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Wikimania 2008: MediaWiki use in the U.S. Department of State

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Wikimania 2008: MediaWiki use in the U.S. Department of State
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The last day of the Wikimania 2008 conference saw Saturday morning sessions on a variety of topics. Wikinews attended a presentation by Eric M. Johnson from the United States Department of State. Eric, a former NCO in the U.S. Marines, is the lead for the Knowledge Management Action team in the department’s Office of eDiplomacy, and involved in department’s use of Web 2.0 technologies for knowledge management. This includes blogs, and the key focus of his talk, Wiki culture in the U.S. Department of State.

Eric opened his presentation with an introduction to the U.S. State Department, one of the oldest agencies of the American government, which today has around 57,000 employees worldwide. When formed in the 18th century their offices and diplomatic staff operated largely autonomously due to lack of ability to communicate rapidly. By the mid-20th century this had changed with the advent of telegraph lines, and changed again with the Cold War and security concerns bringing to the fore the well-known term, “need to know”.

Now, in the 21st century, the volume of internal communication generated by the department is a staggering 1,800,000 cables a year, 1.5 billion emails, production of around 500,000 print volumes, and maintenance of approximately one thousand websites. Both internal and externally facing.

A pilot project was set up, Diplopedia, a MediaWiki wiki running on the department’s internal network, which outside of the department of defence is one of the largest private networks operated by the U.S. government.

A grassroots effort, this project to promote knowledge sharing differs from the well-known Wikipedia in that it does not allow anonymous edits. There are around 1,000 registered users who have contributed over 4,400 pages. Integration with the Department of State’s internal search engine prioritises results from the wiki, increasing the popularity of the site such that it has received over 650,000 page views. Like Wikipedia, users are required to provide sources for entered information at the foot of the article, and users are warned that it is a starting point and not an authoritative source of information. Data on visa requirements and information from other static department sites has been incorporated into the wiki.

Eric described the project as just reaching critical mass and attracting increasing interest from other departments. Among the ingredients leading to the success of the project were the cultural change with increasing awareness of the technology from Wikipedia, the formation by the community of a welcoming committee, and the taking on of roles to carry out tasks such as drafting. A number of staff act as “gardeners” tending to the wiki content, keeping it fresh, and well cross-referenced. The continual updating is a novel concept to many of their employees.

Unlike Wikipedia, and many other projects using MediaWiki, none of the Diplopedia pages are locked or protected. This even includes their main page. To date there have been none of the content disputes that have been an issue on Wikipedia, and the use of the wiki to replace traditional websites which are far more time consuming to maintain is seen as a logical extension of the project.

Carried out with no outside help, and by learning from others’ mistakes, the department has adopted mechanisms for assuming that contributions are well-intentioned, and has a body for oversight in the event of a dispute.

With the success of the project, eDiplomacy plans to introduce a separate, classified wiki. They will also expand the effort to compile biographies of foreign leaders, which was pioneered by the U.S. missions in Italy and Germany. This effort has proven valuable when combined with a version of the site available on portable devices such as the Blackberry.

The future holds moves to seek more support from management and integration with their primary authentication system. Among the features on the main page to keep the project interesting to staff is a “Diploquiz” which poses a weekly trivia question which can be answered from somewhere within the wiki.

US clinic plans first face transplant

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US clinic plans first face transplant

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

US doctors are to interview 12 patients with a view to performing the first ever transplant of a human face.

The Cleveland Clinic will choose between seven women and five men to find the person most suited for the experimental procedure, which is a radical and controversial solution to extreme facial scarring or disfigurement.

Having practiced the procedure on bodies donated for medical research, the Cleveland Clinic team believe they have a 50% chance of success. The procedure will not live up to science-fiction predictions and give the recipient the appearance of the donor; the underlying bone structure is the deciding factor in the final appearance. The new face will end up resembling neither the donor nor recipient.

Surgeons in several other countries have announced being ready to perform this procedure in the past. However, the risk and non life-threatening nature of disfigurement have meant that gaining approval for the groundbreaking surgery has been difficult. Like many other transplant operations, the recipient would be required to take drugs to prevent tissue rejection for the remainder of their life. These drugs can have side effects and carry their own risks involving the patient’s immune system.

Israel buys nuclear capable subs

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Israel buys nuclear capable subs

Friday, August 25, 2006

Israel has purchased two more Dolphin class submarines which have the capacity to carry nuclear warheads. Israel already has three older nuclear weapons-capable Dolphin submarines but the new Dolphins have propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for longer periods of time, according to the Jerusalem Post, making it harder for them to be tracked by satellite. Experts view the purchase as a clear signal to Iran that Israel can retaliate if subjected to a nuclear attack.

“The Iranians would be very foolish if they attacked Israel,” said Paul Beaver, a British based defence analyst, speaking to the Washington Post. According to Beaver, the submarines would provide Israel with both first strike and second strike capability.

Israel already has land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in the form of the Jericho I and II missiles.

German officials confirm that the contracts for the new submarines was signed July 6. The Jerusalem Post reports that they will be operational shortly.

Israel has never confirmed nor denied that it has nuclear weapons but is believed to have the world’s sixth largest stockpile of the devices, with most outside estimates putting their stockpile in the low hundreds. Israel’s possession of nuclear arms has often been a locus of bitter controversy in the Middle East, especially among countries who believe that the world community, and especially the United States, is hypocritical in its tolerance of Israeli nuclear arms while decrying the efforts of other Middle Eastern nations to develop their own nuclear capabilities.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports there is a growing mood among Israel’s defence establishment that the country will have to act independently to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons as the United States is unlikely to do so.

“America is stuck in Iraq and cannot go after Iran militarily right now,” according to an unnamed official quoted by the paper.

A report by the US House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee released on Wednesday asserts that if Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons, Israel would be pressed to respond militarily. “A nuclear armed Iran would likely exacerbate regional tensions. Israel would find it hard to live with a nuclear armed Iran and could take military action against Iranian nuclear facilities,” the report states. Iran has continually maintained that it seeks only to develop nuclear technology for the production of electrical power, though this has been disputed by many nations.

Wikinews interviews Jeremy Hanke, editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine

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Wikinews interviews Jeremy Hanke, editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Jeremy Hanke, editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine. The magazine, which is free to read online, was started as a resource for the low budget moviemaker and features book, independent film, equipment and software reviews as well as articles on film distribution, special effects and lighting.

He says that one of the goals of the magazine is to “connect low-budget filmmakers via a feeling of community, as many…..often compete so viciously against one another in film festivals for coveted “shots” with Hollywood, that they can quickly forget their similarities.”

When asked if films made on a shoestring budget can really compete with those made for millions of dollars, he replied, “no…yes…and absolutely. Allow me to explain.” And so he does in the interview below.

21 July London bombing suspect held

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21 July London bombing suspect held

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yasin Hassan Omar, 24 — suspected of the attempted attack on Warren Street Tube Station — has been arrested by police in Birmingham in a raid yesterday.

After being informed by a member of the public, police — supported by an army bomb disposal team from the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) — launched a dawn raid at 04:30 am BST on a ground floor flat in Heybarnes Road that Omar was apparently staying in alone. According to the British tabloid newspaper “The Daily Mirror”, Omar allegedly shouted at police to “Get back or I’ll take you with me”.

After a struggle ensued involving, it is believed, a rucksack that police feared was a bomb, Omar was shot in the bathroom by a 50,000-volt taser stun gun that temporarily disabled him. The rucksack was apparently thrown outside the window by police officers.

Around 100 homes were subsequently evacuated as a precautionary measure on the orders of the RLC bomb disposal team. The team then made a controlled explosion of the suspect package.

In a house in nearby Bankdale Road, three men, thought to be Somalis, were arrested and taken to a local police station.

Omar was later taken to Paddington Green, West London, the Metropolitan Police’s only high-security police station.

The flat in Birmingham remained guarded by police while forensic tests continued.

Elsewhere, three women were arrested in Blair House in Stockwell, London in connection with the investigations into the attempted attacks on 21 July.

Early this morning, nine people were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 in raids on two houses in Tooting, south London. None are believed to be the three remaining 21 July bombers at large.

Ahmadinejad sends letter to George W. Bush

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Ahmadinejad sends letter to George W. Bush

Tuesday, May 9, 2006For the first time in three decades, direct and at least partially public diplomatic communication will commence between the United States (US) and Iran. Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to the U.S. president George W. Bush proposing “new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world”.

Mr Gholam-Hossein Elham did not say whether the letter mentioned the nuclear dispute, one of the diplomatic problems currently straining relations between Iran and the USA. This information arrived one day after the Iranian parliament announced that it might retract from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if Western pressure over its programme was to increase.

Differing reports have been made as to whether or not the letter will be made public, and if so, when. In its online report of 8 May 2006, 09:25 GMT, the BBC quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying that the contents of the letter would be made public once Bush had received it. The updated version of the report of 8 May 2006, 14:52 GMT, quotes Asefi as saying that the contents would be made public “at the right time”. An ABC report quoted Gholam-Hossein Elham as saying “it is not an open letter.”

Iran’s foreign affairs minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, delivered the letter to the United States’ interests section in the Swiss embassy in Tehran on Monday. The United States has not held diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said “this letter isn’t it. This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort.”

“It isn’t addressing the issues that we’re dealing with in a concrete way,” she added.

John R. Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, also read the letter, saying, “I think it is typical of Iran that when major decisions are about to be taken … that they have tried to throw sand in the eyes of the proponents of the action. That’s what this may be.”

The letter has since been put on an official Iranian website, and on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said “the letter to US President George Bush carries the Iranian nation’s views and comments on international issues as well as suggestions for resolving the many problems facing humanity.”

News briefs:August 2, 2010

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News briefs:August 2, 2010
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized
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Ian Thorpe starts to recover from chest pains

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Ian Thorpe starts to recover from chest pains
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Friday, March 3, 2006

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is reported to be feeling much better after suffering from chest pain for some time.

The Olympic gold medalist was due to swim in the 100m and 200m freestyle and in three relays at the Commonwealth Games, but due to his complaints his fitness has been in doubt. He has been unable to take the drugs needed to overcome his pain as they are banned from the Games.

Thorpe told the media Thursday “It’s actually the best I’ve felt in a while; the antibiotics are starting to work.”

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Brazil’s Minas state stops sales of Toyota Corolla

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Brazil’s Minas state stops sales of Toyota Corolla
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Friday, April 23, 2010

Minas, one of the largest states of Brazil, has stopped the sale of the Toyota Corolla over safety concerns.

The move was made after nine Corolla customers reported that their cars automatically accelerated. The state public prosecutor’s office said in an online statement on Tuesday that the problem is blamed on accelerator pedals sticking underneath floor mats. Local government said the issue was “putting in danger the lives of occupants”.

According to the prosecutor’s office, sales of Corollas may resume when Toyota alters the floormats in its current models. Toyota has recalled over eight million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration problems.

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Thousands watch Boobs on Bikes parade in Auckland

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Thousands watch Boobs on Bikes parade in Auckland
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thousands of spectators lined Queen St. in central Auckland, New Zealand to watch a parade of around 20 female porn stars riding topless on motorcycles. The girls, wearing studded knee-high leather boots and leather pants, braved a winter chill, nippy wind and objections by some city officials, in a shot at promoting an Auckland Erotica Expo happening later this week.

Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard described the parade as “morally repugnant.”

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