22 April

Spreading floods in Pakistan worsen, at least 1600 dead

Friday, August 6, 2010

Since last reported, the flooding in Pakistan has spread and has now struck more than four million people. The UN reports it has left at least 1,600 people dead. The floods have been confirmed as the worst in eighty years.

Heavy monsoon rains led to the flooding of the huge Indus River, destroying homes in the north of the country and causing a large amount of damage in the north-west frontier province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Manuel Bessler of the United Nations said: “What we are facing now is a major catastrophe. We are afraid it will get worse.”

Army and government forces have rushed to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from parts of the Punjab province of Pakistan, where the disaster spread to yesterday, and from Sindh province, where the flood is expected to reach by the weekend.

The flooding is now in its second week and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon, especially since in many parts of the country there is still torrential rain, with more forecast. In other parts of Pakistan the water has receded, but this leaves a layer of mud and slime and this covers very large areas. For those affected by the floods, disease is the biggest problem now. The insanitary conditions have already caused diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Cholera and other water-borne diseases may appear if sanitary conditions for those displaced by the calamity are not established. Medical supplies are desperately needed for doctors to keep a pandemic or epidemic of a water-borne disease from infecting the victims of the flooding.

Relief has been hardest to provide in the north-west where many bridges and roads have been washed away. Whole towns have been cut off and this makes providing aid to those areas a very difficult task.

Air force pilots have been volunteering to fly aid missions to badly hit areas, transporting medical supplies, clean water and food to where it is needed. The transport planes carry enough foodstuffs to feed one hundred families for a month. Motivation for the missions among pilots is very high, as is the tension in the transport planes as they fly at 36,000 feet over the flood-hit country. Only from the air is the full extent of the damage visible. Pilots have been flying the maximum number of hours allowed and pushing the limits of their endurance to give the victims of the flood food, water and everything they need to survive.

Many foreign governments and aid agencies are contributing to the disaster relief effort. The U.S. Army has been flying relief missions, airlifting people from areas where they are stranded. The first mission involved four U.S. Chinook helicopters landing in the tourist town of Kalam in the Swat Valley, north-west Pakistan. The resort had been cut off for more than a week, according to a reporter there. The Chinooks flew hundreds of people to safer areas lower down. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said that 800 people had been evacuated and relief goods had been distributed.

The U.S. government pledged 10 million dollars in assistance following the first reports of the disaster. Yesterday the country promised a further 25 million dollars in aid. A spokesperson from the Embassy said: “The U.S. is making a new contribution of 25 million dollars in assistance to flood-affected populations, bringing its total commitment to date to more than 35 million dollars.” The money will go to international aid organisations and established Pakistani aid groups to provide food, health care and shelter to people displaced by the floods.

Malaysia has also decided to contribute US$1 million for relief efforts in the form of humanitarian aid. The Foreign Ministry said the aid was a manifestation of the government and the people’s concern and sympathy. “The government of Malaysia hopes the contribution will help alleviate the suffering of flood victims in Pakistan.”

In Britain, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organisation representing 13 of the leading UK humanitarian agencies, has been coordinating relief efforts and has launched an emergency appeal for public donations to help the victims of the crisis. Charities and aid agencies have been quick to respond to the disaster, sending aid and response teams to the worst hit areas. Food, water, shelter and medical supplies have been provided but much more is needed.

Patrick Fuller of the Red Cross (the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), who has been based in the country for a few days, described the situation on the ground as “desperate” and said the worst hit areas are “totally dependent” on outside help. He said the Red Cross movement is working with local partners to get aid packages, containing cooking tools and shelter such as tents and blankets, to 35,000 families.

The Red Cross alone has distributed 10,000 food packs and 1000 tents across the affected areas so far. However, figures for the amount of aid distributed are constantly changing as this is an ongoing relief effort.

Fuller reported that in Nowshera, which is in the north-west of the country close to the Indus River, “80% of homes have been badly damaged or destroyed, all the mud-brick houses have been washed away.

“In the most remote areas – where roads are cut off – donkeys are making eight-hour hikes to reach people.

“We are trying to move people into temporary camps – giving them timber, roofing sheets and basic shelter – but there is the added complication that many are reluctant to leave whatever homes they have left.”This has also been a problem in the south of the country in Sindh province, where the flood is expected to reach by the weekend. Evacuations have been going on to move people out of the path of the flood but many will not join the mass exodus and have chosen to brave the waters.

“Many people rely on open wells, which have been contaminated, so access to clean water is a problem. We are worried about communicable diseases, like respiratory infections, skin diseases, diarrhoea,” Mr Fuller said.

The charity have been setting up mobile medical teams to better combat disease and infection.

Though the relief effort at the moment is focused on the survival of those hit by the catastrophe, on those who “had their lives swept away in seconds”, the relief effort is expected to last a full six months.

Those who will be most affected in the long term by this disaster will be the poorest. They will have had everything washed away from them so they will have to start from scratch. Sadly, for those living in the poorest areas in the north and centre of Pakistan, the fight for survival is only just beginning and though they may feel they are enduring much at the moment, getting their lives back together after the first stages of this calamity are over is going to be even harder.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has said it has managed to give aid to 300,000 people so far. Many UK charities have been distributing food and medicine, as well as water purification tablets, cooking tools, shelter and hygiene kits. They have been using rafts, boats and donkeys. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said: “These devastating floods have left millions fighting to survive with little food, clean water or shelter.”

The DEC has appealed for donations from the public of the UK to help the victims of this crisis. The appeal is to allow the charities to continue relief work in the worst hit areas of the country.

Following a television appeal by the DEC, £2.5 million was raised and this has enabled the 13 charities the committee represents to reach 300,000 people with emergency supplies.

22 April

U.K. National Portrait Gallery threatens U.S. citizen with legal action over Wikimedia images

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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

The English National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London has threatened on Friday to sue a U.S. citizen, Derrick Coetzee. The legal letter followed claims that he had breached the Gallery’s copyright in several thousand photographs of works of art uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons, a free online media repository.

In a letter from their solicitors sent to Coetzee via electronic mail, the NPG asserted that it holds copyright in the photographs under U.K. law, and demanded that Coetzee provide various undertakings and remove all of the images from the site (referred to in the letter as “the Wikipedia website”).

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free-to-use media, run by a community of volunteers from around the world, and is a sister project to Wikinews and the encyclopedia Wikipedia. Coetzee, who contributes to the Commons using the account “Dcoetzee”, had uploaded images that are free for public use under United States law, where he and the website are based. However copyright is claimed to exist in the country where the gallery is situated.

The complaint by the NPG is that under UK law, its copyright in the photographs of its portraits is being violated. While the gallery has complained to the Wikimedia Foundation for a number of years, this is the first direct threat of legal action made against an actual uploader of images. In addition to the allegation that Coetzee had violated the NPG’s copyright, they also allege that Coetzee had, by uploading thousands of images in bulk, infringed the NPG’s database right, breached a contract with the NPG; and circumvented a copyright protection mechanism on the NPG’s web site.

The copyright protection mechanism referred to is Zoomify, a product of Zoomify, Inc. of Santa Cruz, California. NPG’s solicitors stated in their letter that “Our client used the Zoomify technology to protect our client’s copyright in the high resolution images.”. Zoomify Inc. states in the Zoomify support documentation that its product is intended to make copying of images “more difficult” by breaking the image into smaller pieces and disabling the option within many web browsers to click and save images, but that they “provide Zoomify as a viewing solution and not an image security system”.

In particular, Zoomify’s website comments that while “many customers — famous museums for example” use Zoomify, in their experience a “general consensus” seems to exist that most museums are concerned with making the images in their galleries accessible to the public, rather than preventing the public from accessing them or making copies; they observe that a desire to prevent high resolution images being distributed would also imply prohibiting the sale of any posters or production of high quality printed material that could be scanned and placed online.

Other actions in the past have come directly from the NPG, rather than via solicitors. For example, several edits have been made directly to the English-language Wikipedia from the IP address 217.207.85.50, one of sixteen such IP addresses assigned to computers at the NPG by its ISP, Easynet.

In the period from August 2005 to July 2006 an individual within the NPG using that IP address acted to remove the use of several Wikimedia Commons pictures from articles in Wikipedia, including removing an image of the Chandos portrait, which the NPG has had in its possession since 1856, from Wikipedia’s biographical article on William Shakespeare.

Other actions included adding notices to the pages for images, and to the text of several articles using those images, such as the following edit to Wikipedia’s article on Catherine of Braganza and to its page for the Wikipedia Commons image of Branwell Brontë‘s portrait of his sisters:

“THIS IMAGE IS BEING USED WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.”
“This image is copyright material and must not be reproduced in any way without permission of the copyright holder. Under current UK copyright law, there is copyright in skilfully executed photographs of ex-copyright works, such as this painting of Catherine de Braganza.
The original painting belongs to the National Portrait Gallery, London. For copies, and permission to reproduce the image, please contact the Gallery at picturelibrary@npg.org.uk or via our website at www.npg.org.uk”

Other, later, edits, made on the day that NPG’s solicitors contacted Coetzee and drawn to the NPG’s attention by Wikinews, are currently the subject of an internal investigation within the NPG.

Coetzee published the contents of the letter on Saturday July 11, the letter itself being dated the previous day. It had been sent electronically to an email address associated with his Wikimedia Commons user account. The NPG’s solicitors had mailed the letter from an account in the name “Amisquitta”. This account was blocked shortly after by a user with access to the user blocking tool, citing a long standing Wikipedia policy that the making of legal threats and creation of a hostile environment is generally inconsistent with editing access and is an inappropriate means of resolving user disputes.

The policy, initially created on Commons’ sister website in June 2004, is also intended to protect all parties involved in a legal dispute, by ensuring that their legal communications go through proper channels, and not through a wiki that is open to editing by other members of the public. It was originally formulated primarily to address legal action for libel. In October 2004 it was noted that there was “no consensus” whether legal threats related to copyright infringement would be covered but by the end of 2006 the policy had reached a consensus that such threats (as opposed to polite complaints) were not compatible with editing access while a legal matter was unresolved. Commons’ own website states that “[accounts] used primarily to create a hostile environment for another user may be blocked”.

In a further response, Gregory Maxwell, a volunteer administrator on Wikimedia Commons, made a formal request to the editorial community that Coetzee’s access to administrator tools on Commons should be revoked due to the prevailing circumstances. Maxwell noted that Coetzee “[did] not have the technically ability to permanently delete images”, but stated that Coetzee’s potential legal situation created a conflict of interest.

Sixteen minutes after Maxwell’s request, Coetzee’s “administrator” privileges were removed by a user in response to the request. Coetzee retains “administrator” privileges on the English-language Wikipedia, since none of the images exist on Wikipedia’s own website and therefore no conflict of interest exists on that site.

Legally, the central issue upon which the case depends is that copyright laws vary between countries. Under United States case law, where both the website and Coetzee are located, a photograph of a non-copyrighted two-dimensional picture (such as a very old portrait) is not capable of being copyrighted, and it may be freely distributed and used by anyone. Under UK law that point has not yet been decided, and the Gallery’s solicitors state that such photographs could potentially be subject to copyright in that country.

One major legal point upon which a case would hinge, should the NPG proceed to court, is a question of originality. The U.K.’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines in ¶ 1(a) that copyright is a right that subsists in “original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works” (emphasis added). The legal concept of originality here involves the simple origination of a work from an author, and does not include the notions of novelty or innovation that is often associated with the non-legal meaning of the word.

Whether an exact photographic reproduction of a work is an original work will be a point at issue. The NPG asserts that an exact photographic reproduction of a copyrighted work in another medium constitutes an original work, and this would be the basis for its action against Coetzee. This view has some support in U.K. case law. The decision of Walter v Lane held that exact transcriptions of speeches by journalists, in shorthand on reporter’s notepads, were original works, and thus copyrightable in themselves. The opinion by Hugh Laddie, Justice Laddie, in his book The Modern Law of Copyright, points out that photographs lie on a continuum, and that photographs can be simple copies, derivative works, or original works:

“[…] it is submitted that a person who makes a photograph merely by placing a drawing or painting on the glass of a photocopying machine and pressing the button gets no copyright at all; but he might get a copyright if he employed skill and labour in assembling the thing to be photocopied, as where he made a montage.”

Various aspects of this continuum have already been explored in the courts. Justice Neuberger, in the decision at Antiquesportfolio.com v Rodney Fitch & Co. held that a photograph of a three-dimensional object would be copyrightable if some exercise of judgement of the photographer in matters of angle, lighting, film speed, and focus were involved. That exercise would create an original work. Justice Oliver similarly held, in Interlego v Tyco Industries, that “[i]t takes great skill, judgement and labour to produce a good copy by painting or to produce an enlarged photograph from a positive print, but no-one would reasonably contend that the copy, painting, or enlargement was an ‘original’ artistic work in which the copier is entitled to claim copyright. Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”.

In 2000 the Museums Copyright Group, a copyright lobbying group, commissioned a report and legal opinion on the implications of the Bridgeman case for the UK, which stated:

“Revenue raised from reproduction fees and licensing is vital to museums to support their primary educational and curatorial objectives. Museums also rely on copyright in photographs of works of art to protect their collections from inaccurate reproduction and captioning… as a matter of principle, a photograph of an artistic work can qualify for copyright protection in English law”. The report concluded by advocating that “museums must continue to lobby” to protect their interests, to prevent inferior quality images of their collections being distributed, and “not least to protect a vital source of income”.

Several people and organizations in the U.K. have been awaiting a test case that directly addresses the issue of copyrightability of exact photographic reproductions of works in other media. The commonly cited legal case Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. found that there is no originality where the aim and the result is a faithful and exact reproduction of the original work. The case was heard twice in New York, once applying UK law and once applying US law. It cited the prior UK case of Interlego v Tyco Industries (1988) in which Lord Oliver stated that “Skill, labour or judgement merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality.”

“What is important about a drawing is what is visually significant and the re-drawing of an existing drawing […] does not make it an original artistic work, however much labour and skill may have gone into the process of reproduction […]”

The Interlego judgement had itself drawn upon another UK case two years earlier, Coca-Cola Go’s Applications, in which the House of Lords drew attention to the “undesirability” of plaintiffs seeking to expand intellectual property law beyond the purpose of its creation in order to create an “undeserving monopoly”. It commented on this, that “To accord an independent artistic copyright to every such reproduction would be to enable the period of artistic copyright in what is, essentially, the same work to be extended indefinitely… ”

The Bridgeman case concluded that whether under UK or US law, such reproductions of copyright-expired material were not capable of being copyrighted.

The unsuccessful plaintiff, Bridgeman Art Library, stated in 2006 in written evidence to the House of Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that it was “looking for a similar test case in the U.K. or Europe to fight which would strengthen our position”.

The National Portrait Gallery is a non-departmental public body based in London England and sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Founded in 1856, it houses a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. The gallery contains more than 11,000 portraits and 7,000 light-sensitive works in its Primary Collection, 320,000 in the Reference Collection, over 200,000 pictures and negatives in the Photographs Collection and a library of around 35,000 books and manuscripts. (More on the National Portrait Gallery here)

The gallery’s solicitors are Farrer & Co LLP, of London. Farrer’s clients have notably included the British Royal Family, in a case related to extracts from letters sent by Diana, Princess of Wales which were published in a book by ex-butler Paul Burrell. (In that case, the claim was deemed unlikely to succeed, as the extracts were not likely to be in breach of copyright law.)

Farrer & Co have close ties with industry interest groups related to copyright law. Peter Wienand, Head of Intellectual Property at Farrer & Co., is a member of the Executive body of the Museums Copyright Group, which is chaired by Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions at the National Portrait Gallery. The Museums Copyright Group acts as a lobbying organization for “the interests and activities of museums and galleries in the area of [intellectual property rights]”, which reacted strongly against the Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. case.

Wikimedia Commons is a repository of images, media, and other material free for use by anyone in the world. It is operated by a community of 21,000 active volunteers, with specialist rights such as deletion and blocking restricted to around 270 experienced users in the community (known as “administrators”) who are trusted by the community to use them to enact the wishes and policies of the community. Commons is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a charitable body whose mission is to make available free knowledge and historic and other material which is legally distributable under US law. (More on Commons here)

The legal threat also sparked discussions of moral issues and issues of public policy in several Internet discussion fora, including Slashdot, over the weekend. One major public policy issue relates to how the public domain should be preserved.

Some of the public policy debate over the weekend has echoed earlier opinions presented by Kenneth Hamma, the executive director for Digital Policy at the J. Paul Getty Trust. Writing in D-Lib Magazine in November 2005, Hamma observed:

“Art museums and many other collecting institutions in this country hold a trove of public-domain works of art. These are works whose age precludes continued protection under copyright law. The works are the result of and evidence for human creativity over thousands of years, an activity museums celebrate by their very existence. For reasons that seem too frequently unexamined, many museums erect barriers that contribute to keeping quality images of public domain works out of the hands of the general public, of educators, and of the general milieu of creativity. In restricting access, art museums effectively take a stand against the creativity they otherwise celebrate. This conflict arises as a result of the widely accepted practice of asserting rights in the images that the museums make of the public domain works of art in their collections.”

He also stated:

“This resistance to free and unfettered access may well result from a seemingly well-grounded concern: many museums assume that an important part of their core business is the acquisition and management of rights in art works to maximum return on investment. That might be true in the case of the recording industry, but it should not be true for nonprofit institutions holding public domain art works; it is not even their secondary business. Indeed, restricting access seems all the more inappropriate when measured against a museum’s mission — a responsibility to provide public access. Their charitable, financial, and tax-exempt status demands such. The assertion of rights in public domain works of art — images that at their best closely replicate the values of the original work — differs in almost every way from the rights managed by the recording industry. Because museums and other similar collecting institutions are part of the private nonprofit sector, the obligation to treat assets as held in public trust should replace the for-profit goal. To do otherwise, undermines the very nature of what such institutions were created to do.”

Hamma observed in 2005 that “[w]hile examples of museums chasing down digital image miscreants are rare to non-existent, the expectation that museums might do so has had a stultifying effect on the development of digital image libraries for teaching and research.”

The NPG, which has been taking action with respect to these images since at least 2005, is a public body. It was established by Act of Parliament, the current Act being the Museums and Galleries Act 1992. In that Act, the NPG Board of Trustees is charged with maintaining “a collection of portraits of the most eminent persons in British history, of other works of art relevant to portraiture and of documents relating to those portraits and other works of art”. It also has the tasks of “secur[ing] that the portraits are exhibited to the public” and “generally promot[ing] the public’s enjoyment and understanding of portraiture of British persons and British history through portraiture both by means of the Board’s collection and by such other means as they consider appropriate”.

Several commentators have questioned how the NPG’s statutory goals align with its threat of legal action. Mike Masnick, founder of Techdirt, asked “The people who run the Gallery should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to go back and read their own mission statement[. …] How, exactly, does suing someone for getting those portraits more attention achieve that goal?” (external link Masnick’s). L. Sutherland of Bigmouthmedia asked “As the paintings of the NPG technically belong to the nation, does that mean that they should also belong to anyone that has access to a computer?”

Other public policy debates that have been sparked have included the applicability of U.K. courts, and U.K. law, to the actions of a U.S. citizen, residing in the U.S., uploading files to servers hosted in the U.S.. Two major schools of thought have emerged. Both see the issue as encroachment of one legal system upon another. But they differ as to which system is encroaching. One view is that the free culture movement is attempting to impose the values and laws of the U.S. legal system, including its case law such as Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., upon the rest of the world. Another view is that a U.K. institution is attempting to control, through legal action, the actions of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

David Gerard, former Press Officer for Wikimedia UK, the U.K. chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, which has been involved with the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest to create free content photographs of exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum, stated on Slashdot that “The NPG actually acknowledges in their letter that the poster’s actions were entirely legal in America, and that they’re making a threat just because they think they can. The Wikimedia community and the WMF are absolutely on the side of these public domain images remaining in the public domain. The NPG will be getting radioactive publicity from this. Imagine the NPG being known to American tourists as somewhere that sues Americans just because it thinks it can.”

Benjamin Crowell, a physics teacher at Fullerton College in California, stated that he had received a letter from the Copyright Officer at the NPG in 2004, with respect to the picture of the portrait of Isaac Newton used in his physics textbooks, that he publishes in the U.S. under a free content copyright licence, to which he had replied with a pointer to Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp..

The Wikimedia Foundation takes a similar stance. Erik Möller, the Deputy Director of the US-based Wikimedia Foundation wrote in 2008 that “we’ve consistently held that faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works which are nothing more than reproductions should be considered public domain for licensing purposes”.

Contacted over the weekend, the NPG issued a statement to Wikinews:

“The National Portrait Gallery is very strongly committed to giving access to its Collection. In the past five years the Gallery has spent around £1 million digitising its Collection to make it widely available for study and enjoyment. We have so far made available on our website more than 60,000 digital images, which have attracted millions of users, and we believe this extensive programme is of great public benefit.
“The Gallery supports Wikipedia in its aim of making knowledge widely available and we would be happy for the site to use our low-resolution images, sufficient for most forms of public access, subject to safeguards. However, in March 2009 over 3000 high-resolution files were appropriated from the National Portrait Gallery website and published on Wikipedia without permission.
“The Gallery is very concerned that potential loss of licensing income from the high-resolution files threatens its ability to reinvest in its digitisation programme and so make further images available. It is one of the Gallery’s primary purposes to make as much of the Collection available as possible for the public to view.
“Digitisation involves huge costs including research, cataloguing, conservation and highly-skilled photography. Images then need to be made available on the Gallery website as part of a structured and authoritative database. To date, Wikipedia has not responded to our requests to discuss the issue and so the National Portrait Gallery has been obliged to issue a lawyer’s letter. The Gallery remains willing to enter into a dialogue with Wikipedia.

In fact, Matthew Bailey, the Gallery’s (then) Assistant Picture Library Manager, had already once been in a similar dialogue. Ryan Kaldari, an amateur photographer from Nashville, Tennessee, who also volunteers at the Wikimedia Commons, states that he was in correspondence with Bailey in October 2006. In that correspondence, according to Kaldari, he and Bailey failed to conclude any arrangement.

Jay Walsh, the Head of Communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts the Commons, called the gallery’s actions “unfortunate” in the Foundation’s statement, issued on Tuesday July 14:

“The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. To that end, we have very productive working relationships with a number of galleries, archives, museums and libraries around the world, who join with us to make their educational materials available to the public.
“The Wikimedia Foundation does not control user behavior, nor have we reviewed every action taken by that user. Nonetheless, it is our general understanding that the user in question has behaved in accordance with our mission, with the general goal of making public domain materials available via our Wikimedia Commons project, and in accordance with applicable law.”

The Foundation added in its statement that as far as it was aware, the NPG had not attempted “constructive dialogue”, and that the volunteer community was presently discussing the matter independently.

In part, the lack of past agreement may have been because of a misunderstanding by the National Portrait Gallery of Commons and Wikipedia’s free content mandate; and of the differences between Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Wikimedia Commons, and the individual volunteer workers who participate on the various projects supported by the Foundation.

Like Coetzee, Ryan Kaldari is a volunteer worker who does not represent Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Commons. (Such representation is impossible. Both Wikipedia and the Commons are endeavours supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, and not organizations in themselves.) Nor, again like Coetzee, does he represent the Wikimedia Foundation.

Kaldari states that he explained the free content mandate to Bailey. Bailey had, according to copies of his messages provided by Kaldari, offered content to Wikipedia (naming as an example the photograph of John Opie‘s 1797 portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose copyright term has since expired) but on condition that it not be free content, but would be subject to restrictions on its distribution that would have made it impossible to use by any of the many organizations that make use of Wikipedia articles and the Commons repository, in the way that their site-wide “usable by anyone” licences ensures.

The proposed restrictions would have also made it impossible to host the images on Wikimedia Commons. The image of the National Portrait Gallery in this article, above, is one such free content image; it was provided and uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, and is thus able to be used and republished not only on Wikipedia but also on Wikinews, on other Wikimedia Foundation projects, as well as by anyone in the world, subject to the terms of the GFDL, a license that guarantees attribution is provided to the creators of the image.

As Commons has grown, many other organizations have come to different arrangements with volunteers who work at the Wikimedia Commons and at Wikipedia. For example, in February 2009, fifteen international museums including the Brooklyn Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum established a month-long competition where users were invited to visit in small teams and take high quality photographs of their non-copyright paintings and other exhibits, for upload to Wikimedia Commons and similar websites (with restrictions as to equipment, required in order to conserve the exhibits), as part of the “Wikipedia Loves Art” contest.

Approached for comment by Wikinews, Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said “It’s pretty clear that these images themselves should be in the public domain. There is a clear public interest in making sure paintings and other works are usable by anyone once their term of copyright expires. This is what US courts have recognised, whatever the situation in UK law.”

The Digital Britain report, issued by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport in June 2009, stated that “Public cultural institutions like Tate, the Royal Opera House, the RSC, the Film Council and many other museums, libraries, archives and galleries around the country now reach a wider public online.” Culture minster Ben Bradshaw was also approached by Wikinews for comment on the public policy issues surrounding the on-line availability of works in the public domain held in galleries, re-raised by the NPG’s threat of legal action, but had not responded by publication time.

19 April

Ideas For Marble Patio Designs

byadmin

Planning a new patio space in your home is a very exciting time. While in the past patios tended to be rather small and typically square or rectangular in shape, today they are true outdoor living spaces with their own unique designs. A marble patio, or a travertine patio, is a great option for any shape, theme, or style of patio you are considering.

One of the reasons a marble patio is such as good option is that it is a durable, natural product. As many consumers are increasingly aware of green construction and environmentally friendly products, it is worth noting this patio will last a lifetime. You will never have to replace it and, with minimal care, it will keep looking beautiful, natural and inviting throughout decades of use.

Unique Combinations

With a travertine or marble patio there are unique combinations and design opportunities to consider. For instance, you can select a very uniformly colored marble with minimal lines and colored veins throughout the tile. This will provide a cool, classic look which is also great for modern or European styles of designs.

A marble patio featuring the bolder patterns and designs of rich reds, golds and blues and grays, often inviting an impression of the waves of the sea or the leaves in the fall can add drama and highlight the colors of your home.

Another option is to choose a tumbled marble patio paver with significant and noticeable color variations. This will create a pattern within the tile itself which will be unique to your patio, deck or poolside area.

Traditional Design

A very traditional type of tiling pattern for a travertine and square feet, with the result being a layout of tiles with a subtle repeating pattern without the straight lines associated with traditional tiling options.

Regardless of the colors or the tiling pattern you select, you will love your marble patio and pool area. As a true investment and beauty that is also very practical, you will enjoy your pool area for casual events and entertaining, and your marble pavers will always match your event style perfectly.

18 April

Polish authorities arrest Israeli agent

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Polish authorities earlier this month arrested an alleged Israeli spy using the pseudonym Uri Brodsky, in connection with the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

After being arrested on a European arrest warrant on 4 June, Brodsky was ordered to remain in custody for forty days after being brought before the court on the sixth of this month. His extradition is being sought by Germany in connection to the forging of a German passport used in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Polish authorities have yet to decide to hand him over. Monika Lewandowska, the spokeswoman of Poland’s prosecutors, added that nothing much was known about Brodsky except for his name. German newspaper Der Speigel has reported that the Israeli Embassy has urged Polish authorities against Brodsky’s extradition.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrew David, has said, “At the moment, we are looking into that like any other Israeli has been arrested, and he’s getting consular treatment.”

Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the Lieutenant-General of Dubai, has stated that he is nearly sure that Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, is responsible for the January murder of al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official and co-founder of one of its military wings, in Dubai. Israel has disputed those claims, however, saying there is no proof of Israeli involvement in the incident.

17 April

Pennsylvania father kills two daughters, wife, then commits suicide

Sunday, November 14, 2010

They were a happy family, never seen them argue or nothing

A father shot his two daughters and wife, then committed suicide yesterday in Erie, Western Pennsylvania according to police.

The Erie police responded to a call from the house at 11 a.m. on Saturday and found a 29-year-old man, a 27-year-old woman and two children, ages four and seven dead of gunshot wounds. A two-year old boy was hospitalised with minor injuries; he was reportedly shot in the ear.

A resident, Kevin Klino, who lives one block away from the crime scene and heads the Citizens Reunited Against Crime group told the Associated Press, “I was outside just leaving my house when I heard gunfire, four, five, or six shots… and seconds later, cop cars came flying by.” Klino was quick to talk to the police and informed the community that a gunman was not on the loose, rather, a suspected murder-suicide.

Klino also added, “This is an impoverished neighborhood with a lot of good people in it. People were just walking through the neighborhood stunned. It’s not even a tragedy, it’s worse than that… when you’ve got kids involved, it just numbs you, shocks you”

16 April

Wikinews Shorts: August 18, 2010

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, August 18, 2010.

An unemployed, single mother from South Carolina has confessed to suffocating her two toddler children with her bare hands. After suffocating her one year-old and two year-old sons, 29 year-old Shaquan Duley drove her car into a river. Police have identified the suffocated children as Ja’van T. Duley and Devean C. Duley. She faces two murder charges and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Duley had apparently argued with her mother the night before the murder. Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams has stated that “We believe this is a direct response [to the argument] from Ms. Duley. I believe she was just fed up with her mother telling her she couldn’t take care of the children and she wasn’t taking care of her children and she just wanted to be free.” Williams also said that Shaquan’s mother “was a very, I guess, firm individual. … She often talked with her daughter about, I guess, maybe being more of a mother or being more reliable.”

Sources


US officials said Monday that an American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, sentenced to hard labor in North Korea was visited by a US consular official and two American doctors.

“We requested permission to visit Mr. Gomes. That permission from the North Korean government was granted,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. Crowley also said that “We requested permission to bring Mr. Gomes home. Unfortunately, he remains in North Korea.”

North Korea said that Gomes was hospitalized after attempting suicide. Gomes was arrested by North Korean authorities and sentenced to eight years of hard labor in January after the 31 year-old man alledgedly attempted to cross the border with China.

Sources

Related news


American car company General Motors (GM) said Tuesday that it will recall 243,000 crossover vehicles due to faulty seat belts. The crossovers recalled include the Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. The damage to the seat belts could happen after the second row seats in the car-based SUVs are returned to a upright position after being folded. The damage causes the seat belt to feel correctly latched when it is possibly not.

Sources

13 April

“Woofstock” dog festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

North America’s largest outdoor dog festival came back to Toronto last weekend for its fifth year. It ran from the 9th of June to the 10th of June at Toronto’s historical St. Lawrence Market. A Wikinews reporter was there on Sunday to report on some of the events that happened on the last day.

The “Woofstock” dog festival attracted as many as 140,000 people with their dogs. The festival had tons of accessories, sold under tents, to buy for dogs; food, toys, designer clothes, and more. About 400 vendors and exhibitors were there to promote their products, which also gave private dog companies or groups a chance to show their new products. The local SPCA and some animal rescues were under tents answering questions from visitors. While walking, all visitors could see the CN Tower and other very tall buildings.

One of the local TV stations, Citytv, was there. They hosted a live event at the show which was broadcast on TV. People came up on the stage and asked questions regarding their dogs and the host and co-host answered them.

A man, who called himself the “Chalk Master”, drew two pictures on pavement with chalk. He did it for free but donations were welcome. One was a picture of a girl’s head beside a dog’s head, and another with a wolf.

“Hello Humans. I’ve been invited here to provide your eyeball(s), with some pretty colours. I don’t get paid as I work this weekend strictly for tips… so, if you like what you see please make a DONATION. If you don’t like it simply reach into the pocket of the person next to you and give me their money. CHALK MASTER.”

A contest called “Canada’s top dog” had its own tent with a professional photographer taking pictures of dogs behind a white screen; the winning photo is to be published on the cover of “Puppy and dog basics” magazine.

Large “Gourmet” dog bones were also served from a cart and table.

Next year’s festival is expected to be bigger and better with even more attractions.

9 April

Netta wins Eurovision Song Contest for Israel

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Saturday, Israel won its fourth victory, first since 1998, at the Eurovision Song Contest, held at Lisbon’s Altice Arena in Portugal. Netta Barzilai’s song Toy won 529 points from public and professional judges. Cyprus and Austria finished second and third respectively with 436 and 342 points.

Out of 43 countries participating this time, 26 countries including hosts Portugal and the Big Five — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — competed in the finals. The competition began on May 8. Spain and United Kingdom finished in the bottom five while the hosts and last year’s winners, Portugal, ended up at the bottom of the vote ranking; collecting respectively 61, 48, and 39 points.

Israel won the first semi-final round with 283 points. The 25-year-old Netta won the HaKokhav HaBa competition earlier this year to represent the country in this contest. Netta performed Toy, written by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger, with a Chicken Dance and chicken noises. With a lot of scat singing involved, the song lyrics included, “I’m not your toy; you stupid boy”. Her performance included 112 Maneki-nekos, Japanese beckoning cats used as lucky charms, which were placed in two shelves.

Apart from the Japanese Maneki-neko dolls, Netta wore a kimono; a Japanese dress, styled her hair in two buns as well as referenced Pokémon, a Japanese anime and video game, in her song, which led to some people including Portuguese writer Joana Ramiro to point out cultural appropriations in her performance. “Can I, however, ask if anyone here has already commented on the quite shocking Japanese cultural bastardisation-appropriation going on in Netta’s song?”, Ramiro tweeted.

Shortly after the contest began, last year’s winner Salvador Sobral called Toy “a horrible song”. In an interview with Wiwibloggs, Sobral said, “YouTube thought I would like the Israeli song. I opened it and a horrible song came out of it.” After winning the contest in Ukraine last year, Sobral had said, “We live in a world of disposable music; fast food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music with people who make music that actually means something […] Music is not fireworks; music is feeling. So let’s try to change this and bring music back.” Toy’s performance used strobe lighting and quirky noises.

After Netta was declared the winner, she said, “Thank you so much for choosing different. Thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity. Thank you. I love my country. Next year in Jerusalem.” Previously, Israel won the contest in 1978 and 1979, and 1998.

UK’s artist SuRie, who performed Storm, was interrupted in her performance when a stage invader snatched her microphone. UK was given another chance to perform, but SuRie declined after discussing with her team. SuRie said, “We had that conversation, but I was really proud of that performance.” “You don’t get to do the 100m sprint at the Olympics again because your shoelace is untied or something. You had that one shot and that was my moment, and we didn’t need to repeat that […] We had those conversations backstage, I saw the reaction and faces of my team, who were very proud of the recovery and the power of that, and we didn’t need to go again”, the British singer added.

As the winner of this edition of the competition, Israel is to host next year’s competition. Last year, then 27-year-old Salvador Sobral won the competition, receiving 758 points for the song Amar Pelos Dois, a ballad written by his sister.

For the preparations of next year’s contest, Israeli Deputy Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman wrote a letter to Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev asking shabbat, the Jewish holy day to rest, not to be violated. In the letter, he wrote, “In the name of hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens from all the populations and communities for whom Shabbat observance is close to their hearts, I appeal to you, already at this early stage, before production and all the other details of the event has begun, to be strict [in ensuring] that this matter does not harm the holiness of Shabbat and to work in every way to prevent the desecration of Shabbat, God forbid, as the law and the status quo requires”. Last year, he submitted resignation after Jewish workers were made to undertake railway work on shabbat. That time, both Israeli welfare minister Haim Katz and Israeli transportation minister Yisrael Katz expressed potential threat to passengers if the railway work was postponed.

Order Country Artist(s) Song Music & lyrics Total points Ranking
01 ?? Ukraine Mélovin Under the Ladder Mélovin & Mike Ryals 130 17
02 ?? Spain Amaia & Alfred Tu canción Raul Gomez Garcia, Sylvia Ruth Santoro Lopez 61 23
03 ?? Slovenia Lea Sirk Hvala, ne! Lea Sirk, Tomy DeClerque & Lea Sirk 64 22
04 ?? Lithuania Ieva Zasimauskait? When We’re Old Vytautas Bikus 181 12
05 ?? Austria Cesár Sampson Nobody but You Sebastian Arman, Cesár Sampson, Joacim Persson, Johan Alkenäs, Borislav Milanov 342 3
06 ?? Estonia Elina Nechayeva La forza Mihkel Mattinsen, Timo Vendt & Elina Nechayeva, Ksenia Kuchukova 245 8
07 ?? Norway Alexander Rybak That’s How You Write a Song Alexander Rybak 144 15
08 ?? Portugal Cláudia Pascoal O Jardim Isaura 39 26
09 ?? United Kingdom SuRie Storm Nicole Blair, Gill Lewis, Sean Hergreaves 48 24
10 ?? Serbia Sanja Ili? & Balkanika Nova deca Aleksandar Sanja Ili?, Tatjana Karajanov Ili? & Danica Krstaji? 113 19
11 ?? Germany Michael Schulte You Let Me Walk Alone Michael Schulte, Thomas Stengaard, Katharina Müller, Nisse Ingwersen 340 4
12 ?? Albania Eugent Bushpepa Mall Eugent Bushpepa 184 11
13 ?? France Madame Monsieur Mercy Emilie Satt, Jean-Karl Lucas 173 13
14 ?? Czech Republic Mikoláš Josef Lie to Me Mikoláš Josef 281 6
15 ?? Denmark Rasmussen Higher Ground Niclas Arn, Karl Eurén 226 9
16 ?? Australia Jessica Mauboy We Got Love Anthony Egizii, David Musumeci & Anthony Egizii, David Musumeci, Jessica Mauboy 99 20
17 ?? Finland Saara Aalto Monsters Saara Alto, Joy Deb, Linnea Deb, Ki Fitzgerald 46 25
18 ?? Bulgaria Equinox Bones Borislav Milanov, Joacim Persson, Brandon Treyshun Campbell, Dag Lundberg 166 14
19 ?? Moldova DoReDoS My Lucky Day Philipp Kirkorov & John Ballard 209 10
20 ?? Sweden Benjamin Ingrosso Dance You Off MAG, Louis Schoorl & K Nita, Benjamin Ingrosso 274 7
21 ?? Hungary AWS Viszlát nyár Dániel Kökényes, Bence Brucker, Áron Veress, Soma Schiszler & Örs Siklósi 93 21
22 ?? Israel Netta Barzilai Toy Doron Medalie, Stav Beger 529 1
23 ?? Netherlands, The Waylon Outlaw in ‘Em Waylon, Ilya Toshinskiy, Jim Beavers 121 18
24 ?? Ireland Ryan O’Shaughnessy Together Ryan O’Shaughnessy, Mark Caplice, Laura Elizabeth Hughes 136 16
25 ?? Cyprus Eleni Foureira Fuego Alex Papaconstantinou, Geraldo Sandell, Anderz Wrethov, Viktor Svensson, Didrick 436 2
26 ?? Italy Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro Non mi avete fatto niente Ermal Meta, Fabrizio Moro, Andrea Febo 308 5

8 April

John Constable painting location mystery solved after 195 years

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The mystery of the location of a viewpoint used by English painter John Constable has been solved, after nearly 200 years. The Stour Valley and Dedham Church was painted in Suffolk, England, between 1814 and 1815, but changes to the landscape meant that the spot he chose was not known, despite the best efforts of historians and art experts.

Now the puzzle has been answered. Martin Atkinson, who works for the National Trust as property manager for East Suffolk, used clues from the painting and looked at old maps to track down the viewpoint. Trees had grown, a hedgerow had been planted and boundaries had moved or disappeared, but Atkinson eventually worked out where Constable had stood. He said, “When I discovered that I had worked out the location where Constable painted this particular masterpiece, I couldn’t believe it. All the pieces of the jigsaw finally fitted together.”

Atkinson used an 1817 map of East Bergholt, where Constable grew up, as a reference point, but found that the view would have changed not long after the painting was completed. “The foreground didn’t fit at all, it was quite unusual as we know Constable painted it in the open air so he would have been standing in the scene. The hedgerow in his work no longer exists and there’s another hedgerow that runs across the scene today which wasn’t there. When you stand on the road on which he would have stood, and use the oak tree as a reference point, you see the same view. It’s great to see where an old master stood – and be inspired by the same view,” he said.

Suffolk, where Constable painted many of his finest paintings, is often called “Constable country”. Most, but not all, of the locations that Constable depicted are known. The picture is now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

5 April

RuPaul speaks about society and the state of drag as performance art

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Few artists ever penetrate the subconscious level of American culture the way RuPaul Andre Charles did with the 1993 album Supermodel of the World. It was groundbreaking not only because in the midst of the Grunge phenomenon did Charles have a dance hit on MTV, but because he did it as RuPaul, formerly known as Starbooty, a supermodel drag queen with a message: love everyone. A duet with Elton John, an endorsement deal with MAC cosmetics, an eponymous talk show on VH-1 and roles in film propelled RuPaul into the new millennium.

In July, RuPaul’s movie Starrbooty began playing at film festivals and it is set to be released on DVD October 31st. Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently spoke with RuPaul by telephone in Los Angeles, where she is to appear on stage for DIVAS Simply Singing!, a benefit for HIV-AIDS.


DS: How are you doing?

RP: Everything is great. I just settled into my new hotel room in downtown Los Angeles. I have never stayed downtown, so I wanted to try it out. L.A. is one of those traditional big cities where nobody goes downtown, but they are trying to change that.

DS: How do you like Los Angeles?

RP: I love L.A. I’m from San Diego, and I lived here for six years. It took me four years to fall in love with it and then those last two years I had fallen head over heels in love with it. Where are you from?

DS: Me? I’m from all over. I have lived in 17 cities, six states and three countries.

RP: Where were you when you were 15?

DS: Georgia, in a small town at the bottom of Fulton County called Palmetto.

RP: When I was in Georgia I went to South Fulton Technical School. The last high school I ever went to was…actually, I don’t remember the name of it.

DS: Do you miss Atlanta?

RP: I miss the Atlanta that I lived in. That Atlanta is long gone. It’s like a childhood friend who underwent head to toe plastic surgery and who I don’t recognize anymore. It’s not that I don’t like it; I do like it. It’s just not the Atlanta that I grew up with. It looks different because it went through that boomtown phase and so it has been transient. What made Georgia Georgia to me is gone. The last time I stayed in a hotel there my room was overlooking a construction site, and I realized the building that was torn down was a building that I had seen get built. And it had been torn down to build a new building. It was something you don’t expect to see in your lifetime.

DS: What did that signify to you?

RP: What it showed me is that the mentality in Atlanta is that much of their history means nothing. For so many years they did a good job preserving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a preservationist. It’s just an interesting observation.

DS: In 2004 when you released your third album, Red Hot, it received a good deal of play in the clubs and on dance radio, but very little press coverage. On your blog you discussed how you felt betrayed by the entertainment industry and, in particular, the gay press. What happened?

RP: Well, betrayed might be the wrong word. ‘Betrayed’ alludes to an idea that there was some kind of a promise made to me, and there never was. More so, I was disappointed. I don’t feel like it was a betrayal. Nobody promises anything in show business and you understand that from day one.
But, I don’t know what happened. It seemed I couldn’t get press on my album unless I was willing to play into the role that the mainstream press has assigned to gay people, which is as servants of straight ideals.

DS: Do you mean as court jesters?

RP: Not court jesters, because that also plays into that mentality. We as humans find it easy to categorize people so that we know how to feel comfortable with them; so that we don’t feel threatened. If someone falls outside of that categorization, we feel threatened and we search our psyche to put them into a category that we feel comfortable with. The mainstream media and the gay press find it hard to accept me as…just…

DS: Everything you are?

RP: Everything that I am.

DS: It seems like years ago, and my recollection might be fuzzy, but it seems like I read a mainstream media piece that talked about how you wanted to break out of the RuPaul ‘character’ and be seen as more than just RuPaul.

RP: Well, RuPaul is my real name and that’s who I am and who I have always been. There’s the product RuPaul that I have sold in business. Does the product feel like it’s been put into a box? Could you be more clear? It’s a hard question to answer.

DS: That you wanted to be seen as more than just RuPaul the drag queen, but also for the man and versatile artist that you are.

RP: That’s not on target. What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do. I don’t choose projects so people don’t see me as one thing or another. I choose projects that excite me. I think the problem is that people refuse to understand what drag is outside of their own belief system. A friend of mine recently did the Oprah show about transgendered youth. It was obvious that we, as a culture, have a hard time trying to understand the difference between a drag queen, transsexual, and a transgender, yet we find it very easy to know the difference between the American baseball league and the National baseball league, when they are both so similar. We’ll learn the difference to that. One of my hobbies is to research and go underneath ideas to discover why certain ones stay in place while others do not. Like Adam and Eve, which is a flimsy fairytale story, yet it is something that people believe; what, exactly, keeps it in place?

DS: What keeps people from knowing the difference between what is real and important, and what is not?

RP: Our belief systems. If you are a Christian then your belief system doesn’t allow for transgender or any of those things, and you then are going to have a vested interest in not understanding that. Why? Because if one peg in your belief system doesn’t work or doesn’t fit, the whole thing will crumble. So some people won’t understand the difference between a transvestite and transsexual. They will not understand that no matter how hard you force them to because it will mean deconstructing their whole belief system. If they understand Adam and Eve is a parable or fairytale, they then have to rethink their entire belief system.
As to me being seen as whatever, I was more likely commenting on the phenomenon of our culture. I am creative, and I am all of those things you mention, and doing one thing out there and people seeing it, it doesn’t matter if people know all that about me or not.

DS: Recently I interviewed Natasha Khan of the band Bat for Lashes, and she is considered by many to be one of the real up-and-coming artists in music today. Her band was up for the Mercury Prize in England. When I asked her where she drew inspiration from, she mentioned what really got her recently was the 1960’s and 70’s psychedelic drag queen performance art, such as seen in Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, The Cockettes and Paris Is Burning. What do you think when you hear an artist in her twenties looking to that era of drag performance art for inspiration?

RP: The first thing I think of when I hear that is that young kids are always looking for the ‘rock and roll’ answer to give. It’s very clever to give that answer. She’s asked that a lot: “Where do you get your inspiration?” And what she gave you is the best sound bite she could; it’s a really a good sound bite. I don’t know about Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, but I know about The Cockettes and Paris Is Burning. What I think about when I hear that is there are all these art school kids and when they get an understanding of how the press works, and how your sound bite will affect the interview, they go for the best.

DS: You think her answer was contrived?

RP: I think all answers are really contrived. Everything is contrived; the whole world is an illusion. Coming up and seeing kids dressed in Goth or hip hop clothes, when you go beneath all that, you have to ask: what is that really? You understand they are affected, pretentious. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s how we see things. I love Paris Is Burning.

DS: Has the Iraq War affected you at all?

RP: Absolutely. It’s not good, I don’t like it, and it makes me want to enjoy this moment a lot more and be very appreciative. Like when I’m on a hike in a canyon and it smells good and there aren’t bombs dropping.

DS: Do you think there is a lot of apathy in the culture?

RP: There’s apathy, and there’s a lot of anti-depressants and that probably lends a big contribution to the apathy. We have iPods and GPS systems and all these things to distract us.

DS: Do you ever work the current political culture into your art?

RP: No, I don’t. Every time I bat my eyelashes it’s a political statement. The drag I come from has always been a critique of our society, so the act is defiant in and of itself in a patriarchal society such as ours. It’s an act of treason.

DS: What do you think of young performance artists working in drag today?

RP: I don’t know of any. I don’t know of any. Because the gay culture is obsessed with everything straight and femininity has been under attack for so many years, there aren’t any up and coming drag artists. Gay culture isn’t paying attention to it, and straight people don’t either. There aren’t any drag clubs to go to in New York. I see more drag clubs in Los Angeles than in New York, which is so odd because L.A. has never been about club culture.

DS: Michael Musto told me something that was opposite of what you said. He said he felt that the younger gays, the ones who are up-and-coming, are over the body fascism and more willing to embrace their feminine sides.

RP: I think they are redefining what femininity is, but I still think there is a lot of negativity associated with true femininity. Do boys wear eyeliner and dress in skinny jeans now? Yes, they do. But it’s still a heavily patriarchal culture and you never see two men in Star magazine, or the Queer Eye guys at a premiere, the way you see Ellen and her girlfriend—where they are all, ‘Oh, look how cute’—without a negative connotation to it. There is a definite prejudice towards men who use femininity as part of their palette; their emotional palette, their physical palette. Is that changing? It’s changing in ways that don’t advance the cause of femininity. I’m not talking frilly-laced pink things or Hello Kitty stuff. I’m talking about goddess energy, intuition and feelings. That is still under attack, and it has gotten worse. That’s why you wouldn’t get someone covering the RuPaul album, or why they say people aren’t tuning into the Katie Couric show. Sure, they can say ‘Oh, RuPaul’s album sucks’ and ‘Katie Couric is awful’; but that’s not really true. It’s about what our culture finds important, and what’s important are things that support patriarchal power. The only feminine thing supported in this struggle is Pamela Anderson and Jessica Simpson, things that support our patriarchal culture.

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