Wikinews Shorts: September 6, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

President Alvaro Colom says torrential downpours causing flooding and landslides have undone the country’s reconstruction from Tropical Storm Agatha in May. Up to eighteen people are reported killed in rain-related incidents across the country as weather systems in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific batter the region, and forecasters expect another 48 hours of precipitation. At least ten people were killed, 20 rescued, when a landslide buried a bus as it traveled on the Inter-American highway in the worst single-incident.

Sources

Five people are dead, 39 injured after a suicide bombing in the Dagestan Republic of the North Caucasus. The information is still unfolding, and earlier reports had three killed, 26 injured. The attack occurred at 00:30 local time (20:30 UTC) when a Zhiguli car packed with explosives drove into the gates of a military base near Buynaksk. AFP reports a second explosion nearby on a nearby highway, but with no injuries.

Sources

The Arizona Cardinals US football team has released Heisman trophy-winner Matt Leinart after being unable to find a favorable trade. Leinart had been unable to break out of the back-up quarterback role with the team after early injuries kept him on the sideline for a couple years, and expressed his frustration publicly on Monday. The Cardinals, forced to trim their team roster to 53 players, cut Leinart leaving him without a team.

Sources

After driving away from police, a thirteen-year-old driver struck a pole, plowed through a couple of fences, and bumped a parked car into the house before coming to a rest at the front door. Police spokesperson Ros Wetherall reported officers attempted to stop the Holden Commodore around 1 a.m. local time (5 p.m. UTC), but had to search for the vehicle which they found crashed into the home on Grovelands Drive, Camillo. The driver and one other youth in the car were uninjured. The young man will appear in court on charges of reckless driving, failing to stop and not having a driver’s licence.

Sources

India signs on to chemical patents to comply with WTO order

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A bill passed by India’s Parliament put an end to the manufacture of many cheap generic drugs copied from products protected by foreign company patents. A Patents Amendment Bill (2005) has been condemned by foreign aid groups who expect a significant rise in drug costs as a result of the bill.

Drug compounds in India were previously not protected by patents, meaning that research and developement costs borne by the originating manufacturers were avoided by generic drug producers. The new bill “will move India toward the patent mainstream and support and encourage innovation and investment in research and development in India,” said Ranjit Sahani, managing director of Novartis India.

As the world’s fourth-largest manufacturer of drugs by volume, the pharmaceutical industry in India is valued at US$5 billion – but ranks as only 13th by value, reflecting the low costs to consumers of the products. “Because India is one of the world’s biggest producers of generic drugs, this law will have a severe knock-on effect on many developing countries which depend on imported generic drugs from India,” said Samar Verma, regional policy adviser at Oxfam International.

Around half of African, Asian and Latin American HIV patients needing anti-retroviral drugs rely on low-cost drugs from India, which are sold at one twentieth the price of similar drugs produced in the West.

More than 90 per cent of drugs listed as essentials in India are either unpatented or expired. Drugs patented before 1995 — when the World Trade Organization [WTO] set a 10 year deadline to enact protection — will not be eligible under the bill.

Some degree of protection was mandated by WTO in order for India to have greater access to international markets. Opposers of the bill say it goes too far.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights [TRIPS], under WTO, allows developing countries to not provide patent protection for uses of known drugs, new dosages and formulations, or combinations of known drugs.

Inquiry blames surgical failures for Scottish patient deaths

Friday, February 17, 2012

A fatal accident inquiry concluded three patients who underwent keyhole surgery to remove their gall bladders died as a result of mistakes during, and after, the operations. Agnes Nicol, George Johnstone, and Andrew Ritchie died within a three-month period in 2006 whilst in the care of NHS Lanarkshire in Scotland.

Later expanded to look at all three deaths, the inquiry initially established to look into the case of Nicol, 50, who received surgery in late 2005. A surgeon at Wishaw General Hospital mistakenly cut her bile duct and her right hepatic artery. Whilst suturing her portal vein, her liver was left with 20% of its normal blood supply; the errors were not discovered until her transfer to liver specialists at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.

By then, her liver was seriously damaged. She developed septicaemia, dying from multiple organ failure in March 2006.

Johnstone, 54, underwent the same procedure at Monklands District General Hospital on May 9, 2006. A consultant surgeon accidentally damaged, possibly severing, his bile duct. He died two days later in intensive care from the combined effects of multiple organ failure and a heart ailment.

Ritchie, 62, died in intensive care a week after an operation in June 2006. He died from intra abdominal haemorrhage caused by errors during the surgery.

Different surgeons were involved each time and the inquiry, under Sheriff Robert Dickson, found no evidence of poor training or inadequate experience. Dickson noted that in each case there was lack of action on a “growing body of evidence that there was something fundamentally wrong with the patient” and surgeons failed to contemplate their own actions as potentially responsible. He agreed with two professors that it may have been possible to save their lives “had the post-operative care been to the standard which they expected, and had there been a proper management plan which staff could have worked to” and noted that all the patients suffered from a lack of adequate medical notes being available after their surgery. He described the care as having “clear faults”.

NHS Lanarkshire has issued an apology, saying they “did fall below the high standards of care we aim to maintain in these cases and this has been extremely distressing for the patients’ families. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to them.” The health board added improvements had been made regarding “these types of cases” as well as with document management.

Waves of arrests in Turkey on suspicion of involvement in ‘Ergenekon’ organization

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Turkish police arrested two colonels and two lieutenants Saturday as part of a wide-reaching probe into a suspected coup plot. The arrests are the latest related to an alleged clandestine neonationalist organization referred to as “Ergenekon“. The Ergenekon case has had adverse effects on financial markets in Turkey, a candidate for the European Union.

Turkey’s state-run news service, Anatolian News, reported that the four Turkish army officers were arrested in Istanbul for alleged ties to a right-wing group suspected of conspiring to overthrow the AK Party government. 40 people were detained on Wednesday, including three retired army generals.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and General Ilker Basbug, Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, held crisis talks on Thursday to discuss the recent waves of arrests. General Basbug met with the prime minister after a six-hour meeting with military commanders, including members of the Gendarmerie, Turkish Air Force, and Army. After his meeting with the prime minister, General Basbug met with President Abdullah Gul. President Abdullah Gul met with Besir Atalay, Turkey’s interior minister.

The talks between Erdogan and Basbug prompted a spate of selling on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, which fell by six percent on Thursday. TUSIAD, the main business association in Turkey, voiced its hope that investigators respect the legal rights of the suspects.

Turkish media also reported Saturday that law enforcement officials found ammunition and grenades buried near Golbasi lake outside Ankara, supposedly related to the Ergenekon organization. According to the Turkish media reports, police found a drawing in the home of former police chief Ibrahim Sahin, which led them to the site. Ibrahim Sahin was among the 40 individuals arrested Wednesday.

This is a regime change, like in the Khomeini and Hitler eras.

Deniz Baykal, who heads Turkey’s secular chief opposition party the Republican People’s Party, was critical of the arrests made by police under the AK Party government. “We are witnessing a confrontation against the Republic’s core values. This is a regime change, like in the Khomeini and Hitler eras,” said Baykal at a news conference held Wednesday. According to Baykal, the Ergenekon investigation is an attempt by the government to silence opposition. Other members of the opposition have also criticized the investigation as being politically motivated.

In a statement published in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali ?ahin asserted that the Ergenekon investigation is judicial and appropriate. “The investigation has no political aspects. Detentions are purely juridical. I follow developments from the press,” said ?ahin.

I am terrified here – anytime the wind is not in favor of the ruling party a new wave of this crap happens.

Wikinews interviewed a college graduate and resident of Turkey who wished not to be named, and this individual shared thoughts on the effects of the Ergenekon investigation on local citizens. “It affected everyone in the country. Everyone wonders if they are next,” said the source. “I am terrified here – anytime the wind is not in favor of the ruling party a new wave of this crap happens.”

Members of the Turkish state bureaucracy, military, and judicial system make up the country’s secularist establishment. According to Reuters, this secularist establishment states that the arrests carried out by the AK Party are retaliatory, in response to a 2008 court case. The court case attempted to ban the AK Party, which has roots in political Islam, for anti-secular activities. The AK Party has denied these claims.

The risk of a reaction by the military is growing as the Ergenekon probe is turning into a test of strength between the AKP and secularist circles.

“The risk of a reaction by the military is growing as the Ergenekon probe is turning into a test of strength between the AKP and secularist circles,” said analyst Wolfango Piccoli of the Eurasia Group in a statement published in the Financial Times.

The investigation by the government began in June 2007, when officials discovered a cache of arms in Istanbul in the home of a retired military officer. According to The Guardian, in total approximately 200 people have been arrested in relation to the investigation. 86 individuals have been indicted since the investigation started, including many officials from the military and two retired four-star generals. In addition to military officials, the investigation has focused on journalists, writers, politicians and leaders of gangs. The murder of journalist Hrant Dink is sometimes cited as possibly linked to the Ergenekon case.

The indictments allege involvement in plans to increase instability in the country through political assassinations. Hürriyet reported that the Ergenekon investigation has faced criticism in the past for detaining suspects for extended periods of time in prison without charges, and for its reliance on insubstantial evidence. In the past 50 years, the country’s military has intervened to topple four governments in Turkey.

John Constable painting location mystery solved after 195 years

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The mystery of the location of a viewpoint used by English painter John Constable has been solved, after nearly 200 years. The Stour Valley and Dedham Church was painted in Suffolk, England, between 1814 and 1815, but changes to the landscape meant that the spot he chose was not known, despite the best efforts of historians and art experts.

Now the puzzle has been answered. Martin Atkinson, who works for the National Trust as property manager for East Suffolk, used clues from the painting and looked at old maps to track down the viewpoint. Trees had grown, a hedgerow had been planted and boundaries had moved or disappeared, but Atkinson eventually worked out where Constable had stood. He said, “When I discovered that I had worked out the location where Constable painted this particular masterpiece, I couldn’t believe it. All the pieces of the jigsaw finally fitted together.”

Atkinson used an 1817 map of East Bergholt, where Constable grew up, as a reference point, but found that the view would have changed not long after the painting was completed. “The foreground didn’t fit at all, it was quite unusual as we know Constable painted it in the open air so he would have been standing in the scene. The hedgerow in his work no longer exists and there’s another hedgerow that runs across the scene today which wasn’t there. When you stand on the road on which he would have stood, and use the oak tree as a reference point, you see the same view. It’s great to see where an old master stood – and be inspired by the same view,” he said.

Suffolk, where Constable painted many of his finest paintings, is often called “Constable country”. Most, but not all, of the locations that Constable depicted are known. The picture is now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

Train collision kills at least eighteen near Brussels, Belgium

Monday, February 15, 2010

Belgian authorities have confirmed that at least eighteen people died in a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the suburbs of Brussels. Other reports suggest that the death toll could be as high as 25. More than 125 passengers are reported injured, 11 of them “very seriously”. Rescuers were still trying to free bodies from the wreckage of the trains more than eight hours after the crash, which occurred in snowy conditions at 08:28 local time (0728 UTC) near the station of Buizingen in the municipality of Halle, about 15 kilometres southwest of the Belgian capital.

One of the trains involved was travelling from Quiévrain to Liège, while the other was travelling from Leuven to Braine-le-Comte. The collision saw the first two carriages of one train being forced upwards into the air over the first carriage of the second train. Eyewitnesses described the collision as “brutal”, with passengers being thrown “violently” around the carriages.

Television footage showed the two smashed locomotives forced up in the air, with passenger cars strewn over a wide area and dazed survivors wandering at the crash site. Train speed at the time of the crash was not immediately known. There are reports that one of the trains ran a stop signal.

Initial reports suggest that the Leuven–Braine-le-Comte train was on the wrong line. It is not known if the train went through a red signal or if there was a problem with the signalling. A “well informed source” quoted by French-language daily Le Soir suggested that there might have been an electrical failure in the signalling system.

The collision occurred on one of the main access lines to Brussels-South station, about 14 kilometres (9 miles) from the Belgian capital. It caused “major damage” to overhead power cables, especially on the Brussels–Mons and Brussels–Tournai lines, and high speed rail services between Brussels and France and the UK have been suspended. Thalys services were temporarily halted due to the accident, with four of its trains in the region being diverted to alternative stations. Thalys services between Brussels and Cologne have now resumed, but services to Amsterdam and Paris are still suspended.

One passenger on board, Christian Wampach, described conditions on board the train, “It was a nightmare. We were thrown about for about 15 seconds. There were a number of people injured in my car but I think all the dead were in the first car.” Wampach was in the third car.

Another passenger, Patricia Lallemand, said, “When we came out we saw dead bodies lying next to the tracks, some mutilated.”

Singapore student is world’s fastest text messenger

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sixteen-year-old student Ang Chuang Yang of Singapore has earned a place in the record books, thanks to his fast thumbs.

Yang typed a 160-character SMS message in just 41.52 seconds, beating the previous record by seven-tenths of a second. The student was competing in a competition organized by SingTel.

The record was first set by 18-year-old Ben Cook of Utah, two years ago. He soon lost the record to a girl in Asia, then won it back last July, “significantly besting his own previous typing speed”, says the website impulse.

Each record is set by typing a standard text chosen by Guinness World Records, the organization to which the record has been submitted. The message reads: “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

He claims his secret is using a phone with a larger keypad. Speech-to-text software recently introduced by mobile company Nuance is not allowed for use under Guinness rules.

Choosing The Right Kind Of Blinds And Upholstery}

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Choosing the Right kind of Blinds and Upholstery}

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
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((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Denunciations of Scandals Threaten UN

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Denunciations of corruption, bribe, collection of bribes from refugees [1] and of sexual scandal involving the peacekeepers [2], [3] threaten the Organization of the United Nations (UN).

The gravest denunciations involve the aid project to Iraq, called Oil-for-Food. Grave denunciations of bribe exist, superfluous accounting and collaboration with the ex-dictator Saddam Hussein, against staff of the UN, companies and politicians of several countries. Even the secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan was suspicious of participation in the plan of corruption. And also grave doubts still hover about his son, Kojo Annan.

The gravity of the denunciations threatens not only the credibility of the UN, but its existence.

Secretary Kofi Annan said that he is going to promote reforms in the organization. [4]

Contents

  • 1 The Oil-for-Food Program
  • 2 Reclamações
  • 3 Al-Mada
  • 4 Funcionanento do esquema de corrupção
  • 5 As investigações
    • 5.1 Investigation of Charles Duelfer for the Central Intelligence Agency
      • 5.1.1 Text of the Report by Charles Duelfer
    • 5.2 GAO Investigation
    • 5.3 As investigações do conselho de governo iraquiano
    • 5.4 Investigação das Nações Unidas
  • 6 Last reports so far
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Sources