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John Reed on Orwell, God, self-destruction and the future of writing

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It can be difficult to be John Reed.

Christopher Hitchens called him a “Bin Ladenist” and Cathy Young editorialized in The Boston Globe that he “blames the victims of terrorism” when he puts out a novel like Snowball’s Chance, a biting send-up of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm which he was inspired to write after the terrorist attacks on September 11. “The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell’s name into disrepute in the U.S.,” wrote William Hamilton, the British literary executor of the Orwell estate. That process had already begun: it was revealed Orwell gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being “crypto-Communists and fellow travelers,” labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals. “I really wanted to explode that book,” Reed told The New York Times. “I wanted to completely undermine it.”

Is this man who wants to blow up the classic literary canon taught to children in schools a menace, or a messiah? David Shankbone went to interview him for Wikinews and found that, as often is the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Reed is electrified by the changes that surround him that channel through a lens of inspiration wrought by his children. “The kids have made me a better writer,” Reed said. In his new untitled work, which he calls a “new play by William Shakespeare,” he takes lines from The Bard‘s classics to form an original tragedy. He began it in 2003, but only with the birth of his children could he finish it. “I didn’t understand the characters who had children. I didn’t really understand them. And once I had had kids, I could approach them differently.”

Taking the old to make it new is a theme in his work and in his world view. Reed foresees new narrative forms being born, Biblical epics that will be played out across print and electronic mediums. He is pulled forward by revolutions of the past, a search for a spiritual sensibility, and a desire to locate himself in the process.

Below is David Shankbone’s conversation with novelist John Reed.

Contents

  • 1 On the alternative media and independent publishing
  • 2 On Christopher Hitchens, Orwell and 9/11 as inspiration
  • 3 On the future of the narrative
  • 4 On changing the literary canon
  • 5 On belief in a higher power
  • 6 On politics
  • 7 On self-destruction and survival
  • 8 On raising children
  • 9 On paedophilia and the death penalty
  • 10 On personal relationships
  • 11 Sources
  • 12 External links
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Caroline Kennedy drops bid for New York Senate seat

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Caroline Kennedy, considered to be among the front-runners for the United States Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yesterday withdrew her name from consideration for the seat. New York state Governor David Paterson had been reported as intending to name her as Clinton’s replacement this Saturday.

Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, issued a statement at midnight saying she had quit her bid because of “personal reasons”.

A close associate of Kennedy, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that the decision was not related to the recent health issues of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Caroline Kennedy’s uncle. The senator suffered a seizure Tuesday while attending a luncheon with the newly inaugurated U.S. President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.. He was rushed out of the event in a wheelchair and taken for treatment to Washington Hospital, where he remains. In May 2008 he was diagnosed with brain cancer, which required an operation.

The New York Post has reported that Kennedy withdrew her bid because Paterson was not going to choose her for the position. Citing the anonymous source, the Post said that “her poor performances in media interviews and in private sessions with various officials” is Paterson’s reason for not appointing her to the position. Paterson will reportedly make his decision by Saturday, January 26.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is the highest-profile candidate still up for consideration for the last two years of Clinton’s term. Cuomo, who has not commented on this recent turn of events, was the housing secretary during former President Bill Clinton‘s time in office, and in his current role as attorney general has overseen nation-wide reforms for student loans and participated in limiting Wall Street corporate spending.

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Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?

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Freighter hits fishing boat in Gulf of Suez; thirteen dead

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A freighter hit a fishing boat around midnight on Sunday morning in the Gulf of Suez in the Red Sea. Of the 40 Egyptian fisherman on board, thirteen are dead and thirteen more missing.

Survivor Al Sayyed Mohamed Arafat told local media he jumped from the fishing boat, named Badr al-Islam, as the container ship approached. He says he hung onto a wooden crate for four hours before rescue. Local authorities have promised compensation to each survivor.

A vessel, flagged in Panama, suspected to be involved in the collision has been detained by the military. The army said yesterday one victim raised the alarm by phone and the military sent four boats and a helicopter to commence search and rescue off the Gabal al-Zayt coastline.

A plane has since joined the search. The military say the fishing boat lacked safety equipment for emergency communications.

The detained ship was found south of the Gulf, near the port of Safaga. It was carrying 220 tonnes of cargo according to the General Authority for the Red Sea Ports.

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US economy grows at fastest pace in six years

Friday, January 29, 2010

According to official data, the US economy grew by an annualised rate of 5.7% in the last quarter of last year.

The figure is still an initial estimate, but was higher than the 2.2% annualised growth recorded in the third quarter of the year. Economic analysts polled by the Reuters news agency had predicted a 4.6% rise.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, which releases the economy growth reports, noted that the figures were based on estimates and incomplete data, and might be revised later.

Christina Romer, an economist for the White House, described the growth as being “the most positive news to date on the economy”, saying: “It is important not to read too much into a single report, positive or negative. There will surely be bumps in the road ahead. Nonetheless, today’s report is a welcome piece of encouraging news.”

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for Harris Private Bank in Chicago, Illinois, remarked that “it’s [the number] very solid and gives us a running start into the second half of the year when we can’t rely on government stimulus. That’s part of the plan, to get us moving as fast as possible so when life support is removed we’ll have a pulse.”

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Left-wing EU parliament candidates debate in Cardiff

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cardiff, Wales —Labour, Plaid Cymru, and No2EU candidates for the Wales seats in the European Parliament met at Cardiff‘s Sandringham Hotel last night for the second of two pre-election hustings debates hosted by Cardiff Trades Union Congress. Cardiff TUC president Katrine Williams moderated as Derek Vaughan of the Labour Party, Jill Evans MEP of Plaid Cymru, and Rob Griffiths of the No2EU coalition, the tops of their respective lists, took questions from an audience of 22 composed largely of socialist activists and trade union members.

Candidates from the Tories, Liberal Democrats, and Green Party were not invited to the evening debate, although the Liberal Democrats did take part in the TUC’s debate earlier in the day. Ms Williams explained that the Liberal Democrats and Tories had been excluded because “we wanted to have candidates more representative of trade unions” but that not inviting the Greens had been “an oversight” due to the less prominent tradition of green politics in Wales. The BNP, UKIP and some minor parties also did not take part.

In opening statements, the three candidates discussed their records and their goals for the European Parliament. Mr Vaughan, leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, asserted the pro-organised labour credentials of the Labour Party, which has been under fire for several years from the left, and noted that Labour, which currently controls two of Wales’s four seats in the EU Parliament, has brought £1.5 billion to Wales, with a comparable amount to come in the future. Calling the BNP “Nazis” and comparing the British political situation to that in Germany in the 1930s, Vaughan called for the parties of the left to rally behind Labour in order to ensure that the BNP did not obtain any seats in Wales; but he expressed resignation to the likelihood that the BNP would earn a seat in North West England.

Ms Evans, meanwhile, who has been an MEP for ten years, announced her opposition to the pro-privatisation current in the EU and pledged that Plaid would support a new program of public investment and pro-organised labour revisions of EU directives, particularly the Posted Workers Directive.

Mr Griffiths, meanwhile, who is General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, took a position urging radical reform of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty, which he characterised as a re-branding of the European Constitution, would, he argued, enshrine neo-liberal policies in Europe and impose them on its member states in a way that was irreversible — “at least by any constitutional means”. Calling for a “social Europe” as opposed to a “United States of Europe“, Griffiths suggested that the creation of a European Defence Agency and the actions of the European Court of Justice were being used to turn the European Union into a capitalist “empire” akin to the United States.

Discussion of the ongoing UK parliamentary expenses scandal and its implications for MEPs, who draw salaries and expenses considerably higher than Westminster MPs do, dominated the early discussion. The Labour candidate expressed the position that the problems in accountability leading to the scandal had been fixed; his opponents noted that of the parties currently representing Britain in Brussels, only Labour has not yet disclosed their expenses (although Mr Vaughan states that the party will begin to do so soon) and Mr Griffiths furthermore declared that the scandal was part of a wider problem: the corruption of the political system by big business.

On the subject of a common European defence policy the three candidates supported widely differing views. The No2EU candidate stated plainly that he considers Europe not to be threatened, and said that a European defence force would be used for foreign adventures in Afghanistan, Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world while at the same time building up the armaments industry in Europe. Ms Evans, meanwhile, argued that the proper role of a common EU force would be as a “civil force” supporting conflict prevention and conflict resolution operations, and also called for the abolition of NATO. Mr Vaughan finished the second round of questioning arguing that a common European armed force should be an alternative to the “US-dominated” NATO, but also stated the importance of bilateral alliances in building up a common European defence force, citing the Franco-German Brigade of the Eurocorps as an example.

Debate ended on the contentious question of MEP salaries, with one member of the audience challenging the three candidates to pledge to accept a wage, if they won, equal to the average wage of their constituents. Ms Evans agreed that the set wage, currently £63,000 rising to £73,000 in 2010, was “too high”, but would not commit to a so-called “worker’s wage”, under heavy criticism from the audience. Mr Vaughan, following, called it “not fair” to ask MEPs to take such a pledge but asserted “I have never been motivated by money” and finished his part in the debate with a call to elect more left-wing socialist MEPs. Mr Griffiths, whose No2EU coalition has made a worker’s wage for MEPs part of their election manifesto, readily pledged to hold to a living wage, albeit not necessarily one equal to the average wage of his constituents, and described some of the difficulties associated with refusing an EU salary, noting that initially No2EU had proposed that its MEPs should draw no salary and claim no expenses from Europe but the coalition’s legal advisors had said that to do so would endanger the status of any of its members as MEPs.

Voting for the European Parliament elections in the United Kingdom takes place June 4.

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Jetstar to offer iPads as an in-flight entertainment option

Wednesday, June 2, 2010File:IPad-02.jpg

Jetstar Airways, a Qantas owned Australian low-cost airline, has announced plans to trial Apple iPads as an in-flight entertainment option. This trial would make Jetstar one of the first airlines in the world to offer the iPad.

Starting later this month, Jetstar plans to begin a two-week trial, during which passengers will have the option to rent iPads for AU$10 on domestic flights longer than an hour. Thirty iPads would be available on each test plane. These devices would be preloaded with games, e-books, music and video content. Internet access however will be disabled as per Jetstar’s policy on internet connected devices, said spokeswoman Andrea Wait.

The iPads offered by Jetstar, will be specially customized by Bluebox Avionics. Bluebox Avionics, at present, is the only company to offer iPads as part of an in-flight entertainment system. Jetstar will be the first to offer the Bluebox Avionics iPad based systems, though, Bluebox Avionics has said the system will be available to other airlines soon.

Shortly following the initial release of the iPad, Jetstar chief information officer Stephen Tame speculated that the iPad “may lead in the future the end of airline in-flight entertainment systems”. Depending on the results of the trial, iPads may replace existing Jetstar in-flight entertainment systems.

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan said he expected the iPads to be very popular during the trial. If the trial is successful, the airline would “be looking to roll out the devices across our entire domestic and international network later in the year”, said Buchanan.

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Australian refugee contractor accused of breaching its duty of care

Friday, December 30, 2005

Contents

  • 1 Richard Niyonsaba
  • 2 Denial of food
  • 3 Background and Criticisms
  • 4 Sources

The Australian Centre for Languages, a company which has a multi-million dollar contract with the Australian government to provide refugee services, has been accused of breaching its duty of care following the death of a chronically ill child and allegations of failing to provide three women in their care with food.

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New Zealand policeman caught speeding

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Zealand policeman, Sergeant Gregory Arthur Smith has been caught by a speed camera going 115 kilometres per hour (km/h) in a 50km/h zone. Sergeant Smith has been charged with driving at a dangerous speed, despite having been responding to an emergency, and with his lights flashing.

42-year-old Sergeant Smith was responding to a priority one emergency involving ten school children on a crashed school bus, from Isla Bank School in Winton, Invercargill, New Zealand, and a car. The crash occurred on February 9, 2006.

A priority one emergency means that it requires immediate police attention.

The speed camera he was caught speeding on was hidden in a parked van trying to catch people speeding in school areas. The campaign is titled Speed Kills Kids.

In Invercargill’s district court, the hidden speed camera operator, Paul Mussen, said that he saw the police car 270 metres away with its lights flashing, it is unknown if his siren was on, slow down for a pedestrian crossing to allow pupils of James Hargest Junior College to cross the road. He then accelerated “hard” towards him.

Mr Mussen has said that when he first saw the police car turning onto Queens Drive at the Layard Street and Queens Drive intersection he thought, because of the flashing lights, that he was part of the same campaign. When questioned by Bill Dawkins, Sergeant Smith’s lawyer, Mr Mussen said that “it was too late to activate the stand-by button which we’re not allowed to do anyway,” which he confirmed that he told police. Mr Mussen described the stand-by button as a way to let emergency services off having to do “extra paperwork.”

Craig Power, prosecutor, has claimed that the speed Sergeant Smith was driving at was dangerous because he was driving in a residential zone, school zone, 50km/h speed limit and the school buses and the sidewalks are busy at 8:43 a.m. (NZDT), the time the speed camera caught him.

Later the same day, Sergeant Smith faxed a report to the Invercargill police stating that he had been caught over the speed limit, what speed he was travelling at, and that he was heading for a serious accident.

A witness for the police, former sub area police supervisor for the rural region of Southland, Senior Sergeant Olaf Jensen said that he was the one who called Sergeant Smith to attend to the emergency, giving him brief details about the crash and telling him that it requires immediate attention.

The case has not yet been resolved.

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Heavy hailstorms leave Sydney appearing snowed in

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Recent heavy hailstorms occurring at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon today left parts of Sydney with the appearance of being snowed in, with thick blankets of hail covering streets and sidewalks with layers of hail.

The hail was observed in the Central Business District of Sydney, where cars were observed — possibly sheltering from the worst of the downfall — under awnings on Paramatta Road, and areas in the Inner West.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Sydney Harbour weather station recorded a drop in temperature with the storm: at 4pm the temperature was 17 degrees Celsius, while the temperature reached a low at 11 degrees half an hour later.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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