New York City's parks, beaches and even Times Square will be off-limits to smokers under one of the nation's toughest anti-cigarette laws passed Wednesday by the City Council.
"This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after the 36-12 vote.
The smoking ban will cover 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas like the one in the heart of Times Square. The ban goes into effect 90 days after Bloomberg signs the bill; the mayor has 20 days to do it.
States and cities from Maine to California have banned smoking in public parks and beaches, but New York is pursuing one of the widest-reaching urban bans. Smoking is also prohibited in Los Angeles city parks and in Chicago parks with playgrounds.
Supporters of the New York ban said exposure to secondhand smoke poses health risks.
"The statistics don't lie: Secondhand smoke kills," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air."
A law banning smoking in New York City bars and restaurants went into effect in 2003.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The image was released by the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Association (NOAA) on the day half of North America was in the grip of a severe winter storm.
The map was created using multiple satellites from government agencies and the US Air Force.
That Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland and the frozen wastes of Siberia are covered in white comes as no surprise. But it is the extent to which the line dips down over the Northern Hemisphere that is so remarkable about the image.
The shroud of white stretches down from Alaska and sweeps through the Midwest and along to the Eastern seaboard. The bitter cold has reached as far as Texas and northern Mexico where in Ciudad Juarez temperatures today were expected to dip to minus 15C.
In the U.S. tens of millions of people chose to stay at home rather than venture out. In Chicago, 20in of snow fell leading to authorities closing schools for the first time in 12 years. The newspaper for Tulsa, Okalahoma, was unable to publish its print edition for the first time in more than a century.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
A father whose cheating allegedly drove his partner to start a fire which killed two of their three children bizarrely arrived at court yesterday wearing a grotesque clown mask.
James Maynard donned the disguise, which stunned onlookers, as he attended the murder trial of his former partner Fiona Adams.
He grinned as he removed the mask before entering the courtroom. He offered no explanation as to why he chose to wear the disguise, which is reminiscent of the red-haired clown in Stephen King's horror novel 'It'.
Ms Adams, 23, is alleged to have started the fire to ‘create a drama’, but the blaze took a ‘rapid and devastating hold’ on the semi-detached home she shared with her family.
Although she managed to escape and throw her youngest son Kiernan, now 18 months, to safety, her daughter Niamh, five, and son Cayden, two, died.
Yesterday Nottingham Crown Court heard that her relationship Mr Maynard, 28, had been ‘volatile’ since they met when she was just 17.
Al Qaeda is attempting to stockpile ‘dirty’ radioactive explosives that could be used to target British troops or for a larger urban attack, it has emerged.
New diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks show that U.S. intelligence personnel have been informed of terrorist attempts to acquire dangerous amounts of uranium and plutonium.
The cables warn of a large trafficking operation of chemical weapons material and threats of a ‘nuclear 9/11’ unless the West intervenes swiftly.
Security chiefs briefed a Nato meeting in January 2009 that Al Qaeda was planning a programme of ‘dirty radioactive improvised explosive devices (IEDs)’.
The IEDs could be used against coalition forces in Afghanistan but would also contaminate the surrounding land with nuclear waste for years to come.
In a separate development, the cables quoted in the Telegraph reveal that the FBI is tracking down a team of Qatari men suspected of providing assistance to the 9/11 bombers.
U.S. officials were warned by an Indian national security adviser that terrorist organisations now ‘have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb’.
British officials have also expressed fears of covert weapons development in Pakistan.
A leaked document regarding official defence discussions in 2009 highlighted 'deep concerns' that a rogue scientist could 'gradually smuggle enough material' out of the Pakistani nuclear programme to construct a weapon.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The mental hospital which was used in the 1975 cult film that helped launch Jack Nicholson's career, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, has unearthed the remains of 3,500 people.
Politicians visiting in the dilapidating, 128-year-old hospital discovered the cremated ashes in 2004 in a number of corroding copper cannisters in the storage area they dubbed 'the room of forgotten souls'.
Now, in an attempt to find out who the thousands of ashes belong to, Oregon State Hospital has published online the names, birthdays and dates of death of patients who passed away between 1914 and the 1970s.
Some of the copper canisters had fused together after years of neglect, making it even more difficult to match the remains to the deceased.
When One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest screened it caused an outrage, leading many to question the state of psychiatric help in America.
The movie was filmed at Oregon State Hospital because that had been the setting of the 1962 novel, written by Ken Kesey.
Hero: Cool profile on Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man."
Sad: Mass slaughter of dogs after Vancouver Olympics revealed.
Yipes: US president may gain power to shut off Internet.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Spain announced Friday its jobless rate surged to a 13-year record above 20 percent at the end of 2010, the highest level in the industrialised world, as the economy gasped for air.
It was more bad news for an economy fighting to regain the trust of financial markets and avoid being trapped in a debt quagmire that has engulfed Greece and Ireland and now menaces Portugal.
Another 121,900 people joined Spain's unemployment queues in the final quarter of the year, pushing the total to 4.697 million people, said the national statistics institute INE.
The resulting unemployment rate was 20.33 percent for the end of the year -- easily exceeding Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's target of 19.4 percent.
Spain appears to be stuck in a rut of staggeringly high levels of unemployment.
After posting a jobless rate of 18.83 percent in 2009 and now 20.33 percent in 2010, the government is forecasting 19.3 percent for 2011 and 17.5 percent in 2012.
The Spanish economy, the European Union's fifth biggest, slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of a labour-intensive construction boom.
SAO PAULO — Brazilian authorities says a former fire chief has turned himself in to face allegations he killed at least eight drug users in the neighborhood where his son was killed by robbers.
Jorge Luiz Thais Martins commanded the Parana state firefighters' department from 2007-2009,
Police had issued an arrest warrant for Martins for his alleged involvement in the killings that happened after his son's unsolved death in October 2009.
A spokesman for the state public safety department says police are investigating the possibility the crimes were committed as vengeance.
Spokesman Giovani Santos says Martins made no comment when he turned himself in Friday.
A fried chicken chain run by a devout Christian family has been branded homophobic for backing a group which campaigns against gay marriage.
Chick-Fil-A, which says its corporate purpose it to ‘glorify God’, was savaged when it emerged one branch was providing food for the anti-gay Pennsylvania Family Institute.
Blogs immediately lit up with criticism with calls for for a nationwide boycott while students at some universities attempted to get it thrown off campus.
On the Chick-Fil-A official Facebook page the debate got so intense that moderators had to step in to remind people to ‘be respectful of others’.
The row exploded after the New York Times revealed that Chick-Fil-A sandwiches would be used to feed those attending a seminar called ‘The Art Of Marriage: Getting To The Heart Of God's Design’ in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The same piece pointed out that a few years ago the firm had given away CDs of a Bible-themed radio show with kids meals, which was produced by the Christian organisation Focus On The Family, which is against gay marriage.
Within hours an online petition asking Chick-Fil-A to stop supporting such groups had got 25,000 signatures.
On top of that customers such as Ryan Luzzi vented their anger at the company’s Facebook page and said: ‘I used to love you guys. That is until I found out how backwards and hateful your organisation is! I will NEVER EVER patronise any of your stores again!’
Others came out in support, however, such as Thelma Jean Zeigler Waldroup who posted: ‘From now on my family will be eating more Chick-Fil-A food.
‘I will support all Christian companies. I like that they honour God on the Sabbath.
‘If the gays don't like it then is just too bad.’
Chick-Fil-A later backed down and said it was dropping its support of any such groups.
The company’s president Dan Cathy said in a statement: ‘Chick-Fil-A's corporate purpose is 'To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.'
‘As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it.’
He did however add that the company would ‘continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families’.
‘To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles’.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
From Mother Jones:
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions.
"This bill takes us back to a time when just saying 'no' wasn't enough to qualify as rape," says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women's Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill's authors are "using language that's not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection." Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. "There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included," Levenson says.
As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.
The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.
The main abortion-rights groups despise the Smith bill as a whole, but they are particularly outraged by its rape provisions. Tait Sye, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, calls the proposed changes "unacceptable." Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says that making the "already narrow exceptions for public funding of abortion care for rape and incest survivors even more restrictive" is "unbelievably cruel and heartless."
"This bill goes far beyond current law," says Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a co-chair of the congressional pro-choice caucus. The "re-definition" of the rape exception "is only one element" of an "extreme" bill, she adds, citing other provisions in the law that pro-abortion rights groups believe would lead to the end of private health insurance coverage for abortion.
"Somebody needs to look closely at this," Levenson says. "This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn't want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law."