New Zealand TV host quits after sparking criticism (Reuters)

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A New Zealand television host has quit after sparking a diplomatic row when he ridiculed the name of Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Television station TVNZ came under heavy criticism after its “Breakfast” show host Paul Henry mispronounced Dikshit, despite being told by the lead anchor that it is pronounced “Dixit.”

India summoned New Zealand’s high commissioner on Thursday to formally protest against what it said were “racial remarks” involving Dikshit, who was asked last month to take charge of the floundering Commonwealth Games preparations.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that Henry had resigned after several hundred complaints to the broadcaster regarding his Dikshit comments and questioning whether the nation’s Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Indian descent, was “even a New Zealander.”

“He has made that decision and I guess over the last week he’s had some time to reflect on the comments,” Key told breakfast television on Monday.

Key said there had been no pressure from himself or the government on TVNZ regarding Henry’s future and it was “good that he has personally made that decision.”

The prime minister said Henry’s resignation would help repair any damage caused to New Zealand’s relationship with India but stressed that these were comments from one person.

TVNZ Chief Executive Rick Ellis said he accepted Henry’s resignation on Sunday after seven years as a breakfast TV host and apologized to anyone who had been offended by the presenter’s “inappropriate on-air comments.”

“I will be apologizing in person to the Governor General. I also apologise to the Indian community, both here and in India,” he said in a statement.

Henry, 50, who was suspended from the TV station on October 5, said he had apologized twice and accepted that he had inadvertently crossed the line of what was acceptable from time to time.

“I do not want to continue to be used as a lightning rod for racial disharmony in this country. Likewise, I certainly do not want my elderly mother staked out at her nursing home by tabloid media, as has happened this weekend,” he said in a statement.

There are more than 100,000 New Zealanders of Indian ethnic origin, almost 3 percent of the population.

The row was the latest in a series of problems for authorities in Delhi who have struggled with a chaotic run-up to the Games, with corruption, shoddy construction, health and security issues bringing into question India’s ability to host the event.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Ossian Shine)

Council flagpoles now celebrate diversity and druids

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Northampton council flies the Tibetan flag on March 2, known as Tibet Lobby Day and organised by campaigners for the area’s independence Photo: ALAMY

Critics say that many of the new flags are little more than “logos on bedsheets” and have called on councils to stick to more traditional ones.

In Wigan, the council commissioned a report to make sure that its protocol for flags fitted in with the authority’s diversity policy.

Among the other flags flown from town halls are those to mark No Smoking Day, to support the Carbon Trust, as well as various awarded to councils by environmental bodies.

Many councils now hoist the gay “rainbow” flag at least once a year, often on May 17th, International Day Against Homophobia. However, in Brighton, the council also flies the Transgender Pride flag, of light blue, pink and white stripes, on Transgender Day, on November 28th.

A number of councils also fly Islamic, Sikh and Hindu flags on important religious dates. In Bradford, the council has also hoisted the Rastafarian flag – of red, gold and green bars behind a lion – as well as the red, black and green bars of the “black liberation flag”, which was originally used by the Universal Negro Improvement Association, set up in the US by Marcus Garvey, the early twentieth century political leader.

Both flags are used by followers of the Rastafarian faith and between them are flown on a total of seven days in the calendar which are significant to the movement, including Marcus Garvey’s birthday, on August 17th.

Charnwood council, in Leicestershire, also flies a Druid flag – a circular, white symbol on a green back ground – to mark the summer and winter solstices.

In some areas, including Brent, in London, and Swindon, the flag of the European Union remains aloft all year round. Northampton council also flies the Tibetan flag on March 2, known as Tibet Lobby Day and organised by campaigners for the area’s independence.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has issued guidelines about the flying of flags, but ultimately, it is up to the authorities themselves.

The survey, conducted by The Sunday Telegraph, even found one council, Babergh, in Suffolk, which said it did not have a flagpole.

Graham Bartram, chief vexillologist at the Flag Institute, which promotes interest in the subject and advises the government on such matters, said: “I have no objection to councils flying flags to indicate support for various initiatives. I just wish they were better flags.

“Many of these are completely hopeless designs and are little more than white flags with a slogan on them. The term in the flag world for these is “LOBs” – logos on bedsheets. We recommend councils use regional flags and banners of arms.”

Malaysia Islamists object to Adam Lambert concert (Reuters)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s Islamist opposition party on Monday demanded that authorities cancel a planned concert by U.S. glam rocker Adam Lambert that they say is promoting “gay culture” in the mainly Muslim country.

The Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has also threatened to call “as many of its members and supporters” to proselytise to concert-goers if the performance by the former “American Idol” runner-up goes ahead on Thursday, a party official said.

“Adam Lambert’s shows… are outrageous, with lewd dancing and a gay performance that includes kissing male dancers, this is not good for people in our country,” said PAS Youth leader Nasrudin Hasan. Homosexual sex is a criminal offence in Malaysia.

PAS is Malaysia’s second-largest political party with close to a million members and is a partner in a rainbow opposition grouping led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Foreign acts often draw protests from PAS, which since 2007 has campaigned against performances by singers including Beyonce, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne and Mariah Carey.

Police in May broke up a demonstration by Islamists including PAS supporters protesting against a concert by U.S. rapper Pitbull, underscoring a deepening tide of Islamic conservatism in the country.

An official from Malaysia’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry was reported saying that the singer, had signed a contract agreeing to abide by the Ministry’s rules on performances, which can require foreign performers to tone down their acts to suit local sensibilities.

(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Ambulance stolen with paramedics treating patient (AP)

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CHICAGO – Bond was set at $50,000 for a 27-year-old Chicago man accused of stealing an ambulance over the weekend while two paramedics treated someone he apparently knew in the back. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Jimmy McCoy allegedly jumped into the stopped ambulance and drove off with the emergency lights on.

The paramedics then radioed that they’re ambulance had been stolen with them inside.

Prosecutors told a hearing Sunday McCoy seemed to think he was driving his diabetic friend to the hospital.

In the Saturday incident, McCoy only made it a few blocks before a fire truck blocked the road. Police surrounded the ambulance and McCoy was arrested.

There was no telephone listing for a Jimmy McCoy at a home address provided by authorities.


Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, View the original article here