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US opposition research firm blocked; Australian bushfires

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By Gamaliel, Peaceray and Pine

GOP opposition research firm blocked for editing Wikipedia

America Rising is a Republican opposition research organization founded in 2013 by Matt Rhoades, campaign manager for US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Joe Pounder and Tim Miller, media strategists for the Republican National Committee. It is split into two related organizations, a limited liability company (LLC) that coordinates with Republican candidates, and a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to spreading negative stories about Democratic candidates online and in the news media. Its webpage brags of "cataloguing every Democrat [sic] utterance" and it has become known for its "trackers" which follow and record video of the public comments of candidates in hopes of preserving evidence of an embarrassing misstep.

BuzzFeed reported (September 28) on three Wikipedia accounts that self-identified as belonging to America Rising staffers. Two of them, including one belonging to Miller, only made non-political edits. The third, User:Sprinkler Court, made 34 edits, openly identifying his or her conflict of interest in the edit summaries of his or her major edits. These edits were mostly to insert or advocate the insertion of material unflattering or potentially damaging to ten current Democratic candidates for the United States Senate. The 2014 midterm elections may result in Republicans gaining majority control over the Senate.

Candidate Senate race Content of edits
Mark Begich Alaska contents of a campaign advertisement
Bruce Braley Iowa comments about Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Veterans' Affairs Committee attendance, dispute over a neighbor's therapeutic chickens
Mary Landrieu Louisiana claim that Landrieu does not own "developed property" in Louisiana, removed mention of the loss of her home due to Hurricane Katrina, internal investigation of flight billing
Michelle Nunn Georgia contents of a strategy memo leaked to the National Review, use of George H. W. Bush in campaign materials, Bush's endorsement of opponent David Perdue
Gary Peters Michigan employment at Central Michigan University, ownership of stock in French energy company Total SA
Mark Pryor Arkansas comments about opponent Tom Cotton
Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire work for presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Gary Hart, failure to release tax returns
Natalie Tennant West Virginia supposed errors by the Secretary of State of West Virginia's office, the presence of a federal inmate as a candidate on the WV presidential ballot
Mark Udall Colorado campaign events with President Barack Obama
John Walsh Montana report blocking his promotion to Brigadier General

Following the publication of the Buzzfeed article, Miller posted on Twitter "America Rising does wiki editing the right, honest way. Fact based edits. 100% transparent about our interest."

On October 5, Sprinkler Court was blocked for disruptive editing by User:Jehochman, who wrote on the account's talk page:

BuzzFeed reported (October 6) that Miller vowed to challenge the blocking through unspecified means:

The blocking was also reported on by The Hill. (G)

Australian minister under fire for bushfire comment

Bushfire in Lithgow, New South Wales, October 2013

In October 2013, in the wake of the devastating 2013 New South Wales bushfires, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, warned of the increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves in Australia due to climate change. Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott, who famously called climate change "absolute crap" in 2009, dismissed the link between bushfires and climate change and said Figueres was "talking through her hat". In an interview that October with BBC NewsHour, Environment Minister Greg Hunt defended Abbott's comments, saying

At the time, Hunt's comments, especially his invocation of Wikipedia, were widely criticized (see previous Signpost coverage).

A year later, a report from the Sydney Morning Herald (October 7) widely circulating through Australian media reveals that Hunt had been briefed by the Bureau of Meteorology on climate change and bushfires three weeks prior to the Newshour interview where he indicated he had consulted Wikipedia on the topic. Contrary to his assertion in the interview that the Bureau was careful not to link the two, the confidential briefings indicate the Bureau's director informed Hunt "A number of more recent studies are drawing probabilistic links between more extreme seasonal heat records and climate change, including the Australian summer of 2012-13." (G)

In brief

Model of Wikipedia sculpture for Slubice, Poland
Wikipedia sculpture model
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The article was also republished by Geneva-based Cyber Ethiopia. (P)
Brooke Magnanti at Leeds Skeptics
Brooke Magnanti
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