15th November     No Comments

Bomb blast damages buildings in Athens

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Bomb blast damages buildings in Athens

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two buildings have been damaged in a bombing in Athens, Greece on Thursday. The target was a building owned by an agency that manages state real estate.

Nobody was injured in the blast, but the building’s entrance was damaged. A nearby store and a parked car also sustained damage. The homemade device, which consisted of explosives placed inside a plastic bag and tied to a pole close to the target, damaged the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation building.

The area was cordoned off by police after the explosion, which occurred at 9:30 p.m. local time yesterday. Bomb disposal experts checked the area following the explosion, while anti-terrorism officers began their investigation. The building is about 250 yards from the Athens police headquarters, and is also close to the Supreme Court.

No claim of responsibility has yet been made, but the Greek conservative government has been attempting to control left-wing terrorism in recent months. One group, the Revolutionary Struggle, was responsible for a failed car bombing against an Athens Citibank office on February 28, and also bombed a Citibank branch in the city on March 9. Greece has been receiving advice from police in London after the increase in terrorist activity and rioting last year throughout the nation.

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15th November     No Comments

Brazilian surfer wins world championship in Pichilemu, Chile

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Brazilian surfer wins world championship in Pichilemu, Chile

Monday, May 30, 2011

The fourteenth Quiksilver Ceremonial Punta de Lobos Big Wave Invitational surf championship took place on Saturday in the Chilean city of Pichilemu, often called the “Capital of the Surf.” In this year’s competition, 24 surfers from countries such as South Africa, Peru, Chile, the United States, and Argentina participated in the championship, including Pichileminians Ramón Navarro and Cristian Merelló, and Hawaiian Köhl Christensen. The surfers competed for a US$20,000 prize.

The Quiksilver Ceremonial Punta de Lobos has been a tradition since 1998. Christensen won that championship, and has regularly participated in it since then, according to La Tercera. “If [the Chilean waves] weren’t that good, I wouldn’t come back. They’re powerful, that’s what makes of Chile a great place to train,” Christensen told La Tercera.

The competition was scheduled to take place sometime between April 1 and May 31; it was confirmed to take place on May 28 by Gary Linden, the Big Wave World Tour Contest Director. “We are excited to kick off the 2011 Big Wave World Tour with the third annual Quiksilver Ceremonial. […] It looks like patience is going to pay off as we are expecting surf in the 30 to 40 foot range with light winds and good lighting making for the perfect start to season,” Linden said.

“The Quiksilver Ceremonial is one of the world’s most anticipated big wave events, featuring some of the best waves and skilled surfers from around the globe,” Hawaiian media Aloha Update reported. Carlos Ferrer, marketing manager of Quiksilver Chile, said: “This championship has managed to put itself as one of the great dates of the worldwide surfing scene. It is of international class.”

On Thursday, Mayor of Pichilemu Roberto Córdova reunited with organizers of the ceremonial, Carlos Ferrer, Gary Linden, and Ricardo Parot from Wetfly Productions, at the Pichilemu city hall. “The mayor reiterates his commitment to the community with these kinds of events in the low-season as they are great attractions that help support Pichilemu’s tourism industry,” city hall representatives said on its Facebook profile.

Many people visited Punta de Lobos on Friday, as the surfers were practicing. “There was great expectation in Punta de Lobos yesterday [on Friday],” La Tercera reported. “It has arrived the same amount of people coming a long holiday weekend to Pichilemu, but this time, only to see the championship,” director of surf magazine Glass.cl Rodrigo Farías told the newspaper. Farías also told La Tercera that during last year’s ceremonial there were waves eight-meters high, and “[Saturday]’s waves are expected to be more ordained.” He predicted that it would be “a bit cloudy, and there will be more time between one wave and another, so there could be more tubes, which will be much better visually.”

The surfers dropped into the sea to begin the championship at 07:30 local time (11:30 UTC). It is estimated that least two thousand people from Chile and other countries attended the event throughout the day. A helicopter flew overhead at Punta de Lobos, recording and photographing the surfers and attendants. The attendants were given free fruit juice, fruits, as well as Red Bull drinks at the end of the day.

The 24 competing surfers were: Köhl Christensen, Carlos Burle, Marcos Monteiro, Peter Mel, Chris Bertish, Ramón Navarro, Diego Medina, Cristian Merello, Rusty Long, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Fernando Zegers, Reinaldo Ibarra, Greg Long, Gabriel Villarán, Jamie Sterling, Anthony Taschnick, Mark Healey, Kealii Mamala, Jaimie Mitchell, Danilo Couto, Sebastian de Romana, León Vicuña, and Matías López.

The Quiksilver Ceremonial Punta de Lobos was broadcasted live in HD quality for the first time in the championship’s history through its official website. The footage included underwater shots.

The championship lasted until 17:30 local time (21:30 UTC), and the results were as follows:

# Name Country Score
1 Marcos Monteiro Brazil 21.17
2 Ramón Navarro Chile 19.32
3 Gabriel Villarán Peru 14.81
4 Köhl Christiensen USA 2.00
5 Cristián Merelló Chile 0.00
5 Greg Long USA 0.00

“Viva Brazil! Firstly I want to thank God, because everyone’s okay and nobody got injured. I also want to thank the residents of Pichilemu for giving us good vibes and to the jet-skis pilots, who worked hard all day. I knew this day was going to come,” Marcos Monteiro, the winning surfer said shortly after the championship ended during a press conference.

The Big World Tour’s next stop is Pico Alto, Peru, on July 1.

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It is estimated that at least two thousand people visited Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos to watch the Quiksilver championship. Image: Diego Grez.

People arriving at Punta de Lobos to watch the championship. Image: Diego Grez.

There were several rescuers at sea. Image: Diego Grez.
Partial view of the Punta de Lobos beach. Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Billowing flags of several countries, representing the competing surfers. Image: Diego Grez.
There was a skate ramp, where local skaters could play. In the picture, from left to right, local skaters Demetrio Vidueira, Matías Herman, and Jacob Soto. Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
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Image: Diego Grez.
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Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.
Image: Diego Grez.

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9th November     No Comments

Florida Governor Jeb Bush gives speech on Hurricane Wilma/Notes

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Florida Governor Jeb Bush gives speech on Hurricane Wilma/Notes

Notes taken by Messedrocker for the article.

Fl Gov Bush gives speech – 1pm Oct 23 2005 – on CNNSays SW Florida – Cat 2 – including keysMandatory evacuation – evacuation since 14 months agoVoluntary evacuation underway as wellTolls suspended on Florida TurnpikeTraffic flowing smoothly23 shelters open; more will open, includes shelter for frail and elderlyPet shelters openingAs of 10am this morning, there were more than 220m gallons of fuel (diesel and gasoline) at Florida portsAdequate fuelGeorgia, Mississippi, texas, NY helping too200 trucks ice, 86,000 MREsPlus FEMA support“As I said, this is a team effort,” says Governor Bush.Speech in two languages: English and SpanishCraig Fulgate, Director of Florida Emergency Management also speaks“You need to pay attention to your local officials,” says FulgateBen Nelson, State Meteorologist, says that the storm is currently category 2Storm tomorrow, 25mph, extra danger for parts within the eye and south of the eye“There is no cause for a New Orleans like concern,” says Gov. BushPorts are to be closed, including Port Canaveral

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9th November     No Comments

Flooding in Nakhon Sri Thammarat

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Flooding in Nakhon Sri Thammarat

Friday, December 16, 2005

Moderate flooding has hit the province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat in southern Thailand. Moderate to heavy rain persists in the area, further exacerbating the flooding conditions. The northeast monsoon has intensified the flow of rainfall-laden air from the Gulf of Thailand. Torrential rains have been plaguing the nine southernmost provinces of the country for nearly two weeks and further downpours are forecast for later this week.

Thung Song District in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province is experiencing waist-high floodwaters in downtown shopping areas. Transportation has ground to a halt in affected areas. In Songkhla Province, the government has called for steps to be taken to prevent further flooding of the commerial district of Hat Yai. Rail tracks have been lifted in some areas to permit flood waters to leave the city, and the Thai Navy has been ordered to take part in relief efforts.

In Muang District of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, many roads have been closed and sandbags are being deployed to help affected businesses. Schools throughout the province have been closed because of flooding conditions. Other provinces, including Phattalung, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Trang, Sukhothai and Satun have experienced similar problems with high tides and heavy rain paralysing much of the region.

The Meteorological Department of the Thailand Ministry of Information and Communication Technology issued a weather advisory concerning the flooding, “People in the lower South and navigators in the Gulf of Thailand should exercise caution and small boats should stay from December 15 until December 18.” It is reported that this has left some tourists stranded on smaller resort islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

Across the border in Malaysia, three are reported to have died and over 10,000 been evacuated as a result of the flooding.

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9th November     No Comments

Hewlett-Packard to cut 9,000 jobs in $1 billion restructuring plan

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Hewlett-Packard to cut 9,000 jobs in $1 billion restructuring plan

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hewlett-Packard (HP) expects to lose 9,000 jobs between now and 2013 in a US$1 billion (£686m) restructuring plan.

The 9,000 jobs losses will be in the enterprise services division, but the company expects to add about 6,000 employees to its sales and delivery teams.

HP commented in a statement, “As a result of productivity gains and automation, HP expects to eliminate roughly 9,000 positions over a multi-year period to reinvest for further growth and to increase shareholder value”

HP will invest in fully automated data centers as it makes operational changes in its Internet technology services business. HP said the restructuring will generate savings of $500–700 million (about €407–571 million) in net savings after reinvestment.

Hewlett-Packard has around 300,000 employees and is the world’s largest technology company by sales. HP is an American multinational information technology corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

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31st October     No Comments

Sallie Mae leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about student loans

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Sallie Mae leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about student loans

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about student loans in the United States shows Sallie Mae leads all lending institutions in complaints. Of the 4,851 complaints dating back to March 2012 when the CFPB first began collecting student loan data, 2,262 or 46.6% of all complaints were about the lender. US Federal Reserve data from 2010/2011 shows Sallie Mae is the nation’s largest student loan lender, responsible for 25% of the market

The other major lenders in this space include Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, PNC, and Discover. In complaints, AES/PHEAA came in second with 546, or 11.3% of all complaints. Wells Fargo, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase each had between 5% and 7.5% of all complaints, totaling 918 complaints between them. 78 other lending institutions round out the list of organizations with complaints filed against them for student loans.

Few of the complaints originate from people with problems with federal student loans. Less than 1%, 35 total, are for these types of loans, with Sallie Mae accounting for the bulk of complaints with 17 total. 14 other lending institutions have 3 or fewer complaints. For non-federal student loans, Sallie Mae is still the leader for complaints, with 2245 or 46.6% of all non-federal student loan complaints.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sorts complaints into three issues: Problems when you are unable to pay, Repaying your loan, and Getting a loan. None of the federal loans had complaints about getting a loan. For non-federal loans, 65.5% of the 4,816 complaints related to loan repayment. Sallie Mae led in total complaints in this category with 1467. They were followed by AES/PHEAA with 356, Wells Fargo with 231, Citibank with 201, Discover with 158, JPMorgan Chase with 154, ACS Education Services with 143, and KeyBank NA with 116. CFPB says loan repayment issues include a basket of claim types including “fees, billing, deferment, forbearance, fraud, and credit reporting.” Problems when you are unable pay accounts for 30.8% of the complaints. Sallie Mae had 698 complaints. They were followed by AES/PHEAA with 181, JPMorgan Chase with 106, Wells Fargo with 104, Citibank with 70, and KeyBank NA with 58. Many of the complaints are, according to the CFPB, because borrowers have difficulty getting deferrments on loan repayment as a result of being unable to find employment.

The total complaints against Sallie Mae for September of this year is 2 fewer than the same time last year. The company’s performance this year compared to last year has been mixed. March and June numbers were down over 150 complaints from the same month a year before. April, May, July and August all saw increases of 17–43. Of the top six lenders by volume of complaints, only AES/PHEAA and Citibank saw drops every month between March and September from the total volume in the previous year. Wells Fargo had a gain of 1 in August and 6 in May from the previous year. JPMorgan Chase had a difference of 0 from the same month last year for April, 3 more this year for May, and 4 more for August. Discover saw an increase every month from the same period last year except for September. When the total complaints differences from year to year for March to September are counted, this year has 571 fewer complaints against the top six lenders.

Most, 1470, of the complaints against Sallie Mae were closed with explanations. 10.2% were closed with monetary relief. 7.7% were closed with non-monetary relief. 2.1% were closed with relief and 12.1% were closed without relief. AES/PHEAA’s complaint closure picture was much different. 40.1% of AES/PHEAA’s 546 complaints were closed with non-monetary relief, 35.3% were closed with explanations and 21.2% were closed without relief. Of the eight lending institutions with 100 or more complaints filed against them, Discover was the institution most likely to result in a closure with monetary relief with 12.9% of all their closures ending this way. Citibank was the institution with the highest percentage of closures ending with no relief at 26.0%.

Complaints over student loan lenders were geographically distributed, coming from 3,447 different zip codes. The largest cluster of complaints is for 20001, a Washington D.C. zip code with 10 complaints originating from there. 07950, the zip code for Morris Plains, New Jersey, and 37013, the zip code for Antioch, Tennessee, each had 8 complaints originating from them. Zip codes for Patchogue, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington D.C.; and Arlington, Virginia each had 7 complaints originating from them. By volume of complaints by state, New York led with 497, with California second with 467, Pennsylvania third with 303, Florida fourth with 288 and Ohio fifth with 219 complaints. US Territories largely occupied the bottom spots. The Northern Marianas Islands, with a population of around 50,000, had 1 complaint. The U.S. Armed Forces – Pacific had 3. North Dakota and U.S. Armed Forces – Europe had 5 complaints each. South Dakota had 7. Wyoming had 8. Puerto Rico and Alaska had 9 each. Rounding out the bottom five states by volume of complaints, Mississippi had 11.

With the possibility of a United States government federal shutdown looming on October 1, student loans may be impacted because of potential for an automatic increase in interest rates.

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31st October     No Comments

Kentucky faith-based agency under fire for religious coercion

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Kentucky faith-based agency under fire for religious coercion

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A lawsuit filed by a former employee of Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (now Sunrise Children’s Services) and four other tax-payers, has shed light on the possibility of religious coercion by the organization. The lawsuit challenges the faith-based agency’s eligibility for state funds.

Specifically, interviews of children conducted by the state of Kentucky have revealed complaints from some of the children. Mainly, children who said they were Catholic, Pentecostal, Jehovah’s Witnesses or atheist voiced complaints in the interviews.

“They tried to more [or] less force me to become a Christian,” said one child in an exit interview. “I just felt I was being pressured into giving up my religion.”

Another child reported s/he was “not allowed to choose when or when not to attend a religious service,” per the interview, and was told “‘to do’ some type of Bible study during that time or get consequences.”

Both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Sunrise say there is a strict policy against proselytizing in the program and that it does not prevent children from practising their individual faiths.

They also stress that these complaints number merely a “handful” among the approximately 1,500 children that are served by the faith-based agency.

“If a child says, ‘I don’t want to go to the Baptist church,’ then the child does not go,” Jonathan Goldberg, the state’s attorney, said. Some children might have mistankenly believed they were forced to go, he added.

The plaintiffs are seeking to have the interviews unsealed, at least in the cases where the child is now 18 years of age or older. The state and Sunrise argue they need to be kept confidential.

The lawsuit originated with Alicia Pedreira, who was fired in 2000. She alleges her firing was direct result of Sunrise (then Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children) finding out she is a lesbian.

Sunrise Children’s Services provides residential programs and foster care homes for children that have suffered abuse or neglect. Since 2001, Kentucky has paid Sunrise US$61 million to provide the services for children who would otherwise be in direct state custody.

In 2001, the state did find cause for action against one of Sunrise’s homes to fix “a coercive religious environment” where staff members confirmed that church attendance was required.

With accusations of undue pressure by a Christian agency funded by the state, the Sunrise case bears some similitude to the lawsuit against Iowa for paying Chuck Colson’s evangelical agency to run part of its prison.

Last June, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt strongly reprimanded and ruled against Iowa’s use of a Christian social service agency to administer its prison. Judge Pratt stated: “For all practical purposes, the state has literally established an Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one of its penal institutions… There are no adequate safeguards present, nor could there be, to ensure that state funds are not being directly spent to indoctrinate Iowa inmates.”

The Iowa ruling is pending appeal.

Critics point to both of these cases as failures of George W. Bush’s faith-based services initiative. The program is often seen as conflicting with the tradition of separation of church and state in the United States.

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31st October     No Comments

News briefs:June 9, 2010

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News briefs:June 9, 2010
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30th October     No Comments

UN Secretary-General expresses concern about crises in Chad, Kenya, Sudan

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UN Secretary-General expresses concern about crises in Chad, Kenya, Sudan

Thursday, February 7, 2008

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about crises in Chad, Kenya, and the Sudan. The U.N. chief is recently back from Africa where he attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia and met with leaders in Kenya.

On rebel efforts to overthrow the government in Chad in recent days, the secretary-general welcomed an African Union initiative to have the leaders of Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo mediate the crisis. He says the United Nations will do its utmost to help resolve the crisis, urging the Security Council to act swiftly to help bring an end to the violence.

“It has devastating consequences not only for the people of Chad and Darfurian refugees seeking shelter there, but also for Darfur itself,” said Ban.

Mr. Ban told reporters the situation in the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan is no less troubling. He says the deployment of the AU-U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, must be sped up and urged member states to properly equip the troops.

“UNAMID still lacks required aviation and ground transportation – chiefly helicopters. Additional troops will not make up for this shortfall,” said Ban. “Those countries that called for intervention in Darfur are under special obligation to deliver on their promises.”

While at the AU summit, Mr. Ban says he discussed some of the outstanding issues affecting the deployment with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and he expects the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to be signed this week. But Mr. Ban remained vague on whether some of the agreement’s sticking points – such as night flights, land agreements, and advance notice of U.N. movements – had been settled.

On Kenya, Mr. Ban says he has been deeply engaged in the post-election crisis and told political leaders during his visit there that they bear particular responsibility for the future of Kenya.

“I stressed to all the Kenyan leaders the need to stop the unacceptable violence and killings, and to resolve their differences through dialogue and democratic process. I also appealed to all the political leaders to think beyond their individual interests or party lines and to look to the future of Kenya as one country,” he said.

Mr. Ban also met in Nairobi with his U.N. predecessor, Kofi Annan, who is leading the panel of eminent Africans trying to mediate the crisis, and said they discussed his roadmap for the talks.

Security of U.N. personnel in Africa and elsewhere has been high on the secretary-general’s agenda, especially in the wake of the December bombing in Algeria that killed 17 staff members. Mr. Ban announced that he is naming diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to chair an independent panel on safety and security of U.N. personnel and premises. Brahimi is an Algerian, but Mr. Ban says he has no concerns about his fairness or objectivity in heading up the panel.

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30th October     No Comments

Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008

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Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Also try the 2008 World News Quiz of the year.

What would you tell your grandchildren about 2008 if they asked you about it in, let’s say, 20 years’ time? If the answer to a quiz question was 2008, what would the question be? The year that markets collapsed, or perhaps the year that Obama became US president? Or the year Heath Ledger died?

Let’s take a look at some of the important stories of 2008. Links to the original Wikinews articles are in all the titles.

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