Friday, April 6, 2007

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that limiting funding for the United States efforts in Iraq could lead to more bloodshed in the Middle Eastern country. In an interview with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, he said it might even lead to ethnic cleansing in Bahgdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

Gates’ comment followed a proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to end most spending on the Iraq war in 2008, limiting it to targeted operations against al Qaeda, training for Iraqi troops and U.S. force protection.

Sec. Gates also said that the duration of the troop increase is not clear and that evaluating whether the Administration’s new strategy was working will have to wait till mid-summer. The Army general charged with day-to-day operations has suggested that the increased deployment may extend to early next year.



A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, March 1, 2010.

Contents

  • 1 One killed, three injured after car crash in Lincolnshire, England
  • 2 Man found dead in toilet area of bus station in Galashiels, Scotland
  • 3 Woman dies after being rescued from house fire in west London, England
 Contribute to Wikinews by expanding these briefs or add a new one.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

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

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?



Monday, February 1, 2010

Haitian police yesterday arrested ten United States nationals, five men and five women, over the alleged abduction of 33 children. The nationals tried to cross with the children, aged between two months and twelve years, into the Dominican Republic, but were halted at the border.

The group belongs to the two-month-old New Life Children’s Refuge charity, with some members from Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, and others from Texas and Kansas. Their claimed intention was to move the quake victims to a temporary orphanage being set up in a hotel-resort in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Police said the Americans did not have any paperwork or permissions to remove the children from the country. Haiti’s government has imposed new restrictions on adoptions due to concerns about child trafficking during the post-disaster confusion.

The detainees are being held near the capital, Port-au-Prince, and maintain their arrest was a mistake. Laura Silsby, the group’s spokeswoman, insisted on the group acting in good faith and they paid no money for the children. She defended the lack of any authority from Haitian officials, “I was going to come back here to do the paperwork,” asserting that Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries, allowed them to move the children. She claimed, “[w]e had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.”

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive disagreed strongly with group’s actions; “[w]e did not arrest Americans, we arrested kidnappers.” Social Affairs minister, Yves Christallin, told Agence France-Presse that it was “abduction, not an adoption”. He continued, “what is important for us in Haiti is that a child needs to have authorisation from this ministry to leave the country”. He stressed, “[t]his is totally illegal, […] these people did not have that authorization.”

Kent Page, a spokesman for UNICEF in Haiti, also weighed in today saying, “[y]ou can’t just go and take a child out of a country – no matter what country you are in.”

The NCLR group planned to take around 100 children to the Dominican Republic. According to their mission statement, the Baptists‘ intent was to “find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ” for the Roman Catholic children “as well as opportunities for adoption into a loving Christian family.” To that end they partnered with New Life Adoption Foundation to “help facilitate adoptions and provide grants to subsidize the cost of adoption for loving Christian parents who would otherwise not be able to afford to adopt.” They envisioned building an orphanage at Villa Magante on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, with facilities for the children, and lodging and amenities for “adopting parents to stay while fulfilling requirement for 60?90 day visit as well as Christian volunteers/vacationing families.”

The children have been transferred to an SOS Children’s village in Santo, to the north of the capital. The site has a medical facility run by the Dominican Red Cross. Staff reported the children were “in a very bad emotional state” and that a small baby had to be temporarily taken to the main hospital. Some children told staff they actually have parents, and a twelve year old said she and her family had believed the New Life Children’s Refuge group wanted to take her to a boarding school in the Dominican Republic. Later, three people arrived at the SOS Children’s village claiming to be relatives of five of the children. They said, “the woman who took the children to DR” told them she organised summer camps in the neighbouring country; they declared they did not intent to permanently part with their children.

Amarick Louis, Haiti’s justice secretary, told the Associated Press that a commission would decide today if the group would go before a judge. Senior Pastor Clint Henry of the Central Valley Baptist Church told reporters New Life Children’s Refuge, and the Haiti mission, are separate from the 25-year-old church. He noted that members of the church were confronted with negative feedback after the arrest of the NLCR group. His congregation prayed for the arrested members of their church during services on Sunday.



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Thursday, October 5, 2006

The upcoming 2006 Brampton municipal election, to be held November 13, features an array of candidates looking to represent their wards in city council or the council of the Peel Region.

Wikinews contributor Nick Moreau contacted many of the candidates, including Mathew Njenga, asking them to answer common questions sent in an email. This ward’s incumbent is John A. Hutton; also challenging Hutton is Derrick Coke, Navdeep Gill, Jim Howell, Joyce Rodriguez, and Doug Whillans.



Friday, October 2, 2009

Companies in the United States are shedding more jobs, pushing the country’s unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.8%.

The US Labor Department said on Friday that employers cut 263,000 jobs in September, with companies in the service industries — including banks, restaurants and retailers — hit especially hard. This is the 21st consecutive month of job losses in the country.

The United States has now lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession officially began in December 2007. The new data has sparked fears that unemployment could threaten an economic recovery. Top US officials have warned that any recovery would be slow and uneven, and some have predicted the unemployment rate will top 10% before the situation improves.

“Continued household deleveraging and rising unemployment may weigh more on consumption than forecast, and accelerating corporate and commercial property defaults could slow the improvement in financial conditions,” read a report by the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, predicting that unemployment will average 10.1% by next year and not go back down to five percent until 2014.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, said that “it’s a very fragile and tentative recovery. Policy makers need to do more.”

“The number came in weaker than expected. We saw a lot of artificial involvement by the government to prop up the markets, and now that that is starting to end, the private sector isn’t yet showing signs of life,” said Kevin Caron, a market strategist for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

Also on Thursday, the US Commerce Department said factory orders fell for the first time in five months, dropping eight-tenths of a percent in August. Orders for durable goods — items intended to last several years (including everything from appliances to airliners) — fell 2.6%, the largest drop since January of this year.

The US government has been spending billions of dollars — part of a $787 billion stimulus package — to help spark economic growth. There have been some signs the economy is improving.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that spending on home construction jumped in August for its biggest increase in 16 years. A real estate trade group, the National Association of Realtors, said pending sales of previously owned homes rose more than 12 percent in August, compared to August 2008.

A separate Commerce Department report said that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, rose at its fastest pace in nearly eight years, jumping 1.3 percent in August.

Other reports have provided cause for concern. A banking industry trade group said Thursday the number of US consumers making late payments, or failing to make payments, on loans and credit cards is on the rise. A survey by a business group, the Institute for Supply Management, Thursday showed US manufacturing grew in September, but at a slower pace than in August when manufacturing increased for the first time in a year and a half.

Stock markets reacted negatively to the reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41 points in early trading, reaching a level of 9467. This follows a drop of 203 points on Thursday, its largest loss in a single day since July. The London FTSE index fell 55 points, or 1.1%, to reach 4993 points by 15.00 local time.



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03 14th, 2019

Tuesday, May 16, 2006Yesterday, at 10:39 p.m. UTC, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the Pacific Ocean about 180 miles southwest of Raoul Island, a member of the Kermadec Islands in New Zealand. Witnesses disagreed on the length of the earthquake, which was felt as far south as Christchurch, New Zealand, although they agreed the quake lasted from 30 seconds to a minute. Ever since the volcano eruption on Raoul Island on March 18, the islands have been experiencing about 30 earthquakes a day. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicted that the earthquake might create a small tsunami with a radius of about 60 miles. There have been no reported injuries or deaths.

The tsunami occurred a couple of hours before a previously-scheduled test of a tsunami warning system. The test had 29 countries participating.

“It is a big earthquake, but the depth would limit any damage,” Seismologist Ken Gledhill says.



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03 14th, 2019

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi peace activist who lives in the United States, was forced to change his T-Shirt, which bore an Arabic slogan, because it was found “offensive”.

The incident took place in JFK airport in New York. The activist Jarrar reported in his blog RaedInTheMiddle that he had checked-in his bags and was issued a boarding pass. After waiting near the gate to board his jetBlue airlines flight, and after having to gone through a secondary search, two officials approached him.

“People are feeling offended because of your t-shirt,” Raed reported that one of the men said to him. The writings on the T-Shirt said in both Arabic and English: “We will not be silent”.

Raed asked why this has offended anyone, and insisted his right to freedom of expression was violated.

According to Jarrar, one of the inspectors said, “You can’t wear a T-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘I am a robber’ and going to a bank”. The airport official, unable to read Arabic, was unyielding to protests by Jarrar that the English language version of the Arabic was accurate, and suggested he wear the shirt inside out.

“Many people called and complained about your t-shirt. Jetblue customers were calling before you reached the checkpoint, and customers called when you were waiting here in the boarding area”, Jarrar was told after he complained.

One employee from JetBlue offered to buy Jarrar a T-shirt to replace the one he was wearing, since the activist had none other after his bags were checked. Refusing at first, he agreed to wear one with “New York” written on it.

The officer on the scene commented that it need not have gone from one extreme to the other: wearing a T-Shirt with an Arabic peace slogan on it, to wearing one with ‘New York’. There is no reason to hate New York if you are an Arab speaking peace activist, according to Jarrar.

“I feel very sad that my personal freedom was taken away like this. I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the U.S. was that I don’t want an officer to make me change my t-shirt. I will pursue this incident today through a constitutional rights organization, and I am sure we will meet soon,” Raed said.

He was issued another boarding pass, with a different seat at the back of the plane.

JetBlue said it was investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: “We’re not clear exactly what happened.” The spokeswoman also said the airline does not forbid Arabic T-shirts, but that it does take into account the concerns of its passengers.

The American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee said the US Transportation Department and the Transportation Security Administration were also investigating the incident after the committee lodged complaints on behalf of Jarrar.

“We Will Not Be Silent” is a slogan adopted by opponents of the war in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East.

It is said to derive from the White Rose dissident group which opposed Nazi rule in Germany.



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03 14th, 2019

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mario Pardo, a geophysicist at the University of Chile, has ruled out that a “seismic swarm” exists in the coastal town of Pichilemu, about 259 kilometers from Santiago. As of last Thursday, almost 70 seisms have been registered in that zone.

Pichilemu was the epicentre of a 6.9 moment magnitude earthquake last Thursday that resulted in two aftershocks of magnitude greater than six.

“These are aftershocks associated to that earthquake. They are not more than a technicality: a seismic swarm doesn’t correspond to an aftershock sequence that will last in some time”, he explained.

The seismologist, in an interview with Cooperativa Radio, explained that the situation in Pichilemu occurs generally in areas where the aftershocks “can’t be differentiated from a main seism, where they have very similar magnitudes, and when they take some time to disappear”.

Adobe houses and historic buildings sustained the most damaged in the region: in fact, Monsignor Alejandro Goic said that only 2 of the 66 traditional catholic buildings in the region were not damaged. Damages to Catholic churches solely in the O’Higgins Region were estimated at almost 20 billion Chilean pesos (US$ 38 million). “It’s stratospheric, a number that surpasses us absolutely,” Goic said.



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