ANZACs remembered ninety years after assault on Gallipoli

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Australians and New Zealanders throughout the world stood still for their national war memorial days in remembrance of the failed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps — ANZAC — attack on Gallipoli, Turkey that began on 25 April 1915. The fateful attack was designed to end the First World War more quickly by creating a supply line to Russia. A hundred-thousand died in the battle, remembered every year as ANZAC Day by both nations.

The British-directed battle of Gallipoli is often seen as the defining moment in the ‘birth’ of Australia and New Zealand. With New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark saying “For New Zealand as for Australia it was at Gallipoli that our young nations came of age.” [1]. This being the 90th anniversary of the attack, Clark, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Britain’s Prince Charles are all at Gallipoli to remember that fateful campaign.

Some controversy has been created about Australian Prime Minister John Howard not attending the New Zealand ceremony at Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This has upset many people as it is a break in a tradition that the Prime Ministers attend the ceremonies of both countries.

Ethiopia plans to expand country’s Internet access

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Thursday, April 7, 2005

At an information technology conference in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia vowed to offer universal Internet connectivity in the country within three years. The government is working with a United States technology company Cisco Systems to fulfill this promise.

The government will invest US$40 million in the venture, which will lay nearly 10,000 km of fibre optic cable. Ethiopia currently ranks low in Internet penetration, with just 30,000 connections available for its 71 million inhabitants. Part of the program is the installation of Internet access at 450 secondary schools throughout the country.

Zenawi explained the change of heart that led to the decision to invest in this infrastructure project. “Not long ago many of us felt that we were too poor to seriously invest in information and communication technology,” he said at the conference. “We were convinced that we should invest every penny we have on securing the next meal for our people. We did not believe serious investment in ICT had anything to do with facing the challenges of poverty that kills. Now I think we know better,” he explained to the delegates.

Not everyone thinks that the government knows better. Giovani Peri, Assistant Professor of Economics at University of California, Davis, specializes in macroeconomics and growth theory. Peri believes that the Ethiopian government may be misguided in its direct investment in the build-up of information technology, and should instead create incentives for the private sector to build such infrastructure.

Professor Peri likened the Internet access project to previous failed attempts by African governments to stimulate growth via large-scale projects. “[African governments] in the past tried to build airports … in the middle of desolation.” — but people need to know that the environment is right for business, he said, not just a good airport. He said that the investment in Internet access might be too early for that country, and that before it is built, the country needs a good educational system to get the scientific community involved in the process of building technology infrastructure.

Ethiopia’s population is mostly rural, and over half of the population is illiterate. The country’s GDP per capita is US$560.

Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/OH-WY

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See the discussion page for instructions on adding schools to this list and for an alphabetically arranged listing of schools.

Due to the damage by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding, a number of colleges and universities in the New Orleans metropolitan area will not be able to hold classes for the fall 2005 semester. It is estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 students have been displaced. [1]. In response, institutions across the United States and Canada are offering late registration for displaced students so that their academic progress is not unduly delayed. Some are offering free or reduced admission to displaced students. At some universities, especially state universities, this offer is limited to residents of the area.

Contents

  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Ohio
  • 3 Oklahoma
  • 4 Oregon
  • 5 Pennsylvania
  • 6 Rhode Island
  • 7 South Carolina
  • 8 South Dakota
  • 9 Tennessee
  • 10 Texas
  • 11 Utah
  • 12 Vermont
  • 13 Virginia
  • 14 Washington
  • 15 West Virginia
  • 16 Wisconsin
  • 17 Wyoming

Iraq on verge of civil war, head of Arab league fears

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Saturday, October 8, 2005

Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said a civil war in Iraq is looming, “… civil war could erupt at any moment, although some people would say it is already there.”

“There are a lot of individuals now playing games with the future of Iraq, and there is no clear strategy, there is no clear leadership… We are now in a mission to bring people together,” said Moussa.

Sunni Arab leaders met Saturday to discuss the possibility of a boycott of the up-coming referendum on the Iraqi draft constitution. The group came just short of calling for the boycott, and instead asked followers to vote “no” on October 15th referendum. They called on their followers to oppose the referendum “by all legitimate means.”

The constitution was drafted by mainly Shia leaders, the majority in Iraq. The Kurdish leaders also supported the new constitution.

The Sunnis make up 20% of Iraq. They most likely fear a political movement that would allow the Shia and Kurds to control the government and lucrative petroleum industry.

Violent acts have been on the increase lately. Most carried out by suicide bombers targeting Iraq police and new recruits into the nations army.

UK Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has also been expressing concerns over violence in Iraq. The most worrying was “the apparent breakdown in trust” between local authorities and UK troops.

These comments come after UK troops were attacked by a mob after they tried to free two soldiers who had been arrested. UK troops later broke into a Basra prison while looking for the two arrested soldiers. They were found later in houses, police had handed them over to Shia militiamen. Kennedy has also been pushing for the removal of troops from Iraq.

Other Arab countries have been expressing their concern over the violence in Iraq.

Amr Moussa told the BBC, “The situation is bad and our work now is to bring all communities together; we want to do something constructive.”

U.S. manufacturer General Motors seeks bankruptcy protection

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Monday, June 1, 2009

United States automobile manufacturing firm General Motors filed for bankruptcy and Chapter 11 protection from its creditors at 12:00 UTC Monday, in a Manhattan, New York federal bankruptcy court. This was the largest bankruptcy filing for a U.S. manufacturing company, and with declared assets of $82.29 billion and a debt of $172.81 billion, and the fourth largest bankruptcy filing in recent U.S. history — after the bankruptcies of {{w|Lehman Brothers|| ($691.06 billion), Washington Mutual ($327.91 billion), and WorldCom ($103.91 billion).

The filing, expected to be the first of many, was for a New York GM affiliate, Chevrolet-Saturn of Harlem Incorporated. Numbered 09-50026, it named GM as a debtor in possession, and was filed before judge Robert Gerber.

GM is to be represented throughout the filing process by Weil Gotshal & Manges, a New York law firm specializing in bankruptcy.

The chief restructuring officer, named in the filing, is to be Al Koch, a managing director at AlixPartners LLP in New York, who will report directly to Fritz Henderson, the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors.

In its bankruptcy petition, GM listed its primary creditors as:

Name Amount owed (USD millions)
Wilmington Trust 22,000
United Auto Workers union (UAW) 20,560
Deutsche Bank 4,440

The amount owed to UAW excludes “approximately $9.4 billion corresponding to the GM Internal VEBA”. USD22,760 millions are owed to bondholders.

Analysts have observed that the effect of the bankruptcy filing on the U.S. economy is not expected to be as major as it once would have been. One such voice, Mark Zandy, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com, commented that “Bankruptcy now is irrelevant in terms of the economic consequence of what’s happening to GM.” Such analysts believe that the economic impact of GM’s problems has already been felt, with its effects on parts suppliers and employment. They also believe that GM’s programme of accelerated payments, and its participation in a U.S. Treasury program to ensure prompt payments to parts manufacturers, will have cushioned the effect of the bankruptcy itself.

Speaking on Bloomberg Radio, David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, stated that the fragility of the parts suppliers, the loss of whom would threaten the entire automobile manufacturing industry, was of more immediate concern than the GM bankruptcy.

Also filing for chapter 11 protection today were Saturn LLC and Saturn Distribution Corporation, subsidiary companies of General Motors.

As a consequence of the bankruptcy, General Motors Corporation (GM.N) was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and was replaced by Cisco Systems (CSCO.O), these changes scheduled by Dow Jones & Company to take effect from the opening of trading on June 8.

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.

Under-reporting of human Bird Flu infections poses worldwide threat

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Possible under reporting of bird flu infections in China and other Southeast Asian countries may be promoting an illusory sense that human infections are very limited. Common press reports only describe fewer than 130 people as infected with H5N1 avian flu and that fewer than 70 have died worldwide. Yet, there are enormous problems getting accurate data, especially in a country like China with a population of more than a billion.

“Reporting a suspected bird flu infection in bird or humans is a very unlikely event,” said Dr. Shoshana Zimmerman of the eHealth Institute. She is also a founder of www.birdflubeacon.com, a site dedicated to bird flu issues. “There are very few incentives to report, and lots of reasons to refrain from reporting. From the viewpoint of local rural small farmers, there is little to be gained and much to be lost by reporting an infection. The worse threat is that their flocks could be killed, leaving them destitute.”

There are many factors which mitigate against reporting bird or human infections of bird flu.

  • The deaths of chickens, ducks, and birds are common events for farmer. Even when a large number die at one time they may see no purpose in reporting the deaths.
  • When a human dies in locations with little or no medical services, the rural farmer’s priority for discerning the cause of death may be low.
  • In rural areas most people are not taken to hospitals when they are sick.
  • Bird flu symptoms are not widely known. If the symptoms are not known, they will not be recognized and reports of possible bird or human infections can not be made.
  • The expenses required for detection are those of proper collection and shipment of samples to one of approximately 200 laboratories worldwide, as well as the testing procedure that requires a two week period of waiting before results are obtained.
  • The lack of incentive for countries to report large scale outbreaks as it may lead to widespread panic and economic loss, as occurred with SARS. These factors can be seen at work in the way that the first bird flu death was reported in China,” Dr. Zimmerman stated.

A young woman, Zhou Maoya, died after returning home to the village of Yantan in Annui province to prepare for her wedding. Her family has stated that they did not take her to the hospital because they thought it would not do any good. Officials also note rural Chinese also often cite relatively expensive medical costs as a reason for not seeking treatment when sick.

Although initially authorities attributed her death to pneumonia the resulting political pressure prompted China to invite the World Health Organization to send experts to investigate. The authorities then rescinded the previous position and attributed her death to bird flu based on the similarity of the symptoms that she was reported to exhibit with those of bird flu. The village was quarantined and journalists were denied access. It is not known how many others might be infected in the village. Official announcements were made of plans to vaccinate and cull birds.

A local government official, Fan Qian, told AFP that it was believed Zhou was infected while she was outside of the province.

Fan Tan, a local official, told AFP news that 1,000 birds in Yantan had been culled (killed). Plans were announced to vaccinate 2 million poultry in the area, a huge and difficult task.

Zhang, another official, said authorities had met with all villagers to give them flu vaccinations and to tell them how to protect themselves against the bird flu virus, including not consuming poultry products. It is known that flu vaccinations do not protect against bird flu.

Villagers and local officials minimized the threat. In outlying areas of Yantan, residents said that they did not know of any new outbreaks. Other possible infections have been attributed to similar common causes but there have not been any tests performed validating those attributions.

Fan Litan, a peasant woman from Fantu village, about 2 miles from Yantan, lost many of her ducks, and chickens and also a dog; she has attributed these deaths to the acts of hooligans. She said her family had been extremely frightened when her animals suddenly died. “We were scared to death,” said Fan, standing next to a red sign posted on the outside wall of her home that said: “Prevention and control by the masses is basic for people.” Fan said ducks and chickens are all healthy but she admitted that she had stopped eating poultry. No testing of these birds has been reported yet.

According to a recent AFP report from Liuchang, 59 miles south of Yantan, the obstacles to identifying infections are enormous.

Like many, one Liuchang villager named Wang Hemin said he was concerned and would keep a closer eye on his ducks and chickens, but felt no immediacy since the infection was not in his province. He learned about bird flu on TV, and is aware that officials have come to his village of 2,700 people to warn residents about the virus. They offered guidelines: they told people that poultry which die suddenly could have contracted bird flu and should not be eaten or sold and that such an incident should also immediately be reported. However, the symptoms of H5N1 bird flu were not directly described.

Residents have not yet been fully informed of what symptoms to look for in ill poultry–they are fever, diarrhea, teary eyes and swelling in the legs of the birds. Though a pledge was made earlier in the week to vaccinate 2 million birds immediately, no bird vaccinations in this area have been reported yet.

In another nearby village, Nazahuang, chickens scuttle in and out of houses. One resident, Fan Jiexu, 73, said no officials had yet warned her village to take precautions. Throughout rural areas, it is customary for chickens to scuttle in and out of homes. Ducks and bird often die and are eaten by villagers when it is believed safe to do so.

China has reported 17 avian flu outbreaks as of this week. Despite the Chinese government issued high alerts, critical information is not being adequately communicated to some rural villages. The size of the poultry population, the common and normal occurrence of poultry death on farms, and status of roughly 70% of the poultry population as being kept in backyards are factors complicating infection control.

The head of World Health Organization’s China office, Henk Bekedam, is aware that slow reaction to bird flu threats and difficulty monitoring poultry in the world’s most populous country makes control of its spread challenging.

Testing is required to confirm H5N1 virus, and positive test results lead to the killing of nearby flocks. The incentive for many villagers, officials, and governments to minimize reports of H5N1 virus infections and severe medical and economic complications for making confirmations of infection are obstacles opposing complete and full reporting of the spread and infection rates of the virus.

New Zealand government denies financial assistance for Overlander

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The New Zealand government today has announced that they will not provide financial assistance to the Overlander train service between Auckland and Wellington, which is set to stop service on September 30, if no assistance is forthcoming. ONTRACK will retain the North Island main trunk line, while looking for tourism operators to start a tourist rail service.

Trevor Mallard, acting Finance Minister, said: “In making this decision… Cabinet recognised that there was no prospect of the current Overlander service becoming commercially viable. It was not a fuel-efficient operation and at an average passenger rate of 50 passengers each way per day, it was used by relatively few people.”

It is cheaper and faster to travel either by bus or plane rather than the 12-hour train journey. “The fares already overlap with airfares, and the reality is that the service is just not well-used. It can not compete with low-priced air travel and coaches. Cabinet considered the regional implications of ceasing the Overlander service and accepted that the current bus services run by the InterCity Group met the needs of those communities,” Mallard said.

There has been numerous petitions from the public and from the Green Party of New Zealand to continue the Overlander train service, including one petition signed by 16,000 people presented at the Parliament Buildings on September 14, 2006. “While there have been a number of propositions about retaining the Overlander service, all of the propositions would require government funding in one form or another,” said Mallard.

Mallard said that the government will only support rail services if it significantly benefitted the community.

The Government estimates that financial assistance to the Overlander train service would cost NZ$1.75 million a year.

“Finally, the government does recognise and value the importance of a viable and efficient rail network in New Zealand’s transport infrastructure. This was a critical factor in the government’s decision to buy the rail network back from Tranz Rail. The government has also committed $200 million to upgrade the national rail network between 2004/05 and 2007/08. A further $600 million has been provided to upgrade the Auckland rail network between 2005/06 and 2009/10.”

Edinburgh Building Services wins national award

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Edinburgh Building Services (EBS) has won a national excellence award at a gala ceremony held in St Andrews last week (8 March 2007). Promises Into Action, an EBS project, won the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) award for “Securing a Workforce for the Future”.

This award follows an innovative cultural change programme led jointly by Pinnacle and the City of Edinburgh Council, which focussed on improving communications and team-work and on recognising good performance and customer care.

Councillor Sheila Gilmore, Executive Member for Community Safety and Housing, said, “It is encouraging to see the hard work that has been done and the changes that have been made as a result of this project is being recognised on a national level. I would like to congratulate the team and thank COSLA for recognising these achievements.”

Pinnacle’s Director, Steve White, and his team accepted the award at the prize ceremony. He said: “When we first begun working with EBS, we would never have believed that within just three years, we would be winning national awards for excellence. Through Pinnacle’s partnership with City of Edinburgh Council, we focused on changing cultures, nurturing talent and delivering outcomes and as a result, EBS has been transformed into a high achieving organisation with a culture that is inclusive, open and trusting.

“The EBS team should feel justifiably proud of such an outstanding achievement.”

John Swinney, Chief Executive of Pinnacle, said: “EBS continues to go from strength to strength – this is the second national award for excellence that it has achieved in just six months. It highlights, yet again, the real benefits of public/private sector partnerships working together to achieve sustainable improvements for communities and customers. Congratulations again to the EBS team.”

EBS provides a range of building maintenance services for Services for Communities and other departments of the City of Edinburgh Council. Pinnacle began work with Edinburgh Building Services in 2003.

Category:January 11, 2008

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