Occupation in London enters fifth day

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street and other “Occupy” protests, activists set up camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Saturday, and they plan to remain indefinitely. The protest thus far has been described as “largely peaceful” by a police spokesman.

On Saturday, an estimated thousand or more people attempted to protest in Paternoster Square, the site of the London Stock Exchange, but were blocked by police enforcing a High Court judgment. Julian Assange from Wikileaks also joined the protest to address the activists. A flag flies over the occupation showing the ‘Anonymous’ logo of a headless man in a black suit.

At around 9:30am Wednesday, many campers were still asleep, but around 30–50 people were listening in solidarity to trade union representatives from the National Shop Stewards Network, while 20 to 30 officers from the City of London police watched on. On the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the speakers spoke about a variety of struggles including strikes by electricians that started in August against Balfour Beatty, one of Britain’s largest construction firms. Solidarity was expressed with the travellers at Dale Farm, and speakers described how the media and others were trying to “divide” workers, students and elderly people. One of the speakers said that while today they are occupying the square in London, “tomorrow we will be occupying universities and colleges” and spoke of the suspension of Vik Chechi, the Unison branch secretary who has been suspended by Queen Mary University. By 9:45am, the trade union talks had finished and the sound system was reactivated and reggae music started playing.

After the talks peter out, activity begins to resume on the site: people sorting out tents and serving food, under signs and banners playfully mixing politics (“The London Stock Exchange: Britain’s Biggest Casino”) with Internet memes (a Reddit cartoon man depicted saying “Y U NO JOIN US?”).

Study: Herd animals detect Earth’s magnetic field

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips On Fixing Low Water Pressure In Your Home

BKwHfBLM | Kitchen Home Improvement | 07 16th, 2017  |  No Comments »

By Adriana Notton

Low water pressure in the home can be a very frustrating experience as it can disrupt regular household activities that requite the use of water. There are many reasons why you may suddenly have low water pressure. There may be the accumulation of dissolved minerals resulting from hard water which causes a blockage. There may be a pipe leak which reduces the water pressure. There may also be a blockage in the pipes. If you have low water pressure, there are a number ways to fix the problem and increase the water pressure.

Below are a number of tips on fixing low water pressure in your home:

1. The first thing you should do is check the main water valve where the water line enters the home. In most cases, the valve looks like a wagon wheel and it is located at the water meter going into the home. Turn the water valve a half-turn in a clockwise direction so it slightly closes off. Then, turn the valve counter clockwise all the way so that it is completely open. There should be a forceful thrust of water that pushes any deposit through the system and raises the water pressure. If you think there is sediment built up in your pipes, open your sink faucet, and then turn the water on and off at the main water valve which loosen mineral deposits and push the mineral deposits through the plumbing system.

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2. Perform a pipe inspection to check for leaks. You may have to look into some hard to see places such as under the home so make sure you use a flashlight. If you find a water leak in a pipe, you will have to get it repaired or replaced. You will have to shut off the main water valve so it can be repaired. It is wise to hire a plumber to do the job.

3. Check the aerator in the faucets to see if they need to be cleaned. Remove the aerator using pliers or a crescent wrench. You will find a small screen inside of the faucet head. Remove the screen and thoroughly rinse it. Before replacing the screen, turn on the water to see if the water is flowing properly.

4. Check your pressure regulator because sometimes this can cause low water pressure. The pressure regulator is the device shaped like a bell with a screw at the end. You can normally find the pressure regulator either under the home or below the frontal connection. Often you just have to adjust the screw to restore water pressure. Tighten the screw to boost the water pressure. Make sure you set it between 45 – 60 psi.

Installing a special water pressure pump will help raise water pressure if all other repair options fail. The pump fills with water and then fills partly with air to keep an even pressure in your water lines. If you believe the problem is something serious that you have not been able to identify, you should enlist the services of a professional plumber.

About the Author: Looking for a local plumber? Then contact the plumbing experts at Mr.Rooter, offering plumbing Kelowna and plumbing Calgary services as well as plumbing services all across Canada. Visit mrrooter.ca to find a plumbing franchise in your city.

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Denny’s Super Bowl free ‘Grand Slam Breakfast’ brings 2 million diners

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Denny’s 1,600 chain restaurants across North America, Puerto Rico and Canada, were slammed for eight hours Tuesday with hungry patrons standing on sidewalks for nearly two hours to take advantage of the $5.99 “Grand Slam Breakfast” giveaway.

Denny’s, a dining chain with annual revenue of about $900 million, has advertised in a TV commercial Sunday during the Super Bowl XLIII that it would give away its signature breakfast from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time Tuesday, at all its restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, while supplies lasted.

Denny’s Diner has promoted the iconic dish giveaway heavily, with a bold 30-second appeal ad that aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl 43 on Sunday, plus another 15-second ad during the post-game show, offering a free breakfast to some 90 million viewers. In addition, it has placed a full-page ad in USA Today‘s Monday edition. The promotion was further announced on The Today Show and notices were also sent out to the chain’s “Denny’s Breakfast Club” members.

The NBC ad, which was bought to unveil a new promotion for customers squeezed by the recession, may have cost as much as $3 million, said Nelson Marchioli, CEO of Denny’s Corp. Super Bowl XLIII’s 30-second commercial time slot costs $2.4 million–$3 million for the airtime alone, excluding production and talent costs.

The game was televised live by the US NBC Sunday Night Football and Canada’s CTV Television Network. BayTSP has reported that, “as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, commercials that initially aired during NBC’s Super Bowl XLIII broadcast subsequently had been watched online more than 28 million times.”

“The promotion has a total cost of $5 million U.S., which includes $3 million for the commercial on NBC,” said a Denny’s spokesman, noting also that the company received about $50 million in news coverage, most of which was positive. According to a Denny’s representative, two million people walked through the restaurant chains’ doors Tuesday, and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour.

With the “Denny’s Feeds America” promotion, the company has reported 14 million hits on its Web site between Sunday night and Monday morning. Denny’s shares rose 6 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $1.98 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded in a range of $1.18 to $4.10 over the past 52 weeks.

“Denny’s free Grand Slam” has ranked in the top 10 Google searches early Tuesday and fell to No. 18 by the end of the promotion, while “denny s locations” was #9 on Google Trends, which tracks fast-rising searches. It has also held spots No. 1 (Denny’s) and 7 (Grand Slam) on Twitter‘s trending topics. It has generated much chat on Twitter, garnering 1,700 tweets on Tuesday, compared with its average of 59. Doritos, winner of the USA TODAY survey for best Super Bowl spot ad, had 933 mentions after reaching a peak of almost 3,300.

The idea of the TV ad was to get people to come in and re-evaluate Denny’s Diner. “A lot of people have forgotten what Denny’s is, or they think they know, while we’ve come out with a whole lot of new products. We felt like we needed to jump start the brand,” Denny’s Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Mark Chmiel said.

“We’re celebrating the Grand Slam this year,” Chmiel said. According to the company’s financial data, on January 15 Denny’s reported systemwide comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter were down 6.1 percent, compared to a 0.2 percent decline from the same period in 2007.

According to Robert Gonzalez, public relations company Hill & Knowlton spokesman, Denny’s has expected at least 2 million people to eat a free Grand Slam by the end of the promotion. “Every restaurant is packed with people and lines,” Gonzalez said. “Everything today is about fast. People are on the go, and they’re eating fast food. It’s cutting into sit-down dining,” he added.

“Each of the more than 1,500 Denny’s were planning to make about 100 Grand Slams an hour,” Denny’s spokeswoman Cori Rice said. It had predicted it will have served about 1,400 people per location, more than five times the normal volume. “Grand Slam Breakfast” is a four-item option on its menu, consisting of two pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon and two sausage links. It weighs in at 44 grams of fat, 56 carbohydrates and 770 calories.

Nationwide, Denny’s expected to sell about 2 million Grand Slams — about 15 percent of the annual tally. According to Mark Chmiel, chief marketing operator and executive vice president, the diner chain has reported approximately 2 million meals worth more than $12 million were given away nationwide and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour. It estimated it has earned about $50 million worth of public relations following the free Grand Slam campaign, Chmiel said.

The company is also experimenting with a Grand Slam Burrito and also has introduced for this year, a Grand Slamwich, which includes eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese between two slices of bread, with a teaspoon serving. “It already has shown strong consumer appeal,” said Chmiel. The company has received flood of e-mails and letters proving the positive impact of the Grand Slam campaign and commercials on its customers.

Chmiel also announced he’s planning a third major promotion in this year’s third quarter, which happens to include another major sporting event, the World Series. “That’s one we’re definitely looking at,” he said.

Jobless Paris Winslow of downtown San Francisco, California has joined the long line which stretched from the front door on Mission Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, to the corner of Fourth and up the block. “The economy is getting kind of scary. This line looks like those pictures of soup kitchen lines during the 1929 Great Depression,” Winslow said.

“I came all the way from San Francisco for a free $6 meal, Isn’t that pathetic? A year ago, I never would have done this. These days I’m willing to put my ego on the back burner,” said Stephen Weller, a jobless contractor who waited with his dog, Emmett. California Denny’s restaurant managers have issued rain checks (for free chilled meals, as security backed by actual bacon) to anyone who failed to get in by the 2 p.m. deadline.

A big eater could also “Slam It Up” by adding any two additional items for 99 cents each to their meal. Customers on Tuesday were also handed “bounceback” coupon books that include offers for additional free menu items with purchases. Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang has eaten five free Grand Slams on Tuesday at five different Denny’s Diners in four hours. He claims to have consumed 4,100 calories at Harwood Heights, 5:36 a.m, at Schiller Park, 6:22 a.m., at Franklin Park, 7:08 a.m., at Melrose Park, 7:41 a.m. and at Grand Slam No. 5 Oak Park, 8:57 a.m.

“The Grand Slam has always been a Denny’s favorite. This free offer is our way of reacquainting America with Denny’s real breakfast and with the Denny’s brand,” Denny’s CEO Nelson Marchioli said in a statement. In 1977s, the Grand Slam started as a baseball-related promotion in Atlanta, Georgia. Its normal price averages around $5.99. Marchioli said the event was also a way to kick-off its “Year of the Grand Slam” promotion. Denny’s claimed it has sold 12.5 million Grand Slams a year.

“The economy’s tough and people are jumping all the way to fast food to try to figure it out. We all use fast food, whether it’s for time or convenience or for money. But you can go to Denny’s and you don’t have to give up a real breakfast and that was the whole focus of our commercial,” Marchioli explained. McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500) has done well during this economic meltdown since the global recession pushes people toward less expensive dining options.

McDonald’s has announced plans Wednesday to open 175 new restaurants in China this year despite the global economic crisis, thereby increasing the number of outlets in China by 17 percent, from 1,050 currently. Last month, McDonald’s 2008 net profit has risen 80 percent from 2007 to 4.3 billion dollars.

Marchioli has also introduced Denny’s $4 Weekday Express Slam, which is a streamlined version of the Grand Slam. “I want to take back share. For too long, we have allowed others to take share, whether it was Starbucks or McDonald’s. They’re fine competitors and I don’t expect to take all their business from them, but I’d like a little bit back,” Marchioli noted.

According to Rafi Mohammed, author of “The Art of Pricing,” people love free. “It triggers a Pavlovian response in people,” said Mohammed. If Pavlov’s dogs salivate when a bell rings, Denny’s free Grand Slam breakfast has attracted 2 million hungry customers. “I believe free maximizes trial and doesn’t devalue a product as long as it is a rare event. Aside from the cost, the major downside is that it attracts customers who truly have no intention of coming back,” he added.

According to University of Portland consumer psychology professor Deana Julka, people flock to free promotions amid just a few dollars saving because there’s nothing in life for free. “So when there’s something out there that costs nothing, it creates a psychological rush. Especially in these times when people feel overtaxed or overburden, there’s an internal reward people feel by getting something for free,” she said. “It’s being thrifty and feeling like you beat the system. Free really hits the spot for a lot of people,” Julka added.

“Free is an emotional hot button. When free is concerned, there is no downside – or, at least, we don’t see the downside immediately. So we overvalue everything that is free. People love free stuff, particularly when money’s tight,” said Dan Ariely, a business professor at Duke University, author of “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.”

Experts, however, explained these moves need to be done sparingly, since giveaways can teeter in the balance between desperation and a well designed marketing ploy. “Giving your product away for free is not worth it because it undermines your brand value,” said branding expert Rob Frankel, saying people are attached to the idea of it being free, than the actual product itself.

Free giveaways are not anything new in the food industry. “It just feels good when you can get something for free and not have to worry about it coming out of your wallet,” Frankel noted. Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread all have had free coffee and food promos last year. “In November, Starbucks gave away free cup of coffee to anyone who came in on Election Day. Have you taken a look at how Starbucks is doing now?” Last week it has announced it would shut down 300 stores, in addition to the 600 it already planned to close.

On February 24, IHOP will be offering a free shortstack to every customer to encourage donations (in place of the cost) for Childrens Miracle Network. The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is a United States-based restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods and is owned by DineEquity. The chain had more than 1950 restaurants in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Since 2006, IHOP’s National Pancake Day celebration has raised over $1.85 million. In 2008, over 1.5 million pancakes (12 miles high if they were stacked) were given to customers for donations.

Denny’s (“Denny’s Diner”) is a full-service diner/family restaurant chain in the United States. It operates over 2,500 restaurants in the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Curaçao, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand). The resto chain is known for always being open, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert around the clock.

Today, Denny’s operates about 1,600 restaurants in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. There are also about 578 Denny’s restaurants in Japan operated under a license by a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings, seven Denny’s locations in New Zealand, and approximately 38 Denny’s diners in the United States. Denny’s headquarters is now located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, headquarters of the parent company Trans World Corporation that acquired Denny’s in 1987.

Denny’s was historically notable for offering a free meal to anyone on their birthday. The offer included a limited number of meal options from a special birthday menu. The promotional ritual ceased in 1993, though occasionally individual franchises will continue the tradition.

In 2008, Denny’s has ceased to be in the ranks among the top diner chains in the $83 billion breakfast market, whose top five firms — McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and IHOP — accounted for 22 percent of the volume. “A lot of consumers have written Denny’s off their let’s-go-there list,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a consulting firm.

Super Bowl XLIII was an American football game between the American Football Conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers (15–4) and the National Football Conference champion Arizona Cardinals (12–8) to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2008 NFL season. It was played on February 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadiumin Tampa, Florida. It has an attendance of 70,774 and 98.7 million viewers. Pittsburgh earned its sixth Super Bowl win, thus securing sole possession of the record for most Super Bowl wins.

Category:June 10, 2010

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Etiquette For Wedding Invitation Seating Plan Etiquette For Your Wedding

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Submitted by: Mary A Jane

Now that you have planned a beautiful reception that everyone will enjoy as they help you celebrate the happiest time of your life, the next step is to make the seating arrangements. You should seat everyone correctly so that you do not violate seating plan etiquette by seating someone where they are not supposed to be. Planning seating can be quite a task if you are planning a big wedding. Of course this is not true of small weddings. If your guest list is indeed large, you may want to buy some computer software that will help you arrange and rearrange your seating chart without too much of a problem. Using post-it notes will work well for small wedding but is quite inconvenient if the reception will be large.

Begin with the head table, which is the easiest. The head table is long and straight and is placed in at the front of the reception space. It is obviously arranged so that it is facing the wedding guests. The bride and groom take their seats at the center of the table. Wedding etiquette allows for flexibility when it comes to if the bride should be seated on the right hand side or the left hand side.

The bride s parents are seated next to the bride and they can sit in any order. If parents are remarried, this will be a complication. You may want to have them sit at a different table and have your bridal attendants sit in their place. The bride s maid of honor should be seated after her parents. These tips go for the groom s parents as well if there has been a remarriage and the former spouses cannot get along.

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Another easy table is the kids table. Older children do not have to sit with their parents. They will even feel important. There should be no problems if they know they will be seated with other children. They will enjoy it! Seating plan etiquette lets this table be placed where adults will not want to be seated. Seating children near speakers would be just perfect.

After you have planned out the seating for the head table and kids table, seating plans get a little more difficult and complicated. It is best to attempt to keep people that know each other together at the same table if that is possible. Co-workers will probably feel more comfortable sitting with each other if they do not know your family well. Seating plan etiquette suggests that you should try to keep people of similar age groups together if you need to seat them with people that they may not know. Another good tip is to try to balance the number of males and females at a table. Try to keep the numbers even.

You should consider particular circumstances when you are seating certain guests. Senior citizens, small children and women who are pregnant may need to be placed near the restrooms. If any of your guests have a disability, keep this in mind as well. Those giving a toast should be placed near the front of the room while exes should be kept as far away from each other as possible if they don t get along with each other.

It is a good idea to have a seating chart near the entrance of the reception hall so that your guests can find their seats. You might want to use a map of numbered tables so that it is easier for them to know where they should sit. Every table in your reception hall should have a number placed in the center. Place cards should be put at each seat and legible if you have assigned seats. Seating plan etiquette lets you just assign a table if that is what you prefer.

With a few seating plan etiquette tips you will hopefully be able to plan the best seating plan for your wedding.

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Tornado kills 19 in Florida

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

At least 19 people have been killed in central Florida in the city of Lady Lake and Paisley after severe storms and a tornado ripped through the cities in the middle of the night. Eleven of those killed were in Paisley and three were in Lady Lake.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue crews resume tomorrow morning.

Volusia, Sumter, Lake and Seminole counties have all been declared a state of an emergency as dozens of houses, mobile homes and a church were destroyed. Clothes and furniture are scattered around the wrecked houses and pieces of trees are scattered about. Cars are reported to have been turned over or thrown around in the air.

“Our priority today is search and rescue,” said Gov. of Florida, Charlie Crist. Rescuers are still looking through the wreckage to find survivors of those who might have been killed.

A spokeman for the emergency response team of Lake county, Chris Patton calls the damage “devastating” and worse than “hurricanes in 2004.”

“We have complete devastation of homes, of businesses, religious institutions. It was unlike even perhaps the hurricanes of 2004 when we had minor roof damage, screen damage, pool damage. This is way far more devastating,” said Patton.

The storms hit at about 3:15 [EST] a.m. on Friday morning. At least 20,000-30,000 people are without power.

Prince Laurent of Belgium testifies in marine fraud case

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

This article features in a News Brief from Audio Wikinews:

Prince Laurent of Belgium, the youngest son of King Albert II of Belgium, has been questioned last night by the federal police and is attending today’s court session in Hasselt in a marine fraud case that has gripped Belgian media since last December. He arrived in a Smart car and was accompanied by his lawyer and former politician Fred Erdman. The case turns around funds of the Belgian Navy that have been used to beautify the Prince’s villa in Tervuren. The Prince is expected to testify this afternoon.

In total, 2.2 million was supposedly diverted from the marine’s purchasing services using false invoices. Roughly € 185 000 was allegedly used to paint the Prince’s villa, install lights in the garden, for the purchase of carpet and furniture, and for his secretariat and for animal clinics the Prince supports via his Foundation. Twelve marine officers and contractors are being accused of document fraud, collusion, bribery, embezzlement of government money etc. and could face 10 years in prison. The money was part of the budget that wasn’t spent at the end of the year, and which would flow back to the government if the army didn’t spend it.

The Prince, who is also an officer in the navy, is being treated only as a witness in this case, there have been no charges against him. The Attorney General in Hasselt Marc Rubens has said that there are no elements in the investigation that point to the fact that Laurent was aware of the affair, however several accused have contested this in the press. Technically, the villa is not the property of the Prince himself, but of the Royal Gift, which manages the real property of the Royal Family.

During his interview by the police last night, Prince Laurent stated that he needed funds to renovate his villa, and that Noël Vaessen, his adviser, told him the Navy could help him. The Prince stated that he thought it was legal, and that he had no reason to doubt his adviser.

Ex-Colonel Noël Vaessen was an adviser of the Prince between 1993 and 1999. Vaessen has declared in the media during the last month that the Prince actively participated in the fraud, and that he fears a cover-up. He said that the Prince was a demanding party in the operation, and that “he knew that we were arranging things to make his life and his work as comfortable as possible.” According to Vaessen, the Prince was in need of money to support a royal lifestyle, and “didn’t even have enough money to buy food.”

In 2001, Vaessen was discharged with honour from the army “for medical reasons”, but Defence Minister André Flahaut is investigating if there was no agreement to give him his pension in exchange for the fact that he wouldn’t incriminate the Prince. Vaessen also accused the Prince of other things, such as racing against the high-speed train TGV on a French highway. He has also incriminated Admiral Herteleer. Captain Johan Claeys, one of the accused, studied with the Prince and worked at the facturation services of the Navy in 1998 and 1999. One of the accused contractors, Marc Luypaerts, has told the press that the judge responsible for the investigation in Hasselt had forbidden him to speak about Prince Laurent.

Laurent’s status as a Prince has several judicial consequences for the trial. In Belgium, it’s against the law to incriminate the Royal Family during a trial. Also, the Prince is protected from judicial pursuit because he is also a Senator by law. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx has issued a Royal Decrete, which the King has signed while on holiday in Napels, which would make it possible for Princes to testify in a trial.

However, Public Prosecutor Erwin Steyls has chosen to have Laurent interrogated by the police last night in Hasselt. This was the first time during the last six years of the inquiry that the Prince was questioned. Today in the court, the Prosecutor defended the act of having him questioned outside the trial, saying that there were several procedural issues. First, the subpoena for the Prince wasn’t issued in time to be legal. Second, the details of the protocol to hear the Prince in court were not explained in the recent Royal Decrete, making it worthless -something Minister Onkelickx denied. Thirdly, nobody can be forced to testify against himself, and if the Prince were to make false statements under oath, he could only be sued for perjury. However, the court has decided to let him testify anyway this afternoon.

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Nobody is above the law and the Justice Department must be able to complete its task in full independence. When the courts find embezzlements, it seems fair to me that they would be compensated by anyone who profited from them.

During the last month, the case has caused a several spin-off discussions in Belgium. One of the surprises during this period was the King’s Christmas Message, in which he referred to the case. The regional governments are now investigating and discussing their donations to the IRGT/KINT, an environmental organisation supported by Prince Laurent. But there is also an ongoing debate over the position of the Monarchy in Belgium. Some politicians are suggesting to limit the role of the Monarchy, and other think that only the King and Queen, the Crown Prince or Princess and the widow(er) of the King or Queen should receive state funding.

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom has passed the second reading in the House of Commons Tuesday by 400 votes to 175. Amendments to the Bill are now to be discussed and voted in the committee stage and then debated in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, if passed, would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies where a particular denomination has agreed to provide such services. The government have said the Bill contains a “quadruple lock”, four separate measures to protect the religious freedom of those who do not agree with same-sex marriages on religious grounds.

The government’s proposals have caused “growing discord” within the Conservative Party according to a letter written by a group of Conservative local constituency chairmen. The letter, which was delivered to Downing Street on Sunday, claimed the policy would cause “significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election” and “resignations from the party are beginning to multiply”.

The Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley criticised media focus on the letter sent to Downing Street, telling the BBC the importance of the letter was overblown: “There are, say, 630 associations, there’s now two active officers for each one, that’s over 1200. Twenty five past and present officers went to Downing St — 25 out of over 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 — doesn’t strike me as newsworthy.”

Bottomley said he believes the majority of people in Britain are supportive of same-sex marriage although older people tend to be against it, and said the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.

On Monday, in response to the letter sent to Downing Street, another letter from fifty grassroots activists within the Conservative Party including constituency chairmen and the chairman of Conservative Future, a group for Conservative supporters aged under 30, argued Conservative MPs should support the Bill: “Please do not allow the impression that all Conservative Party activists are opposed to gay marriage. Many of us strongly agree with the proposal. Nor is it true that gay marriage has no mandate. David Cameron made his support for it clear in his first conference speech as party leader, and won loud applause. It was in the party’s equalities manifesto at the last election.”

The letter said opposition to same-sex marriage would “risk alienating the voters we will need in 2015” and argued the plans have broad support from the wider public.

In response to criticism from within the Conservative Party, Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for the Bill, wrote an editorial in The Times defending the proposals. Miller wrote: “The proposals for change are straightforward — if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough.”

Miller defended the bill from accusations it would infringe on religious freedom: “This bill is about choice. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who don’t agree.”

The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, confirmed on Monday in a post for the blog ConservativeHome that she plans to vote against the Bill, saying the Bill fails to make heterosexual and gay couples equal because the Bill does not require gay couples “to make any commitment to faithfulness whatsoever in the way straight couples are required to” and because there is no requirement for consummation. She also argued it is politically unwise for the Conservative Party, claiming loss of support “could lose us as many as 100 seats”. Dorries said Labour’s introduction of civil partnerships was “the right thing” but the Labour Party would not have supported same-sex marriage because it would cost them support from Catholics. She argued that if Conservatives push for same-sex marriage to become law, Labour would then not have to take a political hit for passing the Bill.

The Conservative Party activist Tim Montgomerie contradicted claims that the Conservatives would face a drastic drop in support, claiming a YouGov survey shows it won’t affect voter intentions: “the effect might well be negative in the short-term but — AT WORST — it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%”.

Conservative blogger and radio host Iain Dale — who is also openly gay — argued on his blog that a number of the opponents in the Tory ranks are themselves in the closet and may face outing attempts by gay rights campaigners. On ITV, Dale said he had looked at a list of MPs who intend to vote against the Bill on the website of Campaign for Equal Marriage: “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster Village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment. I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”

Before the debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he will vote “proudly” for equal marriage: “I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have. That’s why I’ll be voting for equal marriage, along with the rest of the shadow cabinet.”

Liberal Democrats committed to supporting the policy. A notable exception among the Liberal Democrats is John Pugh MP who said in a letter to his constituents published on Monday he will vote against the Bill because he believes “it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family”.

In the run up to the debate, MPs claim to have received emails they characterised as “vitriolic”, “appalling”, and “unpleasant” from both supporters and opponents of the Bill. The Conservative MP Angie Bray said: “You get emails from one side saying you’re morally deficient if you vote no and emails threatening hell fire and brimstone if you vote yes. It has frankly been an ill-tempered debate on both sides.”

Some MPs have said negative emails from opponents have prompted them to support the Bill. An anonymous MP told The Independent: “Quite a few of us who were considering abstaining will vote in favour of gay marriage because of the unreasonable nature of the emails we have been receiving. Some of the emails I’ve had are simply appalling and I’m fed up with it.”

Conservative MP David Burrowes, who opposes the Bill, said unpleasant messages have also come from supporters of the Bill: “I’ve had death threats, hostility and hate mail. My children have even been told that their dad is a homophobe.”

Burrowes made his case against the Bill Tuesday on ConservativeHome: “Marriage has never been just about the happiness and fulfilment of the individuals involved. It is part of a bigger picture — human societies need stable family groupings, especially for the nurture and care of children. The man-woman union at the heart of marriage has to do with this bigger picture.”

Burrowes also argues the marriage Bill will not significantly advance gay rights, pointing instead to his support for an introduction of a new offence of homophobic hatred.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin wrote an article defending the legislation for ConservativeHome, arguing “the Bill respects those who feel that same-sex marriage does represent an attack on their view of marriage” and since “nobody is going to be forced to take part in a same-sex marriage who does not wish to do so, I very much hope that in turn they will respect those who feel that the present inequality of marriage is an attack their identity and freedom as individuals.”

The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first post-appointment public statement to reaffirm the Church of England’s opposition to the Bill: “I stand, as I have always stood over the last few months, with the statement I made at the announcement of my appointment, which is that I support the Church of England’s position on this. We have made many statements about this and I stick with that.”

The Guardian opinion writer Polly Toynbee argued the fallout within the Conservative Party has failed to show they are “a modernised party” but instead revealed them “as a nest of bigots”, warning that the party disunity threatens the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The Second Reading started just after 12:30pm on Tuesday. Maria Miller introduced the bill: “The depth of feeling, love and commitment between same-sex couples is no different from that depth of feeling between opposite-sex couples. The Bill enables society to recognise that commitment in the same way, too, through marriage. Parliament should value people equally in the law, and enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current differentiation and distinction.”

Miller argued against the charge that the Bill redefines marriage by pointing to previous reforms of marriage law: “Suggestions that the Bill changes something that has remained unchanged for centuries simply do not recognise the road that marriage has travelled as an institution.”

Miller concluded her introduction of the Bill by appealing to fairness: “Despite all the discussion and debate, this Bill is about one thing — fairness. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who do not agree with same-sex marriage. Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have; it binds families and society together, and it is a building block that promotes stability. This Bill supports and cultivates marriage, and I commend it to the House.”

The Labour politician Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response. She welcomed the Bill and argued: “Parliament should not stop people getting married just because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and we should not say that same-sex relationships are intrinsically worth less.”

Regarding the claim that the Bill would eventually force religious groups to perform same-sex ceremonies, Yvette Cooper stated: “It is clear that they will not have to.”

Cooper also argued against a number of objections to the Bill. She said some object that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, but: “We cannot hide discrimination simply by calling it a definition. Marriage has changed many times over the centuries — and thank goodness for that.”

In response to the argument that marriage is for the purposes of procreation and protection of children, Cooper argued: “Many marriages are childless, and we do not prevent people who are too old or too sick to have children from getting married. We do not do fertility tests at the altar.”

Following the speeches of Miller and Cooper, MPs from all parties spoke both for and against the Bill. Opponents argued their opposition to the bill was not driven by homophobia or bigotry, the Labour MP Robert Flello stating: “the debate has been characterised as bigoted religion on the one hand versus equality on the other.”

Conservative MP Edward Leigh argued marriage exists for children: “Marriage exists to keep the parents exclusively committed to each other, because, on average, that is the best and most stable environment for children. If marriage were solely about the relationship between two people, we would not bother to enshrine it in law, and nor would every culture, society and religion for thousands of years have invested it with so much importance.”

Leigh then suggested proponents were motivated by their own interests rather than the interests of children: “Marriage is not about ‘me, me, me’, nor about legally validating ‘my rights’ and ‘my relationships’; it is about a secure environment for creating and raising children, based on lifelong commitment and exclusivity”.

The Conservative MP Nick Herbert introduced some levity into the debate when he ridiculed the idea that heterosexuals would be threatened by gay and lesbian couples getting married: “Darling, our marriage is over: Sir Elton John has just got engaged to David Furnish”.

David Lammy MP compared the campaign for gay rights to civil rights: “Separate but equal is a fraud. It’s the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.”

During the debate, a number of gay MPs spoke in support of the bill. Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams noted: “Through my teenage years being openly gay was virtually impossible as it was terrifying in terms of the abuse.”

Another Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, spoke of the importance of the bill to him as a gay man: “Semantics matter. Words express the values of society. This bill about marriage is part of the astonishing and wonderful change that has taken place over the last fifty years that has taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self-worth and validation. That certainly wasn’t apparent to me as a young man. What I understood was that there was something wrong with me that had — had — to be mastered. And for three decades I managed that struggle. And the relief and happiness of not having to do so any longer comes from others who fought for all of the measures advancing equality over the last five decades that are the precursors to today’s Bill.”

Crispin Blunt’s speech prompted Mark Menzies to note he would change from abstaining to supporting the bill.

Hugh Robertson closed the debate, praising the House for a “lively and impassioned debate” and stated the government’s case: “This is a bill with a very straightforward proposition at its heart: whether extending marriage for same-sex couples strengthens marriage and increases equality or whether it is a threat to religion and society. The Government believes it is the former.”

According to media reports, more Conservative MPs voted against the Bill than for it in the second reading. Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs who voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the passage of the Second Reading, saying the legislation represents “an important step forward for our country”.

Belgium’ Challenges}

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Belgium’ challenges

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merillmayden

Belgium is a country located at the crossroads of Western Europe. It borders France to the southwest, Luxembourg to the southeast, Germany to the east and the Netherlands to the north. The majority of West European capitals are within 1,000 km of the Belgian capital of Brussels.

Belgium is one of the founding members of the European Union and EU is just headquartered in Belgium. Belgium is also a Benelux country, which is an economic union comprising three neighbouring monarchies, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Belgium is a federal state, with 3 relatively autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, where the language is Dutch (“Flemish”), Wallonia in the south, where the language is French, and the centrally located Brussels, which is officially bilingual.

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People living in Belgium probably are enjoying the best quality of life in the world due to its excellent food, housing, health care, education and infrastructure, its world records for high productivity and low poverty, and the appreciation of foreigners. This satisfaction partly owes to the freedom and tolerance of the Belgium society.

However, there are also some vexed problems facing Belgium.

In terms of Belgium’s politics, it is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The parliament is made up of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The king is the head of the state, but with limited prerogatives. He is responsible for appointing Prime Minister. The political components in Belgium are complicated. In general, different political powers are divided according to different cultural and linguistic communities. There are three major political powers in Belgium: the right-wing Liberals, the socially conservative Christian Democrats and the left wing socialists.

The problem results from the fact that the talks between Belgium’s leading political parties on forming a coalition government have again ended in failure. It is hard to imagine that a society operates without an official government.the King Albert was even consulting political leaders Saturday on how to end this political stalemate.

Another concern from the tourists could be the safety on the street of Belgium. In the early 2006, a 17 years old young man, Joe Van Holsbeeckwas, was killed for his MP3 player during peak-hour in Brussels’ Central Station. This accident triggered the biggest march with 800,000 people in the country since the White March a decade earlier when 300,000 people marched on the street. The march is for memorising the innocent young man and putting pressure on the government to control street violence.

Moreover, like other Western European countries, the aging population, affordability of social security, integration of migrant workers, the issue of asylum seekers and sustainable development are part of the most urgent challenges the government may face.

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