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China considers touch of green

BEIJING — Is China beginning to go green? There are some early signs, including the nation’s latest five-year plan, which calls for the efficient use of resources to build an “environmentally friendly society,” and tax reforms discussed at a recent seminar. The latter include preferential policies for the recycling industry and a possible consumption tax for disposable chopsticks, plastic bags, diapers, and other environmentally harmful goods.

According to, when the ideas were outlined by taxation chief Xie Xuren, scholars like Li Xiangju of Xi’an Communications University were enthusiastic. “Things like disposable chopsticks and plastic bags cause a big waste on natural resources and pose environmental hazards,” he said.

Professor Zhu Qing of Renmin University suggested levying the tax as part of the retail price to discourage consumers. However, other scholars warned that it was difficult to identify products as disposable.

“Green taxation is an international trend,” said Jin Dongsheng, a leading researcher of the State Taxation Administration. Some European nations levy tax on sulphur dioxide discharge. New Zealand will tax the emission of smoke and dust, and Sweden will levy a traffic congestion tax starting in 2006. Xie Xuren said China is set to replace road-use fees with a fuel tax in the next five years.

Former defence chief urges UFO hearings

TORONTO — Three non-governmental organizations have joined forces with former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer in urging the Canadian parliament to hold public hearings on “exopolitics,” or relations with extraterrestrials. The groups were reacting to a speech made by Hellyer in September in Toronto in which he warned that “UFOs are as real as the aeroplanes that fly over your head,” reports the Edmonton Sun.

Hellyer is also concerned the United States is preparing weapons for use against the aliens and could get the whole world into an “intergalactic war.” According to Hellyer, the U.S. interest in returning to the moon is in part based on the desire to build a forward military base there.

The three organizations backing Hellyer’s request are the Institute for Co-operation in Space (ICIS), the Toronto Exopolitics Symposium, and the Disclosure Project, a U.S.-based organization that has assembled high-level military intelligence witnesses of a possible ET presence. Earlier this month, the Senate replied to the ICIS that their full agenda precluded hearings in the near future on ET issues.

“That does not deter us,” said a spokesman for the NGOs. “Time is on the side of open disclosure that there are ethical extraterrestrial civilizations visiting Earth.”

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Taser research marred by conflicts.”Vermont Huardian

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US Soldiers Investigated for Shooting Afghan Villagers

U.S. soldiers investigated for shooting Afghan villagers: Two witnesses said that after the initial gunfire, soldiers approached one of the wounded Afghans and shot him dead at close range.

U.S. soldiers investigated for shooting Afghan villagers :

Two witnesses said that after the initial gunfire, soldiers approached one of the wounded Afghans and shot him dead at close range.

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Former Fletcher Allen CFO pleads guilty

BURLINGTON — The former chief financial officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he made false statements to health care regulators as part of a multi-year scheme to hide the true costs of the Renaissance Project, a massive expansion at the state’s largest hospital.

David Cox, 52, pled guilty to charges in state court and admitted to his role in hiding millions of dollars in costs from officials at the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA).

Prosecutors claim that the Fletcher Allen scheme included the submission of a false financial model to BISHCA as part of the application submitted in 2000 by Fletcher Allen to build the Renaissance Project, as well as the Public Oversight Commission.

After obtaining BISHCA approval, based upon false information, Fletcher Allen continued to misrepresent the costs of the project by, among other things, claiming in filings with BISHCA that the costs of the project would be $173.4 million. Hospital officials continued to use this false data until late 2002. Cox left in July 2001.

The project, at completion, cost more than $350 million.

Cox also agreed to a federal civil forfeiture of $25,000, and 100 hours of community service. He will not face federal charges, prosecutors said in a statement.

Cox is the fourth Fletcher Allen officer to plead guilty to criminal charges.

Former Chief Executive Officer Bill Boettcher, 57, was sentenced to two years in prison repaying almost $750,000 to Fletcher Allen, which he was granted as part of a severance package when he left the hospital in 2002.

Dave Demers, a former senior vice president, pled guilty to conspiracy charges and has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. His sentence is pending.

Thad Krupka, the former chief operating officer, pled guilty last year to three state charges of making false claims, and agreed to cooperate. He paid a $170,000 forfeiture and his sentence is also pending.

Fletcher Allen reached a settlement agreement with state and federal prosecutors, too, regarding the Renaissance Project investigations. As part of that settlement, Fletcher Allen paid $1 million, half to the state and half to the federal government, in October 2003. The $500,000 payment to the state will be used for in-state, health-related projects.

Tsoi-Kobus and Associates, the architectural firm for the project, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and paid $1.3 million to resolve its role. Macomber Barton Mallow, the construction management firm, also cooperated and paid $150,000. Vermuelens Cost Consultants, the construction cost estimating firm used by Fletcher Allen, cooperated and forfeited $50,000.

Finally, Downs, Rachlin, Martin, Fletcher Allen’s outside legal counsel, settled its potential legal disputes with Fletcher Allen for approximately $2 million.

Big sound, new technology: The resurgence of progressive rock

“Welcome back my friends … to the show that never ends … ”
— Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2”

Progressive Rock. The term is used by both fans and detractors to describe rock that goes beyond three chords and has more complicated song structures, different time signatures, and unconventional song lengths.
Art rock, orchestral rock, symphonic, godly — or pompous, overbearing, overwrought. The music has been called a lot of things.

Classic “prog” rock practitioners include Jethro Tull; Yes; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Genesis (back in the early 1970s, when Peter Gabriel led the band); King Crimson; Pink Floyd; Moody Blues; Gentle Giant; Kansas; Rush. Many feature keyboards as prominently as guitars — or flutes.

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Speaking truth about power

We are down to the wire on Vermont Yankee. On Nov. 15-16, a meeting of a key federal subcommittee in Brattleboro is expected to be the last public hearing in Vermont before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission makes its decision early next year on Entergy’s proposal to increase power at the ageing Vernon reactor. The meeting also marks a unique confluence of state and federal regulatory interests, since the last real remaining state hurdle — a certificate from the Public Service Board — could hinge on this subcommittee’s recommendation to the full NRC.

The hearing is important, because Entergy’s application is not just about a 20 percent “uprate.” The subtext of the uprate application is Entergy’s intention to run VY for 20 years beyond its initial license period, which ends in 2012, and run it hotter than it was designed for. The Louisiana-based corporation has hinted that without the ability to generate and sell additional power, Vermont Yankee would cease to be profitable and thus could close even before its current license expires.

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