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August 31, 2011

Wikileaks crashes under cyber attack

Filed under: Internet,Journalism,Wikileaks — admin @ 5:00 am

Wikileaks crashes under cyber attack – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikileaks crashes under cyber attack

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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Wikileaks today announced via twitter that its website has crashed under an apparent cyber-attack; this following the recent release of tens of thousands of US State Department cables. Sources in the US say the mass-disclosure of cables is causing diplomatic setbacks, and embarrassment, for the administration of Barack Obama.

Diagram of a Distributed Denial of Service attack, commonly used to bring down websites.
Image: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon.

These previously unreleased cables are said to contain the names of sensitive sources that the authors asked higher bodies to “strictly protect”. The authenticity of the latest documents has not been confirmed but, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “the United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information”.

After more than 2,000 cables were reviewed by the Associated Press, they were found to contain dozens of sources who had sought identity protection. 125,000 sensitive documents have been disclosed in the past week, and their rapid release is said to be causing complications and endangering US foreign policy goals.

“In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems. We remain concerned about these illegal disclosures and about concerns and risks to individuals”, Nuland said.

The first series of leaks began last November. With each release, officials from the State Department crisis management team went through the leaked documents, informing sources that had been named, and – where possible – warning those in authoritarian countries their identities may have been exposed.

Wikileaks responded via twitter to the criticism as the cyber attack occurred, “Dear governments, if you don’t want your filth exposed, then stop acting like pigs. Simple”.

News organisations were previously cooperating with Wikileaks in exchange for copies of documents, including uncensored State Department messages; the new flood of publishing in recent weeks reflects the collapse of those relationships between Wikileaks and the mainstream media.

“We continue to carefully monitor what becomes public and to take steps to mitigate the damage to national security and to assist those who may be harmed by these illegal disclosures to the extent that we can”, said Nuland.

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August 30, 2011

South African police probe \’racist\’ image on Facebook

South African police probe ‘racist’ image on Facebook

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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Police in South Africa are investigating after The Sunday Times highlighted a “racist” image on Facebook. The photograph, showing an armed white man posing over what appears to be a dead black boy, first attracted controversy back in 2008.

The photograph in question

The new attention focuses on a Facebook profile going by the name Eugene Terrorblanche (a reference to Eugene Terreblanche), with the Sunday Times printing the image on its front page alongside a police appeal for information leading to the man’s identification. However, some local media reports that police have known since 2007 that the image was staged and the child was paid to lie before the man.

Officials have noted the image may be in breach of the Children’s Act, the Films and Publications Act and the Criminal Procedure Act; the account’s 590 listed friends have been warned that South African law may hold them criminally liable for failing to report the picture if it is not posed.

Our correspondent was unable to locate the Eugene Terrorblanche account to confirm it is still on Facebook. Wikinews did find several Facebook pages in opposition to the profile; the most popular billed itself as an “antifanpage” against the man and had 1,939 “likes”. One, with 523 members, called for the arrest of every friend of the Terrorblanche account.

Wikinews has contacted Facebook seeking comment on if they will divulge user identity information to South African authorities if requested to, and asking for confirmation the account has been removed. Officials of the social network have yet to respond.



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August 29, 2011

Sudanese President releases all detained journalists

Sudanese President releases all detained journalists

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Monday, August 29, 2011

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced the release of all journalists detained in the country’s jails in an address to a gathering of journalists in the capital of Khartoum, on Saturday. “I declare amnesty for all the journalists detained by the security authorities and their release,” said Al-Bashir.

This came in the same month as the release of Abu Zar Al-Amin, deputy editor-in-chief of pro-opposition paper Ra’y Al-Sha’b. Al-Almin had served a prison term of nearly two years after he violating press restrictions and reporting on alleged co-operation between Sudan and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The release and amnesty follows a series of fresh violations of ‘press freedoms’, which resulted in the suspension of independent newspapers such as Al-Jaridah and Al-Ahdath on August 20 and 21. According to Mozdalifa Mohamed Osman, Al-Ahdath’s newsroom chief, the suspension caused financial losses of US$10,000.

No reasons were given for the suspension of the newspapers. However, the editor-in-chief of AlJaridah, Saad Al-Din Ibrahim revealed that his paper was suspended because it did not allow the security services to interfere in its editorial and recruitment policies; sources believe the Al-Ahdath suspension was due to the publication of information on a planned meeting between President Al-Bashir and the leader of armed opposition group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (northern sector) Malik Aggar.

According to press-freedom watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Sudanese government aggressively attacks journalists through “contrived legal proceedings, politicized criminal charges, and confiscations”. Amnesty International believes Sudanese press freedom is “openly violated”.

Press freedoms may deteriorate with the National Congress Party contemplating further restrictions, including the possibility of pre-publication censorship.



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Freshwater lakes in Texas show signs of extreme drought

Filed under: Archived,North America,Original reporting,Texas,United States — admin @ 5:00 am

Freshwater lakes in Texas show signs of extreme drought

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Monday, August 29, 2011

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A public boat launch on Lake Palestine (in Henderson county) shows signs of low water levels
Image: Buddpaul.

An area of Lake Palestine near its northwestern-most section
Image: Buddpaul.

Extreme drought conditions this summer have reduced many of Texas’ freshwater lakes to a fraction of their usual water levels. Central Texas, home to Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis, has seen severe effects of the drought. Those two lakes are currently 45 percent full and further drops in water levels are anticipated. Austin, the state’s capital, has recorded 70 days of 100-degree heat already this summer.

The state saw less than an inch of rainfall in July alone. Residents of Henderson county are concerned that Lake Palestine has reached levels which haven’t been seen since the 1980’s. Some report that fishing in general has been hard-hit. Residents also report excessive sightings of snakes in and around residential areas near the lake, an effect believed to be caused by drought conditions.

Collectively, estimates recently showed the state’s reservoirs to be at 68% capacity. Chris Ransom of Houston told Wikinews on August 21 that Sheldon Reservoir is “all dried up now.” He went on to state that Lake Houston water levels have dropped significantly this summer. He also stated that, while an avid fisherman, he’s ceased almost all such activities within the past few weeks. Meteorologist Bob Rose told news sources that heat conditions are likely to continue into September.


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August 28, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene passes over New York

Tropical Storm Irene passes over New York

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

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Irene as seen from the International Space Station on August 24, 2011

Map of Irene’s path.

Tropical Storm Irene, recently downgraded from a hurricane, passed over New York City at about 0900 local time (1300 UTC) today, bringing heavy rain and winds up to 65 miles per hour (96.6 km/h).

Flooding has been reported in New York City, where the Hudson River spilled over its banks into Manhattan and the East River briefly flooded. Floods were also reported in Brooklyn. Water was reported to be inside Battery Park and near the New York Mercantile Exchange. The water level of New York Harbor is as much as four feet higher than normal, with a predicted storm surge of up to eight feet.

Elsewhere in the northeast, suburbs of Philadelphia also flooded; mayor Michael Nutter described the scene in one area as “couches, furniture, all kinds of stuff floating down the street.”

Up to eleven people have been reported killed by the storm, five in North Carolina, three in Virginia and one each in Florida, Maryland and Connecticut. Some three million people evacuated from areas expected to be impacted by the storm, and another three million are reported to be without power.

Irene made landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, bringing up to fourteen inches (~36 cm) of rain and a storm surge measuring four feet in the Cheasapeake Bay with it. At about 0530 local time today, the storm made its second landfall as it passed over Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey.

According to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the storm is expected to cause damage “in the billions of dollars, if not in the tens of billions of dollars.”


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August 27, 2011

Australia\’s Channel Nine Network sacks two journalists for faking footage

Australia’s Channel Nine Network sacks two journalists for faking footage

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Channel Nine in Brisbane has fired two journalists and a producer for faking two live news crosses to aerial footage above the site of a search. In a live news cross, journalists broadcast back to the newsroom in real time when an event is happening.

Melissa Mallet and Cameron Price and Producer Aaron Wakeley were sacked by the Nine Network after rival Channel Seven filmed footage of the Nine News helicopter sitting on the helipad at the time it was supposed to be in the air on a live cross near the site of a search for the remains of a missing schoolboy, Daniel Morcombe. Evidence emerged the helicopter had not been near the site of the search during a live cross on the previous day, as well.

Channel Nine began an investigation after the footage came to light.

The incident, labelled “Choppergate”, has lead to the network’s credibility being questioned. Following the scandal, Lee Anderson, Queensland news director, resigned after 25 years at the network.

The Nine Network boss, David Gyngell, issued an apology. “The integrity of the Nine news brand is the value of Channel 9. Integrity is paramount. … Staff made a massive mistake, and on my watch. That will never, ever, happen again. I am truly sorry.”

The network has said that the decision to sack the journalists and producer was necessary for the network’s credibility and the trust viewers place in their information.

Cameron Price said he was considering legal action against his dismissal. “Thanks for all the support”, he tweeted to his followers. “I believe what happened today is completely unfair … And I am seeking advice on the matter.”

Bruce Morcombe, Daniel Morcombe’s father, said of his family, “We genuinely see it as a storm in a teacup and feel quite sorry for the loss of those people’s jobs”.



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  • “Australian TV network sprung fabricating live crosses by rival” — Wikinews, August 24, 2011

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August 26, 2011

Retired policeman arrested in connection with murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya

Retired policeman arrested in connection with murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya

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Friday, August 26, 2011

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Retired Russian police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov has been detained in Moscow, accused of involvement in Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s death. A former Police Lieutenant Colonel, he has been accused of planning Politkovskaya’s murder, hiring a hitman and supplying them with the weapon that killed her. Pavlyuchenkov was a witness in the murder trial.

Pavlyuchenkov was also a former chief of the fourth division of the Moscow City Police Operational Search Department. He is suspected of hiring someone to kill Politkovskaya while still serving as a Police Officer.

Politkovskaya was killed after returning to her Moscow apartment building from a grocery store on October 7, 2006. She was an investigative journalist, who was critical of the Kremlin and Chechen authorities. Her death received international attention. Her work for Novaya Gazeta, an oppositional newspaper in Russia, won her international awards.

In May, Rustam Makhmudov was arrested as suspected gunman, but later acquitted. His two brothers and a retired police officer were put on trial in 2009 for the murder but were acquitted due to lack of evidence. They were accused of playing a minor role in the murder.

This arrest does not name or address who killed Politkovskaya.



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August 25, 2011

UK electoral commission asked to investigate News International payoffs

UK electoral commission asked to investigate News International payoffs

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

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Labour MP Tom Watson is calling for an investigation into payments by News International to Andy Coulson.
Image: Jwyg.

The United Kingdom electoral commission has been asked to investigate whether payments made by News International to Andy Coulson amidst the recent phone hacking scandal were illegal.

Labor MP Tom Watson, who has been a driving force in the phone hacking scandal, called for the investigation after he believed that payments and benefits made to Coulson, including private health benefits and a company car, should have been declared as a political donation. Mr Watson has reportedly been trying to uncover whether Coulson declared these payments to the cultures committee upon applying for access to parliament.

MPs are bewildered by Prime Minister David Cameron’s hiring of Coulson without anyone looking into his financial history, and many have expressed outrage as the reports contradict evidence given by the former News of The World editor to the culture committee in 2009. He allegedly told the committee that he had received a salary of £275,000 and that he did not have a second income.

Coulson is expected to face further questioning from the committee about the payments after he is cleared from the phone hacking scandal.

Robert Peston, a journalist for the BBC, claimed that Mr Coulson had received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after he began working for the Conservative Party. Despite his ousting in 2007, Mr Coulson received his severance pay in installments from News International until the end of that year.

Coulson was known to have received a payoff after his resignation from News of the World in 2007. The resignation came after the conviction of journalist Clive Goodman for phone hacking.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has stated that both Coulson and News International should have informed the committee about the payments. The investigation will decide whether or not the electoral committee has been misled by Coulson, and whether the payments should be considered as a political donation.

The committee is expected to meet in early September to decide on a plan of action.



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Trapped journalists in Libya freed

Trapped journalists in Libya freed – Wikinews, the free news source

Trapped journalists in Libya freed

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

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As many as three dozen correspondent journalists who were trapped inside the Rixos hotel in Tripoli for three days have finally been released unharmed.

Reporters from organisations such as the BBC, Reuters, Sky News, and CNN were freed around 4pm on Wednesday. The group were being held at the complex by armed men loyal to Gaddafi since Sunday night when the rebels stormed Tripoli and violence erupted in the surrounding streets.

CNN correspondent Matthew Chance said the journalists’ captivity ended when the guards were told about the changing situation in Tripoli and realized the regime might be over. A guard told the journalists, “Look, we’re not going to stop you from leaving anymore,” Chance reported. Shortly after being freed Chance posted on twitter, “#Rixos crisis ends. All journalists are out! #rixos.”

All the reporters who were held in the Rixos hotel were not even aware that the rebels had taken over Tripoli. Armed men loyal to Gaddafi, including snipers surrounded the hotel complex making it impossible for any of the journalists to go downtown and report on the severe conflict which is making a traumatic shift in the six month civil war. The hotel was one of the only places in the city still controlled by Gaddafi’s men.

Reportedly, the power was out on Sunday and Monday night and all the journalists could do was light candles and wait. Gunfire and explosions were heard from the direction of Gaddafi’s compound by journalists at the hotel. Trucks with machine guns were outside the Rixos and snipers were seen posted behind trees in the area. The journalists moved to the inside of the hotel to avoid being struck by stray bullets flying through glass windows.

Information on the situation was posted on twitter by the journalists who were being held captive. “Very dark, very quiet at the #Rixos some gunshots cracking outside,” tweeted CNN correspondent Matthew Chance during one of the power surges. Later on he then tweeted, ““#Rixos getting hit by stray bullets.”

The dozens of journalists were finally transported in Red Crescent cars to another Tripoli hotel, where they hugged friends and colleagues.



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Japan nuclear disaster: areas to remain off-limits for decades

Japan nuclear disaster: areas to remain off-limits for decades

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2002
Image: KEI.

Location of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan
Image: Saneef.

Japanese officials have admitted for the first time that certain radiation-stricken areas around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may remain uninhabitable for decades. Japanese media this week reported that embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan is to visit affected areas within days to tell residents and local officials that it will remain too dangerous to return to parts of Fukushima Prefecture in the foreseeable future.

Cquote1.svg We cannot deny the possibility that there will be some areas where it will be hard for residents to return to their homes over a long period of time. Cquote2.svg

—Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “We cannot deny the possibility that there will be some areas where it will be hard for residents to return to their homes over a long period of time.”

The dangers of radiation exposure in certain areas are expected to remain unacceptably high well after the plant finally undergoes a cold shutdown in the coming months. A final decision on which areas are to be declared off-limits will be made following detailed radiation monitoring and the creation of a comprehensive decontamination plan. Japanese officials have so far declined to specifically name any areas likely to be affected.

Scientists have for months warned of such an eventuality following the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima site in March. The government, criticised for its management of evacuations in the wake of the disaster, had hoped to lift current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant. However, it cannot do so amidst dangerously elevated radiation readings, including in the town of Okuma, situated about three kilometres from the Fukushima site, where cumulative radiation levels are over 25 times higher than government-mandated limits.

Media reports have also focused on uncertainty surrounding compensation for the many thousands of residents affected by the ongoing evacuations. The government may possibly purchase or rent the properties of those who cannot return to their homes and businesses.

Although the plant operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has recently claimed radiation leaks from all three reactors have declined, concern continues to mount over the true scale of contamination. Scientists have detected widespread contamination of topsoil on agricultural land, further jeopardising the future habitability of significant areas, and uncertainty remains as to the true extent of radioactivity in numerous areas.

Caesium-137, the main radioactive element thrown out during the various explosions, has a half-life of 30 years, and it is not going to disappear overnight,” said Didier Champion, a French nuclear safety expert.



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