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

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds

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Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds

Friday, May 16, 2008

Controversy has arisen over the reported presence of blue asbestos on the MV Freewinds, a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology. According to the Saint Martin newspaper The Daily Herald and the shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, the Freewinds was sealed in April and local public health officials on the Caribbean island of Curaçao where the ship is docked began an investigation into the presence of asbestos dust on the ship. Former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft supervised work on the ship in 1987, and attested to the presence of blue asbestos on the Freewinds in an affidavit posted to the Internet in 2001. Woodcraft, a licensed architect by profession, gave a statement to Wikinews and commented on the recent events.

According to The Daily Herald, the Freewinds was in the process of being renovated by the Curaçao Drydock Company. The article states that samples taken from paneling in the ship were sent to the Netherlands, where an analysis revealed that they “contained significant levels of blue asbestos”. An employee of the Curaçao Drydock Company told Radar Online in an April 30 article that the Freewinds has been docked and sealed, and confirmed that an article about asbestos ran in the local paper.

Lloyd’s List reported that work on the interior of the Freewinds was suspended on April 27 after health inspectors found traces of blue asbestos on the ship. According to Lloyd’s List, Frank Esser, Curaçao Drydock Company’s interim director, joined Curaçao’s head of the department of labor affairs Christiene van der Biezen along with the head of the local health department Tico Ras and two inspectors in an April 25 inspection of the ship. “We are sending someone so that they can tell us what happened, where it came from, since when it has been there,” said Panama Maritime Authority’s director of merchant marine Alfonso Castillero in a statement to Lloyd’s List.

The Church of Scientology purchased the ship, then known as the Bohème, in 1987, through an organization called Flag Ship Trust. After being renovated and refitted, it was put into service in June 1988. The ship is used by the Church of Scientology for advanced Scientology training in “Operating Thetan” levels, as well as for spiritual retreats for its members. Curaçao has been the ship’s homeport since it was purchased by the Church of Scientology.

According to his 2001 statement, Lawrence Woodcraft had been an architect in London, England since 1975, and joined Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” (Sea Org) in 1986. He wrote that he was asked by the Sea Org to work on the Freewinds in 1987, and during his work on the ship “noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance approximately 1 ½” thick between the paint and the steel wall,” which he believed to be asbestos. He also discovered what he thought was blue asbestos in other parts of the ship, and reported his findings to Church of Scientology executives. Woodcraft discussed his experiences in a 2001 interview published online by the Lisa McPherson Trust, a now-defunct organization which was critical of the Church of Scientology.

The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards.

Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw responded to Radar Online about the asbestos reports, in an email published in an article in Radar on May 1. “The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards,” said Pouw. She stated that two inspections performed in April “confirmed that the air quality is safe,” and asserted that the inspections revealed the Freewinds satisfies standards set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Pouw told Radar that “The Freewinds will be completing its refit on schedule.” The Church of Scientology-affiliated organization Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) had been planning a cruise aboard the Freewinds scheduled for May 8, but according to Radar an individual who called the booking number for the cruise received a message that the cruise had been delayed due to ongoing work on the ship. Citing an article in the Netherlands Antilles newspaper Amigoe, Radar reported on May 6 that a team from the United States and supervised by an independent bureau from the Netherlands traveled to Curaçao in order to remove asbestos from the Freewinds.

…if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff.

“I stand by everything I wrote in my 2001 affidavit,” said Lawrence Woodcraft in an exclusive statement given to Wikinews. Woodcraft went on to state: “I would also comment that if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff. Also panelling as well, basically strip the ship back to a steel hull. Also blue asbestos is sprayed onto the outer walls and then covered in paint. It’s in every nook and cranny.”

Many Scientologist celebrities have spent time aboard the Freewinds, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley, Catherine Bell, Kate Ceberano, and Juliette Lewis. Now magazine reported that Tom Cruise has been urged to seek medical attention regarding potential asbestos exposure, however a representative for Cruise stated he has “absolutely no knowledge” of the recent asbestos controversy. Cruise, Holmes, Travolta and Preston have celebrated birthdays and other events on the Freewinds.

There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.

In a May 15 statement to the United Kingdom daily newspaper Metro, a representative for the Church of Scientology said that “There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.” The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center notes that agencies have recommended anyone who has spent time on the Freewinds consult with their physician to determine if possible asbestos exposure may have affected their health.

Raw blue asbestos is the most hazardous form of asbestos, and has been banned in the United Kingdom since 1970. Blue asbestos fibers are very narrow and thus easily inhaled, and are a major cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which can develop in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium sac surrounding the heart. The cancer is incurable, and can manifest over 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

“This is the most dangerous type of asbestos because the fibres are smaller than the white asbestos and can penetrate the lung more easily,” said toxicologist Dr. Chris Coggins in a statement published in OK! Magazine. Dr. Coggins went on to note that “Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim has six months to a year to live. It gradually reduces lung function until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies.”

Author of My Billion Year Contract reflects on life in elite Scientology group

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Author of My Billion Year Contract reflects on life in elite Scientology group

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wikinews interviewed author Nancy Many about her book My Billion Year Contract, and asked her about life working in the elite Scientology group known as the “Sea Org“. Many joined Scientology in the early 1970s, and after leaving in 1996 she later testified against the organization. Published in October, Many’s book has gone on to become one of the top selling new books on Scientology at Amazon.com.

Computer glitch delays online tax filing in Canada

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Computer glitch delays online tax filing in Canada

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Computer systems used by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the handling of tax filing data for Canadians have been temporarily shutdown due to infrastructure problems.[1] A March 7 article in the Toronto Star[2] states that due to errors in the electronic filing system, Canada Revenue Agency will be unable to accept any tax filings electronically or corrections to prior filings.

A fact sheet from the CRA [3] states that “until the problem is resolved, we cannot process returns filed on paper, or returns filed electronically before the system interruption. Refunds will be delayed until processing is resumed”.

A check of the taxing authority’s website[4] regarding the issue states “We have temporarily shut down public access to electronic services to ensure the integrity of taxpayer information.” and that “We have now traced the source of the problem to software maintenance conducted on March 4, 2007. We are currently working to bring all systems back online gradually.”

A CRA press release dated March 6 [5] states “Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Michel Dorais today instructed some computer applications related to personal income tax filing to be temporarily halted.” he also said, “there is no indication that this situation was caused by intrusion, hacking, or computer virus”. Further, “These applications include online services like Efile, Netfile, and My Account. Mr. Dorais said that he instructed that this preventative measure be taken following indications that CRA computer systems have run into infrastructure problems. In order to safeguard existing systems and to maintain the integrity of CRA’s taxpayer information holdings, Mr Dorais ordered tax filing processes halted.”

An article in The Globe and Mail [6] states that taxpayers “can wait for Netfile to return to service, or they can print their returns and mail them to the CRA”, which will be processed when the computer glitch is resolved.

The deadline for Canadians to submit tax returns is April 30. The CRA indicates it is too soon to speculate on whether the filing deadline will be extended. They expect to restore all services, including EFile and Netfile, well in advance of the filing deadline.[7]

The shutdown also affects third-party companies that prepare tax returns and electronically file the data using the EFile facility on behalf of clients. According to the CRA, millions of individual Canadians use the Netfile service each year.

The Agency will provide updates daily to the media until the situation is resolved.

German intelligence participated in U.S. bombing of Iraq, media alleges

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German intelligence participated in U.S. bombing of Iraq, media alleges

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) helped the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, ARD‘s Panorama magazine and the Los Angeles Times concordantly reported on Thursday.

According to their information, two agents of the BND stayed in Baghdad during the war even after the German embassy was evacuated on March 17, 2003. A former “high-ranking official” in the U.S. Department of Defense told Panorama that the agents helped to track down targets throughout the Iraqi capital for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as they didn’t have enough reliable sources in Baghdad. A BND official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that there was “no dumbness between the BND and DIA” during that time and that it was part of the BND’s “job” in Iraq to identify “non targets” like hospitals or embassies. He said this was authorized by the chancellor’s office.

The Pentagon informant of Panorama however said that the German agents were much more involved. A common saying during the war was supposedly: “Do we have anything from the Germans?” According to him, they drove to a restaurant in Mansur district of Baghdad on April 6th where Saddam Hussein was assumed to be dining. The BND agents reported back to the DIA that many Mercedes cars were parking there. As those cars were presumed to be of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military conducted an air strike on the location. Hussein escaped, but twelve civilians were killed.

The BND confirmed that two of its agents operated in Iraq during the war but denied all other reports. A spokesperson told Panorama that it’s agency “did not provide target information or target coordinates to the warfaring parties.” The intelligence committee of the Bundestag exculpated the BND. Its chair Norbert Röttgen said that the in secret sitting committee, controlled by government parties, concluded with two-third majority that there are no indications that the agents aided the U.S. in selecting targets.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the accusations “schizophrenic” while opposition parties are demanding an parliamentary investigation committee. And during a visit of German chancellor Merkel to the White House, U.S. president Bush said in a response to a reporter’s question whether he knew anything about the allegations: “The truth of the matter is, the Chancellor brought this up this morning. I had no idea what she was talking about. The first I heard of it was this morning, truthfully”.

Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship

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Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two more vessels have been hijacked in Somalia. Pirates have captured an Indonesian tugboat with a barge that was working for French oil firm Total and a Turkish container ship.

The Turkish vessel’s seizure was confirmed by a US Fifth Fleet spokesman. MV Bosphorus Prodigy is a 330 ft (100 m) container vessel flagged in Antigua and Barbuda. It is owned and operated by Isko Marine Company based in Istanbul.

The Fifth Fleet could not confirm the tugboat’s seizure, but an anonymous official with Total in Yemen could. He explained the boat and barge were headed to Malaysia from the Yemeni port of Mukalla. He said the crew consisted of both Indonesians and other nationalities, and that the vessels, which had been hired by a subcontractor, were not carrying any oil at the time.

The new hijackings came as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime asked for greater policing in the area by international bodies, and for the signing of agreements that allowed the arresting officer to take pirates back to the officer’s country for prosecution.

“Pirates cannot be keelhauled or forced to walk the plank, nor should they be dumped off the Somali coast,” said the office’s head Antonio Maria Costa. “They need to be brought to justice”.

Scottish prosecutors keeping quiet about Lanarkshire surgical deaths

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Scottish prosecutors keeping quiet about Lanarkshire surgical deaths
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crown Office are staying quiet about possible prosecutions after an inquiry found medical failures caused three deaths at NHS Lanarkshire.

In response to a specific question as to the possibility of prosecutions, a Crown Office spokesperson told Wikinews today that “The three deaths were fully investigated by the Procurator Fiscal and reported to Crown Counsel [laywers] to consider. Crown Counsel concluded that, given the facts and circumstances of the deaths, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) was the appropriate forum to consider the circumstances of the deaths.” It was further noted that “[a] FAI cannot make any findings of fault/blame against individuals.”

However, Crown Office did not specifically rule out prosecutions for offences such as cuplable homicide despite the spokesperson noting this was a direct response to such a question. They also declined to comment on National Health Service care as “it would not be appropriate to comment on the provision of NHS services” and entirely ignored questions about Crown Office satisfaction in the inquiry’s outcome and the length of time it took to reach a conclusion. The inquiry wrapped up last week but the deaths were in 2006.

Agnes Nicol, George Johnstone, and Andrew Ritchie died within a three-month period following keyhole surgery to remove their gall bladders.

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 apologised and said improvements had been made regarding “these types of cases” as well as with document management. Wikinews got in touch seeking details of the changes made but the health trust failed to respond.

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‘Top Model’ winner CariDee English on her modeling career and her battle with psoriasis

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‘Top Model’ winner CariDee English on her modeling career and her battle with psoriasis
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Since winning the reality television series America’s Next Top Model in December 2006, CariDee English, a small-town girl from Fargo, North Dakota, was plucked from relative obscurity to be the new look for CoverGirl Cosmetics, the newest fresh face on the cover of Seventeen, and affiliated with the largest modeling agency in the world, Elite Model Management.

However, she feels her greatest accomplishment is being the spokeswoman for the National Psoriasis Foundation, in which she is a motivational speaker and gives encouragement to psoriasis sufferers. CariDee has even lobbied in Congress for the passage of a bill which would ask the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute of Medicine to increase spending on finding a cure for psoriasis. You can read more about her role with the National Psoriasis Foundation here.

Wikinews reporter Mike Halterman sat down and talked with CariDee earlier in the week to discuss her own issues with psoriasis, how she has helped other sufferers in her role as spokeswoman for the Foundation, as well as what it’s like to be a new model in New York City and her thoughts on how the fashion industry operates today.

This is the second in a series of articles with America’s Next Top Model contestants. Articles will be published sporadically.

Contents

  • 1 Intro and her Super Bowl pick
  • 2 From North Dakota to the big city
  • 3 On representing the National Psoriasis Foundation
  • 4 On her former photography work
  • 5 Top Model and her modeling career
  • 6 Looking back and what’s coming next
  • 7 Source
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BBC support song making chart impact

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BBC support song making chart impact
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A song released yesterday in support of the BBC is making an impact on several UK music charts.

Stand-up comic Mitch Benn wrote I’m Proud of the BBC in response to the criticism the licence fee-funded corporation has received from its commercial competitors and the right-wing press. The Conservative-led coalition government announced two weeks ago that the licence fee is to be frozen for six years, and that the BBC will take over responsibility from the Foreign Office for funding the World Service.

You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service.

The song, loosely inspired by Billy Joel, lists many of the BBC’s achievements. Benn, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s satirical programme The Now Show, decided to release I’m Proud of the BBC as a single after realising that it was provoking emotional responses from audiences during his nationwide tour. He told BBC Radio 5 Live that the song was receiving standing ovations, and people were wiping away tears. A video was filmed last month outside of Broadcasting House, White City and Television Centre with a cast of volunteers recruited from the social networking site Twitter.

The song was officially released as a ‘download-only’ track on Monday. Yesterday’s charts reveal that it has reached pole position on Amazon’s rock chart, and is listed as the 14th most downloaded track overall. iTunes listed it as the 64th most downloaded song. Fans have created two Facebook groups to promote the single in an attempt to get it to a good position in the UK Singles Chart, which would force the BBC’s commercial rivals to play the track.

Benn says that he has always been a supporter of the BBC, and yesterday compared it to the emergency services. “You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service.” He points out that he only receives a small percentage of his income from the corporation; last night he played with his band The Distractions at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.

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‘Aviator,’ ‘Baby’ dominate 2005 Academy Awards

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‘Aviator,’ ‘Baby’ dominate 2005 Academy Awards
By | Posted in Uncategorized

Monday, February 28, 2005File:Oscar icon by reiartur.png

The 77th Annual Academy Awards were held on February 27th, 2005 and broadcast live across the world. Some of the more poignant moments included a tribute to Johnny Carson, frequent host of the Awards, as well as a video tribute to many people involved in the movie industry who died in the past year, including Rodney Dangerfield, Ossie Davis, Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, and Ronald Reagan, set to the music of Yo Yo Ma.

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