Archive for August, 2018

30
Aug

Disease outbreak feared after mass hysteria over “sweet” water in Mumbai

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

“18 hours of mass hysteria” (according to the Sunday Times of India) broke out last Friday in Mumbai as hundreds of residents flocked to Mahim Creek, one of the most polluted creeks in India that receives thousands of tonnes of raw sewage and industrial waste every day after reports that the salt water had suddenly turned “sweet”.

Television reports showed people drinking water on the spot with their hands, and others bathing, apparently to wash away their sins with the “holy” water.

At the height of the hysteria, bottled mineral water was selling for Rs 50 (RM4.50), with people buying the mineral water simply for the bottles, pouring away the mineral water and filling the bottles with water from the creek.

News reports of the Mahim Creek incident sparked further mass hysteria at Gujarat within hours, with residents there claiming that seawater at Teethal beach in Valsad had also turned sweet. About 400 people had gathered by the beach in the evening.

In the aftermath of the incident, local authorities stated that they were being were extra vigilant because of the possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases, such as gastroenteritis as a result of so many people drinking contaminated water. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had warned people not to drink the water, but despite this many people had collected it in bottles, even as plastic and rubbish had drifted by on the current. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai had ordered a bacteriological report into the “sweet” water, but suspected that “contamination in the water might have been reduced due to the waters from Mithi River flowing into the mouth of Mahim Bay“.

By Saturday morning, the hysteria had died down, as the taste of the water had returned to normal.

28
Aug

An interview with Jimbo Wales/Color-free

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

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

Just five years ago, when Jimbo Wales founded Wikipedia, the project’s goal of 100,000 articles [1] seemed ambitious. Yet today, the project, now one of the top 25 websites in the world according to Alexa, is nearing closer 1,000,000 articles in English, and 3.5 million articles across all languages. This week, we interviewed Jimbo Wales.

Colored version

Wikinews: Raul654 asks: “Recently, there were revelations about organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. What is your take on this, as well as earlier reports of Corporate astroturfing?”

Jimbo Wales: The question is invalid. There were no revelations of organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. Not any evidence of “corporate astroturfing” of which I am aware. There was evidence that some congressional staffers edited Wikipedia in inappropriate ways. But the internal evidence of the type and style of these edits do not suggest “organized attempts”.

WN: Nichalp asks: “Budget permitting, are there any plans to increase the number of Wikipedia servers, specifically into the less developed countries?”

JW: We are always buying new servers. There are no specific plans to add servers in less developed countries, but we have looked into it as a possibility. We are particularly interested in doing so if it helps increase access and reduce costs for those users.

WN: An anonymous reader asks: “How much of a role do you feel the Wikipedia community (and the communities of its sister projects) should have in the running of the Wikimedia Foundation? Do you see an increasing separation of the organization from the projects? If so, do you regard that as beneficial or a potential problem?”

JW: The community has always been and will always be absolutely crucial to the running of the Wikimedia Foundation. We are increasing the community input and activity in the foundation through a new series of committees to delegate things to community members which have traditionally been handled by me or the Board. I do not see any increasing separation of the organization from the projects, quite the opposite. I consider the increasing integration of the community and the foundation as overwhelmingly beneficial.

WN: ALoan asks: “English Wikipedia is approaching 1 million articles, but less than 1 in a thousand are Featured articles. The list of featured articles English Wikipedia should have has few featured articles, and recent surveys of articles chosen at random show that many articles are poorly written. How can we get from here to an encyclopedia of well-written articles? Or should we not worry too much about coverage and content?”

JW: We should be tightly focused on the quality of our coverage and content. The goal of Wikipedia is to create and distribute a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia. The path to that goal will require us to be flexible and thoughtful. The first steps will come soon with the article review system, which will initially be used simply to gather data. After we have data, we can begin to work on how we will focus our attention to improve quality.

WN: GeorgeStepanek asks: “You’ve said that ‘Wikimedia’s mission is to give the world’s knowledge to every single person on the planet in their own language.’ But very few of the wikipedias in the languages of third-world countries are seeing as much activity as the first-world language wikipedias. Do you have any ideas on how this could be turned around?”

JW: I am a believer in outreach. I would like for the Foundation to raise money specifically to pay one or more minority language co-ordinators. The goal would be to reach out in a more organized way to professors and graduate students and expat communities who have good Internet access, to seed projects for languages where the majority of speakers have poor internet access.

WN: Jacoplane asks: “How do you feel we will be able to reach Wikipedia 1.0? The tools currently available for vetting our articles are crude at best. The Featured article process seems too slow, and the article validation feature seems to have died a quiet death. Are you planning a big push on this front?”

JW: Isn’t that the same question as the quality question? The article validation feature has not died a quiet death at all.

WN: Quadell asks: “Most important decisions on Wikimedia projects are handled with consensus. However, we sometimes have to deal with legal issues, especially related to copyright law. For instance, we as a community may need to decide whether to consider a certain use “fair”, or how to deal with conflicting copyright claims. Dealing with this through consensus is problematic, since we can’t do something illegal even if there is widespread misguided support for it. In general, how can we as a community deal with these issues?”

JW: I don’t think there is any real problem with this. The community is strongly in support of following the law. I don’t know of any particular cases of widespread misguided support for something illegal. In particular cases, there can of course be [dis]agreement, but I have never seen anyone in the community argue that we should not listen to the advice of our legal team.

WN: Raul654 asks: “Where do you see Wikipedia in 10 years?”

JW: I don’t know. My favorite answer to this is to say, the real question is: where will the world be after 10 more years of Wikipedia. 🙂 Seriously, I think we’ll eventually see a tapering off of new article creation in the large language wikipedias as more and more “verifiable” topics are covered. At this point, most changes will be expansions and updates and quality improvements to existing articles. But in 10 years, it seems likely to me that many languages which are now quite small will have very large Wikipedia projects. Our community will continue to become more diverse as more and more people worldwide come online.

WN: Kevin Myers asks: “The values reflected in certain Wikipedia policies (anti-censorship, neutral point-of-view) are problematic in cultures where freedom of expression is limited, as the blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China and arguably the Muhammad cartoons controversy attest. As Wikipedia expands internationally, do you foresee Wikipedia becoming increasingly controversial in countries where “Western values” are seen as a potential threat?”

JW: I don’t think that neutrality and objectivity are really controversial among most people of the world. It is true that the leadership in some places does not value these things, and may actually work against these things, but we can not deviate from our goals to accommodate them.

WN: On a similar topic, Vsion asks: “Are there currently any efforts being undertaken by the Foundation to address the People’s Republic of China’s blocking of Wikipedia or to alleviate its effect?”

JW: Beijing-area Wikipedians are working to have the block lifted. Our position is that the block is in error, even given China’s normal policies. Wikipedia is not propaganda, it is basic information. We expect that the block will be lifted.

WN: David.Monniaux asks: “The Foundation receives daily accusations of libel from semi-well-known people who have an entry on Wikipedia or are mentioned in some Wikipedia entry. What do you propose? Would a strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims suffice, in your opinion?”

JW: Yes. I think that our current systems do a good job of addressing these sorts of complaints, although it is very time-consuming for us here in the office. What really works wonders is a very strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims particularly relating to biographies of living persons. The new policy on biographies of living persons is a very strong step in the right direction.

WN: Tony Sidaway asks: “In the past six weeks the number of userboxes on English Wikipedia has risen from 3500 to 6000 and, despite your appeals for restraint, the number pertaining to political beliefs has risen from 45 to 150. Can the problem of unsuitable userboxes still be resolved by debate?”

JW: My only comment on the userbox situation is that the current situation is not acceptable.

WN: Larsinio asks: “How can Wikipedia effectively explain to the public its open-contribution model without simultaneously worrying the public about inaccurate information?”

JW: I think we do a reasonably good job of that. The best thing is to point to our overall quality while at the same time pointing out that we are currently a work in progress. Over time, this answer will change as we move toward ‘1.0’. At that time, we can point to ‘1.0’ for those who are made nervous by the live editing.

WN: Rob Church asks: “Do you consider the encyclopedia to be ‘finished’? Do you think it ever can be?”

JW: Nothing is ever finished. Human knowledge is always growing.

WN: Raul654 and Pavel Vozenilek both asked, “What kind of cool new features/announcements can we expect to see in the next year or two?”

JW: I think this question is too hard for me to answer. I almost never “announce” anything, and features are developed publicly by the community. I think other people have a better idea than I do what will happen in the next year or two. 🙂 Ask Brion [Vibber].

WN: Celestianpower asks: “If you had not founded Wikipedia, and had just been referred to it by a friend, how active a contributor do you think you would be?”

JW: [I] dream fondly of such a scenario. I might actually get to edit articles then. Instead of spend the morning (this morning) documenting transactions and taking phone calls.

WN: OpenToppedBus asks: “The last fundraising drive was less successful than had been anticipated. Do you see a shortage of money holding back Wikipedia/Wikimedia in the short-to-medium-term, and are there any plans to bring in income from sources other than individual donations?”

JW: The last fundraising drive was more successful than had been anticipated, by a long shot. It was the most successful fund drive in our history. [Regarding a quoted goal of $500,000], Mav wrote something like that somewhere, in a scratchpad kind of way. That number was just a placeholder and had nothing to do with me or the official view of the foundation. He’s apologized repeatedly for it.

WN: Thryduulf asks: “What is your single greatest wish for Wikipedia?”

JW: I would have to just point back to our original goal: a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. That’s what I remain focused on daily.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews member. See the talk page for more details. Interviews are translated through WORTNET.
26
Aug

Massachusetts lawmakers enact plan for universal health coverage

Friday, April 7, 2006Legislators in the Massachusetts General Court, their name for the state legislature, approved legislation on Tuesday, April 4, that would make it the first state in the United States to require all residents to have health insurance and impose penalties for non-compliance. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who is expected to run for U.S. President in 2008, is expected to sign the bill.

The bill passed the lower house, the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 155-2, and unanimously by the state senate. The Democratic Party holds supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.

Among the bill’s provisions are these:

  1. Businesses that employ more than 10 people are required to provide health insurance for all staff or face fines of $295 per year per uninsured worker.
  2. Individuals will be required to enroll in a health plan by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties.
  3. Health insurers will provide partially to fully subsidized coverage for low-income residents.

At least one other state (Hawaii) requires employers to provide employee health insurance, but no other state holds individuals accountable for coverage.

25
Aug

Controversial U.S. abortion doctor shot dead in Kansas church

Sunday, May 31, 2009

George Tiller, a controversial doctor who performed late-term abortions, has been shot dead in a church in Kansas, United States. A man is in custody over the killing.

67-year-old Tiller had been the target of many previous attacks. In 1986 his clinic was seriously damaged in a bombing and in 1993 he was shot in both arms. In 1991 his clinic saw summer-long protests that resulted in 2,000 arrests and he said that in 1994 he was put under police protection after FBI agents uncovered an anti-abortion ‘hit list’ naming him as a top target. The clinic was vandalized earlier this month.

The controversy stemmed from the fact that his clinic is one of just three in the United States that performed late-term abortions, which are abortions of fetuses which are capable of surviving outside of the womb. This is legal in Kansas so long as two doctors agree the mother is in serious danger if she were to give birth.

Tiller was recently tried on charges of performing nineteen illegal abortions in 2003; he was cleared of any wrongdoing at the end of a trial described by his lawyer as a ‘witch-hunt’. It was alleged that there were irregularities and a financial involvement in his relationship with the doctor who gave second opinions in the abortions.

Another controversy was sparked by donations Tiller made to support Kathleen Sebelius, then governor of Kansas. The donations, coupled with Sebelius’ abortion-rights views, caused anti-abortion groups to oppose her nomination as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, but the Senate confirmed her in a 65 to 31 vote in April.

Tiller was killed at 10 a.m. local time in the Reformation Lutheran in Wichita. A white man was witnessed with a handgun killing the doctor before fleeing in a blue Ford Taurus. The vehicle’s number plate was traced to Kansas City, 200 miles from Wichita.

State police and the FBI were involved in the hunt for the gunman. A suspect is now in custody.

24
Aug

Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right

Monday, November 12, 2007

In a recent interview with the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the Americas, Tashi Wangdi, David Shankbone remarked to him that Americans have trouble relating to centuries-long conflicts that exist between peoples around the world, including those in Asia. Many Asian countries dislike each other tremendously, and the conflict over Tibet is just one enduring multi-national battle.

According to Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger, it is not that Americans do not have these deep-seeded conflicts; it is that they do not remember them and thus have no context in which to see them as they resurface in our political culture.

On the same day he spoke to the Dalai Lama’s representative, Shankbone sat down with Unger, author of The New York Times best-seller House of Bush, House of Saud. In his new book, The Fall of the House of Bush, Unger attempts to fill in some of the blanks of an epochal narrative in American politics. Using a mix of painstaking research, interviews with cultural and political leaders and delving into previously classified records to come up with some overview of how America has arrived at this particular political moment.

To make sense of such complicated history, Unger draws upon three themes: He illustrates the conflict within the modern Republican Party via the oedipal conflict between George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. Things are not well within the House of Bush. Bush Jr. has not only shut out his father and his allies from his administration—something Bob Woodward discovered in his interviews with the President—but he also appointed many of his father’s bitterest enemies to key cabinet positions.

Unger’s second theme draws upon this Bush family feud: many of Bush Sr.’s foes happen to be leaders of the neoconservative movement, who had been working against the President’s father since the 1970’s. Back then the neoconservatives did not have a base of political support within the Republican Party, which brings Unger to his third theme: the marriage between the neoconservatives and the Christian right to create a formidable ideological block.

Unger is a Fellow at the Center for Law and Security at NYU’s School of Law. In addition to his work at Vanity Fair, he is a former editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine, and former Deputy Editor of the New York Observer. A journalist of the old school who believes in verifying his sources’ veracity, Unger illuminates the Republican Party’s ideological struggle between the old and the new and traces its history for those who do know it.

Unger disputes the recent assertion by The New York Times that these forces are dead; they are thriving. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Craig Unger about his book, The Fall of the House of Bush.

Contents

  • 1 On the likelihood of an attack on Iran before the 2008 election
  • 2 This history behind the Bush family feud
  • 3 Bush appoints his father’s enemies to his Cabinet
  • 4 Paul Wolfowitz and the Office of Special Plans
  • 5 What the neoconservatives want
  • 6 The Christian right and the neoconservatives
  • 7 Orthodox Jews and Fundamentalist Christians
  • 8 On the press
  • 9 External links
  • 10 Source
24
Aug

India: Jammu and Kashmir government orders private tuitions to shut down for 90 days

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On Sunday, the government of Jammu and Kashmir, India, ordered private academic coaching institutions for students until and including class XII to shut down for the next three months calling those institutions “distractions” for the students; with an exception of coaching institutions preparing students for professional exams.

After meeting the heads of some educational institutions, the state’s education minister Syed Altaf Bukhari said: “We had a discussion with our principals today to how to make the education system better. We have come to a conclusion that the distractions which affect our education system […] one of those distractions are the coaching centres”. He added the government is to review the status of the tuition centres with respect to their decisions twice a month.

High schools and colleges have suspended classes since the beginning of the month. Boycotting the classes, students protested against two encounters in Shopian that resulted in the killing of four civilians as well as twelve militants. Then there were protests against the gang rape and murder of eight-year-old girl Asifa Bano in Kathua who police said was held captive and sedated at a temple in January. Retired government official Sanji Ram and several others —including multiple police officers— were arrested earlier this month for, or in relation to, the gang rape and murder of Asifa. Asifa’s corpse was found in the village of Rasana on January 10.

Some of the protesters clashed with the state security forces, and pellets were fired over the protesters. Bukhari said, “Security of the students is paramount, that is why we kept schools and colleges closed. But now the students should control their emotions and go back to their classes […] Now, enough is enough, they have their protest and should attend school now.” Bukhari went on to add that they cannot “afford to have future a generation of illiterates and uneducated.” He said the students who come to the road for protests “would be treated as rowdies”.

According to an official in Jammu and Kashmir’s education department, the motivation behind the temporary shut down of tuitions was “when the coaching centres are closed, students would not have an option but to attend schools”. Coaching Centre Association president Junaid Yousuf responded to this ban, saying: “What is the point of ordering closure of coaching centres and keeping schools open? This defies logic. You are not shutting down the places where protests occur and closed those centres where there are no protests”.

“This distraction leads to fall in attendances in schools. We are not against coaching centres; we will first see how schools function. Therefore immediately we will request and order the coaching centres to stop their shops for some time[…] We are the custodians of the students and want that they are not distracted”, the Education Minister said.

22
Aug

Spanish court considering torture criminal case against former U.S. officials

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Spanish court is considering opening a criminal investigation into whether six former George W. Bush administration officials gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Baltasar GarzĂłn, a Spanish judge with an international reputation for bringing cases against high-profile alleged human rights violators, sent the case to the prosecutor’s office to review whether it has any merit. Among the officials identified in the potential case is former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The prosecutor’s office must issue a recommendation on the merits of the case and on whether the high court has jurisdiction to pursue it. A response is expected by next month, and an official close to the case said it was “highly probable” it would go forward and lead to arrest warrants.

Spanish law allows the courts to pursue cases of torture and war crimes beyond Spanish borders. But American legal experts said the warrants, if issued, would be a largely symbolic gesture and that the officials would likely not be arrested if they did not leave the United States.

The officials are accused of providing the framework of policies and legal opinions that justified torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and afforded no protection under the Geneva Convention to Al-Qaeda suspects.

The charges as related to me make no sense

“The charges as related to make make no sense,” said Douglas J. Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who is one of the six accused former officials. “They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated.”

The other officials are former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, Pentagon attorney William Haynes, and Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer

Gonzalo BoyĂ©, a lawyer for the group, said that the officials cited had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, which are widely regarded as torture. Spain typically investigates and prosecutes torture under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a party. “If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer,” said BoyĂ© of the accused officials.

Defenders of the officials said their legal analyses, which were conducted immediately following the September 11 attacks, are now being unfairly second-guessed.

Several human rights groups have asked judges in different countries to indict Bush officials for war crimes. Judge GarzĂłn, best known for issuing an arrest warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has himself has been outspoken about the treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

A Spanish human rights group called the Association for Dignity of Inmates filed the criminal complaint.

21
Aug

United Nations: More people with access to cell phones than toilets in India

Friday, April 16, 2010

According to a United Nations survey, more people in India, the second most populous country in the world, have access to mobile phones than to a proper toilet. Over half a billion cell phones are active in India, but only 366 million people there have access to a toilet.

“It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet,” commented Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (IWEH).

India’s 545 million cell phones serve about 45 per cent of the population of more than one billion. Only 31 per cent (366 million) have access to modern hygienic amenities as of 2008. The United Nations University (UNU) recommends achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) which aims to cut in half the number of people lacking safe water and proper sanitary arrangements. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there would be a deficit of one billion people from that target aimed for 2015.

“Anyone who shirks the topic as repugnant, minimises it as undignified, or considers unworthy those in need should let others take over for the sake of 1.5 million children and countless others killed each year by contaminated water and unhealthy sanitation,” Adeel added.

“Popular education about the health dangers of poor sanitation is also needed. But this simple measure could do more to save lives, especially those of young people, improve health and help pull India and other countries in similar circumstances out of poverty than any alternative investment. It can also serve as a very significant boost to the local economy,” he said. “The world can expect, however, a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, realized through reduced poverty and health costs and higher productivity — an economic and humanitarian opportunity of historic proportions.”

The nine recommendations made by the UNU include changing the MDG target from 50 per cent by 2015 to 100 per cent coverage by 2025. Another suggested reform was to assign 0.002 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to improving sanitation. Approximately 358 billion dollars would be required to achieve that MDG target, considering that a toilet costs 300 dollars.

21
Aug

Irish National Pensions Reserve Fund gains 2.4% in first quarter

Friday, April 22, 2005

Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) has posted a 2.4% return for the first quarter (9.6% annualized). On March 31, the funds value stood at €12.3bn, a rise of €290m (excluding state contributions) since December 31.

Donal Geaney, the fund’s chairman, told the press that growth in the past quarter had been driven by the Fund’s European equity investments.

Mr Geaney, former Élan CEO, has pursued a policy of diversification since February of this year, with the stated aim of placing a larger amount of the funds assets in companies with small market capitalizations and in property funds.

The fund was set up by the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act, 2000 to partially meet the expected rise in Irish pension costs from 2025 onwards.

21
Aug

IMF proposes quota increases for China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has agreed on a proposal to increase the quotas of China, South Korea, Mexico, and Turkey, the IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato announced. The increases are part of a program of reforms for the organisation, addressing its governance and its macroeconomic monitoring process. The proposals need final approval at the annual meeting scheduled later this month.

Speaking at a press briefing in Washington DC on August 31, Mr. de Rato spoke on the current state of the global economy and outlined the reforms, which include a two-phase reshaping of the quota shares – the proposed increases announced today followed by the development for a new formula to come up with increases for a broader range of members.

Contents

  • 1 Global economy
    • 1.1 Asia: Current status and prospects
      • 1.1.1 India
      • 1.1.2 China
  • 2 Institutional reforms
    • 2.1 Governance
    • 2.2 Economic monitoring and analysis
  • 3 The IMF
  • 4 Related news
  • 5 Sources
  • 6 External links