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On the campaign trail in the USA, September 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

The following is the fifth edition of a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail: an arrest warrant is issued for the Green Party presidential and vice presidential nominees; the “Birther King” opens up about Donald Trump’s changing view on President Obama’s place of birth; and Wikinews interviews a write-in presidential candidate hoping to run the “most libertarian” campaign in history.

Contents

  • 1 Summary
  • 2 Arrest warrant out for Green Party nominees
  • 3 ‘Birther King’ reacts to Trump’s change of heart
  • 4 Wikinews interviews libertarian write-in candidate
  • 5 Related articles
  • 6 Sources

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U.K. National Portrait Gallery threatens U.S. citizen with legal action over Wikimedia images

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The English National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London has threatened on Friday to sue a U.S. citizen, Derrick Coetzee. The legal letter followed claims that he had breached the Gallery’s copyright in several thousand photographs of works of art uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons, a free online media repository.

In a letter from their solicitors sent to Coetzee via electronic mail, the NPG asserted that it holds copyright in the photographs under U.K. law, and demanded that Coetzee provide various undertakings and remove all of the images from the site (referred to in the letter as “the Wikipedia website”).

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free-to-use media, run by a community of volunteers from around the world, and is a sister project to Wikinews and the encyclopedia Wikipedia. Coetzee, who contributes to the Commons using the account “Dcoetzee”, had uploaded images that are free for public use under United States law, where he and the website are based. However copyright is claimed to exist in the country where the gallery is situated.

The complaint by the NPG is that under UK law, its copyright in the photographs of its portraits is being violated. While the gallery has complained to the Wikimedia Foundation for a number of years, this is the first direct threat of legal action made against an actual uploader of images. In addition to the allegation that Coetzee had violated the NPG’s copyright, they also allege that Coetzee had, by uploading thousands of images in bulk, infringed the NPG’s database right, breached a contract with the NPG; and circumvented a copyright protection mechanism on the NPG’s web site.

The copyright protection mechanism referred to is Zoomify, a product of Zoomify, Inc. of Santa Cruz, California. NPG’s solicitors stated in their letter that “Our client used the Zoomify technology to protect our client’s copyright in the high resolution images.”. Zoomify Inc. states in the Zoomify support documentation that its product is intended to make copying of images “more difficult” by breaking the image into smaller pieces and disabling the option within many web browsers to click and save images, but that they “provide Zoomify as a viewing solution and not an image security system”.

In particular, Zoomify’s website comments that while “many customers — famous museums for example” use Zoomify, in their experience a “general consensus” seems to exist that most museums are concerned with making the images in their galleries accessible to the public, rather than preventing the public from accessing them or making copies; they observe that a desire to prevent high resolution images being distributed would also imply prohibiting the sale of any posters or production of high quality printed material that could be scanned and placed online.

Other actions in the past have come directly from the NPG, rather than via solicitors. For example, several edits have been made directly to the English-language Wikipedia from the IP address 217.207.85.50, one of sixteen such IP addresses assigned to computers at the NPG by its ISP, Easynet.

In the period from August 2005 to July 2006 an individual within the NPG using that IP address acted to remove the use of several Wikimedia Commons pictures from articles in Wikipedia, including removing an image of the Chandos portrait, which the NPG has had in its possession since 1856, from Wikipedia’s biographical article on William Shakespeare.

Other actions included adding notices to the pages for images, and to the text of several articles using those images, such as the following edit to Wikipedia’s article on Catherine of Braganza and to its page for the Wikipedia Commons image of Branwell Brontë‘s portrait of his sisters:

“THIS IMAGE IS BEING USED WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.”
“This image is copyright material and must not be reproduced in any way without permission of the copyright holder. Under current UK copyright law, there is copyright in skilfully executed photographs of ex-copyright works, such as this painting of Catherine de Braganza.
The original painting belongs to the National Portrait Gallery, London. For copies, and permission to reproduce the image, please contact the Gallery at picturelibrary@npg.org.uk or via our website at www.npg.org.uk”

Other, later, edits, made on the day that NPG’s solicitors contacted Coetzee and drawn to the NPG’s attention by Wikinews, are currently the subject of an internal investigation within the NPG.

Coetzee published the contents of the letter on Saturday July 11, the letter itself being dated the previous day. It had been sent electronically to an email address associated with his Wikimedia Commons user account. The NPG’s solicitors had mailed the letter from an account in the name “Amisquitta”. This account was blocked shortly after by a user with access to the user blocking tool, citing a long standing Wikipedia policy that the making of legal threats and creation of a hostile environment is generally inconsistent with editing access and is an inappropriate means of resolving user disputes.

The policy, initially created on Commons’ sister website in June 2004, is also intended to protect all parties involved in a legal dispute, by ensuring that their legal communications go through proper channels, and not through a wiki that is open to editing by other members of the public. It was originally formulated primarily to address legal action for libel. In October 2004 it was noted that there was “no consensus” whether legal threats related to copyright infringement would be covered but by the end of 2006 the policy had reached a consensus that such threats (as opposed to polite complaints) were not compatible with editing access while a legal matter was unresolved. Commons’ own website states that “[accounts] used primarily to create a hostile environment for another user may be blocked”.

In a further response, Gregory Maxwell, a volunteer administrator on Wikimedia Commons, made a formal request to the editorial community that Coetzee’s access to administrator tools on Commons should be revoked due to the prevailing circumstances. Maxwell noted that Coetzee “[did] not have the technically ability to permanently delete images”, but stated that Coetzee’s potential legal situation created a conflict of interest.

Sixteen minutes after Maxwell’s request, Coetzee’s “administrator” privileges were removed by a user in response to the request. Coetzee retains “administrator” privileges on the English-language Wikipedia, since none of the images exist on Wikipedia’s own website and therefore no conflict of interest exists on that site.

Legally, the central issue upon which the case depends is that copyright laws vary between countries. Under United States case law, where both the website and Coetzee are located, a photograph of a non-copyrighted two-dimensional picture (such as a very old portrait) is not capable of being copyrighted, and it may be freely distributed and used by anyone. Under UK law that point has not yet been decided, and the Gallery’s solicitors state that such photographs could potentially be subject to copyright in that country.

One major legal point upon which a case would hinge, should the NPG proceed to court, is a question of originality. The U.K.’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines in ¶ 1(a) that copyright is a right that subsists in “original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works” (emphasis added). The legal concept of originality here involves the simple origination of a work from an author, and does not include the notions of novelty or innovation that is often associated with the non-legal meaning of the word.

Whether an exact photographic reproduction of a work is an original work will be a point at issue. The NPG asserts that an exact photographic reproduction of a copyrighted work in another medium constitutes an original work, and this would be the basis for its action against Coetzee. This view has some support in U.K. case law. The decision of Walter v Lane held that exact transcriptions of speeches by journalists, in shorthand on reporter’s notepads, were original works, and thus copyrightable in themselves. The opinion by Hugh Laddie, Justice Laddie, in his book The Modern Law of Copyright, points out that photographs lie on a continuum, and that photographs can be simple copies, derivative works, or original works:

“[…] it is submitted that a person who makes a photograph merely by placing a drawing or painting on the glass of a photocopying machine and pressing the button gets no copyright at all; but he might get a copyright if he employed skill and labour in assembling the thing to be photocopied, as where he made a montage.”

Various aspects of this continuum have already been explored in the courts. Justice Neuberger, in the decision at Antiquesportfolio.com v Rodney Fitch & Co. held that a photograph of a three-dimensional object would be copyrightable if some exercise of judgement of the photographer in matters of angle, lighting, film speed, and focus were involved. That exercise would create an original work. Justice Oliver similarly held, in Interlego v Tyco Industries, that “[i]t takes great skill, judgement and labour to produce a good copy by painting or to produce an enlarged photograph from a positive print, but no-one would reasonably contend that the copy, painting, or enlargement was an ‘original’ artistic work in which the copier is entitled to claim copyright. Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”.

In 2000 the Museums Copyright Group, a copyright lobbying group, commissioned a report and legal opinion on the implications of the Bridgeman case for the UK, which stated:

“Revenue raised from reproduction fees and licensing is vital to museums to support their primary educational and curatorial objectives. Museums also rely on copyright in photographs of works of art to protect their collections from inaccurate reproduction and captioning… as a matter of principle, a photograph of an artistic work can qualify for copyright protection in English law”. The report concluded by advocating that “museums must continue to lobby” to protect their interests, to prevent inferior quality images of their collections being distributed, and “not least to protect a vital source of income”.

Several people and organizations in the U.K. have been awaiting a test case that directly addresses the issue of copyrightability of exact photographic reproductions of works in other media. The commonly cited legal case Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. found that there is no originality where the aim and the result is a faithful and exact reproduction of the original work. The case was heard twice in New York, once applying UK law and once applying US law. It cited the prior UK case of Interlego v Tyco Industries (1988) in which Lord Oliver stated that “Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”

“What is important about a drawing is what is visually significant and the re-drawing of an existing drawing […] does not make it an original artistic work, however much labour and skill may have gone into the process of reproduction […]”

The Interlego judgement had itself drawn upon another UK case two years earlier, Coca-Cola Go’s Applications, in which the House of Lords drew attention to the “undesirability” of plaintiffs seeking to expand intellectual property law beyond the purpose of its creation in order to create an “undeserving monopoly”. It commented on this, that “To accord an independent artistic copyright to every such reproduction would be to enable the period of artistic copyright in what is, essentially, the same work to be extended indefinitely… ”

The Bridgeman case concluded that whether under UK or US law, such reproductions of copyright-expired material were not capable of being copyrighted.

The unsuccessful plaintiff, Bridgeman Art Library, stated in 2006 in written evidence to the House of Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that it was “looking for a similar test case in the U.K. or Europe to fight which would strengthen our position”.

The National Portrait Gallery is a non-departmental public body based in London England and sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Founded in 1856, it houses a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. The gallery contains more than 11,000 portraits and 7,000 light-sensitive works in its Primary Collection, 320,000 in the Reference Collection, over 200,000 pictures and negatives in the Photographs Collection and a library of around 35,000 books and manuscripts. (More on the National Portrait Gallery here)

The gallery’s solicitors are Farrer & Co LLP, of London. Farrer’s clients have notably included the British Royal Family, in a case related to extracts from letters sent by Diana, Princess of Wales which were published in a book by ex-butler Paul Burrell. (In that case, the claim was deemed unlikely to succeed, as the extracts were not likely to be in breach of copyright law.)

Farrer & Co have close ties with industry interest groups related to copyright law. Peter Wienand, Head of Intellectual Property at Farrer & Co., is a member of the Executive body of the Museums Copyright Group, which is chaired by Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions at the National Portrait Gallery. The Museums Copyright Group acts as a lobbying organization for “the interests and activities of museums and galleries in the area of [intellectual property rights]”, which reacted strongly against the Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. case.

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of images, media, and other material free for use by anyone in the world. It is operated by a community of 21,000 active volunteers, with specialist rights such as deletion and blocking restricted to around 270 experienced users in the community (known as “administrators”) who are trusted by the community to use them to enact the wishes and policies of the community. Commons is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a charitable body whose mission is to make available free knowledge and historic and other material which is legally distributable under US law. (More on Commons here)

The legal threat also sparked discussions of moral issues and issues of public policy in several Internet discussion fora, including Slashdot, over the weekend. One major public policy issue relates to how the public domain should be preserved.

Some of the public policy debate over the weekend has echoed earlier opinions presented by Kenneth Hamma, the executive director for Digital Policy at the J. Paul Getty Trust. Writing in D-Lib Magazine in November 2005, Hamma observed:

“Art museums and many other collecting institutions in this country hold a trove of public-domain works of art. These are works whose age precludes continued protection under copyright law. The works are the result of and evidence for human creativity over thousands of years, an activity museums celebrate by their very existence. For reasons that seem too frequently unexamined, many museums erect barriers that contribute to keeping quality images of public domain works out of the hands of the general public, of educators, and of the general milieu of creativity. In restricting access, art museums effectively take a stand against the creativity they otherwise celebrate. This conflict arises as a result of the widely accepted practice of asserting rights in the images that the museums make of the public domain works of art in their collections.”

He also stated:

“This resistance to free and unfettered access may well result from a seemingly well-grounded concern: many museums assume that an important part of their core business is the acquisition and management of rights in art works to maximum return on investment. That might be true in the case of the recording industry, but it should not be true for nonprofit institutions holding public domain art works; it is not even their secondary business. Indeed, restricting access seems all the more inappropriate when measured against a museum’s mission — a responsibility to provide public access. Their charitable, financial, and tax-exempt status demands such. The assertion of rights in public domain works of art — images that at their best closely replicate the values of the original work — differs in almost every way from the rights managed by the recording industry. Because museums and other similar collecting institutions are part of the private nonprofit sector, the obligation to treat assets as held in public trust should replace the for-profit goal. To do otherwise, undermines the very nature of what such institutions were created to do.”

Hamma observed in 2005 that “[w]hile examples of museums chasing down digital image miscreants are rare to non-existent, the expectation that museums might do so has had a stultifying effect on the development of digital image libraries for teaching and research.”

The NPG, which has been taking action with respect to these images since at least 2005, is a public body. It was established by Act of Parliament, the current Act being the Museums and Galleries Act 1992. In that Act, the NPG Board of Trustees is charged with maintaining “a collection of portraits of the most eminent persons in British history, of other works of art relevant to portraiture and of documents relating to those portraits and other works of art”. It also has the tasks of “secur[ing] that the portraits are exhibited to the public” and “generally promot[ing] the public’s enjoyment and understanding of portraiture of British persons and British history through portraiture both by means of the Board’s collection and by such other means as they consider appropriate”.

Several commentators have questioned how the NPG’s statutory goals align with its threat of legal action. Mike Masnick, founder of Techdirt, asked “The people who run the Gallery should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to go back and read their own mission statement[. …] How, exactly, does suing someone for getting those portraits more attention achieve that goal?” (external link Masnick’s). L. Sutherland of Bigmouthmedia asked “As the paintings of the NPG technically belong to the nation, does that mean that they should also belong to anyone that has access to a computer?”

Other public policy debates that have been sparked have included the applicability of U.K. courts, and U.K. law, to the actions of a U.S. citizen, residing in the U.S., uploading files to servers hosted in the U.S.. Two major schools of thought have emerged. Both see the issue as encroachment of one legal system upon another. But they differ as to which system is encroaching. One view is that the free culture movement is attempting to impose the values and laws of the U.S. legal system, including its case law such as Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., upon the rest of the world. Another view is that a U.K. institution is attempting to control, through legal action, the actions of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

David Gerard, former Press Officer for Wikimedia UK, the U.K. chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, which has been involved with the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest to create free content photographs of exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum, stated on Slashdot that “The NPG actually acknowledges in their letter that the poster’s actions were entirely legal in America, and that they’re making a threat just because they think they can. The Wikimedia community and the WMF are absolutely on the side of these public domain images remaining in the public domain. The NPG will be getting radioactive publicity from this. Imagine the NPG being known to American tourists as somewhere that sues Americans just because it thinks it can.”

Benjamin Crowell, a physics teacher at Fullerton College in California, stated that he had received a letter from the Copyright Officer at the NPG in 2004, with respect to the picture of the portrait of Isaac Newton used in his physics textbooks, that he publishes in the U.S. under a free content copyright licence, to which he had replied with a pointer to Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp..

The Wikimedia Foundation takes a similar stance. Erik Möller, the Deputy Director of the US-based Wikimedia Foundation wrote in 2008 that “we’ve consistently held that faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works which are nothing more than reproductions should be considered public domain for licensing purposes”.

Contacted over the weekend, the NPG issued a statement to Wikinews:

“The National Portrait Gallery is very strongly committed to giving access to its Collection. In the past five years the Gallery has spent around £1 million digitising its Collection to make it widely available for study and enjoyment. We have so far made available on our website more than 60,000 digital images, which have attracted millions of users, and we believe this extensive programme is of great public benefit.
“The Gallery supports Wikipedia in its aim of making knowledge widely available and we would be happy for the site to use our low-resolution images, sufficient for most forms of public access, subject to safeguards. However, in March 2009 over 3000 high-resolution files were appropriated from the National Portrait Gallery website and published on Wikipedia without permission.
“The Gallery is very concerned that potential loss of licensing income from the high-resolution files threatens its ability to reinvest in its digitisation programme and so make further images available. It is one of the Gallery’s primary purposes to make as much of the Collection available as possible for the public to view.
“Digitisation involves huge costs including research, cataloguing, conservation and highly-skilled photography. Images then need to be made available on the Gallery website as part of a structured and authoritative database. To date, Wikipedia has not responded to our requests to discuss the issue and so the National Portrait Gallery has been obliged to issue a lawyer’s letter. The Gallery remains willing to enter into a dialogue with Wikipedia.

In fact, Matthew Bailey, the Gallery’s (then) Assistant Picture Library Manager, had already once been in a similar dialogue. Ryan Kaldari, an amateur photographer from Nashville, Tennessee, who also volunteers at the Wikimedia Commons, states that he was in correspondence with Bailey in October 2006. In that correspondence, according to Kaldari, he and Bailey failed to conclude any arrangement.

Jay Walsh, the Head of Communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts the Commons, called the gallery’s actions “unfortunate” in the Foundation’s statement, issued on Tuesday July 14:

“The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. To that end, we have very productive working relationships with a number of galleries, archives, museums and libraries around the world, who join with us to make their educational materials available to the public.
“The Wikimedia Foundation does not control user behavior, nor have we reviewed every action taken by that user. Nonetheless, it is our general understanding that the user in question has behaved in accordance with our mission, with the general goal of making public domain materials available via our Wikimedia Commons project, and in accordance with applicable law.”

The Foundation added in its statement that as far as it was aware, the NPG had not attempted “constructive dialogue”, and that the volunteer community was presently discussing the matter independently.

In part, the lack of past agreement may have been because of a misunderstanding by the National Portrait Gallery of Commons and Wikipedia’s free content mandate; and of the differences between Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Wikimedia Commons, and the individual volunteer workers who participate on the various projects supported by the Foundation.

Like Coetzee, Ryan Kaldari is a volunteer worker who does not represent Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Commons. (Such representation is impossible. Both Wikipedia and the Commons are endeavours supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, and not organizations in themselves.) Nor, again like Coetzee, does he represent the Wikimedia Foundation.

Kaldari states that he explained the free content mandate to Bailey. Bailey had, according to copies of his messages provided by Kaldari, offered content to Wikipedia (naming as an example the photograph of John Opie‘s 1797 portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose copyright term has since expired) but on condition that it not be free content, but would be subject to restrictions on its distribution that would have made it impossible to use by any of the many organizations that make use of Wikipedia articles and the Commons repository, in the way that their site-wide “usable by anyone” licences ensures.

The proposed restrictions would have also made it impossible to host the images on Wikimedia Commons. The image of the National Portrait Gallery in this article, above, is one such free content image; it was provided and uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, and is thus able to be used and republished not only on Wikipedia but also on Wikinews, on other Wikimedia Foundation projects, as well as by anyone in the world, subject to the terms of the GFDL, a license that guarantees attribution is provided to the creators of the image.

As Commons has grown, many other organizations have come to different arrangements with volunteers who work at the Wikimedia Commons and at Wikipedia. For example, in February 2009, fifteen international museums including the Brooklyn Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum established a month-long competition where users were invited to visit in small teams and take high quality photographs of their non-copyright paintings and other exhibits, for upload to Wikimedia Commons and similar websites (with restrictions as to equipment, required in order to conserve the exhibits), as part of the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest.

Approached for comment by Wikinews, Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said “It’s pretty clear that these images themselves should be in the public domain. There is a clear public interest in making sure paintings and other works are usable by anyone once their term of copyright expires. This is what US courts have recognised, whatever the situation in UK law.”

The Digital Britain report, issued by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport in June 2009, stated that “Public cultural institutions like Tate, the Royal Opera House, the RSC, the Film Council and many other museums, libraries, archives and galleries around the country now reach a wider public online.” Culture minster Ben Bradshaw was also approached by Wikinews for comment on the public policy issues surrounding the on-line availability of works in the public domain held in galleries, re-raised by the NPG’s threat of legal action, but had not responded by publication time.

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Somali pirates seize Greek freighter, 25 crew in the Gulf of Aden

Thursday, September 18, 2008

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), pirates have seized a Greek bulk carrier en route to Kenya with 25 crew on board in the Gulf of Aden some 370 kilometers from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

Noel Choong, who represents the International Maritime Bureau, advised ships traveling through the gulf to take extra precautions. “It appears that the pirates are now attacking ships in two areas, the eastern part of Somalia and northern parts of the Horn of Africa nation,” he said. “Ships are warned to take extra measures and stay 200 nautical miles away from the coast. They must maintain a strict watch.

The Gulf of Aden is a dangerous place for ships, with many incidents of piracy occurring regularly in the Gulf.

Four hours earlier pirates had attacked another vessel, a chemical tanker from Hong Kong, which was at the time carrying 22 crew members. Following that attack, the gulf was described by the managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association as an “incredibly dangerous place.”

In response to this, several large shipping organisations have called for countries to deploy forces from their Navies in the Gulf of Aden.

“The shipping industry’s plea is in response to a situation which it describes as in danger of spiralling completely and irretrievably out of control,” said the group which consisted of the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo, Bimco and Intertanko. “Continued inaction against these violent acts could prompt shipowners to redirect their ships via the Cape of Good Hope, with severe consequences for international trade, including increased prices for delivered goods.”

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The group also said that there have been 40 hijackings in the gulf, resulting in 133 crew members being kidnapped and 10 ships being held. According to the IMB six gangs totalling approximately 1,200 people have carried out these attacks.

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Series of explosions hit hotels in Amman

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

At least three explosions hit US-owned hotels in Amman this evening, killing at least 57 people and wounding at least 245 others.

The first of the apparently coordinated suicide bombings occurred at 8.50 pm (1850 UTC) at the Grand Hyatt hotel in the Jordanian capital. It was followed by explosions at the Radisson SAS and the Days Inn. The hotels are particularly popular with American and Israeli tourists. At least one American was killed, and at least two others were wounded. They were not identified due to the condition on anonymity in the embassy.

The bomb at the Grand Hyatt hotel apparently went off in the lobby; the bomb at the Radisson SAS exploded in a wedding hall packed with around 300 people. Most of the casualties are believed to be Jordanian.

Jordanian King Abdullah II has condemned the bombings and announced that “justice will pursue the criminals”.

Islamic fundamentalist group Al-Qaeda, led by militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is said to have claimed responsibility for the attacks on their website. The news was reported by several news outlets, but the authenticity of the claim has not yet been verified.

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Potential Wikia mass exodus

Friday, August 1, 2008

Recently Wikia, a commercial company co-founded by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, announced that it would be making changes in the appearances of its wikis, specifically making advertising more prominent. This change to mix advertising directly into the content has led many Wikia hosted sites to begin discussions regarding leaving Wikia hosting for their own. As Wikia’s business model hinges entirely upon user-generated content, large numbers of sites leaving could leave Wikia in financial trouble. Wikia has lost editors and volunteer “janitors” as a result of this.

Some changes were made to make sure Wikia doesn’t lose its community; one of them being the ability for logged-in users to turn off advertisements in their personal preferences, which would eliminate the ads from all other pages except the main pages of different Wikia wikis. However, this didn’t help much and several wikis, most notably the Transformers Wiki advised their users to switch to Firefox browser and install the AdBlock plugin to remove advertisements. The problem was the excessive advertisements on every content pages which most of the Wikia communities didn’t agree with.

Since the new Monaco skin version 3.1. was rolled out across all Wikia-hosted wikis, Wikia introduced a set of “main page column tags” meant to aid in main page designing while minding Wikia’s new advertisements. Most, if not all Wikia’s English-language wikis, such as Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki, Wiki 24 and WoWWiki have converted their main pages to use these new main page column tags. Wikia’s “helpers”, people working as interns for Wikia, have helped to convert wikis to the new main page layout. However, some wikis, such as the Transformers Wiki opposed the change to their main pages and thus refused to convert their main page to use the main page column tags. Newly-created Wikia wikis will have a main page that has the main page column tags by default.

Certain Wikia-hosted communities have criticized their host for trying to make Wikia look like one big website to please the advertisers when the communities would prefer to stay independent from other Wikia’s wikis.

During the rollout of the new Monaco skin, the phrase “Wikia will never host pop-up adverts.” was removed from Wikia’s terms of use and later reinstated into the terms. Several users thought that this might hint of upcoming pop-up ads at Wikia.

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TGV makes 574.8 km/h on rails

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A French Train à Grande Vitesse (High-Speed Train or TGV) has smashed the world record for a train on conventional rails by a big margin, reaching 574.8km/h (356mph) The TGV travelled over 59.8 km/h (36 mph) faster than its previous record of 515 km/h (320 mph)

The record attempt by a modified TGV took place on a track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg. However, this is not the fastest train speed. A Japanese Maglev (Magnetive Levitation Train) reached a top speed of 581km/h (361mph) in 2003. The TGV made history at 13:14 CEST (11:14 UTC). The TGV had been modfied and was called V150 – a TGV with larger wheels than usual and two engines driving three double-decker cars. The vehicle’s horsepower was 25,000.

Reporters said the three train drivers were seen grinning on French TV after they realised they had broken the record. The TGV travelled almost as fast as a World War II Spitfire fighter at top speed. Even the electrical tension in the overhead cable was increased 6000 volts from 25,000 volts to 31,000 for the record attempt.

“We saw the countryside go by a little faster than we did during the tests,” engineer Eric Pieczac said.

“Everything went very well. There are about 10,000 engineers who would want to be in my place,” Mr Pieczac said. “It makes me very happy, a mixed feeling of pride and honour to be able to reach this speed.” Since their introduction in 1981, TGVs generally travel at about 300km/h (187.5 mph) however, on the recently opened Paris-Strasbourg LGV (Ligne à Grande Vitesse or High-Speed line) trains will travel at 320 km/h (200 mph)

SNCF and Alstom – the TGV’s manufacturer – have said that the record test was performed to see how a TGV would react in extreme conditions – conditions that cannot be performed in a laboratory.

After the record was broken, French President Jacques Chirac conveyed his congratulations on “this new proof of the excellence of the French rail industry.” The President also said that “Economically efficient and respectful of the environment, the TGV is a major asset in efforts to ensure sustainable development in transport

“What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology which was invented in France 30 years ago is a technology for the future,” said Guillaume Pepy

Alstom plans to increase TGV sales abroad, where it is competing with high-speed trains such as the Japanese Shinkansen and the German ICE. Currently, nations of the Far East such as China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are the “top” customers for high-speed trains. Agence France-Presse said that a high-speed rail link in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California was being looked into.

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Employees killed in Foxconn manufacturing factory

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Friday evening, an explosion in Chengdu, China caused partial shutdown of a facility operated by Foxconn, one of the world’s biggest electronics manufacturers and a major supplier to companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony, Apple, Motorola and Nokia. Initial investigations now suggest the explosion was caused by poor ventilation, which lead to high concentrations of combustible dust.

The blast happened at 7:18PM, around the time workers change shifts. A fire followed. Emergency services had control by 7:30PM. At least three people were killed, at least fifteen injured. Foxconn halted production to investigate, saying “All operations at the affected workshop remain suspended and production at all other workshops that carry out similar processing functions have also been halted pending the results of the investigation. All other production operations in our facilities in China continue operating normally.”

On Monday, city officials gave the cause as combustible dust in the air at a polishing workshop. Hong Kong-based labor rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior said they reported aluminium dust problems in March when they reviewed working conditions at Foxconn. After the explosion, they commented that workers were complaining “the ventilation of the department is poor. Workers polish the iPad cases to make them shiny. In the process, there is lots of aluminum (aluminium) dust floating in the air. Workers always breathe in aluminum dust even though they put on masks. When workers take off their cotton gloves, their hands are covered with aluminum dust.”

Foxconn responded by saying the group was trying to “capitalize on the tragic accident” and misrepresented “Foxconn’s commitment to the health and safety of our employees.”

Foxconn is responsible for making iPads and iPhones for Apple. Research group IHS iSuppli said the explosion may cause loss of production of 500,000 iPads during this quarter of the year. They said there is a larger facility in Shenzhen, but it cannot cope with re-compensating the possible loss.

PostHeaderIcon Summer Is A Great Time For Kids To Learn How To Skateboard

By John Pauls

Kids love the idea of being out of school for the summer but soon that thrill wears off. It can be hard for parents to keep their kids entertained all summer long. You definitely dont want them sleeping all day, then getting up to either watch TV or play video games. You want them to be outdoors and to be active as much as possible. Yet telling them to go out and play can result in some kids complaining about it. They will tell you that there is nothing to do.

Summer can be an expensive time too if you are taking your kids to do things all the time. These days the economy isnt great so families are cutting back in that department as well. As a result kids are feeling like summer is a drag. You dont want them to get involved in things that arent healthy for them either.

That is why summer is a great time for kids to learn how to skateboard. The initial investment is minimal and your children can have a great time learning new things and mastering the basics. They can also learn from each other and hopefully make some new friends at the skate park in town as well.

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When you get the necessary items for your children to skateboard you will find that they want to be outdoors more. In fact you may have to remind them to be inside before dark at night when they start to focus their time on such events. If your child has a summer birthday then that can be the perfect gift for them. Make sure they have all the safety equipment they need too in order to reduce the risk of injuries while they are skateboarding.

If you have a child that needs to lose some weight over the summer then the sport can help them to do so. As they shed some of those pounds they will become better skaters too and that continues to motivate them to be a part of it. Your child also wont be bored and result to eating more as a way to fill up that timeframe. By the end of summer your child can be healthier than they were at the end of the school year. This can help them return to the curriculum with more self confidence than they had in the past.

By the end of summer your children are going to be showing off with their skateboards. You will be amazed by how much they have learned to do with it over the course of a couple of months. They will have had a fun filled summer too and have a perfect subject for those return to school essays about how they spent their summer vacation.

Since skateboarding is also a great form of exercise you will be doing your park to get them outdoors and doing something creative as well as productive. You dont want your kids to spend their summer indoors doing nothing but sitting in front of the TV or playing various video games. Give them the tools to have some fun with this amazing sport this summer. Both of you will be very happy that you did.

You may discover by then that the entire neighborhood is taking part in skateboarding. The kids will have a great time learning from each other and possibly even building ramps that they all share for the activities. They can also take pride in teaching the new kids the basics so that they can join in for all of the fun.

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Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

Friday, January 13, 2012

This week US citizens observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Day through acts of education, legislation, and enforcement; whilst, around the world, other people highlighted or tackled this global problem in their own countries.

According to an annual report on human trafficking released by the US State Department in June last year, 27 million men, women and children are exploited through human trafficking. Worldwide, at least two million children are estimated to be trafficked victims of the sex trade; and, in military conflicts, it is not uncommon for children to be forced to bear arms. In releasing the report last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing trafficking, and cultural issues associated with it.

Under the United Nations’ Palermo Protocols, human trafficking encompasses cases where victims are born into slavery, forcibly transported for exploitation, consented to work with a trafficker, and/or were forced to participate in criminal activities. The Protocols also recognize the unique status and rights of children.

Reports from across the United States show a number of communities taking local action to solve, or otherwise highlight, this global problem.

In Southern California, Sister Caritas Foster is an advocate for the area’s victims of human trafficking. Commenting on the area’s involvement, she stated: “We in the San Francisco Bay Area are one of the largest receiving areas with our borders and coasts”. For over four years, Foster has worked on educating the public on human trafficking, speaking to civic and religious groups and describing the power traffickers hold over their victims through vivid accounts of situations trafficked individuals find themselves in. Many have no idea where they are located, suffer under the constant threat of deportation, and most often lack the language abilities to seek help.

Los Angeles politician Don Knabe said human trafficking was not a distant problem but one that hits close to home. As the county supervisor overseeing the fourth district in Los Angeles County, Knabe cited figures from the Probation Department showing 84 percent of arrests of children on prostitution charges in 2010 were in his district; he believes the overall problem for the county is much larger, and wants the Probation Department to establish a special unit dedicated to sexually exploited minors.

Northward in Seattle, Washington, members of the King County Sheriff’s department realized that law enforcement had to deal supportively with the symptoms of human trafficking — rather than putting victims in jail. This gave birth to the “Genesis Project” where sheriff’s deputies offer potential victims of trafficking a comfortable safe haven with amenities for 24 hours, and put them in touch with social services for counselling, job training, and education advice.

Politicians from several states have sought to address the connection between tourism and human trafficking; Indiana’s state Senate unanimously passed a human trafficking bill on Tuesday morning. Current legislation only considered forced marriage and prostitution as human trafficking; loopholes in the existing laws allowed some forms of human trafficking to escape prosecution. Lawmakers in the state hope to toughen their human trafficking laws, and have new legislation on the statute books in time for the Super Bowl, due to be held in Indianapolis on February 5. The just-passed bill now goes to the House for approval.

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Also on Tuesday, lawmakers from Hawaii held a special hearing on human trafficking. Kathryn Xian, of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says traffickers capitalize on the state’s tourist-based economy. She introduced a package of seven bills she says will help prevent human trafficking in the state.

At a national level, the US government continues to work abroad on the issue of trafficking; Luis CdeBaca, a special ambassador for human trafficking, is working with Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, as the country seeks to improve diplomatic relations with the United States. Myanmar was identified by the US State Department as having one of the worst records of forced labor, and as a country that lacks necessary laws to curb human trafficking.

Although National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a US-based effort to recognise, and highlight, this issue — as a topic of global concern being highlighted through the United Nations, others around the world continue efforts to increase public awareness and tackle trafficking.

Forty-six women from the international group Operation Mobilization sought to raise awareness by climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The summit is called “Uhuru Peak”, with Uhuru meaning “freedom” in Swahili. Each of the non-professional climbers raised US$10,000 to help those affected by human trafficking.

In the Middle East, several countries are reported to have problems with human traffickers recruiting unemployed gay Kenyan men to become sex slaves. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supposedly the more-common destination countries into which Kenyans are lured with offers of high-paying jobs. However, in the United Arab Emirates — where no law prohibits trafficking, but homosexuality is illegal — the problem is compounded.

Enforcement of existing laws, and acting against trafficking, are seen as key steps in reducing the activity. Showing that no country is unaffected, Northern Ireland police are currently investigating five sex trafficking cases; and, on Monday, Filipino police rescued fifteen women following a tip-off regarding women recruited, and being held, prior to being sent to work abroad.

In the Northern Ireland situation, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall stated that fifteen men are to be contacted, suspected of having paid for sex with trafficked women. Identifying victims within the UK, or victims seeking help, is becoming more challenging with the sex industry having switched to using hotel rooms as-opposed to street corners. Many victims of trafficking are found to be unaware of where within the country they are.

In the Philippines situation, Zamboanga City police are still seeking the recruiter of the fifteen women rescued in Rio Hondo.

A range of complexities are involved in the sentencing of both those convicted of human trafficking, and their victims. In one Canadian case, 43-year-old Hungarian Lajos Domotor pled guilty to trafficking men and women into forced labor. Following being charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking, he developed terminal stomach cancer and has been given a 10 to 15 percent chance of living five years.

In the UK, officials are seeking to detect exploitation prior to sentencing — as a counter to the high number of foreign women in jails, frequently having been victims of trafficking. One in seven women prisoners across England and Wales are foreign, with the primary offenses being drug or immigration-related. A report into the issue recommends sentencing decisions should consider the role of women, and of coercion, in such cases.

Artists also have a special role to play in the education and awareness of the public. The first opera about sex trafficking will premiere in Liverpool, England, on March 7. Anya17 was composed by Adam Gorb with a libretto written by Ben Kaye. Performers will come from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic contemporary music ensemble 10/10. Funding for the production was provided in part by the United Nations.

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Strong earthquake near Solomon Islands, tsunami reported

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A magnitude 8.1 undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami that has killed at least fifteen people, including six children, in the Solomon Islands. Tsunami warnings have been issued for parts of Australia as well.

According to the US Geological Survey, the magnitude 8.0 quake struck Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 20:39:56 (UTC) about 45 km (25 mi) south-southeast of Gizo, New Georgia Islands, Solomon Islands, at a depth of 10 km.

Contents

  • 1 ‘Disaster’ declared in the Solomons
  • 2 Region on alert
  • 3 Related news
  • 4 Sources