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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Preparations for inaugural Bathurst International Motor Festival begin

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Preparations for inaugural Bathurst International Motor Festival begin

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Bathurst Regional Council has begun preparing the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit for the inaugural Bathurst International Motorsport Festival (BIMF) to be held between April 13 and 16, 2006. The Mount Panorama motor racing circuit is considered to be the home of motorsport in Australia.

Council’s staff have been busy cleaning the facilities, erecting signage, checking pedestrian bridges and inspecting the track surface for the past few days.

The BIMF will be the first event to be held at the 6.2 kilometre circuit over Easter since 2000. In 2000, Event Management Specialists held the first motorcycle racing event since 1990, but due to EMS going bankrupt a short time after their 2000 event was ran and the inability of the then Bathurst City Council to find another promoter, the Easter event was canned.

The BIMF is inspired by the Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival in the United Kingdom. The Bathurst Regional Council and event promoter Global Entertainment Team promise that the event “will cater for all motoring enthusiasts, collectors and historians”.

According to the BIMF website, the on-track program consists of:

  • Manufacturers showcasing their vehicles and track times
  • Historic touring car races
  • Aussie racing car races
  • Australian GT sports car
  • Parade laps by car clubs
  • Parade laps and races by “Legends of Motorsport”
  • Stunt car and bike events
  • Rally cars
  • Displays of cars from all eras of Mount Panorama’s history
  • The chance for patrons to purchase a ride around the circuit in a race car.

Off the track, the organisers have promised manufacturer displays, merchandise stands, music, joyflights, Off-road demonstrations and joyrides, autograph sessions and interviews with influential people in the Australian motor industry.

Sulpicio Lines pay PHP6.2 million for death of man in 1998 ferry disaster

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Sulpicio Lines pay PHP6.2 million for death of man in 1998 ferry disaster

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sulpicio Lines, a ferry company in the Philippines, have been ordered to pay PH?6.24 million over the death of a man on board MV Princess of the Orient, which sank in stormy weather off Batangas in 1998. Ernesto Unabia was one of seventy confirmed fatalities in the disaster, which left eighty more missing.

Unabia was a 37-year-old seaman who worked on international vessels, and earned a ?120,000 salary. According to widow Verna Unabia, who filed the case with her three children, he was going to work on for thirteen more years and then retire. Unabia’s case is the first to be concluded, although most victims settled with Sulpicio without claims being filed.

Although Sulpicio lost their appeal several weeks ago, reporters have only today received access to documentation concerning the case.

Under Philippines law, employers are responsible for their employees actions. However, in Pestaño vs. Sumayang the Supreme court ruled that if it could be proved an employer had taken appropriate diligence when selecting employers then they could not be held responsible.

It was viewed that Sulpicio was responsible as they failed to remove captain Esrum Mahilum from the vessel despite a number of incidents involving the ferry while he was in command of it. Princess of the Orient had struck the bottom of Manila‘s North Harbour, sideswiped a container ship and suffered a crippling engine fire while berthed at North Harbour, being towed first to Cebu and ultimately Singapore for repairs.

Despite these serious incidents while the ship was under Mahilum’s care, however, he was not removed from captaincy or even disciplined. A Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) investigation into the ultimate sinking of the Princess of the Orient would later say that Sulpicio did not have enough initiative to take action against him. The court ruled this made them responsible for his actions.

On September 18, 1998, the day of the sinking, Captain Mahilum was warned before starting out that severe weather was approaching. He wrongly calculated that the storm was safely distanced and left port regardless, running into the storm two hours later. Princess of the Orient began listing to the left and a distress call was sent, but she sank before help arrived. The BMI’s report blamed the disaster on the captain making “erroneous maneuvers of the vessel before it sank.” He remains missing to this day.

After the court ruled that this made Sulpicio liable to pay civil damages an appeal was filed, in which Sulpicio said that the captain “valiantly tried to save his ship up to the bitter end. He heroically went down with his ship.” Although he failed to properly supervise the abandon ship order he gave, he was last seen helping passengers to board life rafts. Sulpicio further alleged that careful analysis of the BMI report showed he did not directly cause the disaster.

The court rejected the appeal, with judge Estella Alma Singco saying that while the failure to remove the captain wasn’t the direct cause, “such failure doubtless contributed materially to the loss of life.” Sulpicio were ordered to pay P6.240 million in lost earnings, P100,000 moral damages, P50,000 indemnity – which Sulpicio had already offered to all the families of the deceased – and P50,000 in pursuer’s litigation costs.

Russia wins Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2006

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Russia wins Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2006

Sunday, December 3, 2006

In an atmosphere of fun and excitement, the 4th annual Junior Eurovision Song Contest was held in Bucharest, Romania. The big winners of the night were twin duo Sisters Tolmatchevy with their song “Vesna” (Spring). Followed by Russia were pre-contest favorites Belarus (winners of the 2005 edition), and Sweden taking the second and third places respectively. Rounding out the top 5 were Spain and Serbia.

The evening began with an introduction by 12-year-old co-hostess Ioana Ivan followed by an elaborate dance routine. Romanian reporter, Andreea Marin took to the stage to kick off the 15 performances from various European countries. Romania incorporated historic and modern elements in an interesting way that would appeal to children everywhere. Dracula was also present on stage, helping Ioana and Andreea present. The evening ran smoothly, but not without some surprises. At the end of the voting, most of the reactions expressed shock in the Portuguese and Macedonian results. These two countries could be found at the bottom of the scoreboard.

  • 01. Russia – 154
  • 02. Belarus – 129
  • 03. Sweden – 116
  • 04. Spain – 90
  • 05. Serbia – 81
  • 06. Romania – 80
  • 07. Belgium – 71
  • 08. Ukraine – 58
  • 09. Cyprus – 58
  • 10. Croatia – 50
  • 11. Malta – 48
  • 12. The Netherlands – 44
  • 13. Greece – 35
  • 14. Portugal – 22
  • 15. FYR Macedonia – 14

Sunflower oil saves at-risk newborns from infection

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Sunflower oil saves at-risk newborns from infection

Saturday, March 5, 2005Simply massaging low birth weight babies with sunflower seed oil can protect them from potentially fatal infections.

Infections and complications from preterm birth cause more than half of all neonatal deaths, and very low birth weight babies are particularly vulnerable.

Preterm babies have immature skin that lacks a protective film called vernix that has antimicrobial properties.

In some countries, such as India, newborns are routinely massaged with mustard oil.

But mustard oil, says Gary Darmstadt of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, can delay recovery of the skin barrier and have a toxic effect on skin.

Seeking an alternative low-cost product, Darmstadt and colleagues experimented with sunflower oil and an ointment called Aquaphor that comprises petrolatum, mineral oil, mineral wax and lanolin.

The researchers tested the treatments on 497 newborns (72 hours old or less) and preterm babies (less than 33 weeks gestation) between 1998 and 2003 in Bangladesh.

They applied the treatments to the entire body besides the scalp and face three times daily for the first 14 days and then twice daily until discharge.

Babies treated with sunflower oil were found 41% less likely to develop infections than controls.

“Evidence is emerging that the skin is much more important as a barrier to infection than previously recognized, particularly in preterm infants whose skin is underdeveloped,” says Darmstadt. “The good news is that treatment is available to strengthen the function of the skin as a barrier in these vulnerable newborns.”

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Two nuclear submarines collide in the Atlantic Ocean

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Two nuclear submarines collide in the Atlantic Ocean
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Nuclear ballistic missile submarines Triomphant, from France, and HMS Vanguard, of the British Royal Navy, collided deep under the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night between February 3 and 4, despite both vessels being equipped with sonar. The collision caused damage to both vessels but it did not release any radioactive material, a Ministry of Defence (MOD) official confirmed Monday.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said nuclear security had not been breached. “It is MOD policy not to comment on submarine operational matters, but we can confirm that the U.K.’s deterrent capability was unaffected at all times and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety. Triomphant had struck ‘a submerged object (probably a container)’ during a return from a patrol, damaging the sonar dome on the front of the submarine,” he said.

A French navy spokesman said that “the collision did not result in injuries among the crew and did not jeopardise nuclear security at any moment.” Lack of communication between France and other members of NATO over the location of their SLBM deterrents is believed to be another reason for the crash.

According to Daily Mail, the vessels collided 1,000ft underwater in the Bay of Biscay (Golfe de Gascogne; Golfo de Vizcaya and Mar Cantábrico), a gulf of the North Atlantic Ocean. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Punta de Estaca de Bares, and is named for the Spanish province of Biscay, with average depth of 5,723 feet (1,744 m) and maximum depth is 9,151 feet (2,789 m).

Each submarine is laden with missiles powerful enough for 1,248 Hiroshima bombings, The Independent said.

It is unlikely either vessel was operating its active sonar at the time of the collision, because the submarines are designed to “hide” while on patrol and the use of active sonar would immediately reveal the boat’s location. Both submarines’ hulls are covered with anechoic tile to reduce detection by sonar, so the boats’ navigational passive sonar would not have detected the presence of the other.

Lee Willett of London’s Royal United Services Institute said “the NATO allies would be very reluctant to share information on nuclear submarines. These are the strategic crown jewels of the nation. The whole purpose of a sea-based nuclear deterrent is to hide somewhere far out of sight. They are the ultimate tools of national survival in the event of war. Therefore, it’s the very last thing you would share with anybody.”

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB, ADC of the United Kingdom, the most senior serving officer in the Royal Navy, said that “…the submarines came into contact at very low speed. Both submarines remained safe. No injuries occurred. We can confirm the capability remains unaffected and there was no compromise to nuclear safety.”

“Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports. So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States. Navies often used the same nesting grounds,” said John H. Large, an independent nuclear engineer and analyst primarily known for his work in assessing and reporting upon nuclear safety and nuclear related accidents and incidents.

President of the Royal Naval Association John McAnally said that the incident was a “one in a million chance”. “It would be very unusual on deterrent patrol to use active sonar because that would expose the submarine to detection. They are, of course, designed to be very difficult to detect and one of the priorities for both the captain and the deterrent patrol is to avoid detection by anything,” he said.

The development of stealth technology, making the submarines less visible to other vessels has properly explained that a submarine does not seem to have been able to pick out another submarine nearly the length of two football pitches and the height of a three-story building.

“The modus operandi of most submarines, particularly ballistic-missile submarines, is to operate stealthily and to proceed undetected. This means operating passively, by not transmitting on sonar, and making as little noise as possible. A great deal of technical effort has gone into making submarines quiet by reduction of machinery noise. And much effort has gone into improving the capability of sonars to detect other submarines; detection was clearly made too late or not at all in this case,” explained Stephen Saunders, the editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships, an annual reference book (also published online, on CD and microfiche) of information on all the world’s warships arranged by nation, including information on ship’s names, dimensions, armaments, silhouettes and photographs, etc.

According to Bob Ayres, a former CIA and US army officer, and former associate fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, however, the submarines were not undetectable, despite their “stealth” technology. “When such submarines came across similar vessels from other navies, they sought to get as close as possible without being detected, as part of routine training. They were playing games with each other – stalking each other under the sea. They were practising being able to kill the other guy’s submarine before he could launch a missile.Because of the sound of their nuclear reactors’ water pumps, they were still noisier than old diesel-electric craft, which ran on batteries while submerged. The greatest danger in a collision was the hull being punctured and the vessel sinking, rather than a nuclear explosion,” Ayres explained.

Submarine collisions are uncommon, but not unheard of: in 1992, the USS Baton Rouge, a submarine belonging to the United States, under command of Gordon Kremer, collided with the Russian Sierra-class attack submarine K-276 that was surfacing in the Barents Sea.

In 2001, the US submarine USS Greeneville surfaced and collided with Japanese fishing training ship Ehime Maru (????), off the coast of Hawaii. The Navy determined the commanding officer of Greeneville to be in “dereliction of duty.”

The tenth HMS Vanguard (S28) of the British Royal Navy is the lead boat of her class of Trident ballistic missile-capable submarines and is based at HMNB Clyde, Faslane. The 150m long, V-class submarine under the Trident programme, has a crew of 135, weighs nearly 16,000 tonnes and is armed with 16 Trident 2 D5 ballistic missiles carrying three warheads each.

It is now believed to have been towed Monday to its naval base Faslane in the Firth of Clyde, with dents and scrapes to its hull. Faslane lies on the eastern shore of Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, to the north of the Firth of Clyde and 25 miles west of the city of Glasgow.

Vanguard is one of the deadliest vessels on the planet. It was built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions), was launched on 4 March, 1992, and commissioned on 14 August, 1993. The submarine’s first captain was Captain David Russell. In February 2002, Vanguard began a two-year refit at HMNB Devonport. The refit was completed in June 2004 and in October 2005 Vanguard completed her return to service trials (Demonstration and Shakedown Operations) with the firing of an unarmed Trident missile.

“The Vanguard has two periscopes, a CK51 search model and a CH91 attack model, both of which have a TV camera and thermal imager as well as conventional optics,” said John E. Pike, director and a national security analyst for http://www.globalsecurity.org/, an easily accessible pundit, and active in opposing the SDI, and ITAR, and consulting on NEO’s.File:Triomphant img 0394.jpg

“But the periscopes are useless at that depth. It’s pitch black after a couple of hundred feet. In the movies like ‘Hunt for Red October,’ you can see the subs in the water, but in reality it’s blindman’s bluff down there. The crash could have been a coincidence — some people win the lottery — but it’s much more possible that one vessel was chasing the other, trying to figure out what it was,” Pike explained.

Captain of HMS Vanguard, Commander Richard Lindsey said his men would not be there if they couldn’t go through with it. “I’m sure that if somebody was on board who did not want to be here, they would have followed a process of leaving the submarine service or finding something else to do in the Navy,” he noted.

The Triomphant is a strategic nuclear submarine, lead ship of her class (SNLE-NG). It was laid down on June 9, 1989, launched on March 26, 1994 and commissioned on March 21, 1997 with homeport at Île Longue. Equipped with 16 M45 ballistic missiles with six warheads each, it has 130 crew on board. It was completing a 70-day tour of duty at the time of the underwater crash. Its fibreglass sonar dome was damaged requiring three or four months in Drydock repair. “It has returned to its base on L’Ile Longue in Brittany on Saturday under its own power, escorted as usual by a frigate,” the ministry said.

A Ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident.

The Triomphant class of strategic missile submarines of the French Navy are currently being introduced into service to provide the sea based component (the Force Océanique Stratégique) of the French nuclear deterrent or Force de frappe, with the M45 SLBM. They are replacing the Redoutable-class boats. In French, they are called Sous-Marin Nucléaire Lanceur d’Engins de Nouvelle Génération (“SNLE-NG, literally “Device-launching nuclear submarine of the new generation”).

They are roughly one thousand times quieter than the Redoutable-class vessels, and ten times more sensitive in detecting other submarines [1]. They are designed to carry the M51 nuclear missile, which should enter active service around 2010.

Repairs for both heavily scraped and dented, missile-laden vessels were “conservatively” estimated to cost as much as €55m, with intricate missile guidance systems and navigation controls having to be replaced, and would be met by the French and British taxpayer, the Irish Independent reported.

Many observers are shocked by the deep sea disaster, as well as the amount of time it took for the news to reach the public. ”Two US and five Soviet submarine accidents in the past prove that the reactor protection system makes an explosion avoidable. But if the collision had been more powerful the submarines could have sunk very quickly and the fate of the 250 crew members would have been very serious indeed,” said Andrey Frolov, from Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

“I think this accident will force countries that possess nuclear submarines to sit down at the negotiating table and devise safety precautions that might avert such accidents in the future… But because submarines must be concealed and invisible, safety and navigation laws are hard to define,” Frolov said, noting further that there are no safety standards for submarines.

The unthinkable disaster – in the Atlantic’s 41 million square miles – has raised concern among nuclear activists. “This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order. The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed,” said Kate Hudson, chair of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

“This is the most severe incident involving a nuclear submarine since the Russian submarine RFS Kursk K-141 explosion and sinking in 2000 and the first time since the Cold War that two nuclear-armed subs are known to have collided. Gordon Brown should seize this opportunity to end continuous patrols,” Hudson added. Despite a rescue attempt by British and Norwegian teams, all 118 sailors and officers aboard Kursk died.

“This reminds us that we could have a new catastrophe with a nuclear submarine at any moment. It is a risk that exists during missions but also in port. These are mobile nuclear reactors,” said Stephane Lhomme, a spokesman for the French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire.

Nicholas Barton “Nick” Harvey, British Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Devon has called for an immediate internal probe. “While the British nuclear fleet has a good safety record, if there were ever to be a bang it would be a mighty big one. Now that this incident is public knowledge, the people of Britain, France and the rest of the world need to be reassured this can never happen again and that lessons are being learned,” he said.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP for Moray has demanded for a government statement. “The Ministry of Defence needs to explain how it is possible for a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction to collide with another submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction in the middle of the world’s second-largest ocean,” he said.

Michael Thomas Hancock, CBE, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and a City councillor for Fratton ward, and who sits on the Commons defence committee, has called on the Ministry of Defence Secretary of State John Hutton to make a statement when parliament sits next week.

“While I appreciate there are sensitive issues involved here, it is important that this is subject to parliamentary scrutiny. It’s fairly unbelievable that this has happened in the first place but we now need to know that lessons have been learnt. We need to know for everyone’s sakes that everything possible is now done to ensure that there is not a repeat of the incident. There are serious issues as to how some of the most sophisticated naval vessels in the seas today can collide in this way,” Mr. Hancock said.

Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox, a British Conservative politician, currently Shadow Defence Secretary and Member of Parliament for Woodspring, said: “For two submarines to collide while apparently unaware of each other’s presence is extremely worrying.”

Meanwhile, Hervé Morin, the French Minister of Defence, has denied allegations the nuclear submarines, which are hard to detect, had been shadowing each other deliberately when they collided, saying their mission was to sit at the bottom of the sea and act as a nuclear deterrent.

“There’s no story to this — the British aren’t hunting French submarines, and the French submarines don’t hunt British submarines. We face an extremely simple technological problem, which is that these submarines are not detectable. They make less noise than a shrimp. Between France and Britain, there are things we can do together….one of the solutions would be to think about the patrol zones,” Morin noted, and further denying any attempt at a cover-up.

France’s Atlantic coast is known as a submarine graveyard because of the number of German U-boats and underwater craft sunk there during the Second World War.

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Dance party broken up by police in Utah, USA

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Dance party broken up by police in Utah, USA
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Monday, August 22, 2005

About 90 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies broke up what they said was a rave party on public and private property in the Diamond Fork area of Spanish Fork canyon, an hour outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday (5:30 Sunday UTC).

According to the county, the Sheriff’s Office had been investigating similar parties since the beginning of the season. In a press release from the Sheriff’s Office in Utah County, the department states that previous allegations of sexual abuse at other raves, as well as various firearm and theft violations, were reasons for the investigation. The release continues on to state that the proper permit was not obtained before the event started.The promoters deny this allegation and insist that all permits were legally obtained before the event.

Armed with semi-automatic assault rifles, tasers, and tear gas, the police used dogs to sweep the crowd for narcotics. At least one helicopter was used in the operation, which served as a large spotlight for the ground teams. Prior to raiding the show, several unnamed police informants had reportedly told police that they had observed some “illegal activities”.

The promoter says the party took place on private property, named Child’s Ranch, with express permission from the owner. The property owner has apparently had at least one previous lawsuit with police over a similar event. Utah County requires a permit, bond and county commission approval for all gatherings with more than 250 people present and which can be expected to continue for 12 hours or more. DJ time slots and Pro Audio and Lighting contracts show that the party was scheduled to go on for no more than ten hours. According to a DJ at the event, “They presold 700 tickets and they expected up to 3,000 people total.” He added that by the time police arrived “the crowd was about 1,500”.

The police have publicly stated that only a permit from the health department was obtained, and that a Utah mass gathering permit was needed. The promoters have stated that they had the required permit, and have given a permit number (# 2005-11). Jay Stone, who handles mass gathering permits for the Utah County Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services, has confirmed that the permit was applied for and granted for the party. Officials also claim that the party had spilled over onto public land, and that more than 60 arrests were made in total – for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, underage drinking, drug possession and distribution, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, and one instance of a weapons offense, a pistol which was found in the home of the private property owners. Among the confiscated items and drugs found were cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol, and drug paraphernalia. Some of the drugs may include those confiscated from attendees by private security guards – who were also arrested.

Amateur video from the scene shows a number of SWAT police (Sheriff’s press release places the figure at 90) screaming orders at the DJs to “Shut it down now!” and yelling at others to “get out now, or I’ll kick your ass in jail.” Armed police are also seen tackling two attendees, Alaisha Matagi and Paul Maka. It is unclear from the video footage whether these actions were provoked or not. However, those shown on the two-minute long footage that are being forced to the ground do not appear to be resisting arrest. Both Matagi and Maka are charged with failure to obey a police officer and resisting arrest – Maka is also charged with interfering with police. Sheriff Jim Tracy stated in an email that both of them were tackled and arrested after assaulting a deputy, however, neither of them are being charged with assaulting a police officer.

A first hand account from a DJ booked to play at the party stated that while police were arresting a man accused of possession, the suspect was beaten to the ground and continually “kicked in the ribs” by four armed “soldiers” dressed in camouflage. The item was not shown on the video footage. According to the account, nobody resisted the policemen, and the crowd was orderly, but tear gas was thrown at the partiers as they attempted to leave as instructed. The DJ also states that police were attempting to confiscate video equipment, but an amateur video has still surfaced on the internet (see sources below). The video appears to have been taken near the DJ stand before it was moved to show more of the action.

Several attendees felt they should have the right to attend an event where drugs may be present, so long as they don’t personally use them. “While it may be true that some individuals choose to take drugs at said events like this, myself as well as many others choose to go for the music. Just like anything, you have bad apples, but you shouldn’t cut down the tree,” said one attendee. “Raves are not the only musical gatherings where drugs are used and distributed,” said another.

Other event-goers felt that the use of force in the shutdown was excessive – numerous eyewitness accounts by concertgoers describe people being beaten, tasered, or attacked with dogs. An email from Sheriff Jim Tracy stated that dogs and tasers were present at the raid, however, he also states that the tasers were not used on anyone, and that no dogs were deployed against concertgoers.

One account from an attendee, identified as “Colby”, states:

“I saw at least two people being beaten on the ground while barking, snarling dogs are held just a few feet from them. Weapons were being pointed at unarmed, peaceful civilians. A friend of mine was forced at gunpoint to put his hands on his head and turn around, because he asked if he could get his things from the tent.”

Utah County sheriff’s Sergeant Darren Gilbert also alleged that a 17-year-old girl was found overdosed on ecstasy, and was treated and released to her parents. According to an advertisement for the event, an attorney was present at the party. The local sheriff is scheduled to appear on Utah TV.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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Do You Need A New Hvac System?

byAlma Abell

When your HVAC systems begin to malfunction or issues arise it is probable to believe that it is time for significant repairs or possibility a new system entirely. For this reason, it is beneficial to you to learn about services that are offered locally. For instance, most local providers allow you to schedule a free estimate for maintenance, repair, and installation services. These service providers can determine if it is possible to repair existing issues or if it is time to replace your system. To schedule an appointment for an evaluation or to receive an estimate for repair or installation costs, contact Service 1 immediately.

Do You Need a New System?

When your preferred provider determines that it is necessary to replace your existing heating system, they will introduce you to new options. Your local service provider presents you with effective heating systems based on your heating needs. These new systems may present you with significantly lower heating costs overall based on the type of replacement choice you select.

Heating and Cooling Service

Service 1 Heating & AC Inc. is your local repair service and distributor of heating and cooling systems. They offer free evaluations and estimates for services. They will provide you with a detailed estimate and evaluate your system to determine whether it is possible to repair an existing issue or if it is time to replace it altogether. With these services, you discover whether your system is outdated and if it Heating and AC promptly or visit their website for further details.

Summary

Your local HVAC service provider assists you when it is apparent that your system is failing to operate up to expectations. Your preferred technician can present you with a list of needed repairs following an inspection or evaluation. This provider can also help you determine whether it is time to replace your system altogether. If this is a necessary task your provider can present you with information about new heating systems such as the overall benefits and cost of installation.

Canada’s Don Valley West (Ward 25) city council candidates speak

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Canada’s Don Valley West (Ward 25) city council candidates speak
By BbGFjuyG | Posted in Uncategorized

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 25). Three candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include John Blair, Robertson Boyle, Tony Dickins, Cliff Jenkins (incumbent), and Peter Kapsalis.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

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