New Sun Newsbriefs

Mayor Bloomberg on the Greatness of New York
and a Free Press

Spoken at annual holiday press party:
"It's a wonderful time of the year. The city's not perfect and there are plenty of reasons to find fault but if you live any place else in the world, any place else in the United States or any place else in any other country for a while, you would realize just how lucky we all are to be here. Not everything works, nothing's 100 percent, but we are the luckiest people in the world.

"And one of the reasons I would argue that we have a great society is because we have a free press, and a competitive press. Now there are times when I'm not thrilled with what you write, but heck, you have a right to be wrong, you know? (Laughter.) That's what democracy is all about. I thank you all. God bless and happy holidays."

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Couple Celebrates 77th Wedding Anniversary

BRISTOW, Okla. - Gene and Elinor Coleman celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary last November - a marriage that may be the state's longest. Official records aren't kept so no one knows for certain.

He is 96 and she is 94, and Coleman says most days ''we sit here and look at each other.'' That, he says, is a blessing because ''we're lucky that both of us are still here to look at.''

And after all these years, they still sit together like newlyweds, with his arm around her.

''When we got married, people got married to be married,'' says Elinor. ''They made a vow, 'Until death do us part,' and we didn't feel like we would break that vow.''

Their marriage has never been perfect, she says, ''because perfect doesn't exist.''

They met on a blind double date, although they had actually seen each other previously.

''It was at a box supper,'' he said. ''I was sitting on the second row from the front, and I heard somebody behind me drop a chair. I turned around to see what was happening, and there was the prettiest girl I ever saw.''

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Gates Foundation Increases Library Internet Access Around the World

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced grants totaling $17.5 million to Botswana, Latvia and Lithuania as a step in a seven-year plan to support increased Internet access in public libraries in other countries.

In 1997, the foundation began putting money into Internet access in the United States at a time when only one in four libraries was connected. Now that virtually all American libraries are online, the foundation has turned some of its attention to the rest of the world, where it says 87 percent of the world's population lacks access to the Internet.

The grants, which will be matched with government contributions from the three countries, will pay for computers, training and planning.

In addition to library Internet connections in the United States, the foundation has previously supported libraries in Chile, Mexico and Canada.

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Department of Peace Gains Momentum

"While Republicans fight the War on Terror, grow our robust economy, and crack down on illegal immigration, House Democrats plot to establish a Department of Peace, raise your taxes, and minimize penalties for crack dealers. The difference couldn't be starker." -House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO)

In an election year filled yet again with negative advertising, false accusations and half-truths, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt unintentionally gave all Americans a gift: he told us about legislation pending in the House and Senate to create a U.S. Department of Peace.

Far from being a "plot," the Department of Peace would bring a welcome focus on tools and practices of nonviolent conflict resolution to the White House and the world stage. Supporters of the legislation, which is pending in both the House and the Senate, say it would greatly increase security at all levels of society by augmenting the existing efforts of the Departments of Defense, Justice, State, and Education.

77 members of Congress have pledged their support, as well as Joaquin Phoenix, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Walter Cronkite.

According to the 2004 World Health Organization report, the United States spends $300 billion annually reacting to violence within its borders. A Department of Peace would cost about $8 billion per year.

"This legislation provides a sophisticated, coordinated, and proactive approach to reducing violence here and abroad," says Marianne Williamson, founder of The Peace Alliance. "It would send a clear signal that the United States is committed to using its great power to participate in peace."

"Peace is not a partisan issue," says Peace Alliance Executive Director Dot Maver. "All Americans want to feel safe in their homes, schools, and communities. The debate should be about how best to achieve that, not a false choice of 'peace v. war.'"

Anyone interested in joining the campaign to help establish a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence is invited to visit the following site for more information:

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Hybrid Cars to Get Free Parking in London

A London council is planning to charge residents who drive gas-guzzling cars significantly more for permits to park outside their homes, in a bid to tackle pollution.

The Richmond Borough Council in southwest London said it was proposing to introduce a charging structure based on a car's CO2 emissions, while residents with two vehicles would also be hit with a 50 percent surcharge.

Environmentally friendly cars such as petrol electric hybrids would not have to pay for a permit at all.

"If you've got an electric car you'll pay nothing, if you've got a small car you might go down by 50 percent, if you have an average car your charge will probably go down a bit or up a bit," said council leader Serge Lourie.

"But if you've got a large car we'll be charging you significantly more. And if you've got a large Jag (Jaguar) for example you'll be paying 200 percent more," he told BBC radio.

The move comes after Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell won backing for punitive environmental tax plans at the party's conference in September, putting green issues at the forefront of its policies.

It also echoes plans by London mayor Ken Livingstone to hike the capital's congestion charge for drivers of large Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to as much as 25 pounds a day from the current eight pounds.

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The Courage of a Russian Journalist

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a 2002 recipient of an International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award, was found murdered in her apartment building Oct. 7.

"The need to risk is part of the profession here," she wrote in her Courage Award acceptance speech. "If you are tired and cannot take the risk any more, you have to leave. As for me, I am not tired yet."

The co-chair of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), Eleanor Clift, has written a letter to Russia's President Vladimir Putin:

"In 2002, Anna received a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation in recognition of her reporting on the war in Chechnya. Anna referred to Chechnya as a 'living hell.' She was fearless in descending into this hell because she was determined that Russians should know the truth about what goes on in their country. Most journalists didn't even bother to travel to Chechnya when reporting on the conflict. Anna not only traveled to Chechnya, she kept returning, risking her life again and again.

"Her life was threatened numerous times, but she still kept reporting what she saw and heard. When the IWMF gave her the Courage in Journalism Award, we referred to her as a 'voice that will not be silenced.' In answer, she said, 'The courage of a journalist...consists in giving information to the people, much against their will, and make them think about the tragedy that the country is going through, think that this must be stopped.'

"Even in death, Anna's voice will not be silenced. Her work touched too many of us for that to happen. She joins many other Russian journalists who have given their lives because they were dedicated to reporting the news."

(The full text of the letter can be found at:

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Ted Turner on David Letterman:
The good business of clean energy

David Letterman:...Richard Branson has pledged to donate, like...

Ted Turner: No, it's not donation. I just read the article in The New York Times. I got an advanced copy. He's going to make an investment of 3 billion in clean energy...he's going to probably make more off that investment than he has off everything else because (audience laughter) just like 40 years ago, the thing to go into was plastic. Today, clean energy is the best place to go.

There's going to be, there has to be, a huge retooling of our whole energy regime. We have to move to solar, wind, probably nuclear. We have to stop pumping all the C02 into the atmosphere. We've got to move away from fossil fuels (applause).

Letterman: Absolutely.

Turner: And it will be good for business. It won't be bad. It'll be good for business, and our kids won't have...the asthma won't be increased, the air will be cleaner over our cities, the water will be less polluted. It's going to be a much better world, and we won't go broke because we just can't keep buying this oil at ever-increasing prices from the most unstable parts of the world.

Letterman:...The question that everyone asks is, why now do we have to wait for the government to act when people in the private sector, irrespective of motive, are making generous investments and statements to correct this problem?

Turner: We need everybody working on it. We need the government working on it, too. There's certain things that the private sector can do, and mainly move rapidly, which is good, but we need government policies that can encourage...that at least don't tip the scales.

Right now, the subsidies are all going to the fossil fuel industry. It's hard to believe but we're subsidizing coal and oil right now in our country, and not subsidizing solar and wind. If we're going to subsidize anything it ought to be the clean energies. But the power companies have been here for a long time and they have huge amounts of money and they make big political contributions, so, but we gotta have governments on board, too.

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Branson Getting Ready for Takeoff

British entrepreneur Richard Branson unveiled an interior mock-up of the suborbital spaceship that his company plans to use to take paying passengers into space.

The interior is designed to give passengers room to float around. A flight, including about five minutes of weightlessness, will cost each passenger $200,000. The mock-up featured a spacious cabin with reclining seats and large portholes.

Test flights are expected to begin in late 2007, with the first tourist flights in 2008.

Initial tourist flights will take off from California, and later at a proposed $225 million facility in New Mexico called Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic is one of several startup companies that plan to rocket ordinary people into space. Virgin Galactic's goal is to ferry 500 people in its first year -- roughly the same number of people who have gone up in 45 years of space travel. (Virgin Galactic:

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Yo Yo Ma's New Role: Peace Ambassador

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said world renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma will take on a new role as a U.N. peace ambassador.

Annan met the 50-year-old musician and told reporters afterward he will be "a peace envoy."

Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and was a child prodigy on the cello when he moved to the United States at the age of seven. By the time he graduated from Harvard University in 1976, he was already an internationally acclaimed cellist.

One of the most sought-after cellists in the world, Ma has won more than a dozen Grammy awards.

As a U.N. messenger of peace, Ma will join Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, boxing great Muhammad Ali, actor Michael Douglas, primate expert Jane Goodall and others in championing what Annan says is the world body's most urgent and important task: promoting peace.

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