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December 12, 2008

Zoo elephants live shorter lives than their wild counterparts, report warns

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Zoo elephants live shorter lives than their wild counterparts, report warns

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Friday, December 12, 2008

An elephant at a zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia
Image: rugbyxm.

A recently released report has found that elephants living in protected environments in their natural habitats live significantly longer lives than elephants kept in zoos.

The report focused on Elephants in European zoos, and it stated that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability.” Georgia J. Mason, who lead the study, also stated that zoos do not need to abandon the idea of keeping elephants in captivity, although he did recommend that imports of the animal should only occur in zoos which have a track record of successfully addressing issues in elephant’s health, and have a productive breeding programme.

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“Currently zoos are consumers rather than producers of elephants,” added Mason. “We feel that’s not really appropriate.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums criticised the findings. The organisation’s senior vice president for conservation and education, Paul Boyle, described the research as “terribly flawed.”

Boyle also stated that he did not remember any time when elephants were brought into the US for zoos. “I cannot speak for other countries,” he added “but that [the statement that elephants are imported for zoos] is not true of the United States.”

The researchers for the report were from organisations including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the University of Guelph.



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Wikinews Shorts: December 12, 2008

Wikinews Shorts: December 12, 2008 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: December 12, 2008

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A compilation of brief news reports for Friday, December 12, 2008.

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Bank of America to cut 30,000 jobs

Bank of America logo

Bank of America has announced that it is planning to cut anywhere between 30,000 and 35,000 jobs over the next three years. This comes after the completion of its takeover of the company Merril Lynch.

The job reductions could affect around 11% of the combined workforce of both companies, which amounts to about 308,000 people. The cuts are aimed at saving US$7 billion of annual costs.

Sources


African Union troops to leave Somalia

Location of Somalia

Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, has told the parliament that African Union (AU) peacekeepers stationed in the east African country of Somalia want to leave the country by the end of the year.

They have requested that Ethiopian troops that are planning to leave the country at the end of the year to help them withdraw from Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu. There are some 3,200 troops from Uganda and Burundi covering sites in that city.

The withdrawal of the armed forces, however, could leave the area vulnerable to an insugent assault.

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Boeing delays launch of 787 once again

A Boeing 787 at a roll-out ceremony

The aeroplane manufacturer Boeing has announced that there will be another delay in the launch of its 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft. The postponement has been blamed on production problems and strikes by machinists.

The aeroplane’s first flight has been put off until the second quarter of 2009, and will not start shipping until a year later. This is the 787’s fourth delay, and the aircraft is already two years behind schedule.

Boeing suggests that its financial outlook for 2009 will affected by the postponement.

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US automaker bailout deal fails to pass Senate

US automaker bailout deal fails to pass Senate

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Friday, December 12, 2008

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A US$14 billion bailout package deal for the “Big Three” United States automakers — Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors — has been rejected in the United States Senate after failing a procedural vote.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. Image: U.S. Senate.

The bill was rejected after bipartisan discussions on the bailout broke down when Republican Party leaders insisted that the United Auto Workers (UAW) union agree to increase wage cuts by next year in order to bring their pay into line with those of Japanese automobile companies in the United States. The UAW refused to meet the demands.

The final vote count in the Senate was 52-35, eight short of the 60 needed to pass. Only ten Republicans joined forty Democrats and two independents in voting for the bill. Three Democrats voted with thirty-one Republicans against it.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said that he was “terribly disappointed” by the failure of the bill to pass. “I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It’s not going to be a pleasant sight,” Reid said. “Millions of Americans, not only the auto workers but people who sell cars, car dealerships, people who work on cars are going to be directly impacted and affected.”

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Republican Senator Bob Corker was also unhappy about the rejection. “We were about three words away from a deal. We solved everything substantively and about three words keep us from reaching a conclusion,” he said.

Some Democrats now want U.S. President Bush to reserve a portion of the $700 billion bailout package earmarked for Wall Street to assist the flagging car industry.

Stock markets worldwide fell dramatically on the news, with Japan’s Nikkei average losing 484.68 points, or 5.6 percent, reaching a level of 8253.87 points. Shares in the auto companies Toyota, Nissan and Honda all dropped by no less than 10 percent apiece. European stocks, such as those in the United Kingdom and Germany, also lost ground, with the FTSE-100 index of leading shares falling 176.3 points to a level of 4,211 at midday.



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Mugabe declares Zimbabwe cholera crisis under control

Mugabe declares Zimbabwe cholera crisis under control

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Robert Mugabe at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January 2008

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Robert Mugabe, the President of the African country of Zimbabwe, denied reports that the country is suffering from a cholera outbreak, saying that doctors have curbed the epidemic. “I am happy to say our doctors are being assisted by others and the WHO [World Health Organisation] have now arrested cholera,” he said in a nationally televised address on Thursday, in response to recent calls for Mugabe to step down from office.

The Save the Children organisation said, on the other hand, that “if anything is certain in the chaos of Zimbabwe today, it is that the cholera outbreak is not under control.”

President Mugabe accused Western powers of using the cholera outbreak as an excuse to seek his overthrow. “Because of cholera, Mr Brown, Mr Sarkozy and Mr Bush want military intervention,” Mugabe said. “Let’s tell them that the cholera cause doesn’t exist any more.”

“Shall we also say that [because] there is mad cow disease, there must be war, Britain must be invaded. Mr. Brown, your head must go for some medical correction,” he added in Thursday’s televised speech.

Mugabe’s statement comes in the midst of one of the worst cholera epidemics in the recent history of Zimbabwe that saw over 16,000 cases reported and almost 800 people dead.



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Market maker Bernard L. Madoff arrested in $50B \’giant Ponzi scheme\’

Market maker Bernard L. Madoff arrested in $50B ‘giant Ponzi scheme’

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Correction — January 10, 2009
 
This article incorrectly states that Mr Madoff attended Hofstra University Law School. His education was actually with Hofstra College, which he graduated from in 1960.
 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crime and law
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Top broker and Wall Street adviser Bernard L. Madoff, aged 70, was arrested and charged by the FBI on Thursday with a single count of securities fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud. He allegedly told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that his $50 billion business “is all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme (since at least 2005).” Mr. Madoff faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5 million. FBI agent Theodore Cacioppi said Mr. Madoff’s investment advisory business had “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in investors’ losses of approximately $50 billion dollars.”

The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market is also the founder and primary owner of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he launched in 1960. The firm is one of the top market maker firms on Wall Street. He founded his family firm with an initial investment of $5,000, after attending Hofstra University Law School. He saved the money earned from a job lifeguarding at Rockaway Beach in Queens and a part time job installing underground sprinkler systems.

A force in Wall Street trading for nearly 50 years, he has been active in the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), a self-regulatory organization for the U.S. securities industry. His firm was one of the five most active firms in the development of the NASDAQ, having been known for “paying for order flow,” in other word paying a broker to execute a customer’s order through Madoff. He argued that the payment to the broker did not alter the price that the customer received. He ran the investment advisory as a secretive business, however.

Dan Horwitz, counsel of Mr. Madoff, in an interview, said that “he is a longstanding leader in the financial-services industry with an unblemished record; he is a person of integrity; he intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event.” Mr. Madoff was released on his own recognizance on the same day of his arrest, after his 2 sons turned him in, and posting $10 million bail secured by his Manhattan apartment. Without entering any plea, the Court set the preliminary hearing for January 12.

Madoff’s hedge fund scheme may rank among the biggest fraud in history. When former energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, one of the largest at the time, it had $63.4 billion in assets. The scheme would dwarf past Ponzis, and it would further be nearly five times the telecommunication company WorldCom fraud and bankruptcy proceedings in 2002.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a separate civil suit on Thursday against Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and its eponymous founder Mr. Madoff. It was docketed as “U.S. v. Madoff,” 08-MAG-02735, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). SEC, New York associate director of enforcement, Andrew M. Calamari, asked the judge to issue seizure orders on the firm and its assets, and appoint a receiver. The SEC pleads, among others, that “it was an ongoing $50 billion swindle; our complaint alleges a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions.” It further accused the defendant of “paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other, different investors” for years. Madoff’s hedge fund business had previously claimed to have served between 11 and 25 clients and had $17.1 billion in assets under management. But virtually all of the assets were missing.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Louis L. Stanton on Thursday appointed Lee Richards, a Manhattan lawyer, as the firm’s receiver. A hearing is set for Friday, for a ruling on the SEC’s petition to grant plenary powers to the receiver over the entire firm, and an absolute asset sequestration.

Doug Kass, president of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management said that “this is a major blow to confidence that is already shattered — anyone on the fence will probably try to take their money out.”



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German internet watchdog to remove URLs to \’Virgin Killer\’ from search engines

German internet watchdog to remove URLs to ‘Virgin Killer’ from search engines

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Internet
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Friday, December 12, 2008

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

Wikinews has learned that a German Internet watchdog group is planning on removing the album cover of a German rock band album called Virgin Killer from search engines, just four days after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), in the United Kingdom, blocked access to it on the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Wikipedia, along with Wikinews, are owned by the Wikimedia Foundation.

The German association for voluntary self-regulation in online media (FSM) asked the Federal Inspectorate for young people media (BPjM) on December 9, to remove URLs to the album cover from Germany’s search engines. The action appears to be in direct response to the Wikipedia article and image blockage by the IWF on December 7. According to their website, the BPjM’s goal is to “protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media which might contain harmful or dangerous content”, pursuant to Germany’s Youth Protection Act. The protection act regulates the distribution of harmful materials to minors. According to German press reports, the FSM received complaints and concerns that the image could be considered child pornography and pose a danger to minors.

The Virgin Killer album cover is from the 1976 German rock band Scorpions. It depicts a girl who appears to be around 10 to 12-years old, posing nude, with a lens crack crossing over her genitals, but nothing blocking out her breasts. It first appeared on the band’s album over thirty years ago, and Klaus Meine, the lead singer for Scorpions, recently said that they regret having made the cover. It was later replaced with a photo of the band.

Despite the complaint, the FSM does not believe the album cover is actually child pornography, but says the dissemination of images of underage children as appears on the album cover, is “forbidden” in Germany.

“The picture shows the girl in an unnatural ‘pose’, and a such depiction is prohibited according to the German Youth Media Protection Law,” said Maja Winter to Wikinews in an exclusive statement.

The URLs to the album cover will be blocked from being displayed or searched in search results in the German search engine service, which according to Winter “are members of the FSM”. Winter also added that internet users in Germany will not be blocked from accessing the image.

1976 album cover for Scorpions which previously appeared on Amazon.com, and many other sites.
Image: RCA/Scorpions.

“The URL will thus still be online, but will not be searchable by the respective search engine services. The FSM is not planning nor developing nor implementing an internet filter on the access-level to block [the cover],” added Winter who also said that she had no information on previous complaints in the past 30 years. Winter also could not answer why the FSM decided to take such an action after so many years of the album cover being available and should contact the BPjM for more information. Despite the claim from the FSM, the BPjM said in a statement to Wikinews that they denied having any knowledge of any such attempt at removing URLs to the cover.

“The BPjM has no knowledge of any measures being taken to block the depiction of the album cover from German search engines,” said Petra Meier, a spokesperson for the BPjM to Wikinews. The spokesperson also added that there have been no complaints filed with the BPjM regarding the cover.

As first reported by Wikinews on December 7, British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implemented a monitoring and filtering mechanism that blocked access to the album cover and the album’s article on Wikipedia. The measures applied redirect traffic for a significant portion of the UK’s Internet population through six servers which can log and filter the content that is available to the end user. A serious side-effect of this is the inability of administrators on Wikimedia sites to block vandals and other troublemakers without potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of innocent contributors who are working on the sites in good faith. The IWF said that the image could “contain illegal” material, but on December 9, reversed their decision and unblocked the image and article.

“The Protection of Children Act 1978 as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, makes it an offence to take, make, permit to be taken, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, and advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18. The ‘making’ of such images includes downloading, that is, making a copy of a child sexual abuse image on a computer, so, in the UK, accessing such content online is a serious criminal offence,” said the IWF in a statement on their website on December 7. Despite this, Mike Godwin, the legal counsel for Wikimedia said on December 9 that the image does not appear to be illegal anywhere in the world.

“We recognize the good intentions of Internet watch groups, including their focus on blocking and discouraging illegal content. Nevertheless, this incident underscores the need for transparency and accountability in the processes of the Internet Watch Foundation and similar bodies around the world,” said the legal counsel for Wikimedia, Mike Godwin. On December 8, Godwin stated that there is “no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world.”



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FIA lays out cost cutting measures for Formula One

FIA lays out cost cutting measures for Formula One

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Friday, December 12, 2008

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Image: Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has revealed the details of the cost-cutting measures for Formula One that were agreed on Wednesday in talks with the teams. The new measures are expected to save the manufacturer teams at least 30 percent of their budgets next season, with the savings increasing as more of the measures are introduced in the future. The raft of agreements has saved the teams from the threat of standardised engines until at least 2013 and savings for independent teams are predicted by the FIA to be even higher.

For next season the engines will now have to last 3 races, rather than thee current 2 race requirement, and each driver is allowed up to 8 engines throughout the year and the team is allowed a further 4 for testing. Engines will now be rev limited to 18,000 rpm and Renault managed to obtain agreement from the other teams for modifications of its engine to bring it into line with the other engines in the sport. Testing will be affected, with in season testing banned and wind tunnels not to exceed 6:10 scale or 50 metres per second. Teams will be expected to share fuel and tyre data at grand prix in an effort to save on the manpower requirement at the race weekends. The teams will also have to close their factories for 6 weeks a year. The FIA will also be conducting research into the possibility of using a medal system for F1 next season, an idea championed by Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of Formula One Management.

Starting in 2010 more changes will come into force, with the introduction of the cheaper engines being made available to independent teams, costing less than €5 million per season. Any contracts for the cheaper 2010 engines will have to be signed by the 20th of December, 2008. Another engine freeze will occur at the start of the 2010 season, with the engines from 2010 continuing through to the end of 2012. The FIA also intends to try to introduce standardised transmission systems in 2010 and will look at chassis design to determine which aerodynamic parts will be standardised or allowed to be competitive differentiators. Races will see more changes in 2010 with the use of tyre warmers and refuelling banned, and the possibility of shorter race distances has been put forward pending market research. What work the teams can engage in at the factories will also be further limited this season to reduce the manpower and other running costs.

The FIA has raised the possibility of a new power train entirely to be developed for the 2013 season, in consultation with the Formula One Teams Association, and will also discuss making Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) compulsory from 2010. KERS, which is being introduced as a voluntary measure in 2009, has divided the teams with some embracing the technology while others, such as Ferrari, have criticised it.



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Human remains in mass grave confirm Argentina secret death camp

Human remains in mass grave confirm Argentina secret death camp

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Argentina
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File:Parque de la Memoria – Buenos Aires – Dennis Oppenheim – Monumento al escape.jpg

Memory Park – Buenos Aires Dennis Oppenheim‘s Monument to the Escape was dedicated in October 2006. It is a memorial to the victims of the military regime during the Argentine Dirty War, a period of Argentinian state-sponsored violence from 1976 to 1983.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

During a seven-month search, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) on Tuesday, confirmed more than 10,000 charred human bone fragments were unearthed between February and September, in a pit at Pozo de Arana, a former La Plata, Argentina secret government detention center. The Arana prison or police station was used to torture prisoners during the so-called Argentina “Dirty War,” and was one of 300 used to interrogate Argentine prisoners.

The war refers to the state-sponsored violence against Argentine citizenry from roughly 1976 to 1983 carried out primarily by Jorge Rafael Videla‘s military government. The exact chronology of the repression is still debated, as trade unionists were targeted for assassination as early as 1973. Isabel Martínez de Perón‘s “annihilation decrees” of 1975, during Operativo Independencia, have also been suggested as the origin of The Dirty War.

The official record reveals that up to 13,000 people disappeared, while 30,000 were killed during this time. Argentine security forces and death squads worked hand in hand with other South American dictatorships in the frame of Operation Condor. An Argentine court would later condemn the government’s crimes as crimes against humanity and “genocide“.

EAAF president and forensic scientist Luis Fondebrider said that “in 25 years of searching, this was the first time that human remains were found at a former detention cente; the magnitude of what the team has found where the Clandestine Center of Arana was located, merits that sometimes they show partial results.” He further noted that “the bodies had been burned inside graves along with tires, combustibles and other material; and the possibilities of identifying some of these remains is low because of the state they are in.” Fondebrider concluded that “this scientifically confirms the testimonies of the detained, the hundreds of survivors who have said for years that authorities tortured, killed and burned the bodies of political opponents.”

The anthropological discovery further reveals that a wall with more than 200 bullet marks or holes and an “important quantity” of used ammunition shells on the ground nearby, were found adjacent the mass pit grave. As evidence of executions, they were marked with red paint by forensic scientists. The team, however, failed to determine how many bodies the fragments represented.

File:Que digan dónde estan.jpg
Poster by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo NGO with photos of the disappeared.

Maria Vedio, 47, legal chairwoman for the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights La Plata said that ” this is the first time there is proof that Arana wasn’t only a detention and torture center, but also a center of elimination.”

Sara Derotier de Cobacho, secretary of human rights for Buenos Aires said, “I ask the forgiveness of family members, because I can imagine what the mothers and all who are gathered here will feel, but what we are about to show is not to detail the genocide but so that we have proof for the trials that are to come; but let us not forget, that behind every clandestine center there were the names of the repressors. … so it is very important for all citizens to know those names; we are looking for the truth so we can attain justice and construct, from there, the memory of our 30,000 ‘desaparecidos’.”

Some of those responsible for the mass killings have been charged and meted life or death sentences. They include Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz, a senior Argentine police officer, who worked in the Buenos Aires Provincial Police during the first years of the military dictatorship known as the National Reorganization Process. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006, on charges of homicide, kidnapping, and torture. The tribunal, besides handing the sentence, stated that Etchecolatz’s committed “crimes against humanity in the context of the genocide that took place in Argentina”. But the principal complainant, who was detained at Arana, has since disappeared.



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German internet watchdog to remove URLs to ‘Virgin Killer’ from search engines

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Friday, December 12, 2008

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

Wikinews has learned that a German Internet watchdog group is planning on removing the album cover of a German rock band album called Virgin Killer from search engines, just four days after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), in the United Kingdom, blocked access to it on the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Wikipedia, along with Wikinews, are owned by the Wikimedia Foundation.

The German association for voluntary self-regulation in online media (FSM) asked the Federal Inspectorate for young people media (BPjM) on December 9, to remove URLs to the album cover from Germany’s search engines. The action appears to be in direct response to the Wikipedia article and image blockage by the IWF on December 7. According to their website, the BPjM’s goal is to “protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media which might contain harmful or dangerous content”, pursuant to Germany’s Youth Protection Act. The protection act regulates the distribution of harmful materials to minors. According to German press reports, the FSM received complaints and concerns that the image could be considered child pornography and pose a danger to minors.

The Virgin Killer album cover is from the 1976 German rock band Scorpions. It depicts a girl who appears to be around 10 to 12-years old, posing nude, with a lens crack crossing over her genitals, but nothing blocking out her breasts. It first appeared on the band’s album over thirty years ago, and Klaus Meine, the lead singer for Scorpions, recently said that they regret having made the cover. It was later replaced with a photo of the band.

Despite the complaint, the FSM does not believe the album cover is actually child pornography, but says the dissemination of images of underage children as appears on the album cover, is “forbidden” in Germany.

“The picture shows the girl in an unnatural ‘pose’, and a such depiction is prohibited according to the German Youth Media Protection Law,” said Maja Winter to Wikinews in an exclusive statement.

The URLs to the album cover will be blocked from being displayed or searched in search results in the German search engine service, which according to Winter “are members of the FSM”. Winter also added that internet users in Germany will not be blocked from accessing the image.

1976 album cover for Scorpions which previously appeared on Amazon.com, and many other sites.
Image: RCA/Scorpions.

“The URL will thus still be online, but will not be searchable by the respective search engine services. The FSM is not planning nor developing nor implementing an internet filter on the access-level to block [the cover],” added Winter who also said that she had no information on previous complaints in the past 30 years. Winter also could not answer why the FSM decided to take such an action after so many years of the album cover being available and should contact the BPjM for more information. Despite the claim from the FSM, the BPjM said in a statement to Wikinews that they denied having any knowledge of any such attempt at removing URLs to the cover.

“The BPjM has no knowledge of any measures being taken to block the depiction of the album cover from German search engines,” said Petra Meier, a spokesperson for the BPjM to Wikinews. The spokesperson also added that there have been no complaints filed with the BPjM regarding the cover.

As first reported by Wikinews on December 7, British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implemented a monitoring and filtering mechanism that blocked access to the album cover and the album’s article on Wikipedia. The measures applied redirect traffic for a significant portion of the UK’s Internet population through six servers which can log and filter the content that is available to the end user. A serious side-effect of this is the inability of administrators on Wikimedia sites to block vandals and other troublemakers without potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of innocent contributors who are working on the sites in good faith. The IWF said that the image could “contain illegal” material, but on December 9, reversed their decision and unblocked the image and article.

“The Protection of Children Act 1978 as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, makes it an offence to take, make, permit to be taken, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, and advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18. The ‘making’ of such images includes downloading, that is, making a copy of a child sexual abuse image on a computer, so, in the UK, accessing such content online is a serious criminal offence,” said the IWF in a statement on their website on December 7. Despite this, Mike Godwin, the legal counsel for Wikimedia said on December 9 that the image does not appear to be illegal anywhere in the world.

“We recognize the good intentions of Internet watch groups, including their focus on blocking and discouraging illegal content. Nevertheless, this incident underscores the need for transparency and accountability in the processes of the Internet Watch Foundation and similar bodies around the world,” said the legal counsel for Wikimedia, Mike Godwin. On December 8, Godwin stated that there is “no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world.”


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Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive report features first-hand journalism by one or more Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikipedia
Learn more about The Federal Inspectorate for young people media (BPjM) and the Youth Protection Act in German, on Wikipedia.
  • “Wirbel um nacktes Mädchen auf Scorpions-Album”. Bild.de, December 10, 2008 ((German))
  • “Scorpions: Plattencover “Virgin Killer” auch in Deutschland auf dem Index?”. HAZ.de, December 9, 2008 ((German))
  • “UK ISP’s Say No To 30-Year-Old Scorpions Album Cover”. That Happened!, December 9, 2008
  • “Indizierung des Scorpions-Albumcovers “Virgin Killer” soll geprüft werden”. Heise Online, December 9, 2008 ((German))
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

German internet watchdog to remove URLs to ‘Virgin Killer’ from search engines

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Friday, December 12, 2008

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

Wikinews has learned that a German Internet watchdog group is planning on removing the album cover of a German rock band album called Virgin Killer from search engines, just four days after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), in the United Kingdom, blocked access to it on the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Wikipedia, along with Wikinews, are owned by the Wikimedia Foundation.

The German association for voluntary self-regulation in online media (FSM) asked the Federal Inspectorate for young people media (BPjM) on December 9, to remove URLs to the album cover from Germany’s search engines. The action appears to be in direct response to the Wikipedia article and image blockage by the IWF on December 7. According to their website, the BPjM’s goal is to “protect children and adolescents in Germany from any media which might contain harmful or dangerous content”, pursuant to Germany’s Youth Protection Act. The protection act regulates the distribution of harmful materials to minors. According to German press reports, the FSM received complaints and concerns that the image could be considered child pornography and pose a danger to minors.

The Virgin Killer album cover is from the 1976 German rock band Scorpions. It depicts a girl who appears to be around 10 to 12-years old, posing nude, with a lens crack crossing over her genitals, but nothing blocking out her breasts. It first appeared on the band’s album over thirty years ago, and Klaus Meine, the lead singer for Scorpions, recently said that they regret having made the cover. It was later replaced with a photo of the band.

Despite the complaint, the FSM does not believe the album cover is actually child pornography, but says the dissemination of images of underage children as appears on the album cover, is “forbidden” in Germany.

“The picture shows the girl in an unnatural ‘pose’, and a such depiction is prohibited according to the German Youth Media Protection Law,” said Maja Winter to Wikinews in an exclusive statement.

The URLs to the album cover will be blocked from being displayed or searched in search results in the German search engine service, which according to Winter “are members of the FSM”. Winter also added that internet users in Germany will not be blocked from accessing the image.

1976 album cover for Scorpions which previously appeared on Amazon.com, and many other sites.
Image: RCA/Scorpions.

“The URL will thus still be online, but will not be searchable by the respective search engine services. The FSM is not planning nor developing nor implementing an internet filter on the access-level to block [the cover],” added Winter who also said that she had no information on previous complaints in the past 30 years. Winter also could not answer why the FSM decided to take such an action after so many years of the album cover being available and should contact the BPjM for more information. Despite the claim from the FSM, the BPjM said in a statement to Wikinews that they denied having any knowledge of any such attempt at removing URLs to the cover.

“The BPjM has no knowledge of any measures being taken to block the depiction of the album cover from German search engines,” said Petra Meier, a spokesperson for the BPjM to Wikinews. The spokesperson also added that there have been no complaints filed with the BPjM regarding the cover.

As first reported by Wikinews on December 7, British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implemented a monitoring and filtering mechanism that blocked access to the album cover and the album’s article on Wikipedia. The measures applied redirect traffic for a significant portion of the UK’s Internet population through six servers which can log and filter the content that is available to the end user. A serious side-effect of this is the inability of administrators on Wikimedia sites to block vandals and other troublemakers without potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of innocent contributors who are working on the sites in good faith. The IWF said that the image could “contain illegal” material, but on December 9, reversed their decision and unblocked the image and article.

“The Protection of Children Act 1978 as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, makes it an offence to take, make, permit to be taken, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, and advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18. The ‘making’ of such images includes downloading, that is, making a copy of a child sexual abuse image on a computer, so, in the UK, accessing such content online is a serious criminal offence,” said the IWF in a statement on their website on December 7. Despite this, Mike Godwin, the legal counsel for Wikimedia said on December 9 that the image does not appear to be illegal anywhere in the world.

“We recognize the good intentions of Internet watch groups, including their focus on blocking and discouraging illegal content. Nevertheless, this incident underscores the need for transparency and accountability in the processes of the Internet Watch Foundation and similar bodies around the world,” said the legal counsel for Wikimedia, Mike Godwin. On December 8, Godwin stated that there is “no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world.”


Related news

Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive report features first-hand journalism by one or more Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikipedia
Learn more about The Federal Inspectorate for young people media (BPjM) and the Youth Protection Act in German, on Wikipedia.
  • “Wirbel um nacktes Mädchen auf Scorpions-Album”. Bild.de, December 10, 2008 ((German))
  • “Scorpions: Plattencover “Virgin Killer” auch in Deutschland auf dem Index?”. HAZ.de, December 9, 2008 ((German))
  • “UK ISP’s Say No To 30-Year-Old Scorpions Album Cover”. That Happened!, December 9, 2008
  • “Indizierung des Scorpions-Albumcovers “Virgin Killer” soll geprüft werden”. Heise Online, December 9, 2008 ((German))
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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