Wikinews interviews Australian Paralympic skiers Jessica Gallagher and Eric Bickerton

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Wikinews interviews Australian Paralympic skiers Jessica Gallagher and Eric Bickerton

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sunday, Wikinews sat down with Australian blind Paralympic skier Jessica Gallagher and her guide Eric Bickerton who are participating in a national team training camp in Vail, Colorado.

((Wikinews)) This is Jessica Gallagher. She’s competing at the IPC NorAm cup this coming week.

Jessica Gallagher: I’m not competing at Copper Mountain.

((WN)) You’re not competing?

Jessica Gallagher: No.

((WN)) You’re just here?

Jessica Gallagher: We’re in training. I’ve got a race at Winner Park, but we aren’t racing at Copper.

((WN)) So. Your guide is Eric Bickerton, and he did win a medal in women’s downhill blind skiing.

Jessica Gallagher: Yes!

((WN)) Despite the fact that he is neither a woman nor blind.

Jessica Gallagher: No, he loves telling people that he was the first Australian female Paralympic woman to win a medal. One of the ironies.

((WN)) The IPC’s website doesn’t list guides on their medal things. Are they doing that because they don’t want — you realise this is not all about you per se — Is it because they are trying to keep off the able bodied people to make the Paralympics seem more pure for people with disabilities?

Jessica Gallagher: Look, I don’t know but I completely disagree if they don’t have the guides up there. Because it’s pretty plain and simple: I wouldn’t be skiing if it wasn’t with him. Being legally blind you do have limitations and that’s just reality. We’re certainly able to overcome most of them. And when it comes to skiing on a mountain the reason I’m able to overcome having 8 per cent vision is that I have a guide. So I think it’s pretty poor if they don’t have the information up there because he does as much work as I do. He’s an athlete as much as I am. If he crashes we’re both out. He’s drug tested. He’s as important as I am on a race course. So I would strongly hope that they would put it up there. Here’s Eric!
Eric Bickerton: Pleased to met you.

((WN)) We’ve been having a great debate about whether or not you’ve won a medal in women’s blind downhill skiing.

Eric Bickerton: Yes, I won it. I’ve got it.

((WN)) I found a picture of you on the ABC web site. Both of you were there, holding your medals up. The IPC’s web site doesn’t credit you.

Jessica Gallagher: I’m surprised by that.
Eric Bickerton: That’s unusual, yeah.

((WN)) One of the things that was mentioned earlier, most delightful about you guys is you were racing and “we were halfway down the course and we lost communication!” How does a blind skier deal with…

Jessica Gallagher: Funny now. Was bloody scary.

((WN)) What race was that?

Jessica Gallagher: It was the Giant Slalom in Vancouver at the Paralympics. Actually, we were talking about this before. It’s one of the unique aspects of wearing headsets and being able to communicate. All the time while we were on the mountain earlier today, Eric had a stack and all he could hear as he was tumbling down was me laughing.
Eric Bickerton: Yes… I wasn’t feeling the love.
Jessica Gallagher: But um… what was the question please?

((WN)) I couldn’t imagine anything scarier than charging down the mountain at high speed and losing that communications link.

Jessica Gallagher: The difficulty was in the Giant Slalom, it was raining, and being used to ski racing, I had never experienced skiing in the rain, and as soon as I came out of the start hut I lost all my sight, which is something that I had never experienced before. Only having 8 per cent you treasure it and to lose all of it was a huge shock. And then when I couldn’t hear Eric talking I realised that our headsets had malfunctioned because they’d actually got rain into them. Which normally wouldn’t happen in the mountains because it would be snow. So it was the scariest moment of my life. Going down it was about getting to the bottom in one piece, not racing to win a medal, which was pretty difficult I guess or frustrating, given that it was the Paralympics.

((WN)) I asked the standing guys upstairs: who is the craziest amongst all you skiers: the ones who can’t see, the ones on the mono skis, or the one-legged or no-armed guys. Who is the craziest one on the slopes?

Jessica Gallagher: I think the completely blind. If I was completely blind I wouldn’t ski. Some of the sit skiers are pretty crazy as well.

((WN)) You have full control over your skis though. You have both legs and both arms.

Jessica Gallagher: True, but you’ve got absolutely no idea where you’re going. And you have to have complete reliance on a person. Trust that they are able to give you the right directions. That you are actually going in the right direction. It’s difficult with the sight that I have but I couldn’t imagine doing it with no sight at all.

((WN)) The two of you train together all the time?

Eric Bickerton: Pretty well, yes.
Jessica Gallagher: Yes, everything on snow basically is together. One of the difficult things I guess is we have to have that 100 per cent communication and trust between one another and a lot of the female skiers on the circuit, their guide is their husband. That’s kind of a trust relationship. Eric does say that at times it feels like we’re married, but…
Eric Bickerton: I keep checking for my wallet.
Jessica Gallagher: …it’s always about constantly trying to continue to build that relationship so that eventually I just… You put your life in his hands and whatever he says, you do, kind of thing.

((WN)) Of the two sport, winter sports and summer sports person, how do you find that balance between one sport and the other sport?

Jessica Gallagher: It’s not easy. Yeah, it’s not easy at all. Yesterday was my first day on snow since March 16, 2010. And that was mainly because of the build up obviously for London and the times when I was going to ski I was injured. So, to not have skied for that long is obviously a huge disadvantage when all the girls have been racing the circuit since… and it’s vice versa with track and field. So I’ve got an amazing team at the Victorian Institute of Sport. I call them my little A Team of strength and mission coach, physio, osteopath, soft tissue therapist, sport psychologist, dietician. Basically everyone has expertise in the area and we come together and having meetings and plan four years ahead and say at the moment Sochi’s the goal, but Rio’s still in the back of the head, and knowing my body so well now that I’ve done both sports for five years means that I can know where they’ve made mistakes, and I know where things have gone really well, so we can plan ahead for that and prepare so that the things that did go wrong won’t happen again. To make sure that I get to each competition in peak tone.

((WN)) What things went wrong?

Jessica Gallagher: Mainly injuries. So, that’s the most difficult thing with doing two sports. Track and field is an explosive power; long jump and javelin are over four to six seconds of maximum effort. Ski racing, you are on a course, for a minute to a minute and a half, so it’s a speed endurance event. And the two couldn’t be further apart in terms of the capabilities and the capacities that you need as an athlete. So one of the big things I guess, after the Vancouver campaign, being in ski boots for so long, I had lost a lot of muscle from my calves so they weren’t actually firing properly, and when you’re trying to run and jump and you don’t have half of your leg working properly it makes it pretty difficult to jump a good distance. Those kind of things. So I’m skiing now but when I’m in a gym doing recovery and rehab or prehab stuff, I’ve got calf raising, I’ve got hamstring exercises because I know they’re the weaker areas that if I’m not working on at the moment they’re two muscle groups that don’t get worked during ski. That I need to do the extra stuff on the side so that when I transition back to track and field I don’t have any soft tissue injuries like strains because of the fact that I know they’re weaker so…

((WN)) Do you prefer one over the other? Do you say “I’d really rather be out on the slopes than jogging and jumping the same…

Jessica Gallagher: I get asked that a lot. I think I love them for different reasons and I hate them for different reasons so I think at the end of the day I would prefer ski racing mainly because of the lifestyle. I think ski racing is a lot harder than track and field to medal in but I love the fact that I get to come to amazing resorts and get to travel the world. But I think, at the end of the day I get the best of both worlds. By the time my body has had enough of cold weather and of traveling I get to go home and be in the summer and be on a track in such a stable environment, which is something that visually impaired people love because it’s familiar and you know what to expect. Whereas in this environment it’s not, every racecourse we use is completely different.

((WN)) I heard you were an average snowboarder. How disappointed were you when you when they said no to your classifications?

Jessica Gallagher: Very disappointed! For Sochi you mean?

((WN)) Yes

Jessica Gallagher: Yeah. I mean we weren’t really expecting it. Mainly because they’ve brought in snowboard cross, and I couldn’t imagine four blind athletes and four guides going down the same course together at the same time. That would be a disaster waiting to happen. But I guess having been a snowboarder for… as soon as we found snowboarding had been put in, I rang Steve, the head coach, and said can we do snowboarding? When I rang Steve I said, don’t worry, I’ve already found out that Eric can snowboard. It would have been amazing to have been able to compete in both. Maybe next games.

((WN)) So you also snowboard?

Eric Bickerton: Yes.

((WN)) So she does a lot of sports and you also do a crazy number of sports?

Eric Bickerton: Uh, yeah?

((WN)) Summer sports as well as winter sports?

Eric Bickerton: Me?

((WN)) Yes.

Eric Bickerton: Through my sporting career. I’ve played rugby union, rugby league, soccer, early days, I played for the Australian Colts, overseas, rugby union. I spend most of my life sailing competitively and socially. Snow skiing. Yeah. Kite boarding and trying to surf again.

((WN)) That’s a lot of sports! Does Jessica need guides for all of them?

Eric Bickerton: I’ve played sport all my life. I started with cricket. I’ve played competition squash. I raced for Australia in surfing sailing. Played rugby union.

((WN)) Most of us have played sport all our lives, but there’s a difference between playing sport and playing sport at a high level, and the higher level you go, the more specialized you tend to become. And here [we’re] looking at two exceptions to that.

Eric Bickerton: I suppose that I can round that out by saying to you that I don’t think that I would ever reach the pinnacle. I’m not prepared to spend ten years dedicated to that one thing. And to get that last ten per cent or five percent of performance at that level. That’s what you’ve got to do. So I’ll play everything to a reasonable level, but to get to that really, really highest peak level you have to give up everything else.

((WN)) When you go to the pub, do your mates make fun of you for having a medal in women’s blind skiing?

Eric Bickerton: No, not really.
Jessica Gallagher: Usually they say “I love it!” and “This is pretty cool!”
Eric Bickerton: We started at the Olympics. We went out into the crowd to meet Jess’ mum, and we had our medals. There were two of us and we were waiting for her mum to come back and in that two hour period there was at least a hundred and fifty people from all over the world who wore our medals and took photographs. My medal’s been all over Australia.

((WN)) Going to a completely different issue, blind sports have three classifications, that are medical, unlike everybody else, who’ve got functional ability [classifications]. You’ve got the only medical ones. Do you think the blind classifications are fair in terms of how they operate? Or should there be changes? And how that works in terms of the IPC?

Jessica Gallagher: Yeah. I think the system they’ve got in place is good, in terms of having the three classes. You’ve got completely blind which are B1s, less than 5 percent, which are B2, and less than 10 percent is a B3. I think those systems work really well. I guess one of the difficult things with vision impairment is that there are so many diseases and conditions that everyone’s sight is completely different, and they have that problem with the other classes as well. But in terms of the class system itself I think having the three works really well. What do you think?
Eric Bickerton: I think the classification system itself’s fine. It’s the one or two grey areas, people: are they there or are they there?

((WN)) That affected you in Beijing.

Jessica Gallagher: Yeah. That was obviously really disappointing, but, ironic as well in that one of my eyes is point zero one of a percent too sighted, so one’s eligible, the other’s just outside their criteria, which left me unable to compete. Because my condition is degenerative. They knew that my sight would get worse. I guess I was in a fortunate position where once my sight deteriorated I was going to become eligible. There are some of the classes, if you don’t have a degenerate condition, that’s not possible. No one ever wants to lose their best sight, but that was one positive.

((WN)) On some national competitions they have a B4 class. Do you think those should be eligible? In terms of the international competition?

Jessica Gallagher: Which sports have B4s?

((WN)) There’s a level down, it’s not used internationally, I think it’s only used for domestic competitions. I know the UK uses it.

Jessica Gallagher: I think I… A particular one. For social reasons, that’s a great thing, but I think if it’s, yeah. I don’t know if I would… I think socially to get more Paralympic athletes involved in the sport if they’ve got a degenerative condition on that border then they should be allowed to compete but obviously… I don’t think they should be able to receive any medals at a national competition or anything like that. So I was, after Beijing, I was able to fore-run races. I was able to transition over to skiing even though at that stage I wasn’t eligible. So that was great for us. The IPC knew that my eyesight was going to get worse. So I was able to fore-run races. Which was a really good experience for us, when we did get to that level. So I think, with the lack of numbers in Paralympic sport, more that you should encourage athletes and give them those opportunities, it’s a great thing. But I guess it’s about the athletes realizing that you’re in it for the participation, and to grow as an athlete rather than to win medals. I don’t think the system should be changed. I think three classes is enough. Where the B3 line is compared with a B4 is legally blind. And I think that covers everything. I think that’s the stage where you have low enough vision to be considered a Paralympic sport as opposed to I guess an able bodied athlete. And that’s with all forms of like, with government pensions, with bus passes, all that sort of stuff, that the cut off line is legally blind, so I think that’s a good place to keep it.

((WN)) Veering away from this, I remember watching the Melbourne Cup stuff on television, and there you were, I think you were wearing some hat or something.

Jessica Gallagher: Yeah, my friend’s a milliner. They were real flowers, real orchids.

((WN)) Are you basically a professional athlete who has enough money or sponsorship to do that sort of stuff? I was saying, there’s Jessica Gallagher! She was in London! That’s so cool!

Jessica Gallagher: There are two organizations that I’m an ambassador for, and one of them is Vision Australia, who were a charity for the Melbourne Cup Carnival. So as part of my ambassador role I was at the races helping them raise money. And that involves media stuff, so that was the reason I was there. I didn’t get paid.

((WN)) But if you’re not getting paid to be a sponsor for all that is awesome in Australia, what do you do outside of skiing, and the long jump, and the javelin?

Jessica Gallagher: I’m an osteopath. So I finished my masters’ degree in 2009. I was completing a bachelor’s and a masters. I was working for the Victorian Institute of Sport guiding program but with the commitment to London having so much travel I actually just put everything on hold in terms of my osteo career. There’s not really enough time. And then the ambassador role, I had a few commitments with that, and I did motivational speaking.

((WN)) That’s very cool. Eric, I’ve read that you work as a guide in back country skiing, and all sorts of crazy stuff like that. What do you do when you’re not leading Jessica Gallagher down a ski slope?

Eric Bickerton: I’m the Chief Executive of Disabled Winter Sports Australia. So we look after all the disability winter sports, except for the Paralympics.
Jessica Gallagher: Social, recreational…

((WN)) You like that? You find it fulfilling?

Eric Bickerton: The skiing aspect’s good. I dunno about the corporate stuff. I could give that a miss. But I think it is quite fulfilling. Yeah, they’re a very good group of people there who enjoy themselves, both in disabilities and able bodied. We really need guides and support staff.

((WN)) Has it changed over the last few years?

Eric Bickerton: For us?

((WN)) Being a guide in general? How things have changed or improved, have you been given more recognition?

Eric Bickerton: No. I don’t see myself as an athlete. Legally we are the athlete. If I fail, she fails. We ski the exact same course. But there’s some idiosyncrasies associated with it. Because I’m a male guiding, I have to ski on male skis, which are different to female skis, which means my turn shape I have to control differently so it’s the same as her turn shape. It’s a little bit silly. Whereas if I was a female guiding, I’d be on exactly the same skis, and we’d be able to ski exactly the same all the way through. In that context I think the fact that Jess won the medal opened the eyes to the APC about visual impairment as a definite medal contending aspect. The biggest impediment to the whole process is how the Hell do you get a guide who’s (a) capable, (b) available and (c) able to fund himself. So we’re fortunate that the APC pushed for the recognition of myself as an athlete, and because we have the medal from the previous Olympics, we’re now tier one, so we get the government funding all way through. Without that two years before the last games, that cost me fifteen, sixteen months of my time, and $40,000 of cash to be the guide. So while I enjoyed it, and well I did, it is very very hard to say that a guide could make a career out of being a guide. There needs to be a little bit more consideration of that, a bit like the IPC saying no you’re not a medal winner. It’s quite a silly situation where it’s written into the rules that you are both the athlete and yet at the same time you’re not a medal winner. I think there’s evolution. It’s growing. It’s changing. It’s very, very difficult.

((WN)) Are you guys happy with the media coverage on the winter side? Do you think there’s a bias — obviously there is a bias towards the Summer Paralympics. Do the winter people get a fair shake?

Eric Bickerton: I think it’s fair. It’s reasonable. And there’s certainly a lot more than what it used to be. Winter sports in general, just from an Australian perspective is something that’s not well covered. But I’d say the coverage from the last Paralympics, the Para Winter Olympics was great, as far as an evolution of the coverage goes.

((WN)) Nothing like winning a medal, though, to lift the profile of a sport.

Jessica Gallagher: And I think that certainly helped after Vancouver. Not just Paralympics but able bodied with Lydia [Lassila] and Torah [Bright] winning, and then to have Eric and I win a medal, to finally have an Aussie female who has a winter Paralympic medal. I guess there can be misconceptions, I mean the winter team is so small in comparison to the summer team, they are always going to have a lot more coverage just purely based on numbers. There were 160 [Australian] athletes that were at London and not going to be many of us in Sochi. Sorry. Not even ten, actually.
Eric Bickerton: There’s five athletes.
Jessica Gallagher: There’s five at the moment, yeah. So a lot of the time I think with Paralympic sport, at the moment, APC are doing great things to get a lot of coverage for the team and that, but I think also individually, it’s growing. I’ve certainly noticed a lot more over the past two years but Eric and I are in a very unique situation. For me as well being both a summer and a winter Paralympian, there’s more interest I guess. I think with London it opened Australia and the word’s eyes to Paralympic sport, so the coverage from that hopefully will continue through Sochi and I’ll get a lot more people covered, but I know prior to Beijing and Vancouver, compared to my build up to London, in terms of media, it was worlds apart in terms of the amount of things I did and the profile pieces that were created. So that was great to see that people are actually starting to understand and see what it’s like.

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Ireland’s smoking ban a success after first year

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Ireland’s smoking ban a success after first year

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tomorrow will be an historic day in the Republic of Ireland. It will be exactly one year since the initial introduction of the once controversial smoking ban. The ban, introduced on March 29 2004, made Ireland the first country in world to completely ban smoking in all workplaces.

The idea was initially met with much skepticism by the Irish who traditionally had a worldwide image as a land of drinkers and smokers. However despite this early uncertainty, the ban has been a huge success. Cigarettes sales have fallen by as much as 60% in Pubs, with the country’s biggest tobacco brand, Gallaher, reporting an overall drop in sales of 7.5%.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced earlier this month that over 7,000 had given up smoking in the past twelve months. A survey by the Irish Department of Health showed 82% supported the ban. Anti-smoking lobby groups such as ASH had been calling for a ban for many years prior to the Government’s initiative.

On 3 December 2003, New Zealand passed the Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill which lead it to become the second nation to impose a total ban. Its ban came into effect nine months after Ireland’s, on 10 December 2004. In January of this year Italy also introduced a ban. Sweden intends to go smoke free in June of this year and in Scotland, the Parliament hopes to have a ban in effect by early 2006.

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Arson charge for man who cleaned home with gasoline

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Arson charge for man who cleaned home with gasoline

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ernest Krajniak from Chilton, Wisconsin in the United States has been charged with arson after a lit cigarette ignited gasoline soaked clothes, setting his apartment ablaze.

On Friday April 3, Krajniak, 47, cleaned his entire apartment with about five gallons of gasoline, wiping everything down with the soaked clothes. After he was finished, he piled the soaked clothes in the center of his bedroom, lit a cigarette and then threw what was left of the still lit cigarette, into the pile.

Krajniak never called the fire department and never pulled the alarm. Instead he yelled ‘fire’ a few times then walked to the police station where an ambulance took him to a local hospital for the treatment of minor burns. The fire department later arrived to put out the blaze and his apartment was extensively smoke damaged. 11 other apartments were also damaged, leaving the occupants without a place to stay for at least a week.

“I should have never used that,” said Krajniak during a court appearance on Monday. He admitted to knowing that gasoline was highly flammable. He was arrested and his bond has been set a US$2,500. Krajniak’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, April 13. According to WISinfo.com, Krajniak has no prior criminal record.

The careless smoking of cigarettes has been blamed for thousands of fires across the U.S. In January 2008, an unnamed elderly woman in Buffalo, New York was receiving oxygen for medical problems in her home and lit a cigarette and began to smoke it. The oxygen coming from her mask then facilitated the ignition of her clothing, setting her on fire.

In the U.S. in 2002, only 4% of all residential fires were reportedly caused by smoking materials. These fires, however, were responsible for 19% of residential fire fatalities and 9% of injuries. The fatality rate due to smoking is nearly four times higher than the overall residential fire rate; injuries are more than twice as likely. Forty percent of all smoking fires start in the bedroom or living room/family room; in 35% of these fires, bedding or upholstered furniture are the items first ignited.

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Gunman killed outside Colorado governor’s office

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Gunman killed outside Colorado governor’s office
Published by
Jan 18

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A man identified as Aaron Richard Snyder showed up on Monday around 2:25 p.m. outside the Colorado Capitol offices of Governor Bill Ritter. He was carrying a 357-caliber 7 shot Smith and Wesson revolver with 20 extra rounds of ammunition and started screaming “I am the emperor” and “I am here to take over the state”.

When he was confronted by a Colorado State trooper, Snyder opened his jacket showing that he was carrying a gun. The trooper ordered Snyder to drop the gun, but instead he moved “menancingly” in the direction of the trooper who then shot him once in the head and twice in the chest.

Snyder died from the multiple gunshot wounds on the floor of the Capitol office building. The Capitol went on a full lockdown with employees, tour groups and visitors in the building at the time ordered to stay where they were.

Governor Ritter was interviewing a judge candidate in his office at the time of the shooting. He held a press conference on the Capitol step two hours later.

Mr. Snyder was under doctors care for delusional behavior. The Northglenn, Colorado police issued a BOL “Be On the Lookout” to all law enforcement agencies in Colorado for Snyder and his car, a 2004 black Kia, around 25 minutes before the shooting occurred.

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Kennedy Center names 2007 honors recipients

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Kennedy Center names 2007 honors recipients
Published by
Jan 18

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Kennedy Center announced that its 30th presentation of the Kennedy Center Honors would go to pianist Leon Fleisher, comedian Steve Martin, singer Diana Ross, director Martin Scorsese and musician Brian Wilson. The Center was opened to the public in 1971 and was envisioned as part of the National Cultural Center Act, which mandated that the independent, privately-funded institution would present a wide variety of both classical and contemporary performances, commission the creation of new artistic works, and undertake a variety of educational missions to increase awareness of the arts.

In a statement, Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman said that “with their extraordinary talent, creativity and perseverance, the five 2007 honorees have transformed the way we, as Americans, see, hear and feel the performing arts.”

Fleisher, 79, a member of the Peabody Institute‘s music faculty, is a pianist who lost use of his right hand in 1965 due to a neurological condition. He became an accomplished musician and conductor through the use of his left hand. At 67, he regained the use of his right hand. With the advent of Botox therapy, he was once more able to undertake two-hand performances in 2004, his first in four decades. “I’m very gratified by the fact that it’s an apolitical honor,” Fleisher said. “It is given by colleagues and professional people who are aware of what [an artist] has done, so it really is apolitical — and that much more of an honor.”

Martin, 62, a comedian who has written books and essays in addition to his acting and stand-up comedy career, rose to fame during his work on the American television program Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s. Schwarzman praised his work as that of a “renaissance comic whose talents wipe out the boundaries between artistic disciplines.” Martin responded to the honor saying, “I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for finally alleviating in me years of covetousness and trophy envy.”

Ross, 63, was a product of Detroit‘s Brewster-Douglass Projects when as a teeager she and friends Mary Wilson and Florence Ballardis formed The Supremes, a ground-breaking Motown act. She portrayed singer Billie Holiday in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award. “Diana Ross’ singular, instantly recognizable voice has spread romance and joy throughout the world,” said Schwarzman. Ross said she was “taken aback. It is a huge, huge honor and I am excited to be in this class of people.”

Scorsese, 64, is one of the most accomplished directors the United States ever produced, whose work includes Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Cape Fear, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Departed, for which he won a 2006 Academy Award for Best Director after being nominated eight times. Scorsese said, “I’m very honored to be receiving this recognition from the Kennedy Center and proud to be joining the company of the very distinguished individuals who have received this honor in years past.”

Wilson, 65, along with his brothers Dennis and Carl, formed the Beach Boys in 1961. They had a series of hits that included “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Their 1966 album Pet Sounds is considered one of the most influential recordings in American music. “This is something so unexpected and I feel extremely fortunate to be in the company of such great artists,” said Wilson, who is currently on tour.

The Kennedy Center’s board of trustees is responsible for selecting honorees for “lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.” Previous honorees, including Elton John and Steven Spielberg, also submitted recommendations. A wide variety of people were under consideration, including Emanuel Ax, Evgeny Kissin, Renee Fleming, Laurence Fishburne, Francis Ford Coppola, Melissa Etheridge and Kenny Chesney.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will attend the center’s presentation at its opera house on December 2, 2007, which will broadcast on December 26 on CBS.

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An account of the Esperanza Fire from an animal rescuer

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An account of the Esperanza Fire from an animal rescuer
Published by
Jan 18
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.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

As families fled their homes in the early morning hours on Thursday October 26, there was no warning. The Esperanza Fire southeast of Los Angeles and West of Palm Springs, California, had ballooned under the influence of Santa Ana winds to more than 19,000 acres as of the morning of October 27. No time to get the animals, no time for crates or even a leash. Sadly, owners left behind not only their horses, lamas, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, but also their dogs and cats.

Many of the families who did manage to evacuate their pets found themselves in the parking lot at the Fellowship in the Pass Church Red Cross Shelter where a MuttShack Animal Rescue team caught up with them.

Pam Anderson, Director of the emergency Red Cross shelter said that many people with animals had come and left.

The air was thick with smoke, and ash was raining down on the parking lot where dog owners, not able to take their dogs into the shelter were camping out in pup tents and in their cars.

Those who could afford it checked themselves into pet friendly hotels in nearby towns.

Some were prepared. Jane Garner, a small dog breeder was able to get all her animals out, and had set up her puppy runs alongside her RV in the parking lot. Others were not doing too well, having left home without as much as a leash.

The same scenario played out at the Red Cross shelter at Hemet High School. Animals were being boarded in vans, trailers and cars and small travel crates.

When MuttShack Animal Rescue arrived, a small fracas had sent several dogs off in different directions, running out of the school parking lot down busy streets necessitating an instant rescue response.

The Incident Command for the Esperanza Animals, Ramona Humane Society in San Jacinto welcomed MuttShack‘s offer to help at the shelters.

Ramona Humane Society had recently published a notice in their Newsletter about the newly passed “PETS Act” and warned owners not wait until a major disaster such as an earthquake or fire to prepare. “Be proactive to ensure that your pet will be taken care of.”

MuttShack and PetSmart Charities set up ad hoc facilities for the animals at both shelters.

The Red Cross shelter, run by Madison Burtchaell of the Orange County Red Cross was very accommodating about allowing a small emergency pet shelter adjacent to the School.

Barbara A. Fought of PetSmart Charities, an organization that works with animal welfare organizations and provide assistance in disasters, provided crates and emergency supplies.

MuttShack and Red Cross volunteers, Martin St. John, Tom Hamilton, and Steve Meissner helped assemble the crates to secure a safe environment for evacuated pets.

It was a great relief for evacuees who had camped out in the parking lot to finally leave their vehicles and relax at the shelter, setting up their cots to grab some sorely needed rest.

Firefighters and residents reported loss of wildlife and animals. The Esperanza fire burned 34 homes, consumed 40,000 acres and cost five Firefighters their lives before it was contained four days later on October 30. Firefighting operations cost nearly $10 million.

MuttShack Animal Rescue is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization active in disasters and dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and care of lost or discarded dogs, cats and other animals.

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GM posts first annual loss since 1992

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GM posts first annual loss since 1992
Published by
Jan 17

Friday, January 27, 2006

General Motors Corporation (GM) has posted its first annual loss since 1992. GM reported losing US$4.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005 and a total loss of $8.6 billion for the entire year.

GM admitted Thursday night that the loss could swell further as it pays pensions and healthcare costs to thousands of former workers. GM warned that the amount calculated for last year is preliminary and could rise before it is officially reported to the US securities and exchanges commission in March.

The loss was far greater than analysts predicted. Ford, the second of the big three American car manufacturers, beat predictions earlier in the week. In contrast, Toyota is expected to report that it will beat last year’s profit of $11 billion.

GM’s automotive division lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, driven by losses in North America. This has been attributed to GM’s shrinking market share, which has been taken by Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Nissan.

A further $1.3 billion was lost in restructuring charges. As part of the restructure, GM plans to cut 30,000 jobs and close 12 facilities by 2008.

An aide for Kirk Kerkorian, GMs largest individual investor (at 9.9%), has called on the company to halve its $1.1 billion annual dividend, cut executive pay and sell Saab.

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Canada’s Davenport (Ward 17) city council candidates speak

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Canada’s Davenport (Ward 17) city council candidates speak
Published by
Jan 17

Saturday, November 4, 2006

On November 13, Torontoians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Davenport (Ward 17). One candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Wilson Basantes Espinoza, Alejandra Bravo, Fred Dominelli, David Faria, Cesar Palacio (incumbent), Cinzia Scalabrini, and Gustavo Valdez.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

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Rafael Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon Championships

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Rafael Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon Championships
Published by
Jan 17

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rafael Nadal, the 2008 Men’s Singles winner at the Wimbledon Championships, announced today his withdrawal from the 2009 Championships because of a knee injury caused by his tendinitis. The formal announcement came after he had played the second of his warm-up matches.

I am picking Andy Murray or Roger Federer

On Thursday, whilst playing Lleyton Hewitt, Nadal had experienced issues with moving about the court. Again, whilst playing Stanislas Wawrinka today, he had problems and lost the match.

He will be the first champion to not defend his Wimbledon championship since Goran Ivaniševi? pulled out in 2002.

As a result, fifth seed Juan Martín del Potro takes Nadal’s place in the first quarter of the draw, seventeenth seed James Blake takes del Potro’s place in the fifth quarter, Nicolas Kiefer becomes the thirty-third seed and takes Blake’s place in the fourth quarter, with his own previous spot now filled by lucky loser Thiago Alves.

Björn Borg was quoted on Tuesday (June 16) as saying “Nadal is always a dangerous player because he is the best in the world — but what happened in Paris and then the injury, I am picking Andy Murray or Roger Federer. […] For Nadal to win five in a row (at the French Open) was a big goal this year. I am sure he was very, very disappointed when he went home after Paris. That defeat took him many, many days to get over. Nadal is saying he has got an injury, but he has to be fit at Wimbledon if he wants to go all the way, and I do not think he will go all the way this year.”

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Canada, U.S. to tighten security between ‘cross-border’ library

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Canada, U.S. to tighten security between ‘cross-border’ library
Published by
Jan 17

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the United States Border Patrol and local officials from both sides are looking into tightening security at a Quebec library. The library has been deliberately on the border of Canada and the U.S. since it was built in 1904 by American sawmill owner Carlos Haskell and Canadian wife Martha Stewart Haskell for availability to both countries.

At Haskell Free Library and Opera House, in Rock Island, Quebec, a black line diagonally runs across the center of the library to mark the international border. Ironically the line puts the seats in the U.S. and the opera stage in Canada.

Both towns share the same water supply, sewer systems and emergency crews thus they cross the border without going against the law. In total, there are three streets that cross the border and there are cameras on both sides to monitor illegal activity, but that doesn’t tighten border security enough officials say.

“There’s been an increase in illegal activity, both north and south, in the last little while,” said operations officer for the Border Patrol’s Swanton sector, Mark Henry.”There have been some significant cases. This all fits in to the larger picture of the Border Patrol strategy to gain operational control of our borders.”

“I don’t think they’re aiming at people who go pick up groceries and come back. It’s people that want to use this in a bad way,” says Cpl. Luc Bessette, a spokesman for the RCMP.

To enter the U.S. at Haskell Free Library and Opera House, in Rock Island, Quebec, all one needs is directions to go to Stanstead, Quebec, directions to the local library and walk through the doors; they have illegally entered Derby Line, Vermont, U.S. If one walks across from Stanstead St. to Derby Line they will be at the checkout in the U.S., go to the library from Derby Line to Stanstead St. and they have officially entered back into Canada. The international border also is on Canusa St., a residential street in Stanstead, Quebec and Beebe Plain, Vermont.

If someone wants to see their neighbour across the street, they would be re-entering the U.S. Anyone who comes from Stanstead St. to Derby Line, to visit their neighbour, must report to Customs or they could be sent to jail for illegally entering. However, residents do not need to notify Customs if they cross the border inside buildings.

Currently, the front door is in Vermont and if Quebecers couldn’t enter the front they would have to go through the back way. If Americans wanted to park in the parking lot they couldn’t because it is legally in Canada.

A meeting will take place this 19 June at 7 p.m. local time asking whether residents want to prevent people from crossing the border regularly or, in some cases, illegal crossings. During a meeting last Thursday in Stanstead, Quebec, local officials from both countries (towns) said border walls and fences will not be put up due to local residents’ concerns. They say there are other alternatives.

There is also a movement to separate Vermont from the U.S. or to make it the 11th province of Canada, with three territories. The website “Vermont Canada” says the state should join Canada due to its remaining liberal policies as opposed to the U.S.

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