Interview: Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

January’s second Interview of the Month was with Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on 23 January in IRC.

The EFF is coming off a series of high-profile successes in their campaigns to educate the public, press, and policy makers regarding online rights in a digital world, and defending those rights in the legislature and the courtroom. Their settlement with Sony/BMG, the amazingly confused MGM v Grokster decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the disturbing cases surrounding Diebold have earned the advocacy organization considerable attention.

When asked if the EFF would be interested in a live interview in IRC by Wikinews, the answer was a nearly immediate yes, but just a little after Ricardo Lobo. With two such interesting interview candidates agreeing so quickly, it was hard to say no to either so schedules were juggled to have both. By chance, the timing worked out to have the EFF interview the day before the U.S. Senate schedule hearings concerning the Broadcast flag rule of the FCC, a form of digital rights management which the recording and movie industries have been lobbying hard for – and the EFF has been lobbying hard to prevent.

Brazilian Vote Buying parliamentary commission present first joint preliminary report

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Monday, September 5, 2005

Brazil —The Post Office and Vote Buying parliamentary commissions of investigation unanimously approved on Thursday (1) their first joint preliminary report of activities. The text was prepared by their redactors, Osmar Serraglio (PMDB) and Ibrahim Abi-Ackel (PP), from Post Office and Vote Buying commissions respectively.

The deputies cited in the report are: Carlos Rodrigues (PLRJ), José Janene (PP-PR), Pedro Correia (PP-PE), Pedro Henry (PP-MS), Sandro Mabel (PL-GO), João Magno (PTMG), João Paulo Cunha (PT-SP), José Borba (PMDB-PR), Josias Gomes da Silva (PT-BA), Paulo Rocha (PT-BA), Professor Luizinho (PT-SP), Romeu Queiroz (PTB-MG), Vadão Gomes (PP-SP), Vanderval Santos (PL-SP), José Mentor (PT-SP), Roberto Brant (PFL-MG), José Dirceu (PT-SP) and Roberto Jefferson (PTB-RJ).

The report indicts 18 Brazilian deputies and the former deputy Valdemar Costa Neto [who resigned on August 1]. They are accused of illegal campaign finance activities, of placing cronies in strategic positions in government enterprises and getting kickbacks from them, and of receiving cash payments in exchange for voting in line with the government in the Brazilian Congress.

The redactors called the allegation made by some parliamentarians that the resources were used to settle debts with electoral campaigns a “lame excuse”. According to them it is “perfectly plausible” that the loans taken by the businessman Marcos Valerio at the Banco Rural and the BMG for the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) were false and created to make the illegal funds seem legal.

In regards to the denunciations done by deputy Roberto Jefferson (PTB) the report says:

  • Everything which he said that could be investigated showed to be true, including confessions against himself .
  • Everything that must be compared to other testimonies showed a great degree of truth. As a matter of fact, all of who, hurriedly, questioned him, saw their defenses collapse, before the successive discoveries.

According to the report, the businessman Marcos Valério is a not reliable person because of his contraditory testmonies.

The report says that several documents were identified and reviewed proving that large sums of money were withdrawn from agencies of the Rural Bank, in Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, as well as from bank accounts of the enterprises SMPB and DNA Propaganda. According to the documents the beneficiaries were federal deputies who received the money in person or through relatives, advisers, or persons nominated by Marcos Valério.

The report affirms that it is possible that some payments were made on a monthly basis, and others more or less frequently. Nevertheless, according to the report the periodicity of the payments is the less important fact.

U.S. did not inform Pakistan of bin Laden mission because of suspicions he was being harbored by government

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The U.S. did not inform Pakistan of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden because of fears they were harboring the leader of al-Qaeda and would warn him of the mission, a senior American intelligence official has said. Pakistan has defended itself against allegations it was protecting the world’s most wanted man, and expressed embarrassment after it emerged bin Laden may have been living in the compound in Abbottabad for as many as six years without being intercepted by Pakistan intelligence.

Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, said cooperation between the two countries “could jeopardise the mission” because there were suspicions that elements of the Pakistani government were working with bin Laden. Panetta disclosed U.S. officials had dismissed working with the government of Pakistan early on in the planning of the mission to kill him because of fears that they might “alert” the man named responsible for the September 11 attacks. The revelation will likely raise questions over the level of trust between officials in Washington, D.C. and Islamabad.

The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has attacked “baseless speculation” that Pakistan was harboring bin Laden. The Pakistani foreign ministry also said in a statement that it has “deep concerns and reservations” over the U.S. fears it is sheltering terrorists, and stressed it shared information openly with Washington. But U.S. officials have raised concerns over how Pakistani authorities allowed bin Laden to remain undetected in the country for as many as six years, and tensions are likely to be further strained after the White House announced it would be throughly investigating claims bin Laden had “benefactors” and a “support system” inside Pakistan. John Brennan, a senior counterterrorism official, said: “We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long.”

Denying they were providing a shelter for bin Laden, Pakistani officials expressed “embarrassment” over failing to detect his presence so close to the capital; they said a full investigation would be launched. “We will inquire into the causes of what happened but it’s really important not to turn it into any allegation of complicity,” the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, said. But Western politicians have expressed skepticism as to how the Pakistani government did not know bin Laden was in the country, despite him living a short distance from the leading elite military training academy. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “How could he be in such a compound without being noticed?”

It emerged yesterday that bin Laden’s daughter had told Pakistani officials that her father had initially been captured by the U.S. forces and then killed. The White House said on Tuesday that bin Laden had been unarmed during the raid, but the U.S. Navy Seals did meet resistance from other people in the building; it is thought as many as 18 people may have been in the compound. The U.S. left several people behind, including six children; afterwards, Pakistani authorities arrested everyone in the compound.

“If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate,” U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said yesterday. But the claim by bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter that U.S. forces captured him and then shot him dead in front of his family appear to contradict this statement. The U.S. has also been forced to defend itself against allegations that the raid was unlawful, and claims that bin Laden was not a legitimate target. Holder told a Senate committee the killing of the al-Qaeda leader was “an act of national self-defence”.

More details have been emerging about how Bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. special forces on a compound not far from Islamabad over the weekend. The U.S. seized computer equipment and mobile telephones from the compound, which will be analysed with the hope they will reveal more information about the workings of al-Qaeda. U.S. president Barack Obama announced the raid on Sunday night. “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the U.S. has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said, and confirmed he had been told in August of a lead to the location of the al-Qaeda leader. Four other people were killed in the raid on the compound; the U.S. sustained no casualties. The body of bin Laden was buried at sea.

Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.

Last night Obama officially decided the U.S. will not release images of bin Laden’s corpse, which have been described as “very gruesome”. In an interview to be aired on CBS News, Obama will say: “The risks of release outweigh the benefits.” Skeptics have demanded the U.S. release the photographs of the corpse, and officials in the White House have been debating whether to do so for the past several days. But Obama is to add that conspiracy theorists “will just claim the photos are doctored anyway,” and say his decision was partly based on fears that there could be anger in the Middle East if the images were released. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.” The images are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.

After it was announced on Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed, many Americans begun gathering in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., Times Square and Ground Zero—the site of the World Trade Center—in New York, to celebrate, singing the national anthem. Reports have indicated the U.S. government is awaiting the release of a “martyr tape”—an audio recording made by bin Laden to be broadcast after his death. Many world leaders have said the killing of bin Laden marks a major turning point on the war on terror. “Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said. But NATO said it would continue the war in Afghanistan to ensure the country “never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”

The White House also confirmed they expect al-Qaeda may launch a retaliatory attack after bin Laden’s death. “We have anticipated a backlash, a desire, if not the ability, to exact some sort of revenge,” a spokesperson said. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has threatened to launch attacks in Pakistan and the U.S. in revenge for the death of bin Laden. Panetta said: “Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute.” The U.S. has issued notices advising travelers to avoid large crowds in foreign countries.

Algeria blocks internet across nation to prevent cheating in diploma exams

Saturday, June 23, 2018

In order to prevent cheating in high school diploma exams, the Algerian government ordered a series of two-hour nation-wide internet blockades, starting on Wednesday, reports from tech giant Oracle and Agence France-Presse confirmed.

Per the blockage, neither the cellular nor the wired data connections are to provide internet access during the exam hours. Social networking website Facebook has been blocked for the entire period. More than 500 thousand students had to appear for re-examination in June 2016 after question papers were leaked on Facebook. During the re-examinations, there were partial bans on Facebook and Twitter, and during that month, multiple employees working at the education ministry and the exam printers were arrested on suspicion of leaking the exams.

CCTV cameras have been installed at the locations where the exam question papers are printed, and metal detectors have been installed in over 2000 exam centres. According to various reports, around 700 thousand students are due to take the exams, whose results are expected to be declared a month later from July 22. Electronic gadgets are banned from the exam centres.

National education minister Nouria Benghabrit said the decision for the nation-wide blockade was “not comfortable” for the ministry, but it “should not passively stand in front of such a possible leak.” According to internet service provider Algérie Télécom, the move was “aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly.”

Other countries including India and Iraq also have a record of using internet blackouts as preventative measures against cheating during exams.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ian Narev, the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, this morning “unreservedly” apologised to clients who lost money in a scandal involving the bank’s financial planning services arm.

Last week, a Senate enquiry found financial advisers from the Commonwealth Bank had made high-risk investments of clients’ money without the clients’ permission, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars lost. The Senate enquiry called for a Royal Commission into the bank, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Mr Narev stated the bank’s performance in providing financial advice was “unacceptable”, and the bank was launching a scheme to compensate clients who lost money due to the planners’ actions.

In a statement Mr Narev said, “Poor advice provided by some of our advisers between 2003 and 2012 caused financial loss and distress and I am truly sorry for that. […] There have been changes in management, structure and culture. We have also invested in new systems, implemented new processes, enhanced adviser supervision and improved training.”

An investigation by Fairfax Media instigated the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning division and ASIC.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris, who reported the misconduct of the bank to ASIC six years ago, said in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald that neither the bank nor ASIC should be in control of the compensation program.

Redcar, UK steelworkers march to save their jobs

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Corus steelworkers in Redcar, Cleveland, England marched yesterday for a campaign to save their jobs, after the closure of Redcar’s steelworks was announced in May 2009.

Approximately 5,000 people, including employees of Redcar’s steelworks, other Corus steelworks, Teesport and the local chemical industry, partook in the march, and the Australian Workers’ Union also expressed their support.

Trade unions called on the government to help the plant. Roy Rickhuss, Community‘s National Officer for Steel, said that “we need help, we need support from the government if the manufacturing base in this country is going to survive”. He also said that “the government has helped the bowler hats, now it’s time to help the hardhats”. Derek Simpson, of Unite the Union, was concerned that “the loss of the Corus plant will rip the heart out of this community”. Community also warned that the job losses would increase child poverty rates in Teesside.

Vera Baird QC MP, Labour Member of Parliament for Redcar and Solicitor General, expressed hope that Corus at Redcar would regain its main contract. She claimed that “the government is 100% behind, and has played a key role in encouraging these negotiations to resume”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that “the difficulties that the company is facing are caused by an extreme downturn in demand for steel around the world”. The government has offered £5 million (€5.8 million, $8.2 million) to retrain the workers.

10,000 jobs could be lost in Teesside from the closure of Redcar steelworks. 1,920 people are directly employed by Corus in Redcar, with a further 2,000 contractors being employed, and other local businesses relying on Corus’ business.

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Tornadoes cause millions in damages in Waco, Texas

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Early Saturday morning winds up to 90 miles per hour struck Waco, Texas and central McLennan County, United States, causing widespread damage and leaving many households without electricity.

No deaths or serious injuries have been reported; however, there is a tremendous amount of damage in 15 areas of the city, leading Mayor Virgina DuPuy to declare the city a disaster area.

The hardest hit area was Franklin Avenue, where the Coca-Cola bottling plant’s roof was peeled open as if by a giant can-opener. There were Sprite bottles spread out onto the street. The nearby Furniture Row shopping center was also hit hard. Some furniture was found as far as three-quarters of a mile away. Other hard-hit areas were Robinson, Hewitt, Woodway, and Speegleville. Densely populated Inner Waco was spared of any catastrophic damage, though hundreds, and possibly thousands, of trees have fallen, and roofs destroyed.

The main concern is restoring power to over 23,000 households and businesses. Many gas stations and grocery stores in the disaster areas were closed until power is restored. Those that remained open have had to throw out all perishable items. Also of concern is getting electricity to those with medical needs. The city has provided help to those without power at the Dewey Recreation Center.

The storm is the hardest to hit the area since the tornado that struck on May 11, 1953, which tore through downtown and killed 114 people.

Waco has seen more than its share of tornadoes recently. Only a week ago, an F1 tornado damaged many houses along Orchid and Kendall Lanes. No people were injured, though two horses were killed when their stable collapsed.

The National Weather Service confirmed this morning’s winds were a F2 tornado, where wind speeds may have reached 115 miles per hour in some locations.

Home-invaders pose as NYC police

Monday, July 16, 2007

In two separate incidents, men posing as members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), have invaded homes in the New York City area. In both cases, they robbed the residents, but in the most recent, they sexually assaulted a woman.

On Saturday, July 14, at 1:09 a.m. EDT (UTC-4), four men knocked on the door of a Yonkers, New York, apartment. The 33-year-old male that lives there opened the door, as the men outside wore NYPD hats and t-shirts, and had badges hanging around their necks.

The men promptly ordered the male victim to the floor. “When this guy pushed me, he had a gun in my face,” the victim said. “I could see the other guy. He motioned to the others, come on, let’s go, let’s go.” The intruders shouted “Where are the drugs?” as they ransacked the apartment.

Two of the men entered the bedroom and sexually assaulted the 30-year-old female. The couple has a five-year-old child, who was sleeping in another bedroom. “The more I resisted, the more he began to hit me,” the woman said. She said she was sexually assaulted by two of the men while her boyfriend was bound and guarded.

Frightened. Make you think twice before you want to open the door, you know

Police said the men then left with a cell phone, a laptop computer, a diamond ring and a gold chain. Police do not believe that they were real officers. As of this afternoon, no arrests have been made.

On Thursday, July 5, shortly after six p.m. in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn five men knocked on the door claiming to be “the police.” When the victims opened the door, they pushed their way in demanding the family give them drugs and money.

When police responded to a call reporting a robbery, they found the family, husband, wife and their daughter, tied up. The man suffered a head injury when he was pistol-whipped. Police say the robbers got away with a camera, jewelry, and US$5,000 in currency.

Neighbors told NY1 that they were stunned. “Frightened. Make you think twice before you want to open the door, you know,” said one of the neighbors. “Now you be asking for all this ID and stuff and even still you’re going to wonder, are they for real? So it’s kind of scary.”

There is no word about whether the two cases are connected. Yonkers is on the border of New York City, but is outside the jurisdiction of the NYPD.