John Vanderslice plays New York City: Wikinews interview

Thursday, September 27, 2007

John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called “one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today,” found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. “For the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position…”

Since breaking off from San Francisco local legends, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Titled after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.


DS: How is the tour going?

JV: Great! I was just on the Wiki page for Inland Empire, and there is a great synopsis on the film. What’s on there is the best thing I have read about that film. The tour has been great. The thing with touring: say you are on vacation…let’s say you are doing an intense vacation. I went to Thailand alone, and there’s a part of you that just wants to go home. I don’t know what it is. I like to be home, but on tour there is a free floating anxiety that says: Go Home. Go Home.

DS: Anywhere, or just outside of the country?

JV: Anywhere. I want to be home in San Francisco, and I really do love being on tour, but there is almost like a homing beacon inside of me that is beeping and it creates a certain amount of anxiety.

DS: I can relate: You and I have moved around a lot, and we have a lot in common. Pranks, for one. David Bowie is another.

JV: Yeah, I saw that you like David Bowie on your MySpace.

DS: When I was in college I listened to him nonstop. Do you have a favorite album of his?

JV: I loved all the things from early to late seventies. Hunky Dory to Low to “Heroes” to Lodger. Low changed my life. The second I got was Hunky Dory, and the third was Diamond Dogs, which is a very underrated album. Then I got Ziggy Stardust and I was like, wow, this is important…this means something. There was tons of music I discovered in the seventh and eighth grade that I discovered, but I don’t love, respect and relate to it as much as I do Bowie. Especially Low…I was just on a panel with Steve Albini about how it has had a lot of impact.

DS: You said seventh and eighth grade. Were you always listening to people like Bowie or bands like the Velvets, or did you have an Eddie Murphy My Girl Wants to Party All the Time phase?

JV: The thing for me that was the uncool music, I had an older brother who was really into prog music, so it was like Gentle Giant and Yes and King Crimson and Genesis. All the new Genesis that was happening at the time was mind-blowing. Phil Collins‘s solo record…we had every single solo record, like the Mike Rutherford solo record.

DS: Do you shun that music now or is it still a part of you?

JV: Oh no, I appreciate all music. I’m an anti-snob. Last night when I was going to sleep I was watching Ocean’s Thirteen on my computer. It’s not like I always need to watch some super-fragmented, fucked-up art movie like Inland Empire. It’s part of how I relate to the audience. We end every night by going out into the audience and playing acoustically, directly, right in front of the audience, six inches away—that is part of my philosophy.

DS: Do you think New York or San Francisco suffers from artistic elitism more?

JV: I think because of the Internet that there is less and less elitism; everyone is into some little superstar on YouTube and everyone can now appreciate now Justin Timberlake. There is no need for factions. There is too much information, and I think the idea has broken down that some people…I mean, when was the last time you met someone who was into ska, or into punk, and they dressed the part? I don’t meet those people anymore.

DS: Everything is fusion now, like cuisine. It’s hard to find a purely French or purely Vietnamese restaurant.

JV: Exactly! When I was in high school there were factions. I remember the guys who listened to Black Flag. They looked the part! Like they were in theater.

DS: You still find some emos.

JV: Yes, I believe it. But even emo kids, compared to their older brethren, are so open-minded. I opened up for Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion, and I did not find their fans to be the cliquish people that I feared, because I was never playing or marketed in the emo genre. I would say it’s because of the Internet.

DS: You could clearly create music that is more mainstream pop and be successful with it, but you choose a lot of very personal and political themes for your music. Are you ever tempted to put out a studio album geared toward the charts just to make some cash?

JV: I would say no. I’m definitely a capitalist, I was an econ major and I have no problem with making money, but I made a pact with myself very early on that I was only going to release music that was true to the voices and harmonic things I heard inside of me—that were honestly inside me—and I have never broken that pact. We just pulled two new songs from Emerald City because I didn’t feel they were exactly what I wanted to have on a record. Maybe I’m too stubborn or not capable of it, but I don’t think…part of the equation for me: this is a low stakes game, making indie music. Relative to the world, with the people I grew up with and where they are now and how much money they make. The money in indie music is a low stakes game from a financial perspective. So the one thing you can have as an indie artist is credibility, and when you burn your credibility, you are done, man. You can not recover from that. These years I have been true to myself, that’s all I have.

DS: Do you think Spoon burned their indie credibility for allowing their music to be used in commercials and by making more studio-oriented albums? They are one of my favorite bands, but they have come a long way from A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell.

JV: They have, but no, I don’t think they’ve lost their credibility at all. I know those guys so well, and Brit and Jim are doing exactly the music they want to do. Brit owns his own studio, and they completely control their means of production, and they are very insulated by being on Merge, and I think their new album—and I bought Telephono when it came out—is as good as anything they have done.

DS: Do you think letting your music be used on commercials does not bring the credibility problem it once did? That used to be the line of demarcation–the whole Sting thing–that if you did commercials you sold out.

JV: Five years ago I would have said that it would have bothered me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. The thing is that bands have shrinking options for revenue streams, and sync deals and licensing, it’s like, man, you better be open to that idea. I remember when Spike Lee said, ‘Yeah, I did these Nike commercials, but it allowed me to do these other films that I wanted to make,’ and in some ways there is an article that Of Montreal and Spoon and other bands that have done sync deals have actually insulated themselves further from the difficulties of being a successful independent band, because they have had some income come in that have allowed them to stay put on labels where they are not being pushed around by anyone.
The ultimate problem—sort of like the only philosophical problem is suicide—the only philosophical problem is whether to be assigned to a major label because you are then going to have so much editorial input that it is probably going to really hurt what you are doing.

DS: Do you believe the only philosophical question is whether to commit suicide?

JV: Absolutely. I think the rest is internal chatter and if I logged and tried to counter the internal chatter I have inside my own brain there is no way I could match that.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and their music?

JV: The thing for me is they are profound iconic figures for me, and I don’t even know their music. I don’t know Winehouse or Doherty’s music, I just know that they are acting a very crucial, mythic part in our culture, and they might be doing it unknowingly.

DS: Glorification of drugs? The rock lifestyle?

JV: More like an out-of-control Id, completely unregulated personal relationships to the world in general. It’s not just drugs, it’s everything. It’s arguing and scratching people’s faces and driving on the wrong side of the road. Those are just the infractions that land them in jail. I think it might be unknowing, but in some ways they are beautiful figures for going that far off the deep end.

DS: As tragic figures?

JV: Yeah, as totally tragic figures. I appreciate that. I take no pleasure in saying that, but I also believe they are important. The figures that go outside—let’s say GG Allin or Penderetsky in the world of classical music—people who are so far outside of the normal boundaries of behavior and communication, it in some way enlarges the size of your landscape, and it’s beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say that, but it is.

DS: They are examples, as well. I recently covered for Wikinews the Iranian President speaking at Columbia and a student named Matt Glick told me that he supported the Iranian President speaking so that he could protest him, that if we don’t give a platform and voice for people, how can we say that they are wrong? I think it’s almost the same thing; they are beautiful as examples of how living a certain way can destroy you, and to look at them and say, “Don’t be that.”

JV: Absolutely, and let me tell you where I’m coming from. I don’t do drugs, I drink maybe three or four times a year. I don’t have any problematic relationship to drugs because there has been a history around me, like probably any musician or creative person, of just blinding array of drug abuse and problems. For me, I am a little bit of a control freak and I don’t have those issues. I just shut those doors. But I also understand and I am very sympathetic to someone who does not shut that door, but goes into that room and stays.

DS: Is it a problem for you to work with people who are using drugs?

JV: I would never work with them. It is a very selfish decision to make and usually those people are total energy vampires and they will take everything they can get from you. Again, this is all in theory…I love that stuff in theory. If Amy Winehouse was my girlfriend, I would probably not be very happy.

DS: Your latest CD is Emerald City and that is an allusion to the compound that we created in Baghdad. How has the current political client affected you in terms of your music?

JV: In some ways, both Pixel Revolt and Emerald City were born out of a recharged and re-energized position of my being….I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan; I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, that I had to write my way out of it. I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense and processing what is going on. The question I’m asked all the time is do I think is a responsibility of people to write politically and I always say, My God, no. if you’re Morrissey, then you write Morrissey stuff. If you are Dan Bejar and Destroyer, then you are Dan Bejar and you are a fucking genius. Write about whatever it is you want to write about. But to get out of that hole I had to write about that.

DS: There are two times I felt deeply connected to New York City, and that was 9/11 and the re-election of George Bush. The depression of the city was palpable during both. I was in law school during the Iraq War, and then when Hurricane Katrina hit, we watched our countrymen debate the logic of rebuilding one of our most culturally significant cities, as we were funding almost without question the destruction of another country to then rebuild it, which seems less and less likely. Do you find it is difficult to enjoy living in America when you see all of these sorts of things going on, and the sort of arguments we have amongst ourselves as a people?

JV: I would say yes, absolutely, but one thing changed that was very strange: I fell in love with a French girl and the genesis of Emerald City was going through this visa process to get her into the country, which was through the State Department. In the middle of process we had her visa reviewed and everything shifted over to Homeland Security. All of my complicated feelings about this country became even more dour and complicated, because here was Homeland Security mailing me letters and all involved in my love life, and they were grilling my girlfriend in Paris and they were grilling me, and we couldn’t travel because she had a pending visa. In some strange ways the thing that changed everything was that we finally got the visa accepted and she came here. Now she is a Parisian girl, and it goes without saying that she despises America, and she would never have considered moving to America. So she moves here and is asking me almost breathlessly, How can you allow this to happen

DS: –you, John Vanderslice, how can you allow this—

JV: –Me! Yes! So for the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position of saying, Listen, not that many people vote and the churches run fucking everything here, man. It’s like if you take out the evangelical Christian you have basically a progressive western European country. That’s all there is to it. But these people don’t vote, poor people don’t vote, there’s a complicated equation of extreme corruption and voter fraud here, and I found myself trying to rattle of all the reasons to her why I am personally not responsible, and it put me in a very interesting position. And then Sarkozy got elected in France and I watched her go through the same horrific thing that we’ve gone through here, and Sarkozy is a nut, man. This guy is a nut.

DS: But he doesn’t compare to George Bush or Dick Cheney. He’s almost a liberal by American standards.

JV: No, because their President doesn’t have much power. It’s interesting because he is a WAPO right-wing and he was very close to Le Pen and he was a card-carrying straight-up Nazi. I view Sarkozy as somewhat of a far-right candidate, especially in the context of French politics. He is dismantling everything. It’s all changing. The school system, the remnants of the socialized medical care system. The thing is he doesn’t have the foreign policy power that Bush does. Bush and Cheney have unprecedented amounts of power, and black budgets…I mean, come on, we’re spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, and that’s just the money accounted for.

DS: What’s the reaction to you and your music when you play off the coasts?

JV: I would say good…

DS: Have you ever been Dixiechicked?

JV: No! I want to be! I would love to be, because then that means I’m really part of some fiery debate, but I would say there’s a lot of depressed in every single town. You can say Salt Lake City, you can look at what we consider to be conservative cities, and when you play those towns, man, the kids that come out are more or less on the same page and politically active because they are fish out of water.

DS: Depression breeds apathy, and your music seems geared toward anger, trying to wake people from their apathy. Your music is not maudlin and sad, but seems to be an attempt to awaken a spirit, with a self-reflective bent.

JV: That’s the trick. I would say that honestly, when Katrina happened, I thought, “okay, this is a trick to make people so crazy and so angry that they can’t even think. If you were in a community and basically were in a more or less quasi-police state surveillance society with no accountability, where we are pouring untold billions into our infrastructure to protect outside threats against via terrorism, or whatever, and then a natural disaster happens and there is no response. There is an empty response. There is all these ships off the shore that were just out there, just waiting, and nobody came. Michael Brown. It is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in my life.

DS: Is there a feeling in San Francisco that if an earthquake struck, you all would be on your own?

JV: Yes, of course. Part of what happened in New Orleans is that it was a Catholic city, it was a city of sin, it was a black city. And San Francisco? Bush wouldn’t even visit California in the beginning because his numbers were so low. Before Schwarzenegger definitely. I’m totally afraid of the earthquake, and I think everyone is out there. America is in the worst of both worlds: a laissez-fare economy and then the Grover Norquist anti-tax, starve the government until it turns into nothing more than a Argentinian-style government where there are these super rich invisible elite who own everything and there’s no distribution of wealth and nothing that resembles the New Deal, twentieth century embracing of human rights and equality, war against poverty, all of these things. They are trying to kill all that stuff. So, in some ways, it is the worst of both worlds because they are pushing us towards that, and on the same side they have put in a Supreme Court that is so right wing and so fanatically opposed to upholding civil rights, whether it be for foreign fighters…I mean, we are going to see movement with abortion, Miranda rights and stuff that is going to come up on the Court. We’ve tortured so many people who have had no intelligence value that you have to start to look at torture as a symbolic and almost ritualized behavior; you have this…

DS: Organ failure. That’s our baseline…

JV: Yeah, and you have to wonder about how we were torturing people to do nothing more than to send the darkest signal to the world to say, Listen, we are so fucking weird that if you cross the line with us, we are going to be at war with your religion, with your government, and we are going to destroy you.

DS: I interviewed Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for President, and he feels we should use as a deterrent against Islam the bombing of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

JV: You would radicalize the very few people who have not been radicalized, yet, by our actions and beliefs. We know what we’ve done out there, and we are going to paying for this for a long time. When Hezbollah was bombing Israel in that border excursion last year, the Hezbollah fighters were writing the names of battles they fought with the Jews in the Seventh Century on their helmets. This shit is never forgotten.

DS: You read a lot of the stuff that is written about you on blogs and on the Internet. Do you ever respond?

JV: No, and I would say that I read stuff that tends to be . I’ve done interviews that have been solely about film and photography. For some reason hearing myself talk about music, and maybe because I have been talking about it for so long, it’s snoozeville. Most interviews I do are very regimented and they tend to follow a certain line. I understand. If I was them, it’s a 200 word piece and I may have never played that town, in Des Moines or something. But, in general, it’s like…my band mates ask why don’t I read the weeklies when I’m in town, and Google my name. It would be really like looking yourself in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror you are just error-correcting. There must be some sort of hall of mirrors thing that happens when you are completely involved in the Internet conversation about your music, and in some ways I think that I’m very innocently making music, because I don’t make music in any way that has to do with the response to that music. I don’t believe that the response to the music has anything to do with it. This is something I got from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, I think the perception of the artwork, in some ways, has nothing to do with the artwork, and I think that is a beautiful, glorious and flattering thing to say to the perceiver, the viewer of that artwork. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Paul Klee‘s drawings, lithographs, watercolors and paintings and when I read his diaries I’m not sure how much of a correlation there is between what his color schemes are denoting and what he is saying and what I am getting out of it. I’m not sure that it matters. Inland Empire is a great example. Lynch basically says, I don’t want to talk about it because I’m going to close doors for the viewer. It’s up to you. It’s not that it’s a riddle or a puzzle. You know how much of your own experience you are putting into the digestion of your own art. That’s not to say that that guy arranges notes in an interesting way, and sings in an interesting way and arranges words in an interesting way, but often, if someone says they really like my music, what I want to say is, That’s cool you focused your attention on that thing, but it does not make me go home and say, Wow, you’re great. My ego is not involved in it.

DS: Often people assume an artist makes an achievement, say wins a Tony or a Grammy or even a Cable Ace Award and people think the artist must feel this lasting sense of accomplishment, but it doesn’t typically happen that way, does it? Often there is some time of elation and satisfaction, but almost immediately the artist is being asked, “Okay, what’s the next thing? What’s next?” and there is an internal pressure to move beyond that achievement and not focus on it.

JV: Oh yeah, exactly. There’s a moment of relief when a mastered record gets back, and then I swear to you that ten minutes after that point I feel there are bigger fish to fry. I grew up listening to classical music, and there is something inside of me that says, Okay, I’ve made six records. Whoop-dee-doo. I grew up listening to Gustav Mahler, and I will never, ever approach what he did.

DS: Do you try?

JV: I love Mahler, but no, his music is too expansive and intellectual, and it’s realized harmonically and compositionally in a way that is five languages beyond me. And that’s okay. I’m very happy to do what I do. How can anyone be so jazzed about making a record when you are up against, shit, five thousand records a week—

DS: —but a lot of it’s crap—

JV: —a lot of it’s crap, but a lot of it is really, really good and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A lot of it is very good. I’m shocked at some of the stuff I hear. I listen to a lot of music and I am mailed a lot of CDs, and I’m on the web all the time.

DS: I’ve done a lot of photography for Wikipedia and the genesis of it was an attempt to pin down reality, to try to understand a world that I felt had fallen out of my grasp of understanding, because I felt I had no sense of what this world was about anymore. For that, my work is very encyclopedic, and it fit well with Wikipedia. What was the reason you began investing time and effort into photography?

JV: It came from trying to making sense of touring. Touring is incredibly fast and there is so much compressed imagery that comes to you, whether it is the window in the van, or like now, when we are whisking through the Northeast in seven days. Let me tell you, I see a lot of really close people in those seven days. We move a lot, and there is a lot of input coming in. The shows are tremendous and, it is emotionally so overwhelming that you can not log it. You can not keep a file of it. It’s almost like if I take photos while I am doing this, it slows it down or stops it momentarily and orders it. It has made touring less of a blur; concretizes these times. I go back and develop the film, and when I look at the tour I remember things in a very different way. It coalesces. Let’s say I take on fucking photo in Athens, Georgia. That’s really intense. And I tend to take a photo of someone I like, or photos of people I really admire and like.

DS: What bands are working with your studio, Tiny Telephone?

JV: Death Cab for Cutie is going to come back and track their next record there. Right now there is a band called Hello Central that is in there, and they are really good. They’re from L.A. Maids of State was just in there and w:Deerhoof was just in there. Book of Knotts is coming in soon. That will be cool because I think they are going to have Beck sing on a tune. That will be really cool. There’s this band called Jordan from Paris that is starting this week.

DS: Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

JV I would say they approach me. It’s generally word of mouth. We never advertise and it’s very cheap, below market. It’s analog. There’s this self-fulfilling thing that when you’re booked, you stay booked. More bands come in, and they know about it and they keep the business going that way. But it’s totally word of mouth.

 

British white paper on public health

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

ENGLAND – UK Health Secretary John Reid has proposed widespread legislative and health care changes in a new white paper on public health released Tuesday. Titled “Choosing Health”, the paper details government plans to restrict smoking in public places, limit ‘junk food‘ advertisements to children, make available “lifestyle trainers”, campaign against sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco, and improve food labelling.

The white paper comes after extensive public comment that involved 150,000 people.

Smoking would be restricted in enclosed public spaces, restaurants, workplaces, and some pubs. The ban would be enacted gradually, affecting government and NHS buildings in 2006, enclosed public places in 2007, and private property in 2008. Permanent exemption would be granted to pubs that do not serve prepared food — though not at the bar — as well as private clubs, a decision that has provoked some to call the measure incomplete. Up to 90% of pubs are expected to be affected. The Scottish executive proposed a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places last week, and Ireland has already banned smoking in pubs and restaurants.

Food advertisements targeted to children would be banned until 9pm, under the White Paper’s proposals. The restriction is a measure to tackle rising rates of childhood obesity. The government also intends to develop voluntary standards on food and drink advertisements to children with industry, only threatening legislation if an acceptable standard is not reached by 2007. Additionally, low income families would receive vouchers for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, and infant formula. School lunches would also be held to stricter nutritional standards. Reid has warned that unless childhood obesity is tackled, “we face the prospect of children having shorter life expectancy than their parents”.

Food labelling would also be improved, with a “traffic light” system implemented. Packaged food would be evaluated based on its fat, sugar, and salt content.

The paper is unusual for suggesting a more holistic approach to health care, offering for the first time “lifestyle trainers.” The National Health Service would be funding with an additional £1bn to make people’s overall lives healthier, which is expected to save £30bn in preventable illness.

The paper additionally makes mention of reducing accidents, which affected 2.7m people last year and is a leading cause of child death, curb binge drinking, and reduce substance abuse among youths.

The paper has been criticized by many parties. The Tory Shadow Health Secretary has criticized the Labour government’s comprehensiveness and creation of a “new nanny state approach”. He has additionally described it as “gimmicks”. The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of not being comprehensive enough. It has also been criticized by the British Medical Association as being implemented too slowly, saying “When lives need saving, doctors act immediately”.

Mr. Reid has argued against the nanny state label, saying “In a free society, men and women ultimately have the right within the law to choose their own lifestyle, even when it may damage their own health. But people do not have the right to damage the health of others, or to impose an intolerable degree of inconvenience or nuisance on others … This is a sensible solution which balances the protection of the majority with the personal freedom of the minority in England”.

The full white paper “Choosing Health” can be read here.

 

Major ‘Spiritual Life of College Students’ study released by UCLA

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Results of the second phase in an ongoing major study of the spiritual lives of college students was released Wednesday, April 13 by a research center at UCLA. The study is a groundbreaking attempt to gain insight into the spiritual lives and concerns of students and improve how faculties and administrators at US colleges and universities address this part of their students’ lives.

The study, named The Spiritual Life of College Students, was conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), a research center of higher education in the United States. HERI is based in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS) at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

HERI also produces a widely-cited annual Survey of Entering Freshman through its Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) program.

Contents

  • 1 Study methodology
  • 2 Goals of the research
  • 3 Resulting data
    • 3.1 Affiliations
    • 3.2 Beliefs
    • 3.3 Lifestyles
    • 3.4 Politics
    • 3.5 Religious tolerance
    • 3.6 Confidence Levels
    • 3.7 Expectations
  • 4 Sources
 

Express Yourself With High Quality Body Jewelry

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Body piercings have one purpose, to express your individuality. High quality body jewelry is the best way to show off your piercings and to feel good about how they look. Of course, shopping locally can be limiting when it comes to finding the ideal body jewelry. Most people find it frustrating to shop for this type of jewelry locally, so they turn to the online venue to help them locate the best pieces.

When Shopping Online

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Shopping online for body jewelry is a great opportunity to have a large selection of jewelry to choose from as long as you shop with a trusted source. You do have to pay attention to where you are shopping to ensure the quality of the jewelry and the consistency of the customer care. When you are shopping online you must shop with:

  • An established company
  • A business that haws built a good reputation
  • A business that provides great customer care

An established company is a trusted source for shopping for body jewelry. They deal in quality goods and have earned their reputation by providing great customer care.

Beware

There are several flags that indicate that you are not necessarily shopping with the best company:

  • Very limited inventory
  • Limited options
  • Long delivery times

A limited inventory is not a good sign. It typically indicates that you are dealing with a company that is either very new or that does not actually specialize in body jewelry. You want to be sure that you shop with a company that has a wide range of options to choose from. The goal is to find the styles that best express your style. Limited options often mean that you will have to settle for jewelry you do not really want. Bodyjewelry.com is the premiere online source for great jewelry!

Click here to buy body jewelryonline.

 

Sadr City suicide bomber uses fruit truck to kill 66 on market day

Sunday, July 2, 2006

A suicide bomber exploded a truck bomb in the crowded Al-Ula market in Sadr City in Baghdad on Saturday, killing 66 people and injuring over a 100.

‘At the beginning of this market, the criminal blew up his dynamite-packed truck after trying to go over the pavement,’ said Iraq’s Deputy Health Minister Sabah al-Hussein.

The explosion happened when a police patrol was passing by and caused heavy casualties in the morning market rush. Some shoppers were sent flying on top of nearby two-storey buildings.

The force of the blast left a large crater and wreckage of blown-out cars and windowless buildings. Rescuers were left to pick through a sickening scene of human remains mixed in with exploded vegetable matter and dead animals.

Sadr City, a Shiite city of two million in which religious leader Moqtada Sadr has found popular support, had many times before been targeted by Sunni terrorists who were blamed by some residents for this attack.

It was the deadliest bombing of civilians since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s government assumed responsibility for domestic security in May 2006.

Experts said the truck bomb was a lethal concoction of explosives, shells and shrapnel hidden under a consignment of fruit. The driver of the truck blew himself up in the explosion.

 

Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Also try the 2008 World News Quiz of the year.

What would you tell your grandchildren about 2008 if they asked you about it in, let’s say, 20 years’ time? If the answer to a quiz question was 2008, what would the question be? The year that markets collapsed, or perhaps the year that Obama became US president? Or the year Heath Ledger died?

Let’s take a look at some of the important stories of 2008. Links to the original Wikinews articles are in all the titles.

 

Lobby groups oppose plans for EU copyright extension

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The European Commission currently has proposals on the table to extend performers’ copyright terms. Described by Professor Martin Kretschmer as the “Beatles Extension Act”, the proposed measure would extend copyright from 50 to 95 years after recording. A vast number of classical tracks are at stake; the copyright on recordings from the fifties and early sixties is nearing its expiration date, after which it would normally enter the public domain or become ‘public property’. E.U. Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy is proposing this extension, and if the other relevant Directorate Generales (Information Society, Consumers, Culture, Trade, Competition, etc.) agree with the proposal, it will be sent to the European Parliament.

Wikinews contacted Erik Josefsson, European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (E.F.F.), who invited us to Brussels, the heart of E.U. policy making, to discuss this new proposal and its implications. Expecting an office interview, we arrived to discover that the event was a party and meetup conveniently coinciding with FOSDEM 2008 (the Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting). The meetup was in a sprawling city centre apartment festooned with E.F.F. flags and looked to be a party that would go on into the early hours of the morning with copious food and drink on tap. As more people showed up for the event it turned out that it was a truly international crowd, with guests from all over Europe.

Eddan Katz, the new International Affairs Director of the E.F.F., had come over from the U.S. to connect to the European E.F.F. network, and he gladly took part in our interview. Eddan Katz explained that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is “A non-profit organisation working to protect civil liberties and freedoms online. The E.F.F. has fought for information privacy rights online, in relation to both the government and companies who, with insufficient transparency, collect, aggregate and make abuse of information about individuals.” Another major focus of their advocacy is intellectual property, said Eddan: “The E.F.F. represents what would be the public interest, those parts of society that don’t have a concentration of power, that the private interests do have in terms of lobbying.”

Becky Hogge, Executive Director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group (O.R.G.), joined our discussion as well. “The goals of the Open Rights Group are very simple: we speak up whenever we see civil, consumer or human rights being affected by the poor implementation or the poor regulation of new technologies,” Becky summarised. “In that sense, people call us -I mean the E.F.F. has been around, in internet years, since the beginning of time- but the Open Rights Group is often called the British E.F.F.

Contents

  • 1 The interview
    • 1.1 Cliff Richard’s pension
    • 1.2 Perpetual patents?
    • 1.3 The fight moves from the U.K. to Europe
    • 1.4 Reclaiming democratic processes in the E.U.
  • 2 Related news
  • 3 Sources
  • 4 External links
 

Toyota accused of misleading public over recalls

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota has been accused by a U.S. House of Representatives committee with misleading the public and investigators over its recent recalls.

The accusations, in a statement from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claim that Toyota both relied on a flawed study in its assessment of the issue of sticking accelerator pedals at the heart of the recalls, and then made misleading statements about its response. According to the authors of the letter, Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, Toyota dismissed, rather than investigated, the idea that the cars’ computers were at fault. In a statement, James Lentz, the president of Toyota’s American division, claimed that hardware issues were to blame, and that dealers were repairing the faulty part. Toyota also released a study commissioned from the research firm Exponent that said electronic systems were not to blame.

According to the House committee, however, the study involved only six vehicles, none of which had problems with their electrical systems, and was insufficient to produce an accurate result. “Our preliminary assessment is that Toyota resisted the possibility that electronic defects could cause safety concerns, relied on a flawed engineering report and made misleading public statements concerning the adequacy of recent recalls to address the risk of sudden unintended acceleration.”

The company is under a criminal investigation, and has received two subpoenas for documents from two House committees relating to the recalls, although whether they are directly related to the letter is unclear. The documents are related to accelerator issues in several models, as well as brake problems with the Prius hybrid car, and were served earlier in in February by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Toyota has released upwards of 75,000 pages of documents under the requests.

In a separate, though related, development, it has emerged that Toyota last year negotiated a limited recall for two models, the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES, that were affected by the accelerator recalls, saving the company an estimated $100 million. A confidential internal presentation in July 2009 made the claim, and a month later, a Lexus ES, one of the models under the limited recall crashed in California, killing four people. The claims apparently referenced a September, 2007 recall of floor mats that could trap gas pedals, the same problem that triggered a full recall of numerous Toyota cars to fix the same problem. In the same presentation, the company claimed to have avoided recalls of another model related to rust, as well as delaying new federal safety regulations.

 

Australian researchers confirm stress makes you sick

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Australian researchers say they have scientifically proven that stress causes sickness. The Garvan Institute in Sydney has discovered that a hormone, known as neuropeptide Y, (NPY) is released into the body during times of stress. Their findings show the hormone can stop the immune system from functioning properly.

Neuropeptide Y is one of those hormones that gets unregulated or released from neurones when stressful situations occur…it’s known for example that it regulates blood pressure and heart rates so your heart rate goes up but it hasn’t been known that it actually can affect immune cells as well,” said Professor Herbert Herzog, one of the researchers.

Herzog feels it is good to finally have proof of something people have suspected for so long.

“Now we have proven without doubt that there is a direct link and that stress can weaken the immune system and that makes you more vulnerable when you for example have a cold or flu and even in the more serious situations such as cancer can be enhanced in these situations,” said Herzog.

The Garvan Institute study centres on two key events that enable the human body to recognise foreign substances and control invaders. When our body encounters a pathogen (bacteria and viruses), the immune cells retain and interrogate suspects. Their activation is made possible by NPY. These cells then return to the lymph nodes, which are found all over the body, with information about the foreign invaders. The lymph nodes are where decisions about defence are made.

“Most of us expect to come down with a cold or other illness when we are under pressure, but until now we have mostly had circumstantial evidence for a link between the brain and the immune system,” said lead Garvan researcher, associate Professor Fabienne Mackay. “During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it directly impacts on the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens (bacteria and viruses) in the body.”

In the case of bacteria and viruses, TH1 cells are part of the attack team that is sent out on the ‘search and destroy’ mission. But when their job is done they need to be turned ‘off’ and the immune system reset. The same hormone, NPY, that activates the sentry cells now prompts the TH1 cells to slow down and die.

“Under normal conditions, circulating immune cells produce small amounts of NPY, which enables the immune cells on sentry duty and the TH1 immune cells to operate – it’s a yin and yang kind of situation. But too much NPY means that the TH1 attack is prevented despite the foreign invaders being identified – and this is what happens during stress,” added McKay.

The impact of stress on the body has been observed in athletes. Ph. D researcher at the University of Queensland, Luke Spence, together with the Australian Institute of Sport, studied elite and recreational athletes over five months.

They found elite athletes were more susceptible to respiratory diseases under stress.

“A lot of elite athletes put themselves through vast amounts of physical stress in their training, but also their emotional, psychological stress of feeling the pressure of Australia on their shoulders, wanting to compete and wanting to do their best,” said Spence.

It’s not just athletes who are prone to stress. Pressures at work and at home may cause emotional and mental stress that can be equally damaging. Almost a third of all work absenteeism in Australia is due to illness, costing employers over $10 billion a year.

“I think it has a huge impact for the work force and also for employers – if their employees are constantly stressed, constantly under pressure, they are more likely to get sick,” Spence said.

Further research could lead to the development of new drugs which may inhibit the action of the neuropeptide Y hormone.

Herzog warns people to minimise stress before it becomes a problem.

“Relaxation methods like yoga will help you to prevent that but there will still be people out there that are not responding to that and treatment by interfering with the system will be important,” he said. “There’s obviously some time until such a treatment will be available but this is something we will definitely work towards.”

The Garvan research will be published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Volume 202, No. 11.

 

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Progessive Conservative candidate Tyler Currie, Trinity-Spadina

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tyler Currie is running as an Progressive Conservative candidate in the Ontario provincial election, in the riding of Trinity-Spadina. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.