Mar 12 2019

US unemployment rate reaches 9.8%

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Companies in the United States are shedding more jobs, pushing the country’s unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.8%.

The US Labor Department said on Friday that employers cut 263,000 jobs in September, with companies in the service industries — including banks, restaurants and retailers — hit especially hard. This is the 21st consecutive month of job losses in the country.

The United States has now lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession officially began in December 2007. The new data has sparked fears that unemployment could threaten an economic recovery. Top US officials have warned that any recovery would be slow and uneven, and some have predicted the unemployment rate will top 10% before the situation improves.

“Continued household deleveraging and rising unemployment may weigh more on consumption than forecast, and accelerating corporate and commercial property defaults could slow the improvement in financial conditions,” read a report by the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, predicting that unemployment will average 10.1% by next year and not go back down to five percent until 2014.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, said that “it’s a very fragile and tentative recovery. Policy makers need to do more.”

“The number came in weaker than expected. We saw a lot of artificial involvement by the government to prop up the markets, and now that that is starting to end, the private sector isn’t yet showing signs of life,” said Kevin Caron, a market strategist for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

Also on Thursday, the US Commerce Department said factory orders fell for the first time in five months, dropping eight-tenths of a percent in August. Orders for durable goods — items intended to last several years (including everything from appliances to airliners) — fell 2.6%, the largest drop since January of this year.

The US government has been spending billions of dollars — part of a $787 billion stimulus package — to help spark economic growth. There have been some signs the economy is improving.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that spending on home construction jumped in August for its biggest increase in 16 years. A real estate trade group, the National Association of Realtors, said pending sales of previously owned homes rose more than 12 percent in August, compared to August 2008.

A separate Commerce Department report said that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, rose at its fastest pace in nearly eight years, jumping 1.3 percent in August.

Other reports have provided cause for concern. A banking industry trade group said Thursday the number of US consumers making late payments, or failing to make payments, on loans and credit cards is on the rise. A survey by a business group, the Institute for Supply Management, Thursday showed US manufacturing grew in September, but at a slower pace than in August when manufacturing increased for the first time in a year and a half.

Stock markets reacted negatively to the reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41 points in early trading, reaching a level of 9467. This follows a drop of 203 points on Thursday, its largest loss in a single day since July. The London FTSE index fell 55 points, or 1.1%, to reach 4993 points by 15.00 local time.

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Mar 12 2019

Two killed in landslide in Tenerife

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

At least two people have been killed in a landslide at the Playa de los Gigantes beach on the Spanish island of Tenerife. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed the information today.

The victims were both women. One of them was identified as a 34-year-old woman from the southern part of the island. The other was identified as Marion Auril O’Hara, a 57-year-old woman from the United Kingdom. The collapsing of the cliff, which was on a small beach and stretched 130 feet (40 metres), occurred at around 1600 GMT on Sunday.

Initially, it was believed that there were six people trapped underneath the cliff. 150 rescue workers dug with picks and shovels, and continued digging for over four hours. However, the search was later scaled down, with the Senior Civil Guard Officer saying that “we now believe that these two women were the only victims.”

Howard Williams, who was on holiday from the United Kingdom in the area, told Sky News Online that “police were aware the cliff was dangerous for days, but the only thing they put in place was a bit of builder’s tape.”

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Mar 11 2019

Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?

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Mar 11 2019

Sri Lanka accepts ‘One China’ policy

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Sri Lankan Ministry Of Foreign Affairs said the government accepts Beijing’s “One China” policy and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic Of China, according to a March 17 press release.

The current foreign Ministry communiqué, recollects the press communiqué issued by the Foreign Ministers of China and Sri Lanka in Beijing in December 2004. Sri Lanka reiterated its support for Chinese legislative measures to oppose forces seeking to secede from China.

In the communiqué, the Sri Lankan government categorically mentioned, Sri Lanka opposes secessionist actions in any form and fully supports a process of peaceful national reunification. The Sri Lankan government further said, it welcomes growing cross-Straits economic and other exchanges such as the promotion of direct trade, mail, air and shipping links.

In the mean time, Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a presidential order regarding the promulgation of the Anti-Secession Law on March 14, which was adopted at the Third Session of the Tenth National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature.

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Mar 11 2019

Sadr City suicide bomber uses fruit truck to kill 66 on market day

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Sunday, July 2, 2006

A suicide bomber exploded a truck bomb in the crowded Al-Ula market in Sadr City in Baghdad on Saturday, killing 66 people and injuring over a 100.

‘At the beginning of this market, the criminal blew up his dynamite-packed truck after trying to go over the pavement,’ said Iraq’s Deputy Health Minister Sabah al-Hussein.

The explosion happened when a police patrol was passing by and caused heavy casualties in the morning market rush. Some shoppers were sent flying on top of nearby two-storey buildings.

The force of the blast left a large crater and wreckage of blown-out cars and windowless buildings. Rescuers were left to pick through a sickening scene of human remains mixed in with exploded vegetable matter and dead animals.

Sadr City, a Shiite city of two million in which religious leader Moqtada Sadr has found popular support, had many times before been targeted by Sunni terrorists who were blamed by some residents for this attack.

It was the deadliest bombing of civilians since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s government assumed responsibility for domestic security in May 2006.

Experts said the truck bomb was a lethal concoction of explosives, shells and shrapnel hidden under a consignment of fruit. The driver of the truck blew himself up in the explosion.

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Mar 11 2019

Celebrities contribute to Katrina relief

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Published:Wednesday, September 7, 2005Updated:Saturday, September 10, 2005 (Travolta, Preston, Moore, Stones, Three Doors Down, Johnson, Smith)

After Hurricane Katrina passed across the United States, various artists and media stars have leapt at a call to action.

John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston flew his private plane to deliver a load of supplies and tetanus vaccine to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Part of a Scientology project which has been using their non-massage “assists”, in an interview Preston mentioned that “auditing” had also been performed on victims.

Kevin Smith is holding an online auction on his Web site.

Sean Penn actually went to Louisiana. After loading down a small boat with his entourage, it was discovered one of them had neglected to seal a hole in the bottom. Penn was wearing a white vest rather than a life vest while bailing. After the motor wouldn’t start, the crew paddled down a flooded New Orleans street. Bystanders jeered at whether any victims could fit aboard the crowded craft. No report on rescue stunts. Local authorities had previously been criticized for not allowing volunteer boaters in to help.

Morgan Freeman, whose home fared well, is organizing an online auction of celebrity items at charityfolks.com, to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Curt Schilling opened his home to a family of nine driven out of their New Orleans home. The Schilling family will provide housing for the Fields for a year while their home in New Orleans is rebuilt and repaired.

Some celebrities “graced” disaster zones with their presence in the days following Katrina.

Singer Macy Gray and television personality Phil McGraw visited Houston’s Astrodome.

Celebrities visiting New Orleans include Michael Moore (opposite side of lake), singer Harry Connick, Jr., CNN’s Anderson Cooper, actor Jamie Foxx, singer Faith Hill, actor Matthew McConaughey, singer Lisa Marie Presley, comedian Chris Rock, and The Oprah Winfrey Show contributor Lisa Ling and interior decorator Nate Berkus.

Oprah Winfrey visited New Orleans, Houston, and Mississippi.

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Mar 09 2019

With US mid-term elections fast approaching, three prominent Democrats announce retirement

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

With this year’s November midterm elections fast approaching, three prominent United States Democrats announced their plans for retirement from public service on Wednesday.

Powerful and influential—yet controversial for his alleged close ties to the financial sector and his handling of last year’s bailout—Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut announced that he would not be seeking a sixth term this year.

In a speech to his supporters in East Haddam, Connecticut, the sixty-five-year-old senior senator—with his family at his side—said, “I have been a Connecticut senator for thirty years. I’m very proud of the job I’ve done and the results delivered. But none of us is irreplaceable. None of us is indispensable.”

He then went on to say, “Over the past twelve months, I’ve managed four major pieces of legislation through the United States Congress, served as chair and acting chair of two major Senate committees, placing me at the center of the two most important issues of our time—health care and reform of financial services.”

In addition to highlighting some personal travails, Dodd alluded to his precarious political situation, “I lost a beloved sister in July, and in August, Ted Kennedy. I battled cancer over the summer, and in the midst of all of this, found myself in the toughest political shape of my career.”

Despite this, Dodd adamantly maintained that none of the above reasons were the causes for his retirement. He said that his reasons were more “personal,” and that his retirement would hopefully give him a much-wanted opportunity to spend more time with his family.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced that he would not run for re-election this year either.

“Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life,” said the sixty-seven-year-old, three-term senator who said he came to this decision after discussing his future with his immediate family over Christmas.

Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter announced that he too would not seek a second term. The fifty-three-year-old freshman governor said that although he felt his race was “absolutely winnable,” after some deep “soul searching,” he realized that he truly wanted to retire from politics nonetheless. This due to the fact that he felt his main priority should be to be a better husband to his wife as well as a better father to their four children.

When asked to comment on Senator Dodd’s retirement on behalf of the Administration, Vice President Joseph Biden said Dodd would “be long recognized as one of the most significant senators of my generation.”

He furthermore stated, “I believe the nation will miss his wisdom, wit and compassion. I count myself lucky because I know he’s not going too far and will always be a source of advice and counsel.”

Biden gave similar comments and expressed like sentiments about the retirement of his other two Democratic colleagues as well.

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Mar 09 2019

UK mother cleared of attempted murder of ME-suffering daughter

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Bridget Gilderdale, a mother from Stonegate, East Sussex, has been found not guilty of the attempted murder of her daughter, Lynn Gilderdale—a 31-year-old sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome (more commonly known as ME)—after her daughter was found dead at their home on 4 December, having been killed using a concoction of pills and morphine. The case has called into question the United Kingdom’s assisted suicide laws.

There is no dispute that you were a caring and loving mother and that you considered that you were acting in the best interests of your daughter

Bridget Gilderdale had already admitted to aiding and abetting her daughter’s suicide, but the jury decided, unanimously, to acquit her of a charge of attempted murder. The presiding judge, Mr Justice Bean, had already questioned the accusation’s suitability, asking prosecutor Sally Howes “why it was considered to be in the public interest”. Once the verdict was delivered, he said, “I do not normally comment on the verdicts of juries but in this case their decision, if I may say so, shows common sense, decency and humanity which makes jury trials so important in a case of this kind. There is no dispute that you were a caring and loving mother and that you considered that you were acting in the best interests of your daughter.”

Gilderdale was given a 12-month conditional discharge. The case stands in contrast to the life sentence received last week by Frances Inglis, who killed her severely brain damaged son Tom by injecting him with heroin. Tom had, however, never expressed any wish to die, and his mother had ignored medical advice, while Lynn had previously attempted suicide. When this attempt had failed, her mother had assisted her in ending her life.

at present the law is a mess.

The case has brought into the limelight the debate over a person’s “right to die” and the United Kingdom’s laws on assisted suicide. Some claim that, with a new draft policy clarifying the law in the pipeline, Bridget Gilderdale should not have been prosecuted at all. A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to prosecute, saying that “It was not clear cut: there was a sequence of events and the toxicologist could not prove which of these stages resulted in death,” and that it was not certain whether Lynn Gilderdale had died from assisted suicide. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, says that there is a “clear ethical difference” between asisted suicide and murder, and that the law does not take this into account. She said, “Ultimately, the Government needs to review the law in this area, as this case highlights at present the law is a mess.”

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Mar 09 2019

News briefs:May 31, 2010

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Mar 08 2019

UK bank gets emergency support

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Friday, September 14, 2007

British bank Northern Rock received emergency loans from the Bank of England yesterday, as it felt the effects of the financial crisis originating in the U.S. subprime mortgage market. Queues formed outside branches as many customers sought to withdraw their savings, and shares fell heavily.

Northern Rock, based in Newcastle, is one of the UK’s largest mortgage lenders, with total assets and loans of £113 billion. Pressure has grown on the bank as other institutions have become less willing to buy mortgage debt, following the American subprime crisis.

The support from the central bank was authorised by the Government and the Financial Services Authority, following assurances that the problems were temporary and the bank remained solvent. Some current mortgages are being used as collateral. The lending is an “unlimited” facility, at an interest rate higher than the base rate. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, encouraged customers to carry on as normal, stating that “Northern Rock will be able to carry on its business”.

Northern Rock chief executive Adam Applegarth also called for calm, but customers were seen queuing outside branches across the country to withdraw money. It is reported that the company website also crashed under the demand.

Shares in the bank fell 31.5% on Friday, down almost 60% from their highest value this year. Applegarth admitted that profits would be hit, but stated that the bank would adapt to the changes. Shares in other lenders also fell, with Paragon being the most extreme, dropping almost 17%. The FTSE 100 closed down 1.17% (74 points) following a recovery in the afternoon.

The last time the Bank of England acted as “lender of last resort” in this way was in 1973, after the collapse of Cedar Holdings.

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