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News briefs:June 27, 2006

The time is 18:00 (UTC) on June 27th, 2006, and this is Audio Wikinews News Briefs.

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Trial against Church of Scientology begins in France

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Church of Scientology in France is in court today, fighting charges that the organization has been a part of “escroquerie en bande organisee”, organized fraud. Prosecutors claim that the Church is engaged in illicit practices in attempts to sell their alleged self-help material. The Church also faces charges of illegally operating as a pharmacy by illegally treating individuals with prescription medications.

The charges come from an unnamed woman, who in 1998 purchased nearly 21,000 euros (US$30,000) worth of Scientology self-help material which allegedly included prescription drugs. After a few months passed, the woman said she felt like she was being scammed because her condition was not improving. Lawyers for the woman say the Church tries to make a profit by pressuring individuals into believing they are going to be cured of their illnesses.

She claims she spent her entire life savings on the organization’s products, including Scientology books, vitamins, and a device called an E-meter. Her attorneys say they will attempt to show that organized criminal fraud is inherent within Scientology practices. There were originally a total of five plaintiffs in the case, however three withdrew their complaints after coming to financial settlements with the Church of Scientology.

Following several complaints from other unnamed individuals and an investigation, investigating magistrate Jean-Christophe Hullin in January, ordered the Church’s “Celebrity Center” and bookstore in France and its seven managers to be put on trial for fraud and “illegally practicing as pharmacists”. Hullin stated that the Scientology organization is driven by “an absolute obsession with profit”, and is “first and foremost a commercial organisation”. Sophie-Helene Chateau, presiding judge in the case, stated that the court’s purpose is “to find whether the acts in question constitute a crime. … It is not up to the court to decide questions of society”.

If convicted, the managers of the Scientology organization in France under investigation could serve a ten year jail sentence in addition to a fine of one million euros. Those investigated include the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Paris itself, its manager Alain Rosenberg, and five other individuals. Rosenberg is the CEO of the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology-Celebrity Centre (ASES-CC), the official term for the Church of Scientology in France. One defendant died since the charges were initially filed against seven managers in the Scientology organization. The defendants are accused of “exerting a psychological hold” on vulnerable individuals so they would give money to Scientology.

The special treatment reserved for the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center raises questions about the equality of the justice system and the presumption of innocence.

In September of 2008, the Church released a statement saying that they felt “stigmatized” by the French judicial system.

“The special treatment reserved for the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center raises questions about the equality of the justice system and the presumption of innocence,” the Church said in a statement to the press. The Church denies all the charges and says that no one was manipulated into buying their material.

“If the church’s methods prove to be crooked then we must ask serious questions about whether it can be allowed to remain in business on French high streets.”

“If the church’s methods prove to be crooked then we must ask serious questions about whether it can be allowed to remain in business on French high streets,” said plaintiff’s attorney Olivier Maurice. If the Church is found guilty, Scientology could be fined approximately 5 million euros (US$7 million) and ordered banned in France. If banned in France, the Scientology organization then has the option to appeal, which could drag out the legal process. The trial will run until June 17.

According to French law the Scientology organization is regarded as a sect in the country, and not a religion. In 2006, a report of the parliament in France characterized Scientology as a “dangerous sect”. This is not the first time the Church has been accused of fraud in France. They have also been convicted of it several times, including the Church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard who was convicted of fraud in 1978. In 1997 the Church was convicted of fraud in Lyon and 1999 in Marseille. “There are those who handed over tens of thousands of francs at the time. Now, it can be 300,000 euros per person, or more,” said Roger Gonet, a French former Scientologist who was a plaintiff against the organization in 1996. The 1978 convictions included Hubbard and his wife at the time, Mary Sue, both now deceased, and two other Scientologists. Hubbard, along with the two Scientologists fled France, never to return, and never served a prison term.

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Several groups seek to purchase Saturn auto brand

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Penske Automotive Group, Inc., an Ohio-based investment group and Telesto Ventures have indicated separately that they are interested in purchasing the Saturn auto brand from General Motors (GM).

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nissan-Renault is interested in purchasing Saturn. Bloomberg, however, indicated that Nissan-Renault may be a partner of Penske’s potential bid. If Penske acquired the brand, they would distribute Saturn vehicles and outsource the assembly.

GM revealed that the Saturn brand along with Saab and Hummer were up for sale when unveiling their restructuring plans to Congress for governmental loans. While the Pontiac brand was originally to be a niche brand, GM had changed their plans recently and decided to eliminate the brand.

Telesto Ventures is an investment group that includes private equity firm Black Oak Partners LLC of Oklahoma City and several Saturn dealerships. Initially, Telesto will purchase Saturn branded cars from GM then act as a general retailer for foreign brands. Telesto is in talks with several foreign manufacturers.

The Ohio group includes many former senior auto company managers plus private financial backers, chemists and engineers who live in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Florida. This group plans to initially purchase cars from GM then purchase existing but closed plants due to automaker restructuring. Additionally, one of the partners indicated a willingness to accept some “legacy” cost in relation to the United Auto Workers. The Ohio group is also pursuing possible loans or other support from national and state governments.

GM is reviewing several offers for Saturn. GM has contracted with S.J. Girsky & Co. to advise them on the sale.

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Web Video Propels Search Engine Rankings

By Ted Cantu

I first got the phone call a month or so ago. I was knee deep in web site marketing projects and was actually jammed to capacity. I was looking to finish up all of my small jobs so I could move forward and do some more challenging assignments. Plus I was in the middle of releasing some top notch online hybrid techniques that I was about to figure out on my own. This has become somewhat of a hobby of mine if not an obsession. This phone call was different from the ones that usually come into my office. As I learned more about my prospect on the other end of the phone I became somewhat intrigued.

WORKING ABROAD IN MY LIVING ROOM

The project that fell on my desk was for an online campaign for the Philippines. I have no idea about anything that pertains to Philippine culture but this didnt stop me from getting involved. I was fascinated with the challenge of getting involved with this amazing project. You see, this customer was none other than the famous David Newby, Best Selling Author to, Why Didnt Anyone Teach Me This?. Newby is well known for his financial strategies that he teaches here in the states and abroad. I was eager to get started and got so wound up in the conversation that I didnt clarify the details. You see, I thought we had over a month to get this thing launched properly. Pleasantries were exchanged and money changed hands and my new customer was zooming off in his candy apple red Lamborghini

..it turns out I was wrong. I had 4 days to pull off the impossible.

I had exactly under 4 working days to get my client, David Newby, listed and ranked highly on Google and Yahoo. That is not a whole lot of time. You see, we had decided not to bother putting up any pay per click campaigns up for our efforts. We didnt even want to put any sponsored links up. We were going to play a straight game of organic search engine rankings and do it very quickly. That meant that I had to get his pages at the top of Google without paying a dime.

Could it be done? Could we actually get our pages included into the Google directory index and have our pages rank at the very top? I knew that If I could actually get Newby in the top ten just once I had done my job. If I was able to get him listed just one time for every keyword set he had designed I would have been pleased. I had my work cut out for me. This meant that I had to get on the move. The more I sat around pondering the less time I had to make history happen.

BEYOND ORDINARY SEO, (SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION)

YouTube Preview Image

The one thing we did that catapulted our results into another stratosphere was digital video. This wasnt just your ordinary web video. We shot the video using a HD camera with high resolution and a green screen effect. Basically we used a simple chroma key effect and completely took out the background and made it all white. The effect was flawless but that is not what got us high rankings. We took that simple video and translated it for the search engines. The video search engines that is.

Only 10% of all web traffic comes from the search engines. That is actually pretty shocking when you consider the significance of it all. So where does the other 90% come from? The traffic comes from a variety of sources and these are:

1. Video Search Engines

2. Podcast Search Engines

3. Blog Search Engines

4. Social Networks

5. Publicity Sites

These are all in addition to the regular search engines. The magic of using all of these incredible elements is that they literally propel your rankings to the top not once, not twice but multiple times. In fact, we were able to get to the top ten 8 out of 10 times in just about every category we picked. That is substantial. We did some incredible things with our rankings. We definitely got the word out about our seminar and info related products.

Now here is the one thing you may have never expected. We were able to get these top rankings in just four hours. Thats right. Four hours.

It took a little pushing and prodding but we were able to get our message out there to the masses in just a few hours. Web video is definitely an attention getter. Not only were we able to get our messages into the niche categories but also into the top of Google. This was accomplished without so much as paying a dime to Google for pay-per-click or any sponsored listings. This is substantial.

Imagine being able to knock out the high cost of pay per click and still being able to dominate the top of the search engines. That is something that is worth celebrating about. I found myself looking for alternative ideas to PPC after my clients kept complaining about high rising costs to market online. This constant rise of client dissatisfaction pushed me into finding new ways to getting top rankings with moderate fees. In doing so I was able to get away from the expected ways of online popularity.

USING THE NEW TYPES OF SEARCH ENGINES

The best way to get good at this type of marketing is to try out new services and live by doing. It is one thing to think about it but taking action is the greatest short cut to great results. Not every industry responds the same way. When I created my first online radio show, (podcast) I noticed immediately that I was not a big hit in the Midwest. However my ratings picked up pretty heavy in California and New York City and ironically that is where all of my business is coming from.

When we were hitting 8 out of 10 of the top ten listings on Google we noticed these listings came from a variety of sources. Some of them were from video listings, some came from podcasting sites, some came from social networks and others came from blogs. But the kicker came in a few weeks. Since web 2.0 services like

YouTube.com

and Google Video automatically creates HTML code it makes life very convenient. This means that visitors can copy and paste into their own web pages or blogs. And that is exactly what happened. Our videos started to pop up on services that we didnt set up. Our clips started to pop up on video search engines that we never heard of. Someone had seen our clips and liked what they saw and posted them on other services. That means we got our material distributed for free.

This had a huge affect on our search engine rankings. This sent us to the very top on Google and Yahoo. I might also add that the other web site services jumped on board and put us up on high rank visibility as well. These other search engines often use the same technology. Ask Jeeves, Dogpile and many others borrow the same search engine technology to fuel their services.

The moral of the story? By using the new modern tools you can literally write your own ticket.

About the Author: Ted Cantu is an ex-Art Director and the owner of

1seomichigan.com

. He specializes in web site marketing, and direct response copywriting. Cantu creates search engine optimization campaigns, and sells his own Internet marketing courses.

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Gunman massacres at least 12 at New York immigration center

Friday, April 3, 2009

A gunman attacked a downtown Binghamton, New York-based immigration services center today, killing up to 13 people before killing himself.

New York Governor David Paterson at a news conference indicated that 12 or 13 people were killed at the American Civic Association. It is unclear whether or not the attacker was included in the number of the deceased.

An anonymous law enforcement official indicated the presumed gunman’s body was found in an office of the immigration services center building. The attacker blocked the rear building door with his car and entered through the front door. He then opened fire.

The gunman held over 40 hostages, some in a closet and the rest in the boiler room. Police and EMS started arriving at 10:30 A.M (EDT). SWAT sharpshooters and the Endicott police bomb squad were called to the scene. Nearby residencies and businesses were evacuated, while a nursing home and the high school were placed on lockdown. FBI hostage negotiators and evidence response team were being sent to the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were headed to Binghamton. About noon, the shooter released ten hostages, then another ten out the back 40 minutes later. At 2:40 p.m., the local police said the standoff had ended and a SWAT team was checking the building for anyone remaining.

In Johnson City, Wilson Medical Center staff are treating three to five gunshot wounds, while Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton is treating a single such case. Both hospitals called in additional staff and cancelled all elective surgeries.

A national law enforcement source identified the shooter as 42-year-old Jiverly Voong. The police asked Broome Community College Assistant Professor Tuong Hung Nguyen, a fluent Vietnamese speaker, to translate for discussions between police and Voong.

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SAHTECH, SEMI, and Semiconductor Industry to promote “SEMI Safety Guideline” in Taiwan

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

“Localization of ‘SEMI Safety Guideline'”, executed by Safety and Health Technology Center of Taiwan (SAHTECH) and supervised by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), was announced today in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

This localization included several fields on health and safety of semiconductor manufacturing, certification testing on electrical devices, evaluations on fire or natural diseases, and environmental issues on semiconductor manufacturing devices, etc.. Companies and manufacturers from the semiconductor industry also paid more attentions on this guideline because issues on carbon-savings, earthquakes, fire diseases, and environment-efficiencies were included into this guideline.

This [safety] guideline was originally promoted by SEMI since 1975 and was set up according to industry infrastructures in Europe, America, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Currently, its standards from the S1 to S25 was completely ruled by several world-class executives in semiconductor industry, and the S26 standard for FPD industry, proposed in Taiwan, was also in several arrangements with the other countries.
The semiconductor industry is a high-value industry in every country. If a fabrication plant (fab) was vandalized with fire or earthquake, how will a company decrease its lossless after a disease? As of some examples from the other countries, several companies didn’t pay more attentions on devices’ safety and finally got a damn trouble on counting lossless after a disease. By the way, voltages on electric using will take effect on energy especially the wasting of CO2. We [the semiconductor industry in Taiwan] hope this announcement will drive on global safety standards.
Generally, the designs of a fab will take effect on possibilities when a disease take place in, and its scale will chain much wasting on manufacturing devices and materials. For example, when using fluorine in a fab, a company would consider using a gas tank car rather than a steel bottle. But due to environment and carbon-saving issues, some evaluations should be tested in a fab.

On the other side of the incoming trade show of 2008 SecuTech Expo, scheduled after 2 weeks at Taipei World Trade Center, not only main fields on security devices, information security, and fire & disease preventions, the digital monitoring will be a hot topic in security industry. For applications on fire & disease preventions, because its issues contained industrial applications and ESH (Environmental, Safety & Health) managements, if a company want to decrease the ratio of fire disease or earthquake, companies from safety and related industries should pay more attentions on disease preventions.

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Toyota quits Formula One

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Akio Toyoda, the President and Representative Director of Toyota, made a statement on Wednesday that the company is leaving the Formula One championship before the 2010 season. The primary factor behind this decision was said to be the current economic environment in the midterm perspective.

Panasonic Toyota Racing did not manage to ever win a Formula One race, winning only 13 podium and 278.5 points since 2002. Toyota will still be present in a number of racing series, including Formula Nippon, Formula Three, Super GT and NASCAR.

Another major Japanese automotive giant, Honda, quit Formula One prior to this season and sold the team to Ross Brawn. The renewed team Brawn GP with Mercedes-Benz engined cars won the 2009 Constructors’ Championship recently.

Other Japanese companies Subaru and Suzuki withdrew from the World Rally Championship prior to this season and Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP.

The space cleared by Toyota may be now used by the BMW Sauber team’s possible successor if BMW can reach an agreement to sell the team after their decision to quit Formula One earlier this year. Toyota drivers of this season Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, as well as the Japanese rookie driver Kamui Kobayashi, could now look for seats in other teams for 2010 including the new entries US F1, Campos, Manor or Lotus.

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Brazil Once Again Raised The Financial Transaction Tax

By Himfr Ivy

Despite the promise not to intervene in currency markets in Australia, but as the global “currency war” has repeatedly upgraded, a further rise in foreign investment in Brazil yesterday to buy Brazilian debt in the financial transactions tax, to reduce hot money inflows and currency appreciation to curb. In two days, G20 finance ministers about the opening, the government intervention in currency markets and their impact will undoubtedly become a major issue.

Continued appreciation of real

The U.S., Japan and the euro zone a low interest rate policy, the pursuit of high returns, investors have the funds to invest in emerging market countries. At the same time, Brazil’s current benchmark interest rate as high as 10.75%, attracting a large number of foreign investors snapping high-yield bonds in Brazil, the Brazilian currency, the real has continued to rise.

Brazil’s Ministry of Finance announced late on 18 local time, will focus on foreign investors in Brazil’s financial transactions, fixed income tax rate from 4% to 6%, while foreign exchange rate derivatives trading from 0.38% to 6%, these measures come into effect from 19. In the October 4, Brazil Ministry of the above financial transactions tax by 2% to 4%.

Brazilian Finance Minister Mantega said the latest move is not intended to prevent long-term investment, but to discourage short-term speculation, thereby reducing the inflow of foreign capital over the scale and the real prices. If the foreign exchange market volatility, the Government may take more interventions. In addition, Mantega also called on States to stop the “currency war”, a common response to the weak dollar and to protect exports.

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Brazil’s government, apparently hoping to improve on the taxation of foreign capital arbitrage, short-term hot money against the interest of the Brazilian market to stabilize the real currency. However, Brazil’s former central bank governor Fraga believes that the long-term real appreciation for the ease pressure on financial transactions tax increase will not play a substantive role.

In the expected depreciation of the dollar, many emerging market currencies appreciated significantly, coupled with rising commodity prices caused by imported inflation, the economies of these countries more uncertainty. Brazil’s central bank released the latest weekly market survey, analysts and economists in the country this year, inflation expectations raised by the 5.15% 5.2% 5 weeks for the third consecutive increase, above the central bank expected 4.5%.

Mantega the absence of the G20

Brazil’s Treasury spokesman, said Mantega will not attend the G20 meeting of finance ministers held in Korea in order to remain in the country participated in the study of possible monetary policy to control the excessive real appreciation.

Some analysts said that Mantega choose to remain in the domestic problem of dealing with their own currencies, seemed to imply that the G20 meeting of finance ministers of their not hold any hope. Foreign media also reported that a South Korean central bank official said the exchange rate for the current disputes between countries, the upcoming summit of the Group of 20 countries will not reach any substantive agreement on this.

Geithner even behind the U.S.

In addition to Brazil, the Euro group president, Juncker of Luxembourg in the Euro Group meeting, also said that exchange rate volatility has a negative impact on a global scale, the European response to the exchange rate to make the appropriate response.

U.S. dollar falling against the recent, 18, U.S. Treasury secretary said the United States does not seek to stimulate exports through currency devaluation and the economy.

Accused of many emerging market countries to step up the Federal Reserve printing money causing the continuous depreciation of U.S. dollar and triggered a lot of money flock to these markets. In this regard, Geithner said, whether the United States or any other country, it is impossible to economic prosperity through currency devaluation and increased competitiveness. Some analysts said that the recent dollar continued to fall sharply, but U.S. authorities have refused to comment, Geithner’s speech finally broke the silence of the U.S. government attitude, which can be seen as the dollar began bottoming out signal.

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Two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana destroyed in Afghan school

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The combined efforts of agents from the Afghan Commandos and Coalition forces have led to the discovery and destruction of two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana in an abandoned school in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Friday.

Kandah?r province or Qandahar (??????,{??????) is one of the largest of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is located in southern Afghanistan, between Helamand, Oruzgan and Zabul provinces. Its capital is the city of Kandah?r, also spelled Qandah?r, (?????? or ??????), the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of 450,300 (2006 estimate). Kandahar City is located on the Arghandab River. The province has a population of nearly 890,000, with more than 300,000 living in its capital city. The main inhabitants of Kandahar province are the Pashtun people.

An improvised explosive device and an unexploded mortar round, both 100-meters away from the school, also were destroyed.Foot patrol by the combined forces yielded tips which led to the drug discovery. A Commando also discovered a large room filled with marijuana seeds. The marijuana was placed in two-foot-tall (0.6-meter) stacks that filled multiple 12ft-by-12ft rooms. Rust on the furniture suggests the Afghan schoolhouse may not have been used as such for a long period of time. No students or faculty were around at the time of the drug bust.

U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesperson, Col. Jerry O’Hara said that “using drugs to fund insurgent activity is bad enough; using a school as a drug warehouse is an attack on the future of all Afghanistan.”

Xinhua has reported that “according to a recent U.N. report, Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world’s opium as Taliban militants will benefit nearly 500 million U.S. dollars from opium trade in 2008.”

Meanwhile, coalition troops have killed four militants in Zabul Province. They also detained five suspects on Saturday. Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “the United States would send between 20,000 and 30,000 more forces to Afghanistan by summer.” “Those forces will primarily move into the country’s south, where the insurgency is the most entrenched,” he added.

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Senior citizen group seeks recovery of Medicare expenses from U.S. cigarette makers

Saturday, August 6, 2005

A U.S. lobbyist group, the United Seniors Association, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston to recover Medicare expenses related to tobacco smoking. The suit says there is a link between nicotine addiction and smoking-related diseases.

The first of its kind lawsuit seeks to recover as much as $60 billion in estimated Medicare expenses outlaid for treatment of lung cancer and emphysema patients.

The Medicare Secondary Payer Statute (MSP) allows someone to sue on behalf of Medicare. The medical expenses that another party was legally obligated to cover, in this case the tobacco companies if they are found liable in court, would be split between parties to the suit and Medicare. The MSP statute was entered in part because the government does not have the resources to prosecute every case under Medicare law.

Charles Jarvis, the CEO of the group said, “Our motivation is one of taxpayer protection.” He added, “Considering how badly the taxpayers have been injured financially, we believe the responsible parties — the tobacco companies — should be reimbursing the taxpayer to the greatest amount possible under the law.”

Currently, U.S. employees are taxed by Medicare at 1.45% of their earnings. This payroll tax amount is matched by their employer when paid to the IRS.

The lawsuit names Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco, the Liggett Group, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and two of its subsidiaries as defendants. The United Seniors Association is asking for twice the amount paid by Medicare to treat smoking related illnesses since 1999.

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