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Furry fans flock to Further Confusion 2007
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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

San Jose, California –Cell phones, cigarette lighters and glowsticks are raised in tribute as Circle of Life begins playing. Soon cheers drown out the song as the multicoloured performers appear on stage. A somewhat unusual introduction; but this is no ordinary show, and these are no ordinary attendees. This is Further Confusion, the second largest furry convention in the world.

The volunteer organizers have something to cheer about, too; Furry fans have gathered from far and wide at the DoubleTree Hotel to indulge their love of anthropomorphics, and Further Confusion’s 9th year is its largest, with a paid attendance of 2061. Their gains mirror those of Midwest FurFest, a similar convention held in Schaumburg, Illinois which grew 35% last November.

Both events feature art shows and auctions, live puppetry performance, masquerades, variety shows, games and parades, as well as panels that range from science and technology to society, sex and spirituality. Filling out the schedule, the hotel walls are lined with announcements of public and private room parties for separate groups. At night, the disco floor fills with dancing cats, dogs, and dragons.

For some, dressing up plays a large part of the convention – almost 300 brought a full costume. There are few professional mascots here, though, and only one or two of the costumes would be recognized by even the most avid cartoon-watcher. Instead, each act is planned and performed by other attendees, wearing “fursuits” of their own design. Many play off the year’s secret-agent theme — “Fur Your Eyes Only”.

Other fans seem content to restrict themselves to small accessories — perhaps some combination of paws, ears, or tail. Each fur bears a 3″x2″ badge detailing their personal character, or “fursona“. Often these characters are better-known than the people who play them.

It may seem lighthearted, even frivolous, but these conventions are becoming big business. Furry fans spent over $180,000 for lodging during the five days (Jan 18-22) of Further Confusion, and another $50,000 at the art auction. Attendees also purchase all manner of merchandise from attending dealers and artists, from on-the-spot art commissions and comic books of all ratings to prints, sculptures, and plush toys – even their very own fluffy tail.

Of course, any business has risk, and conventions can drain wallets when the sums just don’t add up. The first furry con, ConFurence in Southern California, ran successfully for over a decade, but cost its new organizer an estimated $60,000 in its last four years due to falling attendance before folding in 2003.

Anthropomorphic Arts and Education board member Peter Torkelson says that won’t happen to Further Confusion. Indeed, the convention ran a healthy surplus of almost $30,000 on $125,000 revenue last year, allowing it to pay off the last of its old debts and save for the future. As Torkelson explains: “The idea is if for some reason, say an earthquake happens, and it cripples the revenue stream, the convention will be able to survive into the next year. It does help our staff to know that we have [a reserve].”

The reserve also gives AAE the financial flexibility to fund charities throughout the year, a big part of its 501(c)(3) mandate. Over the nine years of the convention, attendees have raised over $60,000 for a variety of animal sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Further Confusion’s hopes for the future are high. Chairwoman Laura Cherry noted that, unlike previous years, the board has “gone all out” for next year’s tenth anniversary, booking as many rooms as the hotel could offer. The host for 2009 has yet to be decided, but for many fans the question was not whether the current hotel will reach a limit, but when – and where – the convention will find a new home.

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Norwegian government considers prosecuting Scientology
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services is considering prosecuting and banning some Scientology practices, in particular the use of the Scientology personality test to sell courses. State Secretary Rigmor Aasrud said that the activities in question might be prosecuted as fraud or as violations of existing healthcare regulations. A Norwegian Member of Parliament (MP) whose daughter killed herself after taking such a test, supports the idea of prosecuting illegal practices rather than trying to ban the movement as a whole.

Also stupid or clearly false expressions must be allowed as free expressions in a democracy, as long as individuals are not harmed by the expressions. The questionable thing about the Scientology cult is, however, that their operation is harmful for individuals.

The statement was made after three journalists from the online edition of the newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) took the test. The journalists wore hidden recording devices, and did not disclose that they were journalists; VG put the recordings on its website. Scientology staff members told all three that they should buy a course to handle psychological issues. Two of the journalists filled out the 200 questions with honest answers, while the third gave answers consistent with being depressed. The “depressed” journalist was told that he should avoid traditional medicine, while one of the “normal” journalists was told that the course was her only hope for improvement unless she wanted to start taking “chemicals”.

Matthias Fosse, spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Norway, said that the staff members in question were acting individually. He said that the Church of Scientology does not give medical advice, but that it encourages people to focus on the side effects of medications, and is critical of the “over-medication” of psychiatric patients.

Olav Gunnar Ballo, a Norwegian MP and medical doctor whose daughter Kaja suddenly killed herself after a negative experience with the Scientology test in France in March 2008, released a book about Kaja Ballo‘s life in April 2009. The book debuted on 2nd place in the Norwegian best seller list. Ballo listened to the recorded test result sessions from VG and said that he found the practice “horrible and harmful”. He told the newspaper Dagbladet that Norway could have something to learn from the current French prosecution of Scientology corporations and individuals, by prosecuting specific harmful practices rather than banning Scientology as a whole.

Matthias Fosse said that France is a far more secular society than Norway, and that France were going too far in their prosecution. He said that France has a list of 165 organizations considered to be “sects”, which not just included Scientology but also covered Baptists such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The list which Fosse referred to is a list from the 1995 Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France. Fosse said that the OSCE, the U.S. State Department and the UN had criticised French “violations of human rights”.

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U.S. 2004 tax rates lower for those earning over $10 million, Tax Policy Center says
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Tax Policy Center has published a table that states that taxpayers earning more than $10,000,000 in 2004 paid lower tax rates than taxpayers earning between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000. Among other things, it breaks down the average tax rate by cash income into various income tax categories.

According to the Tax Policy Center, the average tax rate paid by the 9,000 taxpayers earning over $10,000,000 in 2004 was 20.1%, more than 2% lower than the nearly quarter million taxpayers earning between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000. If taxpayers earning over $10,000,000 were taxed at 22.3%, the rate of those earning between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000, the federal government would have received an additional $4.8 billion in revenue.

Taxpayers who earned more than $10,000,000 paid a lower average rate than any category of taxpayer earning over $100,000. Although taxpayers in the $75,000 to $100,000 range paid 18.9% of their income in taxes, 1.2% less than those making over $10,000,000, taxpayers in the $100,000 to $200,000 range paid an average of 20.6%, or 0.5% more than those making over $10,000,000.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

Furthermore, the Tax Policy Center’s analysis is described by David Cay Johnston, New York Times columnist and author of Perfectly Legal as “understating the real economic gains of those at the very top, who have perfectly legal ways to defer reporting income for tax purposes.”

The Tax Policy Center is a nonpartisian joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution and comprised of nationally recognized experts in tax, budget, and social policy who have served at the highest levels of government.

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News briefs:May 26, 2010
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Skeletons found under home in Hertfordshire

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Skeletons found under home in Hertfordshire
Published in June 14th, 2019
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Catherine McGuigan, a resident in South Mimms, Hertfordshire, UK, found skeletons from over a century ago buried under her dining room.

She had hired builders for an extension for her cottage, where she has lived for eleven years, and at the beginning of April they found human bones in the ground.

Her cottage was built over a burial ground; from 1697 to 1820 the land was owned by the Religious Society of Friends. In the 1600s, members of the society, better known as Quakers, were persecuted for their beliefs and so were not allowed to be buried in consecrated church grounds. Instead burials, which were also sometimes for others not recognised as parishioners – such as homeless people, often took place in the countryside.

The Daily Mail states in its April article that the Religious Society of Friends have advised McGuigan that she “must cremate” the bodies, however Quakers have written an open letter to the Daily Mail, informing that for Quakers, there is “no specific advice on the disposal of bodies”, and that they had never expressed an opinion on how the discovered skeletons should be buried.

The cremation was rumoured to cost up to £32,000 – an £800 quote for cremation of a single body multiplied by 40, however as yet only ten bodies have been discovered.

The builders originally thought the bones were pieces of pipe, and McGuigan has now ordered coffins and is looking to holding a mass cremation or a burial in a nearby field.

TGV makes 574.8 km/h on rails

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TGV makes 574.8 km/h on rails
Published in June 12th, 2019
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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A French Train à Grande Vitesse (High-Speed Train or TGV) has smashed the world record for a train on conventional rails by a big margin, reaching 574.8km/h (356mph) The TGV travelled over 59.8 km/h (36 mph) faster than its previous record of 515 km/h (320 mph)

The record attempt by a modified TGV took place on a track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg. However, this is not the fastest train speed. A Japanese Maglev (Magnetive Levitation Train) reached a top speed of 581km/h (361mph) in 2003. The TGV made history at 13:14 CEST (11:14 UTC). The TGV had been modfied and was called V150 – a TGV with larger wheels than usual and two engines driving three double-decker cars. The vehicle’s horsepower was 25,000.

Reporters said the three train drivers were seen grinning on French TV after they realised they had broken the record. The TGV travelled almost as fast as a World War II Spitfire fighter at top speed. Even the electrical tension in the overhead cable was increased 6000 volts from 25,000 volts to 31,000 for the record attempt.

“We saw the countryside go by a little faster than we did during the tests,” engineer Eric Pieczac said.

“Everything went very well. There are about 10,000 engineers who would want to be in my place,” Mr Pieczac said. “It makes me very happy, a mixed feeling of pride and honour to be able to reach this speed.” Since their introduction in 1981, TGVs generally travel at about 300km/h (187.5 mph) however, on the recently opened Paris-Strasbourg LGV (Ligne à Grande Vitesse or High-Speed line) trains will travel at 320 km/h (200 mph)

SNCF and Alstom – the TGV’s manufacturer – have said that the record test was performed to see how a TGV would react in extreme conditions – conditions that cannot be performed in a laboratory.

After the record was broken, French President Jacques Chirac conveyed his congratulations on “this new proof of the excellence of the French rail industry.” The President also said that “Economically efficient and respectful of the environment, the TGV is a major asset in efforts to ensure sustainable development in transport

“What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology which was invented in France 30 years ago is a technology for the future,” said Guillaume Pepy

Alstom plans to increase TGV sales abroad, where it is competing with high-speed trains such as the Japanese Shinkansen and the German ICE. Currently, nations of the Far East such as China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are the “top” customers for high-speed trains. Agence France-Presse said that a high-speed rail link in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California was being looked into.

Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike in Oxford UK

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Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike in Oxford UK
Published in June 12th, 2019
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

One hundred and twenty detainees at an immigration removal centre in Oxford, UK, are on hunger strike. The protest started when some detainees refused breakfast on Wednesday 14th June 2006. A letter from the hunger strikers explaining why they are seeking to draw attention to their plight in this way has been reproduced in full below.

Those detained at the centre are mostly men who have sought asylum in the UK and whose asylum applications have been rejected. These people are then held without knowing how long they will be detained for – some end up being held for many years while awaiting deportation.

The removal centre, known as Campsfield, or Campsfield House is approximately 5 miles north of Oxford and has been in operation since 1993. It was managed on behalf of the UK Government by Global Solutions Limited, until may 2006 when it was taken on by GEO UK, the centre has a capacity of 198. Only males are detained at Campsfield.

According to the campaign group Barbed Wire Britain Over 2,600 individuals, mostly asylum seekers, are detained indefinitely in the UK without trial and with no automatic right to bail.

There have been reports in the UK press of the state taking people to detention centres without notice, in the early hours of the morning using excessively heavy handed tactics, taking children out of schools and separating families.

Many UK people and politicians express their disgust at the way detainees are treated, yet it continues. Perhaps this action by the detainees themselves will further highlight their plight and result in more UK electors writing to their MPs and demanding improvements to the way in which rejected asylum seekers are treated.

“We are detainees at Campsfield removal centre in Oxford. Most of us have been here for a long while now. There are people who have been detained for up to two years and down to three months. We are cramped in here like animals. We are treated like animals and moved around different detention centres like animals. The immigration service have taken husbands from their families and taken people who ran away from persecution in their various countries, and dumped everyone in here.

Once you are put in here the immigration service forget you. There are detainees who have applied to go back to their own countries that are still being held here for months without any news about their cases, just so that the private security companies get more money.

Detainees are asked to seek asylum and then refused. The immigration service also ask detainees to apply for bail. When you get a bail hearing date all of a sudden they serve you with removal papers that are not valid. There are many of these situations. In most cases the immigration service don’t take you to your court hearings. And then they tell the judges you refused to turn up, just so the hearing goes ahead in your absence. Many detainees have been served with removal papers and travel documents but nothing happens on the removal day.

Campsfield has become a slave house. We detainees are treated like slaves, to do odd jobs for officers. Detainees are handcuffed to see doctors or dentists in hospitals or clinic appointments. We have some racist security officers who make racist comments to detainees and go out of their way to make you feel like committing suicide. Detainees have to be at the point of death before they get to see the doctors.

The food is not worth eating. Even dogs would refuse to eat what we eat. But we don’t have a choice; every single day we eat the same food (the food we eat is rice, chicken, sandwiches, and left-over eggs)”.

Study: Herd animals detect Earth’s magnetic field

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Study: Herd animals detect Earth’s magnetic field
Published in June 11th, 2019
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Large herd animals may have the ability to detect earth’s magnetic field, concluded scientists in Germany in a report published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences after performing studies of cattle and deer grazing and sleeping patterns. The animals tended to face north-south oriented toward the earth’s magnetic poles. Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany led the team that announced the unconfirmed study. Burda and his team gathered cattle data via analysis of Google Earth images.

The team originally intended to test for possible human magnetic field detection by studying the orientation of sleeping bags in outdoor campers, but it proved difficult to obtain data because humans usually slept under tents. Cattle were easier to observe, and 8,510 head of cattle at 308 locations demonstrated a strong tendency to align body orientation in accordance with the earth’s magnetic field. Other possible factors such as wind or sunlight direction did not supply a better explanation for the behavior.

I think the really amazing thing is that hunters and herdsmen and farmers didn’t notice it.

To compare against a second large species, Burda and his team analyzed data on 2,974 deer studied through photography, direct observation, and snow imprints. The deer demonstrated a similar pattern. “I think the really amazing thing is that hunters and herdsmen and farmers didn’t notice it,” said Burda according to a National Public Radio report.

Other scientists found the results of the study intriguing. Peter August of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, commented: “I was really amazed at the consistency with which they found north-facing cows and deer. It was really intriguing.” No independent study has yet confirmed the Duisburg-Essen team’s findings.

This is the first study that indicates magnetic field detection in large mammals. Burda’s previous research involves naked mole rats, a small blind mammal species whose behavior indicates an internal magnetic compass. According to a report by Jeremy Hsu at MSNBC, “Previous research has shown that animals such as birds, turtles and salmon migrate using a sense of magnetic direction, and small mammals such as rodents and one bat species also have a magnetic compass.”

News briefs:August 02, 2010

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News briefs:August 02, 2010
Published in June 7th, 2019
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States Challenge IR laws in High Court

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States Challenge IR laws in High Court
Published in June 7th, 2019
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

High Court proceedings have commenced with every Australian state challenging the legality of the Howard Government’s radical new industrial relations workplace reforms.

Acting Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke said the new laws reduced the pay, employment conditions and job security of many Western Australian workers and their families.

The minister said the proceedings challenged the validity of John Howard’s Work Choices legislation that came into effect on March 27, this year.

All the state governments have objected to the legislation on the basis that it is unconstitutional and New South Wales led the combined states’ legal challenge.

Mr Kobelke said it would remain to be seen whether the Howard government has the right to overrule established constitutional practise by its reliance on the corporations power to underpin its Work Choices legislation.

The corporations power of the Constitution enables the Commonwealth to regulate foreign, trading or financial corporations but the Acting Minister disputed the corporations power gave the Commonwealth ‘a blank cheque’ over industrial relations.

John Kobelke said, ‘contrary to assertions from Canberra, the scope of the corporations power has yet to be judicially settled.’

“No other Federal Government has attempted to do what the Howard Government has done with the corporation’s power,’ the minister also said.

Mr Kobelke said he believes the High Court challenge will be one of the most significant constitutional cases in modern history and that the Carpenter government opposes the potential ill-effects of the legislation on workers and their families.

“The laws threaten the very essence of federalism and if the Howard Government has its way, the corporations power will be used to sideline the States.”

The High Court proceedings concluded yesterday, with a decision not expected until next year.

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