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October 19, 2009

Zimababwe Zanu-PF party dismisses Tsvangirai unity boycott

Zimababwe Zanu-PF party dismisses Tsvangirai unity boycott

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF party has said that government business will continue despite the opposition party’s decision to stop working with its unity government partner. A spokesman for president Robert Mugabe dismissed the boycott by the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai as “needless excitement”.

Morgan Tsvangirai (2009)
Image: Harry Wad.

Tsvangirai and his party had pulled out of the coalition government on Friday, saying that Mugabe had been “dishonest and unreliable”.

Spokesman George Charamba said to the Sunday Mail newspaper that “the MDC-T has disengaged from nothing. It’s sound and fury signifying nothing. The MDC-T president knows that. It’s a poor protest,” he said.

Charamba said that Mugabe has been too busy with ceremonial duties to react to Tsvangirai’s boycott. “I suppose the president will find time when the right time comes,” he said.

The Sunday Mail quoted Charamba as saying that a cabinet meeting will go ahead as scheduled on Tuesday and that binding decisions will be made despite the MDC boycott. “As you will certainly see on Tuesday, cabinet will be held. The agenda for the meeting has been circulated and decisions that are binding will be taken. Remember, cabinet does not function through a quorum.”

Cquote1.svg As you will certainly see on Tuesday, cabinet will be held. Cquote2.svg

—George Charamba

Tensions between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the MDC have been constant since the unity government was formed early this year. Regional leaders pressured the parties to share power after last year’s disputed and violence-plagued elections.

The latest crisis was sparked by the re-detention of Roy Bennett, a white farmer who the MDC has nominated to be deputy minister of agriculture. Bennett is awaiting trial on terrorism charges, and already spent a month in prison earlier this year before being released on bail. The MDC has said that he is innocent.

Tsvangirai said on Friday that if the political crisis escalates further, the only solution would be to hold new elections under international supervision.



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Whitney Houston has \’wardrobe malfunction\’ during UK debut on TV show \’X Factor\’

Whitney Houston has ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during UK debut on TV show ‘X Factor’

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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American singer Whitney Houston’s debut performance in the United Kingdom didn’t go exactly to plan on Sunday night, causing a bit of controversy.

Dermot O’Leary in 2009
Image: Dalejenkins.

Cquote1.svg I sang right out of my dress. Cquote2.svg

—Whitney Houston

During her performance of her new single Million dollar Bill on the UK television show The X Factor Sunday evening, she experienced a ‘wardrobe malfunction’. The strap on her back, holding her dress together, suddenly snapped off about midway through her performance. She also had a difficult time walking and dancing on the stage, as her dress appeared to be too long. Houston carried on and at no time stopped the performance.

“I sang right out of my dress,” Houston said after her performance to the show’s host Dermot O’Leary.

X Factor fans began to complain on the show’s website as a result of the interview with O’Leary. Some accused Houston of being on drugs, because of her shaky voice while being interviewed. Other fans called her performance “a waste of talent” and disappointing. However, other fans criticized those who made the comments telling them to “put the past behind” them.

Houston has not responded to the accusations. It has been over a decade since Houston last performed in the UK.



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US free speech lawyer Marc Randazza discusses Glenn Beck parody

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US free speech lawyer Marc Randazza discusses Glenn Beck parody

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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Wikinews interviewed US free speech lawyer Marc Randazza, on his defense of a parody website which satirizes American political commentator Glenn Beck. Florida resident Isaac Eiland-Hall created the website in September, and it asserts Beck uses questionable tactics “to spread lies and misinformation”.

The case Beck v. Eiland-Hall is currently before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Wikinews previously reported on the case, in an article earlier this month, “US free speech lawyer defends satire of Glenn Beck”.

Background

The Eiland-Hall’s website is located at the domain “www.GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com”. Its premise is derived from a joke statement made by Gilbert Gottfried about fellow comedian Bob Saget.

Glenn Beck in 2009
Image: Mark87.

Users of the Internet discussion community Fark first applied the joke to Beck, and it then became popular on several social media sites.

Eiland-Hall saw the discussion on Fark, and created a website about it. The website asserts it does not believe the rumors to be true, commenting, “[b]ut we think Glenn Beck definitely uses tactics like this to spread lies and misinformation.” In an interview with Ars Technica, Eiland-Hall said the website was “using Beck’s tactics against him”. The website was created on September 1, and just two days later attorneys for Beck’s company Mercury Radio Arts took action. Beck’s lawyers sent letters to the domain name registrar where they referred to the domain name itself as “defamatory”, but failed to get the site removed.

Beck filed a formal complaint with the Switzerland-based agency of the United Nations, WIPO, who operate under regulations laid out by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Beck asserts the website’s usage is libelous, bad faith, and could befuddle potential consumers. Beck’s complaint was filed under the process called the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. This policy allows trademark owners to begin an administrative action by complaining that a certain domain registration is in “bad faith”. Beck argues the site should be shut down because it is an infringment upon his trademark in his own name, “Glenn Beck”.

WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (2004)
Image: Metatron.

Eiland-Hall retained Randazza as his attorney after receiving threatening letters from legal representatives of Beck. Randazza replied to WIPO on the 28th of last month, contending the site is “protected political speech”, due to it’s “satirical political humor”. Randazza stated, “[e]ven an imbecile would look at this Web site and know that it’s a parody.” In his legal brief, Randazza compared the website to other Internet memes, such as “All your base are belong to us” and video parodies of the German film Downfall.

“We are here because Mr. Beck wants [the] Respondent’s [web site owner] website shut down. He wants it shut down because Respondent’s website makes a poignant and accurate satirical critique of Mr. Beck by parodying Beck’s very rhetorical style,” Randazza states in the brief. Additional points in the brief comment on Beck’s style of reporting, and highlight a controversial statement made by him when interviewing a Muslim US Congressman. Beck said to Representative Keith Ellison, “I like Muslims, I’ve been to mosques. … And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” According to the Citizen Media Law Project, the website’s joke premise takes advantage of “a perceived similarity between Beck’s rhetorical style and the Gottfried routine”.

Randazza argues in the response filed on behalf of Eiland-Hall that Beck is using the process of the WIPO court to infringe the free speech rights of his client; “Beck is attempting to use this transnational body to circumvent and subvert the Respondent’s constitutional rights [to freedom of speech],” he wrote. Randazza cites the U.S. Supreme Court case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in arguing that Beck’s attorneys advised him against filing legal action in a U.S. court because the website would likely be seen as a form of parody and due to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, such legal action would not be successful.

On September 29, Randazza sent a request to Beck’s representatives, asking that their client agree to stipulate to the United States Constitution, and especially to the First Amendment, during the case before the WIPO. In the request, Randazza quotes a statement from Beck himself about the usage of international law by United States citizens, Beck said, “[o]nce we sign our rights over to international law, the Constitution is officially dead.” Randazza wrote in the request, “I am certain that neither party wishes to see First Amendment rights subordinated to international trademark principles, thus unwittingly proving Mr. Beck’s point. Lest this case become an example of international law causing damage to the constitutional rights that both of our clients hold dear, I respectfully request that your client agree to stipulate to the application of American constitutional law to this case.”

Commentators likened the legal conflict between Beck and the site to the Streisand effect, a phenomenon where an individual’s attempt to censor material on the Internet in turn proves to make the material itself more public. Techdirt remarked Beck should have ignored the website, and instead his attempts to take it down served to legitimize it. Gawker.com noted that media have written about the website because Beck attempted to shut it down, and Politics Daily observed that Beck’s legal action served to increase publicity for the site.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Prior to your involvement in the Beck v. Eiland-Hall case, what related legal experience have you had specifically related to the legal concepts of the case?

Marc Randazza: I am both a First Amendment lawyer and an intellectual property lawyer. I practice in these areas, write on those areas, and taught them at the law school level. Given that these are my areas of expertise, this case was directly in my strike zone.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Why did you agree to represent Isaac Eiland-Hall? What interested you about the case?

Cquote1.svg When one citizen’s constitutional rights are threatened, all of our rights are threatened, and I’m not letting that happen on my watch. Cquote2.svg

—Marc Randazza

MR: I took this case because of my sense of patriotism demanded it, as did my feelings about maintaining good karma. I became a First Amendment lawyer because I believe deeply in the Constitution. As my career has gone on, I’ve seen that often wealthy and powerful people are awfully thin skinned about criticism, and they use their money and power to attempt to silence “the little guy.” However, when that happens, the guy who gets pushed around suffers, but so do all of us. When one citizen’s constitutional rights are threatened, all of our rights are threatened, and I’m not letting that happen on my watch.

Isaac was being bullied, he was worried, and he couldn’t afford a lawyer. After we spoke, he seemed like the kind of client I would be proud to represent, so I agreed to handle his case.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In your response brief in the Beck v. Eiland-Hall case, you wrote, “Mr. Beck has all but begged to become the subject of a meme.” Are you familiar with the concept of the term the “Streisand effect”? How do you think the Streisand effect applies to this case and to Glenn Beck’s situation with regard to the Internet meme, and the website?

Cquote1.svg The one thing that breathed life into this meme was Mr. Beck’s reaction to it. Cquote2.svg

—Marc Randazza

MR: I am familiar with that concept. This case clearly proved that the effect exists and should be treated as a law of nature. Had Mr. Beck simply ignored this meme, it likely would have died out. Most internet memes die quickly. The one thing that breathed life into this meme was Mr. Beck’s reaction to it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You wrote in the conclusion to the Eiland-Hall response brief, “there can be only one purpose to filing this complaint: as an attempt to silence a critic because he doesn’t like being criticized.” Can you explain your argument that Beck’s legal actions are intended only to silence criticism?

MR: It seems very clear that this is not about trademark infringement. Trademark law serves to protect consumers from being confused as to the source or origin of goods. This isn’t a trademark infringement case. It is an attempt to litigate a defamation case in a forum that might not pay deference to the First Amendment.

Cquote1.svg This isn’t a trademark infringement case. It is an attempt to litigate a defamation case in a forum that might not pay deference to the First Amendment. Cquote2.svg

—Marc Randazza

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png On September 29, 2009, you requested that Glenn Beck agree to stipulate to the application of the United States Constitution, and also especially to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Can you explain your rationale for this request? Have you heard back from Beck’s attorneys about this request?

MR: Mr. Beck has publicly stated, many times over, that he is offended at the thought of international law trumping the U.S. constitution. I presumed that he would not want that to happen in this case. His attorneys have not responded to my request.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What are the next steps that will occur in the Beck v. Eiland-Hall case?

MR: I presume that the arbitration panel will decide this case in my client’s favor.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that Glenn Beck will bring legal actions related to the Eiland-Hall website in the United States? How do you think such legal action would fare, specifically with regard to claims of libel/defamation?

MR: I don’t think so, but I’ve seen many frivolous, stupid, and ultimately disastrous defamation suits filed in my career. If you look at page 2 of my request for stipulation letter, it will articulate our position on that perfectly.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png An article in the UK news magazine The First Post commented that Beck’s argument that the domain name of the Eiland-Hall website is itself defamatory “looks like a first in cyber law”. Would you agree with this assessment? Have there been other similar cases with regard to this issue in cyber law?

Cquote1.svg It is the first time that anyone has claimed that a mere domain name is defamatory. Cquote2.svg

—Marc Randazza

MR: It really is not all that novel of an issue. It is the first time that anyone has claimed that a mere domain name is defamatory, but big corporations have filed many wipo actions to try and get rid of “sucks” sites. So, while the exact facts are a new one to me, there are well worn grooves in the road that govern the legal concepts in this case.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are there any other points regarding the Beck v. Eiland-Hall case that you would like to elaborate or explain?

MR: I’d just like to say a few things about my opposing counsel in this case. Initially, they were subject to criticism for taking the case, and I am strongly against that. I think that the one thing that is lost in this story is how hard their job is. I’ve got the easy side. I’m on the side of truth, justice, the constitution, free speech, apple pie, and baseball. They have the misfortune of representing the bad guy, the blowhard, and they had to be very creative in order to find a way to try and do what he wanted and still maintain their ethics. A chimp could do my job. And frankly, a chimp could do their job if he didn’t care about ethics.

To represent their side of the debate ethically and honorably is difficult, and I’ve rarely seen lawyers in their position behave with any sense of ethics or decency. They have done so. While I disagree with their legal theories, it has been an honor to have them as adversaries, and I wouldn’t think twice about working on the same side of a case with them one day.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Mr. Randazza, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview with Wikinews.



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  • “US free speech lawyer defends satire of Glenn Beck” — Wikinews, October 4, 2009

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Pakistani military launches ground offensive against Taliban and al-Qaeda

Pakistani military launches ground offensive against Taliban and al-Qaeda

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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Pakistani officials say the military has launched its much anticipated ground offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the South Waziristan tribal region. Fierce fighting has broken out and dozens of casualties are reported on both sides.

North and South Waziristan (2006)
Image: Bejnar.

This mountainous district forms part of the Afghan border, which United States officials call the most dangerous place in the world. It is considered to be a stronghold for the Taliban. An attack by US drones on this area killed the former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud and it shelters the new leader Hakimullah Mehsud. It is also has training camps for suicide bombers. The US has put pressure on the Pakistani government to deal with militancy in the area.

30,000 troops which had been moved into the area over the past few months moved out of their bases in and around South Waziristan on Saturday, hours after top military and political leaders were briefed by army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayanimain in the capital, Islamabad. The troops advanced north towards the Mehsud stronghold of Makeen, west towards Kunigaram, Saam and Baddar, and east towards Kotkai, Spinkai Raghzai.

Pakistan has experienced a wave of terror attacks, including suicide blasts targeting international and security organizations, coordinated attacks around the country’s cultural center, Lahore, and an assault on the army’s headquarters near Islamabad. Some 175 people have died in the past two weeks. The government has blamed the Pakistani Taliban, which is based in South Waziristan, for the violence.

“The recent upsurge of terror incidents in the country were condemned and it was agreed that these elements pose a serious threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the state […] In the given circumstances, the national consensus is reaffirmed to establish and maintain the writ of the state to weed out these elements,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Cquote1.svg these elements pose a serious threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the state Cquote2.svg

—Yousuf Raza Gilani

Hours ahead of Saturday’s offensive, Pakistani authorities imposed a curfew and turned off mobile phone service in parts of South Waziristan in the district of Wana, as well as in Shakai and Tiarza.

Despite the military’s superiority in numbers, former security chief of the tribal regions, Mahmood Shah, told the Voice of America (VOA) news agency it would not be an easy battle. “This 30,000 against 10,000 is a conventional battle,” he said. “The militants do not fight conventional battles.” He also said he expects the military will face an enemy deeply entrenched in the mountainous and remote region. He also cautions that militants will likely launch suicide attacks elsewhere.

Top army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas has stated that the offensive could last up to two months, but that because of impending climatic conditions they would try to complete the attack by snowfall. A formal announcement on the start of the operation is expected by Prime Minister Gilani.

Officials have said that four soldiers were wounded during clashes and that remote-controlled bomb attacks killed two soldiers in North Waziristan and one in South Waziristan. The three soldiers’ bodies have been taken to Ramzak. There are also unconfirmed reports of militant deaths.

A senior military official has said that initially the objective is to establish footholds, but that they would mobilise three divisions of the military, paramilitary and police, with the final total rising up to 60,000 troops. According to a senior government official in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, the objective is to remove all militants from the area. He also said that “[t]his has been in the works for a long time. It was only a question of timing and the timing was decided. Troops were in place and they moved in.”

This is not the first time the military has launched an offensive in the tribal region. But those previous operations were not successful, mainly because militants killed sympathetic tribal leaders and opposition political parties refused to offer their support.

Experts estimate the number of militants between 10,000 and 12,000 from the Tehreek-e-Taliban movement in South Waziristan and up to 25,000 across Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, with up to 5,000 Uzbek fighters supporting the Taliban.

For the past several months since the anti-Taliban offensive in and around Swat Valley, the military has built up its forces around South Waziristan.

Manuel Bessler, head of the United Nations’s Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told Voice of America that many civilians have fled the area. “We had IDPs, internally displaced people, since May about 77,000, up to 80,000,” he said. “Now with this more intense fighting and military operation inside [South] Waziristan, we have a daily outflow of 70 to 100 families from the area.” Official figures put at 90,000 the people displaced from South Waziristan since August.



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Mark Webber wins 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Jenson Button and Brawn win championship

Filed under: Brazil,South America — admin @ 5:00 am

Mark Webber wins 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Jenson Button and Brawn win championship

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Brazil
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Red Bull driver Mark Webber won the FIA Formula One 2009 Grande Prêmio Petrobras do Brasil Saturday at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil.

Interlagos (Autódromo José Carlos Pace)

Robert Kubica came in second for BMW Sauber, and Lewis Hamilton finished third for McLaren.

Webber’s teammate Sebastian Vettel started from 15th place on the starting grid after he couldn’t come up from the first qualification session, but finished 4th in front of his championship rival.

Brawn Grand Prix driver Jenson Button finished 5th to win his title. His team, representing the remnants of Honda Racing, also won the 2009 Constructors’ championship after leading through the season.

The team’s road to victory was not smooth — a scandal broke with the “double-decker diffuser” of the BGP001 car. After the FIA declared them legal and other teams started to borrow the idea, Brawn sped up by collecting points on the way to the title.

Brawn GP, the winning constructor

Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) and Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) dropped one place from the starting grid and finished behind Button.

Button’s teammate and possible vice-champion Rubens Barrichello, who won pole position on his home soil after nearly three hours of a long rainy qualification session, had a tire puncture on the dying laps of the race and was forced to make an unscheduled third visit to his pit. He closed in the top eight.

This Brazil GP featured Japanese rookie driver, Kamui Kobayashi (Toyota), who replaced recovering Glock. In his first race this young driver qualified 11th and finished 10th in the race.

Adrian Sutil qualified 3rd for Force India, but was taken out by Jarno Trulli (Toyota) on the first lap.

Drivers

File photo of Mark Webber (2008)

Image: Mark McArdle. at flickr

Jenson Button, the current world champion

Image: Rick Dikeman.



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Listening to you at last: EU plans to tap cell phones

Listening to you at last: EU plans to tap cell phones

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Monday, October 19, 2009

A report accidentally published on the Internet provides insight into a secretive European Union surveillance project designed to monitor its citizens, as reported by Wikileaks earlier this month. Project INDECT aims to mine data from television, internet traffic, cellphone conversations, p2p file sharing and a range of other sources for crime prevention and threat prediction. The €14.68 million project began in January, 2009, and is scheduled to continue for five years under its current mandate.

The INDECT project logo
Image: INDECT website.

INDECT produced the accidentally published report as part of their “Extraction of Information for Crime Prevention by Combining Web Derived Knowledge and Unstructured Data” project, but do not enumerate all potential applications of the search and surveillance technology. Police are discussed as a prime example of users, with Polish and British forces detailed as active project participants. INDECT is funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and includes participation from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Testing Project INDECT’s potential usefulness, and the leaked ‘sales-pitch’

Indicated in the initial trial’s report, the scope of data collected is particularly broad; days of television news, radio, newspapers, and recorded telephone conversations are included. Several weeks of content from online sources were agglomerated, including mining Wikipedia for users’ and article subjects’ relations with others, organisations, and in-project movements.

Leaked presentation video for Project INDECT.
Image: European Union, © 2009.

Watermarking of published digital works such as film, audio, or other documents is discussed in the Project INDECT remit; its purpose is to integrate and track this information, its movement within the system and across the Internet. An unreleased promotional video for INDECT located on YouTube is shown to the right. The simplified example of the system in operation shows a file of documents with a visible INDECT-titled cover taken from an office and exchanged in a car park. How the police are alerted to the document theft is unclear in the video; as a “threat”, it would be the INDECT system’s job to predict it.

Throughout the video use of CCTV equipment, facial recognition, number plate reading, and aerial surveillance give friend-or-foe information with an overlaid map to authorities. The police proactively use this information to coordinate locating, pursuing, and capturing the document recipient. The file of documents is retrieved, and the recipient roughly detained.

Conclusions, implications, potential investigative journalism impact

Technology research performed as part of Project INDECT has clear use in countering industrial and international espionage, although the potential use in maintaining any security and predicting leaks is much broader. Quoted in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Liberty‘s director, Shami Chakrabarti, described a possible future implementation of INDECT as a “sinister step” with “positively chilling” repercussions Europe-wide.

“It is inevitable that the project has a sensitive dimension due to the security focussed goals of the project,” Suresh Manandhar, leader of the University of York researchers involved in the “Work Package 4” INDECT component, responded to Wikinews. “However, it is important to bear in mind that the scientific methods are much more general and has wider applications. The project will most likely have lot of commercial potential. The project has an Ethics board to oversee the project activities. As a responsible scientists [sic] it is of utmost importance to us that we conform to ethical guidelines.”

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Although Wikinews attempted to contact Professor Helen Petrie of York University, the local member of Project INDECT’s Ethics board, no response was forthcoming. The professor’s area of expertise is universal access, and she has authored a variety of papers on web-accessibility for blind and disabled users. A full list of the Ethics board members is unavailable, making their suitability unassessable and distancing them from public accountability.

One potential application of Project INDECT would be implementation and enforcement of the U.K.’s “MoD Manual of Security“. The 2,389-page 2001 version passed to Wikileaks this month — commonly known as JSP-440, and marked “RESTRICTED” — goes into considerable detail on how, as a serious threat, investigative journalists should be monitored, and effectively thwarted; just the scenario the Project INDECT video could be portraying.

When approached by Wikinews about the implications of using INDECT, a representative of the U.K.’s Attorney General declined to comment on legal checks and balances such a system might require. Further U.K. enquiries were eventually referred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who have not yet responded.

E.F.F. Europe reacts

Wikinews’ Brian McNeil contacted Eddan Katz, the International Affairs Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (E.F.F.). Katz last spoke to Wikinews in early 2008 on copyright, not long after taking his current position with the E.F.F. He was back in Brussels to speak to EU officials, Project INDECT was on his agenda too — having learned of it only two weeks earlier. Katz linked Project INDECT with a September report, NeoConopticon — The EU Security-Industrial Complex, authored by Ben Hayes for the Transnational Institute. The report raises serious questions about the heavy involvement of defence and IT companies in “security research”.

On the record, Katz answered a few questions for Wikinews.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is this illegal? Is this an invasion of privacy? Spying on citizens?

Eddan Katz When the European Parliament issued the September 5, 2001 report on the American ECHELON system they knew such an infrastructure is in violation of data protection law, undermines the values of privacy and is the first step towards a totalitarian surveillance information society.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Who is making the decisions based on this information, about what?

E.K. What’s concerning to such a large extent is the fact that the projects seem to be agnostic to that question. These are the searching systems and those people that are working on it in these research labs do search technology anyway. […] but its inclusion in a database and its availability to law enforcement and its simultaneity of application that’s so concerning, […] because the people who built it aren’t thinking about those questions, and the social questions, and the political questions, and all this kind of stuff. [… It] seems like it’s intransparent, unaccountable.

The E.U. report Katz refers to was ratified just six days before the September 11 attacks that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. In their analysis of the never-officially-recognised U.S. Echelon spy system it states, “[i]n principle, activities and measures undertaken for the purposes of state security or law enforcement do not fall within the scope of the EC Treaty.” On privacy and data-protection legislation enacted at E.U. level it comments, “[such does] not apply to ‘the processing of data/activities concerning public security, defence, state security (including the economic well-being of the state when the activities relate to state security matters) and the activities of the state in areas of criminal law'”.

Part of the remit in their analysis of Echelon was rumours of ‘commercial abuse’ of intelligence; “[i]f a Member State were to promote the use of an interception system, which was also used for industrial espionage, by allowing its own intelligence service to operate such a system or by giving foreign intelligence services access to its territory for this purpose, it would undoubtedly constitute a breach of EC law […] activities of this kind would be fundamentally at odds with the concept of a common market underpinning the EC Treaty, as it would amount to a distortion of competition”.

Ben Hayes’ NeoConoptiocon report, in a concluding section, “Following the money“, states, “[w]hat is happening in practice is that multinational corporations are using the ESRP [European Seventh Research Programme] to promote their own profit-driven agendas, while the EU is using the programme to further its own security and defence policy objectives. As suggested from the outset of this report, the kind of security described above represents a marriage of unchecked police powers and unbridled capitalism, at the expense of the democratic system.”

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Kidnappers release two aid workers in Darfur, Sudan after more than 100 days

Kidnappers release two aid workers in Darfur, Sudan after more than 100 days

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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The western region of Darfur
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Two members of Irish aid agency GOAL, kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region last July, were freed on Sunday, and are “in good health,” according to Abdel Baqi al-Jailani Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki say they are “thrilled” to be free at last.

Capture and release

Irish citizen Commins, 32, and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki, 42, were working for GOAL in a compound run by the charity in the North Darfur town of Kutum. Armed men seized them on July 3.

Following their release early Sunday morning they described their captivity as a “difficult time”, and thanked everyone who had worked to secure their freedom in a joint statement released through the GOAL. They were, “naturally thrilled to be released after such a long period in captivity”.

“We know it must have been a traumatic period for our families especially and for our friends,” they said. “It was of course, a difficult time – but we found strength in each other and in our friendship.” They also could “hardly wait to get home” to spend time with their families.

Al-Gilani indicated the pair were in Kutum and due to fly to Khartoum later the same day prior to them respectively returning to Ireland and Uganda.

John O’Shea, president of GOAL, told AFP by telephone that, “[w]e are all relieved,” and that all at the charity were particularly happy for their families. “We don’t yet know when they will go home but we hope it is as soon as possible.”

No ransom paid

Countering claims earlier in the year that the kidnappers demanded US$2 (€1.34) million for the pair’s release, al-Gilani stressed “no ransom was paid,”. adding that local tribal chiefs pressured the kidnappers into freeing the aid workers.

Increased hostility and threats

The captors held the two aid workers for over 100 days, the longest-running kidnapping in Darfur since the 2003 start of the region’s conflict. Until March, the longest an aid worker had been detained in Darfur was 24 hours.

Following the issue of an arrest warrant in March by the International Criminal Court for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for masterminding war crimes, aid workers say hostility and threats have increased towards them, and that Sudan’s relations with foreign relief organisations have declined dramatically.

In March and April two civil workers of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and French aid agency Aide médicale internationale (International Medical Aid) were kidnapped then released after three and 26 days respectively. A different group still holds captive two employees of the region’s joint United Nations—African Union peacekeeping force. These are the only two workers left in captivity.

No amnesty

To date, Sudanese authorities have not punished kidnappers; however al-Gilani announced yesterday that those responsible for the latest kidnapping must be brought to justice. In talking with AFP, he stated, “[t]hey must be punished otherwise there will be no more order”. The government called the kidnappers “bandits” and state no amnesty will be granted for the release of aid workers.



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Insurgent attack in South Thailand injures 24

Insurgent attack in South Thailand injures 24

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Monday, October 19, 2009

South Thailand insurgency
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The involved provinces and surrounding area of Thailand and Malaysia The involved provinces and surrounding area of Thailand and Malaysia

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Satellite Image of Yala, Thailand

The city of Yala, Thailand was hit by a bomb attack this morning in a fresh food market wounding 24, including three soldiers. One injured soldier is said to be in a serious condition.

The bomb was hidden in a motorcycle and detonated via remote. The police believe the bomb contained between seven and ten kilograms of explosives. Two men were witnessed parking the bike; police had checked the vehicle without detecting the bomb. It is suspected the bomb may have been detonated using a mobile phone.

This particular area of the city has been a target of local insurgents in the past; four attacks have occurred nearby and the implementation of new security measures is under consideration. These may include a prohibition on parking vehicles in front of the market, and introduction of closed-circuit television in the area.

The explosion occurred around 7:30 am local time (00.30 UTC). A range of civilians were injured in addition to members of the military; the attack is being blamed on insurgent members of the Malay-Muslim majority in southern Thailand.



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EU observers: up to one fourth of votes in Afghan election suspicious

Filed under: Afghanistan — admin @ 5:00 am

EU observers: up to one fourth of votes in Afghan election suspicious

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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President Hamid Karzai
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Initial results gave Afghan President Hamid Karzai more than the 50% of votes necessary to re-elect him in the country’s recent presidential elections. However, after a month of speculation about vote-rigging, officials from the United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) have discounted ballots from 210 polling stations. European Union observers have claimed that as many as one in four votes may be in doubt.

The Afghanistan ECC has published a report about their investigation into allegations which emerged after the polls two months ago. The EEC has stated that there was “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” at polling stations throughout the country. As the ECC reports to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) no official announcement has been made yet, although by law the IEC is obliged to accept the EEC findings; however foreign diplomats have suggested that the IEC may not accept the findings.

President Karzai has refused to accept the investigation’s findings, which reduce his share of the vote from around 55% to under 50%, leading to what Mohammad Moin Marastyal, one of the campaign team members, describes as “deadlock”. Marastyal claims that the EEC deliberately altered the facts to force a runoff. “Effort has been made to lower Karzai’s vote to below 50 per cent,” he stated. “Now we are in a deadlock.”

The EEC announcement was expected at the weekend, but was delayed whilst foreign diplomats attempted to persuade President Karzai to accept a runoff vote with his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. The UN sent its top envoy, Kai Eide, who has been meeting daily with both contenders.

The United States is still considering its position on troop numbers in Afghanistan. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said yesterday: “I think it would be irresponsible and […] it would be reckless to make a decision on US troop level if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether in fact there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space.”



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Iran uranium talks \”off to a good start\”

Iran uranium talks “off to a good start”

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Monday, October 19, 2009

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Mohamed ElBaradei
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Talks between Iranian, Russian, French, and United States officials are “off to a good start” according to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

The four countries met at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today in Vienna, despite a statement on Iranian television shortly beforehand saying that the government would not deal directly with France, due to it previously failing to provide “nuclear materials”.

The countries are working on a deal which would allow Iran to send enriched uranium to France and Russia and converted for use in a medical isotopes research reactor. This is the first time that a deal has been worked on regarding Iran’s nuclear programme since the issue was brought up at a meeting in Geneva at the start of this month.

One concern is that Iran has not sent its atomic agency chief, an indication that a resolution of the matter may be be achieved; nevertheless ElBaradei remained positive. “We had this afternoon quite a constructive meeting. We’re off to a good start. Most of the technical issues have been discussed,” he said following the meeting. The head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, agreed with with the comments, but declined to comment on Iranian media reports that the government is reluctant to send its nuclear fuel. Talks are due to resume tomorrow morning.

Defiant stance

A senior Iranian official denied reports on state broadcaster Press TV that Iran only wanted to import higher-enriched uranium for its research reactor directly from France, Russia or the US, due to difficulties under current UN sanctions.

Iran’s nuclear energy agency spokesman, Ali Shirzadian, said the deal would not end nuclear enrichment activities, as it was not “economically feasible” to purify further low enriched uranium itself to the 130-300kg yield required, adding this was an option if talks “do not bring about Iran’s desired result”.

Sanctions

Iran escaped further UN sanctions after talks in Geneva earlier this month. It agreed to IAEA inspections of a hidden nuclear site, believed to be near the holy city of Qom and to send nuclear material to Russia and France for processing, part of the deal being negotiated at the Vienna talks. According to Western officials, Iran already agreed tentatively in Geneva to major points, but this is denied by Iran.

According to a Western diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, the talks this week were supposed to seal the deal. “But, since we have had no negotiations thus far with the Iranians, the next couple of days could reopen a lot of what we hoped was already agreed in principle,” he added.



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