A portrait of Scotland: Gallery reopens after £17.6 million renovation

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today saw Edinburgh’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopen following a two-and-a-half-year, £17.6m (US$27.4m) refurbishment. Conversion of office and storage areas sees 60% more space available for displays, and the world’s first purpose-built portrait space is redefining what a portrait gallery should contain; amongst the displays are photographs of the Scottish landscape—portraits of the country itself.

First opened in 1889, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s red sandstone building was gifted to the nation by John Ritchie Findlay, then-owner of The Scotsman newspaper and, a well-known philanthropist. The original cost of construction between 1885 and 1890 is estimated at over 70,000 pounds sterling. Up until 1954, the building also housed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who moved to the National Museum of Scotland buildings on Chambers Street. The society’s original meeting table now sits in the public part of the portrait gallery’s library, stared down on by an array of busts and phrenological artefacts.

Wikinewsie Brian McNeil, with other members of the press, received a guided tour of the gallery last Monday from Deputy Director Nicola Kalinsky. What Kalinsky described as an introduction to the gallery that previously took around 40 minutes, now takes in excess of an hour-and-a-half; with little in the way of questions asked, a more inquisitive tour group could readily take well over two hours to be guided round the seventeen exhibitions currently housed in the gallery.

A substantial amount of the 60% additional exhibition space is readily apparent on the ground floor. On your left as you enter the gallery is the newly-fitted giant glass elevator, and the “Hot Scots” photographic portrait gallery. This exhibit is intended to show well-known Scottish faces, and will change over time as people fall out of favour, and others take their place. A substantial number of the people now being highlighted are current, and recent, cast members from the BBC’s Doctor Who series.

The new elevator (left) is the most visible change to improve disabled access to the gallery. Prior to the renovation work, access was only ‘on request’ through staff using a wooden ramp to allow wheelchair access. The entire Queen Street front of the building is reworked with sloping access in addition to the original steps. Whilst a lift was previously available within the gallery, it was only large enough for two people; when used for a wheelchair, it was so cramped that any disabled person’s helper had to go up or down separately from them.

The gallery expects that the renovation work will see visitor numbers double from before the 2009 closure to around 300,000 each year. As with many of Edinburgh’s museums and galleries, access is free to the public.

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The expected significant increase in numbers has seen them working closely with the National Museum of Scotland, which was itself reopened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment work; improved access for wheelchair users also makes it far easier for mothers with baby buggies to access the gallery – prompting more thought on issues as seemingly small as nappy-changing – as Patricia Convery, the gallery’s Head of Press, told Wikinews, a great deal of thought went into the practicalities of increased visitor numbers, and what is needed to ensure as many visitors as possible have a good experience at the gallery.

Press access to the gallery on Monday was from around 11:30am, with refreshments and an opportunity to catch some of the staff in the Grand Hall before a brief welcoming introduction to the refurbished gallery given by John Leighton, director of the National Galleries of Scotland. Centre-stage in the Grand Hall is a statue of Robert Burns built with funds raised from around the British Empire and intended for his memorial situated on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

The ambulatories surrounding the Grand Hall give the space a cathedral-like feel, with numerous busts – predominantly of Scottish figures – looking in on the tiled floor. The east corner holds a plaque commemorating the gallery’s reopening, next to a far more ornate memorial to John Ritchie Findlay, who not only funded and commissioned the building’s construction, but masterminded all aspects of the then-new home for the national collection.

Split into two groups, members of the press toured with gallery Director James Holloway, and Nicola Kalinsky, Deputy Director. Wikinews’ McNeil joined Kalinsky’s group, first visiting The Contemporary Scotland Gallery. This ground-floor gallery currently houses two exhibits, first being the Hot Scots display of photographic portraits of well-known Scottish figures from film, television, and music. Centre-stage in this exhibit is the newly-acquired Albert Watson portrait of Sir Sean Connery. James McAvoy, Armando Iannucci, playwright John Byrne, and Dr Who actress Karen Gillan also feature in the 18-photograph display.

The second exhibit in the Contemporary gallery, flanked by the new educational facilities, is the Missing exhibit. This is a video installation by Graham Fagen, and deals with the issue of missing persons. The installation was first shown during the National Theatre of Scotland’s staging of Andrew O’Hagan’s play, The Missing. Amongst the images displayed in Fagen’s video exhibit are clips from the deprived Sighthill and Wester-Hailes areas of Edinburgh, including footage of empty play-areas and footbridges across larger roads that sub-divide the areas.

With the only other facilities on the ground floor being the education suite, reception/information desk, cafe and the gallery’s shop, Wikinews’ McNeil proceeded with the rest of Kalinsky’s tour group to the top floor of the gallery, all easily fitting into the large glass hydraulic elevator.

The top (2nd) floor of the building is now divided into ten galleries, with the larger spaces having had lowered, false ceilings removed, and adjustable ceiling blinds installed to allow a degree of control over the amount of natural light let in. The architects and building contractors responsible for the renovation work were required, for one side of the building, to recreate previously-removed skylights by duplicating those they refurbished on the other. Kalinsky, at one point, highlighted a constructed-from-scratch new sandstone door frame; indistinguishable from the building’s original fittings, she remarked that the building workers had taken “a real interest” in the vision for the gallery.

The tour group were first shown the Citizens of the World gallery, currently hosting an 18th century Enlightenment-themed display which focuses on the works of David Hume and Allan Ramsay. Alongside the most significant 18th century items from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, are some of the 133 new loans for the opening displays. For previous visitors to the gallery, one other notable change is underfoot; previously carpeted, the original parquet floors of the museum have been polished and varnished, and there is little to indicate it is over 120 years since the flooring was originally laid.

Throughout many of the upper-floor displays, the gallery has placed more light-sensitive works in wall-mounted cabinets and pull-out drawers. Akin to rummaging through the drawers and cupboards of a strange house, a wealth of items – many previously never displayed – are now accessible by the public. Commenting on the larger, featured oils, Deputy Director Kalinsky stressed that centuries-old portraits displayed in the naturally-lit upper exhibitions had not been restored for the opening; focus groups touring the gallery during the renovation had queried this, and the visibly bright colours are actually the consequence of displaying the works in natural light, not costly and risky restoration of the paintings.

There are four other large galleries on the top floor. Reformation to Revolution is an exhibition covering the transition from an absolute Catholic monarchy through to the 1688 revolution. Items on-display include some of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s most famous items – including Mary Queen of Scots and The Execution of Charles I. The portrait-based depiction of this historical age is complemented with prints, medals, and miniatures from the period.

Imagining Power is a Jacobite-themed exhibition, one which looks at the sometime-romanticised Stuart dynasty. The Gallery owns the most extensive collection of such material in the world; the portraiture that includes Flora MacDonald and Prince Charles Edward Stuart is complemented by glassware from the period which is on-loan from the Drambuie Liqueur Company which Kalinsky remarked upon as the only way Scots from the period could celebrate the deposed monarchy – toasting The King over the Water in appropriately engraved glasses.

On the other side of the upper floor, the two main naturally-lit exhibitions are The Age of Improvement, and Playing for Scotland. The first of these looks at societal changes through the 18th and 19th centuries, including Nasmyth’s 1787 portrait of the young Robert Burns and – well-known to past visitors to the portrait gallery – Raeburn’s 1822 depiction of Sir Walter Scott. These are complemented with some of the National Gallery’s collection of landscapes and earliest scenes from Scottish industry.

Playing for Scotland takes a look at the development of modern sports in the 19th century; migration from countryside to cities dramatically increased participation in sporting activities, and standardised rules were laid down for many modern sports. This exhibition covers Scotland’s four national sports – curling, shinty, golf, and bowls – and includes some interesting photographic images, such as those of early strong-men, which show how more leisure time increased people’s involvement in sporting activities.

Next to the Reformation to Revolution gallery is A Survey of Scotland. Largely composed of works on-loan from the National Library of Scotland, this showcase of John Slezer’s work which led to the 1693 publication of Theatrum Scotiae also includes some of the important early landscape paintings in the national collection.

The work of Scotland’s first portrait painter, the Aberdeen-born George Jamesone, takes up the other of the smaller exhibits on the east side of the refurbished building. As the first-ever dedicated display of Jamesone’s work, his imaginary heroic portraits of Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace are included.

On the west side of the building, the two smaller galleries currently house the Close Encounters and Out of the Shadow exhibits. Close Encounters is an extensive collection of the Glasgow slums photographic work of Thomas Annan. Few people are visible in the black and white images of the slums, making what were squalid conditions appear more romantic than the actual conditions of living in them.

The Out of the Shadow exhibit takes a look at the role of women in 19th century Scotland, showing them moving forward and becoming more recognisable individuals. The exceptions to the rules of the time, known for their work as writers and artists, as-opposed to the perceived role of primary duties as wives and mothers, are showcased. Previously constrained to the domestic sphere and only featuring in portraits alongside men, those on-display are some of the people who laid the groundwork for the Suffrage movement.

The first floor of the newly-reopened building has four exhibits on one side, with the library and photographic gallery on the other. The wood-lined library was moved, in its entirety, from elsewhere in the building and is divided into two parts. In the main public part, the original table from the Society of Antiquaries sits centred and surrounded by glass-fronted cabinets of reference books. Visible, but closed to public access, is the research area. Apart from a slight smell of wood glue, there was little to indicate to the tour group that the entire room had been moved from elsewhere in the building.

The War at Sea exhibit, a collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, showcases the work of official war artist John Lavery. His paintings are on-display, complemented by photographs of the women who worked in British factories throughout the First World War. Just visible from the windows of this gallery is the Firth of Forth where much of the naval action in the war took place. Situated in the corner of the room is a remote-controlled ‘periscope’ which allows visitors a clearer view of the Forth as-seen from the roof of the building.

Sir Patrick Geddes, best-known for his work on urban planning, is cited as one of the key influencers of the Scottish Renaissance Movement which serves as a starting point for The Modern Scot exhibit. A new look at the visual aspects of the movement, and a renewal of Scottish Nationalist culture that began between the two World Wars, continuing into the late 20th century, sees works by William McCance, William Johnstone, and notable modernists on display.

Migration Stories is a mainly photographic exhibit, prominently featuring family portraits from the country’s 30,000-strong Pakistani community, and exploring migration into and out of Scotland. The gallery’s intent is to change the exhibit over time, taking a look at a range of aspects of Scottish identity and the influence on that from migration. In addition to the striking portraits of notable Scots-Pakistani family groups, Fragments of Love – by Pakistani-born filmmaker Sana Bilgrami – and Isabella T. McNair’s visual narration of a Scottish teacher in Lahore are currently on-display.

The adjacent Pioneers of Science exhibit has Ken Currie’s 2002 Three Oncologists as its most dramatic item. Focussing on Scotland’s reputation as a centre of scientific innovation, the model for James Clerk Maxwell’s statue in the city’s George Street sits alongside photographs from the Roslin Institute and a death mask of Dolly the sheep. Deputy Director Kalinsky, commented that Dolly had been an incredibly spoilt animal, often given sweets, and this was evident from her teeth when the death mask was taken.

Now open daily from 10am to 5pm, and with more of their collection visible than ever before, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery will change some of the smaller current exhibits after 12 to 18 months on display. The ground-floor information desk has available five mini-guides, or ‘trails’, which are thematic guides to specific display items. These are: The Secret Nature trail, The Catwalk Collection trail, The Situations Vacant trail, The Best Wee Nation & The World trail, and The Fur Coat an’ Nae Knickers Trail.

August 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

Nineteen activists killed by Israeli commandos aboard aid convoy bound for Gaza

Monday, May 31, 2010

 Notice — August 24, 2015 The title of this article states nineteen were killed, whereas the body more accurately reflects the facts of the time by recording between nine and nineteen deaths. The correct figure at the time was in fact nine deaths. 

Between nine and nineteen Free Gaza Movement activists died today in international waters when Israeli Defense Force commandos boarded vessels attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu gave the death toll to be at least 10. Israeli television says that 19 people were killed and 36 were wounded in the confrontation.

The six vessels, called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, were carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid destined for the Gaza Strip, including water purifiers, prefabricated homes and medical equipment. Passengers include several European members of parliament and MPs from Germany, Belgium, Algeria and Israel.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that “the organizers are well-known for their ties with global jihad, al-Qaida and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror.” The Israeli military had declared it would not allow the ships to reach Gaza and said the activists were a “provocation intended to delegitimise Israel”. The Israeli Navy had been transmitting messages throughout the night ordering them to turn back, stating: “If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade,” and that the Gaza region was a protected military zone.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organizers, had said that the flotilla was “fully prepared for the different scenarios” that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would “do what’s right” and not stop the convoy. She said, “we fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation of threats of violence against us,” and that “they are going to have to forcefully stop us.”

The pre-dawn boarding took place in international waters around 150 kilometres (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza. Footage from on the flotilla’s lead vessel, the MV Mavi Marmara, and video released by the IDF, showed armed Israeli commandos boarding the ship from helicopters and fighting with activists. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the activists attacked the commandos with batons, knives and axes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said;

They were mobbed. They were clubbed, they were beaten, stabbed. There was even a report of gunfire and our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives or they would have been killed.

A spokesman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin accused Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. Israel said troops found weapons aboard the Gaza flotilla which were used against the IDF. The allegations were rejected by both the Free Gaza Movement, IHH and Egypt’s foreign minister, who said the boats had been searched before they left port.

The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon said he was “shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on boats carrying supplies for Gaza” and called for “a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place” and urged Israel to “urgently provide a full explanation”. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for three days of mourning to commemorate what he called the “massacre” of protesters. Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has dubbed the Israeli action as “a crime”.

Turkey’s prime minister describes Israeli raid as ‘state terrorism’ and said Israel violated international laws. Some of the ships were sailing under Turkish flags and media reports indicate that Turkish nationals are among the dead. Turkey demanded an “urgent explanation” from Israel and warned of “irreparable consequences” after the incident. Netanyahu said the raid was self defense. Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Israel and is calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called on Israeli authorities to launch a “full inquiry” into the killing. She “reiterates the European Union’s position regarding Gaza – the continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was “deeply concerned” and France said “nothing can justify” the incident. Sweden, Austria, Greece and Spain have said it was important to “quickly establish” what happened, and have summoned the Israeli ambassadors.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and said Israel should “address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians?.” Russia calls attention to the fact that the Israeli interception of a Gaza-bound international aid flotilla took place in international waters, which it said represents a gross violation of international law.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has urged the international Middle East mediators Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to persuade Israel to end its blockade of Gaza. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Europe. In Greece and France there was clashes with police. There were protests in cities around the Ireland, UK and Italy. In the Middle East there were protests in Turkey, Lebanon and Iran.

The White House said that the United States “deeply regrets” the loss of life and injuries and was working to understand the circumstances surrounding this “tragedy”. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, comprising of 57 countries, described the flotilla incident as “a serious escalation and a flagrant violation of the international law and human values.”

The media has not been given access to the politicians, activists and journalists who were in the convoy or information about deaths and injuries. Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld police say it will deport the roughly 50 of the 671 activists in the flotilla except those who refuse to cooperate. The other activists have been sent to jail in the southern desert town of Beersheba after refusing to identify themselves and will remain in detention.

Irishman Dennis Halliday, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and the Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, are aboard the only boat left in the convoy, the Irish MV Rachel Corrie vessel, named after Rachel Corrie. The vessel is now on the way to the Gaza Strip. The Irish Prime Minister Mr Cowen said he believed Israel’s blockade of humanitarian assistance to Gaza was illegal under international law.

August 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

Canadian House of Commons approves same-sex marriage

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In a 158 to 133 vote of the House of Commons held Tuesday night, Canadian MPs have approved the legalization of same-sex weddings in Canada. Assuming the Senate passes Bill C-38 and the Governor General gives royal assent, Canada will become the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex weddings after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. The bill presented to the House of Commons by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin has passed mainly because of support by the left-wing New Democratic Party of Jack Layton and the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois, which enabled it to overcome the staunch opposition of the Conservative Party.

Votes in House of Commons on Bill C-38
Group For Against Absentees Total
Liberal cabinet 36 0 1 37
Liberal backbench 59 32 3 95
Conservatives 3 93 2 98
Bloc Québécois 43 5 6 54
NDP 17 1 1 19
Independents 0 2 2 4
Totals 158 133 16 307

While this vote is historic, gay weddings had already been legalized by the Supreme Courts of most Canadian provinces. The C-38 bill now extends these rulings to the rest of Canada, namely to the provinces of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and the territory of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

The adoption of this bill ends a longstanding political and judicial debate in Canada, with the House of Commons referring the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada last year, only to have it handed back to them by the judges. If the debate has just been closed in a political sense, gay rights continue to create tensions between Canadians, since support for gay weddings comes mainly from Quebec and Ontario and parts of British Columbia while the Maritimes and Prairie provinces are mostly against them.

Those tensions have also been felt in the House of Commons itself, when Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said on Monday, anticipating that the C-38 bill would be adopted, that the vote would “lack in legitimacy” since the bill would pass because of an unnatural alliance between the federalist Liberals and the separatist Bloc Québécois. This partisan view of gay rights has been strongly condemned, especially by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe who said that MPs from his party were democratically elected and as legitimate as any in parliament. Others called Harper a hypocrite, pouncing on the fact that he never raised any such objections allying with the Bloc in the previous month’s confidence votes. Prior to the vote, Joe Comuzzi announced his resignation from the Liberal cabinet because of his opposition to gay weddings and the fact that Liberal cabinet members were required to vote the party line in this case.

August 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

4,400 kilograms of drugs seized in New Delhi

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In the biggest ever narcotics haul in India’s capital, the New Delhi police have seized over 4,400 kg of Mandrax and Rs. 20 crore from a dealer in the city. The consignment, meant for a customer in the U.S, was seized from a godown in Badarpur, near the Delhi-Haryana border. The alleged trafficker, identified as Vinod Sharma, claimed that the contraband was not his and that he had nothing to do with the matter. Sharma started his career as a scrap-dealer in Delhi, and police suspect that with the help of some contacts he used container depots for drug-trafficking, whilst successfully dodging both the police and the Customs Department.

On Sunday the Delhi Police arrested him at his Kalkaji residence. The Deputy Commissioner of Police for South District, Delhi Police, Anil Shukla said, “Sharma befriended container drivers and once they had driven past customs, he and his men would meet them at a distance and pilfer the containers.”

August 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the day, marking exactly one year since the outbreak of protests leading to 83-year-old longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The country’s decades-long emergency rule was partially lifted this week; meanwhile, a possible economic meltdown looms and a newly-elected parliament held their first meeting on Monday.

Despite the new parliament, military rule introduced following Mubarak’s fall last spring remains. Echoing the demands from a year ago, some protesters are demanding the military relinquish power; there are doubts an elected civilian leader will be permitted to replace the army.

The brief unity against Mubarak has since fragmented, with Secularists and Islamists marking the revolution’s anniversary splitting to opposing sides of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square and chanting at each other. Initial demonstrations last year were mainly from young secularists; now, Islamic parties hold most of the new parliament’s seats — the country’s first democratic one in six decades.

Salafis hold 25% of the seats and 47% are held by the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought supporters to Cairo for the anniversary. Tahrir Square alone contained tens of thousands of people, some witnesses putting the crowd at 150,000 strong. It’s the largest number on the streets since the revolution.

Military rulers planned celebrations including pyrotechnics, commemorative coins, and air displays. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces took power after last year’s February 11 resignation of Mubarak.

Alaa al-Aswani, a pro-democracy activist writing in al-Masry al-Youm, said: “We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution,” — to “live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice”

Alexandria in the north and the eastern port city of Suez also saw large gatherings. It was bitter fighting in Suez led to the first of the revolution’s 850 casualties in ousting Mubarak. “We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand over power to civilians,” said protestor Mohamed Ismail.

“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the struggle,” chanted crowds in Alexandria, a reference to the 850 ‘martyrs of the revolution’. No convictions are in yet although Mubarak is on trial. Photos of the dead were displayed in Tahrir Square. Young Tahrir chanters went with “Down with military rule” and “Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets”.

If the protestors demanding the military leave power get their way, the Islamists celebrating election victory face a variety of challenges. For now, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — whose career featured twenty years as defence minister under Mubarak — rules the nation and promises to cede power following presidential elections this year.

The economy is troubled and unemployment is up since Mubarak left. With tourism and foreign investment greatly lower than usual, budget and payment deficits are up — with the Central Bank eating into its reserves in a bid to keep the Egyptian pound from losing too much value.

Last week the nation sought US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF insists upon funding also being secured from other donors, and strong support from Egypt’s leaders. IMF estimates say the money could be handed over in a few months — whereas Egypt wanted it in a matter of weeks.

The country has managed to bolster trade with the United States and Jordan. Amr Abul Ata, Egyptian ambassador to the fellow Middle-East state, told The Jordan Times in an interview for the anniversary that trade between the nations increased in 2011, and he expects another increase this year. This despite insurgent attacks reducing Egyptian gas production — alongside electricity the main export to Jordan. Jordan exports foodstuffs to Egypt and has just signed a deal increasing the prices it pays for gas. 2011 trade between the countries was worth US$1 billion.

The anniversary also saw a new trade deal with the US, signed by foreign trade and industry minister Mahmoud Eisa and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. President Barack Obama promises work to improve U.S. investment in, and trade with, nations changing political systems after the Arab Spring. Details remain to be agreed, but various proposals include US assistance for Egyptian small and medium enterprises. Both nations intend subjecting plans to ministerial scrutiny.

The U.S. hailed “several historic milestones in its transition to democracy” within a matter of days of Egypt’s revolution. This despite U.S.-Egypt ties being close during Mubarak’s rule.

US$1 billion in grants has been received already from Qatar and Saudi Arabia but army rulers refused to take loans from Gulf nations despite offers-in-principle coming from nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Foreign aid has trickled in; no money at all has been sent from G8 nations, despite the G8 Deauville Partnership earmarking US$20 billion for Arab Spring nations.

A total of US$7 billion was promised from the Gulf. The United Kingdom pledged to split £110 million between Egypt and Arab Spring initiator Tunisia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says G8 money should start arriving in June, when the presidential election is scheduled.

The African Development Bank approved US$1.5 billion in loans whilst Mubarak still held power but, despite discussions since last March, no further funding has been agreed. The IMF offered a cheap loan six months ago, but was turned away. Foreign investment last year fell from US$6 billion to $375 million.

Rights, justice and public order remain contentious issues. Tantawi lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, a day before the revolution’s anniversary, but left it in place to deal with the exception of ‘thuggery’. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Islamist Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.”

The same day, Amnesty International released a report on its efforts to establish basic human rights and end the death penalty in the country. Despite sending a ten-point manifesto to all 54 political parties, only the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (of the Egyptian Bloc liberals) and the left-wing Popular Socialist Alliance Party signed up. Measures included religious freedom, help to the impoverished, and rights for women. Elections did see a handful of women win seats in the new parliament.

The largest parliamentary group is the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Amnesty say did not respond. Oral assurances on all but female rights and abolition of the death penalty were given by Al-Nour, the Salafist runners-up in the elections, but no written declaration or signature.

“We challenge the new parliament to use the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and gender equality,” said Amnesty, noting that the first seven points were less contentious amongst the twelve responding parties. There was general agreement for free speech, free assembly, fair trials, investigating Mubarak’s 30-year rule for atrocities, and lifting the state of emergency. A more mixed response was given to ensuring no discrimination against LGBT individuals, whilst two parties claimed reports of Coptic Christian persecution are exaggerated.

Mubarak himself is a prominent contender for the death penalty, currently on trial for the killings of protesters. The five-man prosecution team are also seeking death for six senior police officers and the chief of security in the same case. Corruption offences are also being tried, with Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak accused alongside their father Hosni.

The prosecution case has been hampered by changes in witness testimony and there are complaints of Interior Ministry obstruction in producing evidence. Tantawi has testified in a closed hearing that Mubarak never ordered protesters shot.

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Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an ex-MP and real estate billionaire, is another death penalty candidate. He, alongside Ahmed Sukkari, was initially sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. A new trial was granted on procedural grounds and he is now serving a fifteen-year term for paying Sukkari US$2 million to slit 30-year-old’s Tamim’s throat in Dubai. Her assassin was caught when police followed him back to his hotel and found a shirt stained with her blood; he was in custody within two hours of the murder.

The court of appeals is now set to hear another trial for both men after the convictions were once more ruled unsound.

A military crackdown took place last November, the morning after a major protest, and sparking off days of violence. Egypt was wary of a repeat this week, with police and military massed near Tahrir Square whilst volunteers manned checkpoints into the square itself.

The military has pardoned and released at least 2,000 prisoners jailed following military trials, prominently including a blogger imprisoned for defaming the army and deemed troublesome for supporting Israel. 26-year-old Maikel Nabil was given a three year sentence in April. He has been on hunger strike alleging abuse at the hands of his captors. He wants normalised relations with Israel. Thousands have now left Tora prison in Cairo.

August 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

New edition of Canada’s Food Guide released

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A new version of Canada’s Food Guide was announced by Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement on Feb. 5, 2007. The guide has helped Canadians with healthy eating habits since 1942 but was last updated in 1992. It is the Canadian government’s most-requested publication after income tax forms.

Changes to the Food Guide include:

  • a first-time recommendation to include a small amount of unsaturated fat in regular diets;
  • physical activity to complement healthy eating;
  • advice for some people to take vitamin supplements;
  • an advisory to limit foods with excess salt, sugar, fat and calories, which is considered an unprecedented caution regarding junk food.
Examples of the Food Guide’s four groups (clockwise from top left): vegetables and fruit, grain products, meat and its alternatives, milk and its alternatives
August 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

The Benefits Of Commercial Laundry Service In Richfield, Mn

byAlma Abell

If you do not have the time or the means to do your own laundry, then you should consider having someone do it for you. Many people shy away from doing this because they feel that it is an unnecessary expense, but it also has its benefits. A lot of professionals have their laundry done by a Commercial Laundry Service in Richfield MN because it saves them time, and in some cases, money.

Obviously having someone else do your laundry is going to save you time because you will not have to spend time doing it yourself. Instead, you could be working during that time, which can actually save you money. While someone else is doing your laundry, you could be making money, and probably a lot more money than you are paying to have your laundry done.

Having a professional do your laundry can also save you money because a professional can keep your clothing in good shape for a longer period of time. That is because they are professionals, so they know how all of the different materials should be washed. If you are not that good at doing laundry, you could end up shrinking something or fading your clothes prematurely. This means you will have to go out and buy new clothing sooner than you should have to.

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August 11, 2019 in Online Bohemian Fashion

Mikhail Gruznov: We do not understand what is happening on Wikipedia

Friday, August 2, 2019

Wikinews (hereinafter WN) talks to Mikhail Gruznov, a Russian wikepedian who nearly 14 years has worked in the project; he used to work as administrator, pioneered the Wikipedia lawful paid-contribution, and has made the paid editing his profession.

Mikhail caused a political scandal that could affect the presence of Wikipedia in Russia. According to «Meduza», on July 2, he initiated the blocking of a group of 12 users that he identified, which introduced edits to the encyclopedia in the interests of the Kremlin. In addition, a month later, four media related to Yevgeny Prigozhin were included in the spam-blacklist, as reported by «Kommersant» on August 5. This also happened thanks to Gruznov, and Mikhail’s actions led to attacks on him and Wikipedia in the Russian media. «URA.Ru» accused Gruznov of creating fake articles about Russia. Wikipedia was called the “propaganda tool from the USA”. According to «Novye Izvestia», on August 6 the head of the Russian Union of Journalists Vladimir Solovyov proposed to create a national analogue of Wikipedia.

Dmitry Rozhkov, an experienced wikepedian has interviewed Mikhail on behalf of Wikinews.

Dmitry Rozhkov: Hello, Mikhail.

Mikhail Gruznov: Hi.

About ‘group of twelve‘

DR: You gave several interviews in the wake of the story about the ‘group of twelve’. Were they short originally or were they shortened after editing?

MG: It is only because some details are unnecessary for people who are not familiar with the Wikipedia’s inside information, as such details obscure.

DR: We will not go into particulars, but would like to clarify some details. Please tell us when and how it happened that you detected this group. Was it untargeted or did you understand that there could be such activity in Wikipedia. Did you try to detect them?

MG: No, I did not do it on purpose. I even does not have the technical facility for such a search. I just noticed some doubtful edits in the articles about governors. Like many others, I have some articles about key governors and the government officials on the monitoring list, and the same about some members of the opposition. And, suddenly, at the end of February, I noticed a newbie with a massive (Oldfishkeeper — WN) contribution in the articles about governors. And, his contributions, let me say it, as I first thought about them, – were amusing. He described hobbies of governors in many details and in a bit childish way. I thought, ‘why not’ and forgot it.

DR: What happened next?

MG: Then there was an episode after which everything became clear to me. It was the war inside the article about Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer at the ‘Anti-Corruption Foundation‘. I found a group of members whose contributions were coordinated and it looked suspicious. All of them registered in the project during the period from October to January. So, I began to analyze their contributions and it became clear that their views of life looked as if they were synchronized. They all liked public officials and disliked the opposition members. And, what is most important – they move in groups. And, there are two ‘old’ members, registered long ago, who provide patrolling to those users. And at some moment, I guessed that they all worked as a group. Especially, it became obvious when they started almost simultaneously submit their status applications. They intersperse targeted edits with neutral ones to obtain the wiki experience and pretend for formal statuses. What is most threatening is that nobody considered applications of the members of the group with the sufficient thoroughness. Nobody understood who were them really and what was their contribution. And, they easily could have become patrollers if someone would enter the application page and totalize. But, it happened that nobody of administrators entered the page and 20 or 25 applications piled.

DR: So, you have prepared the request and applied it to the check users. To what extent did the check result prove your expectation? According to it, only one “old” member, the supposed Nesterovich (Zergeist2/S.Felix) was banned and his relation to this group was not established. What they did was to restore his ban at which his account should have been.

MG: There are several layers here. First, I made all the tables, collected data for the request and started to think what to do next. I could have filed the request to the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom). But, I thought that preliminarily it is necessary to understand if there was formal evidence that this group was linked. This would make the arbiter’s work easier. It is clear that check users does not evaluate the contribution content. Generally speaking, it makes no difference to them what a user writes in the article. They just check if the accounts are linked among each other or with an earlier banned user. The fact that Zergeist2 is banned is coincidence, as his account was banned because it was linked with a user banned earlier.

DR: That is it.

MG: I think that the checking by check users is the first step and necessary preparation for filing the request at the Arbitration Committee that shall consider the merits of the contribution.

DR: Look, what we have now. The check users said nothing definite about the two ‘old’ accounts. One account is banned on the grounds having no relevance to the purpose of your request. What remains is a group of 7 or 8 users and only 4 or 5 of them registered practically at the same time and generally speaking, they can belong to one person or different persons linked so closely that they can be considered as one. Thus, it is just a small-time crook, not a full-scale conspiracy.

MG: Obviously, check users cannot prove the existence of conspiracy. It is not their competence. As I have said, it is only the first step. Frankly speaking, I did not expect that this step would attract such attention. If you remember, some wikepedians, Sergey Rublyov and Krasotkin, posted on Facebook the news about this request. And, afterwards, it was impossible to stop this news wave. And, media was preparing…

DR: …to a sensation.

MG: Yes, to issue the material as soon as the check users submit a result.

DR: Well, what is the intermediate result concerning this group, we’ll call like that, today. Could you verbalize it in some form?

MG: Firstly, we understand that there is some ‘smoke’, and, actually, it is dealt with a group. Secondly, if you consider the content of their contribution, i.e. each of their edits, it becomes clear that the entire group acted according to a plan and gradually implemented this plan. The main result of the check is that their activity ceased. All the planned work of this botnet (I call it like that for convenience), performed for 9 months was in vain. Everybody paid attention to the edits about governors and the opposition. It is not easy to clean the articles from this rubbish, but, at least, the community is aware of the problem now.

DR: What will be your further steps?

MG: Now I am preparing a claim at the Arbitration Committee. I am going to prove that the activity of this botnet was destructive, grounding on the edits content analysis. Besides, on the basis of the source assessment and the subsequent request to put them on spam-list, I will demand banning the pool of media related to RIA FAN. They are often called as ’prigozhinskie’, and this botnet also often refers to them.

DR: Can we say that the untimely leakage of the information in media spoiled your game?

MG: No, it rather took some of my attention for the necessity to provide comments and comments to the comments. In general, everything is according to the plan.

DR: Will the request at the Arbitration Committee contain newly established facts or maybe new actors? Are you going to do the entire analytical work alone or will you leave something for arbiters?

MG: I have got already some results. I will repack the already announced material, focusing on the non-banned accounts.

DR: Does it mean that you will insist on your original version without any corrections?

MG: By all means. Flint1972 and Zergeist2 are the two most threatening botnet users. I will comment on the contribution of Zergeist2 to deter his unbanning to the maximum extent.

DR: By the way, I also was studying the contribution of Flint1972 and at some moment, I thought that it was also written by Nesterovich. Firstly, his birth year is 1972 . Secondly, his account appeared two or three months after the Nesterovich account banning date. And Zergeist2 appeared after two or three years (there was Zergeist account too). I doubt if Nesterovich did not do the editing during that time. So, there should be one more account and Flint1972 can match. But, later I saw that the edits by these two accounts are done almost simultaneously, so they belonged to different people.

MG: Maybe, it is worth doing the linguistic analysis, but it a comprehensive work, takes long time, and I do not have the appropriate tools. I would think that it is done by different people, but they are hired to create and supervise this pool.

DR: These are the brave conclusions you do.

MG: Obviously, we cannot know it for sure. It is my hypothesis.

DR: As far as I understand, those facts you have included in the request to check users are not all. You did not provide your edit-by-edit reasoning. As you were delving into the subject, you possibly became more and more convinced that there was a big conspiracy. However, now I clearly see the much smaller conspiracy of four or six users. A global conspiracy with the devised facility of two or three more persons still is not obvious to me. But, surely, I do not have such ‘delving’ experience of yours.

MG: Yes, I have considered each of their edits: the way they do the edits, how they patrol after each other. I see that some accounts specialize only on negative adding, others are interested only in editing articles about governors, and there are those combining the first and the second. That is why, I did not hesitate even a second when I published the request. Maybe, all this is not so obvious to an outside observer who luckily did not delve into the issue. We’ll see. I hope that the arbiters’ decision will make it clear to the community. As I have already said, the main result is achieved, their destructive activity is stopped. Besides, it will be difficult to create a new botnet from scratch.

DR: Okay, we will wait then for development of the story of the ‘group of twelve’.

About deputies and Dissernet

DR: Do you believe that there is only one botnet in ruWiki?

MG: Yes, it is one in this very pool of articles. But if we take, for example, articles about deputes of the State Duma, which is 450 pages, I can see quite a number of the systemic spin doctors there.

DR: Does a spin-doctor promote one Duma deputy?

MG: Some spins promote many deputies. But, this is another pool not linked to the revealed group.

DR: Are you planning to go into this issue?

MG: I have the idea to undertake this investigation, but it is a quite massive work. It requires the analysis of all articles about the deputies. So, I will do a smaller research concerning Dissernet. Basing on edits in the articles about deputies and governor, I see their sharp reaction to the statements that they stole their theses and engaged users try to delete this information.

DR: Is it always necessary to save this information in articles? As a statement of Dissernet can be deemed an original source why do we think that it is an undoubtedly reliable source. Why are you sure that it has passed WP:WEIGHT?

MG: Firstly, Dissernet is formed by acknowledged scientists. By now, nobody has proved that Dissernet is wrong or at least contains many mistakes. All accusations addressed to the Dissernet have no grounds. Besides, much material from Dissernet concerning higher politicians appears in mass media as republishing.

DR: I would not say that Dissernet is never wrong. There is always a portion of ZoLUS remained without satisfaction. It occurs that revealed violations are admitted to be noncritical, while Dissernet presents them all as terrible offenders. In any case, there is much of the show in the Dissernet activity, despite of the great job it is doing.

MG: As far as I remember, Dissernet does not evaluate the thesis content or the scientific value of works. Its attitude includes a good deal of formality. It pays attention at borrowings from the earlier published works, the borrowings volume. Basing on this data, Dissernet states that the thesis is not unique. What it must be! This allows anyone to make further conclusions independently. In any case, it would be interesting to know how many attempts to delete the information about the Dissernet researches were.

DR: I only mean that, possibly, the individual attitude should be used at posting such materials. And you have to be more careful with wordings for the unsatisfied ZoLUSes, and doubly careful if it is yet to be considered.

MG: Sure. We should rely on WP:LIVE. This is the underlying rule however ignored by many experienced users. They often include in articles their convincement not supported by reliable secondary sources. I will try to be correct and accurate.

DR: Does it mean that you are planning to do it?

MG: Yes, I say, each potential research takes time. Actually, lots of time…

About monitoring of Wikipedia

DR: Well, going back to the deputies’ spin-doctors. There are lots of them, possibly, several hundreds, each one promotes at least one deputy and it is not necessarily they are linked to each other. If you detect some of them, others will appear. It is not efficient to spend time on it. The problem should be solved in-system.

MG: And this is the problem caused by absence of the effective monitoring system. We can monitor new articles. We can monitor fresh edits. We can monitor separate articles. However, all the said does not allow watching the entire picture. As long as we do not have such tools, the situation at which a group can root in its standpoint will be undetectable.

DR: What shall we do then?

MG: I have got some ideas about how create such system. It would help detecting not only new destructive users but can be also helpful at monitoring the community health.

DR: Is the problem of the community health is up-to-date? And, how far can it be discussed without involvement of abstract notions?

MG: The matter is that, now, we do not know digitally what is going on at Wikipedia at all. Any speculation about health or ill health, about how to make the Wikipedia better …

DR: How did you drive to the conclusion on the ill health then? Did you do any research?

MG: From time to time, I look at the list of active editors. The number of them has long ago set on about ten thousand users who did at least one edit. We are entirely unable to understand how many out of these ten thousand users are active ones and how many bots are

DR: You can just look at the statistics, including the ‘activity’ criterion, so many edits per month….

MG: It is rather mechanistic, I would like to do a more rigorous research. Besides, it is strange that the  Wikimedia Foundation does not provide any review with this regard. I have always thought that they have enough money to issue such reviews about health of local sections, at least for the major ones. Until we understand what is going on, we, in fact, cannot take informed decisions. The number of articles is growing every year and they exist unlike the editors. But, it also is also has the reverse side of the medal; fewer editors edit the ever-increasing number of articles. Even keeping the stable state of articles consumes the community resources. This is not to mention the fact that a good part of articles describe current matters and outdates every day. I can judge it by my articles. Take the article about museum. What, seems, can change there? Look, they planned to erect a new building for the museum, then, they refused from this plan, as a result the article needs updating and we have no authors to do it.

DR: Can automation be used to solve this problem? The increasing number of bots and smart bots, Wikidata can generate articles independently.

MG: Only partly. However, I think that the radiant future will come and the artificial intelligence , based on data arrays will be able to gener?te a stub, if not an article, that did not exist before.

DR: It has been implemented already; we have some test articles. If you look at the code, you will see the reference to Wikidata and the script collects standard phrases to make a stub.

MG: Yes, but Wikidata has its own dark side in this case. If you want to add something to the article about your village, generated by the script using the wikidata information only, it will not be that easy, at least it is more difficult to do now than it was before when you just pressed ‘edit’ or ‘edit code’.

DR: Perhaps, it could be solved. For instance, create a template of author additions under the wikidata template and teach the artificial intelligence to combine these data into an article. We have already a similar thing in Wikinews: the news feed is formed automatically from headlines and anyone can manually add the text under a selected headline to describe this piece of news.

MG: Yes, it is possible. However, I think the effort put is not sufficient for this radiant future to come. Here I would put the blame on the Wikimedia Foundation, because they have money.

DR: I agree, money is allocated, but they assign it to projects like overcoming ‘gender gap‘. Its effectiveness for five years is about one percent, which is within the limits of statistical error.

MG: I prone to think that they have money plenty for everything. I remind a story occurred at a conference. I cannot remember now the name of the participant who coded the addition of the Open Street Map (OSM) to the cards. The Foundation pinched money; they did not pay several thousand dollars for the software application making all these things faster. It is a beggarly amount for the Foundation, while it would have produced the great positive impact on the community. After all the cards were done, but for many years before the cards appeared, volunteers had been taking screenshots  manually in OSM and loading them to Wikimedia commons. In other words, we mix cement with spades instead of using the cement machine. If resources could be disengaged, we would use them for creating content.

DR: Could you work out the technical assignment for a system that would monitor the possible correction of users’ activities for a period?

MG: I believe, I could.

About lack of resources

DR: Which other resources can be disengaged?

MG: On having reviewing the established vicious practices. Article about significant topics on ruWiki  are sent by unknown reason on WP:KU, on which we have overflow of work that keeps growing.

DR: Perhaps, here the community need to demonstrate the element of will. There is a trend to improve articles only under the threat of deletion. It a common place, that a user starts to edit his article when he sees the threat of losing it, while all users feel their involvement in all articles, even if they did not write them. However, as the time goes on, this attitude works worse and worse and articles on significant topics are not only on the deletion list, but are deleted. It should be noted, that many articles for deletion are not bad. Besides, there is the rule WP:NOTNEWS which is another decease of the project. The rule is considered as a kind of guidelines like the original investigation ban WP:ORIGINAL  or similar.

MG: NOTNEWS is strangely understood. In my opinion, this rule is not about current content of article, it is about topic. If a topic appears once or twice on the wave of ‘hipe’ to be never covered in media again, it is probably of no cyclopedia significance. However, some users think instead, that we may not use the news source. Of course, we should object it, as the wrong understanding of rules results in deletion of significant topics and repulsion of the experienced editors and newcomers.

DR: I agree, sometimes it seems that those who grounds the article deletion according to the rule have read it only till the shortcut. They think that NOTNEWS is their associative array linked to this word, while the rule contains another word.

MG: Yes, it is understandable and not so complicated. As a result we have long queues because ’For deletion’ is used instead of ’For improvement’. An article may be pending for a year or two at this template.

DR: I repeat, in my opinion it is the matter of will. I doubt whether it should be settled by means of requests to the Arbcom or complaints against the actions of overzealous ‘deleters’. Perhaps, a well-prepared poll will be helpful in this case, as, probably, it will confirm what is already written in the rule NOTNEWS and will put stress on the correct use.

MG: Yes, the rule can be supplemented upon results of such poll with the clarification that the rule must not be understood in a wrong way, that the rule is often understood like that, which is not correct. In sum, it would save the enormous number of person-years, while keeping media and news sources as the main ones for describing events in Wikipedia.

DR: Now practically any article about a new event is nominated for deleting, even it is quite clear that the event will figure in history, for example, a terrorist attack in a European country with hundreds victims. Moreover, users sometimes delete the non-event articles because they are linked to NOTNEWS, for example biographies, though they have nothing to do with the rule. I also can remember the long lasting attacks on ’Current events’ (In the news – WP) after it appeared on the headline ruWiki.

MG: It seems to me that partially this can be the reaction to imperfect articles about nowadays, as some people, I suppose, feel physical discomfort at seeing them posted. It seems to them that such articles would rather not exist.

DR: Or they would not like to see such articles at all. In my view, some users tend to get barriered from the outer world, isolate Wikipedia so that it would describe only ‘eternal issues’, what was described many times and many years ago.

MG: It could be like that. But I always ask: what is wrong if Wikipedia contains a hundred articles about terrorist attacks? We are not limited by number of articles. We do not spend paper on printing articles. We have no terms to which we are supposed to deliver a number of selected articles. On the contrary, we delete articles and demotivate users who are interested in these topics. After all, they could be writing afterwards not only about terrorist attacks. Some users consider Wikipedia as a supervalue and believe that an ordinary editor strives for staying in the community at all costs. But in fact, Wikipedia every day competes for person’s attention with his job, family, unpaid loans, other thousand things. A person can be sitting with friends in a café, or have a nice walk. But, the person selects exhaustive search to make an article on some topic. Then the person is said ‘we will delete your contribution’ and he/she leaves.

DR: Yes, as a rule, he or she leaves quietly. A number of users have many positive contributions and they can leave demonstratively. This is a notable case for the community with requests not to leave etc. However, the common reaction is that the most of users cease editing.

MG: And we even do not know by what reasons. And, nobody does measurements. Suppose, one hundred newbies created non-advertising and known-useful edits in June. We do not check how many of them ‘survived’ in July, how many ceased their activity in August. We do not try to know why it happened; they did not have enough time, or they did not like something in Wikipedia, or they would like to change something, or there was something repelling them. I am saying this to return to the issue that we do not understand what the community is at actual practice. I have heard the opinion that if a user leaves Wikipedia, he or she was not prepared for it. But, why should he or she struggle?

DR: It is absolutely not clear why he or she should be tolerant in the aggressive environment.

MG: Particularly, when there are so many ways to apply ones creativity. One can post texts on external platforms or invest in personal resources, doing it now is easy like it never was before. We must do everything to make people select Wikipedia.

DR: But alas.

MG: Yes, a gender gap  is a consequence of the inconvenient staying in the community. I think that if the community atmosphere improves regardless men or women, the women share will increase naturally. Instead, we are trying to cure a consequence of a complex decease. Banning Fram in English Wikipedia is one of many markers of the unhealthy atmosphere in the community. Fram is an active editor, at the same time he is ‘toxic’ with regard to many ones. And it is a big question how to measure his contribution objectively at the hamburg score. By the way, Russian mass media did not cover this story; it was discussed only on forums.

DR: Let us tell what the deal was.

MG: In two words; usually the decision about banning violators is taken inside the community. It is done by administrator in easy cases and by Arbcom in complicated ones. But in this case, a special committee of the Wikimedia Foundation  arrived and banned the administrator for a year. Then the scandal went on the rise, because the foundation did not explain why they did it. The foundation only said general words about harassment  without giving details. When one of the administrators unbanned Fram, the Foundation banned him again. This resulted in a huge conflict. The last time when I checked the information about it, almost twenty administrators withdrew as a sign of protest. The scandal went out far beyond the Wikipedia project and BuzzFeed’ published a vast article, which I translated in Russian and posted.

DR: What will be the end of the story?

MG: It is not clear yet. It is wider than the ordinary ban of Fram. It is about the boundaries of autonomy of the English section, and about the degree of interference of the Foundation in its operation. Something like that happened, in my knowledge, only in the [[w:Chechen section, at the time when separatists settled there and, ultimately, people from meta came there.

DR: But still it was another story. Everything was transparent there. The meta people (stewards) – they are not the same as the Foundation people, moreover, a request was filed with regard to the Chechen section. Was the request filed in Fram’s case?

MG: The Foundation has failed to disclose the details, no open letters were posted. The Foundation appeared out of the blue, banned and left, without giving any details. And they thought that it would ‘work out’. Why does the Foundation, having so many wonderful people on its staff, i.e. three hundred people, with specialists in community among them, do such sudden movements? The community of volunteers is not ready to swallow the insult, as it often occurs at commercial structures at which people work for remuneration and have more reasons to tolerate it.

About paid editing

DR: Well, for afters, turn to people working for remuneration (laugh). Let us talk about the lawfully paid contributions. Tell how you came to this idea.

MG: I started editing the Wikipedia when I was doing my first year at higher school (December 2005 — WN). I got passionately interested in it.

DR: What was it that attracted you?

MG: I liked the idea of creating a consistent picture out of the chaos of information. You can do analysis, write an article and then others can use your work results. They need not do this work repeatedly. You save someone’s time. In principle, today, it works too.

DR: What did you write about at that time?

MG: It seems that the first edit was about Uranus. Then I got acquainted with people from Piter’s social circuit who wrote about Saint Petersburg. Soon afterwards, I turned to metapedism and became administrator. Then, I saw that there are wikepedians and the outer world with PR people who sometimes try to communicate with wikipedia. But, this people speak different languages and they often talk about the same things. They do not understand each other, which leads to conflicts and all of them spend time. And, I thought that I could be the buffer speaking wikipedish with wikepedians and the language comprehensible to PR people with the latter.

DR: The language of marketing?

MG: Yes, and remove the most part of conflicts. In principle, at the output, we should have good articles and resources for the full-time engagement in Wikipedia. It is my hypothesis, it still remains in my mind and I am convinced in it. For example, a student can afford doing edits in Wikipedia, because he has free time. Then he finds it difficult because the job and other things occupy his time. However, if you earn on the Wikipedia-related services, you can be engaged in Wikipedia full-time and involve long-headed guys, who, otherwise, would work in some other place.

DR: This hypothesis is fine. What does the community think about it?

MG: The community, to put it mildly, was wary of this intension. At that moment there were no rules regulating paid editing. It was a kind of terra incognita.

DR: Nonetheless, you could be banned for the conflict of interests.

MG: Yes. Actually, the community then drove to the conclusion that for the sake of safety the people engaged in the paid editing would not have any rights at all. At some moment (June 2014 — WN) the Foundation issued the Policy of paid contributions, if I remember it right, as a response to the incident of hacked network of accounts linked to major PR agencies. In fact, the Wikimedia Foundation applied the attitude used for the US public administration.

DR: Was it, in your opinion, a forced measure?

MG: It was both forced and absolutely natural. In any case, it was inevitable. If Wikipedia were a small marginal resource, it could do without it. Like the state was forced to adopt the policies on lobbyism at some time, the wiki-world was forced to adopt it too. Naturally, this global policy was ported to the Russian language, and since then one can legally undertake the paid editing.

DR: Irregardless of somebody’s likes or dislikes.

MG: It is another matter that practices accepted at the Russian-speaking community do not allow people occupied de-facto in the paid editing to declare about themselves as lobbyists did. When you announce that you are a paid editor you become the easy meat for ideological opponents who does not support the idea that Wikipedia should have the paid contributions. You, broadly speaking, become persecuted. I face it all the time even when I work on the non-commercial projects. Some users write to those people, including charity foundations, asking whether I got something in return. It is persecution in its pure form.

DR: Actually, it is not permitted at Wikipedia. When I was arbiter, there was a history with a user who addressed a complaint about another user to his job at non-commercial organization, trying to bring reputational damage beyond the Wikipedia boundaries. In punishment, his account was banned perpetually. Considering that you are working in Wikipedia full-time, it is what you do for your living… And the suspicions of those ones ‘inspecting’, as I understand, were ungrounded…

MG: Yes, of course. This disturbs people whom I work with. But, as I have a rather thick skin, and one cannot be different if one works at Wikipedia, I tolerate it as long as I can.

DR: I have heard from opponents of paid editing practically clear that the lawful paid editing is worse than the hidden one. Because it allegedly legitimizes or shifts the ’Overton window’ and everything like that. Well, you can see it by yourself, you have revealed the group of paid pushers, and instead of the gratitude to you for having done their job, these strugglers have posted the complaint against you on the forum.

MG: Perhaps, they are guided by the judgement: we turn a blind eye to the existence of the enormous ‘black market’ which we even do not try to evaluate by size, and trace a several users announcing themselves the paid editors whose contribution is on the surface. We do not have an instrument to assess the share of these editors on the market of paid editing, but I have a feeling that they are a drop in the ocean. Besides, it is extremely unlikely that paid editors steal topics, on which volunteers would like to write. Probably, their topics do not cross. When I worked pro bono  on the review articles ’Homeless in Russia’ and ’Artificial abortions in Russia‘, I did not notice that somebody pretended to work on these topics.

DR: I have no doubt about it.

MG: We have too much work to do and so scarce authors who write the good texts, that we would arrange for persecution of each other.

DR: What is your forecast concerning development of the paid editing?

MG: I think that nothing will change in the nearest years. The registered-witch hunt will go on. It is repetition of the story about foreign agent law. They say, look, here is the law, register, just obtain the status of foreign agent and work. You obtain the status and actually cannot conduct the normal activity. The same is with Wiki.

DR: It comes that, law provokes you to violate law. How could we overcome this situation?

MG: The only way is to conduct a series of research to show the actual scale of this activity. Now, whatever topic we take, we do not have figures on it. This makes any discussion meaningless that comes down to defining winner as the loudest one. If we have figures, we will be able to prove our point of view and ask the opponent to provide figures too. Now, everything occurs by intuition, which is very strange, as it concerns a big project with the significant social importance.

DR: Wikipedia occurred as the evolutionary project and remains it now.

MG: The attitudes possible 10 years ago, when Wikipedia was smaller, are not too effective, to tell the truth. The community and the tools cannot develop as fast as Wikipedia does. They do not match its level of development. That is a problem.

DR: Wikipedia in any case is in a steady state. Can, even hypothetically, wide acceptance of the paid editing shift this balance and will a new equilibrium point be found? Roughly speaking, can one group of PR experts be balanced by another similar group to the overall satisfaction?

MG: Look we have a rule that should be obeyed. But, we are not motivated for obeying this rule and the punishment for non-compliance to this rule is not inevitable. The risk of being caught, for a PR expert who has failed to declare his conflict of interests, is not big.

DR: Nobody has the particular strive to catch him.

MG: Yes, if the risk were high and the punishment were inevitable …

DR: It would be significant for a user who has worked for his reputation and values it. If we are talking about a PR person who is interested in Wikipedia only for the sake of posting there one article promoting his company … Well, if he fails the task, the company will substitute him with another person or will give up this idea, there are lots of ways get promoted.

MG: Both yes and no. Going back to the idea of monitoring, I say that it is a ‘l’idée fixe’ during the recent time. We do not accrue information about the articles used as the centers of attraction by PR experts. There are articles in which one or, maybe, ten affiliated editors not linked to each other were interested during a year period.

DR: Could it be that their management is more stubbornly supports the idea to promote via the Wikipedia article?

MG: Well, it could be an article not about company or person; but an article written on social topics or about the infrastructure issues.

About sponsors and philanthropists

DR: Here you have run before my question. Imagine, that the situation develops in the way that Wikipedia having lots of good articles about people and companies, written in compliance with the rules, and lots of the poor-quality articles written on general and humanitarian topics; will see the time when customers will be ready to pay not only for the topics of their direct interest but also those aimed at bringing benefits to public. Will this time come?

MG: I remember from my experience when customers ordered articles on general topics. But, it is not evident to people or companies. The idea should be offered to them.

DR: By the way, we have already long practiced the some kinds of paid editing in the interests of public, that is contests: ‘Sister cities’, ‘’The History of Russian Entrepreneurship’, ’Learn arts and crafts’.

MG: Yes, this is another model.

DR: Sponsors are ready to take part in such projects; they understand the contest idea and they bear lower costs as compared to those of direct order of articles, plus the positive newsworthy event.

MG: Yes, regarding various hard topic, I say, that sometimes it is easier to earn on some obvious issues, and afterwards write on my own on an important topic, because searching a sponsor can be the time-and-labor consuming process with unknown result and the possible negative gain. For example, who would buy the topic ‘Tuberculosis in Russia’?

DR: To some philanthropist, however our philanthropist traditions pended at the before-revolution understandings, in the ideal case. We understand it if a philanthropist builds a church or a hospital.

MG: Yes, let us build a church, as it is visible and tangible.

DR: Philanthropy at the information technology century, at least in Russia has yet to form.

MG: This is the problem ‘hen or egg’. Unless you explain systematically and for a long time that it could be done like this, money will not be invested. Besides, the topic ‘let us write on the socially important issue and give the money for it’ is not such an obvious one as ‘this is an afflicted child, please give the money for treatment’. The latter is a more comprehensible argument, this is why, the topics about sick children and churches raise more money than that donated on preservation of wooden architecture or more complicated concepts.

DR: And what if you address to NCO? They receive grants and part of them should be spent on informing and the public awareness campaigns.

MG: I take as a premise that it is better not to take money there. They are actually short of money for their own needs. I consider NCO as a source of expertise. Sometimes they ask to write about them, however in the most of cases we make a draft article and ask them to approve it. The article about ‘OVD-Info’ is the latest one of such kind. As I am subscribed to the monthly donation there, I thought it logical to make the article look better. I wrote a draft, posted it and received the feedback  from them, edited the article and it is fine. If I asked money from them, perhaps it would work, but I consider such activity as noncommercial.

DR: And what about commercial companies?

MG: With regard to businesses, I agree that it is necessary to promote the idea about possible investing in articles describing the reality in which businesses exist. For example, oil and gas companies could be financing articles about oil and gas, about fields, technologies, etc.

DR: Here, it is not everything clear. Such things usually go through tenders. In case of direct payment based on rates per article, it is more expensive and it is difficult to promote on it. Moreover, it may result in the opposite effect; unknown moneybags buy up the free encyclopedia articles and none will mention that are articles are good indeed.

MG: I agree, another difficulty here is how to present it properly. To add it, there are more complicated concepts, and those of higher level, such as a better tourist attractiveness of cities.

DR: Yes, address it to authorities.

MG: They are even more difficult to explain that it is a beneficial issue. For example, take articles about Saint-Petersburg in English; some issues are described, some yet to be described. I suppose that foreigners vising Saint-Petersburg, and there are plenty of them, would be interested in general article about the city and its sightseeing places. In sum, this would be beneficial for the city. Whom would I sell it?

DR: Try to sell it to Beglov.

MG: Aha-ha-ha!

DR: Why not? You come within office hours; I want to sell you a new touring reality. The next year will see the doubled flow of tourists.

MG: The thing is that it is difficult to measure. There is no method to prove why this pair of Americans have come to Saint-Petersburg or Moscow this year. But, I feel that it is important with back brain. That is how we live with our back brain difficult to sell.

DR: A lot have been recorded by now, and I think it will be the most profound interview I ever recorded.

MG: Because we discussed the complicated topics verbalized practically for the first time.

DR: I am grateful to you for the talk. It was interesting.

MG: I hope it was.

August 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

Canada to legalise marijuana to ‘make it more difficult for kids to access’

Sunday, April 16, 2017

In order to put the cannabis drug (marijuana) out of reach of minors, the Canadian federal government announced a bill to legalise cannabis for the age group of eighteen and above, on Thursday. The bill would allow adults to possess cannabis publicly, previously a criminal offence.

Canada’s health minister Jane Philpott tweeted, “Today we tabled new legislation to legalise, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. Our goal: keep it out of the hands of youth, and profits out of the hands of criminals.” ((fr))French language: ?Ajd nous avons déposé un nouveau projet de loi pour légaliser le cannabis, le réglementer de manière stricte et en restreindre l’accès. Notre objectif: garder le cannabis hors de la portée des jeunes, & les profits hors des mains des criminels. The Canadian government, via their official website, explained cannabis is available illegally, and their measures to stop it did not work. Criminal organisations are making money selling cannabis. Under-aged people can obtain the drug easily; they said, “it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes.”

The bill allows provinces and territories to set the age limit above eighteen. In order to prevent criminal gangs from making a profit, selling the drug needs a license permitting its sale. Adults can purchase the drug online from a licensed producer if a retail shop is not available in the province.

Adults can carry up to 30 g (slightly over an ounce) of cannabis and grow at most four cannabis plants at home, for personal use. The plants should be no taller than a metre, the bill proposed. Selling cannabis to minors would be a specific criminal offence.

The legislation requires parliamentary approval and royal assent. If passed, the bill would be under effect by July 2018, the government said. Health and safety experts and law enforcement were consulted before proposing the legislation. Except for medical purposes, possession of the drug remains illegal until the bill is passed. Regardless of the status of the bill, import and export of the drug would be illegal.

Previously when the government increased the taxes on cigarettes to discourage citizens from smoking, a black market for cigarettes developed.

Along with legalising cannabis, the bill would also permit the police officials to use tools like oral fluid drug screeners to detect if drivers are under the influence of the drug. Zero tolerance against drivers under influence of drugs is proposed. The government would also implement a public awareness campaign on the perils of driving under the influence of drugs.

The government still working on the restrictions. Lawmaker and former police chief Bill Blair said, “We do accept that more important work remains to be done.” If the bill is passed, Canada would be the second country to legalise cannabis completely. Uruguay is the first. Some countries, such as Germany, allow medical use of cannabis, but recreational use is prohibited.

August 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

Scottish Justice Secretary ‘acutely aware of unusual publicity’ in Kular case

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wikinews has obtained a letter by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to former Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont in response to questions raised by our correspondent about the Mikaeel Kular murder case. Wikinews has investigated possible contempt by media publishing potentially prejudicial material, and MacAskill wrote he has “been following the case of Mikaeel Kular and [is] acutely aware of the unusual publicity this case has attracted.”

When Mikaeel Kular, three, vanished from his Edinburgh home last month police and volunteers scoured the capital for him. His body was found in Fife just before midnight on January 17, and his mother was arrested on January 18. That’s when Wikinews first reported on possible widespread contempt by UK and Scottish media.

Our correspondent is based in Scotland and has been advised by a lawyer not to identify anybody detained until they have appeared in court, even if they have been arrested and charged. Professor James Chalmers of the University of Glasgow has since reviewed our coverage and confirmed this position. Despite that a large number of major media outlets identified Rosdeep Adekoya, nee Kular, 33, as the arrested individual.

Adekoya has since been in Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with murdering her son. She is in custody pending indictment and trial, but any eyewitness evidence may be tainted because her image has been widely published. This is common practice elsewhere in the UK but Scottish justice works differently and courts have viewed publication of photos as potentially prejudicial. Professor Pamela Ferguson of the University of Dundee notes “journalists do seem to be walking a dangerous line if publishing photos etc of suspects.” Crown Office, which is in overall charge of prosecutions, has indicated to journalists that no further comment will be made at least until indictment.

MacAskill however expressed confidence in the Scottish court system to deal with the situation. “I am confident… the courts themselves will intervene if they believe publicity is in danger of being prejudicial.” He also wrote to Lamont that he has faith in the court to successfully direct any jury that may try the case in order to maintain fairness.

The courts have said that the only safe route to avoid committing a contempt is to avoid publishing a photograph

The Contempt of Court Act 1981 is designed to prevent prejudicial material going in front of juries before trial. Although UK-wide legislation, the law is interpreted differently north of the border than in England and Wales. Witnesses in Scotland may be asked to identify accused persons standing in the dock. The BBC College of Journalism advises legal advice be sought ahead of publishing photos and notes it has previously been ruled contempt. The BBC used the accused’s photo prominently in their own online coverage.

Chalmers explains: “It may be a contempt of court to create a substantial risk of serious prejudice to someone’s right to a fair trial. A photograph might do this in a case where identification is an issue; on the face of it, that does not seem especially likely in this case, but it is impossible to know for certain at this point. The courts have said that the only safe route to avoid committing a contempt is to avoid publishing a photograph, but that does not mean that publishing a photograph is automatically a contempt.” MacAskill noted “the kind of issue that publicity might raise may become apparent only during the trial itself.”

Contempt has been a considerable issue in the UK in recent years after high-profile cases. In one instance a charge against serial killer Levi Bellfield was dropped owing to publicity while the jury were deliberating; in another, newspapers were fined and sued for libel over reporting on the arrest of a suspect who turned out to be innocent in a prominent investigation.

A proposal was mooted to ban identification of suspects arrested anywhere in the UK, but this was subsequently shelved. MacAskill confirmed “the Scottish Government is content with the way the courts are operating the rules on contempt of court in Scotland at the moment and has no plans to make changes.” He also wrote of the difficulties with trying to individually cover all eventualities with prescriptive legislation, saying “A trial for a sexual offence will raise very different issues — particularly of protecting victims — from those that are raised by a tax fraud trial.”

MacAskill says it is the Scottish Government’s position that the task of “counterbalancing the public interest in reporting with upholding the criminal law should be left to those whose job it is to do so — the courts and the judiciary, acting in the individual circumstances of the case”.

August 5, 2019 in Uncategorized