Warmest Canadian winter on record

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The winter of 2005/2006 has been the warmest winter in Canada since the beginning of the nationwide weather record in 1948, with average nationwide temperatures 3.9°C above the long-term average. Statistically, such a strong deviation from the average is expected to be observed only once in 100 years.

While most of the country was experiencing temperatures of at least 2°C above normal, in most of Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories the temperatures were 6°C above normal, with some regions averaging up to 8°C above normal.

For this statistic the months from December through February were counted as winter.

Lack of ice in eastern Canada will probably affect the annual harp seal hunt, which typically starts around March 15. In February, so little ice had formed that Environment Canada reported that such poor ice conditions had never been seen before in recorded history. The last time conditions approached what we saw in February 2006 was in 1969. The year 1981 was the third lowest ice year in recorded history.

In 1981, a number of harp seal mothers, who normally whelp only on ice, went to the shores of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and gave birth on land. That year, due to the lack of ice, hundreds of thousands of seal pups drowned. The seals who were born on land faced both natural dangers such as death by exposure, and the danger of death at the hands of thousands of sealers, both licensed and unlicensed. These sealers took this rare “opportunity” to walk right up to a baby seal and kill it. Some of these seals were also attacked by domestic dogs.

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2008-09 Wikipedia for Schools goes online

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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

Monday saw the latest edition of the vetted version of Wikipedia, which is aimed at educational use, go quietly online. The extensively revised version covers over five thousand topics, targeting the eight to seventeen years age group. Partnerships with the Shuttleworth Foundation and the Hole in the Wall project will see it distributed in South Africa and India as well as copies being available globally via the offices of SOS Children UK’s umbrella organisation, SOS Kinderdorf worldwide.

First launched in 2006 as a 4,000 article edition, the extract of Wikipedia has employed hi-tech distribution methods, as well as offering a website version which has steadily climbed up in ranking to above other reviewed Wikipedia rivals and copies; the 2007 version was available on the BitTorrent peer to peer network to keep distribution costs down and was equivalent to a fifteen-volume printed encyclopedia. Monday’s release is compared to a twenty-volume print edition.

Our goal is to make Wikipedia accessible to as many people as possible around the world, and SOS Children is a great partner that helps us make that happen.

Key to the process for selecting articles is the English National Curriculum and similar educational standards around the world. The initial vision was to bring this wealth of knowledge to schools where access to the Internet was poor or unavailable, but copies of Wikipedia for Schools can be found on many first world school intranets and web servers. Among the compelling reasons to adopt the project are the vetting and additional study materials which overcome the oft-publicised concerns many educators have with the million article plus Wikipedia that anyone can edit.

In today’s press release announcing the launch, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner expressed delight at seeing the project bring out a new version, “Our goal is to make Wikipedia accessible to as many people as possible around the world, and SOS Children is a great partner that helps us make that happen. Wikipedia is released under a free content license so that individuals and institutions can easily adapt, reuse and customize its content: we encourage others, like SOS Children, to do exactly that.”

Running 192 schools in the developing world, SOS Children sees Wikipedia for Schools as a key piece in fulfilling the educational aspect of their mission. SOS Children’s Chairwoman, Mary Cockcroft gave us an introduction and, a Wikipedia administrator himself, the charity’s CEO Andrew Cates spoke to Wikinews at length about the project.

You are part of SOS-Kinderdorf International, can you explain a little about how this works in terms of distributing funds raised in the UK and involving UK citizens in work outside the country?

Mary Cockcroft: SOS Children[‘s Villages] is a “club” of member charities in 130 countries helping orphans and vulnerable children. The club elects SOS-Kinderdorf International as secretary. SOS is a large organisation whose members in aggregate turned over $1bn in 2007, and whose projects include owning and running 192 schools and family-based care for 70,000 children. However much of these funds are raised locally, with for example the member charities in each of India, Pakistan and South Africa raise considerably more funds in their own country than SOS UK does from the UK. Nonetheless SOS Children UK principally raises funds to finance projects in the developing world, and has only financially small projects in the UK (such as the Schools Wikipedia, which is very low cost because of extensive use of volunteers). This year we expect about 80% of our UK income will leave the UK for overseas SOS associations, and some of the remaining 20% will pay for project oversight. We do not spend money in the UK on Direct Mail or TV advertising. Our UK office is involved in overseeing projects we finance and a small number of high-skilled volunteers from the UK help overseas. However around 98% of SOS staff worldwide are local nationals, as are most volunteers.

((WN)) How much work does the UK charity actually carry out within the home country? Are there failings within the government system for orphans and other needy children that you feel obliged to remedy?

MC: We are deeply unhappy about the situation of children in out-of-home care in the UK. However our care model of 168 hour-a-week resident mothers does not fit with the UK philosophy for children without parental care. Internationally SOS always has a policy of sharing best practice and we are working to improve understanding of our way of working, which appears to us to have far better outcomes than the existing one in the UK. Ultimately though the legal responsibility for these children lies with government and we cannot remedy anything without their invitation.

((WN)) Who first came up with the idea of doing a vetted Wikipedia extract? What was the impetus? Was it more for the developing world than first world?

Andrew Cates: I honestly cannot remember who first suggested it, but it came from somewhere in the Wikipedia community rather than from the charity. The original product was very much pitched at the developing world where the Internet is only available if at all over an expensive phone line. I worked in West Africa 1993-1996 and I know well at how thirsty for knowledge people are and how ingenious they will be in overcoming technical obstacles if the need for infrastructure is removed.

((WN)) In reading past year’s announcements there’s some pride in the project being picked up and used in the first world, was this expected or a pleasant surprise?

AC: It was a pleasant surprise. I don’t think we had realised what the barriers schools faced in using the main Wikipedia were. It isn’t just pupils posting material about teachers or meeting strangers: the “Random Article” button on every page could potentially deliver an article on hardcore porn. We had already started when discussion broke on banning Wikipedia from classrooms and I am sure we benefited from it.

((WN)) Can you give an outline of the selection and vetting process? Is it primarily Wikipedians working on this, or are people from the educational establishment brought in?

AC: It was a long and painful process, even with a really good database system. Articles were taken into the proposal funnel from three main sources: direct proposals for inclusion from Wikipedians, lists which came from the Release Version team and proposals drawn up from working through National Curriculum subjects by SOS volunteers. In a few cases where we felt articles were missing we asked the community to write them (e.g. Portal:Early Modern Britain, which is a curriculum subject, was kindly written just for us): These “proposals” were then looked at by mainly SOS volunteers (some onwiki, some offline). Our offices are in the middle of Cambridge and we get high quality volunteers, who skim read each article and then compared two versions from the article history by credible WP editors a significant period apart (this picks up most graffiti vandalism which runs at about 3% of articles). Once they had identified a “best” version they marked any sections or text strings for deletion (sections which were just a list of links to other articles not included, empty sections, sex scandals etc). A substantial sample of each volunteers work was then doubled checked for quality by one of two office staff (of whom I was one). We then have a script which does some automated removals and clean ups. Once we had a selection we posted it to relevant wikiprojects and a few “experts” and got any extra steers.

((WN)) Will you be making use of BitTorrent for distribution again this year? Was it a success in 2007?

AC: BitTorrent was a bit disappointing in that it got us the only substantial criticisms we received online. A lot of people find it too much effort to use. However for the period we offered a straight http: download we had huge problems with spiders eating vast bandwidth (the file is 3.5G: a few thousand rogue spider downloads and it starts to hurt). As per last year therefore our main two channels will be free download by BitTorrent and mailing the DVDs free all over the world. At a pinch we will (as before) put straight copies up for individuals who cannot get it any other way, and we have some copies on memory sticks for on distributors.

((WN)) Is it your opinion that the UK Government should be encouraging the adoption of projects like this as mainstream educational resources?

AC: Clearly yes. We have had a very enthusiastic reaction from schools and the teaching community. We think every school should have an intranet copy. We expect the Government to catch on in a few years. That is not to say that Wikipedia is as good as resources developed by teachers for teachers such as lesson plans etc. but it is a fantastic resource.

((WN)) You’re a Wikipedia administrator, all too often a thankless task. What prompted you to get involved in the first place? What are the most notable highs and lows of your involvement with the project?

AC: Funnily the thing I have found most amazing about Wikipedia is not widely discussed, which is the effect of Wikipedia policies on new editors. I have seen countless extreme POV new editors, who come in and try to get their opinions included slowly learn not only that there are other opinions to consider but that elements of their own opinion which are not well founded. Watching someone arrive often (on pages on religions for example) full of condemnation for others, gradually become understanding and diplomatic is one of the biggest buzzes there is. The downside though is where correcting things which are wrong is too painfully slow because you need to find sources. I was a post-doc at Cambridge University in combustion and I know the article on Bunsen burners has several really significant errors concerning the flame structure and flow structure. But sadly I cannot correct it because I am still looking around for a reliable source.

((WN)) Do you believe schools should encourage students to get involved contributing to the editable version of Wikipedia? Does SOS Children encourage those who are multilingual to work on non-English versions?

AC: I think older students have a lot to learn from becoming involved in editing Wikipedia.

((WN)) To close, is there anything you’d like to add to encourage use of Wikipedia for Schools, or to persuade educators to gain a better understanding of Wikipedia?

AC: I would encourage people to feed back to the project online or via the charity. The Wikipedia community set out to help educate the world and are broadly incredibly well motivated to help. As soon as we understand what can be done to improve things people are already on the task.

((WN)) Thank you for your time.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=2008-09_Wikipedia_for_Schools_goes_online&oldid=2583732”

Australian government announces study of tax system

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Australian federal treasurer, Peter Costello, has announced a study to compare the Australian taxation system with those of other countries. It will include overall tax levels, as well as indirect tax, income tax and company tax systems. Mr Costello says that the results are intended to inform discussion of the future of the tax system.

“The aim of the study is to provide a public document that compares Australian taxes to those in other countries. This will identify those areas where Australia leads comparable countries and those areas where it lags. It will enable a focus on the most important areas,” Mr Costello said in a media release.

The study will be lead by Mr Richard (Dick) Warburton and Mr Peter Hendy. Mr Warburton is Chairman of Caltex Australia Ltd, and has been Chairman of the Board of Taxation since its inception in September 2000. According to its website, the Board of Taxation is “a non-statutory advisory body charged with contributing a business and broader community perspective to improving the design of taxation laws and their operation.”

The Australian Democrats welcomed the study but warned that nothing would be achieved without serious reform of the tax system.

“The Inquiry announced yesterday by the Treasurer may turn out to be a step in the right direction but will be a pointless exercise if it ends up being simply a ‘desktop’ report,” said Senator Murray, Democrats Tax Spokesperson.

“The problem with Mr Costello’s approach is that in contrast to the approach taken on the GST, the New Tax System, and the Business Tax System, he has seen income tax change to be solely part of the budget process. Across the whole of the political and public policy spectrum, there is strong agreement that reform is needed, not just tax cuts, and that the income tax system needs redesigning, not just fine tuning.”

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Australian_government_announces_study_of_tax_system&oldid=557877”

CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Michael McMahon running in Prince Edward—Hastings

Friday, September 26, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. New Democratic Party candidate Michael McMahon is standing for election in the riding of Prince Edward—Hastings. McMahon moved to Windsor in 1951, getting a degree in education, teaching locally and in Papua New Guinea. He served as Branch President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), served on multiple of their major committees, and recently retired from the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board.

Wikinews contacted Michael McMahon, to talk about the issues facing Canadians, and what they and their party would do to address them. Wikinews is in the process of contacting every candidate, in every riding across the country, no matter their political stripe. All interviews are conducted over e-mail, and interviews are published unedited, allowing candidates to impart their full message to our readers, uninterrupted.

Since being redefined in 2003, the riding includes the County of Prince Edward and the County of Hastings (except the City of Quinte West). Conservative Party member Daryl Kramp currently represents the riding, after beating a Liberal in 2004. Ken Cole of the Liberals and Alan Coxwell of the Greens are also running in the riding.

For more information, visit the campaign’s official website, listed below.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=CanadaVOTES:_NDP_candidate_Michael_McMahon_running_in_Prince_Edward—Hastings&oldid=1789486”

U.S. develops parks above highways

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In big cities, finding land for new parks is less of an expedition than an all-out land-rights battle with property owners. But some cities across the U.S. have found a slightly easier way to add to their greenspace. By utilizing the state’s air rights to the space above freeways that run below at ground level, cities can acquire 5 or 10 acres of parkspace essentially for free, such Freeway Park which occupies 5.5 acres above a freeway in downtown Seattle.

Of course, this free “land” is actually nothing more than open air above a freeway, requiring cities to pay the high construction costs of capping the roadway with land.

Such projects are currently being planned in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Dallas and San Diego. A recent article in Governing Magazine looks at more than two dozen highway deck parks that have been built or are under construction in the U.S. The article finds that even though the price of constructing parks on top of freeways can rise upwards of $500 per square foot, property values and local development boom once they are completed.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=U.S._develops_parks_above_highways&oldid=568109”

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Green candidate Marion Schaffer, Oakville

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marion Schaffer is running for the Green Party of Ontario in the Ontario provincial election, in the Oakville riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed her regarding her values, her experience, and her campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Ontario_Votes_2007:_Interview_with_Green_candidate_Marion_Schaffer,_Oakville&oldid=1891056”

Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Gastric_bypass_surgery_performed_by_remote_control&oldid=4331525”

Suicide bomber kills twelve in northwest Pakistan

Saturday, March 6, 2010

At least twelve civilians have died and over 25 wounded in a suicide bombing in the Hangu District of north-west Pakistan, Thursday night. A convoy of 140 vehicles running from Tall, in Hangu District to the town of Parachinar in Kurram Agency, FATA was targeted.

The victims, some of them women, were at a petrol station in Hangu. The wounded were taken to adjoining hospitals.

According to police, the attacker detonated a bomb near a fully loaded bus. The convoy carried several people, vehicles filled with provisions and commodities for trading. A majority of the people in the group were Shia Muslims.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Several insurgents have attacked the country’s North West Frontier Province in the last year. Earlier, three died in another suicide attack on a police station in Karak, located in the same area.

Many Shi’as dwell in the Parachinar and Orakzai area which has been home to violence in the past. The Tall-Parachinar road was closed to the public in 2008 and 2009 due to Taliban activity. The latter targeted Shia Muslims, sources say. The road was re-opened about two months ago, with convoys guarded by security forces forming the bulk of the traffic.

Hangu borders Pakistan’s tribal regions, where several militant groups are believed to be operating. However, security forces say that arrangements have improved from the past.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Suicide_bomber_kills_twelve_in_northwest_Pakistan&oldid=4460618”

European Court of Justice says Facebook must remove ‘illegal’ posts globally

Sunday, October 6, 2019

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) — the supreme court on matters of European Union (EU) law — ruled in regard to the case “Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek vs. Facebook Ireland Limited”. The Luxembourg-based court issued a judgement favorable to the plaintiff, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a politician in Austria, allowing an Austrian court to require social media site Facebook to remove a post from its site made by a user in Ireland. The ruling made proclamations which analysts say could have far-reaching implications for regulation of content on the Internet beyond the borders of the EU. The court’s decision cannot be appealed.

In 2016, a Facebook user registered from Ireland shared publicly a news article from the Austrian news site oe24.at along with some comments of their own. The post, which was about Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, the then chair and spokesperson for The Greens, could potentially be seen by anyone with access to Facebook. The comments called her political party facsist and termed her a “corrupt oaf” and a “lousy traitor”.

Glawischnig-Piesczek sued in Austria for defamation and won. Facebook was ordered to remove the post which it did by making it unavailable to view in Austria only. This apparently did not appease Glawischnig-Piesczek. As a result, the Supreme Court of Justice (Oberster Gerichtshof?) of Austria brought the case before the ECJ, asking for clarifications of EU law.

The EU law Electronic Commerce Directive 2000 provides liability protections for hosting sites. In its finding, the ECJ set rules for compliance with rulings from a court from any EU member nation for any website which hosts user content:

By today’s judgment, the Court of Justice answers the Oberster Gerichtshof that the Directive on electronic commerce, which seeks to strike a balance between the different interests at stake, does not preclude a court of a Member State from ordering a host provider:

  • to remove information which it stores, the content of which is identical to the content of information which was previously declared to be unlawful, or to block access to that information, irrespective of who requested the storage of that information;
  • to remove information which it stores, the content of which is equivalent to the content of information which was previously declared to be unlawful, or to block access to that information, provided that the monitoring of and search for the information concerned by such an injunction are limited to information conveying a message the content of which remains essentially unchanged compared with the content which gave rise to the finding of illegality and containing the elements specified in the injunction, and provided that the differences in the wording of that equivalent content, compared with the wording characterising the information which was previously declared to be illegal, are not such as to require the host provider to carry out an independent assessment of that content (thus, the host provider may have recourse to automated search tools and technologies);
  • to remove information covered by the injunction or to block access to that information worldwide within the framework of the relevant international law, and it is up to Member States to take that law into account.

According to the ruling, a host, such as Facebook, must remove the original post as well as re-posts and posts which state essentially the same thing if it is deemed against the law. Steve Peers of the University of Essex, speaking to BBC, said, “If there’s a court order to say that someone’s been defamed, then Facebook has to also search for different variations of it”, also observing, “[t]here’s no harmonised defamation law internationally”.

Jennifer Daskal of American University and contributor to Slate wrote, “a single EU country (in this case Austria) could demand an online provider (in this case Facebook) to take down an objectionable post, monitor its site for equivalent content, and take down those postings as well. And it says a country could do so on a global scale, regardless of where the poster or the viewer is located. In so ruling, the court demonstrated a shocking ignorance of the technology involved and set the stage for the most censor-prone country to set global speech rules.”

Facebook released a statement which read, in part, “This judgment raises critical questions around freedom of expression and the role that internet companies should play in monitoring, interpreting and removing speech that might be illegal in any particular country”. Facebook further claimed, “It undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country”.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=European_Court_of_Justice_says_Facebook_must_remove_%27illegal%27_posts_globally&oldid=4665945”

Australian Parliament hears reply to Budget

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Australian House of Representatives heard the traditional right-of-reply to the Budget released May 9, from the Australian Labor Party, led by Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand), plus Budget replies from minor parties in the Australian Senate.

While the Budget is politically popular, having as one of its main features significant tax reform, Beazley focused on the omissions in the Budget, such as the failure to address a skills shortage.

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