April 9, 2005

A rise in flesh-eating staph infections has worried doctors about the possible spread of drug resistant bacteria.

Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, is a bacteria that commonly causes skin infections in otherwise healthy people. However, as a persistent threat in hospitals, it tends to infect patients who are already sick and whose systems are vulnerable due to IV lines that pierce the skin. Doctors have already battled for years against drug-resistant strains of the bacteria, but the struggle has generally been confined to hospitals.

Now, however, Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA) has been spreading in communities outside hospitals. Cases have multiplied by 25 times since 1998 at the University of Chicago. A Los Angeles hospital documented 14 cases of the flesh-eating infection, where patients required substantial time in intensive care and surgery. The infections are particularly problematic because nearly a quarter of people who get a staph infection require hospitalization.

Staph infections are spread much like other diseases, with crowded conditions, poor hygiene, and skin-to-skin contact most frequently to blame. At higher risk are prison inmates, homeless people, military personnel, and families with kids in day care. Athletes also have a higher risk, because sweating makes it easier for bacteria to infect the skin.



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Torture proliferates American headlines today: whether its use is defensible in certain contexts and the morality of the practice. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone was curious about torture in American popular culture. This is the first of a two part series examining the BDSM business. This interview focuses on the owners of a dungeon, what they charge, what the clients are like and how they handle their needs.

When Shankbone rings the bell of “HC & Co.” he has no idea what to expect. A BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism) dungeon is a legal enterprise in New York City, and there are more than a few businesses that cater to a clientèle that wants an enema, a spanking, to be dressed like a baby or to wear women’s clothing. Shankbone went to find out what these businesses are like, who runs them, who works at them, and who frequents them. He spent three hours one night in what is considered one of the more upscale establishments in Manhattan, Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber, where according to The Village Voice, “you can take your girlfriend or wife, and have them treated with respect—unless they hope to be treated with something other than respect!”

When Shankbone arrived on the sixth floor of a midtown office building, the elevator opened up to a hallway where a smiling Rebecca greeted him. She is a beautiful forty-ish Long Island mother of three who is dressed in smart black pants and a black turtleneck that reaches up to her blond-streaked hair pulled back in a bushy ponytail. “Are you David Shankbone? We’re so excited to meet you!” she says, and leads him down the hall to a living room area with a sofa, a television playing an action-thriller, an open supply cabinet stocked with enema kits, and her husband Bill sitting at the computer trying to find where the re-release of Blade Runner is playing at the local theater. “I don’t like that movie,” says Rebecca.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came at the end of the night when Shankbone was waiting to be escorted out (to avoid running into a client). Rebecca came into the room and sat on the sofa. “You know, a lot of people out there would like to see me burn for what I do,” she says. Rebecca is a woman who has faced challenges in her life, and dealt with them the best she could given her circumstances. She sees herself as providing a service to people who have needs, no matter how debauched the outside world deems them. They sat talking mutual challenges they have faced and politics (she’s supporting Hillary); Rebecca reflected upon the irony that many of the people who supported the torture at Abu Ghraib would want her closed down. It was in this conversation that Shankbone saw that humanity can be found anywhere, including in places that appear on the surface to cater to the inhumanity some people in our society feel towards themselves, or others.

“The best way to describe it,” says Bill, “is if you had a kink, and you had a wife and you had two kids, and every time you had sex with your wife it just didn’t hit the nail on the head. What would you do about it? How would you handle it? You might go through life feeling unfulfilled. Or you might say, ‘No, my kink is I really need to dress in women’s clothing.’ We’re that outlet. We’re not the evil devil out here, plucking people off the street, keeping them chained up for days on end.”

Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Bill & Rebecca, owners of Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber, a BDSM dungeon.

Contents

  • 1 Meet Bill & Rebecca, owners of a BDSM dungeon
    • 1.1 Their home life
  • 2 Operating the business
    • 2.1 The costs
    • 2.2 Hiring employees
    • 2.3 The prices
  • 3 The clients
    • 3.1 What happens when a client walks through the door
    • 3.2 Motivations of the clients
    • 3.3 Typical requests
    • 3.4 What is not typical
  • 4 The environment
    • 4.1 Is an S&M dungeon dangerous?
    • 4.2 On S&M burnout
  • 5 Criticism of BDSM
  • 6 Related news
  • 7 External links
  • 8 Sources


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mosul – With a Friday dump truck car bombing that left a massive crater and many dead, Iraqi insurgents frontally assaulted U.S. troops in Mosul, Iraq. Initial reports showed 25 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier dead. (As of this writing, additional information on the bombing was expected.)



Saturday, August 25, 2007

The leading supplier of school uniforms in the United Kingdom, Lancashire-based manufacturer Trutex, has announced it is “seriously considering” including GPS tracking devices in future ranges of its uniform products after conducting an online survey of both parents and children.

“As a direct result of the survey, we are now seriously considering incorporating a [tracking] device into future ranges” said Trutex marketing director Clare Rix.

The survey questioned 809 parents and 444 children aged nine to 16. It showed that 44% of parents were worried about the safety of pre-teen children, and 59% wanted tracking devices installed in school apparel. 39% of children aged nine to 12 were prepared to wear clothing with tracking devices in them, while teenagers were notably less enthusiastic and more wary of what Trutex has admitted they see as a “big brother” concept.

However, Trutex has claimed the tracking devices would bring about worthwhile benefits, including being a valuable resource for parents who wanted to keep a close eye on where their children were at all times.

“As well as being a safety net for parents, there could be real benefits for schools who could keep a closer track on the whereabouts of their pupils, potentially reducing truancy levels” says Rix.

Each year, Trutex supplies 1 million blouses, 1.1 million shirts, 250,000 pairs of trousers, 20,000 blazers, 60,000 skirts and 110,000 pieces of knitwear to the UK.

It is not the first company to manufacture school uniforms with a central focus on child safety; last week Essex firm BladeRunner revealed it was selling stab-proof school blazers to parents concerned about violence against their children. The blazers were outfitted with Kevlar, a synthetic fibre used in body armour. It has already received orders internationally, including Australia.

If the Trutex tracking devices go ahead, it is unclear where in the uniform they will be located.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Federal Reserve took over American International Group (AIG) on Tuesday in an US$85 billion loan, in exchange for a 79.9% stake in the company.

A press release issued Tuesday stated that “the Board determined that, in current circumstances, a disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth, and materially weaker economic performance.”

The deal allows AIG to draw up to US$85 billion in loans over the next 24 months to shore up the orderly sale of various divisions of the company without further interruption to the economy. In exchange, the Federal Reserve will have a 79.9% equity stake, primarily in the form of equity participation notes. The loan carries an interest rate of LIBOR plus 850 points. Should AIG fail, the loan is covered completely by company assets. Should AIG recover however, taxpayers could potentially recover large profits.

This news comes on the heels of the Federal Reserve refusing to bail out Lehman Brothers, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy on Monday after Bank of America(BoA) and Barclays PLC pulled out of negotiations over the weekend. The fact that AIG has thousands of divisions engaged in business across the globe sets them apart from the recent problems with other banks. AIG was built up over the last several years via the buyouts and mergers of many companies around the world, offering AIG’s stockholders a diverse base of income which allowed it to steadily increase profits.

It is this interconnectedness that had the Federal Reserve worried. Should AIG collapse, it could set off a global chain reaction in multiple markets. In an interview with the New York Times, former Treasury official Roger Altman said, “It’s the interconnectedness and the fear of the unknown. The prospect of the world’s largest insurer failing, together with the interconnectedness and the uncertainty about the collateral damage — that’s why it’s scaring people so much.”

While AIG, like many other banks, found itself embroiled in the middle of the sub-mortgage lending crisis, AIG has also been struggling to deal with controversies in other complex financial instruments such as credit default swaps. These markets have been exploding for several years, but due to lack of regulation by the government, recent reversals have seen AIG’s stock value tumble by over 90 percent in the last year.



Saturday, October 14, 2006

Professors at the Energy Science Centre, attached to the Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in Zurich, have presented their contribution of a car quite similar to Loremo able to travel 100 kilometres (around 62 miles) on a tank with just 1 litre (around 1 quart), equalling to about 235 miles per gallon. They presented their contribution during Swiss Energy Week.

The automobile, which has and will be manufactured by the Swiss company Horlacher, is 75% lighter than an average family car and guzzles a tenth of the fuel thanks to vastly improved aerodynamics.

One drawback to this car is that it has none of the modern safety features found in many cars to-day. But the FIT team is designing technology that lets cars communicate with each other to avoid collisions, using similar computer systems to those in aircraft.

“This car does compromise on style, speed and comfort, but you can’t have a free lunch,” says Lino Guzzella, one of the centre’s members

Business as usual is no longer an option. If we are to survive in the future, we will have to drastically reduce carbon emissions.” Guzzella continued.

There are approximately 800 million cars on this planet and in Switzerland there are 500 cars per 1,000 people, compared with 800 in the United States and less than 50 per 1,000 in India and China.

Swiss drivers also favour more powerful, polluting vehicles than the rest of western Europe. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the main lobbying group of the automobile industry in the European Union, the average car in Switzerland has a 2 litre engine compared with 1.6 litres in neighbouring countries.

“The Swiss think they are better at cutting harmful emissions than anyone else, but they are not,” says researcher Peter de Haan van der Weg.

He believes Switzerland should introduce incentives to make people buy cleaner cars. Some countries already have such schemes: the US awards tax breaks worth up to $3,000 and the Netherlands offers €6,000 to green car owners. The Swiss authorities are currently thinking about two similar options presented by the city of Bern and the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

“Individuals are not capable of understanding the big picture because it is difficult for people to look 50 years into the future,” Mr. De Haan van der Weg said.

“Therefore it is necessary to have government regulations to force changes that will benefit the environment.”



Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Shortages of beef in Japan prompted consumers to submit a petition with about 1.19 million signatures to Japan’s Agriculture Minister Yoshinobu Shimamura on Tuesday. The petition was presented by a group led by Takashi Sakamoto, president of a chain of used book outlets.

Japan has banned imports of U.S. beef for 15 months, citing concerns about mad cow disease after authorities discovered a cow with the disease in the United States.

Japanese health and agriculture ministers said they would ask their country’s food safety commission to approve lifting the ban.

“We will ask the commission to decide if resuming U.S. beef imports is safe based on safety measures taken in the U.S.,” said health minister Makoto Kanie.

Analyst Kazuhiko Saito says this may cause a delay “until later this year”, telling Bloomberg, “The Commission has been very slow on reviewing domestic mad cow tests and will also be slow to review the U.S. beef import plans.”

U.S. lawmakers and diplomats have pressed Japan to re-open their market, and some Washington lawmakers have even threatened Japan with sanctions should beef imports not resume soon. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought up the matter earlier this month during her visit to Japan.

So far, the Japan Food Safety Commission has only taken the step of loosening inspection rules, such that mad cow testing is not required for all imported live cattle.

Japan has dealt with 14 cases of mad cow disease of their own.



Friday, April 3, 2009

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler will receive bridge loans from the government of Canada and the provincial government of Ontario, however no more will be forthcoming from either Canadian or US governments unless the companies can reinvent themselves.

“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy. We are doing this on the assumption that we obviously cannot afford either in the United States or Canada a catastrophic short-term collapse.” said Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

“We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success,” said Barack Obama, President of the United States. “These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.”

Chrysler will receive CA$1 billion and may in fact be eligible for as much as CA$4 billion. If Chrysler succeeds in the next 30 days with a restructuring plan it would be eligible for a US$6 billion loan. A part of Chrysler’s restructuring plan must include a partnership with Fiat within 30 days to appease the US administration. Fiat is a supplier of smaller fuel-efficient vehicles, and the merger will help Chrysler to be viable in the North American market. A Chrysler court bankruptcy would inevitably lead to it being sold off.

As a part of Chrysler’s restructuring plans, Tom LaSorda, the president of Chrysler announced that Canadian operations would fold if it does not receive both the US commitment of $2.3 billion of aid and a new Canadian Auto Workers CAW contract to reduce all-in costs by CA$19 per hour. As a result of this announcement Chrysler’s auto sales volume in Canada dropped 23% compared to March of 2008.

GM has until the end of May to restructure its company to receive up to CA$7.5 billion. As part of the companies restructuring, General Motor’s chief executive Rick Wagoner was replaced Sunday with Fritz Henderson, the current chief operating officer. Henderson spoke out on Tuesday that GM has submitted a restructuring plan which would close five plants, and this may be increased to meet the requirements for financial aid. He is in full compliance with Obama’s auto task force to seek bankruptcy if GM cannot negotiate with their unions, bondholders and others.

GM recently brought forward the “GM Total Confidence” program providing consumer purchase protection for customers who lose their job for economic reasons within the first two years from purchase. As a result of Chrysler’s restructuring announcement in Canada, GM’s Canadian vehicle sales volume fell only 17.3% compared to 2008, an increase from the previous month.

GM must reduce some of its legacy costs which include its pensions and union health care costs. A part of GM’s ailments arose from investing in supplying truck and SUVs during an economy of high gas prices when consumers were demanding fuel efficient vehicles.

Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Industry, is hoping that the CAW will support the restructuring process and re-negotiate their agreement. Whereas a United Auto Workers negotiator has said, “I don’t see how the UAW will do anything until they see what the bondholders will give up.”

The Obama administration is looking toward bankruptcy proceedings for the automakers, “as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. [It will] quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down. What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognise that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts.” said Obama.

The auto parts suppliers and IT software exporters in India have already been affected by the declining auto sales. GM and Chrysler software contracts provide US$300 to 350 million a year to vendors in India. As well these two major automakers usually award US$1 billion contracts to auto parts suppliers. “We are worried and closely watching the developments in the US to gauge the impact. The decline in auto sales in the US has already hit the order books of Indian suppliers,” said a Delhi auto parts supplier.

“Going forward, the industry will undoubtedly be smaller, but if our efforts are successful it will be viable and it will support good jobs for Canadians,” said Clements.

Betty Sutton, Ohio’s Congresswoman put forward the CARS act which provides a US$3,000 to 5,000 incentive for those who trade in their vehicle for a fuel-efficient car. “It clearly stimulates the economy, and it gets the consumer into the showroom and gets them buying again. But importantly — and this is what I particularly like about it — it really helps the environment quite a bit in two respects.” said William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company has not come forward with requests for assistance.

Since December GM and Chrysler have received US$17.4 billion government loans.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

I don’t know when I’ve ever been madder. I’m outraged about this.

United States officials have unveiled new plans which require air traffic controllers to have longer rest periods between shifts after a spate of controllers fell asleep while on duty at airports across the country. Announcing the plans, transport secretary Ray LaHood said he was “outraged” by the incidents.

The new plans, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. government agency responsible for aviation, said would be implemented immediately, come after another controller was suspended this week when they fell asleep while directing aircraft near Miami. The incident was the sixth this year; controllers have fallen asleep in Nevada, Washington D.C., and Tennessee. In one incident, two commercial passenger jets landed without any direction from the control tower because the controller on duty had fallen asleep.

LaHood said controllers would be required to have a minimum of nine hours rest between shifts, an increase of an hour, and more supervisors would be required during night shifts, and they will be restricted in what shifts they can swap with colleagues. “I don’t know when I’ve ever been madder,” LaHood said in a television interview on Fox News Sunday. “We’re not going to stand by and let that happen.”

“We’ve taken steps, as of this morning, to begin changing schedules for controllers, to change schedules for managers, and to make sure that controllers cannot switch in and out of their schedules in order for the convenience of them if they are not well-rested,” LaHood said. He vowed that he would ensure any controllers falling asleep on duty would face consequences. “On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps,” he said. “We’re not going to allow that.”

Earlier this week, Hank Krakowski, the head of air traffic organization at the FAA, resigned from his position after LaHood said the crisis in U.S. control towers was “unacceptable”, and vowed to resolve the issue. “I am totally outraged by these incidents,” LaHood said. “This is absolutely unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system.”

The results of a study on how fatigue affects controllers will soon be published and the FAA may make changes. But LaHood insisted controllers had to “take personal responsibility” for the safety of aircraft over the U.S., and they should not make irresponsible shift changes which will make them tired and put passengers at risk. He said all the controllers involved in the incidents had been suspended, and could ultimately be sacked. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a labor union representing controllers in the U.S., said the FAA had their “full support” in implementing the new steps to tackle fatigue.



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Toronto pop culture convention Fan Expo Canada has wrapped for another year. It ran from Thursday to Sunday. Major panels included Tim Curry and the cast of Rocky Horror Picture Show, Beauty and the Beast voices Robby Benson and Paige O’Hara, actors Kathleen Turner, Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Daniels, Felicia Day, and child leads from Stranger Things. Canadian television channel Space hosted a Star Trek: Discovery panel with seven lead cast members. On the heels of sister event Toronto Comic Con’s Degrassi reunion event, the lineup included a twentieth anniversary panel with the stars of another Canadian high school television series, Student Bodies.

Heading into its fourth and final season, attendees got a chance to see the season opener of Star Wars: Rebels on Saturday, followed by a panel. The event has had a continuing relationship with the series, screening other episodes previously. The second season premiere of the sci-fi series Travelers was accompanied by a panel including Eric McCormack. Canadian true-crime drama Bad Blood had its world premiere. Other debuts included broadcaster City with the Canadian premiere of Ghosted, with Craig Robinson in attendance, Teletoon with the Canadian premiere of Hotel Transylvania: The Series, and YTV with the new animated series Mysticons.

Anime fans could watch episodes of their favourite shows, including AKB0048, Otaku No Video, Hana Yamata, My Hero Academia, Fairy Tail, and Penguindrum.

The book Star Wars Made Easy, targeted to non-fans to get up to speed on the fictional universe’s various facts and figures, was ironically launched by DK Canada for a room of fans of the franchise. Author Christian Blauvelt answered questions from the audience on topics like his opinion on Midiclorians — he understands fan contention, but suggested that science and religion can co-exist, like in the real world — quizzed the audience on trivia, and signed copies of his book.

Some panels were quite ahead of the curve: one on Star Wars costume and prop building discussed building Porgs figures, despite the film The Last Jedi not being released to theatres yet.

York Regional Police were at the event with United and Unity, two brightly lit characters of their own creation. The force received funding in 2014 from the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy to create a short film featuring the character United, receiving positive recognition locally. “Our United superhero program is part of our on-going efforts to connect with our community and show police in a different light,” YRP Constable Andy Pattenden told Wikinews. He explains that the officers who developed the project have a background in film-making, and “serve as an opportunity for us to start a conversation with youth and connect with them at a non-traditional level.”

Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt, a puppet in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, was re-created by the 501st Legion as an animatronic. The 501st is a fan group that dresses like the series villains for charitable events, particularly those raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The new addition to their annual display commanded long lineups throughout the day, from con-goers looking to donate in exchange for a photo-op with the massive, slug-like alien.

As with most major conventions, cosplayers were numerous, ranging from simple outfits that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if worn from day-to-day, to elaborately-created costumes and giant props. Outfits recognized by Wikinews’ reporter ranged from classic characters like the 1960s version of Batgirl and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney in 1927, before Mickey, to 2010s characters from creative works like Undertale, Disney Descendants, League of Legends, and Adventure Time. Few characters are too obscure, if they appeal to a fan: the female avatar of “hivemind” character Unity, from a single episode of Rick and Morty, was spotted. One woman “biting” another woman’s arm would be cause for concern most places, but at a pop culture convention, it simply means that “Lilo” is re-enacting a scene with “Mertle”, as seen in the film Lilo and Stitch.

Wikinews talked with Cheryl, the co-host of the weekly video series “Our Didnee Side”, who was dressed as Gadget Hackwrench, a mouse from the 1990s television series Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Speaking for both of the hosts, she said their passion for Disney has “exploded” since starting the YouTube channel, and that they are both “creators. We can’t seem to go a day without making something. We love doing Disney cosplay because it is like a beacon for other people in the fandom to come find us in a sea of other characters.” Conventions like Fan Expo Canada become “a great opportunity to meet like-minded Disney fans, and to possibly escape for the weekend from our ‘boring human’ lives.”

Adrianna Prosser, host of Toronto geek culture community website Geektropolis, spent part of the convention Fan Expo Canada 2017 as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. She told Wikinews that “geeking in Toronto is always such a joy, what with amazing cosplay and passionate fandoms coming together at Fan Expo!” She explained that the site tries to keep the feeling of the event going all year, featuring local creators and “geeky” fans, in an effort to bring the community closer together.

Party game Cards Against Humanity — intriguingly available under a non-commercial Creative Commons license — offered a “Free Apologies from An American” booth, where a representative offered regrets to the largely Canadian visitors. The booth’s curtains came into use at least once on Friday, closing when a Trump cosplayer reached the front of the line.



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