lawyers and verified that criticizing religion was a valid form of protest. The police warned protesters that if they violated police instructions regarding usage of signs “you will be prosecuted”. A female police officer read a form statement to the 15-year-old and stated: “I’ve been asked, if you could remove it [the sign] by 11:30, if not then I’ll have to come back and either summons you or arrest you.” The boy read Mr. Justice Latey’s 1984 judgment to the police, and then said: “I’m not going to take this sign down.” He told fellow protesters: “If I don’t take the word ‘cult’ down, here [holding up his sign], I will be either, I think, most likely arrested or [given] a summons. I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech, besides which I’m only fifteen.”

After the boy was given a summons one of the protesters asked a member of the City of London Police force: “Are we allowed to say Justice Latey says Scientology is a cult?”, to which the police officer responded: “I’ve already had this discussion with people. Direct quotes by individuals, I haven’t got a problem with.”

This barmy prosecution makes a mockery of Britain’s free speech traditions.

“This barmy prosecution makes a mockery of Britain’s free speech traditions. After criminalising the use of the word ‘cult’, perhaps the next step is to ban the words ‘war’ and ‘tax’ from peaceful demonstrations?” said Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti in a statement in The Guardian. The boy has appealed for help in order to fight the potential charges and possible legal action from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Ian Haworth of the United Kingdom-based Cult Information Centre also commented on the actions of the City of London Police to The Guardian, saying: “This is an extraordinary situation. If it wasn’t so serious it would be farcical. The police’s job is to protect and serve. Who is being served and who is being protected in this situation? I find it very worrying.”

News of the summons issued to the UK minor has received significant attention on the Internet, hitting the front pages of websites Slashdot, Digg, and Boing Boing on Wednesday. The story has also been discussed in hundreds of blog postings, including sites related to the tech-sector and others related to civil liberties.

City of London police had received complaints about demonstrators using the words ‘cult’ and ‘Scientology kills’ during protests against the Church of Scientology on Saturday 10 May.

In a statement given to publications including The Guardian and The Register, a representative for the City of London Police explained the rationale for the summons: “City of London police had received complaints about demonstrators using the words ‘cult’ and ‘Scientology kills’ during protests against the Church of Scientology on Saturday 10 May. Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service some demonstrators were warned verbally and in writing that their signs breached section five of the Public Order Act 1986. One demonstrator, a juvenile, continued to display a placard despite police warnings and was reported for an offence under section five. A file on the case will be sent to the CPS.”

“City of London Police upholds the right to demonstrate lawfully, but we have to balance that with the rights of all sections of the community not to be alarmed, distressed or harassed as a result of others’ actions,” said City of London Chief Superintendent Rob Bastable in a statement given to The Register and The Daily Telegraph. Unlike the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police Service (the territorial police force responsible for Greater London excluding the City of London) has not raised an issue with protesters using the word “cult”, according to Londonist.

… if we receive a file we will review it in the normal way according to the code for crown prosecutors.

A spokesman for the CPS told The Guardian that they did not give City of London Police specific instruction about the boy’s protest sign. The spokesman said that the CPS gave the City of London Police “general advice” about the laws governing protests and “religiously aggravated crime”, but did not give advice about this specific case. “… if we receive a file we will review it in the normal way according to the code for crown prosecutors,” said the CPS spokesman.

Protesters and police in London at the April 12, 2008 Project Chanology international protest against Scientology Image: James Harrison.

The City of London Police has faced controversy in the past for its close association with the Church of Scientology. When the City of London Scientology building opened in 2006, City of London Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley praised Scientology in an appearance as guest speaker at the building’s opening ceremony. Ken Stewart, another of the City of London’s chief superintendents, has also appeared in a video praising Scientology. According to The Guardian over 20 officers for the City of London Police have accepted gifts from the Church of Scientology including tickets to film premieres, lunches and concerts at police premises. Janet Kenyon-Laveau, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology in the UK, told The Guardian that the relationship between the City of London Police and Scientology was mutually beneficial, and said that Scientologists conducted clean-up campaigns in urban areas affected by drug use problems. A City of London Police spokesman released a statement in November 2006 saying: “We are conducting a review to ensure that all members of staff are aware of the force policy on accepting hospitality and to assess whether clarification or amendment of this policy is necessary.”

Each of the Project Chanology international protests against Scientology has had a theme: the February protest called attention to the birthday of Lisa McPherson, who died under controversial circumstances while under the care of Scientology, the March protest was arranged to take place two days after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard‘s birthday, the April protest highlighted the Church of Scientology’s disconnection policy, and the May protest highlighted the Scientology practice of “Fair Game” and took place one day after the anniversary of the publication of Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Another international protest is planned for June 14, and will highlight the Church of Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” or “Sea Org”.

 This story has updates See No prosecution for UK minor who called Scientology a ‘cult’ 

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Russian spy deported out of Canada

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The alleged Russian spy who called himself Paul William Hampel was deported out of Canada on Tuesday. It is believed by CSIS, the Canadian intelligence agency, that Hampel was part of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

Justice Pierre Blais, who took his case, ordered the alleged Russian spy’s deportation on December 4th. Customs Canada sent the man to the airport at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Day. The man arrived in the Russian capital at 7:35 the next day.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said that Russia provided papers to allow the man to return to his home country.

“He was closely monitored the whole time,” Day told the Canadian Press on Tuesday. “We didn’t think he was a risk to flee but the usual procedures were in place.”

“As this case demonstrates, individuals who do not respect our laws and threaten the safety of our communities are not welcome in Canada.”

Day also said the incident would not ruin Canada’s relations with Russia.

“We understand that these things go on in the world, the Russians understand that also.”

The man, when he was in Montreal’s federal court, said that he is a Russian citizen that is in Canada illegally. The judge, who took his case, allowed Hampel’s true identity to remain secret. When Hampel was arrested he was carrying more than $7,800 in many currencies and three mobile phones.

Hampel stayed in Canada for about 10 years.

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Wikinews interviews Democratic candidate for the Texas 6th congressional district special election Daryl Eddings, Sr’s campaign manager

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Wikinews extended invitations by e-mail on March 23 to multiple candidates running in the Texas’ 6th congressional district special election of May 1 to fill a vacancy left upon the death of Republican congressman Ron Wright. Of them, the office of Democrat Daryl Eddings, Sr. agreed to answer some questions by phone March 30 about their campaigns and policies. The following is the interview with Ms Chatham on behalf of Mr Eddings, Sr.

Eddings is a federal law enforcement officer and senior non-commissioned officer in the US military. His experience as operations officer of an aviation unit in the California National Guard includes working in Los Angeles to control riots sparked by the O. J. Simpson murder case and the police handling of Rodney King, working with drug interdiction teams in Panama and Central America and fighting in the Middle East. He is the founder of Operation Battle Buddy, which has under his leadership kept in touch with over 20 thousand veterans and their families. He was born in California, but moved to Midlothian, Texas. He endeavours to bring “good government, not no government”. Campaign manager Faith Chatham spoke to Wikinews on matters ranging from healthcare to housing.

An Inside Elections poll published on March 18 shows Republican candidate Susan Wright, the widow of Ron Wright, is ahead by 21% followed by Democrat Jana Sanchez with 17% and Republican Jake Ellzey with 8% with a 4.6% margin of error among 450 likely voters. The district is considered “lean Republican” by Inside Elections and voted 51% in favour of Donald Trump in last year’s US presidential election. This is down from 54% for Trump in 2016’s presidential election, the same poll stated.

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EPA block massive West Australian energy project

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Western Australian (WA) Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has advised against the massive Greater Gorgon liquefied natural gas project off WA’s Pilbara coast. Proponents of the projects say Gorgon is one of Australia’s biggest export ventures, scheduled to provide up to 6,000 jobs and exports of up to $1.2 billion.

EPA chairman Dr Wally Cox said the Gorgon project operators (Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell), had made an effort on flora and fauna issues but in its present state, the Gorgon proposal was “unacceptable.” Gorgon LNG general manager Colin Beckett said that Gorgon was a world-class gas field and that the joint venture partners were confident that the decision would be reversed.

Environment Minister Mark McGowan said there was a definite process to be followed. The Minister says he will make a final decision on the Gorgon proposal after considering the EPA report – and any subsequent report from the Appeals Convenor. The EPA recommendations on the Gorgon proposal are subject to a two-week appeals period.

The EPA’s Dr Cox said that joint venture had “not been able to demonstrate that impacts from dredging, the introduction of non-indigenous species and the potential loss of fauna could be reduced to acceptable levels.”

In September 2003 the WA government provided “in-principle agreement” to the Gorgon joint venturers subject to a number of conditions. Dr Cox said that the Environmental Review and Management Programme had further highlighted the terrestrial and marine conservation values of Barrow Island and the adjacent waters.

Flatback turtles in particular would be put at risk from the proposal with two of the most important nesting beaches located adjacent to the proposed LNG processing plant site and the materials off-loading facility,” Dr Cox said. “There is very little science available on the life-cycle, behaviour and feeding habits of Flatback turtles and as a consequence it is not possible at this time to identify management measures that would ensure ongoing survival of this Pilbara Flatback turtle population.”

Dr Cox also said that the Proponent had not been able to demonstrate that risk could be reduced to satisfactory levels in the areas of: Impacts on the marine ecosystem from dredging; The introduction of non-indigenous species; Potential loss of subterranean and short range endemic invertebrate fauna species. “As a result, the proposal in its present form cannot meet the EPA’s environmental objectives and is considered environmentally unacceptable,” Dr Cox said.

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Interview: Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

January’s second Interview of the Month was with Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on 23 January in IRC.

The EFF is coming off a series of high-profile successes in their campaigns to educate the public, press, and policy makers regarding online rights in a digital world, and defending those rights in the legislature and the courtroom. Their settlement with Sony/BMG, the amazingly confused MGM v Grokster decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the disturbing cases surrounding Diebold have earned the advocacy organization considerable attention.

When asked if the EFF would be interested in a live interview in IRC by Wikinews, the answer was a nearly immediate yes, but just a little after Ricardo Lobo. With two such interesting interview candidates agreeing so quickly, it was hard to say no to either so schedules were juggled to have both. By chance, the timing worked out to have the EFF interview the day before the U.S. Senate schedule hearings concerning the Broadcast flag rule of the FCC, a form of digital rights management which the recording and movie industries have been lobbying hard for – and the EFF has been lobbying hard to prevent.

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US Immigrants protest Green Card delays with flowers

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hundreds of legal, highly-skilled workers in the United States sent hundreds of flowers to the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Emilio Gonzalez as part of a symbolic and peaceful protest over what they said was a “flip-flop” by the State Department and the USCIS on eliminating Green card processing delays.

Dr. Gonzalez announced on the USCIS website late last night that the flowers will be forwarded to the injured service members recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

In response, Immigration Voice, a non-profit organization representing skilled, legal immigrants, said that they welcome the fact that Dr. Gonzalez acknowledged the symbolic gesture of our protest and are overjoyed that these flowers will brighten the day of the injured service brethren.

Immigration Voice also said that it is their sacrifice for American freedom that has made this country great and such a desirable destination for multitude of people from around the world and that they wanted to say “Thank you and god bless you” to the servicemen.

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Shuttle launch called off due to faulty fuel tank sensor

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The U.S. space agency NASA called off the launch of Space shuttle Discovery today after a problem with a fuel sensor in the external tank used to detect fuel exhaustion. According to the agency-run NASA TV, the low-fuel sensor was either malfunctioning or damaged. The launch was already facing the threat of a scrub due to thunderstorms in the area.

The sensor is one of four used to trigger the engine cutout after launch. Although only two are required for normal operation, and the Shuttle can be flown with one, NASA elected to maintain full redundancy. Should more of the sensors fail, the engine might burn out due to lack of fuel, a situation that has not been tested.

The problem was detected during a simulation of an empty tank. When placed in a mode simulating an empty tank, three of the sensors correctly registered that the tank was empty, while the faulty sensor stayed in the “full” state. NASA is currently unsure whether the problem relates to the sensor, the instrumentation circuits reporting the sensor’s state, or the simulation circuits.

The problem comes after a separate incident yesterday when a cockpit window cover fell from the Orbiter, damaging thermal protection tiles. A similar problem caused the replacement of the fuel tank in June. NASA described the problem as an “intermittent fault”.

The launch, which was scheduled for 3:51 ET (20:51 UTC), would have been the first launch of a shuttle since Columbia‘s February 2003 crash which killed all crew members aboard.

It is still unknown to NASA officials what caused the sensor to become defective. It is also unknown at the moment whether the issue will be fixed on the launch pad, or in the Vehicle Assembly Building – in which it takes close to a full day’s time to transport a shuttle between the two areas.

In the interim, the crew of the shuttle will stay at KSC unless there are further delays, in which case the crew might be transported back to JSC in Houston for refresher training.

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US Senate confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

Saturday, April 9, 2022

On Thursday, the United States Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, becoming the first African American woman to sit on the Court.

The vote was 53 in favor of Jackson and 47 opposed, largely split along party lines between Democrats and Republicans, respectively. Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) broke ranks with their fellow Republicans to cast votes for Jackson. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote. Had there been a deadlock, she would have cast a tiebreaking vote.

Jackson and President Joe Biden watched the proceedings from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Biden nominated Jackson on February 25 to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. In 2020, Biden promised while running for President to nominate a African American woman to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest. Presidential nominations are required to be confirmed by the Senate.

On March 21, Jackson was introduced to the Senate by Thomas B. Griffith, a former judge on the Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. During her opening remarks, Jackson said: “My parents taught me that unlike the many barriers that they had to face growing up, my path was clearer, so that if I worked hard and believed in myself, in [the US] I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be.”

She closed with: “Members of this committee, if I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years. During this hearing I hope that you will see how much I love our country and the Constitution and the rights that make us free.”

On the second day of confirmation hearings, Senator Josh Hawley (Republican; Missouri) challenged Jackson on child pornography cases over which she had presided. He questioned a three-month prison sentence handed out by Jackson in United States v. Hawkins where the prosecution had sought two years imprisonment. Federal Sentencing Guidelines recommended eight years in the case, based on the number of images. Jackson responded that she disagrees with the current guidelines, arguing they fail to differentiate defendants, and are contentious by the Sentencing Commission.

Jackson explained: “Congress has given the judges not only the discretion to make the decision but required judges to do so on an individualized basis taking into account not only the guidelines but also various factors including the age of the defendant, the circumstances of the defendant.” The defendant in the case was eighteen years old.

On the third day of the hearings, Jackson was pressed on how to apply Constitutional provisions written over two hundred years ago, to current issues. Jackson responded: “It’s a process of understanding what the core foundational principles are in the Constitution, as captured by the text, as originally intended, and then applying those principles to modern day.”

Senators Lindsey Graham (Republican; South Carolina) and Ted Cruz (Republican; Texas) continued a line of questioning from Tuesday on light sentences which led head of the Judiciary Committee Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat; Illinois) to intervene numerous times on Jackson’s behalf. While Durbin said Jackson was being interrupted, he was accused of filibustering in the nominee’s favor.

On the fourth and final day of the hearing on March 24, Durbin announced the Judiciary Committee would meet on March 28, potentially setting up a vote on Jackson for April 4. That day, Jackson herself was not present on March 24 as the Senate heard testimony from other parties, such as Wade Henderson, president of nonprofit group the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Henderson said of Jackson: “Her background is absolutely extraordinary and her demonstration and mastery of the law is second to none.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn (Republican; Tennessee) requested access to confidential pre-sentencing reports in Jackson’s past child pornography cases. Reports of this nature are confidential to protect the victims. Durbin refused, saying: “I would not want that on my conscience, that we did this for some political exercise here, which I think is totally unnecessary, and someone was harmed as a result of it. I’m going to resist it every step of the way.”

On April 4, the Judiciary Committee voted 11-11 on Jackson, a deadlock broken by a vote called by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) which sent it to the Senate floor.

Prior to her nomination, Jackson served as a clerk for Breyer, a federal public defender, a federal district court judge and a member of the sentencing commission, as well as an attorney in private practice.

The Supreme Court has eight associate justices and one chief justice.

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Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with NDP candidate Paul Johnstone, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A resident of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound his whole life, Correctional Services officer Paul Johnstone is running for the Ontario New Democratic Party in the Ontario provincial election. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

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