The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has continued to crack down on freedom of expression and association. The authorities arbitrarily detained scores of individuals they suspected of links to domestic and international Islamist groups. Court convicted dissidents after unfair trials. The UAE made no reforms to a system that facilitates the forced labor of migrant workers.
The Daily Dot highlighted criticism from some editors, including one who identified themselves as Emirati, directed at Wales for accepting money from the UAE. Following the criticism, Wales pledged that "Every penny of the money will be used to combat human rights abuses worldwide with a specific focus on the Middle East." He did note that his actions were not in response to the criticism because "I started the process from the moment I was told about the prize."
This echoes prior criticism of Wales for his alleged links with the government of Kazakhstan (see previous Signpostcoverage), criticism which was reiterated during the talk page discussion. Wales wrote that this was "total and utter and complete bullshit. I have no past connection of any kind to the Kazakh dictatorship."
Sanger launches a "Wikipedia for news"
Newsweekreports (December 16) on Larry Sanger's new project Infobitt, which promises to be a "Wikipedia for news". The users of the crowdsourced website supply a collection of facts, each a sentence long and taken from published news articles, for each story called a "bitt". Users then vote on how to rank each fact within the bitt and the importance of each bitt.
During an AMA, a question and answer forum on the social media website Reddit, Sanger wrote:
Because pieces of content are one sentence long, it becomes possible to simply ask the community which of competing sentences should be displayed and what order they should be in. This completely sidesteps the interminable edit warring of Wikipedia.
He also wrote of his hopes that Infobitt would channel the impulses of information seeking in a way that would produce reliable news content:
Infobitt will fill a universal need, or desire, to get caught up with the news very fast. We'll make it possible to get caught up five times as fast as you could before. You'll be rushing to Infobitt to include the latest news in the way you now do on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit. We'll also finally give the long tail of citizen journalism a route whereby it can make it onto the front page of a hard news site.
Boredom, forever: The Washington Post (December 16) reports on a bot created by artist and programmer Darius Kazemi called Content, Forever. Inspired by the television documentary Connections, the bot automatically generates an article on a particular topic by copying Wikipedia text from the article on that topic and from other articles linked to in the original one. Kazemi's bot echoes pieces of meandering, poorly-written media content on platforms like Medium.
Below is a table that shows the Arbitration Committee election results for December 2014. The election commissioners were QuiteUnusual, Mike V, and TParis. The scrutineers, who had access to SecurePoll data, were stewards Trijnstel, Matanya and Barras. The WMF technical liaison for the election was James Alexander.
^All voters were required to register a preference of either "Support", "Neutral", or "Oppose" for each candidate. The "Neutral" column is simply the total votes for which voters did not select the Support or Oppose option.
The number of ballots cast in this election was 643, of which 593 were determined to be valid. (When users cast multiple ballots, only the last ballot was counted.) In the 2013 elections, 1039 ballots were cast and 923 were determined to be valid.
Lafayette dollar(nominated by Wehwalt) The Lafayette dollar was a silver coin designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. The Lafayette dollar was the only US silver dollar commemorative prior to 1983, and the first US coin to depict George Washington. Issued as part of the United States participation in the Paris World's Fair of 1900, this silver coin did not have any mint marks! Unfortunately for the US Treasury, they did not sell out, and 14,000 had to be melted down. R.S. Yeoman's 2014 edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins lists the Lafayette dollar at $650 ranging upwards to $19,000. One in best condition known was sold in 2004 for $66,700. The coin has been counterfeited from time to time. Various techniques have also been used to make genuine specimens shinier to deceive collectors, including polishing, a process that damages their surfaces. Don't polish your coins, guys out there.
Feral pigeon(created and nominated by Muhammad Mahdi Karim) Fold your flapping wings, soaring legislature, stoop to little things... like pigeons. The rock pigeon (Columba livia) is found throughout the world thanks to escaped domestic pigeons (there's good eatin' on them). As such, there are very few readers who don't know of them to some extent. However, feral pigeons are the birds of the goddess Venus, because they mate for life. Their courtship rituals are rather like a dance, the male on the ground or rooftops puffs up the feathers on the neck to appear larger and impress the girls and attract their attention. He approaches the female at a rapid walking pace while emitting cru cru cru ... often bowing and turning. The female invariably walks or flies a short distance away and the male takes up the chase, and will continue the bowing and making full- or half-pirouettes in front of her. This photograph is by prolific Tanzanian photographer Muhammad Mahdi Karim, who regularly has amazing photographs here.
Montfort Castle(created by Eran Feldman, nominated by Tomer T) A crusader castle in Upper Galilee, now a part of Israel built by the Teutonic Knights in the 1220s, conquered by the Muslim forces in 1271. It is built on cliff and is considered one of the finest examples of fortified building architecture in Outremer. This historic castle is beautifully photographed by Eran Feldman. Montfort Castle is from the Middle Ages. During the Third Crusade led by King Richard I of England, the crusaders set their new capital in Acre, and thus the significance of the Montfort estate increased, due to the proximity of the property to the new capital. Montfort Castle was now owned by the Teutonic Knights who fortified the property and turned it into a magnificent fortress. The knights set their headquarters, archive, and treasury at the new property in 1229. Five years later, however, after most of the Crusader strongholds had fallen, even the Montfort Castle was surrendered. The Teutonic Knights then made Venice their headquarters.
Kebyar duduk performer(created and nominated by Chris Woodrich) The choreography was created by I Mario. The Kebyar duduk was first performed in 1925. This dance is nearly entirely performed in seated or half-seated positions by a single male dancer. He wears a long piece of golden-red fabric in a traditional design, decorated with a gold-painted pattern called prada. Even his accessories and headgear are golden and shimmering; giving him an "extra exotic traditional effect". The dance utilized then-recent innovations in Balinese gamelan music, such as music in faster tempos than previously used. The drummer, who communicates the tempo and style to the other musicians, almost competes for control of the music with the dancer, who communicates with stylized gestures in the then-prevailing rhythm, by the end of the set. Tzing-boom!
Yule log cake(created by Jebulon, nominated by The Herald)Hark! The Herald nominates / Photographs of Yule log cakes / Chocolate cake is quickly gone / Shot in time by Jebulon! / Sponge cake rolled with buttercream / Lots of chocolate (as is seen) / To get in the Christmas mood / Make this cake part of your food! / Hark! The Herald nominates / Something good for on our plates. (We should probably breifly add that yule log or bûche de Noël is a traditional Christmas dessert, a type of sweet roulade, eaten especially in France, Quebec, and former French colonies. Traditional bûche de Noël is made from a basic yellow sponge cake, frosted, rolled to form a cylinder, filled with butter cream and frosted again on the outside. Yule log is traditionally frosted and filled with chocolate buttercream; however, many variations of the traditional recipe exist.)
Fatata te Miti(created by Paul Gauguin, nominated by Chris Woodrich)Fatata te Miti (By the Sea) is a painting by Paul Gauguin from 1892. It depicts two young Tahitian women diving naked in the sea, seen from behind, removing their pareos and descending into the waves, with a fisherman in the background, fishing with a spear. The women plunge into the sea naked, uninhibited by Western standards which were later forced upon them. In 1891 Paul Gauguin was tired of the Western way of life, and looking for a society more unspoiled and natural than that of the European society of his time, Gauguin traveled to Tahiti for the first time. Paul Gauguin first visit resulted in a book written by him about his experiences, written as a travel journal, a most fascinating book about this exotic world, entitled Noa Noa. The word Noa Noa means in Tahitian scented or fragrant and describes the scent of the Tahitian women, as Gauguin perceived them, in his own words: A mingled perfume, half animal, half vegetable emanated from them; the perfume of their blood and of the gardenias—tiaré—which they wore in their hair.
Chapel of the Gate of Dawn(created and nominated by David Iliff) The Chapel of the Gate of Dawn is a major site of pilgrimage in Vilnius. The Northern Renaissance painting, from c. 1630 on the altar is the Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. The artwork soon became known as miraculous and inspired a following. A dedicated chapel, the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn was built in 1671 by the Discalced Carmelites. At the same time the painting was covered with expensive and elaborate silver and gold garments leaving only the face and hands visible. In the following centuries, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn became an important part of religious life in Vilnius, and was copied in Lithuania, Poland, and diaspora communities worldwide. However this particular Lady is not to play with. She got even with some evil Swedish soldiers in 1702, when Vilnius was captured by the Swedish army during the Great Northern War. The naughty Swedes made fun of the painting, forbade songs and prayers and one soldier even fired his weapon at the painting (the bullet hole is still there). The legend tells that at dawn, the heavy iron gate of the Gate of Dawn fell and crushed and killed four Swedish soldiers. We are much thankful that our photographer David Iliff is back safe to bring us such glorious pictures.
A fairly anemic week saw the least-viewed number 1 since September, which, mind you, is before mobile views were added. 11 of this week's entries were holdovers from previous weeks, and those that weren't were standard Top 25 fare; Reddit threads, Google Doodles, premièring media, and celebrity gossip.
On December 3, a grand jury decided not to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with the death of Eric Garner, who died in Tompkinsville, Staten Island on July 19 after being put in a chokehold. A video of the event went viral shortly after that event. The grand jury's decision has caused public outcry, and the U.S. Justice Department has announced a separate civil rights investigation into Garner's death. Between this and the shooting of Michael Brown, police procedure in the United States (especially black citizens) has become a subject of widespread discussion. Although numbers are down steeply from last week, the topic remains the highest-rated on Wikipedia.
It is interesting to note that those who most crave fame often inadvertently attain it for the wrong reasons. This hard-living, poker playing trust-fund millionaire and Instagram exhibitionist appeared in the Top 25 earlier this year for throwing a porn star off his roof; this week he's back in the public eye for kicking a model in the face and being arrested on felony bomb-making charges. Sometimes I wonder if part of our obsession with celebrities is that we can view them from a distance.
This critically and popularly adored movie proved its staying power when its arrival on Blu-ray was greeted with a shot to the top of this list. This may be a first; box office debuts frequently enter the list, but video? Never seen that before.
Her name sounds vaguely like the title of a folk song, but Annie Jump Cannon was real, was brilliant, and one of the most influential people in modern astronomy. Together with Edward C. Pickering, she is credited with establishing the still-in-use Harvard Classification Scheme for stars (better known, perhaps, by its mnemonic, "Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me!"). That despite having struggled with lifelong deafness, as many who followed on from a Google Doodle for her 151st birthday found out this week.
Wikipedia just can't get enough of this former Nickelodeon star. Views spiked on December 10, after the broadcast of her appearance at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, during which she apparently made an off-colour joke to Ed Sheeran about the big, inflatable black balls that formed part of the production. Ahem.