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Payment pending; Canadian recording industry set for six billion penalties?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A report published last week in the Toronto Star by Professor Michael Geist of Canada’s University of Ottawa claims a copyright case under the Class Proceedings Act of 1992 may see the country’s largest players in the music industry facing upwards of C$6 billion in penalties.

The case is being led by the family and estate of the late jazz musician Chet Baker; moving to take legal action against four major labels in the country, and their parent companies. The dispute centres around unpaid royalties and licensing fees for use of Baker’s music, and hundreds of thousands of other works. The suit was initially filed in August last year, but amended and reissued on October 6, two months later. At that point both the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors (SODRAC) were also named defendants.

January this year SODRAC and CMRRA switch sides, joining Baker et al. as plaintiffs against Sony BMG Music, EMI Music Canada, Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada. David A. Basskin, President and CEO of CMRRA, with a professional law background, stated in a sworn affidavit that his organisation made numerous attempts over the last 20 years to reduce what is known as the “pending list”, a list of works not correctly licensed for reproduction; a list of copyright infringements in the eyes of the Baker legal team.

The theoretical principle of the list is to allow timely commercial release while rights and apportionment of monies due are resolved. Basskin complains that it is “economically infeasible to implement the systems that would be needed to resolve the issues internally”. And, “[…] for their part, the record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that, in the view of CMRRA, would help to resolve the problem.”

The Baker action demands that the four named major labels pay for and submit to an independent audit of their books, “including the contents of the ‘Pending Lists'”. Seeking an assessment of gains made by the record companies in “failure or refusal to compensate the class members for their musical works”, additional demands are for either damages and profits per the law applicable in a class action, or statutory damages per the Copyright Act for copyright infringement.

[…] for their part, the record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that, in the view of CMRRA, would help to resolve the problem.

This forms the basis for Professor Geist’s six billion dollar calculation along with Basskin’s sworn testimony that the pending lists cover over 300,000 items; with each item counted as an infringement, the minimum statutory damages per case are CA$500, the maximum $20,000.

Basskin’s affidavit on behalf of CMRRA goes into detail on the history leading up to the current situation and class action lawsuit; a previous compulsory license scheme, with poor recordkeeping requirements, and which, had a decline in real terms to one of the lowest fees in the world, was eventually abolished and the mechanical license system introduced. The CMRRA went on to become a significant representative of music publishers and copyright holders, and the pending list an instrument to deal with situations where mechanical rights were as-yet not completely negotiated. Basskin’s affidavit claiming the list grew and circumstances worsened as time progressed.

The Mechanical Licensing Agreement (MLA) between the “majors'” industry body, an attached exhibit to the affidavit, is set to expire December 31, 2012; this is between CMRRA and the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). With the original MLA expiring at end September 1990, CMRRA negotiated more detailed terms and a “code of conduct”. Subsequent agreements were drawn up in 1998, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Basskin asserts that the named record company defendants are the “major” labels in Canada and states they “are also responsible for creating, maintaining and administering the so-called “Pending Lists” that are the subject of the current litigation”; that, specific to publishing, divisions of the four represent the “‘major’ music publishers active in Canada”. Yet the number of music publishers they represent has decreased over time due to consolidation and defection from the CRIA.

Geist summarizes the record company strategy as “exploit now, pay later if at all”. This despite the CMRRA and SODRAC being required to give lists of all collections they represented to record labels, and for record labels to supply copies of material being released to permit assessment of content that either group may represent interested parties for. Where actual Mechanical License Agreements are in place, Basskin implies their terms are particularly broad and preclude any party exercising their legal right to decline to license.

Specific to the current Mechanical Licensing Agreement (MLA) between the CMRRA and the CRIA; a “label is required to provide an updated cumulative Pending List to CMRRA with each quarterly payment of royalties under the MLA.” The CMRRA is required to review the list and collect where appropriate royalties and interest due. Basskin describes his first encounter with pending lists, having never heard of them before 1989, thus:

[…I]n the early years of my tenure, CRMMA received Pending Lists from the record labels in the form of paper printouts of information. The information contained on these lists varied from record label to record label, [… i]n fact, within a few days after my arrival at CMRRA, I recall my predecessor, Paul Berry, directing my attention to a large stack of paper, about two feet high. and informing me that it was PolyGram’s most recent Pending List. Prior to that introduction I had never heard of Pending Lists.

Alain Lauzon, General Manager of Canada’s Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SODRAC) submitted his followup affidavit January 28, 2009 to be attached to the case and identify the society as a plaintiff. As such, he up-front states “I have knowledge of the matters set out herein.” Lauzon, a qualified Chartered Accountant with an IT specialisation, joined SODRAC in 2002 with “over 20 years of business experience.” He is responsible for “negotiation and administration of industry-wide agreements for the licensing of music reproduction and distribution”; licensing of radio and online music services use is within his remit.

Lauzon makes it clear that Baker’s estate, other rightsholders enjoined to the case, SODRAC, and CMRRA, have reached an agreed settlement; they wish to move forward with a class proceeding against the four main members of the CRIA. He requests that the court recognise this in relation to the initially accepted case from August 2008.

The responsibility to obtain mechanical licenses for recordings manufactured and/or released in Canada falls with the Canadian labels by law, by industry custom, and by contractual agreement.

The preamble of the affidavit continues to express strong agreement with that of David Basskin from CMRRA. Lauzon concurs regarding growing use of “pending lists” and that “[…] record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that would help to resolve the Pending List problem.”

With his background as an authority, Lauzon states with confidence that SODRAC represents “approximately 10 to 15% of all musical works that are reproduced on sound recordings sold in Canada.” For Quebec the figure is more than 50%.

Lauzon agrees that the four named record company defendants are the “major” labels in Canada, and that smaller independent labels will usually work with them or an independent distribution company; and Basskin’s statement that “[t]he responsibility to obtain mechanical licenses for recordings manufactured and/or released in Canada falls with the Canadian labels by law, by industry custom, and by contractual agreement.”

Wikinews attempted to contact people at the four named defendant CRIA-member record labels. The recipient of an email that Wikinews sent to Warner Brothers Canada forwarded our initial correspondence to Hogarth PR; the other three majors failed to respond in a timely fashion. Don Hogarth responded to Wikinewsie Brian McNeil, and, without addressing any of the submitted questions, recommended a blog entry by Barry Sookman as, what he claimed is, a more accurate representation of the facts of the case.

I am aware of another viewpoint that provides a reasonably deep explanation of the facts, at www.barrysookman.com. If you check the bio on his site, you’ll see that he is very qualified to speak on these issues. This may answer some of your questions. I hope that helps.

Sookman is a lobbyist at the Canadian Parliament who works in the employ of the the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). Hogarth gave no indication or disclosure of this; his direction to the blog is to a posting with numerous factual inaccuracies, misdirecting statements, or possibly even lies; if not lies, Sookman is undoubtedly not careful or “very qualified” in the way he speaks on the issue.

Sookman’s blog post opens with a blast at Professor Geist: “his attacks use exaggeration, misleading information and half truths to achieve his obvious ends”. Sookman attempts to dismiss any newsworthiness in Geist’s article;

[… A]s if something new has happened with the case. In fact, the case was started in August 2008 (not October 2008 as asserted by Prof. Geist). It also hasn’t only been going on “for the past year”, as he claims. Chet Baker isn’t “about to add a new claim to fame”. Despite having started over a year and a half ago, the class action case hasn’t even been certified yet. So why the fervour to publicise the case now?
HAVE YOUR SAY
Should the court use admitted unpaid amounts, or maximum statutory damages – as the record industry normally seeks against filesharers?
Add or view comments

As the extracted [see right] stamp, date, and signature, shows, the court accepted amendments to the case and its submission, as Professor Geist asserts, on October 6. The previously mentioned submissions by the heads of CMRRA and SODRAC were indeed actions within the past year; that of SODRAC’s Alain Louzon being January 28 this year.

Sookman continues his attack on Professor Geist, omitting that the reverse appears the case; analysis of his blog’s sitemap reveals he wrote a 44-page attack on Professor Geist in February 2008, accusing him of manipulating the media and using influence on Facebook to oppose copyright reform favourable to the CRIA. In the more current post he states:

Prof. Geist tries to taint the recording industry as blatant copyright infringers, without ever delving into the industry wide accepted custom for clearing mechanical rights. The pending list system, which has been around for decades, represents an agreed upon industry wide consensus that songwriters, music publishers (who represent songwriters) and the recording industry use and rely on to ensure that music gets released and to the market efficiently and the proper copyright owners get compensated.

This characterisation of the pending list only matches court records in that it “has been around for decades”. CMRRA’s Basskin, a lawyer and industry insider, goes into great detail on the major labels resisting twenty years of collective societies fighting, and failing, to negotiate a situation where the labels take adequate measures to mechanically license works and pay due fees, royalties, and accrued interest.

What Sookman clearly overlooks is that, without factoring in any interest amounts, the dollar value of the pending list is increasing, as shown with the following two tables for mid-2008.

As is clear, there is an increase of C$1,101,987.83 in a three-month period. Should this rate of increase in the value of the pending list continue and Sony’s unvalued pending list be factored in, the CRIA’s four major labels will have an outstanding debt of at least C$73 million by end-2012 when the association’s Mechanical Licensing Agreement runs out.

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Queensland braces for Category 5 cyclone

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thousands of residents are evacuating coastal areas of far north Queensland (QLD), set to be lashed by Cyclone Larry tomorrow morning. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology warns that the “very destructive core of Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry, with extreme gusts up to 280 km/hr (174 mph) should cross the coast between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. AEST on Monday (Sunday, 2100 to 2300 UTC). Destructive winds are expected to commence along the coast between Ingham and Port Douglas. Gales are already being experienced along the exposed coast in the warning area.”

Tropical Cyclone Larry, currently building off far north Queensland, is expected to intensify before crossing the coast. Queensland tropical cyclone warning centre spokesman Bruce Gunn says people should treat warnings very seriously. “This is the worst cyclone we have had for many, many years,” he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says the cyclone poses a “very serious threat to life and property” and will now post warnings on the hour on its website.

The BOM also warns coastal residents between Cairns and Townsville of dangerous storm tide when the cyclone crosses the coast. The bureau says the sea is likely to steadily rise up to a level which will be significantly above the normal tide, with damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland. People living in those areas should be prepared to evacuate if advised by authorities.

Mandatory evacuations have been enforced in low-lying seafront areas, including in the Johnstone and Cardwell shires south of Cairns, which are expected to bear the force of Larry and its four metre storm surge.

Disaster coordination centres have been activated in Cairns and Townsville. “There have been mandatory evacuations of coastal shires south of Cairns … and emergency shelters set up for people who feel at risk with nowhere to go,” said a Cairns City Council Disaster Coordination Centre spokesman. “It’s most likely thousands of people are evacuating to avoid the high tide.”

Premier Peter Beattie has issued a disaster declaration. Local governments now have the power to enforce mandatory evacuations. Queensland Education Department announced that schools in the hardest hit areas will be closed tomorrow, while flights to Townsville and Cairns have been cancelled.

State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers are doorknocking and advising residents to leave. Bruce Gunn from the Queensland cyclone warning centre says the cyclone will coincide with a high tide. “We are talking seawater a couple of metres above the high-tide mark, possibly more than that, with waves on top, so this is a very serious situation we are talking about,” he said.

Mr Gunn told the ABC that severe weather will be experienced several hours before the cyclone reaches the coast. “While we are saying the coastal crossing will be between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. AEST, the few hours leading up to that will be rather bumpy — not very nice to experience,” he said.

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Indian Railways tie up with Bombardier Transportation

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The Indian Railways (IR) has tied up with the Canadian transport solutions major Bombardier Transportation to produce electronic freight locomotives in the country for the proposed Rupee (Rs) 22,000-crore (one crore is 10 million) dedicated freight corridors on the eastern and western routes.

Bombardier produces regional aircraft and business jets to rail transportation equipment.

Bombardier Transportation officials have met Railways’ officials for exploring the option of setting up a greenfield electronic freight locomotive manufacturing facility and an assembling unit in India.

Analysts feels that IR will need at least 500-600 electronic freight locomotives, besides the same number of diesel locomotives for dedicated freight corridors in the first phase. “Conservative estimates for a normal locomotive are between Rs 13 crore and Rs 15 crore. The investment required for manufacturing electronic freight locomotives is around Rs 10,000 crore,” the analysts said.

It is also been learned that IR would also pick up a stake in this project.

Bombardier President, Transportation, Andre Navarri confirmed talks with IR, “We are keen to take part in the dedicated freight corridor project, but the nature of the agreement with the Indian government is yet to be finalized.”

IR will come up with a detailed plan and tenders for the proposed corridor by mid-November.

Celebrities contribute to Katrina relief

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Celebrities contribute to Katrina relief
Author: RdBXvzh4

22 Sep

Published:Wednesday, September 7, 2005Updated:Saturday, September 10, 2005 (Travolta, Preston, Moore, Stones, Three Doors Down, Johnson, Smith)

After Hurricane Katrina passed across the United States, various artists and media stars have leapt at a call to action.

John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston flew his private plane to deliver a load of supplies and tetanus vaccine to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Part of a Scientology project which has been using their non-massage “assists”, in an interview Preston mentioned that “auditing” had also been performed on victims.

Kevin Smith is holding an online auction on his Web site.

Sean Penn actually went to Louisiana. After loading down a small boat with his entourage, it was discovered one of them had neglected to seal a hole in the bottom. Penn was wearing a white vest rather than a life vest while bailing. After the motor wouldn’t start, the crew paddled down a flooded New Orleans street. Bystanders jeered at whether any victims could fit aboard the crowded craft. No report on rescue stunts. Local authorities had previously been criticized for not allowing volunteer boaters in to help.

Morgan Freeman, whose home fared well, is organizing an online auction of celebrity items at charityfolks.com, to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Curt Schilling opened his home to a family of nine driven out of their New Orleans home. The Schilling family will provide housing for the Fields for a year while their home in New Orleans is rebuilt and repaired.

Some celebrities “graced” disaster zones with their presence in the days following Katrina.

Singer Macy Gray and television personality Phil McGraw visited Houston’s Astrodome.

Celebrities visiting New Orleans include Michael Moore (opposite side of lake), singer Harry Connick, Jr., CNN’s Anderson Cooper, actor Jamie Foxx, singer Faith Hill, actor Matthew McConaughey, singer Lisa Marie Presley, comedian Chris Rock, and The Oprah Winfrey Show contributor Lisa Ling and interior decorator Nate Berkus.

Oprah Winfrey visited New Orleans, Houston, and Mississippi.

News briefs:May 27, 2010

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News briefs:May 27, 2010
Author: RdBXvzh4

18 Sep

Wikinews Audio Briefs Credits
Produced By
Turtlestack
Recorded By
Turtlestack
Written By
Turtlestack
Listen To This Brief

Problems? See our media guide.

[edit]

News briefs:August 5, 2010

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News briefs:August 5, 2010
Author: RdBXvzh4

17 Sep

Wikinews Audio Briefs Credits
Produced By
Turtlestack
Recorded By
Turtlestack
Written By
Turtlestack
Listen To This Brief

Problems? See our media guide.

Six-year-old boy on vacation in Venezuela dies in plane crash

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Six-year-old boy on vacation in Venezuela dies in plane crash
Author: RdBXvzh4

17 Sep

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Six-year-old Thomas David Horne from the United Kingdom has died and eleven other British tourists were injured Friday when their plane crashed in Canaima National Park in Venezuela. They were on a sight seeing tour of the world’s tallest waterfalls, the Angel Falls.

The single engine, nine-seater Cessna 208 Caravan, lifted off shortly before the end of the runway, lost power, and then surged briefly before plummeting into the Venezuelan jungle in front of the 3,200 ft falls.

“It started to take off and we sensed it was losing power. Then it seemed to get it back and lifted off just 200 metres before the end of the runway. Then it dived into the trees,” reported Makeli Freire, a park tour guide.

Three of the injured sustained serious injuries, while the others suffered mainly broken bones. Thomas Horne, who sustained serious head injuries, died on the way to a local hospital. The pilot, co-pilot and tour guide were among the injured. Everyone on board was flown to Ciudad Bolívar, the capital city of Venezuela’s Bolívar state, where they were treated for their injuries. Among the injured were Thomas’s mother and father Jane and David who were among those who had broken bones. They were British tourists finishing up a two week holiday to Venezuela.

“The young boy died as he was being flown to hospital. His parents are both physically OK but are completely distraught over the loss of their son,” said Maiker Puga, of the Ciudad Bolivar clinic.

Liz and her husband Keith Grainger and S. Phillips, also British tourists, were also injured in the crash. The names of the three other British tourists and the three person crew who were injured have not been released at this time.

The plane tour was offered by First Choice, a division of TUI Travel PLC who extended their “heartfelt sympathy to family and friends during this deeply sad time.” LTA airline has suspended further flights until the investigation is concluded.

June Holman, Thomas’s aunt who was not on holidays said, that “there is nothing worse than losing a loved one, especially not a young child with their whole life ahead of them. The thoughts of us all are with his parents Jane and Dave at this very sad time.”

British computer scientist’s new “nullity” idea provokes reaction from mathematicians

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British computer scientist’s new “nullity” idea provokes reaction from mathematicians
Author: RdBXvzh4

17 Sep

Monday, December 11, 2006

On December 7, BBC News reported a story about Dr James Anderson, a teacher in the Computer Science department at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. In the report it was stated that Anderson had “solved a very important problem” that was 1200 years old, the problem of division by zero. According to the BBC, Anderson had created a new number, that he had named “nullity”, that lay outside of the real number line. Anderson terms this number a “transreal number”, and denotes it with the Greek letter ? {\displaystyle \Phi } . He had taught this number to pupils at Highdown School, in Emmer Green, Reading.

The BBC report provoked many reactions from mathematicians and others.

In reaction to the story, Mark C. Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist and researcher, posted a web log entry describing Anderson as an “idiot math teacher”, and describing the BBC’s story as “absolutely infuriating” and a story that “does an excellent job of demonstrating what total innumerate idiots reporters are”. Chu-Carroll stated that there was, in fact, no actual problem to be solved in the first place. “There is no number that meaningfully expresses the concept of what it means to divide by zero.”, he wrote, stating that all that Anderson had done was “assign a name to the concept of ‘not a number'”, something which was “not new” in that the IEEE floating-point standard, which describes how computers represent floating-point numbers, had included a concept of “not a number”, termed “NaN“, since 1985. Chu-Carroll further continued:

“Basically, he’s defined a non-solution to a non-problem. And by teaching it to his students, he’s doing them a great disservice. They’re going to leave his class believing that he’s a great genius who’s solved a supposed fundamental problem of math, and believing in this silly nullity thing as a valid mathematical concept.
“It’s not like there isn’t already enough stuff in basic math for kids to learn; there’s no excuse for taking advantage of a passive audience to shove this nonsense down their throats as an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
“To make matters worse, this idiot is a computer science professor! No one who’s studied CS should be able to get away with believing that re-inventing the concept of NaN is something noteworthy or profound; and no one who’s studied CS should think that defining meaningless values can somehow magically make invalid computations produce meaningful results. I’m ashamed for my field.”

There have been a wide range of other reactions from other people to the BBC news story. Comments range from the humorous and the ironic, such as the B1FF-style observation that “DIVIDION[sic] BY ZERO IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE MY CALCULATOR SAYS SO AND IT IS THE TRUTH” and the Chuck Norris Fact that “Only Chuck Norris can divide by zero.” (to which another reader replied “Chuck Norris just looks at zero, and it divides itself.”); through vigourous defences of Dr Anderson, with several people quoting the lyrics to Ira Gershwin‘s song “They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)”; to detailed mathematical discussions of Anderson’s proposed axioms of transfinite numbers.

Several readers have commented that they consider this to have damaged the reputation of the Computer Science department, and even the reputation of the University of Reading as a whole. “By publishing his childish nonsense the BBC actively harms the reputation of Reading University.” wrote one reader. “Looking forward to seeing Reading University maths application plummit.” wrote another. “Ignore all research papers from the University of Reading.” wrote a third. “I’m not sure why you refer to Reading as a ‘university’. This is a place the BBC reports as closing down its physics department because it’s too hard. Lecturers at Reading should stick to folk dancing and knitting, leaving academic subjects to grown ups.” wrote a fourth. Steve Kramarsky lamented that Dr Anderson is not from the “University of ‘Rithmetic“.

Several readers criticised the journalists at the BBC who ran the story for not apparently contacting any mathematicians about Dr Anderson’s idea. “Journalists are meant to check facts, not just accept whatever they are told by a self-interested third party and publish it without question.” wrote one reader on the BBC’s web site. However, on Slashdot another reader countered “The report is from Berkshire local news. Berkshire! Do you really expect a local news team to have a maths specialist? Finding a newsworthy story in Berkshire probably isn’t that easy, so local journalists have to cover any piece of fluff that comes up. Your attitude to the journalist should be sympathy, not scorn.”

Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science column in The Guardian, wrote on his web log that “what is odd is a reporter, editor, producer, newsroom, team, cameraman, soundman, TV channel, web editor, web copy writer, and so on, all thinking it’s a good idea to cover a brilliant new scientific breakthrough whilst clearly knowing nothing about the context. Maths isn’t that hard, you could even make a call to a mathematician about it.”, continuing that “it’s all very well for the BBC to think they’re being balanced and clever getting Dr Anderson back in to answer queries about his theory on Tuesday, but that rather skips the issue, and shines the spotlight quite unfairly on him (he looks like a very alright bloke to me).”.

From reading comments on his own web log as well as elsewhere, Goldacre concluded that he thought that “a lot of people might feel it’s reporter Ben Moore, and the rest of his doubtless extensive team, the people who drove the story, who we’d want to see answering the questions from the mathematicians.”.

Andrej Bauer, a professional mathematician from Slovenia writing on the Bad Science web log, stated that “whoever reported on this failed to call a university professor to check whether it was really new. Any university professor would have told this reporter that there are many ways of dealing with division by zero, and that Mr. Anderson’s was just one of known ones.”

Ollie Williams, one of the BBC Radio Berkshire reporters who wrote the BBC story, initially stated that “It seems odd to me that his theory would get as far as television if it’s so easily blown out of the water by visitors to our site, so there must be something more to it.” and directly responded to criticisms of BBC journalism on several points on his web log.

He pointed out that people should remember that his target audience was local people in Berkshire with no mathematical knowledge, and that he was “not writing for a global audience of mathematicians”. “Some people have had a go at Dr Anderson for using simplified terminology too,” he continued, “but he knows we’re playing to a mainstream audience, and at the time we filmed him, he was showing his theory to a class of schoolchildren. Those circumstances were never going to breed an in-depth half-hour scientific discussion, and none of our regular readers would want that.”.

On the matter of fact checking, he replied that “if you only want us to report scientific news once it’s appeared, peer-reviewed, in a recognised journal, it’s going to be very dry, and it probably won’t be news.”, adding that “It’s not for the BBC to become a journal of mathematics — that’s the job of journals of mathematics. It’s for the BBC to provide lively science reporting that engages and involves people. And if you look at the original page, you’ll find a list as long as your arm of engaged and involved people.”.

Williams pointed out that “We did not present Dr Anderson’s theory as gospel, although with hindsight it could have been made clearer that this is very much a theory and by no means universally accepted. But we certainly weren’t shouting a mathematical revolution from the rooftops. Dr Anderson has, in one or two places, been chastised for coming to the media with his theory instead of his peers — a sure sign of a quack, boffin and/or crank according to one blogger. Actually, one of our reporters happened to meet him during a demonstration against the closure of the university’s physics department a couple of weeks ago, got chatting, and discovered Dr Anderson reckoned he was onto something. He certainly didn’t break the door down looking for media coverage.”.

Some commentators, at the BBC web page and at Slashdot, have attempted serious mathematical descriptions of what Anderson has done, and subjected it to analysis. One description was that Anderson has taken the field of real numbers and given it complete closure so that all six of the common arithmetic operators were surjective functions, resulting in “an object which is barely a commutative ring (with operators with tons of funky corner cases)” and no actual gain “in terms of new theorems or strong relation statements from the extra axioms he has to tack on”.

Jamie Sawyer, a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Warwick writing in the Warwick Maths Society discussion forum, describes what Anderson has done as deciding that R ? { ? ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,+\infty \rbrace } , the so-called extended real number line, is “not good enough […] because of the wonderful issue of what 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} is equal to” and therefore creating a number system R ? { ? ? , ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,\Phi ,+\infty \rbrace } .

Andrej Bauer stated that Anderson’s axioms of transreal arithmetic “are far from being original. First, you can adjoin + ? {\displaystyle +\infty } and ? ? {\displaystyle -\infty } to obtain something called the extended real line. Then you can adjoin a bottom element to represent an undefined value. This is all standard and quite old. In fact, it is well known in domain theory, which deals with how to represent things we compute with, that adjoining just bottom to the reals is not a good idea. It is better to adjoin many so-called partial elements, which denote approximations to reals. Bottom is then just the trivial approximation which means something like ‘any real’ or ‘undefined real’.”

Commentators have pointed out that in the field of mathematical analysis, 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} (which Anderson has defined axiomatically to be ? {\displaystyle \Phi } ) is the limit of several functions, each of which tends to a different value at its limit:

  • lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} has two different limits, depending from whether x {\displaystyle x} approaches zero from a positive or from a negative direction.
  • lim x ? 0 0 x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {0}{x}}} also has two different limits. (This is the argument that commentators gave. In fact, 0 x {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{x}}} has the value 0 {\displaystyle 0} for all x ? 0 {\displaystyle x\neq 0} , and thus only one limit. It is simply discontinuous for x = 0 {\displaystyle x=0} . However, that limit is different to the two limits for lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} , supporting the commentators’ main point that the values of the various limits are all different.)
  • Whilst sin ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle \sin 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 sin ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {\sin x}{x}}} can be shown to be 1, by expanding the sine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 1.
  • Whilst 1 ? cos ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle 1-\cos 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 1 ? cos ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {1-\cos x}{x}}} can be shown to be 0, by expanding the cosine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series subtracted from 1 by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 0.

Commentators have also noted l’Hôpital’s rule.

It has been pointed out that Anderson’s set of transreal numbers is not, unlike the set of real numbers, a mathematical field. Simon Tatham, author of PuTTY, stated that Anderson’s system “doesn’t even think about the field axioms: addition is no longer invertible, multiplication isn’t invertible on nullity or infinity (or zero, but that’s expected!). So if you’re working in the transreals or transrationals, you can’t do simple algebraic transformations such as cancelling x {\displaystyle x} and ? x {\displaystyle -x} when both occur in the same expression, because that transformation becomes invalid if x {\displaystyle x} is nullity or infinity. So even the simplest exercises of ordinary algebra spew off a constant stream of ‘unless x is nullity’ special cases which you have to deal with separately — in much the same way that the occasional division spews off an ‘unless x is zero’ special case, only much more often.”

Tatham stated that “It’s telling that this monstrosity has been dreamed up by a computer scientist: persistent error indicators and universal absorbing states can often be good computer science, but he’s stepped way outside his field of competence if he thinks that that also makes them good maths.”, continuing that Anderson has “also totally missed the point when he tries to compute things like 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} using his arithmetic. The reason why things like that are generally considered to be ill-defined is not because of a lack of facile ‘proofs’ showing them to have one value or another; it’s because of a surfeit of such ‘proofs’ all of which disagree! Adding another one does not (as he appears to believe) solve any problem at all.” (In other words: 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} is what is known in mathematical analysis as an indeterminate form.)

To many observers, it appears that Anderson has done nothing more than re-invent the idea of “NaN“, a special value that computers have been using in floating-point calculations to represent undefined results for over two decades. In the various international standards for computing, including the IEEE floating-point standard and IBM’s standard for decimal arithmetic, a division of any non-zero number by zero results in one of two special infinity values, “+Inf” or “-Inf”, the sign of the infinity determined by the signs of the two operands (Negative zero exists in floating-point representations.); and a division of zero by zero results in NaN.

Anderson himself denies that he has re-invented NaN, and in fact claims that there are problems with NaN that are not shared by nullity. According to Anderson, “mathematical arithmetic is sociologically invalid” and IEEE floating-point arithmetic, with NaN, is also faulty. In one of his papers on a “perspex machine” dealing with “The Axioms of Transreal Arithmetic” (Jamie Sawyer writes that he has “worries about something which appears to be named after a plastic” — “Perspex” being a trade name for polymethyl methacrylate in the U.K..) Anderson writes:

We cannot accept an arithmetic in which a number is not equal to itself (NaN != NaN), or in which there are three kinds of numbers: plain numbers, silent numbers, and signalling numbers; because, on writing such a number down, in daily discourse, we can not always distinguish which kind of number it is and, even if we adopt some notational convention to make the distinction clear, we cannot know how the signalling numbers are to be used in the absence of having the whole program and computer that computed them available. So whilst IEEE floating-point arithmetic is an improvement on real arithmetic, in so far as it is total, not partial, both arithmetics are invalid models of arithmetic.

In fact, the standard convention for distinguishing the two types of NaNs when writing them down can be seen in ISO/IEC 10967, another international standard for how computers deal with numbers, which uses “qNaN” for non-signalling (“quiet”) NaNs and “sNaN” for signalling NaNs. Anderson continues:

[NaN’s] semantics are not defined, except by a long list of special cases in the IEEE standard.

“In other words,” writes Scott Lamb, a BSc. in Computer Science from the University of Idaho, “they are defined, but he doesn’t like the definition.”.

The main difference between nullity and NaN, according to both Anderson and commentators, is that nullity compares equal to nullity, whereas NaN does not compare equal to NaN. Commentators have pointed out that in very short order this difference leads to contradictory results. They stated that it requires only a few lines of proof, for example, to demonstrate that in Anderson’s system of “transreal arithmetic” both 1 = 2 {\displaystyle 1=2} and 1 ? 2 {\displaystyle 1\neq 2} , after which, in one commentator’s words, one can “prove anything that you like”. In aiming to provide a complete system of arithmetic, by adding extra axioms defining the results of the division of zero by zero and of the consequent operations on that result, half as many again as the number of axioms of real-number arithmetic, Anderson has produced a self-contradictory system of arithmetic, in accordance with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

One reader-submitted comment appended to the BBC news article read “Step 1. Create solution 2. Create problem 3. PROFIT!”, an allusion to the business plan employed by the underpants gnomes of the comedy television series South Park. In fact, Anderson does plan to profit from nullity, having registered on the 27th of July, 2006 a private limited company named Transreal Computing Ltd, whose mission statement is “to develop hardware and software to bring you fast and safe computation that does not fail on division by zero” and to “promote education and training in transreal computing”. The company is currently “in the research and development phase prior to trading in hardware and software”.

In a presentation given to potential investors in his company at the ANGLE plc showcase on the 28th of November, 2006, held at the University of Reading, Anderson stated his aims for the company as being:

To investors, Anderson makes the following promises:

  • “I will help you develop a curriculum for transreal arithmetic if you want me to.”
  • “I will help you unify QED and gravitation if you want me to.”
  • “I will build a transreal supercomputer.”

He asks potential investors:

  • “How much would you pay to know that the engine in your ship, car, aeroplane, or heart pacemaker won’t just stop dead?”
  • “How much would you pay to know that your Government’s computer controlled military hardware won’t just stop or misfire?”

The current models of computer arithmetic are, in fact, already designed to allow programmers to write programs that will continue in the event of a division by zero. The IEEE’s Frequently Asked Questions document for the floating-point standard gives this reply to the question “Why doesn’t division by zero (or overflow, or underflow) stop the program or trigger an error?”:

“The [IEEE] 754 model encourages robust programs. It is intended not only for numerical analysts but also for spreadsheet users, database systems, or even coffee pots. The propagation rules for NaNs and infinities allow inconsequential exceptions to vanish. Similarly, gradual underflow maintains error properties over a precision’s range.
“When exceptional situations need attention, they can be examined immediately via traps or at a convenient time via status flags. Traps can be used to stop a program, but unrecoverable situations are extremely rare. Simply stopping a program is not an option for embedded systems or network agents. More often, traps log diagnostic information or substitute valid results.”

Simon Tatham stated that there is a basic problem with Anderson’s ideas, and thus with the idea of building a transreal supercomputer: “It’s a category error. The Anderson transrationals and transreals are theoretical algebraic structures, capable of representing arbitrarily big and arbitrarily precise numbers. So the question of their error-propagation semantics is totally meaningless: you don’t use them for down-and-dirty error-prone real computation, you use them for proving theorems. If you want to use this sort of thing in a computer, you have to think up some concrete representation of Anderson transfoos in bits and bytes, which will (if only by the limits of available memory) be unable to encompass the entire range of the structure. And the point at which you make this transition from theoretical abstract algebra to concrete bits and bytes is precisely where you should also be putting in error handling, because it’s where errors start to become possible. We define our theoretical algebraic structures to obey lots of axioms (like the field axioms, and total ordering) which make it possible to reason about them efficiently in the proving of theorems. We define our practical number representations in a computer to make it easy to detect errors. The Anderson transfoos are a consequence of fundamentally confusing the one with the other, and that by itself ought to be sufficient reason to hurl them aside with great force.”

Geomerics, a start-up company specializing in simulation software for physics and lighting and funded by ANGLE plc, had been asked to look into Anderson’s work by an unnamed client. Rich Wareham, a Senior Research and Development Engineer at Geomerics and a MEng. from the University of Cambridge, stated that Anderson’s system “might be a more interesting set of axioms for dealing with arithmetic exceptions but it isn’t the first attempt at just defining away the problem. Indeed it doesn’t fundamentally change anything. The reason computer programs crash when they divide by zero is not that the hardware can produce no result, merely that the programmer has not dealt with NaNs as they propagate through. Not dealing with nullities will similarly lead to program crashes.”

“Do the Anderson transrational semantics give any advantage over the IEEE ones?”, Wareham asked, answering “Well one assumes they have been thought out to be useful in themselves rather than to just propagate errors but I’m not sure that seeing a nullity pop out of your code would lead you to do anything other than what would happen if a NaN or Inf popped out, namely signal an error.”.

Israel Journal: The Holy Land has an image problem

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Israel Journal: The Holy Land has an image problem
Author: RdBXvzh4

14 Sep

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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

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

At 70 miles per hour halfway to Kennedy Airport the scent of alcohol filled the back of the cab when the driver turned around and said, “There is no traffic. It is good. Quick.” It was fitting. Up to that point I sat staring out the window thinking about all the warnings my family and friends gave me about taking care of my safety in Israel. Although I have traveled a good deal and never found a place I visited to be as it was depicted in the American media–Cuba is nothing like it is portrayed–the intonations to steer clear of pizza parlors and buses weighed on me. “Whatever you do, David, don’t go to Gaza or take a bus! Don’t. Go. To. Gaza,” my mother said several times, “Just, you know, there’s a war going on over there. If you see anyone praying to Allah and sweating, run!”

Until the cab driver turned around and smiled through his boozy breath, my mind had raced with thoughts of my life ending head bowed on Al-Jazeera, surrounded by gunmen forcing me to denounce my country. I thought about Gay Talese, desperate to go to Iraq, who told me he would tell “the bastards” to “go ahead, make my day” because he would die doing what he loved: working on a story. Strangely, I found solace in my drunken driver to distract me from these thoughts, and instead I thought about Carolyn Doran, the former Wikimedia COO who has caused a firestorm for the foundation when they hired her unaware that not only is she a quadruple-convicted drunk driver, but that she also shot a boyfriend.

My flight from Kennedy to Tel Aviv had the hallmarks of a caricatured bad flight: Despite my request for an aisle, I found myself in a center seat. To my right was a morbidly obese woman in a purple beret breast-feeding her baby. In the seat to my left was another infant in a baby seat, and to his left was his mother holding yet a third baby in her lap. When I woke two of the babies were suspended from the wall in what looked like airplane baby crib trampolines. Surprisingly, it was one of the better 11 hour flights I have had. All three babies slept through the entire trip and when I woke from one nap I found myself lying against what felt like memory foam, but turned out to be the obese woman, whose largess had spilled over our hapless arm rest and into my seat. It was…not unpleasant.

Upon arrival at our hotel in Tel Aviv we were given exactly ten minutes to shower and change before we had to leave to have dinner with Dr. Yossi Vardi–the father of Israeli invention, as he is known. Jimmy Wales had introduced me to him over e-mail, and I had done my research on the man who funded and sold the ICQ network. On the bus over there Stacy Perman and David Saranga spoke about how Israel is trying to brand itself today. In particular, Perman, who writes for Businessweek, mentioned a spread in Maxim Magazine that Saranga, who is in charge of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York, was responsible for arranging. Its theme was “The Women of the Israeli Army” and featured buxom, beautiful scantily-clad Israeli girls from the armed forces. It rubbed Perman the wrong way. “The spread seemed so Lowest Common Denominator to me. What was the thinking behind that?” asked Stacy.

Saranga had no apologies for appealing to the male libido in his never-ending drive to sell Israel. “Look, I would love for Maxim’s 2.5 million readers to pick up that magazine and read about Israeli technology and our wonderful culture here. But in truth, they are not so interested in that. When we approached Maxim they asked why they should do it; after all, there are beautiful women every where. Why Israeli beautiful women? We said, ‘But Israel is the only army where women are actually fighting alongside the men.’ So they did it. Not with guns and ammunition, but just the…beautiful women of the Israeli army. When we tested how that piece worked, we found it was very, very successful.”

But what is success? The issue, Saranga explained, is Israel has an image problem. Saranga is one of the key people in the Israeli Foreign Ministry working to create a new brand name for the holy land. Indeed, one scheduled dinner for the journalists on this trip is hosted by Ido Aharoni, whose title is Head of Israel Brand Management Team. A country’s brand name is what this trip is all about. More accurately, about rebranding.

When people think of Israel, Saranga explained, they think the same things my friends and family think: it is dangerous, it is a place where you may be blown up. It is difficult to find in the American media stories that travel outside of Israeli-Palestinian-Lebanese conflict narrative. The effect, according to Saranga, has been that people do not want to come to Israel. It is too dangerous and even if safety is not an issue, it does not look like a fun place to go. According to the test research the Israeli government has conducted, people see Israel as a place that is deeply religious–it is, after all, a Jewish state–and besides holy sites such as the Temple Mount and retracing the steps of Jesus Christ, most secular American thrill seekers think there is little for them to do.

In reality, Israel is a multi-dimensional and pluralistic society with a large Arab—the majority of whom identify themselves as Palestinian—population in one of the most stable democracies in the Middle East. This trip, however, is mostly modeled to show the technology journalists what is by any measure one of the most thriving centers of innovation in the world. What we won’t see is Israel’s Arab side. When I suggested to Saranga that I would like to venture to the Jaffa Market, Tel Aviv’s thriving Arab bazaar, he looked at me perplexed, “Why would you want to go there?!” When I replied that it would be a good place to look for things to buy people back home, he still did not see why I would choose to go there. It was only when I mentioned it would also be good for photography–another purpose for this trip–did he say, “Well, that’s true. I suppose it has color.”

At dinner Dr. Yossi Vardi discussed the future of Israeli technology and pointed out that after California and Boston, Israel attracts the highest amount of venture capital incubator dollars in the world. After his speech, he turned to me with what the standard complaints I hear about Wikipedia; namely, that it is not always accurate and it is arbitrary in how it decides what is notable (in particular, the article on a product he is financing, Fring, has been deleted five times, he said, despite being a market leader). “How do you decide what is right and what is notable?” asked Vardi.

It was the same question raised by the Haaretz reporter when he interviewed me later that night for an article about my trip. With both Vardi and Haaretz I brought up the on-going Santa Claus battle on Wikipedia, in which I was heavily involved. Several editors do not want us to point out that Santa Claus is not real (think of the children!) or, absent outright supporting the myth, that we should hide he is made up. The problem is that Wikipedia is not responsible for supporting cultural myths, but to explain them.

“But I believe in Santa Claus” replied Vardi. “Who are you to say he is not real?” It is a question that was raised in the Santa talk page discussion, and a difficult challenge to answer. And like the pro-Santa editors on the Santa Claus discussion, Vardi asked “What about God? Can you say that God does not exist?” But are Santa and God really the same beyond an academic philosophical discussion, I replied. God is typically taught to explain aspects of the world around us that we can not explain ourselves through our knowledge and technology. Santa, on the other hand, is a story parents know to be false. They tell their children to believe in something and then make an elaborate effort to support something they know is not true (milk and cookies consumed; gifts given by Santa; Father Christmas tracked on the Air Force website). Eventually, the time comes when parents reveal to their children that he never existed; it was them all along eating those cookies.

“But perception,” Dr. Vardi responded, “is reality. So who are you to say? It is the question of the tree falling in the woods and whether anyone hears it.” I responded that to take knowledge to such academic and philosophical realms is fine for spirited dinner conversation, but useless when trying to engage in practical pursuits. “After all, Dr. Vardi, how would you ever solve an engineering problem if all it takes for reality to be formed is to believe something to be true? You must come across many people who believe fervently that products they are developing will be successful; do you invest based upon their beliefs? The question is always whether a tree falling makes a sound. The question is never framed as, ‘Has the tree fallen?’ It’s a given.”

Cnaan Liphshiz, the Haaretz reporter, relayed similar concerns about Wikipedia as Vardi, although less philosophical. Are we a reliable source of information? “The short answer is no,” I said. He looked at me surprised “The problem with such a question is not whether Wikipedia is reliable, but is any one source of information reliable? Studies continually show that Wikipedia is reliable at redacting information and presenting what others say to be true. But are our sources right? No person should rely upon one source for anything. They should seek several sources to form an opinion. Does Wikipedia do a better job of presenting several opinions than The New York Times or Fox News? Yes, I believe they do.”

My presence on this trip, I offered Haaretz, raised the interesting question that Web 2.0 presents: how did the Israeli foreign ministry decide on David Shankbone to report for Wikinews and Wikipedia on this trip? 25% of the answer lies in my accreditation with Wikinews and that I am able to be an original source of reporting. But 75% of the reason rests upon my contributions to Wikimedia projects, which made me stand out over other contributors. Between my photography and my interviews, I have done high profile projects on Wikipedia and its sister projects. So can other commoners like me take off to Israel when we make worthwhile contributions to high-profile Web 2.0 sites like Wikipedia? Maybe. The challenge for firms, governments and organizations today is to figure out who amongst a morass of disparate and sometimes bizarre user names can actually produce substantive work. The answer is that those who want to contribute information to the public sphere need to expend time to find who out there in Web 2.0 is worth contacting, and whether people in Web 2.0 can even do anything for them. This is the same advice I gave the Rubenstein Public Relations company (who manages PR for the Tribeca Film Festival), which is how the Israelis found me.

On a trip like this, what are the Israelis’ goals for Wikimedia? For David Saranga, it goes back to the rebranding of Israel. They simply want people to highlight aspects of their country that do not involve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hence, we are here to look at Israel’s technology sector in a head-spinning array of meetings. This made Wikipedia and Wikinews, influential sources of information that attempt to present the world as it is, an attractive option. “The fact is, there is so much going on in Israel today that nobody knows about because the media does not write stories about Israel outside of the conflict,” said Saranga. The opportunity to have someone from the Internet’s major encyclopedia visit the Weizmann Institute, the Technion and some of the holy sites was golden for them. Just don’t go to the Arab parts and whatever you do, don’t go to Gaza.

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

Category:Featured article

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Category:Featured article
Author: RdBXvzh4

14 Sep

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