Columbus module added to ISS during spacewalk

Monday, February 11, 2008

A spacewalk was conducted today by astronauts Rex Walheim and Stan Love, members of the STS-122 Space Shuttle crew, to install the new Columbus module onto the International Space Station.

The spacewalk, or extra-vehicular activity (EVA), began at 14:13 UTC, with the astronauts leaving the Quest airlock of the Space Station, and starting work to install an attachment point on top of the Columbus module, to allow it to be moved by the Station’s robotic arm. This was completed at 19:00, about an hour later than planned, owing to the installation taking longer than expected. Columbus was lifted out of the payload bay of Atlantis at 19:55 UTC, by the Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. Astronaut Dan Tani, controlling Canadarm2 from aboard the ISS remarked “Columbus has started its trip to the new world”. At 21:29, Columbus soft-docked with the Space Station’s Harmony node, and the module finished bolting itself in place by 21:44.

Meanwhile, the astronauts performed some tasks to prepare for the next spacewalk, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday. They loosened bolts holding a nitrogen tank in place on the port truss segment of the Station, ahead of its replacement. It was originally planned that they would also disconnect pipes and electrical connections, however these objectives were delayed to Wednesday’s spacewalk, due to time constraints. The EVA finished at 22:12 UTC, having lasted seven hours and fifty-eight minutes

This marks the 102nd spacewalk as part of the International Space Station programme, and the first of three planned for the STS-122 Shuttle mission. It was originally planned that German astronaut Hans Schlegel would perform the EVA instead of Stan Love, however he was unable to do so due to an undisclosed medical problem.

Alternative to controversial hotel proposed to Buffalo, N.Y. business owners and residents

Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Buffalo, New York —

Residents and business owners in the Elmwood Avenue neighborhood and surrounding area in Buffalo heard a competing proposal for development in their neighborhood at the February 22 meeting held at the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, at Buffalo State College. The meeting, attended by at least 140, was originally to consider the Elmwood Village Hotel but also included a new revitalization proposal from Rocco Termini which would increase retail space, but involves less demolition and no hotel.

Rocco Termini, a Buffalo, New York developer wants to develop the corner of Elmwood and Forest, the same spot where Savarino Construction Services Corporation want to build the Elmwood Village Hotel.

Termini proposed that a similar revitalization take place on the intersection like one that incorporated 3 buildings on Aurburn and Elmwood just last year. Termini’s proposal will add more retail space than Savarino’s proposal with the possibility of including up to seven retail outlets.

“I just think it’s necessary to preserve the streetscape that we have. That’s the whole point of living and shopping on Elmwood,” said Termini. “You should be able to go into little shops, that have unique items, and that bring people to Elmwood. When you bring a big box on Elmwood Avenue, it takes something away from the urban-streetscape, just as suburban areas do not want a big box Wal-Mart. We don’t want a big box on Elmwood avenue and I think that’s just what this (the hotel) does, brings a big box to Elmwood,” said Termini.

When asked if there were any development companies currently interested in his proposal Termini said, “I will be willing to take a look at this myself,” said Termini. “Or I would be more than happy to be partners with Sam, Sam Savarino,” who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Savarino Construction Services Corp.

An unnamed source close to the project stated, “Rocco has serious concerns that the Mobius’s asking price could make his project infeasible.”

It is unknown if Savarino Construction or the city of Buffalo will consider Termini’s proposal.

Termini purchased and developed several buildings and areas including the Ellicott Lofts on Ellicott Street in Buffalo, which opened in 2003, The Oak School Lofts which used to be a Buffalo Alternative School, and ‘IS’ Lofts on Oak Street in Buffalo.

Eva Hassett, Vice President of Savarino Construction, and Karl Frizlen an architect from The Frizlen Group and designer of the hotel commented on the development proposal. Hassett said, “We’ve been thinking about it and trying to put it together for the last few months, and it was made public a couple of weeks ago.”

“There are lots of different areas you can look at. This is an Elmwood Avenue hotel. Putting it somewhere else makes a completely different kind of hotel. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the business on Elmwood. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the Albright Knox Art Gallery. This is really a location for this kind of hotel. Other locations end up being for other kinds of hotels,” said Hassett

“We are excited about the concept of a boutique hotel at this corner. We think it makes sense to the various businesses in the area or the galleries just down the street. We also believe that this is a way for the visitors of Buffalo to experience what the best of what Buffalo has to offer. We think it will be a great way for people from out of town, to get to know what we know about the city,” said Hassett.

Although Hassett had said that the proposal has only been around “for a few months”, Karl Frizlen said that he came up with the idea “three years ago when Hans Mobius,” former owner of the properties at risk, “came to me and asked what we could do with these properties.” Frizlen also said that he introduced Mobius to “four different developers, who after seeing the properties, did not want to tackle them, saying that they felt like it was too much for them to take on.”

Hans Mobius did not attend last nights meeting.

Frizlen is also designing the former telephone company building at 504 Elmwood which would be a “mixed use building with retail on the lowest level and lofts on the other two floors.”

After speeches from developers, residents and business owners were invited to present questions and comments.

Mark Freelend, a Buffalo resident, and local artist, said “I’m looking at my house in the picture, and I’m picturing all the houses on Granger street behind me, and I’m realizing that, if this is implemented (the hotel), we will get zero sunlight. The Sun is supposed to be free, for everyone. The people on Granger are going to have eighty windows looking at them and their children being raised, and playing in the backyard, guests looking in the windows of their houses twenty-four hours a day. A million people starring into their houses. No sunlight, and they are on permanent reality TV. Put a price on that!”

“I think this hotel is totally out of scale to the area and it does not conform to the style (of Elmwood) at all. It will totally obscure the gateway of Elmwood. The gateway now has open arms that allow for passage and view into the commercial corridor. This hotel stands as a brick wall as far as I can tell,” said Nancy Pollina one of the owners of Don Apparel at 1119 Elmwood. Pollina referenced to the recent ‘revitalization’ project on Auburn and Elmwood saying, “That building was boarded up for years, and that was beautiful a renovation. That building was not in any less need of repair than Hans Mobius’s properties.”

Both residents and business owners in the area are concerned that the proposal is moving too quickly and said that the developers should wait before having any city meetings and wait for a consensus from the community on the hotel.

Mrs. Pollina said, “I think people feel passionate about their neighborhood, and this is their neighborhood. I feel that what was most shocking is that the city’s planning board meeting and Common Council meeting, which are they need to push this through, is next week without almost no notice. This (the proposal) is being rushed.

However; Sam Savarino did say that “some people have gotten emotional about this project. And I want to let the community know that we will listen to what you have to say. We’re not forcing this down anybody’s throat. If this is not something this community wants, we do not want to have it here.”

The city’s Planning Board is expected to meet on February 28, 2006 at 8:00am in room 901 on the 9th floor of City Hall. The city’s Legislative Committee meeting of Common Council is expected to take place on the same day at 2:00pm in Council Chambers on the 13th floor of City Hall.

It has just been confirmed from an unnamed source close to the project that “significant changes” will be made to the design of the Elmwood Village Hotel. “Its not being cancelled, just redesigned,” he said. The changes are not yet known, but they are could be released “tomorrow. He (Savarino) doesn’t want it released until he touches base with a few people today.”

United States: At least fifteen dead in Southern California after rain causes mudslides and floods

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On Tuesday, the first major rain storm of the year in Southern California led to flooding that has caused at least fifteen deaths, mainly in Santa Barbara County. The flooding was exacerbated by last month’s wildfires; particularly hard-hit was the wealthy community of Montecito, downstream of the site of the Thomas Fire, where at least six houses were destroyed. More than 160 people have been hospitalized, four in critical condition.

According to the United States National Weather Service, five and a half inches of rain has fallen over two days in parts of Ventura County, and more than four inches in parts of Santa Barbara County. In areas burned by the wildfires, ground cover that would have reduced runoff had been destroyed, and an impermeable layer of ash and burned soil had been created. As a result, torrents of mud ran downhill and inundated places such as Montecito. Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said homes in the wealthy community had been “wiped away from their foundations” by mudflows, which also burst a gas main, leading to a fire that destroyed another building.

Sections of the 101 freeway were closed by flooding; a driver told television station KTLA that mud came “out of nowhere” and covered the highway in “about five seconds” and that he was glad he was still alive. James Cook, the Los Angeles correspondent for BBC News, reported that roads were being blocked by “boulders the size of small cars” which had tumbled down the hills. BBC also reported, 300 people had been trapped in Romero Canyon. Bill Brown, the Sheriff of Santa Barbara County, said at mid-afternoon that the number of deaths had reached thirteen and might rise. He described the flood-ravaged areas as looking “like a World War I battlefield” and said that emergency dispatchers had fielded some 600 calls between 3:00 and 6:00 am.

Emergency services including the Ventura County Aviation Unit were kept busy rescuing people. The Coast Guard sent aircraft to assist. Spokesmen reported fifty people had been rescued in each of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties. Montecito resident, Berkeley Johnson, told the Santa Barbara Independent that he and his wife had taken refuge on the roof of their house but climbed came down when they heard a child crying. With a fireman’s help were able to dig out a two-year-old girl, who looked like a “muddy doll” according to Johnson.

Officials issued evacuation orders on Monday for thousands of people living in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties, but Montecito was under only voluntary evacuation. Some of the evacuation orders were lifted later on Tuesday as the rain became lighter.

New Jersey officials: Stimulus bill hurting Atlantic City casinos

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A New Jersey congressman says restrictions on federal stimulus money are hurting gaming destinations like Atlantic City, and he is seeking to repeal a provision banning the use of funds for casinos or other gaming establishments.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Is Ken Calemmo right to suggest that the gaming industry is as important as manufacturing, retail or finance?
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“The demonization of gaming destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City for business travel is wrong, wrong, wrong,” U.S. Rep Frank LoBiondo said Friday during a press conference in front of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The $787 billion federal stimulus bill passed in February specifically prohibits casinos from applying for funds for infrastructure improvements and other similar projects. LoBiondo said Atlantic City is losing millions of dollars in business as a result of that provision.

Casinos’ revenues dropped 19.2 percent in February 2009 month compared to February 2008, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. LoBiondo said $160 million worth of business and 120,000 visitors have chosen other cities for their tourism plans due to the stimulus bill, according to Atlantic City Convention Center figures.

The administration also recently determined other groups like nonprofit organizations and local governments may not spend their stimulus money at casino properties. State officials said the rules are damaging a major pillar of the New Jersey economy.

“Are those jobs somehow less important or less meaningful than those in the manufacturing, retail or financial industries?” said Ken Calemmo, chairman-elect of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

Anti-gambling officials said the stimulus law does not prohibit casinos from taking advantage of tax breaks, and Atlantic City officials should not complain about the stimulus bill because the city is too reliant on an unreliable revenue stream.

“There isn’t a state, including New Jersey or Nevada, that could gamble themselves rich, any more than an individual could gamble themselves rich,” said Tom Grey, field director for StopPredatoryGambling.org. “They should’ve diversified (the economy) instead of chasing their loss.”

But Joe Kelly, chamber president, said 35,000 people work at New Jersey casinos, and thousands more around the state work for outside vendors that depend on casinos for their business.

“It is not just an Atlantic County issue. It is not just a Cape May issue,” Kelly said. “There’s purchasing done by every county.”

LoBiondo is working to repeal the provision with U.S. Rep Shelly Berkley, co-chair of the Congressional Gaming Cascus, and has reached out to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has a history of representing the interests of the gaming industry.

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?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
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”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

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?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((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?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((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).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
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?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

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?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((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?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((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?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
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((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((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?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((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?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
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?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

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.

Sweden’s Crown Princess marries long-time boyfriend

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sweden’s first royal wedding since 1976 took place Saturday when Crown Princess Victoria, 32, married her long-time boyfriend and former personal trainer, Daniel Westling, 36. The ceremony took place at Stockholm Cathedral.

Over 1,200 guests, including many rulers, politicians, royals and other dignitaries from across the world, attended the wedding, which cost an estimated 20 million Swedish kronor. Victoria wore a wedding dress with five-metre long train designed by Pär Engsheden. She wore the same crown that her mother, Queen Silvia, wore on her wedding day 34 years previously, also on June 19. Victoria’s father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, walked Victoria down the aisle, which was deemed untraditional by many. In Sweden, the bride and groom usually walk down the aisle together, emphasising the country’s views on equality. Victoria met with Daniel half-way to the altar, where they exchanged brief kisses, and, to the sounds of the wedding march, made their way to the the silver altar. She was followed by ten bridesmaids. The couple both had tears in their eyes as they said their vows, and apart from fumbling when they exchanged rings, the ceremony went smoothly.

Following the ceremony, the couple headed a fast-paced procession through central Stockholm on a horse-drawn carriage, flanked by police and security. Up to 500,000 people are thought to have lined the streets. They then boarded the Vasaorden, the same royal barge Victoria’s parents used in their wedding, and traveled through Stockholm’s waters, accompanied by flyover of 18 fighter jets near the end of the procession. A wedding banquet followed in the in the Hall of State of the Royal Palace.

Controversy has surrounded the engagement and wedding between the Crown Princess and Westling, a “commoner”. Victoria met Westling as she was recovering from bulemia in 2002. He owned a chain of gymnasiums and was brought in to help bring Victoria back to full health. Westling was raised in a middle-class family in Ockelbo, in central Sweden. His father managed a social services centre, and his mother worked in a post office. When the relationship was made public, Westling was mocked as an outsider and the king was reportedly horrified at the thought of his daughter marrying a “commoner”, even though he did so when he married Silvia. Last year, Westling underwent transplant surgery for a congenital kidney disorder. The Swedish public have been assured that he will be able to have children and that his illness will not be passed on to his offspring.

Westling underwent years of training to prepare for his new role in the royal family, including lessons in etiquette, elocution, and multi-lingual small talk; and a makeover that saw his hair being cropped short, and his plain-looking glasses and clothes being replaced by designer-wear.

Upon marrying the Crown Princess, Westling took his wife’s ducal title and is granted the style “His Royal Highness”. He is now known as HRH Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland. He also has his own coat-of-arms and monogram. When Victoria assumes the throne and becomes Queen, Daniel will not become King, but assume a supportive role, similar to that of Prince Phillip, the husband of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Actor Jerry Orbach dead at age 69

Friday, December 31, 2004

New York City – Actor Jerry Orbach died in his home in Manhattan at age 69. Orbach was a staple of American cinema, stage and television, with his most recent role being in the NBC police drama “Law and Order.”

Orbach is survived by his wife of 25 years, Elaine Cancilla, and his two sons Anthony and Christopher.

Orbach was born in the tough Bronx borough of New York City in 1935 to a family of entertainers. His father Leon Orbach was an vaudeville actor and his mother Emily Orbach was a radio singer and greeting card writer.

The family moved often to keep up with travelling Vaudeville acts, but eventually settled in Waukegan Illinois where Orbach played football at the local high school. After graduation, Orbach got a summer job at the Chevy Chase Country Club in Wheeling doing odd jobs ranging from stagecraft to small acting parts in plays.

He then studied drama at the University of Illinois before transferring to Northwestern where he studied the Stanislavsky Method of drama acting. In 1955, Orbach dropped out of college and moved to New York City where he got a job as an understudy in The Threepenny Opera.

Orbach continued to work in theater, eventually earning roles in broadway musicals, but by 1961 had grown dissatisfied with being typecast as a musical actor. He tried briefly to break into film without success, and eventually returned to broadway where he earned numerous accolades for his roles in such musicals as “Guys and Dolls” and “Chicago“.

Orbach finally broke into television in the 1980s as a recurring character in shows such as the mystery-drama “Murder She Wrote” and the hit sitcom “Golden Girls“.

He earned the lead role as the title character in his own short-lived series “The Law and Harry McGraw”, a spinoff of “Murder She Wrote”. Orbach also scored key roles in a few Hollywood films, including the action thriller “F/X”, and the dance-musical hit “Dirty Dancing”, but continued to find his mainstay in television crime dramas.

In 1990, he picked up a role in the new NBC crime drama “Law and Order” as the acerbic-witted Lennie Briscoe, a role which soon become a regular job. Orbach continued in this role in addition to movie roles and occasional musical appearances until his death this last week.

Orbach was diagnosed with Prostate cancer in Spring of 2004, a fact he kept private until November when he checked into New York’s Memorial Sloan-Ketting Cancer Center for treatment. In spite of the aggressive nature of the treatment, he died on the evening of December 28.

Crash kills nine on Oklahoma turnpike

Monday, June 29, 2009

A crash has killed nine people on a turnpike (toll road) northeast of Miami, Oklahoma. The accident occurred on Friday when a semi-trailer truck struck a line of stationary traffic from behind on the Will Rogers Turnpike near state lines with Missouri and Kansas.

It looks like a war zone. There’s mangled metal everywhere. There’s debris, fluids, dead bodies.

Traffic had come to a standstill as a result of an earlier accident eastbound when the accident occurred. The road has a speed limit of 75 mph, and it is currently thought that the truck driver made no attempts to stop his vehicle. He was hospitalised. A spokesperson for the nearby Freeman Hospital said eight people were treated there, and it is reported a twelve-year-old girl is among the injured.

The girl had to be cut free from the wreckage of her car, and was taken to the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City where she was in critical condition. Her parents were both killed. The accident occurred at 1p.m., and it was four hours before any eastbound lanes re-opened, leaving vehicles stranded in high temperatures and prompting emergency services to distribute water to motorists.

Also killed are an Oklahoma City family of four and a seven-year-old Texas girl and her father. The mother from that family is in a critical condition, and another woman was also killed in the same car.

Lt. George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol described the scene: “It looks like a war zone. There’s mangled metal everywhere. There’s debris, fluids, dead bodies.” A man who has worked thirty years as a tow truck driver said the crash was “the worst one I’ve ever worked.”

A number of other smaller incidents occurred in the area afterwards. At least three accidents were caused by vehicles slowing down in response to the crash, and four cars collided with each other westbound. No-one was killed in the other accidents.

It took hours to locate the last fatality, who was in a car pinned under the semi-trailer. Two tow trucks were required to separate the vehicles. A total of seven vehicles were involved, including three cars which were beneath the truck by the end of the accident sequence.

A criminal investigation has been launched. A blood sample has been taken from the truck driver, 76-year-old Donald Creed, who has been released from hospital after treatment. There is no indication alcohol was a factor in the accident.

World AIDS Day events held around the globe

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The 20th annual World AIDS Day was December 1, 2007. The theme selected by the World AIDS Campaign is “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise” as it will be through 2010. The day was marked by thousands of events around the world.

“It is now time for bold leadership at all levels in order to turn the tide of HIV,” said Felicita Hikuam, Global Programmes Manager, World AIDS Campaign. An estimated 33.2 million people around the world—one in every 200—are living with HIV, and approximately 6,800 people are infected with HIV and 5,700 people die of AIDS-related illnesses every day.

“The trend is encouraging but still for every person receiving treatment four others are newly infected,” said Nelson Mandela, speaking at a concert in Johannesburg, South Africa. “If we are to stop the Aids epidemic from expanding, we need to break the cycle of new HIV infections. All of us working together with government, communities and civil society can make the difference that is needed,” he continued.

As many as 50,000 people attended the concert in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was telecast around the world. It was organized by Nelson Mandela’s 46664 AIDS campaign and featured performances by artists such as Peter Gabriel, Ludacris, Razorlight, the Goo Goo Dolls and Annie Lennox.

At a fundraiser in the town of Midrand, in the province Gauteng, near Johannesburg on Friday, singer Annie Lennox had strong words for the South African government’s AIDS policies.

“AIDS, as Madiba [Mandela] has said, is a human rights issue and should be treated as such in order to avoid this genocide that is affecting millions and millions of people around the world,” said Lennox in a speech. Lennox has previously been critical of the South African government’s position on suggesting some AIDS medications were toxic. “It is unacceptable that treatment has not been made available to those who need it most,” said Lennox.

The rock band Queen, which lost its lead singer Freddie Mercury to AIDS, released a new song entitled, Say It’s Not True, to coincide with World Aids Day. It has been made available as a free download from the band’s website. “By making the song available for free, we hope to help Nelson Mandela with his campaign to get across the message that no-one is safe from infection,” said Queen drummer Roger Taylor. “We have to be aware, we have to protect ourselves and those we love.”

In China, people distributed AIDS prevention brochures in the streets and promoted safe sex in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In Changsha, official warning signs were put on hotel bedstands. The government announced on Friday an allocation of CNY860 million for AIDS prevention and control. According to official reports, there are estimated to be 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China.

Also in China, the Miss World 2007 was in Sanya on World AIDS Day. The pageant presented a special tribute to the fight against AIDS, with a televised speech from former South African President Nelson Mandela, along with traditional dancers from South Africa who joined the contestants in a special song.

Friday, United States President George W. Bush urged the United States Congress to double the 2003 Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to US$30 billion over the next five years. “Above all, we rededicate ourselves to a great purpose: We will turn the tide against HIV/AIDS—once and for all,” he said.

“I’m pleased to announce that Laura and I will travel to sub-Sahara Africa early next year,” Bush said. Sub-Saharan Africa suffered nearly three-quarters of AIDS-related deaths during 2006 and is home to two-thirds of those living with HIV/AIDS.