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Oil rig in Gulf of Mexico sinks after explosion; eleven missing

September 22nd, 2018

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Friday, April 23, 2010

The oil rig Deepwater Horizon sank yesterday after an explosion Tuesday night that left eleven people missing.

According to an officer from the US Coast Guard, the rig sank sometime in the morning. The rig had caught fire after an explosion of unknown origin occurred two days ago. 115 of the 126 workers on board the time of the explosion have been rescued after evacuating in lifeboats, either by the Coast Guard or from other ships in the area.

The remaining eleven have not been located, although Coast Guard officials have expressed optimism that they are still alive.

The environmental impacts of the explosion and subsequent sinking of the rig are unclear. While up to 13,000 gallons of crude oil per hour has been released from the rig, until now, the effects have been considered minimal, as it had been burned off in the fire. That does have the potential to change, though, according to David Rainey, vice president of the lessor of the rig, BP. The rig, built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries was owned and operated by Transocean.

The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana, and was under lease to BP since 2007. It was completing the construction of a new oil well, and was constructing a layer of cement in the well to reinforce it. This is considered dangerous, as it has the potential to produce an uncontrolled release of case, called a blowout. While the cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, a blowout is considered a possibility.

One survivor of the explosion, who declined to give his name, told the The New York Times that he was laying in bed when the explosion happened. “It caught me by surprise. I’ve been in offshore 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” he recalled.

Stanley Murray, the father of another survivor named Chad, an electrician, said: “My son had just walked off the drill floor.” However, Murray said that a neighbor did not make it in time, adding that his son told him that the missing eleven workers could not have made it out alive. “The eleven that’s [sic] missing, they won’t find them,” Murray said.

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

September 22nd, 2018

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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California releases search warrant for Wells Fargo bank on identity theft

September 22nd, 2018

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The California Department of Justice on Wednesday released the warrant and affidavit of a criminal investigation of the Wells Fargo bank. The State of California served the warrant on October 5 to search the San Francisco headquarters of Wells Fargo for felonious activities related to identity theft.

The warrant said property to be seized at the bank’s San Francisco headquarters was related to the unauthorized creation of accounts by Wells Fargo employees including the names of individuals for the accounts; account information and fees; the names of employees and their managers who created accounts without the consent of the Wells Fargo customers in question; and all communications including emails referencing the unauthorised accounts.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s criminal probe is part of an increasing list of officials nationwide questioning the business practices of Wells Fargo such as California State Treasurer John Chiang who announced a one-year suspension of State investment with the bank on September 28; Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs followed suit with a year-long ban on October 3; and Democratic United States Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who wrote to the U.S. Security Exchanges Commission (SEC) suggesting investigation on September 29.

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Claims from British quake may run into “low tens of millions of pounds” – Insurance association reps

September 22nd, 2018

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Representatives from the British insurance industry have said that the cost of the earthquake which hit Britain early yesterday could be over 10 million GBP. The Association of British Insurers has said in a statement that the cost for the earthquake is “likely to run into the low tens of millions of pounds.”

The Senior claims manager at the UK bank Norwich Union has described the damage by saying that at the moment most insurance claims regarding the earthquake describe “minor damage such as tiles off roofs, breakages inside the homes and brick walls collapsing.” It has also been reported that approximately 1,200 insurance claims were made in the first twelve hours after the earthquake hit Britain.

These reports come one day after the United Kingdom was hit by a 5.2 earthquake. Tremors were reported as widespread as Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Cambridge, London, Birmingham and Southampton .

Iran demands that IAEA end surveillance of its nuclear program

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Iran demands that IAEA end surveillance of its nuclear program

September 21st, 2018

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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Shortly after ending its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the government of Iran has now ordered the IAEA to discontinue some of its surveillance of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Tehran has also asked the agency to remove any and all signage from their nuclear sites by the end of next week.

This is in response to the Saturday resolution by the IAEA to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, which was made without waiting for the director of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, chairman of the IAEA, to finish preparing a report on Iran’s civilian (and allegedly military) nuclear programs for the regular IAEA meeting scheduled for March 6. ElBaradei had given Iran until March to answer IAEA questions. By a vote of 27 to three (with five abstentions), and without the information in ElBaradei’s report planned for March 2006, the IAEA recommended that the matter of the Iranian nuclear program be brought before the Security Council.

The recommendation claims that there are serious concerns about Iranian nuclear aims, and the agency does not have confidence that the program is intended solely for civilian or other non-military use. Although the meeting was taken without waiting for ElBaradei’s March report, the recommendation requests ElBaradei to make his report anyway, including a list of “steps Iran needs to take to dispel suspicions about its nuclear ambitions” by March 6.

The IAEA’s resolution calls for Iran to reinstate a freeze on its nuclear programs, consider ending construction of a plutonium-producing heavy water reactor, and to continue allowing the IAEA’s purposes and actions in Iran. However, the council will not implement any further action until ElBaradei makes his full report on March 6.

ElBaradei also reported to the IAEA Monday that Iran would also demand a reduction in the amount of facilities inspections from the agency, and that they would discontinue their agreement to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the agency reported Iran to the Security Council. This protocol entitles the IAEA to hold unannounced inspections of facilities, increased surveillance capability, and placing IAEA seals on nuclear equipment.

Other diplomatic ventures are being planned. On February 16, Iranian officials will meet with the Russian government in Moscow to discuss the possibility of Russia enriching uranium for export to Iran in exchange for a halting of its nuclear enrichment program. And Wang Guangya, China’s ambassador to the UN, said Monday that “Even with the adoption of this IAEA resolution, it is the belief of most of the members there that a diplomatic solution is the way out within the framework of the IAEA.”

Vitamin D deficiency more common, serious, than thought

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Vitamin D deficiency more common, serious, than thought

September 21st, 2018

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Two scientists working at McGill University in Canada, reporting on their research and the research of other scientists, state in Scientific American that Vitamin D may have many uses in the human body besides building strong bones.

According to the scientists, Luz E. Tavera-Mendoza and John H. White, Vitamin D intake may also be beneficial in the prevention of cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and fighting tuberculosis, influenza and inflammatory bowel disease. The researchers say that there is an emerging “widespread consensus” among experts that a large part of the population has levels of Vitamin D in their bodies that is well below optimal concentrations for health, particularly in temperate regions, due to decreased sunlight and or less time outdoors, and during or just after the winter months. One study indicated that as many as 92% of adolescent girls in Northern Europe may have deficient levels of Vitamin D and 37% have severely deficient levels.

The problem is far worse among African-Americans than Americans with lighter skin. Almost half of African-American women may be seriously Vitamin D deficient, with presumably still another fraction deficient. Furthermore, the authors say researchers at Harvard University and elsewhere believe the FDA minimum recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D is far too low. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) ranges from 200 to 600 International Units (IU). In fact, the authors themselves take Vitamin D supplements. The first author takes 1000 IU during wintertime and the second author takes 5,000 IU in wintertime. They do caution, however, that there is a level at which Vitamin D becomes toxic.

Similar research has also been recently performed by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology who found that many elderly were likely not getting sufficient Vitamin D due in part to insufficient exposure to the sun.

Wikinews interviews Australian Statistician Brian Pink

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Wikinews interviews Australian Statistician Brian Pink

September 21st, 2018

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Monday, April 7, 2008

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is responsible for some of Australia’s largest surveys, including the Census of Population and Housing, held every five years. At its head is the Australian Statistician. The current Statistician, Brian Pink, started in his position on March 5, 2007, following the retirement of predecessor Dennis Trewin. Wikinews recently caught up with Brian Pink to talk with him about his first year in the position, as well as his previous tenure as Government Statistician at Statistics New Zealand, and the state of mathematical education in Australia.

((WikiNews)) : Good afternoon.

Brian Pink: Good afternoon.

((WN)) : And congratulations on spending a year as Australian Statistician.

BP: Yes, it’s gone very quickly. (laughs)

Seeds placed in Norwegian vault as agricultural ‘insurance policy’

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Seeds placed in Norwegian vault as agricultural ‘insurance policy’

September 21st, 2018

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a vault containing millions of seeds from all over the world, saw its first deposits on Tuesday. Located 800 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the vault has been referred to by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso as a “frozen Garden of Eden“. It is intended to preserve crop supplies and secure biological diversity in the event of a worldwide disaster.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is in charge of collecting the seed samples. The Norwegian government, who owns the bank, built it at a cost of $9.1 million.

At the opening ceremony, 100 million seeds from 268,000 samples were placed inside the vault, where there is room for over 2 billion seeds. Each of the samples originated from a different farm or field, in order to best ensure biological diversity. These crop seeds included such staples as rice, potatoes, barley, lettuce, maize, sorghum, and wheat. No genetically modified crops were included. (Beyond politics they are generally sterile so of no use.)

It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks.

Constructed deep inside a mountain and protected by concrete walls, the “doomsday vault” is designed to withstand earthquakes, nuclear warfare, and floods resulting from global warming. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called it an “insurance policy” against such threats.

With air-conditioned temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, experts say the seeds could last for an entire millennium. Some crops will be able to last longer, like sorghum, which the Global Crop Diversity Trust says can last almost 20 millenniums. Even if the refrigeration system fails, the vaults are expected to stay frozen for 200 years.

The Prime Minister said, “With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization.” Stoltenberg, along with Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, made the first deposit of rice to the vault.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said. The vault will operate as a bank, allowing countries to use their deposited seeds free of charge. It will also serve as a backup to the thousands of other seed banks around the world.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” Cary Fowler said.

U.S. manufacturer General Motors seeks bankruptcy protection

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U.S. manufacturer General Motors seeks bankruptcy protection

September 18th, 2018

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Monday, June 1, 2009

United States automobile manufacturing firm General Motors filed for bankruptcy and Chapter 11 protection from its creditors at 12:00 UTC Monday, in a Manhattan, New York federal bankruptcy court. This was the largest bankruptcy filing for a U.S. manufacturing company, and with declared assets of $82.29 billion and a debt of $172.81 billion, and the fourth largest bankruptcy filing in recent U.S. history — after the bankruptcies of Lehman Brothers ($691.06 billion), Washington Mutual ($327.91 billion), and WorldCom ($103.91 billion).

The filing, expected to be the first of many, was for a New York GM affiliate, Chevrolet-Saturn of Harlem Incorporated. Numbered 09-50026, it named GM as a debtor in possession, and was filed before judge Robert Gerber.

GM is to be represented throughout the filing process by Weil Gotshal & Manges, a New York law firm specializing in bankruptcy.

The chief restructuring officer, named in the filing, is to be Al Koch, a managing director at AlixPartners LLP in New York, who will report directly to Fritz Henderson, the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors.

In its bankruptcy petition, GM listed its primary creditors as:

Name Amount owed (USD millions)
Wilmington Trust 22,000
United Auto Workers union (UAW) 20,560
Deutsche Bank 4,440

The amount owed to UAW excludes “approximately $9.4 billion corresponding to the GM Internal VEBA“. USD22,760 millions are owed to bondholders.

Analysts have observed that the effect of the bankruptcy filing on the U.S. economy is not expected to be as major as it once would have been. One such voice, Mark Zandy, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com, commented that “Bankruptcy now is irrelevant in terms of the economic consequence of what’s happening to GM.” Such analysts believe that the economic impact of GM’s problems has already been felt, with its effects on parts suppliers and employment. They also believe that GM’s programme of accelerated payments, and its participation in a U.S. Treasury program to ensure prompt payments to parts manufacturers, will have cushioned the effect of the bankruptcy itself.

Speaking on Bloomberg Radio, David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, stated that the fragility of the parts suppliers, the loss of whom would threaten the entire automobile manufacturing industry, was of more immediate concern than the GM bankruptcy.

Also filing for chapter 11 protection today were Saturn LLC and Saturn Distribution Corporation, subsidiary companies of General Motors.

As a consequence of the bankruptcy, General Motors Corporation (GM.N) was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and was replaced by Cisco Systems (CSCO.O), these changes scheduled by Dow Jones & Company to take effect from the opening of trading on June 8.

Australian government provides $15.8 million for North Adelaide Technical College

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Australian government provides $15.8 million for North Adelaide Technical College

September 17th, 2018

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Australian Minister for Vocational Education and Training, Gary Hardgrave has announced the government will provide AU$15.8 million to establish an Australian Technical College in North Adelaide. The minister said the government was entering into a partnership with the Archdiocese of Adelaide and consortium of industrial and manufacturing companies.

The North Adelaide college will be located in Elizabeth and be operated as an independent non-government school. The college is one of 25 to be established across the country.

Enrolments at the college will begin in 2007 and will offer courses in areas where identified skills shortages exist in the North Adelaide region, specifically – engineering, construction, electronics and cooking.

Mr Hardgrave said that the proposed college had been popular among the North Adelaide business community. “This important initiative has been well received by North Adelaide business and industry, and will help to address skills needs and provide opportunities for those in greatest need, including a lot of Indigenous students in the region,” Mr Hardgrave said.

“The fact that this College is being led by local employers, local government and other key stakeholders, means it will be truly industry and community driven,” he said.

Australian Technical Colleges were established to cater for year 11 and 12 students who wish to do an apprenticeship as part of their school education.

The Australian Education Union has expressed a number of concerns about the model put forward by the government. In a report, they claim that trade facilities at TAFE colleges (operated by state governments) will deteriorate as funding is diverted to the ATCs. The union is also concerned that ATCs are supposed to be selective VET schools. According to the union they will have selective entry and preferential funding. It is feared that teachers will be lured away from schools and TAFE colleges to higher paid positions in ATCs.

The Education Union suggested that the government invest in schools that already offer vocational education programs.