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RTÉ’s Eddie Hobbs attracts massive audience

May 8, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:35 am

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In Ireland, RTÉ’s new “Rip Off Republic” TV series has attracted a record audience of 667,000 for its second show, making it one of Ireland’s top TV programs. The second show broadcast on Monday 15th August captured 50.5% of all TV viewers in Ireland.

The series which contains four shows broadcast from Dublin City University’s “Helix” centre, aims to expose over pricing and the exploitation of consumers in Ireland. Hosted by financial advisor Eddie Hobbs, the show has attracted huge media commentry, particularly as it has attracted the attention of the governments main party, Fianna Fail.

The main argument against the show has been that it generalises issues and makes exaggerated claims – for example it claimed that restaurants make a 300%+ profit on a typical bottle of wine, leading the viewer to believe that all businesses are making such a profit. This claim has since come under attack by restaurant owners nationwide. Other arguments against the show have stated that while inflation is less than 3%, wage growth is over 6% meaning people are still better off.

The third show will be broadcast on 29th August at 9.30pm on RTÉ One. It will focus on the transport sector in Ireland.

Australian States to launch high court battle against IR reforms

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in Uncategorized @ 1:32 am

Thursday, December 22, 2005

After months of threats from the states to take the federal government of Australia to the High Court of Australia over its Work Choices Act, New South Wales has formally lodged a writ with the High Court. Other states have indicated that they will follow the New South Wales government’s lead.

The 30-page Statement of Claim lodged by NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca and Solicitor-General Michael Sexton claims that the Work Choices Act is unconstitutional as the act extends the commonwealth’s powers beyond what the constitution has given them. The Howard government has argued that they have such powers under the corporations provision of the constitution. Mr Della Bosca argues that the corporations provision is there to protect individuals from corporations.

Mr Sexton said “The heart of the Commonwealth legislation is its reliance on the corporations power, and the question is whether that is valid in these circumstances. In other words, whether it’s possible to legislate in effect about industrial relations simply because the employer is a trading or financial corporation”.

The Howard government’s plan effectively collapses the state’s industrial relations systems, which differ greatly from the new system.

Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

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in Uncategorized @ 1:27 am

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

Britain unveils flu pandemic preparedness plan, buys 14m courses of treatment drug

May 7, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:36 am

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The government of the United Kingdom has unveiled their strategy to deal with any future influenza pandemic in their Pandemic Influenza Contingency Plan.

The document, based on the World Health Organization‘s framework for responses, explains how the UK would respond to a major outbreak of flu.

Any flu pandemic would differ from the seasonal outbreaks of flu observed worldwide every year. While seasonal flu kills 12,000 Britons annually, a pandemic would affect far more people and could result in the deaths of up to 50,000 people in the UK if there were no medical intervention.

The government will have the power to cancel events where large numbers of people gather, such as football (soccer) matches. It could also advise travel restrictions to and from areas of high infection, but would not be able to enforce any such measures.

Schools might be closed in the event of a flu pandemic, and infected people would be asked to remain at home, although again no quarantine measures could be imposed by the government.

Further plans include education of the public to recognize symptoms of the flu and how to avoid infection.

Measures will be made to maintain basic services in the event of a pandemic despite staff absences through illness.

A major cornerstone of the plan is the prescription of oseltamivir, an oral neuraminidase inhibitor drug that combats influenza. The drug is currently marketed by Hoffman La Roche under the trade name Tamiflu®.

The UK Department of Health intends to stockpile 14.6m courses of the drug over the next two financial years, giving enough to treat one in four of the population – the ratio recommended by the WHO.

Canada and Australia have also bought the equivalent amounts of anti-viral drugs. The U.S. has also bought large amounts of similar drugs.

The total cost of the acquisition was not published by the government, but the BBC estimated the cost to be £180 million.

Unlike a vaccine, oseltamivir can be used to treat any strain of the influenza virus. Many new variants of the influenza virus are seen every year, and combined with the long lead times associated with the development of vaccinces, mass vaccination is frequently impractical.

Some parts of the newly-revealed plan already exist. The UK government recently gave £500,000 to the WHO for survellience of so-called ‘bird flu’ in South East Asia, a possible source for any future pandemic. The Department of Health will also continue to monitor flu-like cases seen by doctors and hospitals.

Ban on YouTube spreads to Google services in Turkey

May 6, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:02 am

Monday, June 7, 2010

Access to search engine Google has been limited and most of Google’s online services cannot be accessed in Turkey. The access limitation happened due to the blocking of an IP set that belongs to Google. These IP addresses were shared between YouTube and other Google services.

The Turkish news site Hürriyet Daily News reports that Turkey’s Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TCP) (a government agency that manages Turkish ISPs) indefinitely shut off access to several Google services. The shut-off came after the banning of YouTube for alleged insults against Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. TCP released an official statement Friday, saying it had blocked access to some Google IP addresses “because of legal reasons”. Under Turkish law, it is an offence to “insult Turkishness.”

Softpedia states that the limited access to Google could be a result of the government trying to block specific DNS addresses that relate to Google, as part of its ongoing attempts to block YouTube. Since Google services share common software and IP addresses, the search engine itself suffers from access restrictions. Turkish citizens are concerned that this move of the governmental agency was another step towards a complete ban on Google, as exists in China.

Several Internet sites have been banned in Turkey in recent years, and although some of them were subsequently unbanned, most of them remain inaccessible. Engelli Web, a website listing banned sites reports that currently YouTube (since May 2008), Last.fm (since June 26, 2009), and Spanish newspaper El Mundo (since May 14, 2010) are among the banned sites in Turkey. MySpace and WordPress were also among banned sites for a period of time. Websites will be blocked following a court decision or if TCP decides to block on its behalf.

RetweetToday reports that Turkish citizens on Twitter have also reported access problems. Comments about the blockage are being shared using hashtags such as TurkeyCensorGoogle and TurkeyGoogleBan, as well as NoGoogleNoWeb.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art buys Edward Hopper valued at over $25 million

May 3, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:06 am

Monday, March 26, 2012

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has purchased the painting Intermission, by American artist Edward Hopper. The piece, created in 1963, is one of the last paintings created by Hopper.

Hopper’s realist style, which visually examined American urban and rural life in the first half of the 20th century, made him one of the most influential and important American artists of the modern era. The painting, which was sold by a private collector, is believed to be valued at over $25 million.

Intermission shows a woman sitting alone in the front row of a theater. The theater is empty, and is described, by San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker as expressing emotion and social isolation, a standard theme in Hopper’s works. The inspiration for the painting came to Hopper while he was watching a film.

Hopper’s wife, Josephine, had scheduled Hopper to create the painting in a theater, however Hopper would complete the painting at his studio in New York City. Original sketches of Intermission show a second person sitting in the third row — a figure that never made it into the final painting. Baker calls Intermission a “prime example of Hopper’s austere realist vision”.

[This is] a necessary practice in an art market where prices for historically important art continue to rise steeply.

SFMOMA will not disclose how much they paid for Intermission. When the painting Hotel Window, which is of similar size and from the same period, sold at auction in 2006, it sold for $26.9 million. It is believed that “Inspiration” is worth just as much, if not more. Intermission was purchased with the help of donor funds, and acquired through the San Francisco-based Fraenkel Gallery, which sold if on behalf of a private collector.

In exchange for the acquisition of Intermission, SFMOMA is selling another Hopper painting: Bridal Path, from 1939. A lesser known work of Hopper’s, Bridal Path shows a horseback riding path in Central Park. By selling Bridal Path, SFMOMA is able to help fund the acquisition of the more well known Intermission. This practice is slowly gaining popularity within a museum and art market that previously disapproved of the sale of lesser known works for more popular acquisitions. Baker acknowledges the past practices, but believes that this is “a necessary practice in an art market where prices for historically important art continue to rise steeply.”

Intermission goes on display for the public on Friday, at SFMOMA.

As increase in digital music sales slows, record labels look to new ways to make money

May 2, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:39 am

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Every September, the Apple iPod is redesigned. Last year saw the release of the iPod Nano 5th generation, bringing a video camera and a large range of colours to the Nano for the first time. But as Apple again prepares to unveil a redesigned product, the company has released their quarterly sales figures—and revealed that they have sold only 9m iPods for the quarter to June—the lowest number of sales since 2006, leading industry anylists to ponder whether the world’s most successful music device is in decline.

Such a drop in sales is not a problem for Apple, since the iPhone 4 and the iPad are selling in high numbers. But the number of people buying digital music players are concerning the music industry. Charles Arthur, technology editor of The Guardian, wrote that the decline in sales of MP3 players was a “problem” for record companies, saying that “digital music sales are only growing as fast as those of Apple’s devices – and as the stand-alone digital music player starts to die off, people may lose interest in buying songs from digital stores. The music industry had looked to the iPod to drive people to buy music in download form, whether from Apple’s iTunes music store, eMusic, Napster or from newer competitors such as Amazon.”

Mark Mulligan, a music and digital media analyst at Forrester Research, said in an interview that “at a time where we’re asking if digital is a replacement for the CD, as the CD was for vinyl, we should be starting to see a hockey-stick growth in download sales. Instead, we’re seeing a curve resembling that of a niche technology.” Alex Jacob, a spokesperson for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents the worldwide music industry, agreed that there had been a fall in digital sales of music. “The digital download market is still growing,” they said. “But the percentage is less than a few years ago, though it’s now coming from a higher base.” Figures released earlier this year, Arthur wrote, “show that while CD sales fell by 12.7%, losing $1.6bn (£1bn)in value, digital downloads only grew by 9.2%, gaining less than $400m in value.”

Expectations that CDs would, in time, become extinct, replaced by digital downloads, have not come to light, Jacob confirmed. “Across the board, in terms of growth, digital isn’t making up for the fall in CD sales, though it is in certain countries, including the UK,” he said. Anylising the situation, Arthur suggested that “as iPod sales slow, digital music sales, which have been yoked to the device, are likely to slow too. The iPod has been the key driver: the IFPI’s figures show no appreciable digital download sales until 2004, the year Apple launched its iTunes music store internationally (it launched it in the US in April 2003). Since then, international digital music sales have climbed steadily, exactly in line with the total sales of iPods and iPhones.”

Nick Farrell, a TechEYE journalist, stated that the reason for the decline in music sales could be attributed to record companies’ continued reliance on Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, saying that they had considered him the “industry’s saviour”, and by having this mindset had forgotten “that the iPod is only for those who want their music on the run. What they should have been doing is working out how to get high quality music onto other formats, perhaps even HiFi before the iPlod fad died out.”

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When Jobs negotiated a deal with record labels to ensure every track was sold for 99 cents, they considered this unimportant—the iPod was not a major source of revenue for the company. However, near the end of 2004, there was a boom in sales of the iPod, and the iTunes store suddenly began raking in more and more money. The record companies were irritated, now wanting to charge different amounts for old and new songs, and popular and less popular songs. “But there was no alternative outlet with which to threaten Apple, which gained an effective monopoly over the digital music player market, achieving a share of more than 70%” wrote Arthur. Some did attempt to challenge the iTunes store, but still none have succeeded. “Apple is now the largest single retailer of music in the US by volume, with a 25% share.”

The iTunes store now sells television shows and films, and the company has recently launced iBooks, a new e-book store. The App Store is hugely successful, with Apple earning $410m in two years soley from Apps, sales of which they get 30%. In two years, 5bn apps have been downloaded—while in seven years, 10bn songs have been purchased. Mulligan thinks that there is a reason for this—the quality of apps simply does not match up to a piece of music. “You can download a song from iTunes to your iPhone or iPad, but at the moment music in that form doesn’t play to the strengths of the device. Just playing a track isn’t enough.”

Adam Liversage, a spokesperson of the British Phonographic Industry, which represents the major UK record labels, notes that the rise of streaming services such as Spotify may be a culprit in the fall in music sales. Revenues from such companies added up to $800m in 2009. Arthur feels that “again, it doesn’t make up for the fall in CD sales, but increasingly it looks like nothing ever will; that the record business’s richest years are behind it. Yet there are still rays of hope. If Apple – and every other mobile phone maker – are moving to an app-based economy, where you pay to download games or timetables, why shouldn’t recording artists do the same?”

Well, apparently they are. British singer Peter Gabriel has released a ‘Full Moon Club’ app, which is updated every month with a new song. Arthur also notes that “the Canadian rock band Rush has an app, and the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, led by Trent Reznor – who has been critical of the music industry for bureaucracy and inertia – released the band’s first app in April 2009.” It is thought that such a system will be an effective method to reduce online piracy—”apps tend to be tied to a particular handset or buyer, making them more difficult to pirate than a CD”, he says—and in the music industry, piracy is a very big problem. In 2008, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimated that 95% of downloads were illegitimate. If musicians can increase sales and decrease piracy, Robert says, it can only be a good thing.

“It’s early days for apps in the music business, but we are seeing labels and artists experimenting with it,” Jacob said. “You could see that apps could have a premium offering, or behind-the-scenes footage, or special offers on tickets. But I think it’s a bit premature to predict the death of the album.” Robert concluded by saying that it could be “premature to predict the death of the iPod just yet too – but it’s unlikely that even Steve Jobs will be able to produce anything that will revive it. And that means that little more than five years after the music industry thought it had found a saviour in the little device, it is having to look around again for a new stepping stone to growth – if, that is, one exists.”

Queensland prisoners put to work manufacturing water tanks

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in Uncategorized @ 1:28 am

Monday, April 30, 2007

Prisoners in the Australian state of Queensland have been put to work manufacturing rainwater tanks to help meet a shortfall in supply.

The southeast corner of Queensland, which is currently undergoing one of its worst droughts on record, is experiencing a boom in the rainwater tank industry. Households, encouraged by subsidies introduced by the Beattie government, have enthusiastically begun installing rainwater tanks as well as other water-saving devices. These subsidies have led to a shortfall in supply however, with some households waiting months for tanks to be installed.

The new initiative, announced by Premier Peter Beattie as well as Corrective Services minister Judy Spence will see prisoners at Woodford Correctional Centre, Australia’s largest gaol, constructing tanks for AU$4 per day. Spence has pledged not to use the cheap labour to undercut existing tank suppliers. Beattie also pointed out that the programme would give prisoners constructing the tanks valuable work skills for when their sentences are completed. If the programme is successful, it may be extended to other gaols around the state.

The Beattie government has been increasingly criticised over recent months for its failure to handle the water crisis engulfing Southeast Queensland. Opponents accuse the Government of a lack of planning foresight with regards to water supply for the booming area, which includes state capital Brisbane, as well as other cities such as Ipswich, Toowoomba and Gold Coast.

Security threats directed at US Democrats

April 29, 2019 0

in Uncategorized @ 1:37 am

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into threats made against Democratic members of the US House of Representatives. The threats were directed at members of Congress who supported the recent health care reform legislation.

Virginia’s 5th district representative Tom Perriello’s brother’s home had its gas line cut early Wednesday. Another Democrat, Louise Slaughter of New York’s 28th district, had a brick thrown through her offices window.

House Majority leader Steny Hoyer held a press conference about the threats and multiple instances of vandalism involving the offices of Congresspersons who voted on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Hoyer said that “[t]he incidents of threats whether in person or through telephones or through other communication devices, have given great concern to members, for the safety of themselves and their families.”

House Minority leader John Boehner said that the incidents show the American peoples’ feelings for the new bill, but “violence and threats are unacceptable.” He added, “that’s not the American way, we need to take that anger and channel it into positive change.”

Girls sweep Siemens science competition for US high schools

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in Uncategorized @ 1:07 am

Thursday, December 6, 2007

For the first time in history, the Siemens Competition, formerly the Siemens-Westinghouse Competition, was won by two females. The competition, which along with the Intel Competition are one of the two most prestigious competitions for high school science research in the United States. The Siemens Competition has two competitions, one for individual research and the other for team research. For the first time in history both the individual and team awards were won by women.

Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, students at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York won the team section of the competition for their work developing a drug that blocks reproduction of tuberculosis bacteria. Meanwhile, Isha Himani Jain from Freedom High School in Pennsylvania won the individual competition for work involving the bone growth in Zebra fish. Schlossberger and Marinoff will split a $100,000 prize and Himani Jain will also receive a $100,000 prize. Various other students will also receive smaller awards. Many of the other higher-level awards also went to women this year.

The success of the young ladies was of particular note because historically women have been underrepresented in math and science. The lack of representation has been a matter of heavy political dispute and figured into the departure of Larry Summers as president of Harvard after he speculated that the lack of representation might be due to innate biological differences. The proportion of scientists who are female has been steadily increasing over the last 50 years. According to James Whaley, the president of the Siemens Foundation, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of students entering the competition who are female and this year 48% of the students entering were female. Many commentators have called the results a sign that the gap between males and females in the sciences is closing or has closed. However, other commentators have said that females will only have reached equality with males in science was when triumphs such as this one are so routine as to not merit headlines.

The Siemens-Westinghouse Competition, now known as the Siemens Competition, was founded in 1998 after Siemens acquired Westinghouse but failed to acquire the rights to the Westinghouse competition which instead went to Intel and was renamed the Intel Science Talent Search.

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