Wikinews interviews team behind the 2,000th featured Wikipedia article

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Wikinews interviews team behind the 2,000th featured Wikipedia article
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

This week saw the English-language version of Wikipedia, the collaboratively written online encyclopedia, reach 2,000 featured articles with the inclusion of the article El Señor Presidente. Featured articles (FAs) meet Wikipedia’s highest standards for quality, accuracy, neutrality, completeness, and style, and thus are considered the best articles on Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia team that carries out the assessment and quality control before conferring the status of featured articles promoted five articles to FA status at the same time: Walter de Coventre, Maximian, El Señor Presidente, Lord of the Universe, and Red-billed Chough. With five promoted at the same time, conferring the status of 2,000th on one is an arbitrary decision and in some respects any of these articles could actually make a claim to the honour.

The article El Señor Presidente was created and developed by a University of British Columbia class, “Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Latin American Literature in Translation“. While an important milestone, the 2,000th featured article is also symbolic of Wikipedia’s growing role in the 21st century learning arena.

The professor of the class, Jon Beasley-Murray, began using Wikipedia as a collaborative space where his students could both do coursework and provide a type of virtual public service. Thus, he created a Wikipedia project, Murder Madness and Mayhem, that focussed on creating articles relating to the Latin American literature covered in his class. Not surprisingly, El Señor Presidente is considered one of the most important books in Latin American literature, written by Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan writer, Miguel Ángel Asturias.

The Wikinews team contacted Prof. Beasley-Murray, who agreed to be interviewed for this story. His responses can be found below. Included are sections soliciting responses from three students who took the class and helped create and bring El Señor Presidente to Feature Article status. Thus far the project has created seven good articles in addition to the 2,000th featured article.

Professor Beasley-Murray, thank you for giving us some of your valuable time and agreeing to talk to us. Can you give some background on what prompted you to start this project?

  • Prof. Jon Beasley-Murray: I should say first that I’ve written some reflections at the project on Wikipedia itself, as an essay I entitled “Madness”.
In short, however, I’d done some editing on Wikipedia a year ago. I’d got into that rather by accident–after finding to some surprise that some of my academic work had been written up at the site. I then spent some time trying to organize and expand articles and categories relating to Latin America, particularly Latin American culture, which is my area of expertise. I discovered that Wikipedia’s coverage of this area was uneven at best. It was while I was involved in this that it came to me that students could usefully participate on the site. They use Wikipedia anyway; why not find ways in which they could also participate? And I’d come to realize that it’s only by participating and contributing that you can really understand the Encyclopedia, both its strengths and its weaknesses but above all the way it comes to be how it is.
And I’ve always been interested in using technology in teaching: mailing lists, websites, blogs, and so on. But I’ve never much liked “educational technology”: programs such as WebCT that students only ever use as part of a course they are taking. By creating something of an educational ghetto, educational technology seems to me to miss out on the most interesting and exciting possibilities of the Internet: precisely the fact that it opens up to the world outside the classroom, and can reconfigure or perhaps even break down the rather limited relationship between teacher (supposed to be the expert and source of all authority) and the student (too often treated as the passive recipient of knowledge).
Overall, a Wikipedia assignment offered lots of possibilities, including:
  • teaching students about Wikipedia, an important site that they use (and too often misuse) often
  • improving Wikipedia itself, by generating new content on topics where its coverage is lacking
  • encouraging students to produce something that had relevance outside the classroom, in the public sphere
  • giving them tangible goals that were measured by something other than my own professorial judgement
  • changing their views about writing, by stressing the importance of ongoing revision
  • teaching them about research and about how to use and evaluate sources
… we did get one “speedy deletion” tag. It was placed, within less than a minute, on an article that I created in front of all the students, during class time. For one horrible moment, in front of the whole class, I had a feeling that things might go terribly wrong.

((WN)) Did you consult with fellow academics or students prior to launching this project?

  • JBM: No, not really. Perhaps I should have! But off and on last summer I did discuss the idea with a friend who works in educational technology at UBC, who had helped me with the implementation of blogs in my courses. And this friend, Brian Lamb, was as always very encouraging and supportive of this kind of experimentation. He looked into the possibility of helping me apply for a grant for the project, but it seems there aren’t any for this kind of thing. I decided to go ahead anyway, essentially on my own.
And in January, as the project was getting underway, I signed up with Wikipedia:School and university projects. There were plenty of other previous and ongoing educational projects listed there, so I presumed I wasn’t so alone and that what I was doing wasn’t so innovative. It was only much later that I realized just how different and how ambitious this project was: we were aiming to create featured articles, ideally twelve of them, and no other educational project had ever set out to do that!

((WN)) I would assume the Wikipedia community was in favour of your project, did anyone outwith that community make notably critical comments about your idea?

  • JBM: No, but then as I say I hardly talked to anyone about it!
I should mention, however, that it’s not necessarily a given that the Wikipedia community was in favour. I’ve noticed that with some other educational projects, the initial reaction from Wikipedians has not always been so favourable. In part that’s because students are encouraged to write a new article on anything they can come up with, and these are swiftly marked for deletion. In part that’s because they write essays offline, then upload them, and naturally enough they are not in Wikipedia format or do not follow Wikipedia conventions (about “original research,” for instance). Those articles are soon laden with tags, and their talk pages filled with warnings or reproaches. We managed to avoid that on the whole… mostly by accident! But we also avoided those problems, I think, because I’d spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia already and was aware of some (but far from all) the habits of the site. And more importantly because we had quite definite aims: students weren’t editing Wikipedia for the sake of it.
Even so, we did get one “speedy deletion” tag. It was placed, within less than a minute, on an article that I created in front of all the students, during class time. For one horrible moment, in front of the whole class, I had a feeling that things might go terribly wrong. The article tagged for speedy deletion was El Señor Presidente… which is now, as you know, Wikipedia’s Feature Article number 2,000.

((WN)) How significant a percentage of the mark you were giving for the class came from Wikipedia contributions?

  • JBM: Originally, the Wikipedia assignment was to have represented 30% of the total grade for the course. Just over half-way through the semester, progress had still been relatively slow, and I was getting worried. So I proposed to the class that we change the course assessment, and that we scrap the planned final essay or term paper. This would mean that the other elements (a mid-term, blogs and participation, and Wikipedia) would all come to be worth more. We talked about the proposal, and I gave them some time to think about it. We then had a secret ballot, and I said in advance that we would only go ahead with the change if two thirds (66%) were in favour. In the end, 85% of the class voted for increasing the significance of the Wikipedia project to 40% of the overall course grade.

((WN)) As a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications committee I (Brian McNeil) frequently see both sides of the conflict over how relevant or reliable Wikipedia is. This ranges from queries coming in from students working on their school paper who want a response to their librarian and teachers effectively banning use of Wikipedia, to the other extreme such as a recent case where a teaching surgeon in the UK asking for permission to quote extensively from Wikipedia for a paper on the site’s relevance and potential use for undergraduates in medicine. I have a stock answer detailing how to check Wikipedia sources; that Wikipedia is a great starting point for research, and that if you disallow Wikipedia you should disallow Britannica. Is this something you would agree with?

  • JBM: Over the course of this semester, I’ve come up with a response of my own to this question. If a Wikipedia article is a good one, then you won’t need to quote it, as it will have links to all the relevant sources. And if it doesn’t have those links, then it isn’t a good article, and shouldn’t be quoted in any case.
Before this semester, I explicitly banned students from quoting Wikipedia articles in their essays. And I will continue to do so. I also look askance at them citing dictionary definitions. And though they don’t quote Britannica (I think Wikipedia has now for all intents and purposes replaced Britannica), I would likewise be unimpressed if they were to do so.
On the other hand, of course, as you say, Wikipedia can be an excellent starting point for research. I personally use it often precisely for that reason.

((WN)) Was the experience of using a wiki for collaboration something you would repeat? There have been suggestions for something you might call “EduWiki” for the collaborative development of course material. Would you get involved with something like that? Do you see potential for use of the MediaWiki software in other areas of education? Such a project could be hosted under Wikimedia Foundation projects such as Wikibooks or Wikiversity. Would you favour that over a closed project within academia where contributors’ credentials could be verified?

  • JBM: I’m not sure. As is perhaps already obvious, I’m horribly suspicious of almost anything that has “edu” in the title. And I say that with all due respect to my friends who are in “EduTech”–though I should add that they are often equally suspicious, if not more so! I’ve had a couple of other experiences with wikis, in relatively closed environments, and they weren’t particularly successful. I think that was because there was never a critical mass. The one thing that Wikipedia really has going for it is critical mass. (Even then, of course, only a tiny fraction of the people who read Wikipedia ever edit it.)
The other thing is that too many academics still don’t get the wiki ethos. It’s hard for them (us) not to be possessive about our work. This I think is what causes most of the antagonism and frustration when academics do get involved in Wikipedia. The issue is seldom “expertise,” and much more often ownership. I realize I’m talking in broad strokes here, but for instance a wiki was set up in my faculty, and it proved impossible to edit anyone else’s texts. We might as well have been putting up .pdfs. It was an exercise in presenting position papers, rather than in collaborative writing.
Meanwhile, as for the topic of credentials, which I know has been much debated on Wikipedia, I think that’s a real canard. I don’t think credentials matter much. My students don’t have much in the way of credentials, but they’ve done superior work.

((WN)) Would you describe your students as receptive to the idea of doing coursework where the general public could view their works in progress?

  • JBM: I’d often asked students to write blogs in previous courses, which are also of course visible to the general public. But not too many people bump into such student blogs, except on rare occasions. Here, the point wasn’t so much that the Wikipedia articles were public, but that they were editing one of the Internet’s top ten sites. So one day I’d poked around and found out how many people had visited particular pages that we’re editing. (I compiled and later updated these numbers here.) And the next class we played two little guessing games. One involved what percentage of Wikipedia’s articles they thought were classified as “Good Articles”; they started at 30%, and it took them a while to get down to 0.15%. This was just after El Señor Presidente had made Good Article status, so it gave them a sense of the achievement, I think.
The other little guessing game concerned how many page views they thought their articles attracted per month. I can’t remember exactly the figure they started off with in this case, but I can tell you it was a lot lower than the 50,000 plus that Gabriel García Márquez actually receives. When we figured out that that article must have something over 600,000 visits a year (I now reckon it’s almost three-quarters of a million), the team who were editing that page were somewhat shocked. But my sense is that the realization was also rather exciting. And I know that the students who will shortly find their article on the mainpage of the English Wikipedia (it’ll be there on May 5th) are absolutely thrilled. Though frankly I think they (and the other students) are less interested in the fact that the “general public” can see what they’ve done, than in telling their friends and family to take a look at their work.

((WN)) Did any students fail to fit in and find themselves unable to work with Wikipedia?

  • JBM: Yes. There was a wide range of responses. Some were very enthusiastic. Others took a while to get into it. And there were a few who never really found themselves at home editing Wikipedia. I’m not sure of the reasons in each case. For some the technology stayed too intimidating, or rather (I suspect) they just didn’t put in enough time to get past that first hurdle. As this was group work, however, some of the effects could be worrisome at times. So it’s something I’d have to think over before trying a similar experiment again.

((WN)) Do you feel that doing this part of the course in such a radically open way encouraged any of the students to work to a higher standard than the might otherwise have?

  • JBM: Absolutely. No question of it. The most active students, at least, have helped produce articles of c. 4,000-8,000 words that are comprehensively researched, repeatedly revised, and with a meticulous attention to detail. The standard of every single article is far better than any term paper that they would have written otherwise. Of course, some students have been more actively engaged, and so have both learned more and been pushed more than others. But the constant reminders and questions from other Wikipedia editors, particularly the members of the FA-Team who have done much of the copy-editing, has forced them consistently to reflect upon what they are saying, how they are saying it, and what their sources are.

((WN)) In reflecting on the project, is there anything you would have done differently?

  • JBM: There were aspects of the groupwork that didn’t work out as they could have. And we did get off to a rather slow start: I’d have to think about how to remedy that. Moreover, once the project is over, the FA-Team and I (plus, of course, any students who are interested) plan to have a post-mortem on all aspects of the collaboration. So there are certainly things that could be improved. I know I’ve also learned a lot on this project, and next time would hope to benefit from what I’ve learned.

((WN)) You’ve hit about 6,000 edits personally, have you caught the “wiki bug”? Will you keep editing?

  • JBM: 7,000 now! I’ll need to stop editing for a while once the project is over: it has been very time-consuming. But I plan to be back in the Fall.

((WN)) In light of the apparent success of your project what would you say to other academics to try and persuade them to try similar experiments?

  • JBM: Absolutely. I don’t want to come across as too much of a Wikipedia booster. I can understand exactly why many academics’ engagement on the encyclopedia has proven to be disappointing or frustrating or worse. But I think that, especially if academics take some time to understand aspects of Wikipedia’s culture, there are forms of engagement that can be very rewarding. We were rather fortunate to run into the FA-Team, a group of experienced Wikipedia editors that had recently been established in order to help others promote articles to Featured Article status. Their involvement has been an absolute Godsend. But I see no reason why something similar (or even unpredictably different, and perhaps better) might not emerge in other circumstances.

((WN)) Before moving on to bringing your students into the discussion, I’d like to close with your thoughts on making this a regular part of the curriculum. Do you intend to do so? Do you feel other institutions should examine your project with a view to emulating it?

  • JBM: I certainly intend to repeat the experiment. The one downside for an instructor is that, if it is to be done right, it is very labour-intensive. On the other hand, in terms of capital resources it is essentially free. My university (and many others) pays millions of dollars per year for site licences for educational software such as WebCT. That’s a massive waste of money, as far as I’m concerned; though it’s a lucrative racket for the people selling the software. It’s also, I’d say, an abdication of an important aspect of the university’s mission: to invest in the Commons. The trend in contemporary academia is too often towards privatization and enclosure. (Though I should note that there are valiant exceptions, and my former colleague John Willinsky‘s work on open access is exemplary.) The more universities engage with Wikipedia, and the more they realize that they can do so without necessarily dropping the high standards of research and academic rigour that it is also their duty to safeguard, the more they benefit not only their own students, but also the public good.

In addition to the one featured article, seven made “Good Article” status. How much of an encouragement was that to those of you involved in the project?

  • Monica Freudenreich: I honestly cannot speak for the rest of the class but I think that everyone involved was a little bit weary (Ed: wary?) of this project. None of us had ever embarked on this sort of thing in our undergraduate careers before and to say the least, were unsure of how this would all turn out. Being students, we are prone to leave things to the last minute and with this project that was definitely not a possibility. So, despite a slow start in general, I think the status most of the articles in our project achieved is really impressive and that is a huge encouragement in itself
  • Katy Konyk: I can’t speak for the rest of the class but I think seeing so many articles achieve good status proved that he goal was very achievable. I think the only downside was that in class people are going to work at their own speeds so having others reach good article status, if you are not there yet, sometimes added to the pressure.
  • Elyse Economides: I think it was a form of encouragement, but also made the task seem a bit daunting. It was exciting to see that so many of the groups could attain the goal of “Good Article” status at the end of four months, but it also spoke to the amount of time and effort needed to reach that point. Hopefully seeing their classmates achieve “Good Article” status encouraged the individual groups that the same achievement was also possible.

((WN)) How long were you involved with Wikipedia before you really felt Good or Featured was achievable?

  • MF: I created a user account in January, along with almost all of the class as it was the first time I realized that one could edit wikipedia. The page I believe was created, with the help of Dr. Beasley-Murray on January 15th. After we got a “speedy deletion” tag put on our page, I thought I should get some content up there to make sure that it wasn’t deleted, as I have no idea how to create a page. So, we were involved with Wikipedia for about 3 months before we were put up for GA review and then it was just under 4 months when we were awarded the FA gold star. I do not think length of time with Wikipedia is important before achieving Good or Featured articles but rather quality of the content and willingness of other wikipedians to collaborate on the project. I relied on the more experienced Wikipedian users to let us know when Good or Featured Article status was achievable and create checklists for us to complete before getting to either stage.
  • KK: When we were first presented with this assignment in the middle of January I admit we were very determined to get a featured article and I don’t think I really realized how much overall work and reworking of the article would be required to attain that goal. In mid-February we spent a couple days trying to read every English source we could get our hands on and we were dumping the contents onto the page. It was at this time that others really started to take an interest by making suggestions and doing heaps of editing themselves. To be honest it felt a little overwhelming, realizing how strict Wikipedia rules are and all the editing we needed to do. While the extensive requirements were overwhelming at first they also made good and feature article status feel achievable because we were able to see exactly what we needed to do.
  • EE: Once Professor Beasley-Murray seriously encouraged us to start working on our articles, by assigning us to make one edit, large or small, to our article, creating an article on Wikipedia seemed slightly less intimidating, although it was still a huge endeavor. Most of the framework and information that carried through the editing process was formed during late February, and that’s when the status of “Good Article” became more of a tangible goal. The input from outside contributors and Wikipedia experts also became quiet salient at this point, and it continued on through the entire process.

((WN)) If you could improve the guidelines for people wanting to take articles up to Featured status, what would you change?

  • KK: I think the guidelines are fair and are what make Featured Articles such reliable sources. My only comment would be that the Manual of Style was extremely inaccessible to lay users, like myself and if there hadn’t been professional editors who knew what they were doing I don’t know if we could have gotten over that obstacle.
  • EE: Although I probably didn’t work as closely with the guidelines as the other members of my group, from what I experienced, there are a fair amount of technical and professional level requirements that is appropriate for the commitment to continuity and reliability, but difficult for beginning users to understand and properly use. The guidelines are a necessary component of Wikipedia, and Wikipedia provides comprehensive resources to explain these tools. Perhaps the best way to feel confident in using the guidelines is to practice making use of them and look at other articles for examples.

((WN)) Do you feel that having anything you did immediately viewable by anyone on the Internet encouraged you to aim for a higher standard than you might have with a more conventional paper that only the professor would see?

  • MF: Not really. I think what pushed us to achieve higher standards were the other wikipedian editors. They were constantly pushing us to find better references and to reference everything. In working towards GA and FA they set the bar incredibly high. Blogs and other internet sites such as Facebook are also readily viewable to anyone and they often have a very low standard, if any standard at all. So, I do not think that it was because the article and our work was being shown on the internet that we worked so hard at this project. The support of the other wikipedians along the way was critical for me to both keep working at it and to set the standard very high indeed.
  • KK: I don’t think that it was because our work would be immediately visible that we aimed for a higher standard. Personally, I think what allowed us to aim for a higher standard was the ability to receive feedback and continually rework the page, which is very unlike a paper where you only have the opportunity to submit it once and cannot fix the paper according to the comments. In this sense, Wikipedia was a much better learning tool than a paper, we were actually able to engage with the comments from other editors.
  • EE: I would almost say it has the opposite effect. While many users on Wikipedia are careful about the material they post, Wikipedia is a fairly anonymous resource, which means an individual’s contributions may not be directly linked back to that person. Wikipedia is also constantly changing as editors come and go, so the information one contributes is never truly permanent. A paper is always directly linked to the individual and unlike Wikipedia, the information placed within it is permanent.

((WN)) Do you believe that contributing something to a ‘digital commons’ gives you more of a sense of achievement than just turning in a term paper?

  • MF: Undoubtedly yes. This page will be read by countless people over the course of its existence. Because I have worked so hard writing and re-writing it, I am extremely proud of the finished result, I almost can’t believe I helped write it when I look back over it. Term papers I have handed back end up in a binder than eventually sits under my bed and files sit on my computer unopened ever again. This Wikipedia page will be seen and likely used by others in the future. After all, I am quite confident that the references list is a comprehensive list of nearly everything published in English on the subject. Any student or person looking to read more about El Senor Presidente no longer has to look any further than our references list. Now that is something truly amazing!
  • EE: Yes and no. While contributing to the creation of a “Featured Article” means disseminating that information to a virtually unlimited number of people, the creation of a term paper is also a feat in and of itself that requires a great deal of research and editing. It is true that within the forum of Wikipedia, an exponentially larger amount of people will see and recognize an individual’s work, but it is equally impersonal. I find each to inspire a sense of achievement (and perhaps mixed with a sense of relief as well).

((WN)) Have you caught the “wiki bug”? Will you keep editing?

  • MF: I am not completely sure. I think Wikipedia is a great resource and I have a lot of admiration for all those out there that work to make Wikipedia a thorough and reliable resource but I don’t know quite yet if I will keep editing. I would like to say yes but between two jobs and five courses right now I will have to stop or cut back until the semester ends. As for the summer, with three jobs and a couple classes, again I don’t know how much time I will be able to dedicate to Wikipedia but I think as I read novels in my spare time or do research for future term papers, I will definitely add references and information about future subjects and topics I study. I do not think I will completely stop editing all together but I will undoubtedly have to cut back.
  • KK: I don’t know if I will keep editing, only because I now know the immense amount of work and research that is required to produce quality work. I have caught the ‘wiki bug’ in the sense that I have a lot more respect for other Good and Feature articles out there. While I may not be able to quote them in my papers I have learned that they are excellent resources and can lead me to other academic papers. Wikipedia will still be my first internet stop for an area that I know nothing about; if it can lead me to other sources than I know it is a good page.
  • EE: I think I will continue to edit, though most likely it will be in the form of minor edits, such as spelling and grammar errors, because that’s my strongest area of interest. I think changing something on Wikipedia, no matter how minor it may be, gives the user a tiny sense of accomplishment.

((WN)) Assuming Professor Beasley-Murray repeats this project in subsequent years, what advice would you give to students following in your footsteps and starting on Wikipedia?

  • MF: I would advise them to start early and start with doing research. Along with Wikipedia, we also had weekly reading responses to hand in. I would advise students to approach Wikipedia as something that is due weekly as well and recommend that they spend at least one hour editing Wikipedia each week or doing research on the topic. To begin, online journal databases work really well but the reality is that many articles published about novels are not online and so consulting the research librarian is an invaluable tool. I think I visited them three times for how to get the information I was looking for. And also, I would advise them not to be too overwhelmed by the process. The wikipedians set very high standards but those standards are achievable. Have faith that even as an undergraduate who is not majoring in English, you can make an incredible contribution and get real results from your hard work.
  • EE: I would also encourage them to begin their research early and get as much information onto the page as quickly as possible. It seems that the veteran and experienced Wikipedia editors and users gravitate towards pages that show substantial activity. I would also encourage them to pace themselves (something I should have practiced more) and look for guidance on other article pages and through other users. Finally, I would encourage them to contact their group members early on and form a plan for the research and editing.

((WN)) Which would you describe as the harder ‘marking authority’? Other professors where you’ve submitted conventional term papers, or the teams assessing Wikipedia contributions with a view to awarding Good or Featured status?

  • MF: No competition. Our Good Article review was extremely intense and I actually was very overwhelmed by it initially. After working through each bullet point though, I can now see why those suggestions for improvement were both necessary and important. The hard work most definitely did not stop after GA review. In fact, before GA review had even ended another editor went through the article for us, line by line and came up with an even longer list of needed improvements, and once we did that, another thorough copy-edit was done. At times I was very discouraged by the mountain or work in front of me and not entirely confident that I could fix the problem areas but with their continued support and help we did it. Professors on conventional term papers make a few comments and hand it back to you. In nearly four years of University, I have only had one professor hand back term papers and give students the option to revise, rework and re-write problematic areas in the essay. And personally, I find this process of re-writing, clarifying and improving prose to be extremely helpful. Over the course of the last few months I have learned so much about writing I cannot even express… and it shows. I have been a B+/A- student throughout my entire undergraduate career, and my last two papers have been A’s! I think the grades speak for themselves.
  • KK: Wikipedia was definitely more intense but I think it was probably a fairer process. I don’t have a problem with someone being a tough critique when we have the opportunity to fix the problems. This is exactly what I enjoyed about the Wikipedia process and think this is what made it such a great learning tool.
  • EE: Wikipedia seems to hold more consistent and constant standards across the board, whereas professors can sometimes mark in an unexpected manner. However, in my experience with Wikipedia and my professors, each expect a high quality of work and challenge the contributor to create such work.

((WN)) Was there significant input from other Wikipedians not taking your course? If so, was this valuable?

  • MF: In the beginning we were mostly on our own but as we grew more comfortable with how to edit on Wikipedia and started doing research on the subject, we found ourselves supported by a great number of other Wikipedians, complete strangers willing to help us on the ambitious goal of Feature Article. This help was extremely valuable, in fact I do not think that Feature Article would have been possible without their assistance and guidance along the way. I cannot thank each and everyone of them enough for looking out for us and pointing us in the right direction when we hit road bumps along the way.
  • EE: There was definitely significant input from other users on Wikipedia, even before our group neared the “Good Article” mark. One of the greatest components of Wikipedia is the sense of community that is cultivated among all the users. When they recognize an area of need, they are quick to offer aid and support.

((WN)) As a fairly open-ended question, would you see any use for wiki technology in any of your other study areas, or even where you may hope to eventually end up in employment?

  • MF: I think Wikipedia is a great resource to find concise, compiled information and given the fast pace of society today, it will only grow in importance for people needed to quickly check the names of certain people or places when working on projects or reports in the workplace. I already use Wikipedia for quick reference checks, to clarify what something or who someone is that I am not familiar with.
  • KK: I totally see use for wiki technology. Wikipedia is often the first source I go to when I have a question. While I cannot cite Wikipedia in my school papers I have learned that if it is a good article then it can be a great database for other academic works that I can use and if not it is normally a great source to give me some basic knowledge. I think if more and more articles can reach at least Good status Wikipedia might start to be acknowledged as a reliable source.
  • EE: I have always appreciated Wikipedia as a resource to provide me with background information for many of my areas of study. While it is not acknowledge as a strictly academic source, I use it to familiarize myself with a topic before delving in to deeper research. I also find Wikipedia to be a useful resource for non-academic subjects, which is, in essence, the beauty of Wikipedia.

How did you feel when “El Señor Presidente” was made up to Featured Article (FA) status? Did you have a celebratory drink or a party?

  • MF: I was (and still am) extremely excited. Before this semester started in January, I was not even aware that anyone could edit Wikipedia, let alone create a page and build it from scratch. I honestly did not know if it would make it through FAC but we have had so much help with copy-editing and technical Wikipedia aspects of creating the article that it really would never have been possible to get a feature article if it had not been from the help of a few key other Wikipedians. Unfortunately there was no celebratory drink or party as the work of a student never seems to end but I will admit I have been rather shamelessly bragging about it to family and friends.
  • KK: It was very exciting but to be honest I had gotten used to editing Wikipedia for over 2 months that it was almost a little sad that the entire process was over. Creating a Wikipedia article is such a group process that I did feel a little sad to be leaving after working so intensely with such an amazing group of people. We have not had a celebratory drink, unfortunately it has been overshadowed by all the other work that school entails but I definitely think one is in order once school is done. I also don’t think that it has really set in.
  • EE: It was rather a surreal feeling. It’s hard to believe an article that was created in January is now deserving of “Featured Article” status less than four months later. Our whole class had a party of sorts to celebrate the end of the class, which I suppose could encompass the wrapping up of Wikipedia editing.

((WN)) Were you disappointed that more of your articles didn’t make FA status?

  • MF: I have not been involved with the other articles so I cannot say that I feel strongly one way or another. Perhaps this question would be better suited for Dr. Beasly-Murray, who has indeed been involved in every article.
I think FAs [Ed: Featured Articles] deserve more credit in the academic community because they are excellent sources of information.

((WN)) Was getting the article up to that status harder than you expected?

  • MF: To be honest, I don’t really know what I was expecting. When the project first began I took a good look at other articles on books that achieved Feature Article status and they looked really impressive so I knew from the beginning it was going to be a challenge but I was ready for that challenge and excited to give it a go. Basically, I jumped rather blindly into “editing” and the whole world of Wikipedia.
  • KK: I would not say that it was harder than I expected but perhaps more work. Luckily, we had an amazing group of Wikipedia users and editors on our side who helped make it very clear what was expected for the article. Honestly, without them guiding us I think this whole process would have been a lot more difficult if not impossible. This experience has taught me that if you are willing to put in the work and time than it really is not impossible.
  • EE: It required a commitment of considerable time and effort, but I think that’s to be expected for a highly recognized article. We were fortunate enough to be guided at every turn by experienced editors, who most likely the reason the article progressed so far, so quickly.

((WN)) Does the lack of credit on Wikipedia concern you?

  • MF: Not at all. Wikipedia is such a group effort that I think it would be extremely difficult to give credit to only a few people. I may have been one of the principle editors tirelessly working away at this article but at the same time it would never have reached FA without the overwhelming support from other collaborators who helped us out with many aspects of the article. What still impresses me is how thoroughly they were able to copyedit the article and really focus on sentences of weakness so that the finished product is rather remarkable.
  • KK: Personally, it does not concern me because I did this as an assignment for a class. Therefore, only having edited one article any lack on individual credit is not a worry for me, especially because this is such a group effort. What does concern me is the lack of credit Wikipedia is given in the academic community. Many people worked tirelessly on this article, and of course all the other FAs, to make sure it was all properly supported by academic sources yet it still has a bad reputation. I think FAs deserve more credit in the academic community because they are excellent sources of information.
  • EE: Not particularly. The goal of Wikipedia is to share and spread information, not formulate new ideas or pose arguments. Ultimately, users are merely compilers, gathering information and organizing it into a cohesive page. While some users may contribute more than others, all users are working towards a common goal, which doesn’t precipitate the need for individual recognition. Additionally, Wikipedia has in place it’s [sic] own sort of recognition and awards system that can give credit where credit’s due.

((WN)) Academia is often characterised as “publish or die”. Do you believe the educational establishment should embrace Wikipedia or wiki technology as a way of making this publishing requirement less onerous?

  • MF: Being an undergraduate, I don’t really feel as though I am faced with this “publish or die” thinking. I do think though that this has been a very valuable assignment and I see a lot of merit in doing it. It is a chance for us students who never have anything we write published to publish something on Wikipedia. I also think there are many valuable skills that one acquires from editing on Wikipedia because one does not write something once and never look at it again. Wikipedia encourages multiple revisions and re-writing or going back to the original research to further clarify points one makes. I think it also teaches valuable writing skills and helps on improve on areas of weakness in his/her writing. So, I do not know if I have answered the question per se but yes, I do think that the education establishment should embrace Wikipedia as a valuable education tool for students. Seeing that a person’s name is not directly linked to any given article and one’s proper name is not used while editing, I find that it would be extremely difficult for Wikipedia as it functions right now to diminish the onerous requirement of publishing articles.
  • EE: I think Wikipedia should be acknowledge for providing a (in some cases, somewhat comprehensive) background on certain academic subjects. And it would be nice for students of all levels of education to cite Wikipedia as an academic source for papers and projects. However, I recognize the difficulty in allowing Wikipedia to be considered a rigid academic source, since it is open to changes from academics and non-academics alike. I believe Wikipedia should continued to be used as a starting place for research and information and as a stepping stone to further resources.

((WN)) How has working on getting something to FA status changed your opinion of Wikipedia from that you held prior to the start of this project?

  • MF: As I said before, I did not even know a person could edit Wikipedia before the start of the project, so, my views of Wikipedia have changed drastically. After working on this page for so long, and achieving FA status, I now have so much respect for all of the editors working to improve the information out there. Wikipedia is a great source and I have no doubt that it will only continue to get better. Because I have been told not to cite Wikipedia information in academic writing, before the project began I had the idea that Wikipedia is rather untrustworthy. At the same time, one of my professors this year included in our course readings some Wikipedia articles such as “The Big Bang Theory” and I was shocked. I think the lesson I have learned from this is that Wikipedia can be an extremely valuable research tool and, at least with the Good and Featured Articles, they can provide the reader with a rather extensive list of academic work to references reliably. In the end, I can’t say enough how much I respect all those working on Wikipedia articles day after day, compiling resources and information and really doing something remarkable. Whether professors like it or not, Wikipedia is a widely used tool by students to quickly check facts about a person, place, event, or work and I think with the help of dedicated editors, it will only continue to improve and impress.
  • EE: It showed me the draw of using Wikipedia not only to access information, but to share it as well. It also showed me how much “behind the scenes” effort goes into creating, maintaining and editing pages. Wikipedia had always seemed like a resource dominated by experts or at least people fanatic about a certain subject. However, working on an article has shown me that truly anyone can contribute his or her bit to Wikipedia and make a significant impact.

I’d like to thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to help on this Wikinews article. Who knows? It too could end up featured.

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Author Amy Scobee recounts abuse as Scientology executive

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Author Amy Scobee recounts abuse as Scientology executive

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wikinews interviewed author Amy Scobee about her book Scientology – Abuse at the Top, and asked her about her experiences working as an executive within the organization. Scobee joined the organization at age 14, and worked at Scientology’s international management headquarters for several years before leaving in 2005. She served as a Scientology executive in multiple high-ranking positions, working out of the international headquarters of Scientology known as “Gold Base”, located in Gilman Hot Springs near Hemet, California.

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British Gas to increase electricity, gas prices

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British Gas to increase electricity, gas prices

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday, July 10, 2011

British-based utility company Centrica, which holds ownership of British Gas, has announced its intentions to increase the prices of domestic electricity and gas later this year. On August 18, 2011, the company plans to raise the costs of gas and electrical supplies by eighteen and sixteen per cent, respectively. According to The Guardian, nine million customers will be affected by these changes.

British price comparison website uSwitch has reported that the “[a]verage household bill for a dual fuel British Gas customer will now go up from £1,096 to £1,288”. Mike O’Connor, the chief executive officer of consumer organisation Consumer Focus, has claimed that the announcement “will send a shock wave across the country” and will place an increasing amount of difficulties “on stretched household budgets. Consumers […] rightly question whether prices are fair.”

Phil Bentley, a managing director for British Gas, has claimed that value increases like this are “an issue facing all energy suppliers”. A director for British Gas, named Ian Peters, has claimed that “a fair return” will be made after the changes occur.

In 2010, British Gas experienced its largest ever profit, making £742 million (US$1,192 million, €835 million). Meanwhile, Centrica achieved £2.4 billion (US$3.8 billion, €2.7 billion) in profits. Richard Lloyd from product sampling charity Which? criticised the decision to raise prices, calling the declaration “unwelcome but unsurprising” for British Gas consumers.

Previously in December 2010, British Gas increased the price of its gas by 6.9%, which equates to £43 (US$69, €48). At the same time, the company’s electricity prices were raised by 6.7%, or £28 (US$45, €32). On Friday, Chris Huhne, the secretary of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said that British electricity businesses must modify themselves so as to avoid “the cycle of fossil fuel addiction. Alternatives like renewables and nuclear power must be allowed to become the dominant component of our energy mix,” said Huhne.

This news comes to light as Scottish Power, a rival energy company to British Gas, announced last month their intentions to up the prices of their electricity and gas supplies by ten and nineteen per cent respectively.

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How Light Dimmer Switches Work

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Kitchen Home Improvement

By Kimberly Quang

Light dimming is based on adjusting the voltage that gets to the lamp to emit only small amount of light. Light dimming has been possible for many decades by using adjustable power resistors and adjustable transformers. Electronics controlling also made possible to make them easily controllable from remote location.

Most homes have lamps or fixtures that can be made brighter or dimmer by rotating or sliding a control on their on-off switch. Years ago, this was done using a device called a rheostat–a large variable resistor. This method wasted electricity and generated a lot of heat. To control the amount of energy going to the light the rheostat had to throw a lot away, turning it into heat. For example, at half brightness a 100-watt bulb would waste about 20 watts to heat in the rheostat.

Early light dimmer switches had a pretty straightforward solution to adjusting light levels — a variable resistor. An ordinary resistor is a piece of material that doesn’t conduct electrical current well — it offers a lot of resistance to moving electrical charge. A variable resistor consists of a piece of resistive material, a stationary contact arm and a moving contact arm.

As charge works to move through the resistor, energy is lost in the form of heat. When you put a resistor in a series circuit, the resistor’s energy consumption causes a voltage drop in the circuit, decreasing the energy available to other loads (the light bulb). Decreased voltage across the light bulb reduces its light output.

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The problem with this solution is that you end up using a lot of energy to heat the resistor, which doesn’t help you light up the room but still costs you. In addition to be being inefficient, these early dimmer switches tend to be cumbersome and potentially dangerous, since the variable resistor releases a substantial amount of heat.

Modern dimmers take a more efficient approach. Instead of diverting energy from the light bulb into a resistor, modern resistors rapidly shut the light circuit off and on to reduce the total amount of energy flowing through the circuit. The light bulb circuit is switched off many times every second.

Modern light dimmer switches use a transistor like device called a TRIAC to switch the electricity on and off very rapidly–120 times each second. Because they sort of ‘chop up’ the electrical power this way they are sometimes called ‘chopper switches.’ The current doesn’t change suddenly. It rises and falls or, undulates.

The switching cycle is built around the fluctuation of household alternating current (AC). AC current has varying voltage polarity — in an undulating sine wave, it fluctuates from a positive voltage to a negative voltage. To put it another way, the moving charge that makes up AC current is constantly changing direction. In the United States , it goes through one cycle (moving one way, then the other) 60 times a second. A modern light dimmer switch “cuts off” the sine wave. It automatically shuts the light bulb circuit off every time the current reverses direction — that is, whenever there is zero voltage running through the circuit. This happens twice per cycle, or 120 times a second. It turns the light circuit back on when the voltage climbs back up to a certain level.

The knob or slider on the dimmer switch is also a variable resistor but, in this case it’s just used as a signal to move the turn-on point –it’s not redirecting the flow of current as the old time rheostat was. With the dimmer circuitry very little energy is wasted. A typical modern dimmer control is more than 99 percent efficient–less than 1 watt is wasted controlling a 100-Watt bulb.

If we hook up a really cheap dimmer switch, we may notice a strange buzzing noise. This comes from vibrations in the bulb filament caused by the chopped-up current coming from the triac (triode alternating current switch).

Better dimmer switches have extra components to squelch the buzzing effect. Typically, the dimmer circuit includes an inductor choke, a length of wire wrapped around an iron core, and an additional interference capacitor. Both devices can temporarily store electrical charge and release it later. This “extra current” works to smooth out the sharp voltage jumps caused by the triac-switching to reduce buzzing and radio interference.

Some high-end dimmer switches, such as the ones commonly used in stage lighting, are built around an autotransformer instead of a triac. The autotransformer dims the lights by stepping down the voltage flowing to the light circuit. A movable tap on the autotransformer adjusts the step-down action to dim the lights to different levels. Since it doesn’t chop up the AC current, this method doesn’t cause the same buzzing as a triac switch.

Most of light dimmer switches are built around the same simple idea — chopping up AC current to reduce the total energy powering a light bulb.

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G20 protests: Inside a labour march

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G20 protests: Inside a labour march

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Wikinews accredited reporter Killing Vector traveled to the G-20 2009 summit protests in London with a group of protesters. This is his personal account.

Friday, April 3, 2009

London – “Protest”, says Ross Saunders, “is basically theatre”.

It’s seven a.m. and I’m on a mini-bus heading east on the M4 motorway from Cardiff toward London. I’m riding with seventeen members of the Cardiff Socialist Party, of which Saunders is branch secretary for the Cardiff West branch; they’re going to participate in a march that’s part of the protests against the G-20 meeting.

Before we boarded the minibus Saunders made a speech outlining the reasons for the march. He said they were “fighting for jobs for young people, fighting for free education, fighting for our share of the wealth, which we create.” His anger is directed at the government’s response to the economic downturn: “Now that the recession is underway, they’ve been trying to shoulder more of the burden onto the people, and onto the young people…they’re expecting us to pay for it.” He compared the protest to the Jarrow March and to the miners’ strikes which were hugely influential in the history of the British labour movement. The people assembled, though, aren’t miners or industrial workers — they’re university students or recent graduates, and the march they’re going to participate in is the Youth Fight For Jobs.

The Socialist Party was formerly part of the Labour Party, which has ruled the United Kingdom since 1997 and remains a member of the Socialist International. On the bus, Saunders and some of his cohorts — they occasionally, especially the older members, address each other as “comrade” — explains their view on how the split with Labour came about. As the Third Way became the dominant voice in the Labour Party, culminating with the replacement of Neil Kinnock with Tony Blair as party leader, the Socialist cadre became increasingly disaffected. “There used to be democratic structures, political meetings” within the party, they say. The branch meetings still exist but “now, they passed a resolution calling for renationalisation of the railways, and they [the party leadership] just ignored it.” They claim that the disaffection with New Labour has caused the party to lose “half its membership” and that people are seeking alternatives. Since the economic crisis began, Cardiff West’s membership has doubled, to 25 members, and the RMT has organized itself as a political movement running candidates in the 2009 EU Parliament election. The right-wing British National Party or BNP is making gains as well, though.

Talk on the bus is mostly political and the news of yesterday’s violence at the G-20 demonstrations, where a bank was stormed by protesters and 87 were arrested, is thick in the air. One member comments on the invasion of a RBS building in which phone lines were cut and furniture was destroyed: “It’s not very constructive but it does make you smile.” Another, reading about developments at the conference which have set France and Germany opposing the UK and the United States, says sardonically, “we’re going to stop all the squabbles — they’re going to unite against us. That’s what happens.” She recounts how, in her native Sweden during the Second World War, a national unity government was formed among all major parties, and Swedish communists were interned in camps, while Nazi-leaning parties were left unmolested.

In London around 11am the march assembles on Camberwell Green. About 250 people are here, from many parts of Britain; I meet marchers from Newcastle, Manchester, Leicester, and especially organized-labor stronghold Sheffield. The sky is grey but the atmosphere is convivial; five members of London’s Metropolitan Police are present, and they’re all smiling. Most marchers are young, some as young as high school age, but a few are older; some teachers, including members of the Lewisham and Sheffield chapters of the National Union of Teachers, are carrying banners in support of their students.

Gordon Brown’s a Tory/He wears a Tory hat/And when he saw our uni fees/He said ‘I’ll double that!’

Stewards hand out sheets of paper with the words to call-and-response chants on them. Some are youth-oriented and education-oriented, like the jaunty “Gordon Brown‘s a Tory/He wears a Tory hat/And when he saw our uni fees/He said ‘I’ll double that!'” (sung to the tune of the Lonnie Donegan song “My Old Man’s a Dustman“); but many are standbys of organized labour, including the infamous “workers of the world, unite!“. It also outlines the goals of the protest, as “demands”: “The right to a decent job for all, with a living wage of at least £8 and hour. No to cheap labour apprenticeships! for all apprenticeships to pay at least the minimum wage, with a job guaranteed at the end. No to university fees. support the campaign to defeat fees.” Another steward with a megaphone and a bright red t-shirt talks the assembled protesters through the basics of call-and-response chanting.

Finally the march gets underway, traveling through the London boroughs of Camberwell and Southwark. Along the route of the march more police follow along, escorting and guiding the march and watching it carefully, while a police van with flashing lights clears the route in front of it. On the surface the atmosphere is enthusiastic, but everyone freezes for a second as a siren is heard behind them; it turns out to be a passing ambulance.

Crossing Southwark Bridge, the march enters the City of London, the comparably small but dense area containing London’s financial and economic heart. Although one recipient of the protesters’ anger is the Bank of England, the march does not stop in the City, only passing through the streets by the London Exchange. Tourists on buses and businessmen in pinstripe suits record snippets of the march on their mobile phones as it passes them; as it goes past a branch of HSBC the employees gather at the glass store front and watch nervously. The time in the City is brief; rather than continue into the very centre of London the march turns east and, passing the Tower of London, proceeds into the poor, largely immigrant neighbourhoods of the Tower Hamlets.

The sun has come out, and the spirits of the protesters have remained high. But few people, only occasional faces at windows in the blocks of apartments, are here to see the march and it is in Wapping High Street that I hear my first complaint from the marchers. Peter, a steward, complains that the police have taken the march off its original route and onto back streets where “there’s nobody to protest to”. I ask how he feels about the possibility of violence, noting the incidents the day before, and he replies that it was “justified aggression”. “We don’t condone it but people have only got certain limitations.”

There’s nobody to protest to!

A policeman I ask is very polite but noncommittal about the change in route. “The students are getting the message out”, he says, so there’s no problem. “Everyone’s very well behaved” in his assessment and the atmosphere is “very positive”. Another protestor, a sign-carrying university student from Sheffield, half-heartedly returns the compliment: today, she says, “the police have been surprisingly unridiculous.”

The march pauses just before it enters Cable Street. Here, in 1936, was the site of the Battle of Cable Street, and the march leader, addressing the protesters through her megaphone, marks the moment. She draws a parallel between the British Union of Fascists of the 1930s and the much smaller BNP today, and as the protesters follow the East London street their chant becomes “The BNP tell racist lies/We fight back and organise!”

In Victoria Park — “The People’s Park” as it was sometimes known — the march stops for lunch. The trade unions of East London have organized and paid for a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and tea, and, picnic-style, the marchers enjoy their meals as organized labor veterans give brief speeches about industrial actions from a small raised platform.

A demonstration is always a means to and end.

During the rally I have the opportunity to speak with Neil Cafferky, a Galway-born Londoner and the London organizer of the Youth Fight For Jobs march. I ask him first about why, despite being surrounded by red banners and quotes from Karl Marx, I haven’t once heard the word “communism” used all day. He explains that, while he considers himself a Marxist and a Trotskyist, the word communism has negative connotations that would “act as a barrier” to getting people involved: the Socialist Party wants to avoid the discussion of its position on the USSR and disassociate itself from Stalinism. What the Socialists favor, he says, is “democratic planned production” with “the working class, the youths brought into the heart of decision making.”

On the subject of the police’s re-routing of the march, he says the new route is actually the synthesis of two proposals. Originally the march was to have gone from Camberwell Green to the Houses of Parliament, then across the sites of the 2012 Olympics and finally to the ExCel Centre. The police, meanwhile, wanted there to be no march at all.

The Metropolitan Police had argued that, with only 650 trained traffic officers on the force and most of those providing security at the ExCel Centre itself, there simply wasn’t the manpower available to close main streets, so a route along back streets was necessary if the march was to go ahead at all. Cafferky is sceptical of the police explanation. “It’s all very well having concern for health and safety,” he responds. “Our concern is using planning to block protest.”

He accuses the police and the government of having used legal, bureaucratic and even violent means to block protests. Talking about marches having to defend themselves, he says “if the police set out with the intention of assaulting marches then violence is unavoidable.” He says the police have been known to insert “provocateurs” into marches, which have to be isolated. He also asserts the right of marches to defend themselves when attacked, although this “must be done in a disciplined manner”.

He says he wasn’t present at yesterday’s demonstrations and so can’t comment on the accusations of violence against police. But, he says, there is often provocative behavior on both sides. Rather than reject violence outright, Cafferky argues that there needs to be “clear political understanding of the role of violence” and calls it “counter-productive”.

Demonstration overall, though, he says, is always a useful tool, although “a demonstration is always a means to an end” rather than an end in itself. He mentions other ongoing industrial actions such as the occupation of the Visteon plant in Enfield; 200 fired workers at the factory have been occupying the plant since April 1, and states the solidarity between the youth marchers and the industrial workers.

I also speak briefly with members of the International Bolshevik Tendency, a small group of left-wing activists who have brought some signs to the rally. The Bolsheviks say that, like the Socialists, they’re Trotskyists, but have differences with them on the idea of organization; the International Bolshevik Tendency believes that control of the party representing the working class should be less democratic and instead be in the hands of a team of experts in history and politics. Relations between the two groups are “chilly”, says one.

At 2:30 the march resumes. Rather than proceeding to the ExCel Centre itself, though, it makes its way to a station of London’s Docklands Light Railway; on the way, several of East London’s school-aged youths join the march, and on reaching Canning Town the group is some 300 strong. Proceeding on foot through the borough, the Youth Fight For Jobs reaches the protest site outside the G-20 meeting.

It’s impossible to legally get too close to the conference itself. Police are guarding every approach, and have formed a double cordon between the protest area and the route that motorcades take into and out of the conference venue. Most are un-armed, in the tradition of London police; only a few even carry truncheons. Closer to the building, though, a few machine gun-armed riot police are present, standing out sharply in their black uniforms against the high-visibility yellow vests of the Metropolitan Police. The G-20 conference itself, which started a few hours before the march began, is already winding down, and about a thousand protesters are present.

I see three large groups: the Youth Fight For Jobs avoids going into the center of the protest area, instead staying in their own group at the admonition of the stewards and listening to a series of guest speakers who tell them about current industrial actions and the organization of the Youth Fight’s upcoming rally at UCL. A second group carries the Ogaden National Liberation Front‘s flag and is campaigning for recognition of an autonomous homeland in eastern Ethiopia. Others protesting the Ethiopian government make up the third group; waving old Ethiopian flags, including the Lion of Judah standard of emperor Haile Selassie, they demand that foreign aid to Ethiopia be tied to democratization in that country: “No recovery without democracy”.

A set of abandoned signs tied to bollards indicate that the CND has been here, but has already gone home; they were demanding the abandonment of nuclear weapons. But apart from a handful of individuals with handmade, cardboard signs I see no groups addressing the G-20 meeting itself, other than the Youth Fight For Jobs’ slogans concerning the bailout. But when a motorcade passes, catcalls and jeers are heard.

It’s now 5pm and, after four hours of driving, five hours marching and one hour at the G-20, Cardiff’s Socialists are returning home. I board the bus with them and, navigating slowly through the snarled London traffic, we listen to BBC Radio 4. The news is reporting on the closure of the G-20 conference; while they take time out to mention that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delayed the traditional group photograph of the G-20’s world leaders because “he was on the loo“, no mention is made of today’s protests. Those listening in the bus are disappointed by the lack of coverage.

Most people on the return trip are tired. Many sleep. Others read the latest issue of The Socialist, the Socialist Party’s newspaper. Mia quietly sings “The Internationale” in Swedish.

Due to the traffic, the journey back to Cardiff will be even longer than the journey to London. Over the objections of a few of its members, the South Welsh participants in the Youth Fight For Jobs stop at a McDonald’s before returning to the M4 and home.

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Ties found between Abu Ghraib prison abuse and Guantanamo Bay

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Ties found between Abu Ghraib prison abuse and Guantanamo Bay

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In testimony at a military hearing yesterday on abuses at the U.S. prison camp in Iraq, the former warden of Abu Ghraib, Maj. David Dinenna, said he attended in September 2003 a meeting with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who was then commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Maj. Dinenna said Gen. Miller recommended using dogs, because of their effectiveness.

Two dog handler soldiers at Abu Ghraib stand accused in the hearing. Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, and Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24, are alleged to have used the dogs to threaten and intimidate prisoners. During the defendants’ testimony on Tuesday, they said the interrogation techniques used by them on prisoners was learned from a team of interrogators that was dispatched to Iraq from the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.

The Article 32 military court proceeding, which concluded Wednesday in Fort Meade, Maryland, is a preliminary hearing to hear prosecution and defense arguments in the case. The Prosecution is seeking a court-martial with claims that the defendants acted criminally. The Defense contends the soldiers were following orders, and that the charges should be dropped.

The investigating officer of the military court, Maj. Glenn Simpkins, has two weeks to weigh the evidence that was presented. Some or all charges could be dropped, but if some charges stand, he will make a recommendation on how Sgts. Cardona and Smith should be dealt with when it goes to trial.

The two accused said in yesterday’s testimony that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, approved the use of the dogs. Testimony was also heard from Pvt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick, now serving an 8-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth for his role as ringleader in the abuse, who testified by phone from prison that approval was given to use the dogs, and that a civilian interrogator was also sometimes involved in directing which prisoner cells were to be visited by dog handlers.

In addition to the use of dogs, aggressive interrogation techniques such as clothing removal and sleep deprivation were also part of the series of abuses. Staff Sgt. James Vincent Lucas previously had told Army investigators in Guantanamo that he left Cuba in 2003 to go to Iraq where he, as a member of a 6-man team, taught the “lessons learned” at Guantanamo, and served to “provide guidelines” to interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

Legislation sponsored by several Senate Republicans seeks to specifically regulate the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and other military prisons. A co-sponsor of the bill, Lindsey Graham (RSC), recently released declassified internal memos dating from 2003 and written by top military lawyers. They warned the Pentagon about the aggressive tactics at Guantanamo. The memos noted it would heighten the dangers for U.S. troops caught by the enemy.

Army charge sheets accuse Cardona and Smith with maltreating detainees from November 15, 2003, to January 15, 2004 by “directing, encouraging, or permitting [their] unmuzzled military working dog[s] to bark and growl at detainees in order to unlawfully harass and threaten the detainees and in order to make the detainees urinate or defecate on themselves.”

Cardona, of Fullerton, with the 42nd Military Police Detachment in Ft. Bragg, N.C., was charged with nine counts. Smith, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with the 523rd Military Police Detachment in Ft. Riley, Kan., was charged with 14 counts.

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CanadaVOTES: NDP incumbent David Christopherson running in Hamilton Centre

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CanadaVOTES: NDP incumbent David Christopherson running in Hamilton Centre

June 15, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Friday, September 26, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. New Democratic Party incumbent David Christopherson is standing for re-election in the riding of Hamilton Centre.

From 1985-1990, he served as a Hamilton City Councillor for Ward Four. He was elected to Ontario legislature in 1990, defeating a Liberal cabinet minister. Under Bob Rae, Christopherson served as Minister of Correctional Services and Solicitor-General. He did not seek re-election to legislature in 2003, opting to run for mayor of Hamilton. Considered a frontrunner, he lost to Larry Di Ianni.

He returned to politics just months later, changing his focus to federal politics. Christopherson beat Liberal cabinet minister Stan Keyes, the incumbent, serving as NDP critic for cities, community infrastructure, labour and steel policy. He has served as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Steel Caucus.

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

First elected in 2004, David Christopherson is the only MP to have represented Hamilton Centre, which was created in 2003 from parts of three other ridings. Only 38 km², small versus other area ridings, its located on the south side of Hamilton Harbour. Alphabetically, Christopherson’s challengers are Anthony Giles (Libertarian), John Livingstone (Green), Lisa Nussey (Marxist-Leninist), Leon O’Connor (Conservative), Ryan Sparrow (Communist), and Helen M. Wilson (Liberal).

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

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Wikinews interviews Joe Schriner, Independent U.S. presidential candidate

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Wikinews interviews Joe Schriner, Independent U.S. presidential candidate

June 14, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

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.

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Israeli barrage of Gaza continues with strike on PM’s office

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Israeli barrage of Gaza continues with strike on PM’s office

June 14, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Israel has continued its barrage of the Gaza Strip with an attack by a helicopter gunship on the office of the Palestinian prime minister. The attack, which left the building ablaze, injured three Palestinian security guards and was described by the prime minister, Ismail Haniya, as senseless. “This is the policy of the jungle and arrogance,” Haniya told Reuters. “They have targeted a symbol for the Palestinian people.”

Israel claims the attack on Gaza, codenamed Operation Summer Rains, is to pressure the Palestinian government into freeing Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli tank gunner Israel describes as having been kidnapped by Palestinian militants on Monday.

Other Israeli strikes on Saturday night hit a school in Gaza City and Hamas facilities in the town of Jabalia in the north of the strip where one 34-year-old Hamas operative was killed and another wounded.

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2009 was worst year for airlines, says International Air Transport Association

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2009 was worst year for airlines, says International Air Transport Association

June 14, 2018 · Filed under Uncategorized

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Wednesday that 2009 was the “worst year” that the airline industry has ever seen since 1945.

“In terms of demand, 2009 goes into the history books as the worst year the industry has ever seen,” said IATA boss Giovanni Bisignani. “We have permanently lost 2.5 years of growth in passenger markets and 3.5 years of growth in the freight business.”

According to the group, passenger traffic was down by 3.5% compared to a year earlier, and freight by 10.1%. The group estimated that the airline industry lost a total of US$11 billion in 2009 last year, and will lose another $5.6 billion in 2010.

Airlines in Africa had the biggest passenger demand drop, at 6.8%; North American airlines and Asian carriers had demand go down 5.8%. European airlines saw a drop of 5%. Middle Eastern and Latin American carriers, however, had rises in demand, with gains of 11.3% and 0.3%, respectively. According to the Agence France-Presse news agency, part of the reason Middle Eastern carriers performed better is because of their position between Asia, Africa, and Europe, resulting in more connecting flights through hubs.

“While both North American and European carriers saw demand improvements in the first half of the year, the second half was basically flat,” said IATA.

IATA represents 230 airlines, accounting for 90% of scheduled air traffic, although some budget carriers are not included.

The IATA boss said that, although the worst appeared to be over due to the global economic recovery airlines would have to keep their costs low. “Revenue improvements will be at a much slower pace than the demand growth that we are starting to see,” he noted.

“Profitability will be even slower to recover and airlines will lose an expected 5.6 billion dollars in 2010. The industry starts 2010 with some enormous challenges. The worst is behind us, but it’s not time to celebrate. Adjusting to 2.5 to 3.5 years of lost growth means that airlines face another spartan year, focused on matching capacity carefully to demand and controlling costs,” Bisignani continued.

Costs for security were also an issue. Bisignani said: “Governments and industry are aligned in the priority that we place on security. But the cost of security is also an issue. Globally, airlines spend US$5.9 billion a year on what are essentially measures concerned with national security. This is the responsibility of governments, and they should be picking up the bill.”

Analysts, however, say that cost cutting measures, intended to attract more customers, would also harm airline profits. Saj Ahmad, an independent airline analyst, commented: “Continued fare wars between airlines mean that yields and profitability will be low. Airlines are struggling to fill their airplanes and discounted ticketing has done little to alleviate the pressures on their costs,” as quoted by the BBC.

“Capacity has come out of the global airline system, but until a few airlines perhaps exit the industry through bankruptcy or mergers, there is still a very long road until we see serious stability, let alone growth,” Ahmad added.

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