On the campaign trail in the USA, October 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The following is the sixth and final edition of a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail: the Free & Equal Foundation holds a presidential debate with three little-known candidates; three additional candidates give their final pleas to voters; and past Wikinews interviewees provide their electoral predictions ahead of the November 8 election.

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Canadian soldier who filmed himself sexually abusing colleague has appeal dismissed

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2009. Image: Matthew G. Bisanz.

The Supreme Court of Canada February 17 dismissed 8-0 an appeal by ex-corporal Colin McGregor arguing the investigation that led to his 2019 conviction for sexual assault violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ demands for reasonable search and seizure.

Its unanimous judgment ends McGregor’s multi-year court battle with successively higher bodies by describing the police’s investigation of his US home “reasonable pursuant to Charter standards.”

On September 30, 2019, McGregor was found guilty of two counts of voyeurism, one count of possession of a device for surreptitious interception of private communications, one count of sexual assault and one count of disgraceful conduct for incidents that took place between 2011 and 2017.

That Thursday, he was sentenced by a military judge at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in British Columbia to three years prison and another twenty years on the sex offender registry, and was ‘dismissed with disgrace’ from the Armed Forces.

After last Friday’s ruling, his sentence will continue in full. Moreover, after his release, he will be barred from future employment with the Canadian government.

From August 2015 to March 2017, McGregor was posted to the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff at Canada’s US embassy, which automatically gave him diplomatic immunity.

In January 2017, another member of the Canadian Armed Forces, also in Washington, D.C., found two audio recording devices in her home. Believing McGregor was responsible, she reported him to her senior officer, and to investigate, the Embassy waived McGregor’s diplomatic immunity at the request of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS).

On February 16, 2017, CFNIS agents and local Virginia police executed a search warrant at the then-corporal’s staff quarters in Alexandria, seizing computers, CDs, storage devices and five hidden cameras.

Forensic analysis showed a 2011 video of McGregor groping an unconscious woman in Victoria and recordings from inside McGregor’s home of a woman using the restroom and a video of cartoon characters appearing aged under eighteen engaging in sex acts; a child pornography charge for the latter was later dropped.

The woman videoed later told the Esquimalt court she believed it was taken on a night when she invited McGregor over for drinks and video games. She reported blacking out and awakening to find him sexually touching her.

McGregor had sought to have the videos and images excluded from evidence, arguing the search violated Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects Canadians from “unreasonable search or seizure.”

The move and a subsequent appeal were rejected, with the Court Martial Appeal Court holding the Charter did not apply outside Canada and, notwithstanding, the search was permissible.

The Supreme Court on February 7, 2010. Image: D. Gordon E. Robertson.

His latest appeal to Canada’s top court argued the search violated the Charter by inviting a re-evaluation of the controversial 2007 ruling R v Hape, that presently governs extraterritoriality. His counsel Diana Mansour told the court on May 19, 2022 military personnel “ought to have their Charter rights guaranteed when investigated by Canadian military police for Canadian criminal offences.

“The portability of the military justice system allows Canadian criminal law to apply to our military members when they are serving anywhere in the world and with it, so should the Charter apply.”

Patrice Germain, counsel for the Crown respondent, argued that Section 8 “did not apply to the search of the appellant [McGregor’s] residence in the United States, because Virginia state law, under which it was conducted, is not within the authority of Parliament or a provincial legislature.”

Justice Suzanne Côté, writing for the majority, said the warrant the CFNIS obtained and executed under Virginia law authorized the search, seizure and analysis of McGregor’s electronic devices: “A search is reasonable within the meaning of [Section 8] of the Charter if it is authorized by law, if the law itself is reasonable and if the manner in which the search was carried out is reasonable.”

As well as “authorized by law”, the court also found the search was not “more intrusive than necessary”, Côté writing: “It is difficult to see how the CFNIS investigators could have acted differently to attain their legitimate investigative objectives.

“Simply put, I would dismiss the appeal even if I were to accept Cpl. McGregor’s argument that the Charter applies extraterritorially in the present context.”

In fact, the Court left the Charter’s scope ambiguous, explaining: “I [Côté, representing four judges’ opinions and her own] find it unnecessary to deal with the issue of extraterritoriality to dispose of this appeal [because] the CFNIS did not violate the Charter” to begin with.

After the ruling, Mansour said: “We accept the court’s decision which leaves open the opportunity for another matter to address the legal issue of the extraterritorial application of the Charter in the Canadian military context.”

In an email to Law360 Canada, co-counsels for the Crown Chavi Walsh, Natasha Thiessen and Patrice Germain said the CFNIS investigation was “a textbook case of successful international law enforcement cooperation, which respected the rights of the accused and complied with Canada’s international legal obligations.

“This case demonstrates that the Canadian Armed Forces can maintain crucial military discipline by effectively investigating and prosecuting crimes, including those of sexual violence, anywhere the CAF operates.”

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Robert Wilson, bassist for The Gap Band dies aged 53

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Robert Wilson, the bassist for funk group The Gap Band, has died at the age of 53. Wilson’s death was announced by his manager and publicist, Don Jackson. He died in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The cause of death was announced as a massive heart attack.

Born in Tulsa, Wilson formed funk and R&B group The Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street band with his brothers, Charlie and Ronnie. They later shortened the name to The Gap Band to make it stand out on gig posters.

The group had reached success by the time Wilson was 14. Hits by the brothers included “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops)”, “Party Train” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”, which was later included in the 2004 hit videogame, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Wilson, who had been touring at the time of his death, returned to his hometown of Tulsa last week. He told newspaper Tulsa World that he would be headlining the Timeless Music Festival on August 28. Sources have said that it is likely the festival will become a tribute show to Wilson.

Funeral arrangements have remained private and have not been announced.

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Wikinews interviews former Salt Lake City mayor and 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rocky Anderson in 2009Image: Don LaVange.

Former Salt Lake City mayor and human rights activist Rocky Anderson took some time to discuss his 2012 U.S. presidential campaign and the newly-created Justice Party with Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn.

Anderson served as mayor of Salt Lake City for eight years (2000–2008) as a member of the Democratic Party. During his tenure, he enacted proposals to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, reformed its criminal justice system, and positioned it as a leading sanctuary for refugees. After leaving office, Anderson grew critical of the Democratic Party’s failure to push for impeachment against President George W. Bush, and for not reversing policies on torture, taxes, and defense spending. He left the party earlier this year and announced that he would form a Third party.

Anderson officially established the Justice Party last week during a press conference in Washington D.C.. He proclaimed “We the people are powerful enough to end the perverse government-to-the-highest-bidder system sustained by the two dominant parties…We are here today for the sake of justice — social justice, environmental justice and economic justice.” The party promotes campaign finance reform and is attempting to appeal to the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is currently working on ballot access efforts, and will hold a Founding Convention in February 2012 in Salt Lake City.

Among other issues, Anderson discussed climate change, health care, education, and civil liberties. He detailed his successes as mayor of Salt Lake City, stressed the importance of executive experience, and expressed his views on President Barack Obama and some of the Republican Party presidential candidates. He spoke in depth about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with whom he worked during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and fellow Utahan, former governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr..

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UK hostage Peter Moore released in Iraq

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Satellite photograph of Baghdad from 1996.Image: NASA.

Peter Moore, a British IT consultant and computer programmer who was taken hostage by Iraqi militants during a May 2007 militant raid on the finance ministry in Baghdad, has been released alive and in good health.

He is the only known survivor of a group of five hostages, consisting of himself, three bodyguards, and Alan McMenemy, a security guard from Glasgow. The bodyguards (Alec Maclachlan, Jason Swindlehurst, and Jason Creswell) were later shot and killed, and their bodies have been returned to Britain. McMenemy is believed to have met the same fate. The last time Moore was known to be alive was when a DVD showing him was handed to Iraqi authorities earlier this year.

The five men were captured by a group of approximately forty men disguised as Iraqi policemen in May 2007, who are believed to belong to the Islamic Shia Resistance, an obscure militant organisation also known as the Righteous League. Moore is now in the British Embassy in Baghdad, and is to be reunited with his family as soon as possible, according to Milliband.

United Kingdom foreign secretary David Milliband said that he was “absolutely delighted at his release” after two and a half years of “misery, fear and uncertainty”. He claimed to be in a “remarkable frame of mind” after a “very moving” conversation with Moore. He also asked for the release of McMenemy’s body. He said that no “substantive concessions” had been made by the British government, instead praising Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his government’s process of reconciliation.

remember the families of British hostages who have been killed in Iraq and elsewhere

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a statement in which he said he was “hugely relieved by the wonderful news that Peter has been freed”, calling for the British people to “remember the families of British hostages who have been killed in Iraq and elsewhere.” He continued with a pledge that the government would “continue to do everything [it] can to bring British hostages back to their loved ones, including the remaining hostage of the group in Iraq, Alan McMenemy”. He said, “I demand that the hostage takers return him to us.”

Moore’s father, Graeme, said he was “over the moon” about his son’s release, saying, “We are so relieved and we just want to get him home, back now to his family and friends. I’m breaking down, I’m just so overjoyed for the lad. It’s been such a long haul. I know that there have been one or two people working in the background to get Peter released. Peter is a very resilient lad and he always has been because of his background.” He said the British Foreign Office had been “obstructive” with regards to his son’s release.

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“A commonsense proposal”: Wikinews interviews Michelle Tilley, Campaign Director for Yes on 820

Marijuana plants. Image: Jennifer Martin.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

On March 7, voters in the US state of Oklahoma will decide on State Question 820, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative.

If the initiative passes, adults 21 and older could own up to an ounce (28.35 grams) of recreational marijuana and cultivate “not more than six (6) mature marijuana plants and six (6) seedlings” in their homes, and some convictions for marijuana possession could be expunged.

The state’s profits earned by taxing marijuana transactions would fund the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, while the rest would be split between: the state’s fund pool (30%), programs in public schools to improve student success, extracurricular activities, and decrease drug abuse (30%), governmental and nonprofit programs to counter drug abuse (20%), courts (10%), and the local government where the transaction occurred (10%).

Wikinews emailed interview questions to the Yes campaign on January 6; Michelle Tilley, their Campaign Director, responded on January 11. The following is the interview with Tilley.

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Wikinews interviews U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Wayne Allyn Root, one of the candidates for the Libertarian Party nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Root is the founder and chairman of Winning Edge International Inc., a sports handicapping company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, he is an author and a television producer, as well as an on-screen personality both as host and guest on several talk shows.

Root, a long-time Republican, declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party on May 4, 2007.

He says he is concerned about the qualities of many who run for president, and fears that they do not know the needs of American citizens. He also says that they cater to big businesses instead of small ones.

He has goals of limiting the federal government and believes that the US went into Iraq for wrong reasons. A strong supporter of the War on Terror, he feels that it was mishandled. He has conservative values and came from a blue collar family in New York. He graduated from Columbia University with fellow presidential hopeful Barack Obama in 1983.

Root believes that America is in trouble and hopes to change that if elected.

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Remote Assistance service of Windows OS vulnerable to attack

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Until a patch is issued, Microsoft recommends that users close or block TCP port 3389, the port opened when the Remote Assistance service of its Microsoft Windows operating system (OS) is enabled. The Remote Assistance feature is a service of the OS that allows Internet Technology administrators of corporate workgroups remote access to other desktops to perform maintenance and other configuration tasks from their own computer. It can also be used by on-line tech support sites. A support assistant can go into a user’s machine, if the service is enabled, and themself make changes directly to another person’s computer to resolve an issue.

To initialize the remote assistance feature, the user of the helper computer must first make a request of the user of the target computer. Compliance must be granted by the user of the target machine, which then fully opens the communication port of the target machine to the helper computer. The operator of the helper computer then has control of target computer to make changes at will. The user of the target machine can watch in a separate window the actions of the helper, and either party to the session can end it at any time.

In a telephone conversation with a Microsoft representative Tuesday, it was learned that work to develop a security patch is underway, but when it will be available is unclear. It was cited that a patch must work consistently across multiple platform versions of the OS.

The vulnerability, thought at first to affect only Windows XP SP2, is now believed to affect all current Windows editions, including Windows 2000, Windows XP SP1, Windows XP Professional x64, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and Windows Server x64.

The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is not enabled by default, however if the service is enabled, a Denial of Service attack could cause the OS to restart unexpectedly according to Microsoft, or experience buffer overflows according to Symantec. The RDP is enabled by default on Windows XP Media Center Edition.

Microsoft suggests users block TCP port 3389 (the port used by RDP) on their firewall, or disable Terminal Services or Remote Desktop if not required by the user. The remote desktop connections could also be secured using either Internet Protocol Security or a virtual private network connection until a patch is ready.

To disable Remote Assistance on a Windows XP Edition, the steps are:

  1. click ‘Start’, right-click ‘My Computer’, select ‘Properties’
  2. select ‘Remote’ tab on top of the ‘Systems Properties’ window, clear checkbox that says “Allow Remote Assistance invitations to be sent from this computer.”
  3. click ‘Apply’ button

The group, Internet Storm Center, detected spikes in scanning for port 3389 beginning July 6. Larger numbers of systems scanned were reported on July 13. Crackers may be scanning for vulnerable machines, the group said.

“It’s a kernel vulnerability,” said VP of engineering for Symantec Alfred Huger, “so it will be difficult to exploit reliably. But he [the original discoverer] found the vulnerability with a commonly-used tool, so if he can find it, so can others. I don’t think it will turn it into a large-scale worm, but then, some kernel vulnerabilities have ended up as just that, like the Witty worm.”


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Wikinews interviews biologist Chris Simon about periodical cicadas

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chris Simon Image: Stephen Chiswell.

In May, periodical cicadas with 17 years life cycle emerged on the East Coast of the USA after underground development as juveniles since 1996. Researchers and scientists worked to map and study the rare wave, and the locals prepared for the noisy event. First recorded in 1666, the Magicicada septendecim species recently emerged in 1979, 1996, this year, with a next wave due in 2030.

This week, Wikinews interviewed Chris Simon, an ecology and evolutionary biologist at University of Connecticut, about the cicadas.

((Wikinews)) What caused your initial interest in periodical cicadas?

Chris Simon: As an undergraduate student, I was interested in the formation of species so when I went to graduate school I looked for a study organism that was likely to be in the process of forming new species. I chose periodical cicadas because they are broken up into reproductively isolated broods (or year classes). Reproductive isolation leads to speciation so I planned to study biochemical differences among the broods.

((WN)) You study the emergence of the periodical cicadas. What do you study? What observations are you making?

CS: We record exactly where each cicada population emerges (using GPS automated mapping and crowd sourcing). We record the presence or absence of each of the three morphologically distinct species groups of periodical cicadas (Decim group, Cassini group, and Decula group). We collect specimens for DNA analysis. We look for cicadas coming up one and four years early and late. We dig up cicada nymphs and monitor their growth rates.

((WN)) What equipment do you use?

CS: Nets, shovels, automated GPS recorders, cameras, laptop computers, automated DNA sequencers.
Magicicada septendecim headshot Image: Chris Simon.

((WN)) Do you study the periodical cicadas with anyone else? What is their role?

CS: Yes, there are a large number of people studying periodical cicadas in my lab and in other labs. My lab is made up of Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Researchers, a technician, graduate students, and undergraduates. Research Scientist John Cooley is the leader of the GPS mapping project; he invented the automated GPS recorder; he built our crowd-sourcing website, and he is instrumental in public outreach. Postdoctoral research David Marshall also participates in the mapping project and leads the part of the research related to the mapping of stragglers. John and Dave and Technician Kathy Hill all study periodical cicada mating behavior and conduct mating and hybridization experiments. One of my graduate students Beth Wade has participated in the nymph collections and will soon start genetic work involving genome wide association mapping designed to locate genes related to life cycle. My graduate student Russ Meister is studying the genes of the bacterial endosymbionts of cicadas. My current undergraduate honors student Erin Dwyer is also studying the development of Magicicada nymphs and is helping to design a lab exercise for college students around the eastern US to do the same. Many of my past undergraduate students have studied the biochemical genetics and development of periodical cicadas. See the Simon Lab website.
CS: We are collaborating with Teiji Sota at the University Kyoto and Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University in Japan. They are studying the phylogeography of Magicicada. We are collaborating with John McCutcheon of the University of Montana who is studying the endosymbiont genomes.
CS: We are also collaborating with ecologists Rick Karban and Louie Yang, both professors at UC Davis who have an interest in cicada population dynamics and nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.
Transformation of the periodical cicada from the mature nymph to the adult.

((WN)) You studied the periodical cicadas in 1979 and 1996 too. What changes with time?

CS: I have studied periodical cicadas since I was a student back in 1974. What changes with time is increased human development constantly shrinking the patch size of cicada populations.

((WN)) What are your thoughts on the long life span of the periodical cicadas? Why could it be so? What advantages and what disadvantages does it have?

CS: Most or all cicadas have long life cycles compared to your typical annual insect. Examples have been found of two-year to 9-year cycles in different species. Periodical cicadas evolved an even-longer life cycle and I think that part of this relates to the evolution of their synchronized life cycles and peculiar safety-in-numbers strategy for survival. To become synchronized, periodical cicadas had to evolve an exact length life cycle and all adults would have to appear in the same year. Because the nymphs grow at different rates underground, a longer life cycle and a way of counting years must have evolved so that the individuals that get to the last nymphal (underground juvenile) stage first would wait long enough for all other individuals in the population to become ready to emerge.

((WN)) News reports mention this is ‘Brood II’ of the periodical cicadas. What are the distinctive features of this specific species and what is its full scientific name?

CS: The same species exist in multiple broods. No species is restricted to Brood II. The three species present in Brood II are: Magicicada septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. These same three species are found in every 17-year brood (except the farthest north which only has M. septendecim).
Three Magicicada septendecim eggs Image: Chris Simon.

((WN)) At what depth do the cicadas juveniles live underground?

CS: Most live within the top foot of soil but some have been found deeper. We do not know if they go deeper in winter. We need to do much more digging to understand the nymphs.

((WN)) How do people prepare for the cicada emergence?

CS: Of course various people prepare in different ways. Ideally, everyone prepares by studying information available on the web (especially on our websites Magicicada Central and Magicicada.org).

((WN)) Do cicadas affect transport in the local area?

CS: No, not really. Occasionally individuals can be seeing flying across highways and sometimes they smash into cars.
Group of Magicicada septendecim Image: Chris Simon.

((WN)) Do cicadas usually stay outside or do they also invade houses too?

CS: They stay outside. One might accidentally fly in through an open window but that would be rare.

((WN)) What do the cicadas eat?

CS: Cicadas suck xylem fluid (the watery fluid coming up from the roots of plants) in deciduous forest trees and herbs. Essential amino acids in the cicada diet are supplied by their bacterial endosymbionts. There are two species of endosymbionts. One makes 8 essential amino acids and one makes two essential amino acids.

((WN)) Do cicadas damage crops or city vegetation? What damage?

CS: Cicadas do not chew leave so they do not damage crops like other insects. They can inflict some damage by their egg laying. Cicadas lay eggs in pencil-sized tree branches. If there are not enough branches available, too many female cicadas may lay eggs in a single branch weakening it and making it susceptible to breakage by wind. This can sometimes cause damage in fruit orchards. If the branches break, the eggs die so this behavior is selected against by natural selection.

((WN)) Thank you.

CS: You’re welcome. I am happy to have this opportunity to communicate with your readers!
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First penis transplant reversed after two weeks

Friday, September 22, 2006

Two weeks after Chinese surgeons successfully transplanted a donated penis onto an unidentified 44-year-old man, they were requested to remove it. Despite functioning perfectly and having been physically accepted by the body, the patient and his wife asked for the penis to be amputated, due to the severe psychological trauma they had both suffered.

A team of surgeons led by Dr Hu Weilie took 15 hours to attach the penis, which was donated by the family of a 22-year-old brain-dead patient. Doctors have successfully re-attached patients’ own severed members in the past, but this was the first use of a second-party penis.

The psychological rejection of the penis is not unusual from a medical point of view; in 2001 surgeons removed the world’s first transplanted hand from donee Clint Hallam, who wanted the “hideous and withered” hand to be removed because he had become “mentally detached” from it. The team that led the transplant have since performed the world’s first double arm transplant.

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