Greenspan’s testimony suggests “more of the same”

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve has suggested that there will be more of the same in coming months from the Fed. In his speech during testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Greenspan noted that the economic fundamentals of the U.S. appeared to be stable. On Thursday, Greenspan spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and when faced with questions regarding Social Security reform issues, he hinted that he was in favour of partial privatization of Social Security – but the general consensus on Wall Street is to expect more of the same.

However, economic advisors were somewhat disappointed that most of the testimony in both speechs was focused on the upcoming Social Security reform and did not address monetary policy as broadly as they’d hoped. Mike Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Securities America Inc, is quoted in the Investors Business Daily as saying “Chairman Greenspan provided few explicit insights into his plans for monetary policy.”

Greenspan reiterated his concerns about market reactions to the burgeoning federal deficit. “We are not sure to what extent and how much the market will respond,” he said.

Parsing Greenspan’s reports to Congress is a Wall Street obsession, but the general consensus from his recent testimony is to expect little change in the current Fed policy. Economists expect “measured” hikes to the central bank’s short-term interest rates from the next few meetings of Fed policy-makers.

“In my view the bottom line is that we are in for more of the same,” said Steve Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital to the Associated Press.

Pfizer and Microsoft team up against Viagra spam

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

New York –”Buy cheap Viagra through us – no prescription required!” Anyone with an active email account will recognize lines like this one. According to some reports, unsolicited advertisements (spam) for Viagra and similar drugs account for one in four spam messages.

BACKGROUND

Spamming remains one of the biggest problems facing email users today. While users and systems administrators have improved their defenses against unsolicited email, many spammers now insert random words or characters into their letters in order to bypass filters. The Wikipedia article Stopping email abuse provides an overview of the various strategies employed by companies, Internet users and systems administrators to deal with the issue.

Ever since pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promised to cure erectile dysfunction once and for all with its blue pills containing the drug sildenafil citrate, spammers have tried to tap into male anxiety by offering prescription-free sales of unapproved “generic” Viagra and clones such as Cialis soft tabs. Legislation like the U.S. CAN-SPAM act has done little to stem the tide of email advertising the products.

Now Pfizer has entered a pledge with Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company, to address the problem. The joint effort will focus on lawsuits against spammers as well as the companies they advertise. “Pfizer is joining with Microsoft on these actions as part of our shared pledge to reduce the sale of these products and to fight the senders of unsolicited e-mail that overwhelms people’s inboxes,” said Jeff Kindler, executive vice president at Pfizer.

Microsoft has filed civil actions against spammers advertising the websites CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct. Pfizer has filed lawsuits against the two companies, and has taken actions against websites which use the word “Viagra” in their domain names. Sales of controlled drugs from Canadian pharmacies to the United States are illegal, but most drugs sold in Canada have nevertheless undergone testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is not the case for many of the Viagra clones sold by Internet companies and manufactured in countries like China and India. While it was not clear that CanadianPharmacy was actually shipping drugs from Canada, Pfizer’s general counsel, Beth Levine, claimed that the company filled orders using a call center in Montreal, reported the Toronto Star.

For Microsoft’s part, they allege that the joint effort with Pfizer is part of their “multi-pronged attack on the barrage of spam.” As the creator of the popular email program Outlook, Microsoft has been criticized in the past for the product’s spam filtering process. Recently, Microsoft added anti-spam measures to its popular Exchange server. Exchange 2003 now includes support for accessing so-called real-time block lists, or RTBLs. An RTBL is a list of the IP addresses maintained by a third party; the addresses on the list are those of mailservers thought to have sent spam recently. Exchange 2003 can query the list for each message it receives.

Wikinews Shorts: September 29, 2010

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A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, September 29, 2010.

Matt Smith revealed as 11th incarnation of Doctor Who

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Actor Matt Smith will be the next to portray the Doctor on the BBC television program Doctor Who. Smith will be the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, taking over from actor David Tennant who will end his time with the series after filming four editions of the program through 2009. The Doctor comes from a race of Timelords, and has the ability to “regenerate” and change appearance when his health is failing. William Hartnell was the first actor to play the Doctor, from 1963–1966. Smith will become the new occupant of the Doctor’s time machine and spacecraft the “TARDIS” in 2010.

David Tennant will be a very hard act to follow, but I’m optimistic that the new Doctor will be just as good.

John Harper, founder of the Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society and a fan of the series, called the decision to cast 26-year-old Smith in the role “wonderful”. MP for Scarborough Robert Goodwill, also a fan of the program, told the Scarborough Evening News: “David Tennant will be a very hard act to follow, but I’m optimistic that the new Doctor will be just as good.”

He is possibly going to be one of the best Doctors we’ve ever had.

Matt Smith, 26, portrayed researcher Danny Foster on the political drama Party Animals, which aired on BBC Two in 2007. Fellow actor Andrew Buchan from Party Animals told The Guardian: “It’s a sublime bit of casting. He’s got that huge hair, a twinkle in his eye — Matt’s the king of geek chic. He is possibly going to be one of the best Doctors we’ve ever had.”

After a back injury got in the way of Smith’s goal of becoming a footballer, his drama teacher Jerry Hardingham at Northampton School for Boys encouraged him to pursue acting. Though Smith did not audition, Hardingham cast him in a school production of the play Twelve Angry Men. Hardingham later convinced Smith to join the National Youth Theatre, and he landed the lead role in the play Murder in the Cathedral, performing before members of the British Royal Family and other VIPs at the Westminster Cathedral.

David Tennant, 37, has portrayed the Doctor on Doctor Who since taking over for Christopher Eccleston in 2005. A major feature of his character’s stories involved a romantic interest in his companion in the TARDIS, Rose, played by actress Billie Piper.

Tennant announced his exit from the program on October 29, 2008, at the National Television Awards in the United Kingdom, during his speech accepting the outstanding drama performance award at the program. Doctor Who was recognized with the award for most popular drama program.

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“I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don’t take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you’ll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair,” said Tennant in his address to the audience in attendance at the Royal Albert Hall. He was previously recognized at the National Television Awards for his role in Doctor Who with the award for most popular actor, in 2006 and 2007.

Tennant is currently performing the lead role in Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his engagement at the Novello Theatre in Westminster, London is set to end on January 10. He portrayed Hamlet 60 times with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon prior to the production’s move to London.

UK retailers MFI and Woolworths collapse

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Two major retail chains in the United Kingdom — general retailer Woolworths Group and furniture vendor MFI Group — have entered administration. Entertainment UK — which distributes videos and DVDs to retailers and are owned by Woolworths — have also entered administration.

“The boards of Woolworths PLC and Entertainment UK Ltd have concluded that there is no longer any prospect of those businesses being able to operate as a going concern,” said a Woolworths statement.

Woolworths, who sells household goods, music and other items, owns 815 stores nationwide, and MFI owns 111. MFI CEO Gary Favell said he had “secured the future of the MFI business” in September when he led a management buyout, but cracks rapidly appeared. Favell revealed administrator Kroll were to take control of the property division and half the stores were surrendered to the administrators. He also asked landlords to grant a three-month period of no rent for the ‘new’ MFI, which only some agreed to, leaving Kroll to seek payment for the rest.

Now the entirety of MFI is in administration, with MCR as the administrator. “Closing down sales” have been announced by MCR. Analysts predict that while in the short term consumer confidence will be damaged by the collapse, in the middle term it will help the situation as excess competition and capacity are removed. MFI employs 1,500 people.

The administrators for Woolworths and Entertainment UK are consultancy firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. “In the last 24 hours we have received expressions of interest from a number of parties for both the retail and wholesale businesses,” said Deloitte partner Dan Butters. “We are working hard to ensure that any sale of the business, in whole or part, will preserve jobs.” The 25,000 Woolworths employees have their positions safe until Christmas.

Shares in Woolworths have been suspended at just over a penny each. The firm also owns 2Entertain, a DVD publishing joint venture with BBC Worldwide, and book wholesalers Bertram Books. Both are currently operating as usual, although Woolworths is seeking to sell 40% of 2Entertain to the BBC.

“The important thing is in the long run that employees in this company – where the businesses and the shops are not going to stay open in the longer term – can get other jobs quickly,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. “That’s why we’re going to move in immediately to give advice to employees.”

UK Wikinews Shorts: July 8, 2013

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A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, July 8, 2013.

Business Brief for December 14, 2005

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

These are short blurbs about current events in the business world.

Contents

  • 1 A World Bank lead economist speaks on Bird Flu
    • 1.1 Sources
  • 2 Gold prices drop
    • 2.1 Sources

Record number of bicycles sold in Australia in 2006

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Bicycle sales in Australia have recorded record sales of 1,273,781 units for 2006, exceeding car sales by 32 percent. It is the fifth year in a row that the bicycle industry has sold more than one million units, a figure yet to be realised by car manufacturers.

The Cycling Promotion Fund (CPF) spokesman Ian Christie said Australians were increasingly using bicycles as an alternative to cars. Sales rose nine percent in 2006 while the car market stalled. Mr Christie said people were looking to cut their fuel costs and improve their fitness.

Mr Christie said organisations were beginning to supply bicycles as a company vehicle. “There is an emerging trend towards people using bikes as their official company-supplied vehicle in place of the traditional company car,” he said.

“Some of Australia’s biggest corporations now have bicycle fleets, and when you add in government organisations, we now know of at least 50 organisations which operate fleets of bikes.”

“Although the company bicycle is a long way from taking over from the company car, it’s an important trend when you consider that nearly half of all cars sold are to company fleets.”

The CPF claims most commutes to work are less than 5 kilometres (3 miles) making bicycle travel a viable alternative.

Interview: PRS, the UK’s music royalty collection society

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PRS for Music is the UK’s music royalty collection society tasked with working on behalf of copyright holders, specifically authors and music publishers. Founded in 1914, the PRS is a non-profit organisation with 350,000 UK businesses holding PRS licenses. The society works in conjunction with PPL which collects fees on behalf of the copyright holders of the actual recording.So, if a cover version of a song is played on UK radio, PRS collect a fee on behalf of the original writer and publisher, whilst PPL collect a fee on behalf of the record company of the cover. In a recent Wikinews interview, Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio, an unsigned UK radio station, lambasted PRS for their “barmy standard contract” and their outdated equipment. That interview can be found here.

The music industry is changing and the way we use music is continually changing

Wikinews reporter Tristan Thomas interviews PRS, following up on Campbell and others’ criticism as well as finding out about future plans.

((Wikinews)) Firstly, thank you for the time in doing this interview.

((WN)) Last year, you were involved in a high profile dispute with YouTube. Can you briefly explain to our audience what that was all about and the final outcome of it?

((PRS)) PRS for Music was the first collecting society in the world to license the YouTube service, meaning if music videos were watched online then our members – who created them – would receive a small royalty payment. When we went to renew the licence that YouTube held we couldn’t agree as to how much should be paid and exactly what should be covered within it. We believed that music had become a much larger part of the YouTube service and that YouTube/Google should reflect the increased use of our members’ creative talent in the amount they paid.

The great thing is that we kept talking to YouTube throughout the dispute and managed to reach an agreement in September which meant that the videos could be accessed again by UK YouTube users and that our 65,000 songwriter, composer and music publisher members would be paid.

((WN)) How many artists do you represent and how much did you collect during 2009 for them?

((PRS)) We represent 65,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. We haven’t released our 2009 figures yet but in 2008 we collected over £600m for them. The main sources of revenue come from recorded media (CDs, DVDs etc), international use, public performance use and use in television, radio and online.

((WN)) Paul Campbell in a recent interview with us said the following:“PRS has a barmy standard contract for using their members’ music online. It requires us to pay them a fixed percentage of ALL revenue from that website – whether or not the revenue is derived from their members’ work. So if we had 100,000 songs from non-PRS artists on amazingtunes.com, and one song from a PRS artist, we’d have to pay them a percentage of the revenue from ALL 100,000 songs. I.e., we’d have to take money out of the pockets out of non-PRS artists to pay to PRS. That would be immoral.”How do you respond to that?

((PRS)) Anyone using music in a commercial way – such as a radio station – is required to obtain the permission of those that created the music. This could be numerous writers, publishers and a record label for each song, possibly in different countries around the world. By obtaining a PRS for Music and PPL licence in the UK you are ensuring you have those permissions for over 10million musical works. Obviously much of the music used on radio comes from non-UK writers who may not be members of PRS for Music. Radio and television stations give us almost 100% accurate reports of their music use through their own playlists; this data then enables organisations such as ours to work out who should be paid and how much. PRS for Music has 144 agreements in place with similar societies around the world, resulting in us representing almost 2 million writers worldwide. If French, American, Spanish, Australian or any other writer’s music is used we will pay the respective societies so they can pay their members.

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Similarly a writer of musician may be ‘unsigned’ by that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t earn from their music when it is used by others. Many bands, writers and performers are currently unsigned but by being members of PRS for Music they ensure that they can begin earning vital royalties that allow them to continue with their musical career.

((WN)) How does the PRS ensure that artists outside the UK are properly compensated when their music is used within the UK, such as Thai or Chinese restaurants paying their PRS dues and exclusively using music which is from outside Europe?

((PRS)) As mentioned before PRS for Music has agreements in place in over 90 countries around the world to ensure that when music is used the right creators are rewarded. The system – built up over the last century – works both ways and when UK music is used internationally, PRS for Music receives royalties from foreign societies so we can pay our members. In 2008 £139.8m was collected from UK music use abroad, with the UK being one of only a few net exporters of music in the world.

((WN)) There have been a few cases in which PRS have been forced to apologise, exemplified by the threat of prosecution and a fine towards “singing granny” Sandra Burt, a shelf-stacker who sung to herself whilst stacking shelves. How has PRS moved forward from these incidents in order to ensure they do not happen again?

((PRS)) If we have made mistakes we will of course put our hands up and say so. For example when we were approached about the Sandra Burt case – by a journalist incidentally and not Sandra – we did give out slightly incorrect advice, although the questions were a little ambiguous. Once we realised our mistake we contacted Sandra to explain that she wouldn’t need a licence to sing to her customers and offered our sincere apologies. As an organisation we are very quick to admit where we get things wrong and ensure they are put right. We’re proud of our record with our customers and currently have 350,000 businesses choosing to use music in the UK.

Once we realised our mistake we contacted Sandra

To put the complaints in context we have only have 1 for approximately every 5,000 customer contacts we make. This is an exceptionally low ratio and there are many firms who would be envious of a record like this. During 2009 our complaints fell by 50% and we appointed an independent ombudsmen who could handle any complaints if they were not resolved internally. As of January 2010 no complaints have needed to be passed on to the ombudsmen.

((WN)) How does the PRS work with musicians who are not signed to major labels, may make music available for download via their own websites or MySpace, and do not have the financial resources to protect their copyright?

((PRS)) Many of the PRS for Music membership is not signed to a major record label and we represent creators from all genres of music in the UK and abroad. By joining PRS for Music, which only costs £10 deferred to your first royalty payment, you ensure you can begin earning royalties whenever your music is played, performed or reproduced. We have worked hard to license such sites as YouTube, MySpace, Spotify and Sky Songs to name a selection to ensure our members can be rewarded when their work is used.

Our membership team also work hard to support our creators holding showcase events, offering advice of how to get their music used as well as legal and financial advice.

((WN)) Finally, what future plans do you have as an organisation in order to further protect and enhance your members work as new technologies emerge over the next few years?

((PRS)) PRS for Music will continue to be at the forefront of licensing new digital and online services to ensure creators are paid. We aim to get the balance right to ensure new products and music services can launch and develop, but that also they pay for the music they use.

The music industry is changing and the way we use music is continually changing (it always has) but we’ll still be at the forefront enabling people to use music whenever they want, and rewarding those that have created that music.

((WN)) Thank you for taking the time out for this interview. Good luck for 2010.

‘Bloody Sunday Inquiry’ publishes report into British Army killing of activists in Northern Ireland

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

File:Civil Rights Mural SMC May 2007.jpg

On Tuesday, the “Bloody Sunday Inquiry” published its report into 1972 British Army killing of fourteen civil rights activists in Northern Ireland.

The Saville Inquiry, a twelve-year-long public inquiry into the fatal shooting, published their 5,000-page report; stating, the deaths were “unjustified”.

The events of “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 saw soldiers open fire on civilians during a civil rights march. Family members and supporters of the victims reacted positively to the report, as they gathering outside the Guildhall in Derry.

“What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons. He also said, “[t]he Government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces, and for that, on behalf of the Government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry”, and that “[t]here is no doubt. There’s nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities”.

Cameron said the Saville report states that those killed did not pose a threat and some of those killed and injured were clearly fleeing or going to help those injured or dying. Some of the key findings were;

  • “The firing by soldiers of 1 Para caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury”;
  • “Despite the contrary evidence given by soldiers, we have concluded that none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers”;
  • Accounts by soldiers were rejected and some had “knowingly put forward false accounts”;
  • The paratroopers shot first and later members of the official IRA fired a number of shots but this “did not provide an explanation for why soldiers targeted and hit people”;
  • Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, was “probably armed with a sub-machine gun” on the day, but did not engage in “any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire”.

Twenty-seven civil rights activists were shot by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment (of which “1 Para” was identified as the regiment mainly responsible) during an illegal Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972. The NICRA was an organisation, formed in early 1967, which campaigned against discrimination of the Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and had five key demands: “one man, one vote”; an end to gerrymandering, housing discrimination, public authority discrimination and the abolition of the B Specials police reserve.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, an inquiry by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, justified British army actions on the day and claimed that many of the activists were armed with guns and nail bombs. Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader MP Mark Durkan said, “[t]he families have waited a long time for justice and for a long time the reputations and innocence of their loved ones have been smeared by the findings of Widgery”.

The shootings lead to the strengthening of Irish republicans’ anti-British army arguments in the Nationalist community and provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) with queues of new recruits for its “long war”, which resulted in 30 years of The Troubles.

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The 12-year inquiry is the longest-running and most expensive public inquiry in British judicial history, costing around £200 million. Around 2,500 people gave testimony, including 505 civilians, nine experts and forensic scientists, 49 journalists, 245 military personnel, 35 paramilitaries or former paramilitaries, 39 politicians and civil servants, seven priests and 33 Royal Ulster Constabulary officers. Evidence included 160 volumes of data with an estimated 30 million words, 13 volumes of photographs, 121 audio tapes and 10 video tapes.

The victims included Patrick Doherty (32), Hugh Gilmour (17), Jackie Duddy (17), John Young (17), Kevin McElhinney (17), Michael Kelly (17), Gerald Donaghey (17), William Nash (19), Michael McDaid (20), Jim Wray (22), William McKinney (27) and Bernard “Barney” McGuigan (41). John Johnston (59) died four months later.