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Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds

Friday, May 16, 2008

Controversy has arisen over the reported presence of blue asbestos on the MV Freewinds, a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology. According to the Saint Martin newspaper The Daily Herald and the shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, the Freewinds was sealed in April and local public health officials on the Caribbean island of Curaçao where the ship is docked began an investigation into the presence of asbestos dust on the ship. Former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft supervised work on the ship in 1987, and attested to the presence of blue asbestos on the Freewinds in an affidavit posted to the Internet in 2001. Woodcraft, a licensed architect by profession, gave a statement to Wikinews and commented on the recent events.

According to The Daily Herald, the Freewinds was in the process of being renovated by the Curaçao Drydock Company. The article states that samples taken from paneling in the ship were sent to the Netherlands, where an analysis revealed that they “contained significant levels of blue asbestos”. An employee of the Curaçao Drydock Company told Radar Online in an April 30 article that the Freewinds has been docked and sealed, and confirmed that an article about asbestos ran in the local paper.

Lloyd’s List reported that work on the interior of the Freewinds was suspended on April 27 after health inspectors found traces of blue asbestos on the ship. According to Lloyd’s List, Frank Esser, Curaçao Drydock Company’s interim director, joined Curaçao’s head of the department of labor affairs Christiene van der Biezen along with the head of the local health department Tico Ras and two inspectors in an April 25 inspection of the ship. “We are sending someone so that they can tell us what happened, where it came from, since when it has been there,” said Panama Maritime Authority’s director of merchant marine Alfonso Castillero in a statement to Lloyd’s List.

The Church of Scientology purchased the ship, then known as the Bohème, in 1987, through an organization called Flag Ship Trust. After being renovated and refitted, it was put into service in June 1988. The ship is used by the Church of Scientology for advanced Scientology training in “Operating Thetan” levels, as well as for spiritual retreats for its members. Curaçao has been the ship’s homeport since it was purchased by the Church of Scientology.

According to his 2001 statement, Lawrence Woodcraft had been an architect in London, England since 1975, and joined Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” (Sea Org) in 1986. He wrote that he was asked by the Sea Org to work on the Freewinds in 1987, and during his work on the ship “noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance approximately 1 ½” thick between the paint and the steel wall,” which he believed to be asbestos. He also discovered what he thought was blue asbestos in other parts of the ship, and reported his findings to Church of Scientology executives. Woodcraft discussed his experiences in a 2001 interview published online by the Lisa McPherson Trust, a now-defunct organization which was critical of the Church of Scientology.

The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards.

Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw responded to Radar Online about the asbestos reports, in an email published in an article in Radar on May 1. “The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards,” said Pouw. She stated that two inspections performed in April “confirmed that the air quality is safe,” and asserted that the inspections revealed the Freewinds satisfies standards set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Pouw told Radar that “The Freewinds will be completing its refit on schedule.” The Church of Scientology-affiliated organization Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) had been planning a cruise aboard the Freewinds scheduled for May 8, but according to Radar an individual who called the booking number for the cruise received a message that the cruise had been delayed due to ongoing work on the ship. Citing an article in the Netherlands Antilles newspaper Amigoe, Radar reported on May 6 that a team from the United States and supervised by an independent bureau from the Netherlands traveled to Curaçao in order to remove asbestos from the Freewinds.

…if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff.

“I stand by everything I wrote in my 2001 affidavit,” said Lawrence Woodcraft in an exclusive statement given to Wikinews. Woodcraft went on to state: “I would also comment that if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff. Also panelling as well, basically strip the ship back to a steel hull. Also blue asbestos is sprayed onto the outer walls and then covered in paint. It’s in every nook and cranny.”

Many Scientologist celebrities have spent time aboard the Freewinds, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley, Catherine Bell, Kate Ceberano, and Juliette Lewis. Now magazine reported that Tom Cruise has been urged to seek medical attention regarding potential asbestos exposure, however a representative for Cruise stated he has “absolutely no knowledge” of the recent asbestos controversy. Cruise, Holmes, Travolta and Preston have celebrated birthdays and other events on the Freewinds.

There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.

In a May 15 statement to the United Kingdom daily newspaper Metro, a representative for the Church of Scientology said that “There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.” The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center notes that agencies have recommended anyone who has spent time on the Freewinds consult with their physician to determine if possible asbestos exposure may have affected their health.

Raw blue asbestos is the most hazardous form of asbestos, and has been banned in the United Kingdom since 1970. Blue asbestos fibers are very narrow and thus easily inhaled, and are a major cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which can develop in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium sac surrounding the heart. The cancer is incurable, and can manifest over 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

“This is the most dangerous type of asbestos because the fibres are smaller than the white asbestos and can penetrate the lung more easily,” said toxicologist Dr. Chris Coggins in a statement published in OK! Magazine. Dr. Coggins went on to note that “Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim has six months to a year to live. It gradually reduces lung function until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies.”

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Anthrocon 2007 draws thousands to Pittsburgh for furry weekend

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — Local caterers get ready for big business, as almost three thousand fans converge on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center over the Independence Day weekend for the world’s largest ever furry convention, Anthrocon 2007.

Many hope to renew acquaintances, or meet new friends. Others look to buy from dealers and artists, or show off new artwork or costumes. Some attend to make money, or even learn a thing or two. But one thing unites them: They’re all there to have fun.

Contents

  • 1 Costly expansion
  • 2 Programming and entertainment
  • 3 Audience
  • 4 Art show and dealers
  • 5 Charity and volunteers
  • 6 Local impact
  • 7 Related news
  • 8 Sources

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Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Family Coalition Party candidate Bill Bernhardt, Kitchener Centre

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bill Bernhardt is running for the Family Coalition Party in the Ontario provincial election, in the Kitchener Centre riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Please note that Bill provided his answers in “ALL CAPS”; due to the time constraints of this election coverage, it remains in this typographic style.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

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Demonstrators protest Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Australia

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Anti-war demonstrators in Sydney, Australia on Thursday dubbed U.S. Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice a “war criminal” and “murderer.” Two protesters were evicted and five people were arrested during protests against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Dr Rice, on a three-day trip to Australia, said she understood why people found it hard to be positive about Iraq when all they saw on their television screens was violence.

Soon after Rice began her speech at the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music, two protesters shouted from the rear of the auditorium, “Condoleezza Rice, you are a war criminal,” and “Iraqi blood is on your hands and you cannot wash that blood away.” Standing with their palms towards her, the young man and woman repeated their accusation until security intervened to remove them from the hall.

About 15 minutes into Rice’s address, a third protester appeared at a balcony door, interrupting her speech as she referred to freedom. “What kind of freedom are you talking about? You are a murderer,” said the demonstrator before he was quietly escorted from the hall. “I’m very glad to see that democracy is well and alive here at the university,” she said.

In her speech, Rice sought to justify the U.S. occupation of Iraq, describing Iraqis as now more free. One student asked about abuses committed by U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. She said the abuses had made her “sick to her stomach.” However, she defended Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where human rights groups say detainees are held in inhumane conditions and in detention flouting international laws.

Before Rice began her speech, about 50 protesters were gathered at the front gates of the Conservatorium. The group were confronted by police on horseback and by police dogs. Police used the horses to charge into the group of activists and push them back, as a police helicopter hovered.

A police spokeswoman said the group was blocking pedestrian access to the building and that police had spent more than 20 minutes warning them to move. The police then moved in and pushed the crowd back 20 metres. Police say five people have been charged with “hindering police in the execution of their duties.”

The “Stop the War Coalition” says Rice is a “war criminal” and is not welcome in Australia. The group’s spokeswoman, Anna Samson, says the protest is one of many planned in the lead-up to the third anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq on March 20.

Paddy Gibson, from the University of Sydney’s Student’s Council, says the protest is in opposition to the Iraq war, and to the use of the University of Sydney’s campus to host Rice, “the most powerful woman in the world,” who they say is a war criminal. “They’re saying, ‘… you’ve got Sydney Uni’s support to stand up and peddle your murderous hate speeches,’ which is what we see it,” he said.

“You’ve got 180,000 people killed, as we said, for no other reason than strategic control of the region’s oil resources. And the anti-Muslim racism that’s been whipped up to justify this war is being felt by Sydney University students,” said Mr Gibson.

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Category:August 2, 2010

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Andrea Muizelaar on fashion, anorexia, and life after ‘Top Model’

Monday, November 26, 2007

In the 18 months since Andrea Muizelaar was crowned winner of the reality TV series Canada’s Next Top Model, her life has been a complete whirlwind. From working in a dollar store in her hometown of Whitby, Ontario, to modeling haute couture in Toronto, she had reached her dream of becoming a true Top Model.

But at what cost? Unknown to casual television viewers, Muizelaar had been enveloped in the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which inevitably became too much for her to bear. She gave up modeling and moved back to Whitby, where she sought treatment for her disorder, re-entered college, and now works at a bank. Where is she now? Happy and healthy, she says.

Recently Andrea Muizelaar sat down with Wikinews reporter Mike Halterman in a candid interview that stretched to nearly two hours, as she told all about her hopes and aspirations, her battle with anorexia, and just what really happened on Canada’s Next Top Model.

Contents

  • 1 Andrea’s beginnings
  • 2 Andrea on her road to modeling, and America’s Next Top Model
  • 3 Experience on Canada’s Next Top Model
  • 4 The message she wrote to her fans on her facebook group
  • 5 Her brief modeling career
  • 6 “Happy and healthy”
  • 7 Source

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News briefs:May 26, 2010

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eBay removes Canadian town’s listing of sperm whale carcass

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Citing violations of its policy regarding “Marine mammal items”, eBay terminated an online listing on Monday by the town of Cape St. George, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, for a 40 ft (12 m) sperm whale carcass reportedly beached upon its shores about a week prior.

With an initial asking price of 99 cents, bidding for the carcass reportedly rose to C$238.03 within 15 bids. Reports variously state the final price of the whale, prior to the removal of the listing from the auction site on Monday at about 2:30pm, was C$2,025 or C$2,075. Listed in eBay’s “really weird” category, the carcass was considered by eBay to be an example of “items made from marine mammals regardless of when the product was made”, which are prohibited as per site rules.

Following a council meeting on Sunday in the town of 950 residents, Cape St. George’s mayor, Peter Fenwick, put the whale up on the auction site in a bid to have it removed from the town’s premises, citing a lack of cooperation from provincial and federal government officials on the matter. “It’s your problem, you solve it”, Fenwick recounted to The Globe and Mail (TGaM) as the response he received from them. Apart from eBay, Kijiji was also suggested as another avenue by which to sell the carcass.

Fenwick told CTV News, several years prior another sperm whale measuring 15 ft was beached in the area, but disappeared without incident, an act Fenwick attributed to be the work of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “This time”, he remarked, “the authorities have told us that it’s our whale, it’s our responsibility to get rid of it.”

On putting the carcass for sale, Fenwick remarked, “We knew we had to do something with it and this seemed to be the least expensive way of disposing of it.” In a news release, Fenwick highlighted a possible use for the carcass, particularly its bones. “The 40 foot sperm whale will make a spectacular exhibit once the fat and muscle is removed, and the town is asking museums and other organizations that could use a whale skeleton to contact the town for further details.”

On retaining the whale himself, Fenwick stated, “As a town we would dearly love to keep the whale and put it on exhibit in the town but the cost of such a venture would be hard to justify.” Fenwick told TGaM the whale was “in half decent shape”. “This one looks like it died very recently and hasn’t decomposed much”, which Fenwick suggested elsewhere was due to the whale’s present location, partially submerged in near-freezing water. However, Fenwick noted its close proximity to a residential area, saying homeowners who lived there were “very interested in seeing the whale gone.”

eBay was not the only organization who barred the sale from taking place. “We also got threatened by the federal department of the environment, and told to pull the ad off or they would prosecute us”, said Fenwick on the opposition he said he received from Environment Canada, which viewed the sale as contravening a federal act designed to protect endangered species. “I received a call from the federal department of the environment saying that you’re not allowed to sell any parts of sperm whales, even if they’re dead.” he added. “So I said, ‘Oh that’s very good, I’m glad to hear that, now can you send somebody over here to get rid of it for us?'” Fenwick’s request was met with a negative response from Environment Canada.

“They’ve got to sort it out somehow. The uncertainty means it just sort of sits there and rots.” Once decomposition sets in, Fenwick remarked the carcass would become a “real nuisance”. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a whale that’s been rotting on the beach for a couple of months — actually sometimes you can’t see it for the clouds of flies around it — but you can smell it for about a mile”, he added.

On finding alternate means to dispose of the carcass, Wayne Ledwell, a member of Newfoundland’s Whale Release and Strandings, suggested the whale be towed out to a remote area. “They need to do that right away, when they come in and they’re fresh,” said Ledwell. “No one wants to go touch them … everything becomes gooey and slippery and you can’t stand up on the whale and it gets on your boots and you can’t get the smell off and then you go home and the dog rolls in it and you get it in your kitchen and you curse the whales, and you curse the government and … it becomes a mess.” Fenwick said they’d considered the idea, enlisting a local fisherman who, however, judged his engine too small for the job.

Previously, blue whale carcasses washed ashore in the towns of Trout River and Rocky Harbour, located about 150 km further north, and were taken by Royal Ontario Museum for preservation of the skeletons. Fenwick suggested the sperm whale carcass in his town might also meet a similar fate, as the sperm whale’s status as the largest toothed whale might prove to be a drawing attraction for such a facility.

Regarding what he plans to do next with the carcass, Fenwick said “If we’re not allowed to sell it, we’re willing to drop our 99 cent price down to a zero.” He said he hoped some eBay bidder stays interested in the whale. “We’ll be glad to talk to them about giving them the whale. We’re hoping that’s not illegal.” He also said he hoped the publicity from the town’s predicament, which garnered national attention, and its unusual means of finding a solution, would draw in someone interested in taking the whale off his hands at their own expense.

Should the whale fall under new ownership, Fenwick advised it be moved away from the town to a beach devoid of people, and the blubber left as food for seagulls, insects, and other predators. He estimated “It’ll probably take a year or so to get down to the skeleton.” As monetary gain was reportedly not what the town cared about, Fenwick was willing to offer the carcass for free, though one report noted money raised from the listing could have gone towards the building of a skate park.

The listing on eBay, as put up by Fenwick, read:

This 40 foot sperm whale rolled up on the beach last week. The actual seller is the town of Cape St. George which is responsible for disposing of it before it starts to decay. Once the fat and flesh is removed you have a spectacular 40 foot skeleton of the largest toothed whale in the world, great for museums and other attractions. To prevent it rotting in the town it can be towed to isolated beaches on the Port au Port Peninsula to allow the seagulls and other birds to remove the flesh. Call 709-644-2290 or 709-649-7070 for more details.

Please note the successful bidder will have to remove the whale within 30 days

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Thai PM barred from politics, three parties dissolved

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Today’s ruling from Thailand’s Constitutional Court sees the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, removed from office, barred from politics, and the People’s Power Party (PPP) dissolved. The allegations leading to this were of vote buying in the last election.

The decision has already eased tension in the country, with the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) announcing they will end their siege of Bangkok’s two main international airports. Red-shirted pro-government protesters were dismayed at the court’s decision. Initially they blockaded the Constitutional Court buildings to try and prevent the case being heard; following its relocation they moved on to the Administrative Court to protest a decision they claim is anti-democratic.

In addition to the PPP being disbanded and outlawed, two other parties in the ruling coalition were found guilty. The Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya parties were also outlawed and, between the three parties, 109 members barred from all involvement in the electoral process – including the right to vote. Among those disenfranchised were three ex-Prime Ministers. Those remaining from the executive of the outlawed parties have stated their intention to reform under a new name and attempt to continue in government.

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Prior to the PAD announcing that their airport blockades would end, another grenade attack at one of the airports killed one and injured around 20 other protesters. Yesterday saw the PAD announce plans to abandon the Government House compound they have occupied since August. Following numerous grenade attacks on their encampment there, they elected to move to the airport protest sites and leave what has become a regular target; it is expected to take until Thursday to remove all belongings accumulated at the key site since the August invasion.

Somchai, brother-in-law to the fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, has been a target of the PAD since he assumed the office following his predecessor being ousted over a conflict of interest issue. The PPP and Somchai are seen as a proxy for Thaksin and his banned Thai Rak Thai party, which the military overthrew in a bloodless coup in 2006.

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Apple introduces iPhone and Apple TV

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple Inc. today has introduced the much-anticipated iPhone at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco.

The iPhone is claimed to be “a revolutionary mobile phone” as stated on the Apple website. The device appears to be running a mobile version of the Apple operating system Mac OSX. It is approximately the same size as a 5th generation iPod, it has a 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen display that is used to access all features of the phone including number dial, as well as making phone calls. The iPhone plays music, movies, displays pictures and is able to connect to a wireless network.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the device by walking onto the stage and taking the iPhone out of his jeans pocket. During his 2 hour speech he stated that “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone, We are going to make history today”.

Today Apple also released their Media Center device – Apple TV. It will directly compete with Microsoft’s Media Center operating system. Apple has taken a different approach to the media center market; rather than storing content (such as movies, music and photos) on the device, Apple TV connects to a computer (Mac and Windows) over a wirless network connection and plays all content stored on that computer. This makes it substantially easier for users to organize their media content.