Woman returns home with Christmas turkey, a month after setting out

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Scottish woman who set out before Christmas to purchase a turkey finally made it home on Monday, after being cut off by snow for a month. Kay Ure left the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage on Cape Wrath, at the very northwest tip of Great Britain, in December. She was heading to Inverness on a shopping trip.

However on her return journey heavy snow and ice prevented her husband, John, from travelling the last 11 miles to pick her up. She was forced to wait a month in a friend’s caravan, before the weather improved and the couple could finally be reunited.

They were separated not just for Christmas and New Year, but also for Mr Ure’s 58th birthday. With no fresh supplies, he was reduced to celebrating with a tin of baked beans. He also ran out of coal, and had to feed the couple’s six springer spaniels on emergency army rations.

“It’s the first time we’ve been separated”, said Mr Ure in December. “We’ve been snowed in here for three weeks before, so we are well used to it and it’s quite nice to get a bit of peace and quiet.”

 

US VX nerve gas disposal test a success

Monday, May 9, 2005

Workers at Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana have completed a successful test-run of a chemical reactor designed to dispose of Cold War stockpiles of VX nerve agent.

After encountering initial difficulties when the temperature in the reactor grew too high, workers were able to adjust the speed of the device. 180 gallons of VX and water were turned into a caustic but far less lethal compound, that can be further reprocessed into an inert substance.

A residue of 14 parts VX per billion remained; the Army’s eventual goal is less than 20 parts. One drop of VX can kill a grown man.

The conversion of the VX stockpiled at the facility is projected to take two years. Then the drain cleaner-like waste product with its small residue of VX will need to be sent to another facility for reprocessing into a safer, biodegradable compound.

A controversial plan has Dupont doing the reprocessing at their facility in New Jersey, and dumping the compound into the nearby Delaware River.

 

A portrait of Scotland: Gallery reopens after £17.6 million renovation

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today saw Edinburgh’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopen following a two-and-a-half-year, £17.6m (US$27.4m) refurbishment. Conversion of office and storage areas sees 60% more space available for displays, and the world’s first purpose-built portrait space is redefining what a portrait gallery should contain; amongst the displays are photographs of the Scottish landscape—portraits of the country itself.

First opened in 1889, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s red sandstone building was gifted to the nation by John Ritchie Findlay, then-owner of The Scotsman newspaper and, a well-known philanthropist. The original cost of construction between 1885 and 1890 is estimated at over 70,000 pounds sterling. Up until 1954, the building also housed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who moved to the National Museum of Scotland buildings on Chambers Street. The society’s original meeting table now sits in the public part of the portrait gallery’s library, stared down on by an array of busts and phrenological artefacts.

Wikinewsie Brian McNeil, with other members of the press, received a guided tour of the gallery last Monday from Deputy Director Nicola Kalinsky. What Kalinsky described as an introduction to the gallery that previously took around 40 minutes, now takes in excess of an hour-and-a-half; with little in the way of questions asked, a more inquisitive tour group could readily take well over two hours to be guided round the seventeen exhibitions currently housed in the gallery.

A substantial amount of the 60% additional exhibition space is readily apparent on the ground floor. On your left as you enter the gallery is the newly-fitted giant glass elevator, and the “Hot Scots” photographic portrait gallery. This exhibit is intended to show well-known Scottish faces, and will change over time as people fall out of favour, and others take their place. A substantial number of the people now being highlighted are current, and recent, cast members from the BBC’s Doctor Who series.

The new elevator (left) is the most visible change to improve disabled access to the gallery. Prior to the renovation work, access was only ‘on request’ through staff using a wooden ramp to allow wheelchair access. The entire Queen Street front of the building is reworked with sloping access in addition to the original steps. Whilst a lift was previously available within the gallery, it was only large enough for two people; when used for a wheelchair, it was so cramped that any disabled person’s helper had to go up or down separately from them.

The gallery expects that the renovation work will see visitor numbers double from before the 2009 closure to around 300,000 each year. As with many of Edinburgh’s museums and galleries, access is free to the public.

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The expected significant increase in numbers has seen them working closely with the National Museum of Scotland, which was itself reopened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment work; improved access for wheelchair users also makes it far easier for mothers with baby buggies to access the gallery – prompting more thought on issues as seemingly small as nappy-changing – as Patricia Convery, the gallery’s Head of Press, told Wikinews, a great deal of thought went into the practicalities of increased visitor numbers, and what is needed to ensure as many visitors as possible have a good experience at the gallery.

Press access to the gallery on Monday was from around 11:30am, with refreshments and an opportunity to catch some of the staff in the Grand Hall before a brief welcoming introduction to the refurbished gallery given by John Leighton, director of the National Galleries of Scotland. Centre-stage in the Grand Hall is a statue of Robert Burns built with funds raised from around the British Empire and intended for his memorial situated on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

The ambulatories surrounding the Grand Hall give the space a cathedral-like feel, with numerous busts – predominantly of Scottish figures – looking in on the tiled floor. The east corner holds a plaque commemorating the gallery’s reopening, next to a far more ornate memorial to John Ritchie Findlay, who not only funded and commissioned the building’s construction, but masterminded all aspects of the then-new home for the national collection.

Split into two groups, members of the press toured with gallery Director James Holloway, and Nicola Kalinsky, Deputy Director. Wikinews’ McNeil joined Kalinsky’s group, first visiting The Contemporary Scotland Gallery. This ground-floor gallery currently houses two exhibits, first being the Hot Scots display of photographic portraits of well-known Scottish figures from film, television, and music. Centre-stage in this exhibit is the newly-acquired Albert Watson portrait of Sir Sean Connery. James McAvoy, Armando Iannucci, playwright John Byrne, and Dr Who actress Karen Gillan also feature in the 18-photograph display.

The second exhibit in the Contemporary gallery, flanked by the new educational facilities, is the Missing exhibit. This is a video installation by Graham Fagen, and deals with the issue of missing persons. The installation was first shown during the National Theatre of Scotland’s staging of Andrew O’Hagan’s play, The Missing. Amongst the images displayed in Fagen’s video exhibit are clips from the deprived Sighthill and Wester-Hailes areas of Edinburgh, including footage of empty play-areas and footbridges across larger roads that sub-divide the areas.

With the only other facilities on the ground floor being the education suite, reception/information desk, cafe and the gallery’s shop, Wikinews’ McNeil proceeded with the rest of Kalinsky’s tour group to the top floor of the gallery, all easily fitting into the large glass hydraulic elevator.

The top (2nd) floor of the building is now divided into ten galleries, with the larger spaces having had lowered, false ceilings removed, and adjustable ceiling blinds installed to allow a degree of control over the amount of natural light let in. The architects and building contractors responsible for the renovation work were required, for one side of the building, to recreate previously-removed skylights by duplicating those they refurbished on the other. Kalinsky, at one point, highlighted a constructed-from-scratch new sandstone door frame; indistinguishable from the building’s original fittings, she remarked that the building workers had taken “a real interest” in the vision for the gallery.

The tour group were first shown the Citizens of the World gallery, currently hosting an 18th century Enlightenment-themed display which focuses on the works of David Hume and Allan Ramsay. Alongside the most significant 18th century items from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, are some of the 133 new loans for the opening displays. For previous visitors to the gallery, one other notable change is underfoot; previously carpeted, the original parquet floors of the museum have been polished and varnished, and there is little to indicate it is over 120 years since the flooring was originally laid.

Throughout many of the upper-floor displays, the gallery has placed more light-sensitive works in wall-mounted cabinets and pull-out drawers. Akin to rummaging through the drawers and cupboards of a strange house, a wealth of items – many previously never displayed – are now accessible by the public. Commenting on the larger, featured oils, Deputy Director Kalinsky stressed that centuries-old portraits displayed in the naturally-lit upper exhibitions had not been restored for the opening; focus groups touring the gallery during the renovation had queried this, and the visibly bright colours are actually the consequence of displaying the works in natural light, not costly and risky restoration of the paintings.

There are four other large galleries on the top floor. Reformation to Revolution is an exhibition covering the transition from an absolute Catholic monarchy through to the 1688 revolution. Items on-display include some of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s most famous items – including Mary Queen of Scots and The Execution of Charles I. The portrait-based depiction of this historical age is complemented with prints, medals, and miniatures from the period.

Imagining Power is a Jacobite-themed exhibition, one which looks at the sometime-romanticised Stuart dynasty. The Gallery owns the most extensive collection of such material in the world; the portraiture that includes Flora MacDonald and Prince Charles Edward Stuart is complemented by glassware from the period which is on-loan from the Drambuie Liqueur Company which Kalinsky remarked upon as the only way Scots from the period could celebrate the deposed monarchy – toasting The King over the Water in appropriately engraved glasses.

On the other side of the upper floor, the two main naturally-lit exhibitions are The Age of Improvement, and Playing for Scotland. The first of these looks at societal changes through the 18th and 19th centuries, including Nasmyth’s 1787 portrait of the young Robert Burns and – well-known to past visitors to the portrait gallery – Raeburn’s 1822 depiction of Sir Walter Scott. These are complemented with some of the National Gallery’s collection of landscapes and earliest scenes from Scottish industry.

Playing for Scotland takes a look at the development of modern sports in the 19th century; migration from countryside to cities dramatically increased participation in sporting activities, and standardised rules were laid down for many modern sports. This exhibition covers Scotland’s four national sports – curling, shinty, golf, and bowls – and includes some interesting photographic images, such as those of early strong-men, which show how more leisure time increased people’s involvement in sporting activities.

Next to the Reformation to Revolution gallery is A Survey of Scotland. Largely composed of works on-loan from the National Library of Scotland, this showcase of John Slezer’s work which led to the 1693 publication of Theatrum Scotiae also includes some of the important early landscape paintings in the national collection.

The work of Scotland’s first portrait painter, the Aberdeen-born George Jamesone, takes up the other of the smaller exhibits on the east side of the refurbished building. As the first-ever dedicated display of Jamesone’s work, his imaginary heroic portraits of Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace are included.

On the west side of the building, the two smaller galleries currently house the Close Encounters and Out of the Shadow exhibits. Close Encounters is an extensive collection of the Glasgow slums photographic work of Thomas Annan. Few people are visible in the black and white images of the slums, making what were squalid conditions appear more romantic than the actual conditions of living in them.

The Out of the Shadow exhibit takes a look at the role of women in 19th century Scotland, showing them moving forward and becoming more recognisable individuals. The exceptions to the rules of the time, known for their work as writers and artists, as-opposed to the perceived role of primary duties as wives and mothers, are showcased. Previously constrained to the domestic sphere and only featuring in portraits alongside men, those on-display are some of the people who laid the groundwork for the Suffrage movement.

The first floor of the newly-reopened building has four exhibits on one side, with the library and photographic gallery on the other. The wood-lined library was moved, in its entirety, from elsewhere in the building and is divided into two parts. In the main public part, the original table from the Society of Antiquaries sits centred and surrounded by glass-fronted cabinets of reference books. Visible, but closed to public access, is the research area. Apart from a slight smell of wood glue, there was little to indicate to the tour group that the entire room had been moved from elsewhere in the building.

The War at Sea exhibit, a collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, showcases the work of official war artist John Lavery. His paintings are on-display, complemented by photographs of the women who worked in British factories throughout the First World War. Just visible from the windows of this gallery is the Firth of Forth where much of the naval action in the war took place. Situated in the corner of the room is a remote-controlled ‘periscope’ which allows visitors a clearer view of the Forth as-seen from the roof of the building.

Sir Patrick Geddes, best-known for his work on urban planning, is cited as one of the key influencers of the Scottish Renaissance Movement which serves as a starting point for The Modern Scot exhibit. A new look at the visual aspects of the movement, and a renewal of Scottish Nationalist culture that began between the two World Wars, continuing into the late 20th century, sees works by William McCance, William Johnstone, and notable modernists on display.

Migration Stories is a mainly photographic exhibit, prominently featuring family portraits from the country’s 30,000-strong Pakistani community, and exploring migration into and out of Scotland. The gallery’s intent is to change the exhibit over time, taking a look at a range of aspects of Scottish identity and the influence on that from migration. In addition to the striking portraits of notable Scots-Pakistani family groups, Fragments of Love – by Pakistani-born filmmaker Sana Bilgrami – and Isabella T. McNair’s visual narration of a Scottish teacher in Lahore are currently on-display.

The adjacent Pioneers of Science exhibit has Ken Currie’s 2002 Three Oncologists as its most dramatic item. Focussing on Scotland’s reputation as a centre of scientific innovation, the model for James Clerk Maxwell’s statue in the city’s George Street sits alongside photographs from the Roslin Institute and a death mask of Dolly the sheep. Deputy Director Kalinsky, commented that Dolly had been an incredibly spoilt animal, often given sweets, and this was evident from her teeth when the death mask was taken.

Now open daily from 10am to 5pm, and with more of their collection visible than ever before, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery will change some of the smaller current exhibits after 12 to 18 months on display. The ground-floor information desk has available five mini-guides, or ‘trails’, which are thematic guides to specific display items. These are: The Secret Nature trail, The Catwalk Collection trail, The Situations Vacant trail, The Best Wee Nation & The World trail, and The Fur Coat an’ Nae Knickers Trail.

 

Togo’s new leader promises elections, but doesn’t say when

Thursday, February 10, 2005The new leader of Togo, the late president Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s son, Faure Gnassingbé, pledged to hold “free and transparent elections which reflect the will of the people” as soon as possible, though he did not mention a specific timeframe, nor did he address international criticism of his ascession to power.

Togolese politics have become a subject of criticism by the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations after the death of Eyadéma late last week. Eyadéma was Africa’s longest-ruling leader whose 38-year rule was marked by government-sponsored violence and the stifling of political expression.

The Constitution of Togo was amended to permit Eyadéma to retain power, to allow more than two five-year terms in office, and to lower the minimum age for a president from 45 to 35. The latter move was seen as a way to allow the succession of the presidency to Eyadéma’s son, then only 35 years old.

When Eyadéma died on Saturday of a heart attack, the country’s Constitution called for power to be transferred to the head of the national assembly. Instead, Faure Gnassingbé assumed power and the Constitution was amended to allow this, causing criticism from foreign commentators.

Faure Gnassingbé also promised reforms, and an open dialog with the opposition parties. However, with the opposition leader out of the country since an assassination attempt in 1992, and the presidential term not set to expire until 2008, it is not clear how much change these promises will bring in the near future.

 

English jury returns mix of verdicts in policeman’s serial rape trial

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A jury in Newcastle Crown Court, northeast England has cleared a police officer of some charges in a trial over serial rapes and related offences, and convicted him of others. Northumbria Police’s Police Constable Stephen Mitchell faced five counts of rape, six of indecent assault and 15 of misconduct in public office. He is guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six counts of misconduct, with most of the sex charge convictions coming yesterday.

In all the case involved 16 women aged from 17 to 48, all of whom were arrested on drugs charges or shoplifting thefts between 1999 and 2006; the prosecution said Mitchell picked his victims based on vulnerability. The prosecution claimed Mitchell used blackmail to demand sex in exchange for favours; Mitchell described a conspiracy to frame him involving “…a very small-knit community in Newcastle city centre’s criminal fraternity.” Mitchell’s defence dismissed the claims as driven by one woman motivated by “self-preservation;” he refused to explain this further in open court.

It was alleged he told one woman who wanted a female officer present when searched said “I am the law. I can do anything. I don’t need a woman here,” and later attacked her in his patrol car. The woman had been arrested for possession of drugs and was 37.

He threw me over the settee, I couldn’t move with the handcuffs on, I was petrified. He said this is what you’ve wanted for a long time and he raped me.

“Each [victim] was vulnerable, whether because of drug abuse, health problems, domestic circumstances or a combination of these factors. The defendant took advantage of their vulnerabilities, usually providing or offering favours, but then requesting, or in some cases requiring by force, sexual favours in return,” was how prosecutor Paul Sloan QC explained the circumstances early in the trial.

Testimony in October included that of one lesbian, now 32, who in June 1999 was interviewed by the officer in Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street police station, and claimed he groped her and “that was the beginning of hell for me”. She told the court from behind a screen how he undid his trousers, saying that in arranging for her to be bailed he had helped her and he expected this reciprocated. “I was gay and had never had sex with a male,” but she claimed she was grabbed by the hair and forced, with a warning her girlfriend would be contacted if she made allegations. She had been arrested for cheque fraud.

She said the next month she was arrested again and he made a similar demand. Her testimony stated that he blackmailed her for four years, receiving regular sex after driving her into the country, culminating in a 2003 handcuffed rape at her home. She told the court he gave her drug money, as well as a lighter and foil to take heroin, after discovering she was in rehab. She says she pretended to take the drug but disposed of it, leaving rehab and beginning to study in 2002 in the belief the man had been evaded.

However, “[my] world just crumbled before me” when he arrived at her door and stole her spare keys, she said. She claimed he regularly visited her Sunderland house when she was away and once left a knife embedded in her pillow. She testified her fear made her sleep beneath her bed. Her testimony stated the policeman used what he said was video evidence of her committing fraud at a Post Office and in 2003 said he was going to hand the tape over.

She said when he arrived “[h]e was furious, he said I had disrespected him by not being in touch. I was trying to calm him down but he handcuffed me and said he was arresting me for fraud at the post office. He threw me over the settee, I couldn’t move with the handcuffs on, I was petrified. He said this is what you’ve wanted for a long time and he raped me.” She moved to Durham shortly after.

Detective Constable Cath Easton of Northumbria Police’s Professional Standards Unit said she visited one woman in June last year during the investigation. Although stating she had no problems with police treatment, Easton testified the woman called the following day. “She was crying, she was hysterical,” Easton told the court.

these people will grab any opportunity they can. They are lying

“It took her a while to get her words out, but she was saying ‘how do I know I can trust you? How do I know he has not sent you to test us?’ She was frightened and she told us she was frightened. She was in a real state… She was absolutely terrified that he knew I had contacted her.”

The alleged victim was assured the investigation was genuine and later called again, claiming Mitchell forced her to perform a sex act following the former heroin addict’s arrest six years previously. Another woman told the court Mitchell raped her whilst in uniform in the woman’s flat, hands cuffed behind her, and blackmailed her for years demanding sexual favours.

One woman, 25 at the time, said while in Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street police station following her arrest for a minor offence she was grabbed and kissed by the policeman. “He put his hands on my shoulders and kissed me, it was a passionate kiss. The door was open and I was shocked, anyone could have walked past or seen him or anything.” She told the court this occurred in the fingerprint room.

“After I was photographed he told me he was finishing his shift, which I took to be a hint,” the witness, another former heroin addict who said she was drunk at the time, continued. “Then when I came out of the station PC Mitchell pulled up in a car and offered to take me home, it seemed the safest way of getting home was with a police officer.” She had no complaint about him during the journey but said she resisted another kiss upon arrival at her house.

The woman, who says she has not used drugs for nine years, stated that he arrived at her house the following day and gave her a second lift. “He said he had a wife and kids but that he would like to see me again. Obviously it was never going to happen but he was saying he wanted some kind of relationship where he was seeing me on a regular basis, I would imagine for sex or something like that. He said we would have to be discreet because he had a wife but I was not interested and eventually he accepted my ‘no’.”

What it means is: ‘Resign and this will go away’.

She said he gave her money, suggested they get a private room and was “very persuasive”. Her mother also gave evidence to say Mitchell had called her to discuss the daughter’s drug-addict boyfriend. “You want to stop her going with him, he’s trouble, he’s a bad lad,” she claimed Mitchell said, adding her daughter told her the officer “was pestering her, she said he wanted to take her out.” The boyfriend also gave evidence, saying he had known the officer during former heroin addiction and giving a description of him.

One young mother met Mitchell when released from prison in 2001 after a theft sentence. Days later, he had given her heroin and felt she “owed him” according to testimony, receiving sex in return. She failed to attend Gateshead Magistrates’ Court in December the following year and he arrested her, she told the court. She wept, claiming he raped her in his vehicle. “I could not get out of the car, the doors were locked,” she told the trial.

“He said he wanted to have sex and that it would be the last time. I was shouting for him to let me out of the car, just screaming and shouting at him to let me go. He said if I told anybody, nobody would believe me because I was just a dirty junkie and I would never get my children back,” she said, describing him telling her he would plant drugs at her home and prevent access to her children if she made claims against him.

In November a woman in her fifties, who has four children and was 48 during her alleged attack, testified Mitchell raped her in a room used for reading reports at Pilgrim Street following her July 2006 theft arrest. “No one’s going to believe a thief,” he is claimed to have told her. “I said if you just let me go I’m not going to say anything; I’m not going to tell anyone. No one will ever know this has happened. I just wanted to be away.” She says she explained she was ill and taking cancer medication although “he did not seem bothered.”

Outside the police station following the alleged attack, “…there was two young lasses coming along. I will always remember one had a red Berghaus coat on. They seemed to know PC Mitchell and he did not seem to know whether to stay with me or talk to them and I just walked straight across the road. I was in total shock. I got on the bus home and I was trying to keep from crying and I had a pain in my throat.”

She said her life had been severely affected; “I was always thinking about it and crying for no reason. I just used to burst into tears for no reason and I’m not a crying person. I’m normally bubbly and happy and I really just let myself go. I never ever went with my partner again and from that day to this I have never slept with another man.” She triggered the probe that resulted in Mitchell’s prosecution by reporting him when, she says, he began arriving at her house.

She told Sloan she had not immediately contacted police because “I thought no-one would believe me. I was a shoplifter and he was a police officer. I still would never have been here to this day if he had not kept coming back to the house. If he had not done that it would have been a secret till the day I died.”

Mitchell, who has been a policeman since leaving the military in 1991, stated in the dock this month that the women had discussed their “host of rumours” amongst themselves and they were similar for this reason. “I think it has been demonstrated that people have been talking about this on a number of occasions… I know these people are not always truthful.” “But you are?” responded prosecution QC Paul Sloan. “Yes, these people will grab any opportunity they can,” according to the officer. “They are lying,” he later added.

He said if I told anybody, nobody would believe me because I was just a dirty junkie and I would never get my children back

In an attempt to disprove this defence the prosecution produced a sex tape in which Mitchell uses similar phrases to his partner as the women alleged he had said to them. “So it just so happens the words used are exactly the words you used in the video?” Sloan inquired. PC Mitchell desribed this as coincidence and rejected claims he had used such words to any of the women. He also said supplying heroin to one addict was far too risky for him; “I know police monitor drug dealers’ homes and it would be a massive risk to take my vehicle to the address of a drug dealer. I don’t want people to be on drugs. If I could help them I would.”

Mitchell, 42, divorced in 2005, admitted meeting a woman he had met on duty for sex in 2006, having admitted the same at an internal misconduct hearing in September 2007. He told the court that if interviewing woman it was in his interests as an officer to be friendly, but insisted this was all.

Defended by Toby Hedworth QC, Mitchell said his father’s murder meant he could not possibly have committed one rape in Burdon, near Sunderland, on August 31, 2001 as he had returned to his original home city of Glasgow following his father’s murder. He was accused of raping the woman in a parked car in a field.

“Have you ever been with her in the fields in the Burdon area of Sunderland?” asked Hedworth. “No, I haven’t. My dad was attacked on July 30, 2001 by somebody and subsequently died on August 10, 2001.” Hedworth: “Had your father in fact been murdered?” Mitchell: “Yes. And from the 9th to the 16th of August I was in Glasgow,” he explained. Hedworth took him through denials of every charge, which he said there was “no truth whatsoever” in.

The defence also produced a recording secretly recorded by Mitchell with Detective Chief Inspector Chris Sharman, who headed the rape investigation. Hedworth told the court Mitchell is warned on the tape, made in March, that if he is charged he would “probably be front page of the national newspapers and they are horrible” but the team would “stop digging” if he stepped down.

Hedworth likened the offer to a Monopoly “get out of jail free card” and claimed despite a warning his client was “running the risk of going to jail and going on the sex offender register”, Mitchell chose to fight the allegations – a fact which demonstrated innocence. “What it means is: ‘Resign and this will go away’.” The prosecution denied Northumbria Police were seeking to offer their colleague an alternative to investigation, stating the allegation – made during Hedworth’s closing speech – was untrue and the recording did not indicate an offer to drop the probe.

The jury began deliberations on Wednesday. After three days, on Friday they cleared Mitchell of three rapes, two indecent assaults and two counts of misconduct in a public office. Following this, trial judge Mr Justice Wilkie said he would accept majority verdicts on the remaining charges, instead of unanimous verdicts. The jury departed for the weekend, returning on Tuesday to convict him of six misconduct charges and clear him of the same number; another indecent assault charge also produced an acquital.

Yesterday, the verdicts were delivered on the remaining charges. The remaining seven misconduct charges were acquitals, as did the other indecent assaults. Two charges of rape and three of indecent assault produced guilty verdicts.

At least one of the misconduct charges he was convicted of was unrelated to indecent assault or rape; it concerned a drug-addicted woman caught with non-prescriped diazepam (valium) when her friend was arrested for shoplifting in 2003. Her testimony was that he stroked her leg and tried to kiss her in Pilgrim Street, returned the drugs upon her release, obtained her number and met her several times to give her drugs. She says although he asked to go at night to a hotel she refused, and ultimately she began ignoring his calls while he ceased supplying drugs.

 

Interview with Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret

Saturday, January 7, 2006

PostSecret is a community art project where people release their secrets by anonymously mailing them on a homemade postcard. Frank Warren started PostSecret in November, 2004 and has since received thousands of secrets from all over the world. The cards appeared in an All-American Rejects music video for the song Dirty Little Secret, and PostSecret’s fee? a $2,000 donation to The National Hopeline Network 1(800)SUICIDE, a suicide hotline. PostSecret has recently published a book of some of the postcards with some of the proceeds also going to the hotline.

Wikinews: What is PostSecret for you?

Frank Warren: PostSecret is a community art project where anyone can write a secret on a postcard and mail it in.

You originally sent out 3,000 postcards at the projects inception in November, 2004. Over a year later, approximately how many cards have you received?

20,000.

Geographically, how far away have you received postcards?

The cards come from all over the world; Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Australia, Ireland, India…

You let the All-American Rejects use the postcards in their video for a donation to the National Hopeline Network, a suicide hotline. You also have a book out now with some of the proceeds going to National Hopeline. Is depression the most common theme in the secrets that you have received?

I do not know if depression is the most common theme, but I picked the charity because of my own experiences with suicide and because I have first-hand knowledge of the good work done by 1(800)SUICIDE.

What, in your opinion, is the motivation for people to send you their secrets?

I think some people are looking to share a funny story, others want to talk about a secret kindness they performed but most people, I believe, are looking to better understand their own secrets and perhaps use this project as a first step in taking action upon their secrets.

Have you ever gotten into any sort of trouble or controversy because of what you have posted on your site? If so, what has happened as a result?

I once received a postcard from a girl saying, “I worked really hard to get into [Ivy League School] but now I hate it here.” She later contacted me and said her friends and family recognized her handwriting and the posting was causing her distress. She asked me to remove it and I did. But I asked her to let me know how things turned-out in the long-run. Maybe this event will cause her to change schools or find new ways to appreciate where she is now.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Finally, PostSecret has touched and aided the lives of many people. How can people help the project?

I hope people just continue to bravely share their secrets on the site and visitors continue to express their understanding and compassion.

 

Wikinews interviews Aurélien Miralles about Sirenoscincus mobydick species discovery

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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A group of researchers published a paper about their discovery of a new species of Madagascar mermaid skink lizards last December. The species is the fourth forelimbs-only terrestrial tetrapods species known to science, and the first one which also has no fingers on the forelimbs.

The species was collected at Marosely, Boriziny (French: Port-Bergé), Sofia Region, Madagascar. The Sirenoscincus mobydick name is after the existing parent genus, and a sperm whale from the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

This week, Wikinews interviewed one of the researchers, French zoologist Aurélien Miralles, about the research.

((Wikinews)) What caused your initial interest in Madagascar lizards?

Aurélien Miralles: Well, I would say that since I am a child I am fascinated by the biodiversity of tropical countries, and more especially by reptiles. I did a PhD on the evolution and systematics of skink lizards from South America. Then, I get a Humboldt grant to do a postdoc in Germany, at the Miguel Vences Lab, in order to study Malagasy skinks. Madagascar being a fabulous hotspot for reptiles (and not only for reptiles actually), it was a very nice opportunity. Professor Vences proposed me to associate our complementary fields of expertise: he is expert in herpetology for Madagascar, and I am expert in skinks lizards (family Scincidae). It was a very fruitful experience, and many other results have still to [be] published.

((WN)) How was the new species discovered?

AM: By a very funny coincidence actually. In 2010, I went to Madagascar for a long trip through the south of the island, in the semi-arid bush for collecting lizards and snakes samples. Then, during the last days, just before coming back to Germany, I have visited by coincidence the zoological collection of the University of Antananarivo. In that place, I found an old jar of ethanol with two weird little specimens previously collected by a student who didn’t realize it was something new. Being expert on skinks, I immediately recognised it was something very probably new, very different from all the other known species.

((WN)) What does “Sirenoscincus” stand for?

AM: I am not the author of the genus name Sirenoscincus. This genus name was already existing. It has been described by Sakata and Hikida (two Japanese herpetologists). “Sireno” means mermaid. “Scincus” means skinks, a group of little lizards on which I am particularly focusing my studies. So, Sirenoscinus means “mermaid skink”, in reference to [the] fact it has forelimbs but no hindlimbs.

((WN)) How deep underground do the lizards live?

AM: Hard to answer this question because nothing is known on the ecology of this species. But more reasonably, we can hypothesize, by comparison to similar species of skinks, that it is probably living just under the sand surface, [a] few centimeters deep, probably no more, or below [a] rock, leaf litter, or piece of dead wood.

((WN)) What do the lizards eat?

AM: Again, by analogy, I would say most likely small invertebrates (insects, larvae, worms etc…).

((WN)) What equipment was used during the research?

AM: Classic equipment (microscope) and also a state-of-the-art device: a micro CT-scan. It is a big device producing [a] 3D picture of the internal structure without damaging the specimen. It is actually very similar to the scanner used in human medicine, but this one is specially designed for small specimens. Otherwise, I am currently studying the DNA of this species and closely related species in order to determine its phylogenetic position compared to other species with legs, in order to learn more about the evolutionary phenomena leading to limb loss.

((WN)) There are several news sources that have a photo of the species. Is it a photo as seen in a CT-scan?

AM: No, this picture showing a whitish specimen on a black background is not a CT-scan. It is a normal photograph of the collection specimen preserved in alcohol (the one that was in the jar). You can see the complete of picture (including CT-scan 3D radiography, drawing…) in the original scientific publication.

((WN)) Do you know when the newly discovered mermaid skink species was put into the jar? Do you have its photo (of the jar)?

AM: No, I have no picture of the jar. The specimen has been collected in November 2004.

((WN)) What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

AM: As first investigator, I did most of the work…and the longest part of the work was to examine closely related species in order to do comparisons…and also to check the complete bibliography related to this topic and to write the paper.
Mrs Anjeriniaina is the student who […] collected the specimen a couple of years ago.
Mrs Hipsley and Mr Müller learnt me how to use the CT-scan, and helped me concerning some point relative to internal morphology. Mr Vences helped me as supervisors. Additionally, all of them have corrected the article, and gave me many relevant advices and corrections, thus improving the quality and the reliability of the paper.

((WN)) Did you get in touch with an external entity to get the new species officially recognised?

AM: No. In zoology, it is only needed to publish the description of a new species (and to give it a name) in a scientific journal, and to designate a holotype specimen (= specimen that will be the official reference for this species), to get this new species “officially” recognised by the scientific community. That does not mean that this new species is “correct” (it might be invalidated by subsequent counter-studies), but that means that this discovery and the new name of [the] species are officially existing.

((WN)) Are there any further plans on exploring the species habitat and lifestyle?

AM: No, not really for the time being, because ecology is not our field of expertise. But other studies (including molecular studies) are currently in progress, in order to focus on the phylogenetic position and the evolution of this species.

 

Find A Viable Office For Pediatric Dentistry In Huntsville Al

byAlma Abell

Finding a good dentist office that provides pediatric dentistry in Huntsville doesn’t have to be difficult for parents. Pediatric dentistry is simply a field of care that focuses on children’s oral health. Pediatric dentists generally have more experience with infants and child care than the average dentist who may immediately jump from their education to working in an adult-oriented dental clinic.

How To Find A Good Dentist

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The first place to begin is by asking friends and relatives to see if they have any recommendations regarding Pediatric Dentistry in Huntsville AL. School systems often have recommendations as well since they will occasionally offer dental health forums, free cleanings, and smile-friendly activities for students. Even general pediatricians have suggestions about viable dentists in the area.

Another tool to consider is a search engine provided by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Their search engine titled “Find a Pediatric Dentist” is open for general use and free to access. To check out this search engine, click here (http://www.aapd.org/finddentist/). Users can search by their postal code to learn about local dentist offices. For example, someone in Huntsville might use this tool and learn about a nearby office ran by Michael E. Mann, DMD, PC (huntsvilledentists.com). The search engine’s results are carefully considered and much more precise than what a simple Google search could render.

Assessing The Dental Office

When parents enter the dental office with their children, the first thing they notice is likely the atmosphere and the friendliness of the receptionists. Most pediatric offices will cater to children through their aesthetic. This could mean that there are toys or coloring books in the lobby area along with colorful wall paintings or children’s television programs playing on a tv set in one corner of the room. A friendly, positive atmosphere is imperative to the development of a relationship between the child and dentist. Many children have phobias about visiting health physicians, so a positive environment can go a long way.

After this initial impression, it’s a good idea for parents to ask the receptionists questions about what their child can expect during the visit and about their histories in the oral health industry. All this information can help parents make more informed decisions when seeking out a long-term dental office for their children.

 

Signals indicate Texas economy continues to improve

Sunday, April 29, 2012

As many states across the US continue to struggle financially, many individuals, including some economists report multiple positive indicators for Texas.

The chief economist with Comerica Bank told media sources this week that most of the improvements are attributed to strong creations of jobs in both the energy and manufacturing and services sectors. More specifically, that report called the state’s recent job growth, “robust”.The state’s unemployment rate in March was more than 1% lower than the nationwide rate, according to recent data.

When asked her opinion about the state’s present economic trajectory, Chantal Woodhull, a middle school teacher in Tyler, Texas told Wikinews, “It’s getting better.” Other sources indicate slight improvements in the real estate sector.

According to a recent report, retail job growth in Houston outstretched all other states, increasing its number of workers by over 4%. Across the US, retail jobs are improving at a slow pace in many large metropolitan areas.

 

USDA to stop controversial research practice which reportedly leads to the death of cats

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

On Tuesday, the Agricultural Research Service, an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture, announced it has ceased all use of cats in experiments. This came after months of internal review and public objection to a controversial research practice involving the use of cats to study the toxoplasmosis parasite.

According to the official press release, “ARS toxoplasmosis research has reached its maturity and ARS considers the project’s objectives for agriculture achieved. While there is still additional research needed in this area regarding human health, this research area is outside of USDA’s stated mission.” The agency plans to redirect toxoplasmosis resources to other food-borne illnesses.

According to a report from the White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit opposing animal testing, the practice in question involves feeding eight-week-old cats meat acquired in markets outside the United States and then using them as incubators to produce Toxoplasma gondii eggs for study. The ARS began using this technique in 1982. As put by Justin Goodman, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project, this was done in order to “understand how widespread the parasitic disease is in animals around the world.” He continued, claiming, “at eight weeks, [scientists] would feed them infected meat, harvest parasitic eggs from their feces to be used in other experiments, then kill them.” According to the USDA, T. gondii can only produce eggs when it is inside a cat.

The practice became widely known to the public after the White Coat Waste Project reported the USDA would feed the cats meat from dogs and from other cats. The public outcry in the wake of what its critics call the “kitten cannibalism” revelation drove the drafting of “Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act of 2018” to be considered in the United States House of Representatives, proposed by Republican Mike Bishop of Michigan and Democrat Jimmy Panetta of California. A Senate version of the bill is was proposed by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toxoplasmosis is one of the most common causes of lethal food-borne illness in the United States, and as many as 40 million people within the country may be infected. Though most show no symptoms, it can be lethal in people with weak immune systems, such as children. The ARS claims its research has cut the rate of infection with T. gondii by 50%.

Merkley responded to the cessation of the practice by saying, “The USDA made the right decision today, and I applaud them for their willingness to change course.”

Panetta responded to the move with, “I commend the USDA for their decision to end this type of testing on kittens. They listened to the people and responded appropriately to our concerns. This is how our institutions, our government, and our democracy should and must work.”

Republican Congressman Brian Mast of Florida said, “With all the awful reports coming out, it was clear that Americans opposed USDA’s cruel testing on kittens. This is a decisive victory against government animal abuse and wasteful spending.”

According to the ARS’s announcement, an independent panel declared it would not be safe for human health to allow adoption of any T. gondii-infected cats, but they have not had any since last September. They plan to allow USDA employees to adopt the remaining 14 uninfected cats.

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