Africans keep the leading position at 2008 Mumbai Marathon
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Africans keep the leading position at 2008 Mumbai Marathon

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Standard Chartered Marathon, nicknamed “The Greatest Race on Earth“, held its third stage in Mumbai, India today. Because of the scorching hot weather in India, marathon runners had to adapt to the weather to overcome the challenge.

More than 30,000 runners participated in this race, joined by local NGOs and disabled who participated in a special charity short-distance running including 6km dream run, 4.3 km senior, and 2.5km wheel-chair classes. Gabriela Szabo, former Romanian Olympic Gold Medalist, named as charity ambassador of the race, was pleased by the participation from experts and NGOs.

An hour into the race, former champion Daniel Rono and Joseph Kimisi took the lead, but then Tariku Jifar from Ethiopia and defending champion John Ekiru Kelai took over Rono and Kimisi. After 40 kilometres, Kelai took a decisive lead and finally retained his champion title in 2 hours 12 minutes 22 seconds.

In the Women’s Group, Mulu Seboka from Ethiopia won the champion with 2H30m03s. Local runners Surendra Singh & Kavita Raut won the Men’s and Women’s Champions in the half-marathon class.

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Dang Duc Bao Nguyen (Vietnam) 2:30’57” Pacharee Chaitongsri (Thailand) 2:55’29”
North East Asia Chin-chi Chiang (Chinese Taipei) 2:33’33” Xin Zhang (China) 2:53’59”
South Asia and Middle East Ajith Bandara Adikari Mudiyanselage (Sri Lanka) 2:24’07” Lakmini Anuradhi Bogahawatta (Sri Lanka) 3:04’21”
Africa John Ekiru Kelai (Kenya B) 2:12’22” Irene Kemunto Mogaka (Kenya B) 2:32’50”
Europe and Oceania Oleg Kharitonov (Russia) 2:30’55” Helen Stanton (Australia) 2:52’33”
America Paulino Canchanya Canchanya (Peru) 2:28’13” Rosangela Figueredo Silva (Brazil) 2:58’16”

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Vietnam Thailand
North East Asia Chinese Taipei China
South Asia & Middle East India Sri Lanka
Africa Kenya B Kenya B
Europe & Oceania Russia Finland
America Peru United States

Home of controversial book publisher set ablaze
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Home of controversial book publisher set ablaze

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Four people have been arrested on terrorism charges in Islington, London, England, after a suspected petrol bombing on the house of Martin Rynja, owner of book publishing company Gibson Square.

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His company recently sparked controversy after buying the rights to publish The Jewel of Medina, a work of fiction by Sherry Jones depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad and his child bride, Aisha.

The bombing, which occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning, led to the evacuation of the £2.5 million property in Lonsdale Square. Three men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were arrested at 2:25am BST by armed officers, two in Lonsdale Square, and one after being stopped near Angel tube station.

Police comments suggested that the trio had been under surveillance, and that they had advance knowledge of the plot and simply waited for the arsonists to strike, before arresting them.

On Saturday, a woman was arrested for obstructing police during their searches of four addresses – two in Walthamstow, and two in Ilford and Forest Gate.

Speaking earlier this month, Mr Rynja said that “The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.” Ms Jones commented that she did not intend for her novel to be offensive to Islam. She noted that she “[has] deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Muhammad.” She “envisaged that [her] book would be a bridge builder” between Islam and the western world.

Toronto Comicon 2019 welcomes fans with celebrities, creativity, cosplay
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Toronto Comicon 2019 welcomes fans with celebrities, creativity, cosplay

Friday, March 29, 2019

Toronto Comicon 2019 returned to its titular city from March 15 to 17, as one of the largest pop culture events in Canada. The popular event featured celebrity guests like actors Dan Fogler, Ron Perlman, John De Lancie, John Rhys-Davies, and Jaleel White, as well as comic artists, authors, and professional cosplayers. The event included a large show floor with hundreds of retailers and artists promoting their creations. Wikinews’ Nicholas Moreau attended the event, taking photos of the various sights.

John Rhys-Davies broke news when he revealed that a Sliders reboot is being considered. “Jerry [O’Connell] and I are talking to NBC at the moment. The basic problem is that no one knows who owns the rights”. Their legal department had apparently been looking into the matter for two months, as of the convention weekend. Emma Caufield talked of being cast in an NBC television pilot while a recurring guest actor on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faced with loosing the character of Anya Jenkins, the producers finally committed to making her a regular. “It was a good day,” she recalls.

Special effects costumer Ian Campbell, whose screen credits include Star Trek: Discovery, had a booth at the convention displaying his prop replicas and cosplay items. Amidst the bustle of activity, Campbell was working on a Thanos helmet sculpt. After the convention, he told Wikinews that “it can be tough to maintain focus with so many people streaming past and along questions, but sculpting in front of a crowd at conventions is great because it allows people to see the process that goes into what I do […] it also can serve as inspiration to other to pursue their own artistic endeavors.”

Lisa Mancini has been cosplaying for two years, her “passion” for the hobby “stemmed through my love for Halloween.” She typically chooses “to portray beloved characters from childhood or strong females. I also enjoy a good gender bent cosplay to ensure a touch of uniqueness!”

Mancini told Wikinews after the event that the best part of cosplay is “bringing a character to life.” One of the characters she took on this year was Squirrel Girl, a Marvel Comics character. Mancini has been described by the Daily Hive as a “squirrel whisperer”, for the close affinity some of the animals have for her.

Stephanie Chapman has knit a variety of knit outfits, an uncommon technique for cosplay. Prompted by Ron Perlman’s visit, she wore a costume based on Hellboy character Abe Sapien, which lacks the eyeholes of her normal masks. With “Abe, I wanted to go for accuracy over comfort,” Chapman told Wikinews, a choice leaving her largely helpless without a handler. The costume “is very warm […] so I have to stay hydrated and try to keep as calm as possible. It’s just really hard to stay calm when I meet someone like Ron Perlman”. With the combination of excitement and “the stress I’m putting on my body”, she shared that she was prone to meltdown in suit.

American Academy of Pediatrics supports dairy for lactose intolerant children
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American Academy of Pediatrics supports dairy for lactose intolerant children

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the September 2006 issue of its journal Pediatrics, supports the use of dairy by lactose intolerant children.

Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, author of the article, says that just because a child is lactose intolerant, does not mean that they should avoid dairy altogether. Many lactose intolerant people can consume small amounts of dairy.

Heyman says that dairy consumption is important, especially for children, because of its high calcium content. The calcium is, in turn, important for stengthening growing bones. “If dairy products are eliminated,” the article says, “other dietary sources of calcium or calcium supplements need to be provided.”

Lactose intolerance is a condition, present in the majority of human population above the age of infancy, due to which the body cannot tolerate lactose, a sugar present in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance causes a range of unpleasant abdominal symptoms, including stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.

As lactose intolerance is inherent, its prevalence varies by ethnic group. For example, while only 12% of American Caucasians have it, its prevalence is 75% among African Americans, 93% among Chinese, 60%-80% among Ashkenazi Jews,and 100% among American Indians. Many people do not realize that they have this condition simply because they have eaten dairy all their lives and view the symptoms of lactose intolerance as “normal”.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has long stated that the risks of consuming dairy far outweigh the benefits. According to PRCM’s fact sheet, called “Parents’ Guide to Building Better Bones”, there are many healthy ways of getting enough calcium and promoting bone health. Many foods contain calcium, not just dairy. Also, it is important to consider the amount of calcium absorbed, not just the amount of calcium present in a food. For example, more than three times as much calcium is absorbed from one serving of Total Plus cereal as from one serving of 2% milk.

PCRM promotes a strictly vegetarian diet. Despite its name, it claims only 5 percent of its members as physicians. PCRM has also been accused of having links with animal rights “extremists”, in particular Jerry Vlasak, a former PCRM spokesman who called for the murder of scientists who use animals in research.

The report in News-Medical.Net says that Ann Marie Krautheim, with the National Dairy Council, a dairy lobbying group, says

she hopes the report will educate parents on how to continue to include dairy in the diets of children sensitive to lactose and also help improve their nutrient intake. Krautheim says calcium-fortified beverages and other foods which seek to provide an alternative source of calcium, do not provide an equivalent nutrient package to dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt.

This last statement, however, that dairy products are superior to calcium-fortified foods, is not supported by the article in Pediatrics.

BDSM as business: An interview with the owners of a dungeon
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BDSM as business: An interview with the owners of a dungeon

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Torture proliferates American headlines today: whether its use is defensible in certain contexts and the morality of the practice. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone was curious about torture in American popular culture. This is the first of a two part series examining the BDSM business. This interview focuses on the owners of a dungeon, what they charge, what the clients are like and how they handle their needs.

When Shankbone rings the bell of “HC & Co.” he has no idea what to expect. A BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism) dungeon is a legal enterprise in New York City, and there are more than a few businesses that cater to a clientèle that wants an enema, a spanking, to be dressed like a baby or to wear women’s clothing. Shankbone went to find out what these businesses are like, who runs them, who works at them, and who frequents them. He spent three hours one night in what is considered one of the more upscale establishments in Manhattan, Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber, where according to The Village Voice, “you can take your girlfriend or wife, and have them treated with respect—unless they hope to be treated with something other than respect!”

When Shankbone arrived on the sixth floor of a midtown office building, the elevator opened up to a hallway where a smiling Rebecca greeted him. She is a beautiful forty-ish Long Island mother of three who is dressed in smart black pants and a black turtleneck that reaches up to her blond-streaked hair pulled back in a bushy ponytail. “Are you David Shankbone? We’re so excited to meet you!” she says, and leads him down the hall to a living room area with a sofa, a television playing an action-thriller, an open supply cabinet stocked with enema kits, and her husband Bill sitting at the computer trying to find where the re-release of Blade Runner is playing at the local theater. “I don’t like that movie,” says Rebecca.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came at the end of the night when Shankbone was waiting to be escorted out (to avoid running into a client). Rebecca came into the room and sat on the sofa. “You know, a lot of people out there would like to see me burn for what I do,” she says. Rebecca is a woman who has faced challenges in her life, and dealt with them the best she could given her circumstances. She sees herself as providing a service to people who have needs, no matter how debauched the outside world deems them. They sat talking mutual challenges they have faced and politics (she’s supporting Hillary); Rebecca reflected upon the irony that many of the people who supported the torture at Abu Ghraib would want her closed down. It was in this conversation that Shankbone saw that humanity can be found anywhere, including in places that appear on the surface to cater to the inhumanity some people in our society feel towards themselves, or others.

“The best way to describe it,” says Bill, “is if you had a kink, and you had a wife and you had two kids, and every time you had sex with your wife it just didn’t hit the nail on the head. What would you do about it? How would you handle it? You might go through life feeling unfulfilled. Or you might say, ‘No, my kink is I really need to dress in women’s clothing.’ We’re that outlet. We’re not the evil devil out here, plucking people off the street, keeping them chained up for days on end.”

Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Bill & Rebecca, owners of Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber, a BDSM dungeon.

Contents

  • 1 Meet Bill & Rebecca, owners of a BDSM dungeon
    • 1.1 Their home life
  • 2 Operating the business
    • 2.1 The costs
    • 2.2 Hiring employees
    • 2.3 The prices
  • 3 The clients
    • 3.1 What happens when a client walks through the door
    • 3.2 Motivations of the clients
    • 3.3 Typical requests
    • 3.4 What is not typical
  • 4 The environment
    • 4.1 Is an S&M dungeon dangerous?
    • 4.2 On S&M burnout
  • 5 Criticism of BDSM
  • 6 Related news
  • 7 External links
  • 8 Sources

Denny’s Super Bowl free ‘Grand Slam Breakfast’ brings 2 million diners
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Denny’s Super Bowl free ‘Grand Slam Breakfast’ brings 2 million diners

Friday, February 6, 2009

Denny’s 1,600 chain restaurants across North America, Puerto Rico and Canada, were slammed for eight hours Tuesday with hungry patrons standing on sidewalks for nearly two hours to take advantage of the $5.99 “Grand Slam Breakfast” giveaway.

Denny’s, a dining chain with annual revenue of about $900 million, has advertised in a TV commercial Sunday during the Super Bowl XLIII that it would give away its signature breakfast from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time Tuesday, at all its restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, while supplies lasted.

Denny’s Diner has promoted the iconic dish giveaway heavily, with a bold 30-second appeal ad that aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl 43 on Sunday, plus another 15-second ad during the post-game show, offering a free breakfast to some 90 million viewers. In addition, it has placed a full-page ad in USA Today‘s Monday edition. The promotion was further announced on The Today Show and notices were also sent out to the chain’s “Denny’s Breakfast Club” members.

The NBC ad, which was bought to unveil a new promotion for customers squeezed by the recession, may have cost as much as $3 million, said Nelson Marchioli, CEO of Denny’s Corp. Super Bowl XLIII’s 30-second commercial time slot costs $2.4 million–$3 million for the airtime alone, excluding production and talent costs.

The game was televised live by the US NBC Sunday Night Football and Canada’s CTV Television Network. BayTSP has reported that, “as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, commercials that initially aired during NBC’s Super Bowl XLIII broadcast subsequently had been watched online more than 28 million times.”

“The promotion has a total cost of $5 million U.S., which includes $3 million for the commercial on NBC,” said a Denny’s spokesman, noting also that the company received about $50 million in news coverage, most of which was positive. According to a Denny’s representative, two million people walked through the restaurant chains’ doors Tuesday, and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour.

With the “Denny’s Feeds America” promotion, the company has reported 14 million hits on its Web site between Sunday night and Monday morning. Denny’s shares rose 6 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $1.98 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded in a range of $1.18 to $4.10 over the past 52 weeks.

“Denny’s free Grand Slam” has ranked in the top 10 Google searches early Tuesday and fell to No. 18 by the end of the promotion, while “denny s locations” was #9 on Google Trends, which tracks fast-rising searches. It has also held spots No. 1 (Denny’s) and 7 (Grand Slam) on Twitter‘s trending topics. It has generated much chat on Twitter, garnering 1,700 tweets on Tuesday, compared with its average of 59. Doritos, winner of the USA TODAY survey for best Super Bowl spot ad, had 933 mentions after reaching a peak of almost 3,300.

The idea of the TV ad was to get people to come in and re-evaluate Denny’s Diner. “A lot of people have forgotten what Denny’s is, or they think they know, while we’ve come out with a whole lot of new products. We felt like we needed to jump start the brand,” Denny’s Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Mark Chmiel said.

“We’re celebrating the Grand Slam this year,” Chmiel said. According to the company’s financial data, on January 15 Denny’s reported systemwide comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter were down 6.1 percent, compared to a 0.2 percent decline from the same period in 2007.

According to Robert Gonzalez, public relations company Hill & Knowlton spokesman, Denny’s has expected at least 2 million people to eat a free Grand Slam by the end of the promotion. “Every restaurant is packed with people and lines,” Gonzalez said. “Everything today is about fast. People are on the go, and they’re eating fast food. It’s cutting into sit-down dining,” he added.

“Each of the more than 1,500 Denny’s were planning to make about 100 Grand Slams an hour,” Denny’s spokeswoman Cori Rice said. It had predicted it will have served about 1,400 people per location, more than five times the normal volume. “Grand Slam Breakfast” is a four-item option on its menu, consisting of two pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon and two sausage links. It weighs in at 44 grams of fat, 56 carbohydrates and 770 calories.

Nationwide, Denny’s expected to sell about 2 million Grand Slams — about 15 percent of the annual tally. According to Mark Chmiel, chief marketing operator and executive vice president, the diner chain has reported approximately 2 million meals worth more than $12 million were given away nationwide and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour. It estimated it has earned about $50 million worth of public relations following the free Grand Slam campaign, Chmiel said.

The company is also experimenting with a Grand Slam Burrito and also has introduced for this year, a Grand Slamwich, which includes eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese between two slices of bread, with a teaspoon serving. “It already has shown strong consumer appeal,” said Chmiel. The company has received flood of e-mails and letters proving the positive impact of the Grand Slam campaign and commercials on its customers.

Chmiel also announced he’s planning a third major promotion in this year’s third quarter, which happens to include another major sporting event, the World Series. “That’s one we’re definitely looking at,” he said.

Jobless Paris Winslow of downtown San Francisco, California has joined the long line which stretched from the front door on Mission Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, to the corner of Fourth and up the block. “The economy is getting kind of scary. This line looks like those pictures of soup kitchen lines during the 1929 Great Depression,” Winslow said.

“I came all the way from San Francisco for a free $6 meal, Isn’t that pathetic? A year ago, I never would have done this. These days I’m willing to put my ego on the back burner,” said Stephen Weller, a jobless contractor who waited with his dog, Emmett. California Denny’s restaurant managers have issued rain checks (for free chilled meals, as security backed by actual bacon) to anyone who failed to get in by the 2 p.m. deadline.

A big eater could also “Slam It Up” by adding any two additional items for 99 cents each to their meal. Customers on Tuesday were also handed “bounceback” coupon books that include offers for additional free menu items with purchases. Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang has eaten five free Grand Slams on Tuesday at five different Denny’s Diners in four hours. He claims to have consumed 4,100 calories at Harwood Heights, 5:36 a.m, at Schiller Park, 6:22 a.m., at Franklin Park, 7:08 a.m., at Melrose Park, 7:41 a.m. and at Grand Slam No. 5 Oak Park, 8:57 a.m.

“The Grand Slam has always been a Denny’s favorite. This free offer is our way of reacquainting America with Denny’s real breakfast and with the Denny’s brand,” Denny’s CEO Nelson Marchioli said in a statement. In 1977s, the Grand Slam started as a baseball-related promotion in Atlanta, Georgia. Its normal price averages around $5.99. Marchioli said the event was also a way to kick-off its “Year of the Grand Slam” promotion. Denny’s claimed it has sold 12.5 million Grand Slams a year.

“The economy’s tough and people are jumping all the way to fast food to try to figure it out. We all use fast food, whether it’s for time or convenience or for money. But you can go to Denny’s and you don’t have to give up a real breakfast and that was the whole focus of our commercial,” Marchioli explained. McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500) has done well during this economic meltdown since the global recession pushes people toward less expensive dining options.

McDonald’s has announced plans Wednesday to open 175 new restaurants in China this year despite the global economic crisis, thereby increasing the number of outlets in China by 17 percent, from 1,050 currently. Last month, McDonald’s 2008 net profit has risen 80 percent from 2007 to 4.3 billion dollars.

Marchioli has also introduced Denny’s $4 Weekday Express Slam, which is a streamlined version of the Grand Slam. “I want to take back share. For too long, we have allowed others to take share, whether it was Starbucks or McDonald’s. They’re fine competitors and I don’t expect to take all their business from them, but I’d like a little bit back,” Marchioli noted.

According to Rafi Mohammed, author of “The Art of Pricing,” people love free. “It triggers a Pavlovian response in people,” said Mohammed. If Pavlov’s dogs salivate when a bell rings, Denny’s free Grand Slam breakfast has attracted 2 million hungry customers. “I believe free maximizes trial and doesn’t devalue a product as long as it is a rare event. Aside from the cost, the major downside is that it attracts customers who truly have no intention of coming back,” he added.

According to University of Portland consumer psychology professor Deana Julka, people flock to free promotions amid just a few dollars saving because there’s nothing in life for free. “So when there’s something out there that costs nothing, it creates a psychological rush. Especially in these times when people feel overtaxed or overburden, there’s an internal reward people feel by getting something for free,” she said. “It’s being thrifty and feeling like you beat the system. Free really hits the spot for a lot of people,” Julka added.

“Free is an emotional hot button. When free is concerned, there is no downside – or, at least, we don’t see the downside immediately. So we overvalue everything that is free. People love free stuff, particularly when money’s tight,” said Dan Ariely, a business professor at Duke University, author of “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.”

Experts, however, explained these moves need to be done sparingly, since giveaways can teeter in the balance between desperation and a well designed marketing ploy. “Giving your product away for free is not worth it because it undermines your brand value,” said branding expert Rob Frankel, saying people are attached to the idea of it being free, than the actual product itself.

Free giveaways are not anything new in the food industry. “It just feels good when you can get something for free and not have to worry about it coming out of your wallet,” Frankel noted. Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread all have had free coffee and food promos last year. “In November, Starbucks gave away free cup of coffee to anyone who came in on Election Day. Have you taken a look at how Starbucks is doing now?” Last week it has announced it would shut down 300 stores, in addition to the 600 it already planned to close.

On February 24, IHOP will be offering a free shortstack to every customer to encourage donations (in place of the cost) for Childrens Miracle Network. The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is a United States-based restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods and is owned by DineEquity. The chain had more than 1950 restaurants in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Since 2006, IHOP’s National Pancake Day celebration has raised over $1.85 million. In 2008, over 1.5 million pancakes (12 miles high if they were stacked) were given to customers for donations.

Denny’s (“Denny’s Diner”) is a full-service diner/family restaurant chain in the United States. It operates over 2,500 restaurants in the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Curaçao, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand). The resto chain is known for always being open, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert around the clock.

Today, Denny’s operates about 1,600 restaurants in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. There are also about 578 Denny’s restaurants in Japan operated under a license by a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings, seven Denny’s locations in New Zealand, and approximately 38 Denny’s diners in the United States. Denny’s headquarters is now located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, headquarters of the parent company Trans World Corporation that acquired Denny’s in 1987.

Denny’s was historically notable for offering a free meal to anyone on their birthday. The offer included a limited number of meal options from a special birthday menu. The promotional ritual ceased in 1993, though occasionally individual franchises will continue the tradition.

In 2008, Denny’s has ceased to be in the ranks among the top diner chains in the $83 billion breakfast market, whose top five firms — McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and IHOP — accounted for 22 percent of the volume. “A lot of consumers have written Denny’s off their let’s-go-there list,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a consulting firm.

Super Bowl XLIII was an American football game between the American Football Conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers (15–4) and the National Football Conference champion Arizona Cardinals (12–8) to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2008 NFL season. It was played on February 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadiumin Tampa, Florida. It has an attendance of 70,774 and 98.7 million viewers. Pittsburgh earned its sixth Super Bowl win, thus securing sole possession of the record for most Super Bowl wins.

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Progessive Conservative candidate Tyler Currie, Trinity-Spadina
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Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Progessive Conservative candidate Tyler Currie, Trinity-Spadina

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tyler Currie is running as an Progressive Conservative candidate in the Ontario provincial election, in the riding of Trinity-Spadina. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

Encyclopædia Britannica fights back against Wikipedia, soon to let users edit contents
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Encyclopædia Britannica fights back against Wikipedia, soon to let users edit contents

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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

Encyclopædia Britannica (EB), the authoritative reference book first published in 1768, is planning to let readers edit its entries, Jorge Cauz, its president said Friday, as it battles to keep pace with online Internet encyclopedia projects like Wikipedia.

Starting next week, readers, visitors and contributing experts to EB’s free, online version, Britannica.com, will be allowed to submit proposed changes and contributions to Britannica editors, who will then review the edits and make the necessary alterations. This move is meant to let readers help keep the reference work up-to-date by collaboration.

In expanding and maintaining entries online, users whose editorial suggestions are accepted and published entirely or in part will be credited by name in the section of the article that lists contributors.

The new website features will be available on the site within the next twenty-four hours. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Cauz is promising a 20-minute turnover on these edits, but that number could go up dramatically if the company cannot anticipate a large influx of edits at once.”

Britannica, however, explained that it would not allow a Wikipedia form of editing which allows a wide range of users to make contributions. EB’s novel user choice will include enrollment of experts in a reward scheme and invitation of selected readers to contribute. Several readers will also be allowed to use Britannica materials to contribute their own articles that will be featured on the site.

“We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable ‘wisdom of the crowds’,” wrote Jorge Cauz in his blog. “We believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one,” Cauz noted, explaining further that “these experts would sit alongside the encyclopaedia entries and the official material would carry a ‘Britannica Checked’ stamp, to distinguish it from the user-generated content.”

Cauz also announced the unveiling by Britannica of a beta (trial) version of what will become the finished Britannica Online website, which will include a re-design and the addition of web-based tools for readers and users to upload their own reference materials. The new features that Britannica will roll out over the next six months also include an article rating system and a comprehensive list of contributors by subject area.

Articles developed by Britannica’s own editors also appear in the printed volumes, which are published every two years, though material created by what Cauz called their “community of scholars” will only appear online.

“Wikipedia contributes to the spread of information and many people are happy with it as their only source of reference, as are many people happy to eat McDonald’s every day,” said Cauz, who discussed differences between Britannica and Wikipedia features of online editing. “That’s the last thing we want to be. We are a different type of animal, catering to a different type of crowd,” he added.

Cauz said the company will retain its staff of about 100 full-time editors and over 4,000 expert contributors. “I think the future is likely going to be that in every media segment there has to be a symbiotic relationship between editor and reader,” said Cauz, adding that each article will have a detailed history showing changes and who made them, as in Wikipedia. In 1933, Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to introduce a “continuous revision” policy, with continuous reprinting such that every article is updated on a regular schedule.

Unlike Wikipedia, which allows anonymous edits through a user’s IP address being logged, Britannica’s new features strictly require contributors or users to register, revealing their real names and addresses, prior to modifying or creating their own articles. Contributions from non-academic users will sit in a separate section.

A new or changed feature called “Suggest Edit” button will allow readers of a particular article to suggest information clarification, post questions to contributors or add to the existing text, subject to Britannica editors’ approval. “What we are trying to do is shifting … to a much more proactive role for the user and reader where the reader is not only going to learn from reading the article but by modifying the article and – importantly – by maybe creating his own content or her own content,” wrote Cauz.

Cauz faulted Google for setting Wikipedia higher in pagerank than Britannica. He explained that, in EB, new efforts to participate in online collaboration of encyclopedic content are deemed by recognizing experts as a requirement in order to achieve objectivity and high quality. During his tenure, officials from Britannica have become outspoken in their criticism of Wikipedia articles’ contents.

Britannica already has an established reputation for accurate content. Wikipedia is merely a starting point, with research to be taken with a pinch of salt.

In July 2006, Cauz personally entered the fray in an interview in New Yorker Magazine, in which he stated that Wikipedia had “decline(d) into a hulking, mediocre mass of uneven, unreliable, and, many times, unreadable articles” and that “Wikipedia is to Britannica as American Idol is to the Juilliard School.”

The 241-year-old publication, Encyclopædia Britannica, is a general English-language encyclopaedia published by a privately held company, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., and is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. The Britannica articles are directed at educated adult readers. First published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland, it quickly grew in popularity and size, with its third edition in 1801 reaching over 21 volumes.

Britannica’s latest 15th edition has a unique three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles (generally having fewer than 750 words), a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles (having from two to 310 pages) and a single Propædia volume created to give a hierarchical outline of human knowledge. The Micropædia is devised for quick fact-checking and as a door to the Macropædia.

At present, Britannica offers optical disc, online and mobile versions. The Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 DVD has over 55 million words and just over 100,000 articles, including 73,645 regular Britannica articles. The Encyclopædia Britannica Online website has more than 120,000 articles and is updated regularly. EB’s virtual space was founded in 1994 and contains articles comprised of over 46 million words.

In February 2007, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. said that it was working with AskMeNow to launch a mobile encyclopedia, to enable users to send questions via text messages. Replies would then be forwarded by AskMenow based on Britannicas’ articles.

As Britannica is a business, the company needed to charge, and Web access to the archives cost $70 a year. In April 2008, “Britannica Webshare,” a version of the online Encyclopaedia Britannica has been available for free, but only for Web publishers. The simple process requires signing up, giving a site URL, a description, and approval by the company. “This program is intended for people who publish with some regularity on the Internet, be they bloggers, webmasters, or writers. We reserve the right to deny participation to anyone who in our judgment doesn’t qualify,” said TechCrunch.

In June 2008, Britannica announced an initiative to facilitate collaboration between online expert and amateur scholarly contributors for Britannica’s on-line content (in the spirit of a wiki), with editorial oversight from Britannica staff. According to its statement titled “Britannica’s New Site: More Participation, Collaboration from Experts and Readers,” approved contributions would be credited, though contributing automatically grants Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. perpetual, irrevocable license to those contributions.

PC World has, however, reported that it became clear how steep of a climb Britannica faces. “Wikipedia received a massive 97 percent share of the online encyclopedia market or visits U.S. Web surfers made to online encyclopedias last week,” Web monitoring company Hitwise said Friday. “MSN Encarta was second with 1.27 percent of visits, followed by Encyclopedia.com (0.76 percent), Fact Monster (0.72 percent) and, in fifth place, Britannica.com (0.57 percent). Britannica.com’s share of U.S. visits dropped 53 percent last month compared with December 2007,” Hitwise added.

While Britannica.com has 1.5 million visitors per day, Wikipedia attracts about six million, The Times reported. Hitwise also said that as of last week, Wikipedia ranked the 13th-most-visited site on the Web overall, while Britannica.com was 2,349th. The essential difference is Wikipedia does not charge any fee, while Britannica.com requires a paid subscription for access of some contents. Britannica, however, is issuing a “Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Edition” – the £40 2009 DVD edition of its famous print encyclopaedia.

“One of the big questions still on the table is whether Britannica will open its content or maintain its premium membership paid wall. In order to compete with Wikipedia in the Google [search results], Britannica needs to build up inbound links. If content is locked up behind the paid content walls, people will be much more likely to link to other websites with free content — such as that available on Wikipedia,” Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins noted.

Wikipedia, a not-for-profit collaborative online encyclopedia, in its Wikipedia Foundation’s recent drive for public donations, had aimed to raise $US6 million over the course of six months. On January 1, “it had met the target, from more than 125,000 donors,” said Wikipedia head honcho and co-founder Jimmy Wales. He has invoked Wikipedia’s “free-culture movement”, and its mission “to bring free knowledge to the planet, free of charge and free of advertising”.

“Wikipedia is the new frontier of human knowledge,” wrote Anonymous, donating $US100. American Patrick Culligan left another comment, saying, “Accurate information is what enables society to act in the appropriate way in which we can change the world. History cannot be left for the winners to write.” Another said: “Wikipedia is one of those ‘big ideas’ which will change our world for the better.”

After Encyclopedia Britannica’s announcement that it is introducing a more open editing system, web 2.0 giant Wikipedia has considered attempts to move away from its free and open editing system. Academics, scholars and others have long criticized the writing principles fostered by Wikipedia amid vandals having often changed Wikipedia entries resulting to erroneous reports.

Now, for the first time, the online encyclopedia has considered restricting the edits that users can make. The system known internally as “Flagged Revisions,” has been sparked off by inaccurate changes after a Wikipedia user “Gfdjklsdgiojksdkf” and an anonymous editor respectively edited articles to say that both U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Carlyle Byrd had died. The errors were caught and duly corrected after about five minutes, but they were up long enough for the Washington Post, among other media outlets, to notice.

In just the latest incidents in a long and rich history of vandalism since its 2001 launch, Vernon Kay and Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, among others, have also been falsely reported as dead on Wikipedia. Wiki means “fast” in Hawaiian and it certainly is, even amid subtle vandalism, since anyone can amend its 2.7m entries. Wikipedia has long struggled with such prankery, and has ever since worked closely with its community to overcome it without adopting harsh protections.

We want people to be able to participate, but we have a tool available now that is consistent with higher quality.

As Wikipedia itself acknowledges, “Allowing anyone to edit Wikipedia means that it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information, which requires removal.” In the proposed process, only registered or reliable users could have their material or edits immediately appear to the general public visiting Wikipedia. Other contributors’ edits or changes will first be reviewed, signed off, or “flagged” by reliable users.

“This nonsense would have been 100 percent prevented by Flagged Revisions,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales under the header “Why I Am Asking Flagged Revisions Be Turned On Now,” on his user page. “[Instances of misinformation] could […] have been prevented by protection or semi-protection, but [..] [many are] breaking news [stories] and we want people to be able to participate (so protection is out) and even to participate in good faith for the first time ever (so semi-protection is out),” explained Wales who calls for monitoring to prevent false entries.

Wales said that a poll revealed 60 percent of Wikipedians favored the new proposal and that it would be a “time limited test.” He noted that the delay should be less than the German Wikipedia allowed: “less than 1 week, hopefully a lot less, because we will only be using it on a subset of articles, the boundaries of which can be adjusted over time to manage the backlog.”

Wales issued a statement requesting implementation of the extension: “To the Wikimedia Foundation: per the poll of the English Wikipedia community and upon my personal recommendation, please turn on the flagged revisions feature as approved in the poll.” But the community response was further debate.

As of February 2, his request hasn’t been implemented.

Apparently the Wikipedia German edition has been using a form of the Flagged Revisions system since May as a test case. It has, however, led to a delay of up to three weeks in getting some new articles and edits published, for critics have said that the system is very labor intensive and comments can take weeks to appear. Wales, however, pointed out that the system he was proposing was only for biographies of living people. Wikipedia has provided comprehensive and up-to-minute entries on the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007 and the Mumbai terrorist attacks this past November as the events were still taking place.

While some participants in the debate have argued that the rule change is unnecessary, some have described it in terms of an ethical imperative. As one administrator wrote: “In the vast majority of cases, a Wikipedia article on an individual will be the very highest-ranking search engine result when a search is conducted on the name of that person. This affects the lives of the people we write about on a daily basis. To suggest that Wikipedia does not have profound obligations to do its best to keep these articles free of defamatory, gossipy and privacy-invading material is to suggest that we are without obligation to consider the real-world impacts of our actions and the work we are doing.”

Anything that makes Wikipedia more accurate can only be advantageous

Others have argued that practical considerations should prevent a change that could result in a large backlog of unreviewed edits. “Flagged revisions will suffocate under its own weight,” claimed administrator DragonflySixtyseven. Still other Wikipedian editors further argue that the current system works just fine.

Some consider the split could ultimately threaten the future of the dominant online encyclopedia. “The big issue is that while we have majority support, we don’t have consensus, and that’s the way we have always made our decisions,” Jake Wartenberg user and member of RC patrol chimed in. “A lot of editors are becoming disenchanted with the project; we are losing them all the time,” he added. By way of reply, amidst the embarrassing debacle, Mr. Wales has reached out to help and offered a compromise, inviting the opposition to submit alternative suggestions until the 29th of January.

“Implementing this functionality is really a volunteer community decision. We know the discussion about flagged revs is still taking place on English Wikipedia, but at this stage, it appears the majority of the community are behind this decision. As that discussion unfolds, we’ll have a better sense of the timing,” Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, in a rejoinder, wrote in his e-mail message, explaining the status of the proposed restriction.

“Now seems an excellent time for Wikipedia to pause and take stock. It has proved the surprising wisdom of crowds as well as their utter idiocy. Its challenge now is to harness the enthusiasm of those volunteers while becoming a more reliable, better written source. And at some point, surely, its founders might want to turn it into a commercial venture. As Samuel Johnson almost said: “No one but a blockhead ever edited, excepted for money,” said Iain Hollingshead, a British freelance journalist and novelist.

“The suggestion of increased moderation on Wikipedia would divide the community. The site has built its reputation on being ‘the encyclopedia that anyone can edit’. It’s less radical to be ‘the encyclopedia that anyone can edit as long as their edits are approved by a trusted Wikipedian’ but that’s what co-founder Jimmy Wales has suggested. Wikipedia’s openness is its strength,” said Shane Richmond of The Daily Telegraph, asking, “is it most valuable feature its openness or its accuracy?”

Wales’ position is that “I consider our BLP issue to be so important that I think it is actually unethical to not use a tool which holds great promise for helping with the problem, now that it has been successfully tested elsewhere. Anyone who would like to see this tool not go into practice needs to start by convincing people that either (a) it is OK for the BLP vandalism problem to continue or (b) there is a better way to solve it.”

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data
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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

New Jersey’s State Supreme Court says gay couples have same rights as heterosexual couples
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New Jersey’s State Supreme Court says gay couples have same rights as heterosexual couples

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The New Jersey Supreme Court has handed down its verdict in Lewis v. Harris. The details are: homosexual couples are entitled to the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples, but also said that totally legalizing gay marriages in the state will be up to the New Jersey Legislature who have 180 days to determine whether or not the state’s constitution shall be rewritten to include gay marriages or civil unions.

“The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people,” said the court.

“Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution,” said one of the judges, Justice Barry T. Albin.

The decision passed in a ruling of 4 support and 3 non-support votes.

In 2004, the state ruled that domestic relationships are allowed and that gay couples get some of the benefits that come along with marriage including the right to inherit their partner’s belongings if a will was not written and health insurance if one or the other works for the state.

If the state decides to allow same sex marriages, it would be the second state in the United States to completely legalize gay marriages. Massachusetts was the first and only state thus far to legalize gay marriages while some states such as Connecticut and Vermont have legalized civil unions.

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