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.
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((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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In a continuing crackdown on tax evasion, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has alleged that brokers with a branch of RBC Dominion Securities, Canada’s largest brokerage company, helped clients set up accounts in the small European principality of Liechtenstein in order to avoid taxation on their wealth.

In affadavits submitted by the CRA, brokers with an RBC Dominion Securities office in Victoria, British Columbia, allegedly helped clients set up 16 offshore entities with a division of the LGT Group in Liechtenstein. While that is not a crime under Canadian law, auditors allege that the entities were used to help Canadians hide worldwide income. Thirteen individuals are either being audited or have made voluntary disclosures, admitting to tax evasion. The agency is presently investigating to see if there are any other individuals participating in this scheme. Regarding the inquiry, dubbed “Project Jade”, the CRA will only say that it was launched on information from a “confidential informant”.

RBC issued a written statement, saying “As a firm, we have never encouraged Canadians — not 25 years ago and not today — to set up entities in Liechtenstein, and we have never instructed our investment advisers to recommend that practice,” and “we comply with all CRA requirements. This means that we provide all our clients with the forms they need to meet their personal tax obligations, and also file reports with CRA that form the basis for reviews such as this.”

Three RBC employees are presently being investigated, with one remaining unidentified.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Zimbabwe has decided to abandon its currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, in favour of other currencies.

Acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced today that Zimbabweans will be allowed to make transactions in other currencies along with the local currency. “In line with the prevailing practices by the general public, [the] government is therefore allowing the use of multiple foreign currencies for business transactions alongside the Zimbabwean dollar,” he said, adding that the Zimbabwean dollar will not be removed from circulation and would be used alongside other currencies.

This decision comes during the current period of hyperinflation, which has massively devalued the Zimbabwean dollar. Banknotes up to $100 trillion have been printed, despite the removal of ten zeroes from the currency last summer to try to make transactions easier. The official inflation rate, last updated in July 2008, was 231,000,000% a year, although independent estimates place the number as high as 6.5×10108, or 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion, percent.

Up to now, only vendors with licenses were legally able to accept foreign currencies, although the practice was widespread — private businesses altogether refuse to accept the unstable Zimbabwean dollar.

Large sections of the workforce, including teachers and doctors, have gone on strike because hyperinflation rapidly renders their wages worthless. Representative groups said salaries, now measured in trillions of dollars, are insufficient to pay for even the bus fare to work.

Zimbabwe also faces other crises, including a cholera epidemic that has claimed the lives of over 3,000 people, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation.

[edit]

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journalist, counselor, painter, and US 2012 Presidential candidate Joe Schriner of Cleveland, Ohio took some time to discuss his campaign with Wikinews in an interview.

Schriner previously ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, but failed to gain much traction in the races. He announced his candidacy for the 2012 race immediately following the 2008 election. Schriner refers to himself as the “Average Joe” candidate, and advocates a pro-life and pro-environmentalist platform. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and has published public policy papers exploring solutions to American issues.

Wikinews reporter William Saturn? talks with Schriner and discusses his campaign.

Arson charge for man who cleaned home with gasoline

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ernest Krajniak from Chilton, Wisconsin in the United States has been charged with arson after a lit cigarette ignited gasoline soaked clothes, setting his apartment ablaze.

On Friday April 3, Krajniak, 47, cleaned his entire apartment with about five gallons of gasoline, wiping everything down with the soaked clothes. After he was finished, he piled the soaked clothes in the center of his bedroom, lit a cigarette and then threw what was left of the still lit cigarette, into the pile.

Krajniak never called the fire department and never pulled the alarm. Instead he yelled ‘fire’ a few times then walked to the police station where an ambulance took him to a local hospital for the treatment of minor burns. The fire department later arrived to put out the blaze and his apartment was extensively smoke damaged. 11 other apartments were also damaged, leaving the occupants without a place to stay for at least a week.

“I should have never used that,” said Krajniak during a court appearance on Monday. He admitted to knowing that gasoline was highly flammable. He was arrested and his bond has been set a US$2,500. Krajniak’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, April 13. According to WISinfo.com, Krajniak has no prior criminal record.

The careless smoking of cigarettes has been blamed for thousands of fires across the U.S. In January 2008, an unnamed elderly woman in Buffalo, New York was receiving oxygen for medical problems in her home and lit a cigarette and began to smoke it. The oxygen coming from her mask then facilitated the ignition of her clothing, setting her on fire.

In the U.S. in 2002, only 4% of all residential fires were reportedly caused by smoking materials. These fires, however, were responsible for 19% of residential fire fatalities and 9% of injuries. The fatality rate due to smoking is nearly four times higher than the overall residential fire rate; injuries are more than twice as likely. Forty percent of all smoking fires start in the bedroom or living room/family room; in 35% of these fires, bedding or upholstered furniture are the items first ignited.

News briefs:August 6, 2010

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US X Factor producers confirm line-up changes

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The production companies of the United States television programme The X Factor US have confirmed that Cheryl Cole has been removed from the judging panel for the show.

Fox Broadcasting Company, the show’s broadcaster, made the announcement on Monday alongside FremantleMedia North America and Syco TV, the production companies of the programme. Nicole Scherzinger has also been reported to take up the position Cole will vacate. Steve Jones, a former T4 presenter, will now be the solitary presenter of the programme. The three other judges on the panel will consist of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and L.A. Reid.

Fox and the production companies have stated: “Nicole Scherzinger will be replacing Cheryl Cole on the judging panel of The X Factor. Nicole will join Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and Paula Abdul on their search across America to find the next global superstar or group to win the life-changing $5 million dollar recording deal. Nicole has previously joined Simon Cowell as a guest judge on The X Factor for the UK version of the show in 2010. Steve Jones will act as sole host of The X Factor.”

Having previously been released from her position, Cole declined the opportunity to reclaim her position on the UK version of the show. On Saturday, the programme makers gave Cole a time period of 24 hours to decide whether or not to be a judge on The X Factor US once again; she subquently rejected the offer.

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Cheryl Cole has been confirmed to have left The X Factor U.S. Image: H4NUM4N.

Nicole Scherzinger will take up the position Cole will leave behind. Image: Miguel Cuenca.

Simon Cowell, previously a judge on The X Factor UK, will appear as a judge on The X Factor U.S. Image: Wiki edit Jonny.

Paula Abdul, who has appeared as a judge on American Idol, will be on the US X Factor judging panel as well on. Image: Toglenn.

L.A. Reid (right) will also appear as a judge on The X Factor U.S. Image: Steve Gawley.

Wikinews attends 2018 Bangalore ComicCon

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

On November 17 and November 18, Wikinews attended the 2018 Bangalore Comicbook Convention, in Karnataka, India. Beginning on Saturday morning, the ComicCon continued till Sunday. Organised by ComicCon India, who organised Comic Con in Hyderabad in October, this event was held at Karnataka Trade Promotion Organisation (KTPO)’s convention hall. Wikinews spoke to convention’s international guests Ryan O’Sullivan, Dan Watters, and Vanesa Del Ray.

UK-based freelancer comicbook writer Ryan O’Sullivan, who has worked for Image Comics and Vault Comics, and wrote video game comics including Eisenhorn, Warhammer 40,000, and Dark Souls, was one of the guests attending ComicCon. Along with him, London-based freelance comic book writer Dan Watters was also one of the attendants. Watters has worked with Image Comics on Limbo, as well as Lucifer for Vertigo Comics. Watters has also written comics for Assassin’s Creed, Wolfenstein and Deep Roots. Cuban comic book artist Vanesa Del Rey was also one of the guest attendants, who has illustrated Scarlet Witch, Daredevil Annual, and Spider-Women Alpha for Marvel Comics; and Redlands for Image Comics.

The convention started at 11 AM. Crossing between the genres of science fiction, horror, anime, fantasy and comics, the event sprawled throughout all corners of the facility. Marvel Zone, Amazon Video zone, AXN Live RED Special Session, Warner Bros’ Aquaman and Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald experience, and Sony Pix zone attracted large number of audience.

On day two, Sumit Kumar, creator of Chin Chin, inspired by Chacha Chaudhary and Tintin, had a panel in the afternoon.

At 1:30 PM, there was a video presentation by Yali Dream Creations. The video was about The Village. Yali Dream Creations’ Shamik Das Gupta said the story of their comic The Village is “supernatural, social, horror”. Later, there was another presentation about their other comic, Rakshak ((hi))Hindi language: ?Protector — A Hero Among Us, about a masked vigilante in India. The first part of the four-part comic was released in 2016’s Delhi ComicCon, Gupta said. Gupta also added “Delhi gang rape story pushed me”. The session ended around 1:45 PM.

After Yali Dream Creations, there was a comic launch by Rahil Mohin. Mohin had previously launched Sufi Comics in 2008, The Wise Fool of Baghdad and two comics about Persian poet Rumi and now Blame it on Rahil. While he was on the panel, he was sketching cartoon, while the host was asking questions that Mohin had prepared, focused on the 90s cartoon themes. The questions were “[What was the] breed of Courage the Cowardly Dog?”, “Catchphrase of Flintstone”, and “Arch nemesis of Dexter”. His session finished by 2 PM.

At 2 PM, there was a session with AXN, and questions about AXN shows. Musician Shrey also played scores of various AXN shows on guitar, which audience had to guess. At 2:30 PM, there was a session with Cuban comic artist Vanesa Del Rey. She said it was her first convention in India, and said, “It is like any major convention in the US”. This year, Vanesa Del Rey was nominated for an Eisner Award. During the discussion, she said she wanted to do sci-fi epic,romance, mystery and thriller comics in future. Regarding romance genre in comics, she said it is “something worth exploring”. And regarding her career choice, she said her grandmother was an artist and her “family was very supportive”.

Later, there was a session with Sony PIX, with Minions appearing on the stage.

The event finished around 8 PM.

Contents

  • 1 Interviews
    • 1.1 Interview with English comic book writer Ryan O’Sullivan
    • 1.2 Interview with English comic book writer Dan Watters
    • 1.3 Interview with Cuban comic book artist Vanesa Del Rey
  • 2 Photos from the ComicCon
  • 3 Cosplayers
  • 4 Sources

Friday, October 18, 2013

A massive fire is feared to have killed residents and destroyed more than one hundred homes in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia. The blaze is one of the worst New South Wales have seen in more than a decade, said Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Emergency services attempted to evaluate the extent of the devastation on Thursday night, and determined that up to 30 homes in the area of Springwood had been lost. Mr O’Farrell says it will be a miracle if lives were not lost in the blaze. Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzimmons said that it could take some time to assess the true extent of the damage, however, and fears it could be much worse.

“We’ll be counting properties in the dozens, if not the hundreds,” he said.

Weather conditions are set to ease on Friday, however the firefighters have a huge battle ahead of them, says Deputy RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers.

“The worst combination is north-westerly to south-westerly and we’ve got that now. We’ve got an incredibly long fire front and there is no sign of any rain coming”.

Schools in the Blue Mountains were evacuated last night, with many residents seeking refuge at emergency evacuation centres around the area. Around 600 students were transported to Springwood Sports Club for shelter.

While fires continue to cause destruction across the Blue Mountains region, around 100 further blazes are being contained across the Central Coast and in the Southern Highlands.

Residents have been urged to leave areas surrounding the Blue Mountains region, after the alert system was upgraded to an ‘emergency warning’.