Dec 13 2013
A door-to-door salesperson who ignored a "Do Not Knock" sign to try to win over a gas customer has ended up costing their Australian employers Aus$60,000 (US$53,600).
The Federal Court ordered gas company AGL South Australia and marketing firm CPM Australia to pay the total penalty after an incident in Adelaide November 2011.
"In this case, the sign was affixed to the consumer's front door and contained an image of a fist knocking with a line through it and the words 'DO NOT KNOCK. Unsolicited door-to-door selling not welcome here'," the Australian competition watchdog said after the decision.
"The salesperson nonetheless knocked on the consumer's door and attempted to negotiate an agreement to supply energy."
The Federal Court ordered AGL to pay Aus$35,000 and CPM, who contracted the salesperson, Aus$25,000.
"These penalties reflect the need to deter conduct of such seriousness by the relevant respondents and others in the door-to-door selling industry," judge John Middleton.
The maximum penalty for breaching the unsolicited consumer agreement provision is Aus$50,000, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.
Dec 13 2013
Britain's Queen Elizabeth was so incensed with royal police officers eating nuts from bowls left out in the corridors of Buckingham Palace that she drew lines on the sides in a bid to catch them out, a London court heard on Thursday.
In emails submitted to the phone hacking trial of journalists at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid, its royal reporter said he had learnt that a memo had been issued to all officers telling them to "keep their sticky fingers out".
To laughter in the court, judge John Saunders told the jury that these were "unfounded allegations".
"Queen furious about police stealing bowls of nuts and nibbles left out for her in the BP (Buckingham Palace) Queen's corridors," an email from royal reporter Clive Goodman to then editor Andy Coulson said.
It said staff had put out a selection of nuts including cashews, almonds and Bombay mix around the palace for the 87-year-old queen.
"Problem is that police on patrol eat the lot. Queen so narked (annoyed) she has started marking the bowls to see where the levels dipped," it said.
The emails were read out to the long-running phone hacking trial, where eight people including former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are facing charges related to the interception of voicemails.
The eight all deny the charges. Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
Dec 12 2013
A 19-year-old Baruch College freshman died from “too many” tackles during a fraternity hazing over the weekend in the Poconos, a Pennnsylvania prosecutor said Wednesday.
Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng was one of four pledges to his college chapter of Pi Delta Psi who took part in what was described as a hazing ritual in a yard outside a home in Tunkhannock Township, authorities said.
Deng suffered a head injury Sunday morning and was taken inside the home, officials said. When he didn’t recover “after some time,” he was driven to the emergency room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital in Wilkes-Barre on Sunday morning, where he was unresponsive and listed in critical condition.
He was placed on life support but died Monday of what was described as “major brain trauma.”
“He got tackled too many times,” said Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine without elaboration.
About 30 members of the fraternity were taking part in the weekend getaway. Investigators found 20 Pi Delta Psi members at the home when they arrived and are trying to identify who was responsible for the fatal injuries, Christine said.
Pi Delta Psi identifies itself as “an Asian American cultural fraternity” founded in 1994, with a mission “to spread Asian American cultural awareness.” It has more than 20 chapters in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
China has designated the eve of Lunar New Year as a working day in 2014, triggering an outcry over the disruption of plans to celebrate the year's most important traditional holiday.
Each year in mid-December, the government announces public holidays for the following year.
They often follow a similar pattern, but next year's schedule, announced late on Wednesday, has surprised and angered many, as the Spring Festival holiday is when millions travel home to be reunited with families, many for the only time in the year.
"Many people need to go home and prepare for the Chinese New Year," said Ran Ying, a 26-year-old office worker in Shanghai's financial district of Lujiazui. "It's a mistake to swap the holiday plan between the eve and the seventh day of New Year."
The holiday plan approved by China's cabinet, or State Council, designates February 6 as a public holiday for the 7-day-long Spring Festival break, instead of January 30, the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year.
An overwhelming number of users also expressed anger on China's popular Sina Weibo microblogging site.
"I want to ask the people who made the plan: are you able to go home right after work?" wrote one Weibo user. "What about the people who work outside their hometown? How can they hurry home and have the family reunion dinner?"
Even the influential Global Times tabloid criticised the new schedule, saying those who lived away from their hometowns needed time to return, and calling for more public holidays.
"It is the desire of the urban Chinese society to increase public holidays as many people are feeling tired and care more about rest than money," it said in an editorial.
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Dec 12 2013
The parents of a US Marine whose body came back from Greece without his heart are suing the Greek government and an Athens hospital.
Craig and Beverly LaLoup are also suing the US Department of Defense over the remains of 21-year-old Sergeant Brian LaLoup.
Authorities say he fatally shot himself during a party at the US Embassy compound last year.
An Athens hospital performed an autopsy. Greek Embassy spokesman Christos Failadis said the heart had been removed for testing, but he would not say where it went next.
The Defense Department does not comment on pending litigation.
Mr LaLoup's parents say authorities later sent them a heart, but it was not their son's.
The US government is generally immune from wrongful death lawsuits, so the family is seeking damages only over their emotional distress caused by the missing organ.
They say they learned about the missing organ only accidentally, weeks after they buried their son.
"This is his heart. This is his soul. This is what made Brian who he is," Mrs LaLoup told reporters.
Dec 12 2013
A man has been charged with running a "revenge porn" website where he hosted more than 10,000 explicit photos - and then charged victims hundreds of dollars to have them removed.
Kevin Christopher Bollaert, 27, created ugotposted.com a year ago, and then let users anonymously post images of others without their permission, according to court documents .
Unlike similar sites, investigators said the website required the victim's name, age and other information.
Bollaert allegedly set up a second site - changemyreputation.com - and charged victims a fee ranging from $250 to $350 (£214) to remove the images.
He was arrested on 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. Both websites have now been taken down.
His activities "turned their public humiliation and betrayal into a commodity with the potential to devastate lives", said California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Bollaert, from San Diego, California, allegedly told investigators during a six-month investigation he received about $900 a month from online advertising.
However, officers said records from his changemyreputation.com PayPal account showed he received tens of thousands of dollars.
Photographs used as so-called revenge porn can be obtained during a consensual relationship, or can be stolen or hacked from online accounts, investigators said.
The practice resulted in a new law in California that makes it an offence to post identifiable nude pictures of someone without their permission and with the intent of causing emotional distress, though that law was not cited in the charges against Bollaert.
Other states, including Maryland, Wisconsin and New York, are considering introducing similar laws.
Some rights groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union, have expressed concern that the legislation conflicts with the First Amendment.
Dec 12 2013
Australia's highest court has repealed a law permitting gay marriage - meaning dozens of couples face having their weddings annulled within days of the nuptials.
Around 30 same-sex couples had tied the knot since the Australian Capital Territory passed the legislation last Saturday governing Canberra and its surrounding area.
But the federal government argued the law could not operate alongside the federal Marriage Act, which was amended in 2004 to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The High Court unanimously upheld the challenge, and issued a statement saying: "The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples.
"The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman. That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage."
Rodney Croome, national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality , said his group knows of about 30 same-sex couples who have married since Saturday, though the actual number may be slightly higher.
Outside the court in Canberra, a tearful Mr Croome said the ruling was a defeat for marriage equality, but there had been a greater victory this week.
"And that victory was the nation saw for the first time, I believe, what is really at the core of this issue - they've seen that marriage equality is not about protest or politics or even about laws in the constitution, ultimately," he said.
"Marriage equality is about love, commitment, family and fairness."
Among the couples upset by the ruling are Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh, who were married on Saturday.
The pair received their marriage certificate on Wednesday and immediately applied to change their surnames to Hinton-Teoh.
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Dec 12 2013
The suspension of a six-year-old boy for kissing a girl at school is raising questions about whether the peck should be considered sexual harassment.
The boy's mother said officials at Lincoln School of Science and Technology in Canon City, Colorado, are overreacting.
Jennifer Saunders said her son was suspended once before for kissing the girl and had other disciplinary problems, and she was surprised to find out that he would be forced out of school again for several days.
Hunter Yelton said he has a crush on a girl at school and "she likes him back".
"It was during class, yeah. We were doing reading group, and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That's what happened," he said.
Ms Saunders said she saw nothing wrong with her son's display of affection.
She said she punished him for other problems in school, including "rough-housing", but was shocked when the school's principal brought up the term "sexual harassment" during a meeting.
"This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a six-year-old. Now my son is asking questions. 'What is sex mommy?' That should not ever be said, sex. Not in a sentence with a six-year-old," she said.
District superintendent Robin Gooldy said the boy had been suspended because of a policy against unwanted touching.
"The focus needs to be on his behaviour. We usually try to get the student to stop, but if it continues, we need to take action and it sometimes rises to the level of suspension," he said.
David Welsh, a school psychologist, said some policies that bar bullying, harassment and weapons on public school campuses may go too far.
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A South African sign language interpreter accused of gesticulating gibberish as world leaders paid tribute to Nelson Mandela defended himself as a "champion" signer on Thursday, but said he suffered a schizophrenic episode during the event.
The interpreter, identified as 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie, told Johannesburg's Star newspaper he started hearing voices and hallucinating while on stage, resulting in gestures that made no sense to outraged deaf people around the world.
"There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in," he told the paper.
He did not know what triggered the attack, he added, saying he took medication for his schizophrenia.
Millions of TV viewers saw Jantjie interpreting for leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, at Tuesday's Mandela memorial.
Afterwards South Africa's leading deaf association denounced Jantjie as a fake, saying he was inventing signs.
However, in a radio interview Jantjie said he was happy with his performance at the memorial to the anti-apartheid hero, who died a week ago aged 95.
"Absolutely, absolutely. I think that I've been a champion of sign language," he told Talk Radio 702.
When contacted by Reuters he said he could not understand why people were complaining now rather than during other performances. "I'm not a failure. I deliver," he said, before hanging up.
The controversy has overshadowed South Africa's 10-day farewell to Mandela, whose remains were lying in state for a second day on Thursday at Pretoria's Union Buildings, where he was sworn in as the nation's first black president in 1994.
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Dec 12 2013
Many of us cannot recall the last time we got a letter in the mail, but Santa will this year receive a record eight million of them, the United Nations said Wednesday.
Global postal services expect to sort through that number of wish lists by the time Christmas rolls around, according to a survey by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which coordinates the world's mail systems.
That is two million more than the haul estimated in a similar survey in 2007.
Postal services in Canada, France, Spain and Ireland "are reporting increases in the number of letters sent to Santa, Pere Noel or the Three Wise Men, from last year", UPU said in a statement, referring to the French and Spanish versions of the famous gift-deliverer.
Last year the French held the record with 1.7 million letters, followed by Canadians, who penned 1.35 million.
Frequently addressed just to "Santa, North Pole", these letters are handled by some 20 postal services worldwide. Many have created formal programmes to help answer the missives, UPU said.
The US postal service even encourages people to "adopt" Santa letters, sending gifts under his name back to the authors, according to its website.
As a "universal superstar", Santa maintains addresses in many parts of the world, UPU said.
One of the more popular is Finland's Santa Claus Village, on the Arctic Circle, which last year received more than 500,000 letters from 192 countries, according to the Finnish postal service.
Post offices in locations with names reminiscent of the holiday season, like Christmas Island in Canada, also receive large amounts of mail this time of year, said UPU.