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US lawmakers and rights advocates question CIA tape destruction

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US lawmakers and rights advocates question CIA tape destruction

Saturday, December 8, 2007

U.S. Congressional Democrats are asking the Justice Department to investigate whether the CIA’s destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogation of terrorism suspects amounts to obstruction of justice.

The acknowledgement by Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden that his agency destroyed the interrogation videotapes in 2005 sparked a firestorm of criticism among Congressional Democrats. They suggested the tapes could have provided key evidence in ongoing trials brought by terrorism suspects who are alleging they were tortured.

Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “What would cause the CIA to take this action? The answer is obvious – cover up. The agency was desperate to cover up damning evidence of their practices.”

Human Rights Watch’s Senior Counterterrorism Counsel commented to Google news saying, “The CIA was well aware that its interrogations crossed a line considered by many to be torture. Now some in the CIA may also be guilty of obstruction of justice as well – a serious felony that carries a possible 20 year sentence. There needs to be a serious criminal investigation, and those who have committed crimes should be prosecuted and convicted.”

The Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are vowing to investigate, and other Democrats are calling on the Justice Department to do the same.

“You cannot destroy material if there is an ongoing investigation. There is a law against it,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush only learned of the matter two days ago, after he was briefed by CIA Director Hayden.

“He has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday,” said Perino.

Perino defended the CIA interrogation program as legal and critical to national security. She said President Bush supports General Hayden’s explanation that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of the interrogators.

But the Senate’s number two Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, rejected that argument:

“The defence of the CIA is that they wanted to protect the identity of those CIA employees who were engaged in the interrogation,” said Durbin. “Mr. [Senate] President, that is not a credible defence. We know that it is possible, in fact, easy, to cover the identity and faces of those who were involved in any videotape. Something more was involved here.”

The tapes, which documented the use of tough interrogation techniques against key terror suspects in 2002, were destroyed three years later, at a time when there was increasing pressure from defence lawyers to obtain videotapes of detainee interrogations and as Congress had been probing allegations of torture.

The Bush administration has maintained it does not use torture, but refuses to say what techniques are used by intelligence agencies in interrogations of terror suspects.

US unemployment rate reaches 9.8%

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US unemployment rate reaches 9.8%

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.

Roadside bomb kills NATO soldier in Afghanistan

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Roadside bomb kills NATO soldier in Afghanistan

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

According to NATO, one of its service members has died from a bomb attack at an army base in southern Afghanistan. In addition, an Afghan soldier reportedly died and the blast left three others injured.

The International Security Assistance Force released a statement yesterday, saying that “[the soldier] died today following an explosion at an Afghan National Army facility in Kabul.” An anonymous official said that the blast occurred when a mortar fuse exploded while a training exercise was underway. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, saying that an infiltrator had caused the explosion.

This latest death brings the total death toll of foreign soldiers in 2010 to 166 in Afghanistan.

The last deaths reported by NATO were of two Dutch soldiers killed Saturday by a roadside bomb in the Uruzgan province. The Netherlands’ Defense Ministry said a third Dutch soldier had been seriously wounded in that attack.

SEPTA buys rail cars from NJ Transit to deal with crowding

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SEPTA buys rail cars from NJ Transit to deal with crowding

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As gas prices have risen in the United States, the regional transport authority for southeastern Pennsylvania, SEPTA, has seen a sharp increase in ridership, which has caused overcrowding on the trains.

“As fuel prices have continued to rise, SEPTA ridership has steadily increased and is the highest in 18 years,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey. Monthly ridership was 22 percent higher last month than a year ago.

“They have crushed loads on their rail lines, already where people are standing, and there’s not enough seats,” said Rich Bickel, the director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

“At peak times some railcars are standing room only and commuter parking lots are nearly full. All Regional Rail lines are running near full capacity and the train station parking lots are at about 90 percent capacity or more,” SEPTA spokesperson Felipe Suarez said.

While SEPTA awaits new Silverliner V trains from Hyundai Rotem, which begin arriving in 2009, it had hoped to lease eight rail cars from New Jersey Transit, at an agreed-upon rate of US$10,000 per month. However, due to problems with insurance and liability indemnification, the deal fell through, according to Casey.

SEPTA has entered a new agreement to purchase the eight rail cars from NJ Transit. The transit authority will pay US$670,000 for the cars and assorted supplies plus one additional inoperative car which will be used for spare parts. The rail cars will be operated using a SEPTA provided locomotive as they are not self-propelled.

The cars are being disposed of by NJ Transit because it has switched from single-floor cars to double-decker cars.

SEPTA is expecting to raise US$3.1 million by selling rail that has been out of service since 1981 at auction.

Suspected serial killer appears in British court

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Suspected serial killer appears in British court

Friday, May 28, 2010

A man accused of being a serial killer has appeared in Bradford magistrates court in West Yorkshire today charged with three counts of murder. 40-year-old Stephen Griffiths is accused of killing Suzanne Blamires, 36, Susan Rushworth, 43, and Shelley Armitage, 31, all prostitutes.

Griffiths, a former van driver with a degree in psychology and studying for a PhD in criminology, gave his name as “Crossbow Cannibal” when asked. He has been in police custody since Monday when police were alerted to a CCTV recording that appeared to show a murder.

A caretaker had been reviewing footage from the flats where Griffiths lives when he saw footage of a woman and a man enter a flat early on Saturday morning. Two minutes later, she ran out and was followed by the man, who beat her to the ground and shot her in the head with a crossbow. Over the course of the weekend, the man was seen several times with bin bags and a rucksack.

On Tuesday, the day after the arrest of Griffiths, Blamires’ remains were found in the River Aire in nearby Shipley. She had been cut into several pieces and her head was located in a rucksack. Police continue to search for the other two alleged victims; Rushworth has been missing since June last year and Armitage vanished in April.

Police have searched much of Bradford’s red-light district, where Griffiths’ third-floor flat is located. Forensic investigations at the flat are expected to last around three weeks. There are plans to search landfill sites for bodies, and police may yet expand the inquiry to cover three more cold cases, although at present they have not been linked to the current inquiry.

Sniffer dogs have been used throughout the city, and police have been taking away plastic evidence bags. Some alleyways remain closed off. Police charged their suspect yesterday.

Griffiths was known as “the lizard man” in his block of flats owing to his habit of walking his two pet monitor lizards in the area. One neighbour is reported to have quoted him as saying he was studying for “a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper,” and he has spent time in a high-security psychiatric hospital. During his five-minute court appearance he did not enter a plea, kept his head bowed and fidgeted with his cuffed hands. He said “Here, I guess,” when asked for his address.

As he stood in the glass-fronted dock, guarded by three security officers, he was watched by the families of Rushworth and Armitage, who were accompanied by police family liaison officers. Blamires’ family chose not to be present, but the victim’s mother Nicky Blamires, 54, has told the press that Suzanne was a “much-loved” family member even though she “went down the wrong path and did not have the life she was meant to have.” “Nobody deserves this,” she said. “All these girls were human beings and people’s daughters.”

Griffiths’ morning court appearance was followed by a second one this afternoon, at Bradford Crown Court. This time, he confirmed his name without incident. He was remanded into custody until next month, when he will appear in court again.

British media has been quick to compare the case to Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Sutcliffe was a Bradford killer responsible for thirteen murders and seven attempted murders, including several prostitutes. Since his 1981 conviction he has spent most of the last three decades in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital near London.

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with NDP candidate Glenn Crowe, Bramalea-Gore-Malton

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Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with NDP candidate Glenn Crowe, Bramalea-Gore-Malton

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Glenn Crowe is running for the NDP in the Ontario provincial election, in the Bramalea-Gore-Malton riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Crowe did not reply to various questions asked.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

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

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Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?
By | Posted in Uncategorized

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?

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Britons seized from finance ministry in Iraq

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Britons seized from finance ministry in Iraq
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Five British citizens have been seized in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The group, comprising a finance expert and four bodyguards, were captured from the finance ministry by kidnappers wearing police uniforms and driving police vehicles. The BBC is reporting that over 40 police vehicles were involved in the incident.

In separate incidents, at least 22 people were killed and 55 injured in a bus explosion elsewhere in the city, and at least 15 people were killed in a car bomb which injured a further 36, possibly more.

It is believed the four bodyguards are employed by Canadian GardaWord, a subsidiary of Garda.

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Gunman commits suicide at University of Texas

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Gunman commits suicide at University of Texas
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A man wearing a ski mask and carrying an assault rifle apparently killed himself in the library of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas earlier today.

The university was placed under lockdown and all classes were canceled as a result of the incident. Nobody else was hurt, but police are still looking for a possible second gunman. Art Acevedo, the chief of Austin police, said that officials are also considering the possibility of explosives left by the suspect. Armored vehicles were seen moving around the campus in response to the event, as well as {{w|SWAT team|SWAT teams}, bomb-sniffing dogs, and police helicopters. An ambulance was seen around 9:00 a.m. CDT (1400 UTC) at the University of Texas’ Perry-Castaneda library.

The school’s website included a notice this morning, which read: “The person involved in this morning’s shooting on campus has been confirmed dead on the sixth floor of the Perry-Castaneda Library from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Law enforcement are searching for a second suspect. If you are off campus, STAY AWAY. If you are on campus, lock doors, do not leave your building.” The gunman was reportedly killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and no shots had been fired by law enforcement officials.

The shooter has not yet been identified, and the reason behind the incident is not yet known. Witnesses described the man as wearing a dark suit and ski mask, and carrying an assault rifle. Randall Wilhite, a professor at the university, said that he heard gunshots while going to class and saw the suspect heading toward the library just after 8:00 a.m. CDT (1300 UTC). The gunman appeared to be firing shots randomly. “When I pulled up in my car, he stood right in front of me and didn’t stop running but turned in my direction, fired three shots into the ground to the left of my car and kept running,” said Wilhite. The gunman had the chance to shoot students, added Wilhite, but he did not appear to be targeting them.

The school, which has around 50,000 students, sent out an alert around that time warning students to stay where they were. Robby Reeb, a senior at the school, said that “a guy sprinted past me screaming, ‘There’s a guy with a gun.’ I looked up and saw a man in a ski mask, wearing a suit, and carrying an assault rifle. And I called 911.”

Police said that the gun used in the shooting was an AK-47, and that they were examining two different crime scenes: where the shots were fired outside, and where the gunman was found dead in the library. Police would not say whether he was attending the university. Chief Acevado said that there were “reports of a second suspect that was wearing a beanie with a long rifle, wearing blue jeans and a black top” that “may or may not be a white male.”

Several hours after the lockdown began, police allowed students to leave the university’s campus, although nobody is still allowed to enter.

The school was also the site of a shooting spree on August 1, 1966, in which university student Charles Whitman fatally shot fourteen to sixteen people and wounded another 32 before being himself killed by law enforcement authorities; reports of the exact death toll are inconsistent. Whitman, a former U.S. Marine, shot students from the observation platform of the school’s tower. That event was the deadliest school shooting in the United States until the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

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Gaza looters destroy Palestine Authority property

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Gaza looters destroy Palestine Authority property
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Frenzied destruction of empty Jewish settlements in Gaza by Palestinian looters have marred plans for exploiting those facilities to create much needed jobs for the area.

Greenhouses in Gaza have been partly destroyed as crucial equipment was stripped by the Palestinians. Looters took everything from water pumps, plastic sheets, tubing and equipment. This makes at least one third of the hothouses at least temporarily unusable to feed the families of Gaza and for potential export to Israel.

The facilities were purchased by a group of Jewish-American donors and given to the Palestinian government to encourage economic development. It was initially anticipated over four thousand Palestinians could be given work at the greenhouses, however all offers have been suspended prior to the damage being assessed and repairs arranged.

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