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KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In the interview Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticised KKE in a previous interview.

The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation’s debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.

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News briefs:August 2, 2010

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News briefs:August 6, 2010

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Taco Bell mascot Gidget dies from stroke at 15

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gidget, the chihuahua featured in the Taco Bell adverts in the United States has died from a stroke. The dog died at the age of 15 on Tuesday night. Sue Chipperton, the owner and trainer of Gidget commented saying, “She made so many people happy.” She passed at Chipperton’s home in Santa Clarita, California.

The dog was featured in the 1990s adverts that ran from 1997 to 2000. Gidget was portrayed as a male dog and is remembered for the dubbed saying “Yo quiero Taco Bell” which is Spanish for “I want Taco Bell.” The advert was meant to be shown only once but was turned into a campaign.

Gidget was also featured in Legally Blonde 2 and adverts for the board game Trivial Pursuit.

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Broken stormwater drain led to Guatemala sinkhole

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A rupture in the underground stormwater drain system opened a huge sinkhole on February 23, killing three people and bringing down twelve houses in Guatemala City.

Teenagers Irma and David Soyos and their father, 53-year old Domingo Soyos were killed when their house collapsed into the sinkhole. Nearly a thousand people were evacuated from the San Antonio neighborhood after the collapse.

Wikinews interviewed Eric Haddox, a civil engineer who has visited the site of the sinkhole and spoken to the engineers working on fixing the drain. Mr. Haddox, who specialises in the building of earthworks, roads, water supply and sewage systems, and is working as a missionary in Guatemala, visited the site following the collapse to help in the recovery effort.

Mr. Haddox told us that the size of the hole is much smaller than the 330 feet depth originally reported and that the erosion causing the collapse is believed to have happened over a long time, and not just during the recent rains as initially suspected.

There are also concerns that a four-story building less than a metre from the edge of the hole may collapse as the earth under the building continues to be eroded.

Before the collapse, a junction box linked two collector pipes to a 3.5m main pipe leading to a nearby canyon in a system believed to be 20 to 50 years old. The surrounding earth had been filled in artificially to level the ground, but the fill was not well compacted before being built upon. Such leveling of the ground is widespread in Guatemala city.

It is thought that, at some point in the last 20 years, either one of the collector pipes ruptured or was detached from the junction box, possibly because of seismic activity. Water gushing out of the break following rainstorms gradually eroded the loosely compacted soil, creating an expanding cavern around the junction box. On February 23, the roof of this cavern collapsed, creating the sinkhole, 20m wide at the top and tapering out towards the bottom, which is about 60m (204 feet) deep, not 330 feet as originally reported.

“Things like this don’t happen often and there are many interesting engineering lessons to be learned with them”, Mr. Haddox said.

The sinkhole has continued to expand even after the collapse, since the collector pipes continue to carry water, which cascades 15m down the sinkhole to the main pipe, further eroding the sides of the sinkhole. The hole was about 25m wide at the top and 40m wide at the bottom a week ago.

A bypass pipe is being laid to divert the water away from the junction to arrest further erosion. The sinkhole will then have to be drained before repair work can begin.

Authorities are also concerned that similar breakages and undermining may be happening at other locations, Mr. Haddox said. Muddy water has been seen coming out of the main collector pipes, but it is not certain whether this is due to ruptures elsewhere or simply mud from the surface that has been washed into the drainage system.

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Glasgow cannabis enthusiasts celebrate ‘green’ on city green

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Coinciding with Easter Sunday, Glasgow Cannabis Social Club’s annual 420 event was held on Glasgow Green, under sunny blue skies, and overlooking the river Clyde. Despite the city’s council attempting to revoke permission for the gathering at the last minute, police were happy for it to go-ahead with approximately a dozen officers attending in high-visibility vests.

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The Daily Record reported five arrests were made for minor offences, likely smoking and possession of small quantities of cannabis. Taking a less-sensational — and more accurate — line of reporting, the Monday edition of Glasgow’s Evening News stated five were referred to the Procurator Fiscal who is responsible for deciding if charges should be brought.

Official figures provided by the police were that 150 attended. With people coming and going, Wikinews reporters estimated upwards of 200 attended, compared to nearly 700 who had signed up for the event on Facebook. Hemp goods were advertised and on sale at the event, and some attendees were seen drinking cannabis-themed energy drinks.

“I was searched and charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act (which is a lot of bollocks)” one attendee noted online, adding “not fair to happen on a brilliant day like it was, other than that I had a great day!” A second said they were openly smoking and ignored by police, who “were only really focusing on people who looked particularly young”.

Cannabis seeds were openly and legally sold at the event and a hydroponics supplier brought a motortrike towing an advertising trailer. Actually growing cannabis is, however, illegal in the UK.

With the event openly advocating the legalisation of cannabis, speakers put their arguments for this to a receptive crowd. Retired police officer James Duffy, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, spoke of the failed United States alcohol prohibition policy; stressing such policies needlessly bring people into contact with criminal elements. Highlighting other countries where legalisation has been implemented, he pointed out such led to lower crime, and lower drug use overall.

One speaker, who produced a bottle of cannabis oil he had received through the post, asserted this cured his prostate cancer. Others highlighted the current use of Sativex by the National Health Service, with a cost in-excess of £150 for a single bottle of GW Pharmaceuticals patented spray — as-compared to the oil shown to the crowd, with a manufacturing cost of approximately £10.

Similar ‘420’ pro-cannabis events were held globally.

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

Friday, January 13, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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2006 “Stolenwealth” Games to confront Commonwealth Games in Melbourne

Friday, March 3, 2006

The possibility of large-scale protests in the face of the 3,000 journalists covering the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, has event organisers and the Government worried.

The group “Black GST” – which represents Indigenous Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty – are planning demonstrations at prominent Games events unless the Government agrees to a range of demands including an end to Aboriginal genocide, Aboriginal Sovereignty and the signing of a treaty.

The Black GST say they hope the focus of the world’s media will draw attention to the plight of indigenous Australians during the Games. Organisers say supporters are converging from across Australia and from overseas. Organisers say up to 20,000 people may take part in talks, rallies, colourful protests and many cultural festivities designed to pressure the Federal Government on Indigeneous rights issues. They want the Government to provide a temporary campsite for the supporters, saying “organised chaos was better than disorganised chaos.”

The 2006 Stolenwealth Games convergence, described by organisers as the “cultural festival of the 2006 Commonwealth Games,” was virtually opened on March 2nd with the launch of the official “Stolenwealth Games” website. Scoop Independent News and Perth Indymedia reported that the launch was held at Federation Square in Melbourne. The site contents were projected via wireless laptop by the Stolenwealth Games General Manager, and a tour of the website was given on the big screen. He said “overwhelming amusement was the response from the audience.” The group say permanent access points to the website are being set up at public internet facilities across Victoria during the coming weeks.

“Interest in the Stolenwealth Games is building all over the world and this fresh, exciting and contemporary site will draw in people from Stolenwealth Nations around the globe to find out about the latest news and events,” said a Stolenwealth Games spokesperson. “We have been getting many requests from around the world wanting to know about the Stolenwealth Games. We have provided many ways that individuals and organisations can support the campaign by spreading the word.”

The Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group (VTOLJG) which represents the first nation groups of Victoria, has announced its support to boycott the 2006 Commonwealth Games until the Government “recognises Traditional Owner rights.” The group asserts that culture has been misappropriated in preparation for the Games.

Organisers of the campaign say they welcome the formal support from the Traditional Owners. “While some seek to divide and discredit Indigenous Australia, this support is further evidence that the Aboriginal people are united in opposition to the ongoing criminal genocide that is being perpetrated against the Aboriginal people” said Black GST supporter and Aboriginal Elder, Robbie Thorpe.

“We now have endorsement from the VTOLJG and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the aims and objectives of the Campaign and we are looking forward to hosting all indigenous and non-indigenous supporters from across Australia in March,” he said. The Black GST group have said “the convergence will be held as a peaceful, family-focussed demonstration against genocide, and for the restoration of sovereignty and the negotiations towards a Treaty.”

But the campaign has received flak in mainstream media, such as Melbourne’s Herald Sun, who wrote: “the proposal to allow BlackGST to set up an Aboriginal tent embassy at a site well away from the Commonwealth Games will be interpreted by some as the State Government caving in to a radical protest group. A major concern for the Government… is to protect the event from disruption… no chances should be taken…”

The Black GST has been planning the convergence for months, calling for Aboriginal people and their supporters to converge on Melbourne. The Melbourne-based Indigenous rights group have called on thousands of people concerned about the plight of indigenous Australians to converge on Melbourne during the Games, which they have dubbed “the Stolenwealth Games”. But the choice of Kings Domain has made conflict almost inevitable, as the area is one of the areas gazetted by the State Government as a “Games management zone”.

Under the Commonwealth Games Arrangements Act, any area gazetted as a management zone is subject to a range of specific laws – including bans on protesting, creating a disturbance and other activities. The protest bans will be in effect at different times and places, and offenders can be arrested. A spokeswoman for the Black GST, which advocates peaceful protest, said the site had been chosen because it was close to where the Queen will stay on March 15. “We figured that she is only in Melbourne for 27 hours or something like that so we thought we would make it easy for her to come next door and see us,” she said. “We are a very open, welcoming group, so she will be welcome to come and join us.”

Kings Domain is the burial site for 38 indigenous forefathers of Victoria. Black GST elder, Targan, said trade union groups have offered to install infrastructure at the site. The group initially worked with the State Government to find a suitable camp site, but the relationship broke down when the Government failed to meet a deadline imposed by the protesters. “While we are disappointed the ministers were not able to meet deadline on our request, we thank them for their constructive approach towards negotiations and the open-door policy exercised,” said Targan.

A spokesman for Games Minister Justin Madden said the Government was still investigating other sites. Victoria Police Games security commander Brendan Bannan said he was not convinced the Black GST represented the views of most indigenous people. “We are dealing with the Aboriginal community and they don’t seem to support it at all … the wider Aboriginal community don’t support disruption to the Games at all,” he said.

The Government was told that Black GST supporters would camp in Fitzroy Gardens and other city parks should it fail to nominate a site. A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavan Jennings said the Government was taking the issue seriously, but had not been able to finalise a campsite before the deadline.

Under special Games laws, people protesting or causing a disturbance in “Games management zones” can be arrested and fined. While prominent public spaces such as Federation Square, Birrarung Marr, Albert Park and the Alexandra Gardens fall under the legislation, such tough anti-protest laws cannot be enforced in the nearby Fitzroy Gardens.

Games chairman Ron Walker has urged the group to choose another date for its protest march through the city, which is currently planned to coincide with the opening ceremony on March 15. The group believes that an opportunity to gain attention for indigenous issues was lost at the Sydney Olympics and has vowed to make a highly visible presence at the Games.

The Black GST said the Australian Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s sacred flame, burning over many years at the Canberra site will be carried to Melbourne before the Games, and its arrival would mark the opening of the protest camp from where a march will proceed to the MCG before the Opening Ceremony.

Black GST claims supporters from all over Australia, including three busloads from the West Australian Land Council, will gather in Melbourne during the Games for peaceful protests.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings had offered Victoria Park to the protesters. Victoria Park, former home of Collingwood Football Club, where one of the strongest statements of Aboriginal pride, when St Kilda star Nicky Winmar in 1993 raised his jumper and pointed to his bare chest after racial taunts from the Collingwood crowd.

Black GST, which has labelled the Games the Stolenwealth Games, said the State Government had failed to find a suitable venue. Black GST may encourage protesters to camp in prominent parks such as Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens. Graffiti supporting the action has also appeared in central Melbourne.

Melbourne City councillor Fraser Brindley has offered his home to the Black GST organisers. “I offered my home up to people who are organising visitors to come to the Games,” he said. Cr Brindley will be overseas when the Commonwealth Games are held and has offered the free accommodation at his flat at Parkville. He said he agreed with the protesters’ view that treaties needed to be signed with indigenous Australians. “I’m offering it up to the indigenous people who are coming to remind Her Majesty that her Empire took this land from them,” said Cr Brindlley. Nationals leader Peter Ryan said: “This extremist group has no part in the Australian community.” Melbourne councillor Peter Clarke said the actions were embarrassing and that he would try to discourage him. “It’s not in the spirit of the Games,” he said.

Aboriginal elder, Targan, said the possibility of securing Victoria Park was delightfully ironic. “There’s a lot of irony going on,” Targan, 53, a PhD student at Melbourne University, said. “GST stands for Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty. We want the genocide of our people to stop; we want some sovereignty over traditional land, certainly how it is used, and we want a treaty with the government,” Targan said.

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Interview with recent Wikimedia Foundation board appointee Domas Mituzas

Thursday, March 6, 2008

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

Domas Mituzas is a Lithuanian software developer recently given a temporary position on the Wikimedia Foundation‘s board. The position lasts until June this year, after which he has stated he will decide whether he will run for a full term of two years. As well as working for the Wikimedia Foundation, he is employed by MySQL AB.

In light of his recent appointment to the board, Wikinews conducted the following interview with Domas Mituzas.

((WN)) Congratulations on your new board position! Can you tell us a bit about your background – previous work with the Foundation, what you do with MySQL AB etc?

Domas Mituzas: Thanks! Though my first edits to Wikipedia were in 2003, I became actively involved in site technology back in 2004. Then I was working for a major IT company in the Baltic States, and was leading the systems group there. Back then I could apply quite a bit of practice I had from my job to maintain Wikipedia in its technology infancy. It became increasingly involving, and eventually the things we started doing became far more complex, especially when the exploding growth hit us. Managing the growth and sustaining the site up was quite stressful at that time, and we started both lots of optimization and resource expansion work. Eventually I got involved in the MySQL community, and was suggested to apply for a job in MySQL AB. There I work in services division, assisting our customers with their problems, helping to grow their operations. Now as part of company acquisition I’m joining Sun Microsystems, and I’m eager to see what possibilities can that provide.

Back in my childhood I was deep into encyclopedias, first dead tree ones, later CDs and online version of Britannica. I had a dream, that once I get my own home, I’ll get full dead-tree version of Britannica on my bookshelves. It didn’t happen, as I got into Wikipedia the same year I bought my apartment. Life is full of irony 🙂

Actually, back in 2000 I approached university professor and tried to explain him a concept of dynamically edited news repository, where every concept could be explained deeper and deeper into elemental knowledge particles, and later that can be assembled in many dynamic ways. His first question was “Is that some kind of website?”, and I was angry at him for not getting the generic concept of knowledge at all. Year or two afterwards I was discussing same concepts with a colleague, and he provided with far more practical visions of all that. Seeing Wikipedia for the very first time was a dejavu, so it was easy to get into the project. That is different from what I imagined, but far more useful.

((WN)) Why do you think you were chosen for this position, and what do you think you can contribute?

DM: One of reasons was both my long-term presence in site operations and communicating about our work, spreading our ideology, providing opinions. I try to be able to explain difficult topics in human language, and that is quite well appreciated. Additionally, I was being a bit of outsider – more of a reader than writer, so I feel that my views are slightly less community centric, more of value centric. My experience in a technology team is quite similar to what I expect to see in the board – wide array of issues to work on, and maintaining consensus is incredibly important to keep the productivity high. So even though I have deep roots in the project, I feel that I can bring in lots of fresh ways to the board. Of course, I will try to provide best possible technology advise, if the board needs it.

((WN)) Will you continue doing your previous technical work at the same time? If you do, how will you find a balance?

DM: I would really avoid to do all previous work – but it is not needed any more. Years ago we were monitoring the site 24/7, shortage of resources was causing all sorts of difficult problems. Now everything is way more steady and reliable, so I have way much more free time. I used to do lots of other activities too, so I think I can scale my time just fine. And still, of course, I’ll provide as much work to technical part as needed, it just isn’t as demanding as it used to be, and we’re really happy about that.

((WN)) What major actions do you expect to come your way during your term in office?

DM: Though my term is quite short for now (until June elections), the biggest work will be done in understanding how the foundation should function to establish a really long-term presence, to support the projects far into the future. It may need changes in how we get external experience, how we interact with other organizations, how we do interact with office staff and each other. Foundation did lots of work to get to stable and reliable state, now it is time to think more about the future sustainability and expansion.

I have operations experience, so of course I will want to maintain high efficiency of overall operation, but on the other hand I want to work on scaling other parts of the foundation – especially reach out, evangelism, and of course – fundraising.

((WN)) Do you expect any major upgrades to be needed to hardware or software anytime soon, and if so what?

DM: Projects are always growing – pages, pageviews, revisions, users, media, archives – to facilitate that there will always be major upgrades. We still have some of the solutions that allowed us to survive for years, but are not suitable for a whole millennium. There will always be new features, that will need more resources, so we definitely won’t stop improving our hardware or software platform. I have to take off the board member hat to answer these questions, as they should be really directed to technology team, instead of board. I won’t mention exact projects, but we have a trail of features that have to be implemented, and will be, soon. But indeed, that is very much operational issue, that the technology team and foundation staff is known to handle well.

((WN)) What do you expect lies ahead for the Foundation in the long run – say, the next ten years?

DM: My generation is already forming the ‘Wikimedia Alumni’ – the readers, consumers of our content love us. It is amazing to realize what powers they may have in the next ten years, and how they will be able to assist us.

The biggest work to be done – maintaining the loyalty of our community, continue being the good guys of the Internet. Next ten years will be years of continued Internet penetration, and us being the major beneficial part of that process is especially exciting.

I really want to believe, that our offline activities will be just an intermediate step, and we will have whole world using our online resources, and of course – contributing to them.

Also, I’m not sure if we will be capable to achieve in next ten years, but besides digital divide, we will have to break information isolationism that certain countries or communities maintain – and the best way to achieve it is by providing the best knowledge resource possible. Opening up communities and having them work together may really become the next great wonder of the world. Who doesn’t want to be part of that? 🙂

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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Najibullah Zazi pleads guilty in plot to bomb New York subway

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant, pleaded guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support for a terrorist organisation, on Monday in United States District Court in Brooklyn, New York. He was a part of the plot to detonate explosives in New York’s subway system in late 2009. He admitted participation in a suicide attack conspiracy led by the Al-Qaeda. According to him, this was in protest of US presence in Afghanistan. He will be sentenced on June 25 and faces a possible life term without parole.

Zazi said in court he was recruited by Al-Qaida in Peshawar, while on a visit to join anti-American insurgency in 2008 and went into a training camp in Waziristan. He refused to identify his trainers and recruiters. Zazi had decided “I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan.”

I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan

He admitted receiving weapons training at the camp and knowledge about explosives. He tried to build homemade explosives using cosmetic products. Zazi then went to New York just before the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. He planned to assemble the bombs there and detonate them in the following days.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference that the Zazi case represented one of the most serious threats to the United States since the 9/11 attacks. “Were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, it could have been devastating,” he said. “This attempted attack on our homeland was real, it was in motion and it would have been deadly.”

Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan, raised in Pakistan and later attended high school in Queens, New York and lived in Colorado, had cooperated with the authorities in recent weeks and had worked out an agreement with them regarding his plea bargain.

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