News briefs:May 17, 2010

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News briefs:May 17, 2010
By mYCZNbxh On July 6th, 2019
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Java creator criticizes .Net

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Java creator criticizes .Net
By mYCZNbxh On July 6th, 2019

Saturday, February 5, 2005

AustraliaJames Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, said last week that he believes Microsoft is wrong in its decision to support C and C++ programming languages in the common language runtime in Microsoft .NET. According to him, this decision may lead to severe security flaws in .NET. Gosling is currently in Australia, giving talks and visiting friends.

According to Gosling, the problem lies with the programming languages and some of their characteristics: “C++ allowed you to do arbitrary casting, arbitrary adding of images and pointers, and converting them back and forth between pointers in a very, very unstructured way.”

The Java language was developed due to limitations of C++. Gosling began using C++ for the former Sun Microsystems‘s star-seven project. At that time Gosling concluded C++ was inadequate and created the Oak language. The Oak language would become the language known today as Java. The former star-seven project shares its defining characteristics with networked software applications today: safety and portability.

Gosling continues: “If you look at the security model in Java and the reliability model, and a lot of things in the exception handling, they depend really critically on the fact that there is some integrity to the properties of objects. So if somebody gives you an object and says ‘This is an image’, then it is an image. It’s not like a pointer to a stream, where it just casts an image.”

Charles Sterling, a Microsoft developer and product manager of the .NET framework, didn’t entirely disagree with Gosling’s thoughts. But he said that .NET defines different types of code. And there is the code which is managed by the .NET framework. All new Microsoft languages, such as C# and Visual Basic.NET, produce only code managed by the .NET framework, so they are safe.

A key idea that has not shown up in Gosling’s talk is that Java itself allows a very similar process to occur. Java’s JNI (Java Native Interface) allows the integration of the same unsafe code that prompted Gosling’s central thesis.

However, Gosling says languages like C and C++ can still produce unsafe code which would not follow the rules of safety of .NET. This sort of code, usually found in old software applications, requires additional .NET permissions to execute. Sterling says it is up to developers to decide whether or not to use unsafe code in their .NET applications.

3 dead as man on trial for rape escapes

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3 dead as man on trial for rape escapes
By mYCZNbxh On July 5th, 2019

Saturday, March 12, 2005

During the trial of a man yesterday for rape at an Atlanta court house, the man on trial allegedly stole the gun of a nearby deputy and shot dead the Judge, a reporter and another deputy. The suspect, Brian Nichols aged 33, was at court for the fourth day of his trial for numerous charges filed by a former girlfriend. Nichols was being tried a second time after his first trial ended in a hung jury (8-4 for acquittal).

After fleeing the court house Atlanta police assumed he drove away in the reporters car and issued a nation wide “look out” for the vehicle. The car was found later parked in the courthouse garage. He is still at large, and a massive police hunt is under way. The prior day to the incident, Mr. Nichols was found to have two handmade knives hidden in his shoes. Georgia prisoners often make “shanks” to try to fend off gang rapes while in custody.

There is a bounty of $60,000 for any information leading to Mr. Nichols’ re-capture.

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Tabletop fusion may lead to neutron source

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Tabletop fusion may lead to neutron source
By mYCZNbxh On July 5th, 2019

Sunday, May 1, 2005

A UCLA team, headed by Brian Naranjo, has observed the nuclear fusion of deuterium nuclei in a tabletop device. The device uses a lithium tantalate (LiTaO3) pyroelectric crystal to ionize deuterium atoms and accelerate the ions towards a stationary erbium deuteride (ErD) target. Fusion of two deuterium nuclei results in the emission of helium nuclei (alpha particles), neutrons and gamma rays. The team anticipates applications of the device as a tabletop neutron generator, or in “microthrusters” for space propulsion. It is possible that there may be applications related to nuclear weapons, although this possibility is not discussed in the research paper.

This development is not related to earlier claims of tabletop fusion or “cold fusion” having been observed during sonoluminescence. In fact, the leader of the team behind this development was one of the main critics of earlier low-temperature fusion claims.

This device is not the first reliable tabletop fusion device; the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor, developed in the early 1960s in the laboratory of Philo T. Farnsworth who was instrumental in developing television, is sold commercially as a neutron source. Research by Dr. Todd Rider of MIT suggests that the kind of non-equilibrium fusion produced in these sources will never be usable as an energy source (see his PhD thesis).

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Male Magellanic penguins pine for pairings: Wikinews interviews biologist Natasha Gownaris

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Male Magellanic penguins pine for pairings: Wikinews interviews biologist Natasha Gownaris
By mYCZNbxh On July 5th, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

In findings published earlier this month in Ecological Applications, scientists from the University of Washington and Center for Ecosystem Sentinels examine the reason for the plummeting numbers of female Magellanic penguins, Spheniscus magellanicus, that have been reported at the birds’ breeding sites in South America over the past twenty years and more. Wikinews caught up with postdoctoral researcher and study co-author Natasha Gownaris to learn more.

In a press release, Gownaris said, “Two decades ago, there were about 1.5 adult male Magellanic penguins for every adult female at Punta Tombo[…] Today, it’s approaching three males for every female.” The findings suggested a disparity in the death rate of juvenile and adult penguins, rather than differences in chick survival, account for this difference.

Punta Tombo is one of the annual breeding sites for the species; it is in Argentina. The penguins travel thousands of miles each year to reach these sites.

The work involved building population models out of over thirty years of data collected by tagging individual penguins. Findings also suggested the pronounced sex disparity might make population models used to predict survival among other birds with a more even gender balance inappropriate for use on Megallanic penguins.

According to the data, since 1987, overall population of Magellanic penguins in Punta Tombo at one of their annual breeding sites in Argentina has declined 40%, while the male-to-female ratio has greatly increased.

Since 1983, the research team has been putting stainless steel bands on tens of thousands of chicks hatched at the Punta Tombo breeding site in Argentina, noting which juvenile and adult birds make it back to the site the next year and extrapolating how many lived and died. Among juveniles, there was a 17% survival rate for males and 12% for females. Among adults, it was 89% and 85%. These effects became compounded every year, reaching as high as six males to one female among older penguins.

The researchers noted implications for penguin conservation: Gownaris remarked, “Over the years, this team has helped preserve the land and waters around breeding colonies like Punta Tombo[…] But now we’re starting to understand that, to help Magellanic penguins, you have to protect waters where they feed in winter, which are thousands of miles north from Punta Tombo.”

Gownaris answered a series of questions for our correspondent.

((Wikinews)) What prompted your curiosity about Magellanic penguins?

Natasha Gownaris: I’ve wanted to be a marine scientist since I was a child, when I would collect sand crabs (Emerita talpoida) from local beaches in New York. I studied fish as a graduate student, but I have a pair of adopted parrots and I am generally fascinated by birds. Plus, penguins eat fish! Studying penguins seemed like a great way to merge my love for the ocean and my love for birds. Penguins and other seabirds are also important to study because they tell us something about the health of the ocean ecosystems they feed in, similar to the use of canaries to test air quality in coal mines. Unfortunately, the decline of many seabird species worldwide is yet another warning sign of the negative and widespread impacts humans are having on the ocean.

((WN)) How did you approach putting together such a large-scale study?

NG: This study started in 1982, long before my joining the lab in March of 2016. Dr. Dee Boersma began this study as a response to a Japanese company’s interest in harvesting penguins for their skin, meat, and oil. Although the project has evolved over time, Dr. Boersma had the foresight to start banding chicks in 1983 and to set up a standard protocol that we follow each year. Since then, over 44,000 chicks have been banded at Punta Tombo. We’ve been able to follow some individuals for 30+ years, collecting detailed information on things like how often they breed and how many mates they’ve had.

((WN)) How much time did you end up spending in Argentina? What was it like at the breeding site?

NG: Members of the Boersma lab and volunteers spend approximately six months each year at Punta Tombo. I was fortunate enough to spend nearly four months at the colony between 2015 and 2017. It’s an incredible, otherworldly place. Magellanic penguins nest in burrows or bushes, and some areas of the colony are so dense with burrows that you feel like you’re on a different planet. The colony has declined by over 40% since the study started…so I can’t even imagine what it was like in the 1980s. My favorite time of the day is around 8PM, when (hopefully fat) penguins are returning to the colony en masse after a foraging trip. They are also most vocal in the morning and evening, making their characteristic braying sound— the related African penguin earned the name “jackass penguin” because they sound a bit like donkeys. The colony is also full of other beautiful and interesting creatures, including a llama-like species called the guanaco and an ostrich-like species called the rhea.

I was fortunate enough to spend nearly four months at the colony between 2015 and 2017. It’s an incredible, otherworldly place.

((WN)) Do you have any theories on why more female juveniles die at sea? You mention starvation; what might be the causes of that, and are there other possible explanations you can think of?

NG: We are not yet certain why females are more likely to die, but we think it must be related to their smaller body size. Because the mortality is most uneven in juveniles, higher mortality doesn’t seem to be related to greater costs of breeding for females than for males. Female Magellanic penguins are about 17% lighter than males and have smaller bills. We think that, because of this size difference, females have a lower storage capacity, can’t dive as deep, and can’t take as wide a range of prey as males — all disadvantages when faced with limited and unpredictable food resources. These disadvantages hit juvenile females even harder, as juveniles are still learning how to forage and often travel further than adults do in the non-breeding season. Counts of carcasses in the species’ migration range support starvation as the main cause of female-biased mortality; while oiled carcasses have a sex ratio of 1:1, females outnumber males in carcasses of starved birds. The only other possibility is that females are moving to other colonies at higher rates than are males, but this species is known to almost always return to its natal colony to breed.

((WN)) You suggest conservation efforts should look at protection of feeding grounds. What sort of measures do you think might be beneficial?

NG: Because penguins migrate such long distances over the non-breeding season, a mixture of tools (including no-take marine protected areas and traditional fisheries management tools, like catch limits) is likely to be needed. Although there is currently some spatial protection surrounding the species’ breeding colony, this protection does not extend to their migratory route. And, of course, everyone can contribute to penguin conservation by reducing their plastic waste, making more sustainable food choices, and reducing their carbon footprint.

((WN)) What do you think might be causing pressure on food sources for the penguins?

NG: The two main threats to the food sources of this colony are climate change, which cause shifts in primary productivity and fish stocks, and fisheries. Fisheries compete with penguins for fish species such as hake and anchovy.

((WN)) Have you noticed differences in behavior among the penguins as the ratios become increasingly skewed?

NG: In a separate study currently under review, we have shown that aggression between males of Magellanic penguins is higher when the sex ratio at the colony is more skewed towards males. We also showed that nearly all females at the colony breed but that, over time, fewer and fewer males find mates. Single male penguins sometimes intrude [on] nests of mated pairs and interrupt the incubation of eggs or feeding of chicks, leading to mortality. In some cases, they will even attack and kill chicks.

((WN)) Your release mentioned sexing the penguins was problematic; how did you achieve it with confidence?

NG: We have some methods of sexing penguins that we feel confident about — using genetics or measures of cloaca size around egg laying, for example. However, these methods are time intensive, so we have also developed visual cues for sex penguins (bill size, behavior, forehead shape). We looked at individuals that had been sexed using both a certain method (e.g. genetics) and visual methods to calculate how often we got it right based on visual cues alone and found that we have very high accuracy. We also used statistical tools to help to deal with uncertainty in the sex of some individuals.

((WN)) How well can you extrapolate population trends at Punta Tombo based on the birds you tagged? More broadly, how well do you think this work represents global populations?

everyone can contribute to penguin conservation by reducing their plastic waste, making more sustainable food choices, and reducing their carbon footprint

NG: It is likely that females have higher mortality than males at other colonies of this species and in other penguin species. We unfortunately do not have enough information from other colonies of this species (e.g. sex ratio and population trends) for an accurate global assessment of population trends. We do know that some colonies of the species are growing but that, at the global level, the species is still in decline.

((WN)) In your opinion, for how much longer are penguin populations sustainable without intervention?

NG: This is nearly impossible to answer without more information on other colonies of the species, but the Punta Tombo colony is declining rapidly. We estimate declines of at least 43% since 1987 from our annual surveys at the colony, but it is likely that actual declines are higher because of the increasingly skewed sex ratio.

((WN)) What are your next plans moving forward with your work?

NG: We are currently studying the sex ratio in Magellanic penguin chicks (at hatching and at fledging) to determine how this influences the sex ratio in adults. There are two priorities moving forward — 1) estimating sex ratio at other colonies of this species and determining whether females are more likely to leave Punta Tombo for other colonies than are males and 2) determining the mechanisms underlying lower female survival, e.g. by studying the foraging behavior and diet of males and females and the individual characteristics (like body size) that correlate with survival.

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Manitoba’s flood creating hazardous conditions

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Manitoba’s flood creating hazardous conditions
By mYCZNbxh On July 5th, 2019

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Red River at Winnipeg is almost clear of ice blocks and ice jamming, however there are still dangers from the Red River flood.

Ice blocks which were as high as two storey buildings were ripping out trees, fences and railway ties. “You’ll see huge pans of ice standing vertical, up to 20 feet (6.1 m) high,” said Steve Topping, an official with the provincial Water Stewardship Department. “Ice was shoved up on the shore and took out trees with a very devastating effect. It has changed people’s view of the river.”

“It is incredible, the force. One piece of ice pushed out of the river about 20 feet. You watch the force push this up right in front of your eyes,” said Dean North, of the Selkirk Golf and Country Club.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police are ticketing sight seers who are driving through road closure signs and approaching excavators, cranes and crews breaking up the ice. Vehicles, people, boats, and kayaks are getting in the way.

An eight year old boy is in critical condition after slipping on a culvert Thursday. He was pulled underwater by the speed of the flowing water and remained under for about five to ten minutes until adults could rescue him. The air ambulance supplied by Alberta’s STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) remains in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“This is not a spectator sport. It’s not about getting the best pictures for the family albums. I know floods are seen as a bit of an event, but some of the instances I’m hearing about, people should give their head a shake, they really should,” said Steve Ashton Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister, “Those who fall into the river or get into trouble in another way would be not only endangering themselves but the emergency response crews trying to rescue them. I don’t want to see a situation … where we’re trying our darndest to prevent flooding and save lives and somebody [who] decides to go have a white-water experience ends up killing themselves.”

Early Easter Sunday morning floodwater reached the rural municipalities of St. Andrews and St. Clements north of Winnipeg. Residents were sent an evacuation advisory Good Friday, however some residents remained. Rescue efforts commenced Saturday night to find those stranded and unable to leave as their vehicles cannot travel in the swollen overland floodwaters. Some people were rescued from roof tops as entire houses were swept off of their foundations by the large ice blocks hurtling down the river.

Highways in the area remain closed. Neil Gobelle, of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation said to “definitely continue to watch the Red River Valley and north of the city up in the Selkirk area. Things are changing quite a bit, quite quickly, so we’ll keep an eye on those areas.”

As of Easter Sunday, Winnipeg is expected to be ice free on the Red River. The River rose 4 feet (1.2 m) in the course of 24 hours. Rain is in the forecast and the higher temperatures of 17 °C (62.6 °F) will cause melting of snow and ice.

A weather system caused by La Niña is being watched by the United States National Weather Service and its potential effects between April 16-18 for residents along the Red River Valley. “We want people to be aware there is a very real possibility of the river going higher than what is out there,” said Mark Ewens, data manager at the NWS, “To have spring floods like this back-to-back is just an unfortunate series of events that have come along to plague us this spring. We’re wanting people to understand that this is a potentially serious problem.”

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Dance party broken up by police in Utah, USA

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Dance party broken up by police in Utah, USA
By mYCZNbxh On July 1st, 2019

Monday, August 22, 2005

About 90 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies broke up what they said was a rave party on public and private property in the Diamond Fork area of Spanish Fork canyon, an hour outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday (5:30 Sunday UTC).

According to the county, the Sheriff’s Office had been investigating similar parties since the beginning of the season. In a press release from the Sheriff’s Office in Utah County, the department states that previous allegations of sexual abuse at other raves, as well as various firearm and theft violations, were reasons for the investigation. The release continues on to state that the proper permit was not obtained before the event started.The promoters deny this allegation and insist that all permits were legally obtained before the event.

Armed with semi-automatic assault rifles, tasers, and tear gas, the police used dogs to sweep the crowd for narcotics. At least one helicopter was used in the operation, which served as a large spotlight for the ground teams. Prior to raiding the show, several unnamed police informants had reportedly told police that they had observed some “illegal activities”.

The promoter says the party took place on private property, named Child’s Ranch, with express permission from the owner. The property owner has apparently had at least one previous lawsuit with police over a similar event. Utah County requires a permit, bond and county commission approval for all gatherings with more than 250 people present and which can be expected to continue for 12 hours or more. DJ time slots and Pro Audio and Lighting contracts show that the party was scheduled to go on for no more than ten hours. According to a DJ at the event, “They presold 700 tickets and they expected up to 3,000 people total.” He added that by the time police arrived “the crowd was about 1,500”.

The police have publicly stated that only a permit from the health department was obtained, and that a Utah mass gathering permit was needed. The promoters have stated that they had the required permit, and have given a permit number (# 2005-11). Jay Stone, who handles mass gathering permits for the Utah County Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services, has confirmed that the permit was applied for and granted for the party. Officials also claim that the party had spilled over onto public land, and that more than 60 arrests were made in total – for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, underage drinking, drug possession and distribution, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, and one instance of a weapons offense, a pistol which was found in the home of the private property owners. Among the confiscated items and drugs found were cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol, and drug paraphernalia. Some of the drugs may include those confiscated from attendees by private security guards – who were also arrested.

Amateur video from the scene shows a number of SWAT police (Sheriff’s press release places the figure at 90) screaming orders at the DJs to “Shut it down now!” and yelling at others to “get out now, or I’ll kick your ass in jail.” Armed police are also seen tackling two attendees, Alaisha Matagi and Paul Maka. It is unclear from the video footage whether these actions were provoked or not. However, those shown on the two-minute long footage that are being forced to the ground do not appear to be resisting arrest. Both Matagi and Maka are charged with failure to obey a police officer and resisting arrest – Maka is also charged with interfering with police. Sheriff Jim Tracy stated in an email that both of them were tackled and arrested after assaulting a deputy, however, neither of them are being charged with assaulting a police officer.

A first hand account from a DJ booked to play at the party stated that while police were arresting a man accused of possession, the suspect was beaten to the ground and continually “kicked in the ribs” by four armed “soldiers” dressed in camouflage. The item was not shown on the video footage. According to the account, nobody resisted the policemen, and the crowd was orderly, but tear gas was thrown at the partiers as they attempted to leave as instructed. The DJ also states that police were attempting to confiscate video equipment, but an amateur video has still surfaced on the internet (see sources below). The video appears to have been taken near the DJ stand before it was moved to show more of the action.

Several attendees felt they should have the right to attend an event where drugs may be present, so long as they don’t personally use them. “While it may be true that some individuals choose to take drugs at said events like this, myself as well as many others choose to go for the music. Just like anything, you have bad apples, but you shouldn’t cut down the tree,” said one attendee. “Raves are not the only musical gatherings where drugs are used and distributed,” said another.

Other event-goers felt that the use of force in the shutdown was excessive – numerous eyewitness accounts by concertgoers describe people being beaten, tasered, or attacked with dogs. An email from Sheriff Jim Tracy stated that dogs and tasers were present at the raid, however, he also states that the tasers were not used on anyone, and that no dogs were deployed against concertgoers.

One account from an attendee, identified as “Colby”, states:

“I saw at least two people being beaten on the ground while barking, snarling dogs are held just a few feet from them. Weapons were being pointed at unarmed, peaceful civilians. A friend of mine was forced at gunpoint to put his hands on his head and turn around, because he asked if he could get his things from the tent.”

Utah County sheriff’s Sergeant Darren Gilbert also alleged that a 17-year-old girl was found overdosed on ecstasy, and was treated and released to her parents. According to an advertisement for the event, an attorney was present at the party. The local sheriff is scheduled to appear on Utah TV.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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Immediate life insurance website launched, first in world

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Immediate life insurance website launched, first in world
By mYCZNbxh On June 26th, 2019

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The first website in the world allowing consumers to buy life insurance online instantly has been launched today, targeting specifically New Zealanders.

The website, run by life insurance company Pinnacle Life, allows New Zealanders in many countries in the world to buy life insurance online without the need for a medical examination. Once the application has been approved, which is done immediately, the consumer can receive a $500,000 life insurance policy via an automatic e-mail. However, if certain conditions have been highlighted, then person to person contact is required to finalise the process.

Ed Saul, senior partner and architect of the new website, says, “We’re giving consumers a quicker and easier way to buy life insurance. Instead of submitting an application form and waiting days for a policy to be approved and issued, we do it online and we do it immediately.”

“The revolutionary website gives consumers complete control over the buying process whilst eliminating the previously obligatory involvement of people and paper. This is a global test case eagerly watched by the insurance industry around the world,” Mr Saul said.

When applying online, a few typical questions are asked on personal information and if the applicant has had any previous illnesses or diseases.

The countries where New Zealand citizens are allowed to apply are UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the USA.

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Alabama postal workers and customers become ill, suspicious substance found

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Alabama postal workers and customers become ill, suspicious substance found
By mYCZNbxh On June 12th, 2019

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Six workers in the post office in Hueytown, Alabama developed breathing problems and 23 were sent to the hospital after a chemical used in the manufacture of fishing lures leaked from a package.

The post office, located five miles west of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, was evacuated, and Hueytown firefighters in hazardous materials attire inspected the chemical. The chemical was found to have leaked from an inadequately designed package, evaporated quickly leaving a garlicky scent, and discolored the flooring tile in the post office. Workers complained of symptoms ranging from breathing difficulties to vomiting to burning in the throat.

The chemical was later identified as “J.J.’s Magic,” a yellow dye for soft plastic fishing lures which contains garlic oil as a fish attractant. The manufacturer confirmed that a two-ounce bottle of the product was sent to a customer in suburban Birmingham and speculated that the container may have cracked in transit.

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CN Health & Safety Plan planned to be cancelled

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CN Health & Safety Plan planned to be cancelled
By mYCZNbxh On June 12th, 2019

Monday, August 29, 2005

On July 18, 2005 CN Rail notified the CAW that they intend to cancel the CN-CAW previously Negotiated Health & Safety Plan. The CAW will be going to arbitration this fall to address the issue. The CAW has asked that employees notify their Health and Safety Rep about any safety concerns at the work place.

One terminal has lost 5-6 full-time positions. CN Rail used to have part-time positions filled as well, but at this time there are no part-time employees to cover work if a full-time employee is absent. Overtime is necessary to keep the trains running on time. Intermodal traffic goes up, but staff goes down. CN Rail expects the trains to go out on time, and in a safe condition, but staff is overworked, because there are not enough of them. In fact, one worker noticed that most of the rail cars that contained 40 foot overseas containers did not have their loading guides in place. Trains are not allowed to go out without these guides placed into the cars (the guides stop the loads from swaying from side to side in the cars), important for safety with double stacked containers, but it seems that in this case the lack of employees forced the train to leave without them.

Some recent derailments have come to the attention of the media and politicians.

On August 3rd 2005 there was a derailment in Wabamun Lake Alberta that spilled toxins into the lake. 2 days later there was a derailment in Cheakamus River near Squamish BC. Both derailments spilled hazardous materials into the water. Many are saying that CN took too long to notify people of the toxic spills.

The Conductor on each train carries with him the shipping manifest with him and has access to that information at all times. Almost any CN terminal that has a clerk working at it with access to the CN Intranet can get this information within minutes.

CTV news has said that this is the 5th derailment for CN this month.

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