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Loyal V.A. Employee Earns Termination May 8, 2007

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Life in the United States waxes increasingly strange, as Matthew B. Stannard reports today on the story of Chris Fredking, a technician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center who has, by all accounts, been an exemplary government employee for the past 16 years. Freking is about to be fired for “shirking his duty to the military.”

When Freking, now 39, arrived in the U.S. he failed to register with the Selective Service System. He claims he never knew he had to register, and never sought to conceal his failure to register. The V.A. failed to check his draft status, and did not notice the oversight until 1994, when it sent Freking a form to certify his registration. Good soldier that he was, Freking acknowledged that he failed to register. It would have been easy to fire him on the spot, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the technician, well-loved by vets and administrators alike, rose through the ranks.

The VA acknowledges responsibility in the affair, and VA officials as well as his Congressman, George Miller, have tried to intervene. But Kerry McTigue, the lawyer for the Office of Personnel Mangement, says the law is clear.


All eligible males are presumed to be aware of their registration requirements. And eligible males who fail in that responsibility are presumed to have done so knowingly and willingly unless they can prove otherwise.

Source: sfgate.com

The burden of proof of innocence falls on the individual, not on the state:


“We’re going to put the burden of proof, so to speak, on the person who hasn’t registered that they’re not a draft dodger,” he said. “Because it’s more difficult for the government to prove the other side.”

Source: sfgate.com

V.A. officials estimate that the cost of replacing Freking will be in the region of $100,000.

Isn’t that an expensive way to get rid of a person who, by all accounts, is a true patriot?

What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty”? Of course it is more convenient to place the burden of proof on the person who is accused of malfeasance or of a crime. That is precisely why the historical tradition of the presumption of innocence exists. This decision represents bureaucratic thinking in a rigid form that defies evidence, financial responsibility, and a tradition of judicial reasoning that is both precious and endangered.

Tags: Government | failed | Draft | DODGER | San Francisco | agency | veterans | VA | Opinions | Freking | Christopher | registe | Rules | says | valued | Worker | YEARS

Internet Radio Campaign: Inside Strategy May 7, 2007

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The Copyright Protection Board recently handed down a royalties ruling that was initially due to come into effect on May 15, 2007. Had it done so, many Internet radio broadcasters would have gone silent because the ruling calls for a whopping 300% increase in royalties and fees, a jump that would put many out of business. The CRPB has since extended the deadline to July 15th, hardly enough time for the bipartisan counter legislation (H.R. 2060) to get out of the two committees it has now been referred to and up for a floor vote.

So was the legislation (H.R. 2060), proposed by Washington Democrat Jay Inslee and Illinois Republican Don Manzullo mere showboating?

No, according to one Inslee D.C. staffer interviewed by this correspondent. The July deadline will indeed arrive before the counterlegislation sees the light of day. What the Inslee camp expects to happen is that one group or another will file a suit to stop the CRPB judicial action. The equity issues will either be resolved in court or enough time will pass that the legislation, now the beneficiary of an upsurge of popular support.

So watch for the lawsuit, and get ready for a long campaign on behalf of Internet radio.

Tags: Radio | Censorship | Technology

Threatened Internet Radio Granted Reprieve May 3, 2007

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Internet radio broadcasters woke up yesterday morning thinking that it would be a matter of days before financial Armageddon. On May 15th, earlier rulings of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) were to go into effect, raising fees and royalties by a whopping 300%, sufficient to bury many internet broacasters and to make PBS worry.

Internet radio broadcasters caught a break in their struggle against higher music royalties as a deadline for paying fees under the new system was postponed by two months, to July 15th.

Source: chron.com

Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee (D- Wash) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill) introduced the Internet Radio Equality Act (H.R.2060), which attempts to provide royalty parity for Internet Radio Providers by invalidating the CPB’s decision and applying the same royalty rates to commercial internet radio, satellite radio, cable radio, and jukeboxes.

Tags: Struggle | something | postponed | PAYING | months | New York | Higher | Fees | decision | DEADLINE | BROADCASTERS | webcasters | Technology | royalty | july | internet | gets | federal | according

Nine Chinese Workers Die: Role in Africa Criticized April 24, 2007

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China is a resource hungry economy with interests all over Africa, and stories like this one are bound to become more common as the Chinese post nationals to out of the way but highly contested spots in the world.

Nine Chinese oil workers and 65 Ethiopians were killed in the incident early on Tuesday, Chinese and Ethiopian officials said.

The attack took place at an oil field in Abole, a small town about 120km from the state capital, Jijiga.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

The workers were there on behalf of the Zhongyan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, in turn part of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the massacre.

Chinese-African trade has grown by an astonishing amount since around 2000, although China has maintained a presence in parts of Africa dating from the time of Mao. Last year, trade increased an astonishing 35% over the year before. The Chinese President recently completed an African tour that one BBC story calls the “diplomatic equivalent of speed dating.”

China has been at the forefront of debt forgiveness and is making inroads on a number of other humanitarian ventures in an effort to convince skeptics that there is more to the Chinese presence than simple economic advantage. Projects include anti-malarials, new schools in Tanzania, tourist industry aid in Uganda, and railway construction in Angola. As wide as the aid net is, critics feel that the efforts so far are a thin cover for economic exploitation and resource extraction. The focus appears to be on oil and other materials for China’s exploding energy requirements:

n the past fifteen years, China’s foreign investment in Africa has risen to $850m, while since 1995 China’s share of total African exports has risen from just 1% to nearly 10%.

“China’s policy is driven by the search for energy security and secure energy assets,” Dr Martyn Davies, head of the School of Chinese Studies at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, told the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

“The concentration is on Nigeria, Angola and Sudan. Most of Angola’s exports, particularly oil, go to China and Sudan is also moving in this direction.”

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

Tags: China | Chinese | ethiopia | ethiopian | petroleum | Politics | tuesday | agency | attack | Gunmen | incident | KILLED | news | officials | workers | leaves;Oil;Foreign Affairs;foreign affairs;

“Green Nobel” to Zambian April 23, 2007

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The Goldman Environmental Prize was awarded this year to a Zambian whose lifework is protection of elephant populations from poachers. Through an innovative program combining health care, loans, and showing the population that they can profit by keeping elephants alive, Hammerskjoeld Simwinga helps to curb an epidemic of poaching.

The programs have been particularly empowering for women:

“We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion,” he told Reuters news agency.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

The Goldman Prize is the richest environmental award in the world and pays $125,000.

Tags: WINS | widespread | setting | projects | prestigious | poached | helped | elephant | curb | Community | Zambian | Prize | Politics | nobel | GOLDMAN | Foreign Affairs

Mogadishu Turns Toward Chaos April 23, 2007

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Ethiopia invaded Somalia last December  to rid the land of the Islamic Courts Union, a group accused of harboring al-Qaeda  The Ethiopians thought they would be out in two weeks, replaced by an African Union peacekeeping force.

None of that has happened. Five months later, the Islamic Courts Union movement has morphed into a larger coalition of Union members and disaffected nationalsts, distrustful of Ethiopia and vowing to fight its purportedly imperial ambitions in Somalia. Mogadishu is a scene of chaos.

[q url=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6583095.stm”%5DMany bodies are lying around Mogadishu and hundreds of people are fleeing towards the Kenyan border, says the BBC Swahili reporter Khadra Mohammed said.

Some have serious injuries and need urgent medical attention, she says.

Only people with money are able to move out of the capital on public transport vans, most of the dead are poor people, our correspondent says.

War punishes the poor, as always.

Tags: ethiopian | Islamists | Kenyan | Mogadishu | Mohammed | Politics | shelling | Somalia | somalis | SWAHILI | BODIES | border | fleeing | hundreds | INSURGENT | lying | reporter | says | stronghold | traps | Khadra

Zimbabwe Protestors Stripped, Jailed April 23, 2007

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Robert Mugabe has appeared to survive, once again, a number of prophecies predicting his certain demise. But protests in the country are spreading, with the churches now aligned against the government. The police are responding with increasingly questionable tactics.

Women arrested at a protest organized by a pro-democracy group were stripped of their clothes and jailed naked for hours, the group said Sunday, accusing police of violating Zimbabwe’s traditional moral values.

Source: forbes.com

82 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested for holding an “illegal political rally” in the second largest city, Bulawayo. Of those:

18 were stripped and jailed “the whole day in a state of undress

Source: forbes.com

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Bloggers : Pope Fallible April 19, 2007

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Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, sold more than 50.000 copies on its first day. Published in a new edition on the pontiff’s 80th birthday, the book is the Pope’s personal view of the life of Jesus and as such does not represent Church doctrine. With  tongue slightly deviated toward cheek, bloggers are taking the Pontiff on, claiming that his own words show him fallible.

“The Pope is not infallible – there’s a little mistake in his last book,” Italian journalist Sandro Magister said in his blog Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven).

Source: books.guardian.co.uk

The Pope says “everyone is free to contradict me”.

The Pope Blog 

Tags: Theologian | Shows | publisher | printing | PONTIFF | infallible | edition | criticise | copies | Rizzoli | Pope | Politics | Jesus | ITALIAN | BENEDICT

Zambia Benefits from Zim’s Woes April 16, 2007

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While South Africa absorbs thousands of penniless fleeing refugees from Zimbabwe, its northern neighbor, Zambia, is reaping some unexpected economic benefits. Until quite recently considered a basket case in its own right, fiscal and policy reforms have made Zambia look like a comparative economic safe haven.

Despite the disruption to trade, Zambia has seen significant benefits from Zimbabwe’s troubles, Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande said at a briefing during this weekend’s meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Source: iht.com

Zimbabwe has the world’s highest inflation rate and has recently come under scrutiny from human rights groups for continued violent repression of the political opposition. The primary boon to Zambia has been in the form of fleeing white farmers, who have been subjected to draconian land reform measures that have left Zimbabwe suffering from severe food shortages. The agricultural sector in a more stable Zambia has been able to capitalize on the skills brought to the country by exiled Zimbabweans.

Tags: Africa | Monetary | Politics | Victoria | Washington | zambia | Zambian | Zimbabwe | benefits | briefing | disruption | economy | finance | meetings | Minister | official | says | seen | troubles | Unrest | weekend | Magande | Ng’andu

Canada Joins Wildlife Coalition April 14, 2007

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The U.S. State Department reports that Canada is the newest nation to join an international effort to prevent trafficking in illegally trapped or sold wildlife. The broad based intent of the coalition is to establish worldwide standards and sanctions to define and limit the trade in live beings.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science Claudia McMurray and Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird, during an event at Washington’s National Zoo, said Canada is joining the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a U.S. initiative launched in September 2005. CAWT, whose members include the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Australia and 14 conservation and industry organizations, seeks to focus attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

Source: allafrica.com

Relevant Link: CAWT

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