Disabled Welshman threatened by bedroom tax


This video from England is called Anti Bedroom Tax Protest at Trafalgar Square and Downing St London 30/03/2013.

By Luke James in Wales:

Welsh council uses Wikipedia to back up bedroom tax

Thursday 9th October 2014

Glamorgan insists disabled dad can fit bed into box room

A Welsh council came under fire yesterday after it was caught sourcing dodgy facts from Wikipedia to enforce the Tory bedroom tax.

Vale of Glamorgan Council has sent letters quoting the online encyclopaedia — that can be edited by any internet user — to at least two tenants hit by the Con-Dem government’s housing benefit cut.

Disabled dad Guy Watts wrote to the council last month to tell them his home’s “spare room” was too small to be used as a bedroom.

And in a surprising reply seen by the Morning Star, council director of resources Sian Davies sent him the “average UK bed sizes taken from Wikipedia” to prove he could squeeze a bed into the box room.

Ms Davies says that, according to Wikipedia, the room is “capable of accommodation a single bed (or bunk beds).”

She added that statutory overcrowding rules mean that — even if the room was too small for a bed — the “occupant could sleep in the living room instead.”

A spokesman for Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax said: “Even a first-year undergraduate student knows that citing Wikipedia is a schoolboy error.”

Mr Watts, who lives with his partner and eight-year-old daughter in Llantwit Major, has been footing the bedroom tax bill since falling ill last November.

The 51-year-old has been working as a painter and decorator since retiring from the navy and had paid full rent for the family’s three-bedroom home since they moved in five years ago.

But he was forced to give up work and claim housing benefit when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December.

Mr Watts was then stripped of £14 a week — over £700 a year — under cruel Tory bedroom tax rules.

“I have a long-term illness and that money could go to far better use than paying a subsidy back to the Conservative government,” he told the Star yesterday.

“I’m not a benefit scrounger — I’m ex-Royal Navy, I’ve paid my taxes all my life and only recently become ill.

“We were never given the opportunity of looking at just two-bedroom properties because there was no prospect then of a Conservative government getting in and chucking this tax onto people.”

The “spare room” that Mr Watts is being charged for is made smaller by a built-in cupboard and is used by the family as a computer room.

He appealed against the infamous sanction after reading an appeal from Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax in his local newspaper.

The campaign revealed they were also contacted by a second tenant who was shocked to receive a reply sourcing facts from Wikipedia.

Campaign spokesman Alan Short told the Star how a disabled woman living in Barry showed the letter to her daughter, who has just graduated from university.

And he said: “She told her mum that if she’d written this down as an answer during her examinations she would have failed.

“They’re just making up their own rules.”

Vale of Glamorgan Council did not respond to a request for comment.

Wikipedia’s gender imbalance


This video from Britain says about itself:

On 25 July 2013 the MRC held its first Wikipedia edit-a-thon with the aim of increasing the profile of women in science. The edit-a-thon was held at the MRC National Institute of Medical Research in conjunction with Wikimedia UK and the Royal Society.

By Nina Liss-Schultz in the USA:

Can These Students Fix Wikipedia’s Lady Problem?

Fri Aug. 23, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Earlier this month, Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales told conference-goers in Hong Kong that a whopping 87 percent of the site’s editors are men. It wasn’t the first time Wikipedia’s gender imbalance had played out in the media: In February, staff acknowledged that it affected the online encyclopedia’s content, and a New York Times op-ed in April noted that Wikipedia editors had been moving women from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory.

Chart of Wikipedia gender distribution across countries
Wikipedia survey, 2011 Wikimedia Commons

So what’s a tech-savvy woman to do? “Storming Wikipedia,” a project of the feminist organization FemTechNet and an assignment given to students participating in FemTechNet’s new online course, is designed to fix this imbalance. During these exercises students edit Wikipedia en masse, “with the goal being to collaboratively write feminist thinking into the site,” says Alexandra Juhasz, professor of media studies at California’s Pitzer College and one of the course facilitators.

Students participating in the exercise will create and expand Wikipedia articles on influential women and encourage “feminists, academics, and activists to contribute to Wikipedia and help revolutionize its culture.” According to Inside Higher Ed, “students will be given lists of women who have played key roles in science and technology,” and will tweak articles to acknowledge their contributions.

FemTechNet, which Juhasz calls “a collective of international feminist scholars, artists, and activists,” is launching an online curriculum focused on educating people about the relationship between women and technology. Starting in September, instructors at 15 different colleges, including Brown, Yale, and Penn State University, will be offering “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology.” Students taking the course will study technology through a feminist lens using prerecorded videos featuring prominent feminist scholars.

“From a feminist perspective, we think of technology differently than just as objects or applications,” says Anne Balsamo, a course organizer and dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York City. “Technology from a feminist perspective is social, cultural, technical objects or arrangements.”

And, importantly, it includes women.

Bush’s Guantanamo soldiers vandalise Wikipedia


This is the ‘Guantanamo‘ video; roots reggae music by Ras Nas – Tanzania.

From Associated Press:

Gitmo troops vandalise Wikipedia

December 13, 2007 – 10:34AM

US military personnel at Guantanamo Bay called Fidel Castro a transsexual and defended the prison for terrorism suspects in anonymous web postings, an internet group that publishes government documents said today.

The group, Wikileaks, tracked web activity by service members with Guantanamo email addresses and also found they deleted prisoner identification numbers from three detainee profiles on Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that allows anyone to change articles.

Julian Assange, who led the research effort, said the postings amount to propaganda and deception.

“This is the American government speaking to the American people and to the world through Wikipedia, not identifying itself and often speaking about itself in the third person,” Assange said in a telephone interview from Paris.

Army Lt Col Ed Bush, a Guantanamo spokesman, said there is no official attempt to alter information posted elsewhere but said the military seeks to correct what it believes is incorrect or outdated information about the prison.

Bush declined to answer questions about the Castro posting.

Assange said that in January 2006, someone at Guantanamo wrote in a Wikipedia profile of the Cuban president: “Fidel Castro is an admitted transexual,” the unknown writer said, misspelling the word transsexual.

The US has no formal relations with Cuba and has maintained its base in the south-east of the island over the objections of the Castro government.

Comments on news stories were posted by people using apparently fictitious names to news sites – and were prepared by the Guantanamo public affairs office, according to Wikileaks.

A comment on a Wired magazine story about a leaked Guantanamo operations manual that was recently posted on the Wikileaks website urged readers to learn about Guantanamo by going to the public affairs website, adding that the base is “a very professional place full of true American patriots”.

Assange’s group could not specifically identify who from Guantanamo made about 60 edits to Wikipedia entries on topics that included not only the prison but also subjects such as football, cars and television programs.

See also here.

Righting Past Wrongs – Defending the Right to Sexual Diversity in Cuba. Interview with Mariela Castro: here.

How corporations, governments, etc. censor Wikipedia


This video is called What is Wikipedia?

After earlier news on this; from British daily The Independent:

Wikipedia and the art of censorship

It was hailed as a breakthrough in the democratisation of knowledge. But the online encyclopedia has since been hijacked by forces who decided that certain things were best left unknown.

By Robert Verkaik

Published: 18 August 2007

The secret of Wikipedia’s phenomenal success is that anyone can edit the millions of comments, facts and statistics published on the pages of the world’s most popular online encyclopaedia. But that of course is also its greatest weakness.

The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organisations across the world. …

Exxon Mobil and the giant oil slick

An IP address that belongs to ExxonMobil, the oil giant, is linked to sweeping changes to an entry on the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. An allegation that the company “has not yet paid the $5 billion in spill damages it owes to the 32,000 Alaskan fishermen” was replaced with references to the funds the company has paid out.

The [United States] Republican Party and Iraq

The Republican Party edited Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party entry so it made it clear that the US-led invasion was not a “US-led occupation” but a “US-led liberation.”

The CIA and casualties of war

A computer with a CIA IP address was used to change a graphic on casualties of the Iraq war by adding the warning that many of the figures were estimated and not broken down by class. Another entry on former CIA chief William Colby was edited to expand his cv. …

Dow Chemical and the Bhopal disaster

A computer registered to the Dow Chemical Company is recorded as deleting a passage on the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1984, which occurred at a plant operated by Union Carbide, now a wholly owned Dow subsidiary. The incident cost up to 20,000 lives. …

MySpace and self-censorship

Someone working from an IP address linked to MySpace [owned by Rupert Murdoch] appears to have been so irritated by references to the social networking website’s over-censorial policy that they removed a paragraph accusing MySpace of censorship. …

News International and the hypocritical anti-paedophile campaign

Someone at News International [owned by Rupert Murdoch] saw fit to remove criticism of the News of the World‘s anti-paedophile campaign by deleting the suggestion that this amounted to editorial hypocrisy [see also a Dutch nazi child porn case of that]. The original entry reminded readers that the paper continued to “publish semi-nude photographs of page three models as young as 16 and salacious stories about female celebrities younger than that.”

Tom Hodgkinson on the [US conservative] politics of Facebook: here.

Corporations and political parties try to censor their Wikipedia entries


This video is called How George W Bush Stole his Election- BBC (Part 1 of 2).

This video is the sequel.

From British daily The Guardian:

Companies and party aides cast censorious eye over Wikipedia

* Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent

* Wednesday August 15 2007

Editing your own entry on Wikipedia is usually the province of vain celebrities keen for some good PR. But a new website has uncovered dozens of companies that have been editing the site in order to improve their public image.

The Wikipedia Scanner, which trawls the backwaters of the popular online encyclopaedia, has unearthed a catalogue of organisations massaging entries, including the CIA and the Labour party [of ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair and present Prime Minister Gordon Brown].

Workers operating on CIA computers have been spotted editing entries including the biography of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon

Meanwhile, an anonymous surfer from Labour’s Millbank headquarters excised a section about Labour Students which referred to “careerist MPs” and criticisms that the party’s student movement was no longer seen as radical. …

But the biggest culprit that the Scanner claims to have discovered is Diebold, a supplier of voting machines, which it says has made huge alterations to entries about its involvement in the controversial “hanging chad” election in the US in 2000. The company was criticised in the wake of the disputed results, but edits made by its employees on Wikipedia have included the removal of 15 paragraphs detailing the allegations.

“In August 2003 Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold, announced that he had been a top fundraiser for George W Bush …” the deleted text read. “When assailed by critics for the conflict of interest … he vowed to lower his political profile.”

The change, made two years ago, was quickly reversed and the culprit warned off for “vandalism”. A Diebold official was not available for comment.

It is not the first time people have been found editing their own Wikipedia entries, which is considered a breach of etiquette on the site. Last year some US Congressional staff were found to be removing information they deemed unsavoury from the profiles of the politicians they worked for, and this year computer group Microsoft back-pedalled after it was revealed to have offered money to experts to “correct” entries about it on the site.

The Scanner, built by Virgil Griffith, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, works by comparing 5.3m edits made on the encyclopaedia against the internet addresses of more than 2m companies or individuals.

The CIA and Wikipedia: here.

Scientology and Wikipedia: here.

Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control: here.