26
Mar

Iceland nationalises Kaupthing Bank

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Iceland’s Financial Services Authority has nationalised the Kaupthing Bank as a response to the financial crisis which may result in a total collapse of the nation’s economy.

Kaupthing, together with Glitnir Bank and Landsbanki, owe a total of US$61 billion, which is twelve times the estimated size of the economy of the Nordic country. The Financial Services Authority says Iceland will guarantee all domestic deposits and aims to provide a “functioning domestic banking system” by management of the banks.

Iceland has asked for aid to Russia and the International Monetary Fund for loans to help guarantee these deposits. Icelandic equity markets have been closed until October 13 due to “unusual market conditions” and the Icelandic krona now appears to have itself failed after the collapse of an attempt to fix the exchange rate at 131 Krona to the euro.

According to Nordea Bank, Scandinavia‘s biggest lender, there was no trading of krona on the spot market today. The most recent figure for exchange is 340 to the euro, compared to 122 last month. Thomas Haugaard Jensen, an economist of Svenska Handelsbanken in Copenhagen, indicated the Icelandic economy seems to be at the verge of a “total collapse,” and predicted it will take several years before Iceland’s economy recovers enough for it to return to growth.

Kaupthing itself requested the national takeover, which leaves most of the nation’s banking sector under state control. The bank’s board have resigned and left the authorities in control of the bank. The bank also has affiliates both in Sweden and Finland. Swedish Kaupthing Bank Sverige claimed to be unaffected, but Finland’s Financial Services Authority temporarily shut down the Finnish affiliate.

25
Mar

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Liberal candidate Kate Holloway, Trinity-Spadina

Monday, October 1, 2007

Kate Holloway is running for the Ontario Liberal Party in the Ontario provincial election, in the Trinity-Spadina riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed her regarding her values, her experience, and her 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.

24
Mar

Australia/2006

Contents

  • 1 January
  • 2 February
  • 3 March
  • 4 April
  • 5 May
  • 6 June
  • 7 July
  • 8 August
  • 9 September
  • 10 October
  • 11 November
  • 12 December

[edit]

24
Mar

Eagle Owl attacks force closure of footpath near nest site

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A footpath in the Pennine hills, England, has been closed after a number of attacks by a rare breeding pair of Eagle Owls, who have chosen to build their nest near the footpath near Dunsop Bridge, Bowland. The path runs between the nest site and a favourite perch of the adult birds.

Birdwatchers at the site explained that the only other Eagle Owl nest in England is at an inaccessible location on military ground, making this site incredibly rare and important as one of just two nest sites, and the only one accessible to the general public. The birds are raising three chicks.

Multiple attacks have been reported involving people walking on the nearby footpath, mainly involving dog owners. One person required hospital treatment for minor injuries. Local police were forced to close the footpath, the entrances to which now display signs reading “Police Warning: This Footpath Has Been Closed For Public Safety”. The council had originally simply posted their own signs, but subsequently consulted with police, resulting in the closure of the footpath.

However, birdwatchers, who arrive from across the UK, have not been deterred from coming to see the owls. They are able to watch from a safe distance on another footpath, located on the other side of the valley in which the birds have made their nest.

23
Mar

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.

23
Mar

Ousted Honduran president says crisis deal has failed

Friday, November 6, 2009

An aide to ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said that a deal designed to end the country’s political crisis has failed, after interim leader Roberto Micheletti announced the formation of a new cabinet.

Micheletti said late on Thursday that he is installing a national unity government without the participation of Zelaya, who has declined to name any cabinet members. The two signed an agreement last week to resolve the four-month political standoff. A new government was set to begin Thursday.

Zelaya warned on Thursday the accord was at risk of collapsing unless the Honduran Congress held a vote to restore him to power immediately to serve out his term that ends in January. Honduras elects a new president on November 29.

Congress must vote on Zelaya’s restitution, but has not yet done so. The recently signed pact does not stipulate a deadline for the Congressional vote.

The United States, a major broker in the mediation efforts, said this week the next step in the political crisis is up to Honduras. The governments of several countries have threatened not to recognize the presidential elections if Zelaya is not first returned to power.

Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup in June, but returned to Honduras in September, where he has taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

23
Mar

One day after attempted rescue, six stranded whales die on Australian beach

Thursday, March 26, 2009

File:Illustrazione globicefalo.JPG

Six whales have died after becoming stranded on a southwest Australia beach, one day after conservation officials attempted to rescue them.

A pod of about 90 long-finned pilot whales were stranded on Hamelin Bay Tuesday. More than 70 of the mammals died, along with four dolphins, but about 10 whales were guided back out to sea by officials from the Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.

Six of the rescued whales washed up on a different beach less than a day later. Three died of natural causes Wednesday, and the other three were shot by veterinarians due to their poor condition.

About 180 volunteers, wildlife officers and veterinarians participated in the Tuesday rescue effort, but officials said there had always been a risk that the whales could be stranded again. “It is frustrating, there is a lot of effort by the community and by DEC staff, it is a frustrating process when that happens but it’s not totally unexpected,” said John Carter, state conservation department officer.

The other four whales rescued Tuesday are still believed to be at sea, and department officials are monitoring the ocean to verify their safety.

Almost 500 whales have died in five mass beachings over the last five months. The West Australian coast has seen 21 mass whale and dolphin strandings since 1984, according to the department.

The whales tried swimming back to shore shortly after the Tuesday rescue, but conservation officials guided them to deeper waters with the hopes that they would stay out at sea. Scientists cannot explain what draws whales so close to shore.

The whales were stranded Wednesday in a remote location where conservation officials could not transport rescue equipment. At least one of the whales was attacked by sharks, officials said.

22
Mar

Bush nomination to UN post faces bi-partisan problems

Sunday, April 24, 2005

George Bush’s controversial nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, seemed stalled as new allegations surfaced in the Senate Committee’s second interview. Lawmakers from both parties, particularly Democrats, express strong reservations.

“He wants to be our top diplomat at the UN but his life has been something less than diplomatic,” Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said on a Sunday talk show.

“He wants to work with people around the world. And he couldn’t work with people in his own office. And he’s supposed to be open, as our man at the UN, to ideas from other people,” Durbin said.

“He’s been a real tyrant when it came to people he worked with, who disagreed with him. This man doesn’t have the temperament for this job.”

There was no consensus Thursday whether the Senate committee should ask Bolton to return for more questioning. He testified for eight hours and presented a written draft on other questions, but the stream of allegations has only intensified, as well as a characterization of him as a boss who mistreated fellow workers and lost his temper frequently.

Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Bolton would be hobbled in the job because of the allegations raised during the confirmation hearings. Dodd spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Dodd maintains the Democrats raise objections to Bolton because of evidence he twisted intelligence analysis to fit his personal views. He said Bush should consider withdrawing the nomination.

“There are plenty of other good people who embrace his ideological views,” Dodd added.

But some Republicans had a differing view. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought Bolton’s “forceful” personality made him the ideal candidate to lead U.S. efforts to reform the UN. He put little concern into Bolton’s alleged personnel problems, saying that Bolton’s supposed history of trying to get analysts who disagreed with him fired were unproven. McConnell is the second ranked Senate Republican. He was also speaking on the CBS program.

Lincoln Chafee, Republican Senator of Rhode Island, has said he is “less likely” to vote for the nominee as a result of the questions that are being raised about his credibility. Instead he sought out the opinion of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell’s spokeswoman, Peggy Cifrino, said he returned calls Thursday to senators who wanted to discuss questions that have been raised about Bolton. Powell was the only former GOP secretary of state who did not sign a recent letter endorsing Bolton for the job. It is known that the two did not get along during Powell’s tenure in the Bush Administration. Powell’s former chief of staff has been quoted by the US press as saying Bolton would make an “abysmal ambassador.”

Some Republicans in Congress are doubtful that Bolton will win nomination now that the vote has been pushed back to May 12 to allow more time to investigate his history. Speaking on CNN television Senator Arlen Spector, R-PA, said the odds on Bolton were “too close to call.”

Some wondered what Bush’s reasoning could be for nominating Bolton for the UN post since Bolton acknowledged saying in 1994 that the UN headquarters in New York “has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

Also in 1994, Bolton said, “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along.” [1]

In response to criticism of these statements at his hearing, Bolton replied, “There’s not a bureaucracy in the world that couldn’t be made leaner.”

It appears to trained observers that Bush may have to yield his nomination to a Senate rejection. Behind the scenes, Bolton may be facing a question of withdraw or be pushed out. As President Bush asked Senators to support his nominee, Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he strongly supports Bolton, but “I can’t speak for all of (GOP) leadership.”

President Bush continues to support his nominee, according to Whitehouse spokespersons. In an April 20 news briefing, press secretary Scott McClellan said in response to a question whether the Bolton nomination was lost, “No, absolutely not. I think what you’re seeing is some Democrats on the committee trumping up allegations and making unsubstantiated accusations against someone the President believes will do an outstanding job at the United Nations. He is someone who has been an effective manager, a strong diplomat who has gotten things done. And I think he’s earned the respect of many people that he has worked with because of what he’s done….people are playing politics with his nomination….He’s exactly the kind of person we need at the United Nations during this time of reform.”

On Sunday, White House spokeswoman Christie Parell, said the president is standing by Bolton as his nominee. “The president believes he’s exactly the man needed at the United Nations,” she said in reply to Dodd’s comments.

22
Mar

Belgrade: demonstration against independent Kosovo escalates into riots

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In Serbia’s capital Belgrade protesters have broken into the United States embassy, and have set fire to an office, which is now extinguished. The break-in followed massive protests against Kosovo’s independence that was declared last Sunday. A couple of hundreds of thousands protested in front of the parliament building in Belgrade when masked attackers broke into the building and tried to throw office-furniture out the windows. Estimations of a number of protesters vary between 150.000 and 2 millions.

Around 18:00, after the relay, a couple hundred rioters went to Kneza Milosa Street where the US embassy is located. At 18:15 they demolished a part of the embassy and burned it. They also attacked the Croatian embassy, which is around 100 meters from the US embassy on the same street. Around 19:00 police came and clashed with the rioters using tear gas. Riots were all over downtown Belgrade. As of 22:00 the situation was under control but there are still some riots in other streets.

The tear gas polluted a couple blocks, about 350 meters up to Vra?ar hill.

The nearby Croatian embassy was also attacked. Rocks were thrown at the Canadian embassy building. This could be due to the fact that Canada has not said yet if it recognises Kosovo. Embassies of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, United Kingdom and Germany were also attacked.

One person was found dead at the ground floor of US embassy, around 150 people were injured, including 35 policemen. Around 100 rioters were arrested.

Dirk-Jan Visser, a photo-reporter for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad was attacked by rioters. People helped him escape, and he has been taken into hospital with broken bones. He is expected to be kept in hospital until the next day. Ambulances and medical cars were called to the scene to help injured people and protesters, some cars were attacked.

Andrey Fyodorov and Andrey Pavlov, journalists of Russia Today, were also heavily attacked during the riots.

Two McDonald‘s restaurants on squares Terazije and Slavija were attacked. The restaurant on Slavija has been heavily damaged. Kiosks, stores and banks were robbed all over the centre of Belgrade. The protesters tried to attack radio/television station B92 but police had the scene under control.

“As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia,” Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the crowd from a stage in front of the old Yugoslav parliament building in Belgrade, “We’re not alone in our fight. President Putin is with us”. A huge banner reading “Kosovo is Serbia” draped the front of the building.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called out to the Serbian government to protect the U.S. Embassy. He said the U.S. ambassador was at his home and was in contact with U.S. officials.

The United States was one of the first countries, with the United Kingdom, France and Germany to recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Serbia however regards Kosovo as a province and is backed up in this by Russia, China and numerous other countries, including some European Union member states. Kosovo is 90% ethnic Albanian, with in the north a minority of ethnic Serbians. Belgrade has, however, not been in control over the Kosovo area since 1999, when United Nations took control.

High representative of the Serbian Radical Party, Aleksandar Vucic, said that “those who provoked Serbian people are equally responsible for destruction as rioters are.” President of Serbia Boris Tadic and President of the National Assembly Oliver Dulic and other ministers called on peace.

22
Mar

Wikinews interviews Brooks Lindsay, founder of Debatepedia

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A reporter from Wikinews recently interviewed Brooks Lindsay, who is the founder of the online wiki Debatepedia, which claims to be the ‘Wikipedia of Debates.’

Brooks told Wikinews that “Debatepedia is a non-profit, free wiki encyclopedia of debates, pro and con arguments, and supporting evidence and quotes from scholars, experts, and op-ed writers (those figures that are actively engaged in these public debates).” He continued with “some people have called it the ‘Wikipedia of debate’, which is a pretty accurate description of what we are trying to do.”

He finished by stating that the site is “trying to cover all of the pro and con arguments in any public debate, on any topic from a global to a local level, from any region in the world, and hopefully, in the future, in any language. The objective is to frame debates in a pro/con structure – when they appropriately belong in a pro/con structure – so that people can effectively “weigh” the “sides” in a debate, deliberate, draw conclusions, and take a stand. “

The second question asked why he founded Debatepedia. He replied by saying that “With arguments, evidence, and quotes being scattered across the Internet, it is currently too difficult for citizens to view all the pros and cons, quotes, and supporting evidence in debates, deliberate and take a stand. We are trying to fill this void, on a global scale, and by open-sourcing the effort over MediaWiki software.”

When asked how Debatepedia will develop in the future Brooks said that he expects “the community of editors to grow to a much greater extent.” He also said that he hoped to be able to “clean up some of the software elements,” of the site.

When questioned about the importance of Debatepedia, Mr. Lindsay said that “Debatepedia is important for the reader and citizen as a tool to deliberate more effectively, develop greater conviction in what is righteous and what is not, and to generally increase citizen-engagement in debates, issues, and advocacy, across the world. For the writer, it is a way to have a greater voice and impact on other people, and other people’s thinking; it’s a great public service to help edit on Debatepedia, like on Wikipedia. Finally, there is the potential that Debatepedia will be used by leaders and representatives as a way to deliberate through a topic that they have to vote on, or as a destination to direct constituents to deliberate.” He said it was “perhaps a lofty goal, but real nevertheless.”