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.

Man throws shoe at President of Sudan during public conference

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Witnesses claim that a man threw a shoe at Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan, during a conference at Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. The man, however, missed the President, and was instantaneously arrested by a group of guards.

Throwing shoes is a mark of great disrespect in common Arab culture. Former U.S. President, George W. Bush, was insulted in a similar fashion during a trip to Iraq in 2008. In that case, the shoe thrower was a local journalist.

No reason was immediately available for this attack. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in western Sudan’s Darfur region.

Several witnesses claimed that they had seen the incident. According to Reuters, one witness said: “The man was close to the podium and threw the shoe but it didn’t reach him.” The man was middle aged, between 40 to 50 years, and was well dressed.

“He seemed calm, even after he was arrested,” said another witness.

Bashir’s office, however, denied that any such incident had occurred, claiming that an unrecognized man had attempted to send a note to the President. According to them, this man had been arrested. Spokesperson Emad Sidahmed stated: “The man just wanted to give the president a note[…] but was intercepted by the security.”

According to witnesses, they were attending a conference for “strategic planning” at Khartoum’s Friendship Hall.

Bashir often goes to different parts of Sudan and delivers speeches. He is generally greeted by excited crowds. In early 2003, the non-Arab community revolted in Darfur, accusing Khartoum of neglecting them. While the U.N. put the death toll for this conflict at 300,000, the government claims that the figure was 10,000.

Violence in southern Sudan had also increased and the region had been engaged in a civil war till a 2005 peace deal. The deal promised a referendum, scheduled for 2011, about whether the region should form a separate breakaway republic.

Great Restaurant Discounts Are Still Available, Despite Tough Economic Times}

Great Restaurant Discounts are Still Available, Despite Tough Economic Times

by

Mindy Tyson McHorse

In the midst of an economic crunch, one of the first things consumers start to cut back on is eating out. While this is a wise way to save money, theres no need to go cold turkey. If you enjoy going out to eat or if you like to celebrate special occasions with a night out on the town, take heart: there are plenty of ways to enjoy great restaurant discounts even at your favorite diners. Below are some guidelines for finding some of the best restaurant discounts.

Look for discount booklets

Several town and city organizations offer different types of discount booklets that feature a variety of great restaurant discounts. To get such a booklet, you typically have to pay a fee in the range of $10 – $30. Once youve paid for and receive the booklet, you have access to coupons and special codes that offer you several hundred dollars in savings. Not only does this cancel out your original investment, it also makes it possible for you to eat out at a multitude of restaurants on the cheap.

Coupons in such books vary quite a bit when it comes to discounts. Some will offer buy one get one free deals while others give a flat discount anywhere from 5% to 20% off. Still others will offer you perks such as a free drink with any qualifying purchase.

Discount booklets are best for individuals who like to try a variety of foods. Most of the restaurants featured in such booklets only offer a handful of coupons, so to make the discount booklet really work for you its best to visit a wide range of eateries. If youre the type of person who only likes to dine at a select few restaurants in town, a discount booklet may not be the best option for you.

Discount booklets are commonly advertised by nonprofit organizations and schools. Many city websites feature ads for such booklets. Discount booklets may also be sold through fliers in your mail or through door-to-door efforts. Most booklets are valid for one year and then expire, often to be replaced by a new and updated version of the same booklet.

Search out holiday specials

The down economy is hitting the food business just as hard as its hitting the average consumer, so be on the lookout for specials offered by restaurants in an effort to get customers in the door. Many restaurants and diners will offer special discounted meals around holidays such as Valentines Day or St. Patricks Day. Part of this is to promote new menu items and part of it is to encourage folks to come in and celebrate at a discount. In addition, many restaurants offer perks such as free desserts for birthday celebrations, though not all follow this tradition. Its wise to call ahead to any restaurant youre considering visiting to find out whether they honor festivities such as birthdays.

Sample discount eateries

If youre not much of a chef in the kitchen or if you really just like to eat out, you can cut costs by visiting a different type of restaurant: discount eateries. These include buffet-style restaurants, order-at-the-counter cafes, and fast-food eateries. Essentially, any place where youre not being waited on by a service person for every aspect of your meal is likely to be slightly cheaper than a full-blown restaurant.

Dont worry yourself that the quality of food is lower at a location where youre not served by a waiter. The presentation is simply different, and the food may be just as good as or even better than the traditional restaurant setting.

An additional bonus to the lower prices youll find at discount eateries is the fact that you do not have to pay as much money in tips. Whereas a restaurant with full-blown server service usually dictates a tip between 15% and 20%, a buffet-style restaurant where servers only bring your beverages requires a tip closer to 10% of your bill. Eateries where you order at the counter and then pick up your food often have tip jars, and in such cases it is up to you as to whether you deem the service extraordinary enough to warrant a tip.

Change up your timing

Another way to enjoy great restaurant discounts is to simply visit at a different time of day. Consider going out to eat for lunch or breakfast instead of dinner. Youre likely to find prices slightly rolled back from the evening fare. In many cases, you can get the same meal for lunch that you can order for dinner, only in a slightly smaller serving and at a slightly lower cost. Treat this as a double perk it not only helps you cut costs, it also assists you in efforts to trim your waistline.

Ultimately, there are quite a few great restaurant discounts to be had. Though it doesnt hurt to cut back, remember that you can still enjoy a nice evening (or afternoon) of going out to eat without breaking the bank. Just keep your eyes and ears open for advertisements of discounts, specials, and coupons.

Author Bio: Mindy Tyson McHorse is a contributing writer for BillSavings.com, your information resource and community for money-saving tips and offers so you can shop, compare, and save money on just about everything.

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Great Restaurant Discounts are Still Available, Despite Tough Economic Times }

US President Obama proposes financial reform

Friday, January 22, 2010

Speaking Thursday in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, United States President Barack Obama presented new proposals for financial reform.

“While the financial system is far stronger today than it was a year one year ago, it is still operating under the exact same rules that led to its near collapse,” said President Barack Obama. “My resolve to reform the system is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see record profits at some of the very firms claiming that they cannot lend more to small business, cannot keep credit card rates low, and cannot refund taxpayers for the bailout. It is exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary.”

Obama’s two key proposals were to limit the types of operations that a bank may undertake and to limit the size of the largest financial firms.

Under the proposals banks would be prevented from owning or investing in hedge fund or a private equity fund. Nor would they be allowed to sponsor such funds. To limit size of financial institutions, further consolidation of the financial sector by restricting growth in the market share of their liabilities.

Obama called the restrictions on banking operations the “Volcker Rule” in reference to Paul Volcker, the chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. These activities are “unrelated to serving their customers,” Obama said.

According to Obama, the current “economic crisis began as a financial crisis, when banks and financial institutions took huge, reckless risks in pursuit of quick profits and massive bonuses. When the dust settled, and this binge of irresponsibility was over, several of the world’s oldest and largest financial institutions had collapsed, or were on the verge of doing so. Markets plummeted, credit dried up, and jobs were vanishing by the hundreds of thousands each month. We were on the precipice of a second Great Depression.”

The President said his administration is seeking to protect consumers and close loopholes that allowed financial products such as credit default swaps without oversight. The goal would be to strengthen capital and liquidity requirements to make the financial system more stable. Another goal of Obama’s reforms would be to ensure that the failure of one firm could not take the entire economy.

“We’ve come through a terrible crisis. The American people have paid a very high price. We simply cannot return to business as usual. That’s why we’re going to ensure that Wall Street pays back the American people for the bailout. That’s why we’re going to rein in the excess and abuse that nearly brought down our financial system,” Obama said in closing.

Before any of the proposals can go into effect, they will have to be passed into law by both houses of the United States Congress.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch to be auctioned off

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Neverland Valley Ranch, owned by Michael Jackson, is to be sold at auction on March 19, 2008, unless Jackson pays over US$24 million.

Financial Title Company, the trustee of his Santa Barbara County, California, home and amusement park, has foreclosed on the property. They notified Jackson of the foreclosure and sale on Monday. Jackson had only just recently paid an overdue property tax bill of $600,000.

The court filing, addressed to Jackson, says, “You are in default of a deed of trust … Unless you take action to protect your property it may be sold at a public sale.” Fox News published the filing.

The foreclosure includes the ranch and all possessions on the property, inside or out.

The foreclosure auction will take place in front of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Barbara. Jackson has until then to pay $24,525,906.61 he owes the title company.

In 2006, Jackson refinanced previous loans that had been bought up by Fortress Investment Group. The $300-million loan was secured with the aid of Sony Music Entertainment. However, the Neverland property was not part of that deal.

Jackson has not lived at Neverland since June 30, 2005, when he moved to Bahrain after a rape charge and subsequent acquittal.

Compare Credit Cards How Do I Choose The Best Credit Card Offer?

Submitted by: Donald Carmin

Gaining the most effective credit card deal will need informed shopping and assessments amongst numerous credit card offers, mainly if you have average or sub-par credit score. Despite the fact that several credit card providers like Capital One, MBNA, American Express, and Scotiabank might accept a credit card request from someone having a below average credit rating, the apr and costs associated with these credit cards are frequently very high, plus your credit limit would be too small. To illustrate, a small number of credit cards which are on the market for individuals with sub-par fico scores involve heavy interest on purchases, money withdrawals as well as late payments.

What’s more, these cards have annual fees, an initial account opening charge, along with a recurring account servicing charge. Other charges involved with this card involved transaction charges for cash loans, delayed payment fee combined with the very high APR, as well as over-limit charge. Determined by the credit card issuer, the delinquency APR shall apply when you do not pay the compulsory minimum repayment by its due date for two uninterrupted billing cycles or for any four billing periods in any twelve-month span. This offer definitely is a far cry from those 0 % apr for 1 year with zero yearly fee credit cards accessible to people having good credit score.

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Your credit rating illustrates your repute about monetary resources. This proves if you are efficient in managing your money and repaying your debts and utility bills in a timely manner. When you pay off your dues in good time, it’s nice for your credit rating. In cases where you are late, then certainly that can seem dreadful and end up against you. Your credit history as well confirms your monthly wages. When you have borrowed greater than what you are making, then you’re a low credit hazard. If you find you are unable to access a card, then it’s because these agencies believe that lending you funds is a risk which they should keep clear of.

It’s beneficial for you to use your secured card to revive your credit history. The goal is to maintain your credit card expenditures lower, and go on making excess payments. A small balance on your card will look excellent to your credit. In case you fail to use your card the slightest bit, then it will not work for you. You must use a specific sum each month after which pay back the balance quickly if they are due. If you’re shopping for credit cards, ensure that you properly analyze the Card User Agreement or Summary of Lending Terms to be aware of all the costs as well as various APR rates involved with the card. You should not just see the special offer letter, advertising campaign, or heading and hope what is on offer is an exceptional offer.

For someone who’s got a minimal fico score and a bad credit history, to help restore credit and begin raising their fico score, it’s generally recommended to choose less-than-appealing credit card offers for two or three years. After that you can secure the best card with cheaper rates and a lot more rewards. But, in cases where you seek this route, assure that you are in a position to meticulously look after your credit card use to continue being up-to-date with your transactions and evade any additional costs for instance late charges, over limit penalties, and many others.

About the Author: Donald is an expert in the field. For more information on

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Cadillac unveils Obama’s ‘Beast’, the 2009 Presidential State Car

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The US Secret Service has released the first photos Wednesday of the new presidential limousine that will transport Barack Obama down Pennsylvania Avenue next Tuesday as part of the 56th Presidential inaugural parade after he is sworn in at the Capitol. The First Limo – the 2009 Cadillac Presidential Limousine – will replace President Bush’s Cadillac DTS Presidential Limousine that rolled out in 2004.

Nicknamed “The Beast”, the hulking machine is a new model year 2009, modified limousine. According to General Motors, the new “2009 Cadillac Presidential Limousine” is the first not to carry a specific model name. The Obama Mobile was introduced on January 14 with noticeably different styling borrowed from the Cadillac Escalade and STS, while the suspension is most likely related to the Chevrolet Kodiak medium-duty truck.

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Mr. David Caldwell of General Motors has revealed that the sleek black car would include a hand-crafted interior and “state of the art electronics.” The car’s high-tech security features include five-inch-thick (12.7-centimeter-thick) bombproof glass, tough-as-nails tires, and a sealed interior that’s invulnerable to chemical attack. The armoured limousine has been heavily modified to withstand potential attacks by weapons or bombs. The San Francisco Chronicle puts it in a proper perspective noting, “a half-inch of transparent armor is enough to stop a .44 Magnum round at point-blank range; at a thickness of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches, the same material can withstand higher-velocity bullets fired from military assault rifles.”

According to spy photographer, Brenda Priddy, and General Motors, the limousine, which has the intricate, dual-textured grille, is also equipped with standard Goodyear Regional RHS truck tires in a 285/70R19.5 size, on 19.5-inch wheels. The rims have a run-flat device (manufactured by Hutchinson Industries). Xenon headlights from the Escalade are installed in the front, while the rear has some STS part. The doors are at least 20 centimeters (8 inches) thick. It carries the US flag on the front fenders and an embroidered Seal of the President of the United States is affixed to several panels in the back.

According to the US Secret Service, the vehicle would be a “valuable asset” in providing the President with the highest level of protection. “Although many of the vehicle’s security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car’s security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world,” Nicholas Trotta, Assistant Director for the Office of Protective Operations said in a statement. The new limousine is the responsibility of White House Transportation Agency.

One of the specifications is that we don’t talk about the specifications.

The Presidential State Car is the official state car used by the President of the United States. It is informally known as “Cadillac One”. The current Presidential State Car is a 2005 hand-crafted, armored, and stretched DTS (DeVille Touring Sedan) built on a GM four-wheel drive platform. It was first used on the second inauguration parade of George W. Bush in 2005. But the version to be used by President Obama uses a GMC Topkick chassis, while maintaining the Cadillac exterior.

The President of the United States travels in one of two armoured Cadillac limousines based upon the normal sedan, the Cadillac DTS, with heavy customisation. Lincoln cars have also been used in the past, most notably by President John F Kennedy. The current limousines were custom-built by O’Gara, Hess and Eisenhart, founded in Fairfield, Ohio in 1942. It specializes in armouring limousines for presidents and heads of state.

President William McKinley was the first US president to ride in an automobile. However, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who rode on the first government-owned car, a white Stanley Steamer. Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, was the first president to use a presidential state car that was permanently stored in the White House garage.

Meanwhile, Obama’s 2005 Chrysler 300C Hemi was auctioned on eBay with a starting bid of $100,000 and a buy-it-now price of $1,000,000. It has less than 21,000 miles on it and is in like-new condition. He leased the car in 2004 and traded it for a Ford Escape Hybrid in 2007. The car was sold to Tim O’Boyle.

CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Max Lombardi running in Cambridge

Friday, September 26, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. New Democratic Party candidate Max Lombardi is standing for election in the riding of Cambridge. Lombardi is an information technology specialist who has lived in Cambridge for 25 years.

Held since 2004 by Conservative Gary Goodyear, the riding of Cambridge includes the city of Cambridge, Ontario and the Township of North Dumfries, Ontario. Also running in the riding are Gord Zeilstra (Liberal) and Scott Cosman (Green).

Wikinews contacted Max Lombardi, to talk about the issues facing Canadians, and what they and their party would do to address them. Wikinews is in the process of contacting every candidate, in every riding across the country, no matter their political stripe. All interviews are conducted over e-mail, and interviews are published unedited, allowing candidates to impart their full message to our readers, uninterrupted.

For more information, visit the campaign’s official website, listed below.

Heel Pain And Treatment In Singapore}

Submitted by: Michelle Kwong

Heel pain is a common foot condition which present with severe pain or discomfort in the heel on weight bearing activities. Heel pain can get cured and recovery quickly if treated early and adequate rest. But if left untreated, pain on heel may become worse and chronic if initial symptoms are not given correct treatment.

What are the causes of Heel Pain?

Heel pain can be a condition of plantar fasciitis or heel spur syndrome.

Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, the soft tissues at bottom of the foot. Plantar fascia may get irritated, pain, swelling, small tears or bruises in the plantar fascia with the inappropriate pounding force on the heel. The exact cause of plantar fascia pain is unknown. The contributing risk factors for plantar fasciitis could be being overweight, prolonged standing or walking, injury, wrong fitting footwear, stepping on objects.

As a person gets older, the fascia becomes less elastic. The heel pad becomes thinner and loses the capacity to absorb as much shock. The younger people, who are more active in sports, may suffer from heel pain too.

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A heel spur is an extra bony growth on the underside of the heel bone, where the plantar fascia attaches. Heel spur may develop as a result of excessive and repetitive pulling of plantar fascia on the heel bone. The heel spur may irritate into the sensitive nerves and soft tissue, resulting in pain in the foot. A heel spur can develop together with plantar fasciitis, but may also occur by itself. Heel spurs can be seen in X-rays. Heel spurs are commonly affect middle-aged patients. Athletes are also prone to heel spur due to the repetitive stress on their heels during running. With abnormal walking or running gait pattern due to mechanics of foot or when the foot regularly hits the ground in unusual ways, damage or injury can occur since tissue becomes stretched or stress excessively, indirectly leading to formation of a heel spur.

The signs and symptoms of heel pain are burning, stabbing, sharp or aching pain in the heel or along the arch of the foot. Most people would feel it first thing in the morning when step on the floor because the fascia ligament tightens up during the night sleep. Or standing up after prolonged sitting. Resting provides only temporary relief.

In most cases, plantar fasciitis/ heel spur does not require surgery or invasive treatments or procedures to stop pain and reverse damage. Conservative treatments such as physiotherapy or physical therapy are usually all that is required. However, every person’s body responds to heel pain treatment differently and recovery times may vary. Physiotherapists are specialised in treating orthopaedics condition and able to determine the cause and type of your heel pain and treat it accordingly. Standard physiotherapy pain relief treatments such as ultrasound, electrical therapy, heat treatment, soft tissue massage, can help reduce and stop most heel pain. Interferential therapy- Electrical current that stimulates the peripheral sensory and muscle nerve fibres to reduce pain and inflammation. Ultrasound-The application of ultrasonic waves causing improved. Once pain is reduced, progression to lower limb strengthening program and gait walking education.

However, for chronic long term heel pain, Extracorporeal Shockwave therapy is a most effective and latest advanced treatment that has proven to cure heel pain. This shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment which works by activating the normal body healing process by the body by causing blood vessel formation and increased delivery of nutrients to the affected area, cell metabolism and cell membrane permeability, thereby enhancing tissue healing.

Visit a physiotherapist in Singapore to treat your heel pain or plantar fasciitis early. Do not delay in seeking physiotherapy treatment as the longer delay, will take a longer time to heal or cure heel pain. Physiotherapist can be found in hospital or private physio clinic in Singapore. Physioclinic has both physiotherapy and shockwave therapy treatment, combined with trained specialised physiotherapist that can accelerate your recovery the soonest.

About the Author: Michelle Kwong, Physiotherapist in Singapore, Physioclinic.

Heel pain treatment in Singapore

Physiotherapy treatment in Singapore

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