Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal
By mYCZNbxh On April 22nd, 2019

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ian Narev, the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, this morning “unreservedly” apologised to clients who lost money in a scandal involving the bank’s financial planning services arm.

Last week, a Senate enquiry found financial advisers from the Commonwealth Bank had made high-risk investments of clients’ money without the clients’ permission, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars lost. The Senate enquiry called for a Royal Commission into the bank, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Mr Narev stated the bank’s performance in providing financial advice was “unacceptable”, and the bank was launching a scheme to compensate clients who lost money due to the planners’ actions.

In a statement Mr Narev said, “Poor advice provided by some of our advisers between 2003 and 2012 caused financial loss and distress and I am truly sorry for that. […] There have been changes in management, structure and culture. We have also invested in new systems, implemented new processes, enhanced adviser supervision and improved training.”

An investigation by Fairfax Media instigated the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning division and ASIC.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris, who reported the misconduct of the bank to ASIC six years ago, said in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald that neither the bank nor ASIC should be in control of the compensation program.

New Jersey’s State Supreme Court says gay couples have same rights as heterosexual couples

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New Jersey’s State Supreme Court says gay couples have same rights as heterosexual couples
By mYCZNbxh On April 18th, 2019

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The New Jersey Supreme Court has handed down its verdict in Lewis v. Harris. The details are: homosexual couples are entitled to the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples, but also said that totally legalizing gay marriages in the state will be up to the New Jersey Legislature who have 180 days to determine whether or not the state’s constitution shall be rewritten to include gay marriages or civil unions.

“The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people,” said the court.

“Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution,” said one of the judges, Justice Barry T. Albin.

The decision passed in a ruling of 4 support and 3 non-support votes.

In 2004, the state ruled that domestic relationships are allowed and that gay couples get some of the benefits that come along with marriage including the right to inherit their partner’s belongings if a will was not written and health insurance if one or the other works for the state.

If the state decides to allow same sex marriages, it would be the second state in the United States to completely legalize gay marriages. Massachusetts was the first and only state thus far to legalize gay marriages while some states such as Connecticut and Vermont have legalized civil unions.

Interview with dismissed Ocean Drive columnist Trisha Posner

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Interview with dismissed Ocean Drive columnist Trisha Posner
By mYCZNbxh On April 17th, 2019

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Critic Robert Fulford wrote of legendary civic preservationist Jane Jacobs that she “came down firmly on the side of spontaneous inventiveness of individuals, as against abstract plans imposed by governments and corporations.” With certain alterations, the same could be said of author and journalist Trisha Posner, who penned the popular Health Watch column in Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine.

Posner was fired for expressing her opinion on a YouTube video about regulations affecting her South Beach neighborhood. Like many rejuvenated communities in the United States, Posner’s historic south Fifth Street has become the Tribeca of Miami, a fashionable, trendy nightspot with a maelstrom of growth in hotels, restaurants and boutiques that have out-priced many long-term residents.

Local activist Frank Del Vecchio asked Posner if she would appear in the eight-minute Close the Loophole video, directed by Emmy award-winning documentarian Robyn Symon, to state her belief that a loophole that allows popular local restaurants such as Prime One Twelve and Devito South Beach to exist in her residential neighborhood should be amended to limit the amount of seats in the establishments in proportion to their number of rooms. Her segment began, “Hi, I’m Trisha Posner. I’m a journalist and columnist for Ocean Drive magazine. I am married to Gerald Posner, the author.” Within a few hours after her appearance, she was fired by Ocean Drive publisher Jerry Powers.

Posner was aghast and bewildered. Attractive and comely, as a health columnist she is an unlikely candidate as a civic instigator; but those qualities belie Posner’s buffalo stance on doing what she feels is right for her community. “I hate being in the public eye and I prefer to be low key,” Posner told Wikinews in an interview. “To do the video I was nervous. Only in person do I feel comfortable.” Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently spoke with Posner.

DS: What were the circumstances surrounding your dismissal?

TP: In South Beach and in Miami there are neighborhood associations like South of Fifth Neighborhood Association, which [Posner’s husband] Gerald is President of, and they all try to work together to make living in the neighborhood synergized with the nightlife and the restaurants. This issue involved another, Frank Del Vecchio, President of 301 Ocean Drive condominium association. Frank asked me to be part of a video against a loophole where restaurants can have so many seats that they effectively become a nightclub. On the video there are five others besides me. An entertainer, a school teacher…and then I’m sitting there on a bench. At about 4:40 we wrapped up and I left. When I got home there was a phone message from [editor-in-chief] Glenn Albin saying, ‘Trisha, Trisha, Jerry is running around the place…’ and I thought it was a joke. I started laughing. Gerald said he didn’t think it was a joke, but I had not done anything. Then I received an anonymous e-mail: Jerry Powers had got a phone call from a hotel person that said ‘one of your representatives from the magazine is down here bad mouthing nightlife, hotels, etc.’ The magazine’s publicist panicked and called Powers, who then runs all the way down to City Hall and asks ex-Mayor Neisen Kasdin to let him speak before the City Council. He says that Trisha was not for him, and that Ocean Drive is for entertainment and hotels in South Beach. Then he said I was fired as he left.

DS: Did you receive a call from Jerry Powers?

TP: I never heard from Jerry Powers; he never phoned me, e-mailed. I still have never heard from him. I phoned the office the next day, and [Managing Editor] Eric Newill tells me my services would no longer be required. I had one piece ready, and one piece in the issue. The saddest thing is that I lost my friendship with Eric. Eric was my friend before he was my editor. He is friends with Jerry Powers. Eric wrote me an e-mail that it had played out too publicly and that he wished me good luck in my future endeavors. What kind of friendship is that?

DS: Had you informed the magazine of your appearance beforehand?

TP: Eric knew I was doing a video, and I did it in my friend’s hotel. I don’t remember if I told them what it was for. But the video wasn’t a secret. In the future I will ask permission. But it’s childish. I can’t believe Jerry Powers took this and made it an issue. Nobody would have known about it, and now I’m all over the place. He made Trisha Posner a star. I can’t go anywhere without people saying, ‘Yay, good for you!’ And they still have not paid me for my last piece. I sent them another e-mail on the 17th. They owe me $1,000. They have not written back to me, they have not phoned me. Why are they being so childish?

DS: Did you ever have any other problems at the magazine?

TP: No, I never had an issue and I had the best working relationship with this magazine. I have nothing bad to say about the magazine. I had a fabulous relationship—a unique relationship with my editor. I had never worked so well with an editor of a magazine my entire career. It was so easy, he is so smart, cerebral…it’s unbelievable. But they also got a lot out of me. They got Tina Brown through me. Bill Maher. I have an incredible track record. It was not hard for me to phone people and get them for the magazine. And I never used them for my advantage at all; I never used the magazine to get into restaurants or events. People say you never went to the parties, but I’m over that. I used to be a Studio 54 girl. I just really enjoyed my health column. They allowed me to write in my own voice.

DS: Why do you think Powers fired you?

TP: It’s all advertising driven, but I’m interviewing people for a new book who have advertised in his magazine. It wasn’t a big deal for anybody. The very next day Miami Magazine picked me up. He had a knee-jerk reaction. He didn’t even phone me. Wouldn’t you think he would phone me and say, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and I would have been like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize.’ Besides, I was crazy about my editor! Why would I try to hurt him? I hope one day I can work with Eric again.

DS: Has any other employee of Ocean Drive appeared publicly before and been identified as such?

TP: As far as I know I’m the first one, that’s why I made history. But I wasn’t talking about Ocean Drive. I hadn’t thought that under my name were the words ‘Columnist for Ocean Drive’. I didn’t see anything. Later I had e-mails from Tina Brown, everybody…they were really supportive.

DS: Your husband, author Gerald Posner, wrote a piece in The Huffington Post about your dismissal. Several of the comments to it state that since Ocean Drive is a large glossy magazine dependent upon advertising from the entertainment industry, that you bit the hand that fed you. How do you respond to such criticism?

TP: That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard, because it had nothing to do with Ocean Drive. There is another world. I’m not against development; if you listen to my statement I talk about how much I love the nightlife, how I love entertainment. But we all have to learn to live together. I know South Beach is party town, but we can live together. Let’s clean up our shit, take our garbage out, be respectful to our neighbors and also to the entertainment industry.

DS: Some of the comments that were made in HuffPo were that even though it was despicable that you were fired for expressing your opinion on a civic matter, that you should have expected it. Do you think comments like that are par for the course of apathy in the United States today, where people disagree with something, but shrug their shoulders instead?

TP: I think we live in dangerous times because of corporate America—people are really scared to speak out about anything; it is really dangerous. Freedom of speech. I came to live here in this country because it was for freedom of speech. I love America, and it has everything I could have dreamed of: the most incredible husband, friends, everything. But they are chipping away at it. One company is one company, but it shows how dangerous it is. What happens when the Rupert Murdochs own everything? They are trying to gag us. It is very dangerous. Whether it is the film industry, the music industry, D.C., they are trying to strangle all of us. All these regulations of what we can or can’t do. Does it mean if I have an opinion that I have to be gagged or not say who I am or what I think? What can and can’t I say? Maybe I’m just too black and white. I think we need to just chill out here. It wasn’t about Ocean Drive or Jerry Powers. It was about my home and my friends. I was helping out Frank. It was about the loophole and the Bijou [hotel]. I think what really freaked them out was that the video was professionally done.

DS: Another comment said, “The magazine itself sounds like a total contribution of everything that [is] wrong with America right now. Instead of promoting smart growth and longevity, it prostitutes itself to every new development, even at the cost of other developments (advertisers) who will lose out when this new one opens.” What are your thoughts on the magazine?

TP: I have an opinion about Ocean Drive. I used to say I don’t know who reads my columns, but I know they look good and I have an excellent following because people would stop me on the street or give me tons of e-mails. I understand what they are saying, but it is South Beach and that magazine works for South Beach. It’s been around for 13/14 years. I think that it’s healthy there is competition coming in. But the demographics for the magazine are people in their mid-twenties and early thirties. I didn’t realize that.

DS: What are your feelings about Jerry Powers?

TP: This man is a bully, and he wanted to bully me. He is not going to scare me. I’ve been in this business 20 years, and there is only one man who scares me: my husband.

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Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/OH-WY

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Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/OH-WY
By mYCZNbxh On April 14th, 2019
See the discussion page for instructions on adding schools to this list and for an alphabetically arranged listing of schools.

Due to the damage by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding, a number of colleges and universities in the New Orleans metropolitan area will not be able to hold classes for the fall 2005 semester. It is estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 students have been displaced. [1]. In response, institutions across the United States and Canada are offering late registration for displaced students so that their academic progress is not unduly delayed. Some are offering free or reduced admission to displaced students. At some universities, especially state universities, this offer is limited to residents of the area.

Contents

  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Ohio
  • 3 Oklahoma
  • 4 Oregon
  • 5 Pennsylvania
  • 6 Rhode Island
  • 7 South Carolina
  • 8 South Dakota
  • 9 Tennessee
  • 10 Texas
  • 11 Utah
  • 12 Vermont
  • 13 Virginia
  • 14 Washington
  • 15 West Virginia
  • 16 Wisconsin
  • 17 Wyoming

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Canterbury farmers to get aid because of snow

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Canterbury farmers to get aid because of snow
By mYCZNbxh On April 14th, 2019

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The New Zealand government officials have announced that it will give NZ$160,000 in aid to help farmers who were affected by the huge amounts of snow in Canterbury, New Zealand two weeks ago.

The aid package will provide four regional offices for co-ordination, food supplies and ongoing support.

The Federated Farmers for mid Canterbury say that the aid will be a start to what looks like a tough winter. President of the mid Canterbury Federated Farmers Rupert Curd says, “It is too early to say exactly how much help the relief package will provide.”

The snow has not yet reached a crisis point.

The Insurance Council has estimated the cost of the snow storm has reached $35 million so far. Chief Executive of the Insurance Council says, “There has been damage to homes, commercial premises both on farms and in town and vehicles. Businesspeople who have been without power are also claiming for loss of income.”

The Minister of Agriculture Jim Anderton has said that they are not ruling out giving further aid.

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Category:Music

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Category:Music
By mYCZNbxh On April 14th, 2019

This is the category for music. See also the Music Portal.

Refresh this list to see the latest articles.

  • 9 September 2018: US rapper Mac Miller dies at home in Los Angeles
  • 18 August 2018: Singer Aretha Franklin, ‘queen of soul’, dies aged 76
  • 15 May 2018: Netta wins Eurovision Song Contest for Israel
  • 28 March 2018: K-pop band 100%’s lead singer Seo Minwoo dies
  • 9 February 2018: Poet, lyricist, and digital activist John Perry Barlow dies, aged 70
  • 18 January 2018: Irish rock band The Cranberries’ lead singer Dolores O’Riordan dies at 46
  • 13 December 2017: Apple, Inc. confirms acquisition of Shazam
  • 24 October 2017: Five United States ex-presidents raise relief funds at hurricane event
  • 5 October 2017: US rock artist Tom Petty dies at 66
  • 30 July 2017: British dancer and talent show winner Robert Anker dies in car accident aged 27
?Category:Music

You can also browse through all articles in this category alphabetically.

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Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

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Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy
By mYCZNbxh On April 10th, 2019

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the state of the housing market in the United Kingdom is the current biggest domestic threat to the country’s economy, due to lack of house building, and regulatory issues.

In an interview to be aired on Sky News today, he said the housing market is the “biggest risk” to the economy and has “deep, deep structural problems”. Of house building he said: “There are not sufficient houses built in the UK. To go back to Canada, there are half as many people in Canada as in the UK, twice as many houses are built every year in Canada as in the UK and we can’t influence that.”

“We’re not going to build a single house at the Bank of England. We can’t influence that. What we can influence […] is whether the banks are strong enough. Do they have enough capital against risk in the housing market?”

Carney also said the Bank of England would look into the procedures used to issue loans and mortgages to see if they were being granted appropriately: “We’d be concerned if there was a rapid increase in high loan-to-value mortgages across the banks. We’ve seen that creeping up and it’s something we’re watching closely.”

Kris Hopkins responded to Carney on behalf of the government, saying the government “inherited a broken housing market, but our efforts to fix it are working”. “We’ve scrapped the failed top-down planning system, built over 170,000 affordable homes and released more surplus brownfield sites for new housing. We’ve also helped homebuyers get on the housing ladder, because if people can buy homes builders will build them. Housebuilding is now at its highest level since 2007 and climbing. Last year councils gave permission for almost 200,000 new homes under the locally-led planning system and more than 1,000 communities have swiftly taken up neighbourhood planning. It’s clear evidence the government’s long-term economic plan is working.”

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on the UK government to “tighten” access to the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme introduced by George Osborne and the coalition government in 2013. ‘Help to Buy’ has also recently been criticised by three former Chancellors of the Exchequer — the Conservatives Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, and former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling. Darling said: “Unless supply can be increased substantially, we will exacerbate that situation with schemes like Help to Buy.”

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Ukraine opposition candidate Yushchenko is suffering from a Dioxin intoxication, doctors say

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Ukraine opposition candidate Yushchenko is suffering from a Dioxin intoxication, doctors say
By mYCZNbxh On April 9th, 2019

Saturday, December 11, 2004

VIENNA –Doctors from the Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna say “there is no doubt” Ukrainian opposition leader Victor Yushchenko was poisoned with Dioxin.

Yushchenko’s body had about 1,000 times more than the normal concentration of the toxin. It is unknown if there were any other poisons in his system.

Although it has not yet been proven that the poisoning was deliberate, doctors suspect it was. “We suspect a cause triggered by a third party,” said Michael Zimpfer, head doctor at the Rudolfinerhaus clinic. He suggested the poison may have been administered orally, through food or drink.

Today’s announcements are a follow-up of an earlier press conference, where Dr. Korpan that there were three hypotheses under consideration, one of them involving dioxin. He did not reveal what the other two hypotheses were. Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic emphasized that time there was no proof yet to specify the substance causing the illness.

Yushchenko left Kiev on Friday (2004-10-12) for further examination in Vienna. When Yushchenko fell ill on October 6th, Ukrainian doctors had initially diagnosed food poisoning, leading to speculation that he had been poisoned deliberately. The illness has disfigured Yushchenko’s body and face which doctors say could take up to two years to heal.

He fell seriously ill on the September 6th, during his presidential campaign. Yushchenko was taken to the Rudolfinerhaus clinic of Vienna, where he stayed for four days under Dr. Korpan’s care. He was diagnosed with “acute pancreatitis, accompanied by interstitial edematous changes.” These symptoms were said to be due to “a serious viral infection and chemical substances which are not normally found in food products” as his campaign officials put it. In laymans terms, he developed an infection in the pancreas and got a bad skin condition that disfigured his face with cysts and lesions. The skin condition has similarities with the chloracne associated with dioxin posioning according to a British toxicologist John Henry.

Earlier, doctor Nikolai Korpan of Rudolfinerhaus clinic confirmed today that the illness of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was caused by an attempt to kill him.

  • Ukraine political crisis – Wikinews’ special coverage portal

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Ukraine opposition candidate Yushchenko is suffering from a Dioxin intoxication, doctors say

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Ukraine opposition candidate Yushchenko is suffering from a Dioxin intoxication, doctors say
By mYCZNbxh On April 7th, 2019

Saturday, December 11, 2004

VIENNA –Doctors from the Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna say “there is no doubt” Ukrainian opposition leader Victor Yushchenko was poisoned with Dioxin.

Yushchenko’s body had about 1,000 times more than the normal concentration of the toxin. It is unknown if there were any other poisons in his system.

Although it has not yet been proven that the poisoning was deliberate, doctors suspect it was. “We suspect a cause triggered by a third party,” said Michael Zimpfer, head doctor at the Rudolfinerhaus clinic. He suggested the poison may have been administered orally, through food or drink.

Today’s announcements are a follow-up of an earlier press conference, where Dr. Korpan that there were three hypotheses under consideration, one of them involving dioxin. He did not reveal what the other two hypotheses were. Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic emphasized that time there was no proof yet to specify the substance causing the illness.

Yushchenko left Kiev on Friday (2004-10-12) for further examination in Vienna. When Yushchenko fell ill on October 6th, Ukrainian doctors had initially diagnosed food poisoning, leading to speculation that he had been poisoned deliberately. The illness has disfigured Yushchenko’s body and face which doctors say could take up to two years to heal.

He fell seriously ill on the September 6th, during his presidential campaign. Yushchenko was taken to the Rudolfinerhaus clinic of Vienna, where he stayed for four days under Dr. Korpan’s care. He was diagnosed with “acute pancreatitis, accompanied by interstitial edematous changes.” These symptoms were said to be due to “a serious viral infection and chemical substances which are not normally found in food products” as his campaign officials put it. In laymans terms, he developed an infection in the pancreas and got a bad skin condition that disfigured his face with cysts and lesions. The skin condition has similarities with the chloracne associated with dioxin posioning according to a British toxicologist John Henry.

Earlier, doctor Nikolai Korpan of Rudolfinerhaus clinic confirmed today that the illness of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was caused by an attempt to kill him.

  • Ukraine political crisis – Wikinews’ special coverage portal

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

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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data
By mYCZNbxh On April 4th, 2019

Thursday, April 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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