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Human Rights group seeks judicial remedy for Philippine torture victims

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Hong Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission or AHRC appealed to the Philippines government to seriously pursue judicial options against victims of torture in the country.

The AHRC press statement was issued as part of the commemoration of the United Nations‘ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture calendared every June 26.

AHRC is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

The statement claimed that the Philippines Constitution specifically prohibits torture but there was no specific law against it, The group also lamented that, “there no judicial remedy for a violation of this right, torture has also not been declared a crime in the Philippines.”

An appeal was also conveyed to the Supreme Court to plan and implement remedies for torture victims and appealed to the country’s law makers to enact a law specifically banning and criminilizing any acts of torture.

AHRC compared the Philippines to Sri Lanka, wherein both countries are signatories to the Convention against Torture Act of 1994 of the United Nations.

The group cited that, “Sri Lanka has already complied with its obligation under the convention, the Philippines, which has signed and ratified the same U.N. convention against torture, has not done so despite being a party to the convention since June 1987.

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Firefighters rescue nearly a dozen animals in Buffalo, New York house fire

Friday, June 22, 2007

Buffalo, New York —A three alarm fire at a house owned by John and Evelyn Bencinich, two of the initiators of a lawsuit filed against the Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, required firefighters to rescue eight cats and two dogs in Buffalo, New York today.

At about 8:30 (eastern time) firefighters were called to the home on 48 Granger Place to put out a fire that had started in the basement. It quickly spread to the first floor where the main bathroom was destroyed. The fire did not spread to the second floor or attic.

Initial calls said that many animals were inside the house and firefighters quickly worked to rescue all the cats and dogs. At least one cat and one dog had to receive CPR and oxygen, but both are reported to be in stable condition. At least 3 cats are unaccounted for, but after a search of the house, the cats were not believed to have been inside at the time the fire started.

One elderly woman, Anna Bencinich, the mother of Evelyn, was rescued by neighbors who helped her from the burning house.

“There was smoke all over the house. The fire started in the basement and spread to a small portion of the first floor. Two firefighters were injured while fighting the fire and were transported to Erie County Medical Center,” said Division Fire Chief Thomas Ashe who also said that sections of the kitchen wall at the back of the house had to be torn out to stop the fire from spreading through the walls.

One firefighter is being treated for bite injuries to his face that he received while attempting to rescue a dog. The other firefighter was treated for injuries he received to his hand, which was believed to have been caused by glass or a cat scratching him. The names of the injured firefighters are not known. The injuries are said to not be life threatening.

According to witness reports, the home owners had a new water heater installed just last week, but it is not known if the fire was caused by the heater.

“We believe the fire was caused by an electrical (malfunction). An investigation is being conducted,” said Battalion Chief Joe Fahey who also added that they did not believe arson was the cause.

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Saturn moon Enceladus may have salty ocean

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NASA’s Cassini–Huygens spacecraft has discovered evidence for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft’s direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon. The study has been published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.

Data from Cassini’s cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and usually low in salt far away from the moon. Closer to the moon’s surface, Cassini found that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the plumes. The salt-rich particles have an “ocean-like” composition and indicate that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the evaporation of liquid salt-water. When water freezes, the salt is squeezed out, leaving pure water ice behind.

Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph also recently obtained complementary results that support the presence of a subsurface ocean. A team of Cassini researchers led by Candice Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, measured gas shooting out of distinct jets originating in the moon’s south polar region at five to eight times the speed of sound, several times faster than previously measured. These observations of distinct jets, from a 2010 flyby, are consistent with results showing a difference in composition of ice grains close to the moon’s surface and those that made it out to the E ring, the outermost ring that gets its material primarily from Enceladean jets. If the plumes emanated from ice, they should have very little salt in them.

“There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than salt water under Enceladus’s icy surface,” said Frank Postberg, a Cassini team scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

The data suggests a layer of water between the moon’s rocky core and its icy mantle, possibly as deep as about 50 miles (80 kilometers) beneath the surface. As this water washes against the rocks, it dissolves salt compounds and rises through fractures in the overlying ice to form reserves nearer the surface. If the outermost layer cracks open, the decrease in pressure from these reserves to space causes a plume to shoot out. Roughly 400 pounds (200 kilograms) of water vapor is lost every second in the plumes, with smaller amounts being lost as ice grains. The team calculates the water reserves must have large evaporating surfaces, or they would freeze easily and stop the plumes.

“We imagine that between the ice and the ice core there is an ocean of depth and this is somehow connected to the surface reservoir,” added Postberg.

The Cassini mission discovered Enceladus’ water-vapor and ice jets in 2005. In 2009, scientists working with the cosmic dust analyzer examined some sodium salts found in ice grains of Saturn’s E ring but the link to subsurface salt water was not definitive. The new paper analyzes three Enceladus flybys in 2008 and 2009 with the same instrument, focusing on the composition of freshly ejected plume grains. In 2008, Cassini discovered a high “density of volatile gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as organic materials, some 20 times denser than expected” in geysers erupting from the moon. The icy particles hit the detector target at speeds between 15,000 and 39,000 MPH (23,000 and 63,000 KPH), vaporizing instantly. Electrical fields inside the cosmic dust analyzer separated the various constituents of the impact cloud.

“Enceladus has got warmth, water and organic chemicals, some of the essential building blocks needed for life,” said Dennis Matson in 2008, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“This finding is a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life can be sustained on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets,” said Nicolas Altobelli, the European Space Agency’s project scientist for Cassini.

“If there is water in such an unexpected place, it leaves possibility for the rest of the universe,” said Postberg.

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Senior security official: “Hardly any chance” to ban German Church of Scientology

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Responding to a request of the chairman of the German Minister of Interior Conference, the interior affairs chief of the State of Saxony, Mr. Albrecht Buttolo, told the Associated Press (AP) today that he sees hardly any chance to ban the German Church of Scientology. His statement adds to heavy critique by the extremism expert of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Kristina Köhler, as well as speakers of all other Federal Parliament parties, who stated that it would not be a governmental task to ban a group like the Church of Scientology. The Berlin government expert Ulrich Battis added that a religious community like Scientology is almost impossible to ban.

The organization has been under investigation by the German government for over a decade by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. A spokesperson of the Office stated recently that a ban of the organization would be “not realistic” at the moment and that there isn’t enough evidence to support freezing its activities.

As German domestic security services prepared for a December 7 meeting, they found that the organization does operate in ways that may be perceived as hostile to the German constitution, but that at present the Church of Scientology has failed to successfully infiltrate German society; membership has stagnated. Investigators will initiate more intense surveillance through the Autumn of 2008 before deciding on whether to take further action.

Counterpressure

A speaker of the Federal Ministry of Interior, senior agency of the Office for Protection of the Constitution, stated that the public request for a ban was organized by some State Ministers of Interior as a “warning shot” for Scientology. The Church of Scientology had been increasing its public activities in 2006 and has opened new 41,000 square foot headquarters in the German capital Berlin in 2007. Also, in November 2007 well-known Scientologist Tom Cruise was awarded the German media prize “Bambi“, for courage in taking on the subject of German Resistance in the Third Reich in his newest movie Valkyrie. Cruise had been under public attack by the Federal Government first and refused permits for filming at historical sites. Later the Government dropped its concerns and decided to allow him to shoot scenes at the requested locations.

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Public officials, experts discuss lessons learned during West, Texas explosion

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Public officials and other experts gave presentations earlier this week regarding lessons learned during the aftermath of an explosion which struck the small town of West, Texas in April of this year. The event, which was live-streamed to various locations across Texas, was sponsored by the Texas Department of State Health Services as a part of its Grand Rounds seminar offerings. Three officials, each of whom were heavily involved in responding to the event, gave individual presentations.

Frank Patterson, Emergency Management Coordinator for the city of Waco and McLennan County, was the first to speak. Early on, Patterson commented about injuries sustained by citizens of West who lived in the neighborhood surrounding the chemical plant where the explosion occurred. He also said 113 different agencies responded to the event. Specifically, Patterson said, “This was the first time I didn’t have to request federal [agency] support. They just showed up.” He also presented a broad array of photos taken from the blast site and the surrounding neighborhood, pointing out that debris was found as far as 2.5 miles away from the chemical plant. Regarding lessons learned during the days following the explosion, Patterson said all such incident teams need a social media person on-site. He also said, “Stress will take its toll on all involved.”

Dana Lafayette represented the local mental healthcare provider for the county. She explained mental health professionals offered assistance following the blast, but avoided being too intrusive with citizens. Lafayette clarified, “We would walk through [the area] and hand [survivors] water, along with the information cards and say, ‘If you need us, we’re here.'” She also stated, “It was interesting to see the amount of resiliency within the community.”

Kelly Craine, Public Information Officer for Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, also spoke. She indicated her agency’s primary focus was to “create some sort of ‘safe haven’ for victims of the blast.” Craine’s agency used a local church as a gathering place for citizen displaced from their homes as a result of the incident. Notably, speaking about her agency’s after action report, Craine said, “This [event’s] after action report is so big, we’re still working on ours.”

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Wikinews interviews Jeremy Hanke, editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Jeremy Hanke, editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine. The magazine, which is free to read online, was started as a resource for the low budget moviemaker and features book, independent film, equipment and software reviews as well as articles on film distribution, special effects and lighting.

He says that one of the goals of the magazine is to “connect low-budget filmmakers via a feeling of community, as many…..often compete so viciously against one another in film festivals for coveted “shots” with Hollywood, that they can quickly forget their similarities.”

When asked if films made on a shoestring budget can really compete with those made for millions of dollars, he replied, “no…yes…and absolutely. Allow me to explain.” And so he does in the interview below.

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News briefs:January 04, 2008

Contents

  • 1 Wikinews News Brief January 04, 2008 23:35 UTC
    • 1.1 Introduction
    • 1.2 Israeli troops kill 9 in Gaza
    • 1.3 Georgian President faces election challenge
    • 1.4 US unemployment hits two-year high
    • 1.5 Israel plans crackdown on West Bank settlement outposts
    • 1.6 Transaven Airlines plane carrying 14 people crashes off Venezuelan coast
    • 1.7 Sportswriter Milt Dunnell dies at 102
    • 1.8 2007 was particularly good year for aviation safety
    • 1.9 U.S. Senator Dodd bows out of presidential race
    • 1.10 Intel ends partnership with One Laptop Per Child program
    • 1.11 British Investigators arrive in Pakistan to join Bhutto investigation
    • 1.12 Disgorge bassist Ben Marlin dies from cancer
    • 1.13 Egypt lets 2000 pilgrims through Rafah
    • 1.14 Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis once again delayed
    • 1.15 Study suggests hospitals are not the best place for cardiac arrest treatment
    • 1.16 US dollar no longer accepted at Taj Mahal and other Indian historical sites
    • 1.17 Footer

[edit]

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Militants bomb Gaziantep, Turkey police headquarters

Monday, May 2, 2016

A car bomb detonated at police headquarters in Gaziantep, Turkey yesterday morning killed two police officers and injured more than twenty other people. The governor’s office said nineteen of the injured were police officers. Police said they suspect an alleged Daesh (ISIL) militant of responsibility for the attack.

Turkish media reported two police officers, Yusuf Evrin and Serdar ?akir, spotted the bomb in the vehicle as the driver approached the building. The officers opened fire on the driver before the bomb exploded.

This follows another suicide bombing in Istanbul four days earlier that wounded several people, and three other militant attacks this year in Turkish cities populated with high numbers of tourists. Daesh have not claimed responsibility for any of these attacks.

Turkish police claim to have found evidence linking the suspect to Daesh and conducted a raid on his home. They took the suspect’s father in for questioning and DNA testing, in an attempt to confirm the bomber’s identity.

The US-led coalition against Daesh, of which Turkey is a member, carried out airstrikes in Syria last Thursday. Gaziantep is near the Syrian border and a city official estimated to news website The Conversation the area harbors as many as 400,000 Syrian refugees. Suspected Daesh militants amongst them have recently been subjected to police raids.

Foreign travel advisories are warning tourists of an increased threat of terrorist attacks in Turkey.

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CEO of GM outlines plan for “New GM” after auto company declared bankruptcy

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In a New York press conference at 16:15 UTC, June 1st, Fritz Henderson, the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, which filed for bankruptcy and Chapter 11 protection from its creditors earlier today, outlined a plan for what he called a “New GM”.

Speaking to the press under safe harbor provisions of U.S. law, Henderson described the events of today as a “defining moment” in the history of General Motors. Speaking to the public he said that “The GM that let you down is history,” and described a “New GM” that he expected to result from the bankruptcy process.

Henderson stated that he envisioned the bankruptcy process would take between 60 and 90 days. He stressed several times his view that the process would be one that is executed quickly, saying that not just a sense of urgency but “pure unadulterated speed” was his expectation of the process. He emphasized that “GM remains open for business” during the bankruptcy period, continuing to sell and to support its products, and that day one motions had been filed in the bankruptcy court in order to allow this.

Regarding the bankruptcy process he said, “We will do it right. And we will do it once.”

He stated that the plan for General Motors had the support of the United Auto Workers union, the Canadian Auto Workers union, the GM VEBA, and a majority of the unsecured bondholders of GM. He also mentioned that GM had already received €1.5 million in bridge financing from the German government.

In response to questions about the possibility of the United States federal government, a majority shareholder in the restructured company, dictating future product development and strategy, such as the sale of more fuel-efficient and green vehicles; he first observed that the federal government had already stated to him that it had “no real interest in running our business” and that he expected that still to be his job. Of the specific hypothetical scenario where the management of GM wants to make one type of car, because it thinks that it is the right thing for the business, and the U.S. government wants to make another type of car, he stated that “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” Expanding on that point he stated that he expected the “New GM” to focus upon “highly fuel-efficient and green technology”, and that operating both in accordance with U.S. environmental laws and in response to customer demand would naturally result in the New GM producing the types of vehicles that the U.S. government would encourage.

The “New GM” he also expected to focus on “four core brands”, and will size its dealership to match that. He stated that GM would offer a “deferred termination” package to dealers, to allow them to cease dealing in GM vehicles in a managed and gradual way.

He stated that the bankruptcy filings did not cover General Motors’ businesses in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, and Asia and the Pacific. Of GM’s profitable ventures in China, specifically, he stated that they were “a critical part of the New GM”. In response to questions of whether the New GM would import cars from China to the U.S., he stated the formative company’s core principle that “We build where we sell” applied in both directions, with GM building in China to sell in China and building in the U.S. to sell in the U.S., stating that this shortened supply chains.

He declined to predict when the New GM would return to profitability, stating that the goal was rather to lower the break-even EBIT point for the company. He also declined to speculate upon when the U.S. government would sell its stake in the company, saying that that was a question “better addressed to the U.S. Treasury”, and merely saying that he expected it to be “years, not months” when the U.S. Treasury felt it would give “the right return for taxpayers.”

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Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

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?