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Chula Vista, California becomes model for blight control laws in the US

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Chula Vista, California becomes model for blight control laws in the US

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The San Diego, California suburb of Chula Vista has responded to the recent housing crisis with an aggressive blight control ordinance that compels lenders to maintain the appearance of vacant homes. As foreclosures increase both locally and throughout the United States, the one year old ordinance has become a model for other cities overwhelmed by the problem of abandoned homes that decay into neighborhood eyesores.

Chula Vista city code enforcement manager Doug Leeper told the San Diego Union Tribune that over 300 jurisdictions have contacted his office during the past year with inquiries about the city’s tough local ordinance. Coral Springs, Florida, and California towns Stockton, Santee, Riverside County, and Murietta have all modeled recently enacted anti-blight measures after Chula Vista’s. On Wednesday, 8 October, the Escondido City Council also voted to tighten local measures making lenders more accountable for maintenance of empty homes.

Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.

Under the Chula Vista ordinance lenders become legally responsible for upkeep as soon as a notice of mortgage default gets filed on a vacant dwelling, before actual ownership of the dwelling returns to the lender. Leeper regards that as “the cutting-edge part of our ordinance”. Chula Vista also requires prompt registration of vacant homes and applies stiff fines as high as US$1000 per day for failure to maintain a property. Since foreclosed properties are subject to frequent resale between mortgage brokers, city officials enforce the fines by sending notices to every name on title documents and placing a lien on the property, which prevents further resale until outstanding fines have been paid. In the year since the ordinance went into effect the city has applied $850,000 in fines and penalties, of which it has collected $200,000 to date. The city has collected an additional $77,000 in registration fees on vacant homes.

Jolie Houston, an attorney in San Jose, believes “Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.” Traditionally, local governments have resorted to addressing blight problems on abandoned properties with public funds, mowing overgrown lawns and performing other vital functions, then seeking repayment afterward. Chula Vista has moved that responsibility to an upfront obligation upon lenders.

That kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.

As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States during recent years, Chula Vista saw 22.6% growth between 2000 and 2006, which brought the city’s population from 173,556 in the 2000 census to an estimated 212,756, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chula Vista placed among the nation’s 20 fastest growing cities in 2004. A large proportion of local homes were purchased during the recent housing boom using creative financing options that purchasers did not understand were beyond their means. Average home prices in San Diego County declined by 25% in the last year, which is the steepest drop on record. Many homeowners in the region currently owe more than their homes are worth and confront rising balloon payment mortgages that they had expected to afford by refinancing new equity that either vanished or never materialized. In August 2008, Chula Vista’s eastern 91913 zip code had the highest home mortgage default rate in the county with 154 filings and 94 foreclosures, an increase of 154% over one year previously. Regionally, the county saw 1,979 foreclosures in August.

Professionals from the real estate and mortgage industries object to Chula Vista’s response to the crisis for the additional burdens it places on their struggling finances. Said San Diego real estate agent Marc Carpenter, “that kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.” Yet city councils in many communities have been under pressure to do something about increasing numbers of vacant properties. Concentrations of abandoned and neglected homes can attract vandals who hasten the decline of struggling neighborhoods. Jolie Houston explained that city officials “can’t fix the lending problem, but they can try to prevent neighborhoods from becoming blighted.”

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CEO Robert Klein of Safeguard, a property management firm, told the Union Tribune that his industry is having difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing local ordinances. “Every day we discover a new ordinance coming out of somewhere”, he complained. Dustin Hobbs, a spokesman from the California Association of Mortgage Bankers agreed that uneven local ordinances are likely to increase the costs of lending. Hobbs advised that local legislation is unnecessary due to California State Senate Bill 1137, which was recently approved to address blight. Yet according to Houston, the statewide measure falls short because it fails to address upkeep needs during the months between the time when foreclosure begins and when the lender takes title.

Indigenous Brazilians asserting their land claims

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Indigenous Brazilians asserting their land claims

Saturday, February 4, 2006

The last few months have seen the number of land conflicts involving indigenous people increase rapidly. Brazil has 400,000 “first people”, many of whom express that they need more respect.

Hundreds of Indians occupied eight plots of land last week in an attempt to reclaim what they claim is their property. They were calling themselves victims and they threatened to destroy power lines.

In the southern region of Brazil, around a dozen Indians were injured in a police operation which apparently led to the destruction of two villages on land which is the focus of a legal dispute with the Aracruz Cellulose company.

There have been incidents throughout Brazil. The Amazon jungle in the north, and in the southern state of Catarina where eight Indians were arrested for property invasion and aggression.

The indigenous people have organized themselves over the past three decades. They have become a “political force”, said Rubem de Almeida a local anthropologist.

The government of Brazil have been somewhat successful in bringing about improvements which improve the reality for the indigenous communities.

Some of the indigenous people say they can’t simply wait for the mainstream; so in April of this year there are major demonstrations planned.

Macedonian policeman killed in attack near Kosovo

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Macedonian policeman killed in attack near Kosovo

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Macedonian police officer was killed and two were wounded in an attack with automatic rifles on their patrol vehicle near the border with Kosovo, the breakaway province of Serbia. The ambush occurred yesterday, not far from the village of TanuĆĄevci, a scene of bitter ethnic clashes in 2001.

The Kosovo police chief Veton Ellshani said that he cannot confirm that the attackers entered Macedonia from Kosovo.

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Category:Education

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Category:Education

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categories Uncategorized | November 9, 2019 | comments Comments (0)

Australian Football League to hold match in China

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Australian Football League to hold match in China

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Australian Football League (AFL) yesterday announced that it would hold an exhibition game in Shanghai, China. Brisbane will play Melbourne at Jiangwan Sports Centre in the Yangpu District.

AFL game development head David Matthews told reporters, “[t]here are big opportunities here [in China] to improve our broadcast position and consider China as an events market. I think we have got the best game in the world, the most spectacular game in the world.”

The AFL had previously told Wikinews that they had no plans to stage such a game.

Chinese broadcaster Shanghai Media Group will broadcast the match to approximately 20 million homes in southern China. The broadcaster will send a team to a Round One game between Richmond and Carlton to better understand how to broadcast the game.

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Northern Ireland’s Ian Paisley to resign and retire

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Northern Ireland’s Ian Paisley to resign and retire

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley, 81, has announced he is resigning the positions of First Minister and DUP leader after what some believe is internal pressure from within the party. He originally announced he would govern for his full term till 2011.

Paisley plans to step down after an investment conference in May organized by the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive.

Paisley told reporters, “I could go on and on but I’ve decided to go, I came to this decision a few weeks ago when I was thinking very much about the conference and what was going to come after the conference, I thought that it is a marker, a very big marker, and it would be a very appropriate time for me to bow out.” Paisley noted he is not fully retiring as he will remain on the back benches at Stormont, the location of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Paisley has been a controversial, divisive figure in Northern Ireland politics throughout his five decades of involvement. Until his acceptance of the First Minister position with political rival and enemy and Sinn Fein‘s Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, Paisley was nicknamed Dr. No for his refusal to grant any concessions to the Irish nationalists or republicans and his working with McGuinness would have been unheard of ten years ago.

I could go on and on but I’ve decided to go.

His announcement is believed to be in part because of this relationship with McGuinness, the two political rivals were photographed together enjoying a laugh, earning them the nickname, the “Chuckle Brothers.”

Hard-line factions within the DUP are not happy with Paisley sharing power with Sinn Fein, which they see as inextricably linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Paisley used to refer to the party in political discourse as “Sinn Fein/IRA.”

Paisley is known for fundamentalist anti-Catholic views and stances and helped to form the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951 as part of a disagreement between a local church in Crossgar, County Down and the elders of the county church governance. Paisley was forced to retire in January due to his political role as First Minister and possibly, his power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

The announcement comes one month before the tenth anniversary of Good Friday Agreement which ended the thirty year-long period of conflict know as the “The Troubles” in which violence occurred between the nationalist and republican and the unionist and loyalist communities of Northern Ireland in the form of bombings, assassinations and gang violence.

It also comes a month after Ian Paisley’s son, Ian Paisley Jr resigned after accusations and criticism over links with property developer, Seymour Sweeney and controversy over lobbying. Paisley Junior noted today that he was transferring of the ownership of the firm which runs his constituency office in Ballymena to a representative of a north Antrim DUP branch.

Peter Robinson, the deputy leader and Northern Ireland Finance Minister is the likely choice to succeed Paisley, but some sources with in the party would not discount Northern Ireland Finance Minister Nigel Dodds either.

Paisley’s reaction to choosing his succesor was, “This is not the Church of Rome. This is not Apostolic succession and I have no right to say who will succeed me.”

categories Uncategorized | October 30, 2019 | comments Comments (0)

Florida man charged with stealing Wi-Fi

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Florida man charged with stealing Wi-Fi

Update since publication

This article mentions that Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity”, although this is disputed.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

A Florida man is being charged with 3rd degree felony for logging into a private Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) Internet access point without permission. Benjamin Smith III, 41, is set for a pre-trial hearing this month in the first case of its kind in the United States.

This kind of activity occurs frequently, but often goes undetected by the owners of these wireless access points (WAPs). Unauthorized users range from casual Web browsers, to users sending e-mails, to users involved in pornography or even illegal endeavours.

According to Richard Dinon, owner of the WAP Smith allegedly broke into, Smith was using a laptop in an automobile while parked outside Dinon’s residence.

There are many steps an owner of one of these access points can take to secure them from outside users. Dinon reportedly knew how to take these steps, but had not bothered because his “neighbors are older.”

categories Uncategorized | October 18, 2019 | comments Comments (0)

Surgeons reattach boy’s three severed limbs

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Surgeons reattach boy’s three severed limbs

Tuesday, March 29, 2005A team of Australian surgeons yesterday reattached both hands and one foot to 10-year-old Perth boy, Terry Vo, after a brick wall which collapsed during a game of basketball fell on him, severing the limbs. The wall gave way while Terry performed a slam-dunk, during a game at a friend’s birthday party.

The boy was today awake and smiling, still in some pain but in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery, according to plastic surgeon, Mr Robert Love.

“What we have is parts that are very much alive so the reattached limbs are certainly pink, well perfused and are indeed moving,” Mr Love told reporters today.

“The fact that he is moving his fingers, and of course when he wakes up he will move both fingers and toes, is not a surprise,” Mr Love had said yesterday.

“The question is more the sensory return that he will get in the hand itself and the fine movements he will have in the fingers and the toes, and that will come with time, hopefully. We will assess that over the next 18 months to two years.

“I’m sure that he’ll enjoy a game of basketball in the future.”

The weight and force of the collapse, and the sharp brick edges, resulted in the three limbs being cut through about 7cm above the wrists and ankle.

Terry’s father Tan said of his only child, the injuries were terrible, “I was scared to look at him, a horrible thing.”

The hands and foot were placed in an ice-filled Esky and rushed to hospital with the boy, where three teams of medical experts were assembled, and he was given a blood transfusion after experiencing massive blood loss. Eight hours of complex micro-surgery on Saturday night were followed by a further two hours of skin grafts yesterday.

“What he will lose because it was such a large zone of traumatised skin and muscle and so on, he will lose some of the skin so he’ll certainly require lots of further surgery regardless of whether the skin survives,” said Mr Love said today.

The boy was kept unconscious under anaesthetic between the two procedures. In an interview yesterday, Mr Love explained why:

“He could have actually been woken up the next day. Because we were intending to take him back to theatre for a second look, to look at the traumatised skin flaps, to close more of his wounds and to do split skin grafting, it was felt the best thing to do would be to keep him stable and to keep him anaesthetised.”

Professor Wayne Morrison, director of the respected Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery and head of plastic and hand surgery at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said he believed the operation to be a world first.

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Australian Football League to hold match in China

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Australian Football League to hold match in China

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Australian Football League (AFL) yesterday announced that it would hold an exhibition game in Shanghai, China. Brisbane will play Melbourne at Jiangwan Sports Centre in the Yangpu District.

AFL game development head David Matthews told reporters, “[t]here are big opportunities here [in China] to improve our broadcast position and consider China as an events market. I think we have got the best game in the world, the most spectacular game in the world.”

The AFL had previously told Wikinews that they had no plans to stage such a game.

Chinese broadcaster Shanghai Media Group will broadcast the match to approximately 20 million homes in southern China. The broadcaster will send a team to a Round One game between Richmond and Carlton to better understand how to broadcast the game.

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US Nationwide Pollution Permit Restrictions Upheld

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US Nationwide Pollution Permit Restrictions Upheld

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The US Army Corps of Engineers decision to place restrictions on issuance of nationwide pollution permits has been upheld by a federal court. In National Association of Home Builders v. Army Corps of Engineers, the District Court for the District of Columbia found that the Corps of Engineers had not acted in an “arbitrary” or “capricious” manner in changing the terms and conditions for issuance of a national pollution permit, including reducing the size of area into which pollutants may be discharged from 10 acres to 1 acre, raising the threshold for requiring additional permits from 1 acre to 1/10 acre,

A nationwide permit allows an organization to engage in certain industrial activities on a national basis (such as mining and construction), reducing the amount of paperwork and filings needed for otherwise minor environmental impacts, as opposed to an ordinary permit for a specific location which will engage in activities which generate water pollution.

Due to concerns over the amount of discharge taking place in waterways, the Corps of Engineers began in the 1980s to reduce the authority granted by nationwide permits and to bar use of the permits in certain ecologically sensitive areas.

Some industry groups, including the plaintiff in the above case, The National Association of Home Builders, sued the Corps of Engineers in 2000 over the change in an attempt to block its implementation. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, were given permission to intervene in the case in support of the actions of the Corps.

Environmental groups were pleased with the decision, but are concerned over other actions of the Bush Administration, such as the attempts to weaken provisions of the 2002 Clean Water Act to allow additional dumping of construction and mining waste into waterways as fill material.

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