Daily Archives: December 3, 2007

Chavez loses constitutional vote

This picture is Daniel Duquenal’s worn out constitution that will serve for a little while still. He carries it around a lot and you can tell by yourself how often he has consulted it.

This is an alive constitution, that he does not like, that he did not vote for but that he defended when Chavez wanted to gut it as he pleased. Yes, that constitution needs some changes, probably needs to be rewritten in full because its Spanish is lousy, but it is the only thing that all Venezuelans have in common. Had the SI won tonight it would have become a red book that would have been used by one part of the country to control the other part. Thus it would have stopped being a constitution. In spite of all the obscene governmental advantage, all the threats and blackmails, the Venezuelan people found the strength to say NO.

Gloria al Bravo Pueblo!

Venezuela News And Views

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Supporters of the opposition group pray before the results of a referendum in Caracas December 3, 2007. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez conceded defeat in Sunday’s referendum that had aimed to expand his power, saying “we could not do it, for now.”

Associated Press | Dec 2, 2007


CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez suffered a stunning defeat Monday in a referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and impose a socialist system in this major U.S. oil provider.

Voters defeated the sweeping measures Sunday by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent, said Tibisay Lucena, chief of the National Electoral Council, with voter turnout at just 56 percent.

She said that with 88 percent of the votes counted, the trend was irreversible.

Opposition supporters shouted with joy as Lucena announced the results on national television early Monday, their first victory against Chavez after nine years of electoral defeats.

Some broke down in tears. Others began chanting “And now he’s going away!”

“This was a photo finish,” Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace, adding that unlike past Venezuelan governments, his respects the people’s will.

Exactly a year ago, Chavez won re-election with 63 percent of the vote.

“Don’t feel sad,” Chavez urged supporters, especially given the “microscopic differences” between the “yes” and “no” options in a referendum that opponents feared could have meant a plunge toward dictatorship.

Chavez’s supporters said he would have used the reforms to deepen grass-roots democracy and more equitably spread Venezuela’s oil wealth.

The changes would have created new forms of communal property, let Chavez handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map, permit civil liberties to be suspended under extended states of emergency and allow Chavez to seek re-election indefinitely. Now, Chavez will be barred from running again in 2012.

Other changes would have shortened the workday from eight hours to six, created a social security fund for millions of informal laborers and promoted communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds. The reforms also would have granted Chavez control over the Central Bank and extended presidential terms from six to seven years.

Supporters of the opposition group celebrate after winning in Caracas December 2, 2007. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez conceded defeat in Sunday’s referendum that had aimed to expand his power, saying “we could not do it, for now.”

“To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them,” Chavez said.

But he also urged calm and restraint. “I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory,” Chavez said. “You won it. I wouldn’t have wanted that Pyrrhic victory.”

Yet he made it clear he would remain a formidable foe.

Echoing words he spoke when as an army officer he was captured and jailed for leading a failed 1992 coup, he said: “For now, we couldn’t.”

The ever combative Chavez had warned opponents ahead of the vote he would not tolerate attempts to incite violence, and threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. if Washington interfered.

All was reported calm during Sunday’s voting but 45 people were detained, most for committing ballot-related crimes like “destroying electoral materials,” said Gen. Jesus Gonzalez, chief of a military command overseeing security.


A couple, members of the opposition, kiss each other as they celebrate in Caracas, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. Venezuelans went to the polls Sunday in a referendum, called by Chavez’s government, on major changes to their constitution, including removing presidential term limits and expanding presidential powers.

At a polling station in one politically divided Caracas neighborhood, Chavez supporters shouted “Get out of here!” to opposition backers who stood nearby aiming to monitor the vote count. A few dozen Chavistas rode by on motorcycles with bandanas and hats covering their faces, some throwing firecrackers.

Opponents — including Roman Catholic leaders, press freedom groups, human rights groups and prominent business leaders — feared the reforms would have granted Chavez unchecked power and threatened basic rights.

Cecilia Goldberger, a 56-year-old voting in affluent eastern Caracas, said Venezuelans did not really understand how Chavez’s power grab would affect them. She resented pre-dawn, get-out-the-vote tactics by Chavistas, including fireworks and reveille blaring from speakers mounted on cruising trucks.

“I refuse to be treated like cattle and I refuse to be part of a communist regime,” the Israeli-born Goldberger said, adding that she and her businessman husband hope to leave the country.

Chavez, 53, is seen by many as a champion of the poor who has redistributed more oil wealth than any other leader in memory.

Tensions have surged in recent weeks as university students led protests and occasionally clashed with police and Chavista groups.

Lucena called the vote “the calmest we’ve had in the last 10 years.”

Guns handed in to S.F. police for gift cards


From left: Police Officers Kevin Labanowski, Noah Mallinger and Daniel Manning take possession of firearms turned in by residents at the Gifts for Guns program at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Saturday.

SF Chronicle | Dec 2, 2007

by Kevin Fagan

Armed citizens packing everything from an AK-47 assault rifle to a couple of sawed-off shotguns and enough antique pistols to set a collector’s heart racing massed across the street from San Francisco’s City Hall on Saturday – but pulling triggers was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.

They came to dump the weapons so these firearms could be forever kept from falling into the hands of criminals. Or from killing someone during a moment of regrettable rage or simply from an accident.

In exchange, the soon-to-be-ex-gun owners got $50 or more in holiday shopping gift certificates – and the city got safer, said the seven police officers who were sitting at a table in Civic Center Plaza. It was their job to receive this arsenal, as part of a long-standing city practice to get firearms out of circulation and, later, to have them destroyed.

Each of the 106 weapons turned in could mean one less murder in a city that so far this year has seen 94 homicides, not to mention one less injury or death from a child finding the family gun and fiddling with it, said San Francisco police Sgt. Mikail Ali, acting director of the mayor’s office of criminal justice.

That’s not to say there were any gang-bangers or obvious criminals walking up to the drop-off table Saturday, or in July for that matter, when the last Gifts for Guns event was staged. But then, nobody at this event – or at the hundreds of other gun exchange programs in San Francisco and around the state over the past 20 years – ever expected such a boon.

Bad guys often get their guns by burglarizing houses that have them, so if the guns aren’t there to be stolen, they can’t be used for crime, gun exchange advocates say. Perhaps just as important is the concept that if a gun is not in a home, domestic fights won’t as easily escalate to gunfire when people get so angry they reach for something to lash out with.

That’s especially crucial during holiday times, when tensions can ratchet to new highs because of money troubles or disputes at family gatherings.

“The bottom line here is that when we do this, you get a gun off the street, out of someone’s home, for good, where it can no longer do anyone any harm,” Ali said. “And until this country deals with the obvious issues of the production and proliferation of weapons in the United States, we just have to keep doing this our own way.”

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, there were 29,569 gun-related deaths in the United States in 2004. By contrast, the 2004 tally in Great Britain was 169.

Of the U.S. deaths in 2004, 12,000 were homicides – about two-thirds of all slayings in the country – 16,750 were suicides and about 650 were accidental deaths. That’s in addition to the 70,000 gun-related injuries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates happen every year.

As far as most of the people in line at Civic Center Plaza were concerned, that was 29,569 killings and 70,000 injuries too many.

Many said they inherited their guns from relatives, had them lying around since childhood, or bought them years ago and never needed them – and they found that having a death-dealing tool at home made them nervous. The rest said they kept other weapons locked up, for hunting or protection, and the pieces they brought in were extras.

“I’m a surgeon, and the first case I ever had was a child who got the family gun out of its case and shot herself by accident in the hand,” said Chris Cox, who brought his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, who gurgled happily in her stroller as Daddy unpacked his pistol. “Kids don’t know what they’re doing when they get ahold of these things, and they move awfully fast.”

Cox dropped off a Cody brand .22-caliber revolver, which his father had used for hunting rabbits. The gun was in better shape than most.

Holding it between two fingers as if it were a load of snakes, next-in-line Jean Amos held out a plastic bag containing the gun she’s had in her dresser for 15 years. One of the officers turned the bag upside down, and out fell a very rusty, very old-looking .22-caliber Burgo revolver. It was so worn out the cylinder rattled. They both laughed.

“I have no idea what that thing is, but when my ex-husband left it with me, he said it was a ‘piece of crap,’ ” Amos said. “It’s been sitting in a drawer with cat (hair) ever since. The bullets were in my underwear drawer. You’re welcome to all of it.”

Probably the oddest offering was the World War I Russian Mosin-Nagent 7.62-caliber rifle that John Fluhmann brought in. He said he bought it at a sporting goods store several years ago, “and I could never figure out what to do with it because the ammo is hard to find.”

“I’ve already got a couple of shotguns for duck-hunting, and I keep them locked in the gun safe,” Fluhmann said. “I have two little boys, so I’m extra careful.”

He added that even though he enjoys his firearms, he liked the whole idea of reducing the number of guns in the city.

“Guns are made for one purpose only, and it’s a shame, but not enough people respect that,” Fluhmann said.

By the end of the day, the Gifts for Guns haul included four assault rifles, including the AK-47 and a Colt AR15, and two sawed-off shotguns. The first exchange of the year, in July, netted 119 weapons.

The deal was the same both times: $200 for semiautomatic assault rifles, $150 for handguns and $100 for standard rifles. The money came in the form of gift cards – not redeemable at your local gun store.

Hundreds get sick from Gardasil cancer vaccine

news.com.au | Dec 3, 2007

By Kate Sikora and Kelvin Bissett

MORE than 17 girls a week have been experiencing adverse reactions such as seizures and numbness after taking cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil since it became widely distributed in April.

But the Department of Health and Ageing, while revealing the number of reactions, is refusing to release the details of them – despite growing controversy overseas, including links to at least seven deaths.

There have been previous reports in Australia of young girls fainting, experiencing seizures, dizzy spells and paralysis, including 20 students at a Melbourne private school who reported being sick after having an injection in late May.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that as of November 30 there have been 496 adverse reaction reports filed to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA).

Of those, 468 of the reported cases had the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine as the sole suspected cause.

In the US there have been reports of up to 1700 women suffering adverse reactions after being vaccinated.

Manufacturer CSL has dismissed allegations of associated deaths in the US, claiming the women died of unrelated thrombosis or heart attack.

When Gardasil was released earlier this year its inventor, former Australian of the Year Ian Frazer, urged parents to vaccinate their daughters.

“It would be a pity if that opportunity was lost because of fainting,” Professor Frazer said.

The national HPV program vaccinates 12 and 13 year olds in the first year of secondary school, along with a catch-up program for women up to 26.

Teenager Stephanie Kemp, 17, was vaccinated with Gardasil before it was distributed free.

“I thought it was important for her to have it,” said her mother Sue. “To have these things available I think is fantastic . . . the pluses outweigh the minuses,” she said.

Dr Rohan Hammett, TGA acting national manager said the safety of Gardasil was being monitored by bodies in Australia and overseas with more than 10 million doses distributed worldwide to date. He added the rate of adverse reactions was consistent with those expected with any vaccine.

CSL spokeswoman Rachel David said the majority of side effects were linked to people with severe allergies.
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Fears several deaths are linked to cancer vaccine