Tuesday, December 3, 2013

French-born film artist Prouvost wins 2013 Turner Prize

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French-born film artist Prouvost wins 2013 Turner Prize
Paintings by Turner Prize shortlisted English artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye - AFP/Peter Muhly
REUTERS
LONDONDERRY: French-born film installation artist Laure Prouvost won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize on Monday for a short film clip that in part tells the story of a fictional grandfather digging a hole to Africa and disappearing down it.
An emotional and visibly surprised Prouvost, who lives and works in London, told a crowd of hundreds at the awards ceremony: “I didn’t expect this at all … I was sure it was not me.”
After presenting the award, the Oscar-nominated Irish actress Saoirse Ronan brought Prouvost’s baby onto the stage to a chorus of “aahs” from the audience.
The ceremony was held in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the first time the prize has been awarded outside England.
The Turner winner gets 25,000 pounds ($40,900), with 5,000 pounds for each of the three runners-up – Scottish conceptual artist David Shrigley, London-born painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Berlin-based English artist Tino Sehgal, who specializes in creating encounters between visitors to galleries and people he enlists to talk to them.
Prouvost is known for films and installations with complex story lines and sometimes surreal interruptions and images.
Her winning work, “Wantee”, includes a 15-minute film purporting to be a tour of her late grandfather’s sculpture studio. Instead, it shows how his outmoded works – some of them present in the room where the film is shown – have wound up being used to make furniture, or as a kitchen stand.
The grandfather, who it becomes clear is fictional, vanished by disappearing down a tunnel he was digging to Africa.
The Turner Prize, first awarded in 1984 and named after the 19th-century English landscape and seascape painter J.M.W. Turner, has often courted controversy and is regularly lampooned in Britain’s tabloid press.
Past entries have included Damien Hirst’s “Mother and Child Divided”, consisting of a cow and calf pickled in formaldehyde and encased in stainless steel and glass; paintings that incorporated elephant dung; and a work by conceptual artist Tracey Emin consisting of her unmade and soiled bed.
The prize, intended to celebrate new developments in contemporary art, is run by the Tate group of museums.
The works of the four shortlisted artists were exhibited in a new gallery installed in a former military barracks on the banks of the River Foyle in Londonderry, which was the United Kingdom “City of Culture” for 2013.
The city, known as Derry to Irish Roman Catholics, was the scene of the 1972 “Bloody Sunday” violence in which 13 unarmed protesters were killed in one of the most notorious incidents of Northern Ireland’s sectarian violence, known as the “Troubles”, in which 3,500 people lost their lives. The barracks housed British soldiers during those three decades.
Shona McCarthy, head of the company formed to run the year’s cultural events, said they had been a runaway success in attracting visitors and healing sectarian wounds.
“The hallmark of the year has been participation, just the sheer body of people in the city getting off their backsides and participating in something joyous,” she told Reuters.
“I don’t think the people of Derry have any intention of turning back from this.” ($1 = 0.6110 British pounds)

Bob Dylan investigated in France for “racist” comments

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Bob Dylan investigated in France for “racist” comments
Bob Dylan - AP/David Vincent
REUTERS
PARIS: The American singer Bob Dylan is being investigated in France after a Croatian community organization alleged that comments he made to Rolling Stone magazine last year amounted to incitement to racial hatred, Paris prosecutors said on Monday.
In the interview, published in the magazine’s Sept. 27, 2012 edition, the singer said racism was holding America back.
“If you got a slave master or (Ku Klux) Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that,” he was quoted as saying. “That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” (http://r.reuters.com/def25v)
The formal investigation followed a legal complaint from the organization, CRICCF, which is based in France, alleging that the comments as carried in the French version of the magazine violated French racial hatred laws.
CRICCF did not return an email seeking comment. Calls to Dylan’s manager and Rolling Stone were not immediately returned.
In France, racism complaints automatically trigger formal investigations, irrespective of the merits of the case.
Dylan was awarded France’s prestigious Legion d’Honneur award last month in Paris. Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said that, for French people, he embodied a “subversive cultural force that can change people and the world”.

French-born film artist Prouvost wins 2013 Turner Prize

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French-born film artist Prouvost wins 2013 Turner Prize
French artist Laure Prouvost - AFP/Peter Muhly
REUTERS

LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland: French-born film installation artist Laure Prouvost won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize on Monday for a short film clip that in part tells the story of a fictional grandfather digging a hole to Africa and disappearing down it.
An emotional and visibly surprised Prouvost, who lives and works in London, told a crowd of hundreds at the awards ceremony: “I didn’t expect this at all … I was sure it was not me.”
After presenting the award, the Oscar-nominated Irish actress Saoirse Ronan brought Prouvost’s baby onto the stage to a chorus of “aahs” from the audience.
The ceremony was held in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the first time the prize has been awarded outside England.
The Turner winner gets 25,000 pounds ($40,900), with 5,000 pounds for each of the three runners-up – Scottish conceptual artist David Shrigley, London-born painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Berlin-based English artist Tino Sehgal, who specializes in creating encounters between visitors to galleries and people he enlists to talk to them.
Prouvost is known for films and installations with complex story lines and sometimes surreal interruptions and images.
Her winning work, “Wantee”, includes a 15-minute film purporting to be a tour of her late grandfather’s sculpture studio. Instead, it shows how his outmoded works – some of them present in the room where the film is shown – have wound up being used to make furniture, or as a kitchen stand.
The grandfather, who it becomes clear is fictional, vanished by disappearing down a tunnel he was digging to Africa.
The Turner Prize, first awarded in 1984 and named after the 19th-century English landscape and seascape painter J.M.W. Turner, has often courted controversy and is regularly lampooned in Britain’s tabloid press.
Past entries have included Damien Hirst’s “Mother and Child Divided”, consisting of a cow and calf pickled in formaldehyde and encased in stainless steel and glass; paintings that incorporated elephant dung; and a work by conceptual artist Tracey Emin consisting of her unmade and soiled bed.
The prize, intended to celebrate new developments in contemporary art, is run by the Tate group of museums.
The works of the four shortlisted artists were exhibited in a new gallery installed in a former military barracks on the banks of the River Foyle in Londonderry, which was the United Kingdom “City of Culture” for 2013.
The city, known as Derry to Irish Roman Catholics, was the scene of the 1972 “Bloody Sunday” violence in which 13 unarmed protesters were killed in one of the most notorious incidents of Northern Ireland’s sectarian violence, known as the “Troubles”, in which 3,500 people lost their lives. The barracks housed British soldiers during those three decades.
Shona McCarthy, head of the company formed to run the year’s cultural events, said they had been a runaway success in attracting visitors and healing sectarian wounds.
“The hallmark of the year has been participation, just the sheer body of people in the city getting off their backsides and participating in something joyous,” she told Reuters.
“I don’t think the people of Derry have any intention of turning back from this.” ($1 = 0.6110 British pounds).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Content Patch : Xbox One microtransactions, Steam Reviews - Nov. 27th, 2013

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For discussion and feedback regarding this video, please visit the CynicalBrit Subreddit: http://reddit.com/r/Cynicalbrit 00:24 Xbox One launch titles riddled with microtransactions http://bit.ly/Ih5pyb 11:27 Valve introduces Steam Reviews http://bit.ly/1bVMMXR 17:04 TOTD: Danny Baranowsky - Damn Those Turks! http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01615/ Content Patch Episode 164 - November 27th, 2013 Follow TotalBiscuit on Twitter: http://twitter.com/totalbiscuit Follow CynicalBrit on Twitter for video updates: http://twitter.com/cynicalbrit Follow our Facebook page for announcements: http://facebook.com/cynicalbrit Forza 5 gameplay courtesy of: http://www.youtube.com/user/NukemDukem Category Gaming Entertainment News Directed by: John Bain

Raw: Prince William Rocks With Swift, Bon Jovi

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Prince William and Taylor Swift helped Jon Bon Jovi belt out his "Livin' on a Prayer" rock anthem during the Winter Whites Gala charity event at Kensington Palace in London. (Nov. 27)

ShowBiz Minute: Baldwin, Hewitt, Prince William

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Alec Baldwin's show ending on MSNBC; Jennifer Love Hewitt welcomes baby girl after quiet wedding; Britain's Prince William joins Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift on stage to belt out rock classic. (Nov. 27)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Go Multi-Screen: Principles & Recommendations

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Go Multi-Screen: Principles & Recommendations

Elizabeth Berkley Shares Impact of 'Dancing'

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Elizabeth Berkley may not have made it to the finals of 'Dancing with the Stars'' 17th season but the actress reflects on the bonding, enriching experience of being on the show. (Nov. 26)

Dr. Prentice Cleans Up Nicely from "Wedding Crushers" | THE MINDY PROJECT | FOX BROADCASTING

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Mindy takes Peter as her last-minute date to her cheating ex-boyfriend Josh's wedding. Subscribe now for more The Mindy Project clips: http://fox.tv/SubscribeFOX See more of The Mindy Project on our official site: http://fox.tv/TheMindyProject Like The Mindy Project on Facebook: http://fox.tv/MindyProject_FB Follow The Mindy Project on Twitter: http://fox.tv/MindyProject_Twitter Add The Mindy Project on Google+: http://fox.tv/MindyProjectPlus Add The Mindy Project on Pinterest: http://fox.tv/MindyProjectPinterest Like FOX on Facebook: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_FB Follow FOX on Twitter: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_Twitter Add FOX on Google+: http://fox.tv/FOXPlus THE MINDY PROJECT is a biting new single-camera comedy from Emmy Award-nominated writer/producer and New York Times best-selling author Mindy Kaling ("The Office") that follows a woman who, despite having a successful career, is unlucky in love and desperately needs to get her personal life back on track before her friends and colleagues are forced to stage an intervention. Funny, impatient and politically incorrect, MINDY LAHIRI (Kaling) can quote every romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan that exists. She loves the good ones and the bad ones, because the girl always gets the guy. Mindy is determined to be more punctual, spend less money, lose weight and read more books - all in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded perfect woman...who can meet and date the perfect guy. Dr. Prentice Cleans Up Nicely from "Wedding Crushers" | THE MINDY PROJECT | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/FoxBroadc...

Promo for "Dad Abuse" | DADS | FOX BROADCASTING

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The only thing that comes between a father and son is... Social Services?! All-New TUE 8/7c Subscribe now for more DADS clips: http://fox.tv/SubscribeFOX See more of Dads on our official site: http://fox.tv/Dads Like Dads on Facebook: http://fox.tv/Dads_FB Follow Dads on Twitter: http://fox.tv/Dads_TW Add Dads on Google+: http://fox.tv/Dads_Plus Follow Dads on Instagram: http://fox.tv/Dads_IG Like FOX on Facebook: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_FB Follow FOX on Twitter: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_Twitter Add FOX on Google+: http://fox.tv/FOXPlus The new live-action, multi-camera comedy from Emmy Award winner Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, the team behind "Ted" and FAMILY GUY, stars Seth Green and Emmy Award nominee Giovanni Ribisi as two successful gaming entrepreneurs -- and childhood best friends -- whose lives get turned upside down when their pain-in-the-neck patriarchs (Martin Mull, "Two and a Half Men" and Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee Peter Riegert, "The Good Wife," "The Sopranos") move in. Subscribe now for more DADS clips: http://fox.tv/SubscribeFOX See more of Dads on our official site: http://fox.tv/Dads Like Dads on Facebook: http://fox.tv/Dads_FB Follow Dads on Twitter: http://fox.tv/Dads_TW Add Dads on Google+: http://fox.tv/Dads_Plus Follow Dads on Instagram: http://fox.tv/Dads_IG Like FOX on Facebook: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_FB Follow FOX on Twitter: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_Twitter Add FOX on Google+: http://fox.tv/FOXPlus The new live-action, multi-camera comedy from Emmy Award winner Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, the team behind "Ted" and FAMILY GUY, stars Seth Green and Emmy Award nominee Giovanni Ribisi as two successful gaming entrepreneurs -- and childhood best friends -- whose lives get turned upside down when their pain-in-the-neck patriarchs (Martin Mull, "Two and a Half Men" and Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee Peter Riegert, "The Good Wife," "The Sopranos") move in. Promo for "Dad Abuse" | DADS | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/FoxBroadc...

Promo for "Thanksgiving III" | NEW GIRL | FOX BROADCASTING

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The gang's survival skills are tested when Nick and Jess take them camping for Thanksgiving. All-New TUE 9/8c Subscribe now for more New Girl clips: http://fox.tv/SubscribeFOX See more of New Girl on our official site: http://fox.tv/NewGirl Like New Girl on Facebook: http://fox.tv/NewGirl_FB Follow New Girl on Twitter: http://fox.tv/NewGirl_Twitter Add New Girl on Google+: http://fox.tv/NewGirlPlus Add New Girl on Pinterest: http://fox.tv/NewGirlPinterest Like FOX on Facebook: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_FB Follow FOX on Twitter: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_Twitter Add FOX on Google+: http://fox.tv/FOXPlus The hit ensemble comedy struck a chord with viewers last season when, after a bad break-up, Jess moved into a downtown Los Angeles loft occupied by three single guys. The trio helped Jess move on with her life, as she jumped back into the dating pool, which included a courtship with a fellow teacher, a Valentine's Day one-night-stand and a May-December romance with the father of one of her students. Conversely, the upbeat and unique feminine touch that Jess brought into the loft had just as much impact on her new male roommates and changed their lives in ways they never imagined. Promo for "Thanksgiving III" | NEW GIRL | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/FoxBroadc...

Promo for "Wedding Crushers" | THE MINDY PROJECT | FOX BROADCASTING

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Mindy crashes another ex-boyfriend's wedding, and Danny's kid brother is in town to make a big announcement. All-New TUE 9:30/8:30c Subscribe now for more The Mindy Project clips: http://fox.tv/SubscribeFOX See more of The Mindy Project on our official site: http://fox.tv/TheMindyProject Like The Mindy Project on Facebook: http://fox.tv/MindyProject_FB Follow The Mindy Project on Twitter: http://fox.tv/MindyProject_Twitter Add The Mindy Project on Google+: http://fox.tv/MindyProjectPlus Add The Mindy Project on Pinterest: http://fox.tv/MindyProjectPinterest Like FOX on Facebook: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_FB Follow FOX on Twitter: http://fox.tv/FOXTV_Twitter Add FOX on Google+: http://fox.tv/FOXPlus THE MINDY PROJECT is a biting new single-camera comedy from Emmy Award-nominated writer/producer and New York Times best-selling author Mindy Kaling ("The Office") that follows a woman who, despite having a successful career, is unlucky in love and desperately needs to get her personal life back on track before her friends and colleagues are forced to stage an intervention. Funny, impatient and politically incorrect, MINDY LAHIRI (Kaling) can quote every romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan that exists. She loves the good ones and the bad ones, because the girl always gets the guy. Mindy is determined to be more punctual, spend less money, lose weight and read more books - all in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded perfect woman...who can meet and date the perfect guy. Promo for "Wedding Crushers" | THE MINDY PROJECT | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/FoxBroadc...

First Look | GOLAN THE INSATIABLE |Lucas Bros. Moving Co. FOX BROADCASTING

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Meet Golan, a mighty godlord from an alternative universe who lands in the suburbs, and don't miss the Series Premiere of "Golan The Insatiable" SAT 11/10c NOV 21! Subscribe now for more Animation Domination High-Def clips: http://bit.ly/RXLBii Watch Shows + Make GIFS at http://www.foxadhd.com Like Animation Domination High-Def on Facebook: http://bit.ly/ADHD_FB Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Twitter: http://bit.ly/ADHD_Twitter Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Instagram: http://instagram.com/foxadhd Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Tumblr: http://bit.ly/ADHD_Tumblr Animation Domination High-Def is a block of cartoons that air every Saturday on FOX at 11PM/10c and all over the Internet all the time. First Look | GOLAN THE INSATIABLE | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/foxadhd First Look | Lucas Bros. Moving Co. | FOX BROADCASTING Get a look at the new Animation Domination High Def show, the Lucas Bro.s Moving Co. SAT NOV 23 11/10c Subscribe now for more Animation Domination High-Def clips: http://bit.ly/RXLBii Watch Shows + Make GIFS at http://www.foxadhd.com Like Animation Domination High-Def on Facebook: http://bit.ly/ADHD_FB Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Twitter: http://bit.ly/ADHD_Twitter Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Instagram: http://instagram.com/foxadhd Follow Animation Domination High-Def on Tumblr: http://bit.ly/ADHD_Tumblr Animation Domination High-Def is a block of cartoons that air every Saturday on FOX at 11PM/10c and all over the Internet all the time. First Look | Lucas Bros. Moving Co. | FOX BROADCASTING http://www.youtube.com/user/foxadhd

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thor: The Dark World clip - Escape From Asgard OFFICIAL Marvel | HD

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Avengers Assemble was just the beginning. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) & Loki (Tom Hiddleston) fly from through Asgard in a clip from Thor: The Dark World. Marvel's Thor: The Dark World is OUT NOW in UK & IRE cinemas. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba,Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. 'Thor: The Dark World' continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel's "Thor" and "Marvel's The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. Keep up with Marvel on: TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MarvelUK FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/MarvelUK

Thor The Dark World - London fan preview event OFFICIAL Marvel | HD

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To celebrate the UK release of Thor: The Dark World, Marvel fans marked the return of darkness to the UK at exclusive first look screening of the film as the clocks go back in the early hours of Sunday October 27th - with a drinks reception in the magnificent Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College. Taking place in Greenwich, the epicentre of GMT and key filming location in Thor: The Dark World the film was screened exclusively to fans who won tickets via Marvel UK's social channels and exclusive competitions. Fans enjoyed a midnight reception in the magnificent Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College -- a key location used within the film - before being some of the first in the UK to see the new movie from Marvel Studios. The film began at 1am -- the exact moment that clocks around the UK are turned back one hour plunging UK nights back into darkness. The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, setting of a major battle scene in Thor: The Dark World, is one of London's most iconic sites. The stunning Painted Hall, which took its artist almost 20 years to complete, is the jewel in its crown. Fans not lucky enough to win tickets to this exclusive event can still visit Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece to see where the scenes were filmed as it is open to the public daily.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

British defense giant BAE systems to cut 1,775 jobs, stop shipbuilding at Portsmouth

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Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
 
Britain's BAE systems have decided to axe more than seventeen hundred jobs, and end 500 years of shipbuilding in Portsmouth. Prime Minister David Cameron insists the move is in the ‘national interest
BAE said it would cut 1,775 jobs across its naval ships business, with 940 jobs lost in Portsmouth  and a further 835 in Glasgow, Rosyth  and Filton, near Bristol.
The Govan and Scotstoun shipyards on the Clyde in Scotland will continue shipbuilding.
The company says the job losses are primarily due to an overall slowdown in UK shipbuilding, which in case of BAE was coupled with rising costs and a poor order book.
The financial burden on BAE has been rising as the costs for building two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. The price tag for the flagship project has added another £800 million, driving it a total of £6.2 billion.
Local politicians on Portsmouth blame Westminster for putting UK security at stake and choosing Scotland.  With the Scottish referendum on the horizon they are suggesting it is expedient for the government to support shipbuilding north of the border.
"Portsmouth is the last place in England that has the ability to build advanced warships for the Royal Navy and I'm very concerned that with a potential independence vote in Scotland, if Portsmouth shipbuilding is shut down, what would remain of the UK would have no ability to build advanced warships”, said Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of Portsmouth Council told the BBC.
"It would just mean either that that would have to change, and the Royal Navy would have to buy ships from France or Germany – or we'd have to spend a huge amount of public money re-employing people, re-skilling people here in Portsmouth", he added.
According to a poll by research group TNS BMRB, 47 percent of Scots want to remain part of Britain, 29 percent support independence and 24 percent of people say they are undecided on which way to vote, the International Business Times reports.
Meanwhile, David Cameron’s spokesman insisted the decisions were "taken in the UK's national interest".
The Prime Minister said: "We want our Royal Navy to have the best and most modern ships and the best technology. That means we will go on building warships on the Clyde, we will be announcing three new offshore patrol vessels, keeping that yard busy rather than paying for it to remain idle as the last government proposed."
In turn Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, characterized the closure as a "catastrophe" for Portsmouth and a "personal tragedy" for each worker.
"It is a big mistake on the part of the government to put all their eggs into one basket and say that shipbuilding in Portsmouth should cease to exist. It is a very, very big mistake and one that they will live to regret,” Hancock added.

 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cash-strapped Greece protests against further austerity

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Public and private services have shut down across Greece as unions hold a 24-hour general strike against additional austerity cuts in the recession-plagued country. Protests are taking place as Athens holds talks with its ‘troika’ of creditors.
Wednesday's strike disrupted public transport, halted ferry and train services, shut down state-run schools and left state hospitals and the ambulance service functioning with emergency staff, the Associated Press reports.
Dozens of flights were cancelled or rescheduled as air traffic controllers walked off the job for three hours from noon in support of the action.
"Workers, pensioners and the unemployed are going through an endless nightmare," Reuters quoted a port workers statement. "The government and the troika are destroying this country."

Protesters are pushed back from the riot police as EU and IMF officials escorted out from the emergency exit of the Greek Finance Ministry after their meeting with the Greek Finance Minister in Athens on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)
Protesters are pushed back from the riot police as EU and IMF officials escorted out from the emergency exit of the Greek Finance Ministry after their meeting with the Greek Finance Minister in Athens on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)
Greek labor unions fear the country will impose more wage and pension cuts to meet the terms of the bailout packages granted by the so–called ‘troika’ of international lenders – the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Another fear is more job cuts in the Greek public sector, as well as privatization.
Greece has been receiving ‘financial lifeline’ from international lenders since 2010, having secured the estimated $315 billion in loans. All this money was granted on strict terms that resulted in massive job cuts across Greece. Unemployment in the country has hit new record highs, with the latest figures at 27.6 percent, which means 1.37 million people out of a job.
A separate report by the country’s key statistics service ELSTAT said Greeks became about 40 percent poorer than 5 years ago, and the government austerity measures haven't produced promised growth.
Greece is still buried in sky-high debt that exceeds 160 percent of GDP. The inability to make a major turnaround and exit recession has prompted talks that the country might need a third bailout in 2014 of about $1.35 billion.
The protests in Greece take place at a time when Athens and ‘troika’ are trying to figure out the budget gap that needs to be filled. While Greece insists the shortfall is about 500 million euros and could be easily plugged, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has conceded creditors expect the gap to be five times as big.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shorter working week, more social and economic benefit – report

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Reducing the working week from 40 hours to 30 is not what all employees exactly crave, but it could be economically beneficial, the New Economics Foundation says. Fewer working hours would create more jobs, improve health and stimulate social life.
Modern life provides people with a number of opportunities as never before. However, work consumes free time and drains energy. In order to decrease working hours and make-part time full-time, companies can give their employees more leisure time instead of increasing wages. 
A group of eight economists from the New Economics Foundation suggested, that the passage from a 40 to a 30-hour working week would ease employees’ lives, improve health, open up more opportunities and stimulate social life - proof of the theory stated in the “Time on our side” book. 
Time is money. The experience of some western countries may prove it’s visa-versa. 
Belgium and Netherlands have a 30-hour working week without causing any damage to the economy. 
The average German worker puts in 35 hours a week, however the German economy is the world’s fourth largest. The country also excludes Sunday workdays, and the unemployment rate confidently sits at 5 percent, while in the United States it’s 7 percent. 
 “If higher paid workers started to work less hours, it would become a desirable thing. It would be something to aspire to,” Anna Coote, the “Time on our side” co-author asserts. 
Historically, the trend has been going down since the 19th century. At that time some people suffered 7-day work weeks, enduring 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, plus 8 to10 hours on Sunday. 
In the 20th century ideas of social equality coupled with industrial action and the setting up of unions reformed and improved these drastic working hours.
Today s reduced working week will lower the pressure on careers, and free up time for both male and female employees. This will help couples achieve a good work life balance so that they can juggle their domestic responsibilities and maintain better family life. 
Lack of time and money are cancers in society and inequalities between the rich and poor are widening. The difference between those who have plenty of control over their time and those who don't should be diminished. 
According to expert opinion, more than a quarter of reported sickness is due to work problems. Results of a recent poll, carried out by the European association for the fight against depression, showed that every fourth Briton lives in stress. While in Italy, people with depression account for only 12% of the population. 
Economists are sure that reduced working weeks will mean less illness among employees, which will lead to more productivity and create new jobs. The authors of the research recognize that employees will earn less, but that in the long run it will be beneficial for society and the environment. 
If a 4-day working week was introduced, a typical work week for any given employee and their additional day off might be scheduled as follows: 1st Monday of month, 2nd Tuesday of month, 3rd Thursday of month, the 4th Friday of month. The new day off will ease pressures at work and reduce the instances of pretending to be sick to get time off. 
Finally, reducing the working week will decrease road traffic in densely populated cities, and help authorities alleviate the strain and cost of running transport hubs, rail networks and roads.

AFP Photo / Ben Stansall
AFP Photo / Ben Stansall
 
 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

EU calls for suspension of multi-billion ‘Safe Harbor’ deal over NSA spying

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US President Barack Obama (L) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)
US President Barack Obama (L) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)
 
EU leaders are calling for the suspension of a trade pact with the US worth billions of dollars over NSA spying. The 28-nation bloc suspects the so-called ‘Safe Harbor’ deal is being undermined by US espionage and has demanded safeguards for EU citizens.
The EU’s top politicians have slammed Washington for a “breakdown of trust” and seek guarantees for the safety of EU customer data.

“For ambitious and complex negotiations to succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday in a speech at Yale University.

The Safe Harbor agreement has been in place for 13 years and it allows over 4,300 American companies to collect and process sales, emails and photos from EU customers. In order for firms to be able to collate this information they have to comply with seven directives to prevent data loss and disclosure.

However, EU officials believe the system is flawed and can be manipulated by the NSA.

“If you look at the US legal environment, there is no adequate legal protection for EU citizens,” said the European Parliament’s leading data protection lawmaker Jan Philipp Albrecht after talks with officials in Washington.

In the light of the spy scandal the EU has threatened to suspend the treaty pending stipulated changes that would sure up security. EU leaders are expected to urge the US to strengthen its privacy laws to allow European citizen more control over how their private data is used.

If the ‘Safe Harbor’ pact is suspended it could have a massive knock-on effect, costing the US and EU billions of dollars in trade. Moreover, the pact allows US companies to get around the lengthy approval procedure by the European data protection authorities, without it some US firms would be forced to stop doing business in the EU.

“I don’t think the US government can be convinced by arguments or outrage alone, but by making it clear that American interests will suffer if this global surveillance is simply continued,”
said Peter Schaar, the head of Germany’s data protection watchdog.

Free trade deal


If Washington fails to comply with the EU’s demands then it could further endanger a free trade deal which could add an estimated $138 billion a year to each economy’s gross domestic product.

Reding warned that if changes were not made to US privacy regulations, negotiations for the free trade agreement could easily be “derailed.”

Negotiations on the conditions of the transatlantic agreement are due to resume in December and a decision is likely to be reached by the end of the year.

The revelations of the NSA’s spying activities in Europe scandalized the 28-nation bloc. Security leaks released by former CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA taps millions of phone calls across the continent and stores the collected information in its data banks.

Furthermore, the security disclosures indicate the NSA not only monitors citizens it suspects are involved in terrorism, but also businessmen and high-profile politicians.

In the wake of the scandal the White House has launched an inquiry into its intelligence-gathering practices.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

‘Extremism propaganda’: Siberian region bans Halloween in schools

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Young people wearing makeup for Halloween celebration in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
Young people wearing makeup for Halloween celebration in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
 
 
Authorities in Russia’s Omsk region in Siberia have prohibited Halloween celebrations in local schools on the grounds it “promotes extremism” and a “death cult” that can harm the moral health of children.
The Education Ministry in the Omsk region sent letters to local state schools telling them to take measures to curb any events marking Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31, the eve of All Hallows’ Day.
The move is aimed at the prevention of the development of extremism among children and young people, the ministry said in a statement. The decision followed an appeal from a public organization called “Omsk Parents’ Council”. 
Educational institutions must carry out activities “based on cultural values of Russian people,” believes the regional Education Minister, Sergey Alekseyev, the body quotes. He said the ministry will improve “methodological support” in the organization of students’ leisure activities. Also, plans are afoot to impose tougher controls over the planning of celebrations in schools.
The ministry cites studies by two institutes affiliated with the Russian Academy of Education, which found that celebrating Halloween has a negative impact on students as well as the teaching process. Because of “elements of mystics” and the “propaganda of death cult” in the celebrations, they can lead to “devastating consequences for the spiritual and moral health of students,” experts stated.
The ministry provides no information about the names of the authors of the research, or the title of the study, conducted by the institutes which are not among Russia’s top establishments.
Moscow schools will not celebrate Halloween either, according to newsru.com. Even though the capital’s authorities have given no instructions on the matter this year, local schools are following directives issued by Moscow’s Education Department several years ago. It recommended refraining from having any kind of festive activities on this day. 

A kid holds a pumpkin during a flashmob marking Halloween celebrations at St. Petersburg's Palace Square. (RIA Novosti / Olga Maltseva)
A kid holds a pumpkin during a flashmob marking Halloween celebrations at St. Petersburg's Palace Square. (RIA Novosti / Olga Maltseva)
Authorities in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia also think that local school children should not take part in the celebrations, reported the local eparchy website, citing the regional education minister. Events were banned last year and the ban remains in place. 
According to many scientists – psychologists and psychiatrists – Halloween is dangerous for children. Children who have taken part in such events often feel fear, depression, aggression and a suicidal mood,” the Ekaterinodar and Kuban Eparchy quotes a letter by the ministry.
Halloween, which has its origins in an ancient Celtic festival, for decades has been celebrated in North America, but has also gained popularity among Russian youth in recent years. While some see the holiday as just a masquerade and a way to have fun, opponents consider such an “alien” festival as a threat to Russian traditional culture.
One would think what’s wrong about this pumpkin with holes? But in fact it is simply hidden Satanism,” a priest from Vladivostok, Father Tikhon told RIA Novosti. He urged everyone to hold back from Halloween, “to run away from it”. 
Senior Orthodox Church official Archpriest, Vsevolod Chaplin, has also warned against joining the festivities. “Dark forces” often try to make a person believe that they do not exist and “kind of play with them”.
But evil spirits always wins in their games. So, in reality it only seems to people that [this game] is only a fun and a harmless gag,” the cleric said. “Dark forces think otherwise and will definitely ‘make fun’ of you so that you won’t be happy about that at all.
Organizers of Halloween events totally disagree, saying that the festival – which has both historic and religious roots – has now turned into a fancy dress party.
Youth all over the world actively celebrate this holiday. Many say that it’s their favorite one after the New Year,” an organizer of a Halloween party at one of Moscow’s cinemas, Elena Preobrazhenskaya, told Mir24.tv. She said they had their party earlier this week, but it appeared to be so popular that it was decided to hold another one, as well as a separate party for children.
A fancy ball gives you an opportunity to think of a carnival image, a costume, unusual make-up and have fun,” Preobrazhenskaya said.
Children love Halloween a lot more than adults, “they are not interested in just watching from sidelines, they want to participate,” in this “bright and unusual festival” that is growing in popularity.  

Japan to scrutinize lenders after Mizuho gangster link

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A woman walks in front of a signboard of Japan's Mizuho Financial Group in Tokyo (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)
A woman walks in front of a signboard of Japan's Mizuho Financial Group in Tokyo (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)
 
 
Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to inspect the country’s biggest banks, after the second largest lender Mizuho was accused of allowing above 200 million yen ($2 million) in loans to organized crime.
Among the Japanese banks in the firing line are the country’s biggest lender by assets Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Financial Group and No. 3 bank Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Associated Press reports.
The inspection by the FSA will be carried out next week and focus on compliance and risk management.
The move comes after an independent panel reported on Monday that its probe found Mizuho lax in cleaning up more than 200 million yen ($2 million) in lending, mostly auto loans, to clients associated with "anti-social" elements, a byword for organized crime.
Last month the FSA demanded Mizuho presented a strategy of "improvements" to its lending business. Japan's second largest lender has pledged to end the loans, step up anti-mob screening of incoming business, tighten corporate governance, and improve internal awareness of preventing dealings with those linked to organized crime.
On top of that the Mizuho Financial Group said on Monday the chairman of its banking business and two other top executives will resign. Bank President Yasuhiro Sato, will remain at his post but give up six months of pay. The bank is also appointing Tatsuo Kainaka, a former prosecutor and Supreme Court judge with a reputation for toughness, to be its chief compliance officer. 
Complying with a gesture which is widespread in corporate Japan Sato and other top executives bowed deeply in apology.
"We caused a great deal of trouble and I want to express my deepest apologies,'" Sato said.  "I am aware there are various opinions about this, but this is what was decided in this case," Sato said when asked if the penalties were too weak.
Mizuho troubles reflect the difficulties financial corporations across the country face trying to avoid dealings with Japanese gangs, known as the “yakudza.” They are entrenched in many areas of the economy despite efforts to freeze them out of the financial system.
 

Russia to invest $1.5bn in Ecuador energy

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Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shows his oil-covered hand at Aguarico 4 oil well in Aguarico, Ecuador (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shows his oil-covered hand at Aguarico 4 oil well in Aguarico, Ecuador (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
 
 
Russia plans to invest up to $1.5 billion into new domestic energy projects in Ecuador, making the South American country a key partner in the region, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in Moscow.
The two countries have several ongoing energy projects, including state-owned Gazprom’s alliance with Ecuador’s state-run oil company Petroamazonas. The Latin American country hopes to buy less and less oil and gas from abroad, and to develop its own natural gas reserves and become more energy self-sufficient.
The smallest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has proven oil reserves of 8 billion barrels, about 1 percent of the world’s total. Ecuador exports roughly 500,000 barrels per day.
Ecuador will open up its hydrocarbon resources to Russia’s state-owned companies Gazprom and Rosneft in cooperation with Ecuador state run Rosegelogia. Both company’s CEOs were present at the meeting between Correa and Putin at the Kremlin on Tuesday.
“Of course we are interested in the participation of Gazprom, as it is the largest gas company in the world,” Correa said.
Currently, Russian companies are taking part in other energy projects. Roseximbank, Russia's state-owned  import-export bank ,agreed to loan $195 million to finance a thermoelectric plant which will be built by Russian firm Inter Rao, and is expected to begin operations in 2016.
Russian and Ecuador signed another $1.2 billion agreement to finance two hydroelectric plants. In 2011, Roseximbank loaned Ecuador $123 million to build two hydroelectric plants which are due to open in 2015.
Correa also said Ecuador is interested in buying Russian military equipment in the form of helicopters and trucks.
Ecuador and Russia have been strategic economic partners, and trade between the countries reached a record $1.3 billion in 2012.
Russia imported about $1.2 billion in bananas, seafood, and flowers from the country. Ecuador imported roughly $116 million in medical equipment, mineral fertilizers, and paper from Russia.
The Ecuadorian President plans to visit Moscow’s Skolkovo start-up hub on Wednesday. While in St. Petersburg on Monday, Correa invited the city’s scientists to visit Ecuador and help contribute to a new science city that will specialize in bio and nanotechnologies, information systems, and textiles.
The Ecuadorian president will also stop in Belarus and France.

Venezuela's neighbor

Correa has ramped up oil output since 2010, when all joint-venture partners were forced to become service contractors as well.
Last year, Ecuador signed a memorandum agreement with Gazprom to explore drilling opportunities in the muddy natural gas field in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The gas giant has also been involved in exploration in the Urumaco blocks, which have reserves of about 100 billion cubic meters.
Last year Correa authorized oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest, at Yasuni National Park.
Rosneft already has a joint venture with Ecuador’s more much oil rich neighbor Venezuela. Rosneft partnered with PDVSA, the country’s market dominating national oil company. Russian companies are already involved in 5 oil projects in Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, with proven reserve of almost 300 billion barrels, by BP statistics.
CEO Igor Sechin frequently visits Venezuela, and plans to invest $10 billion in oil and gas projects

Japan govt considers assuming Fukushima decontamination – media

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Tokyo is reportedly considering stripping the Fukushima nuclear operator of the responsibility to decontaminate the devastated station and passing it under full government control. That would imply assuming TEPCO’s massive current clean-up expenditures.
The ruling Liberal Democratic party’s committee overseeing the government bailout of TEPCO finalized on Tuesday the proposal to nationalize decontamination works at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by splitting TEPCO’s activities, Japanese media reports.
The proposed spin-off could leave TEPCO concentrating on maintenance and the operability of its three nuclear power plants, while decontamination and reactor decommission at the Fukushima nuclear power plant would fall under full government control, with the possible creation of an independent administrative governmental agency.
"We need to have a prompt conclusion to create a clear and realistic organization,” said the draft proposal, according to Reuters.
The move means many billions of Japanese taxpayers’ dollars might be channeled to cleaning up the Fukushima facility after two-and-a-half years of TEPCO proved unsuccessful in taking the situation at the disaster-prone facility under control.
“Personally, I don’t feel it’s right to say that all responsibility belongs with TEPCO,” Taro Aso, Japan’s Finance Minister, told reporters.
The Japanese government has been backing the Fukushima operator since 2011, promising massive financial aid - up to 5 trillion yen (roughly $50 billion) - for decontamination and compensation payments to 160,000 evacuated residents that used to live around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
But what have been lacking in the scheme are positive results in damage control and recovery, as TEPCO failed to prevent accidents with radioactive waste leakages at the station.
Since the Japanese government nationalized TEPCO last year with a taxpayer-funded rescue, there has been constant argument about how largely the authorities should be involved, both administratively and financially, in eliminating the consequences of the Fukushima incident.
Since the disaster on March 11, 2011, Japanese government has been expecting TEPCO to bring tangible results in clean-up at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but great expectations proved to be in vain.

The inside of the No. 4 reactor building is seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture on May 26, 2012. (AFP Photo / Toshiaki Shimizu)
The inside of the No. 4 reactor building is seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture on May 26, 2012. (AFP Photo / Toshiaki Shimizu)
In early September, after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed the situation at Fukushima is under control, a senior TEPCO official had to contradict PM, saying that the radioactive water leakage at the crippled Fukushima plant continues.
But probably the incident that ended the government’s patience was in late October, when a Fukushima cleanup worker-turned-whistleblower exposed the plant’s chaotic system of subcontractors, their alleged yakuza organized crime connections, and the super-exploitation of indigent workers doing dangerous work.
What has been infuriating the Japanese public and lawmakers alike is the policy of total concealment of the scale of the disaster and disavowal to acknowledge impotence to fight the emergency at the TEPCO Company.
On Monday Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida accused TEPCO of “institutionalized lying” practices in an interview to Reuters.
Initially, TEPCO promised to finish the clean-up at Fukushima facility in a matter of months. Now it appears that the complete decontamination of the facility will take three decades and cost up to $100 billion, Reuters reports.
TEPCO has already lost $27 billion since the Fukushima disaster occurred and, after all of the Japanese nuclear power facilities were shut down, has lost its sole source of revenue. That is why the company has announced plans to restart its Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant - the world’s biggest nuclear complex - in Niigata Prefecture next spring, which has already raised concerns among the public and local authorities.
In December it will be 1,000 days since the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred, becoming the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. But more and more news about new leakage of highly radioactive waste at the facility come on a regular basis, which means Japanese government has huge work ahead to curb the consequences better than TEPCO has been doing

Monday, October 28, 2013

American WWII veteran and candy maker, 87, died after mugging by teens

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Shine Thornton (Photo from Facebook.com/DeltaHotTamaleFestival
Shine Thornton (Photo from Facebook.com/DeltaHotTamaleFestival
 
A World War II veteran well known and loved by his local community in Mississippi was attacked by four teens in a mugging, and died two days later.
Lawrence E. “Shine” Thornton, an 87-year-old widower, was targeted after the four muggers recognized him as king of the second annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival, which was just drawing to a close on October 18 in Greenville.
The four teens, all aged 18 and 19, “pushed him down and stole his wallet,” local police told the Delta Democrat Times. The incident took place at 5:30pm on Thornton’s driveway. After emergency services arrived, Thornton was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he died two days later. 

Reuters/Erich Schlegel
Reuters/Erich Schlegel
The suspects were arrested and charged variously with capital murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. This followed the community setting up a reward for the arrest of those that attacked their neighbor. 
Bail was set variously for three of the suspects at $2.5 million to $3 million. For one, Terrence Morgan, 19, bail was denied altogether. 
The attack took place just hours after Thornton was crowned for the second time as the Delta Hot Tamale Festival king. Hot tamale is a type of spicy cinnamon candy, and Thornton had his own recipe. 

Photo from Facebook.com/RoddyThornton
Photo from Facebook.com/RoddyThornton
But more than just a Tamale entrepreneur, Thornton also ran a liquor store while being employed by the Delta Electric Co. for 37 years; this followed a two-year stint as Fireman First Class aboard the minesweeper USS Herald.
The alcoholic beverage store had become a side business over the years – something he kept to support the family, and one he switched to in 1984, after losing his job at Delta Electric.
In the same year he also started experimenting with his special hot tamale recipe, something that eventually turned into a successful business. His wife, Mary, Sicilian by origin, was the inspiration for his brand, “Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales.”

The Facebook page of the festival, which held its second annual event Oct. 17-19, posted Thornton’s picture, along with a statement expressing shock at his killing. “[Y]ou will forever be our King Shine,” it said.
Thornton’s death comes a little less than three months after two teens were suspected of fatally stabbing another WWII veteran, 88 year-old former US infantryman, Delbert Belton, in Spokane, Washington state, near the Canadian border. The suspects were aged 16 and 19 and appeared not to have known Belton. 

 

Worst storm in decade lashes Britain, France

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Large waves break against barriers on the seafront in Brighton, southern England on October 27, 2013 as a predicted storm starts to build 
London (AFP) - Britain faced travel chaos on Monday and some 75,000 homes were without electricity in northern France as one of the worst storms in years battered the region, sweeping at least one person out to sea.
Britain's national weather centre the Met Office warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport as the storm hit England's southwest coast late Sunday.
Between 20 and 40 millimetres (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rain were predicted to fall within six to nine hours as the storm tracked eastwards across Britain, with a chance of localised flooding.
Wind gusts of up to 99 miles (159 kilometres) per hour whipped across southern England and south Wales on Monday, forecasters said.
The Met Office issued an "amber" wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale, and urged people to delay their Monday morning journeys to work to avoid the worst of the bad weather.
In northern France the storm left some 75,000 homes without power early Monday, according to the ERDF distribution network, after wind gusts reached 139 kilometres (86 miles) in some areas knocking down power lines.
The rough conditions led to rescuers suspending the search for a 14-year-old boy who was washed out to sea from a beach in East Sussex on England's south coast.
London looked set for a chaotic rush-hour after train companies First Capital Connect, C2C, Greater Anglia, Southern and Gatwick Express services all said they would not run services on Monday until it was safe to do so. That is unlikely to be before 9:00 am (0900 GMT), according to forecasts.
Robin Gisby from line operator Network Rail warned commuters to expect severe disruption.
"If we get through this in the morning, restore the service during the afternoon and are able to start up a good service on Tuesday morning, in the circumstances I'll be pretty pleased," he added.
Major airports also warned of disruption to flights with London hub Heathrow expecting approximately 30 cancellations.
Cross-channel train service Eurostar said it would not be running trains on Monday until 7:00 am, meaning delays to early services.
Several ferry operators said they had cancelled some cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.
Forecaster Helen Chivers told AFP the expected damage was likely to be comparable with a storm seen in October 2002.
Prime Minister David Cameron received an update from officials on contingency planning in a conference call on Sunday, amid fears of similar damage wrought by the "Great Storm" of October 1987.
That left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France, felled 15 million trees and caused damages worth more than £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 115 miles (185 kilometres) an hour.
Martin Young, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: "While this is a major storm for the UK, we don't currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the 'Great Storm' of 1987 or the 'Burns Day storm' of 1990.
"We could see some uprooted trees or other damage from the winds and there's a chance of some surface water flooding from the rainfall -- all of which could lead to some disruption."
Veteran weather forecaster Michael Fish also said Sunday's storm was unlikely to be as severe as 26 years ago, although his comments will be taken with a pinch of salt in Britain.
Fish was the BBC's main television weatherman in 1987 but famously denied that a major storm was on its way just hours before it hit.
This year's storm has been named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday.

 

12yo Canadian pleads guilty to hacking govt sites, trading info to Anonymous for video games

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AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen
AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen
 
A fifth grader has admitted of being the mastermind behind hacker attacks that took down government websites during the 2012 Quebec student protests and passing some of the hacked data to the Anonymous group in exchange for video games.
The 12-year-old Canadian boy has pleaded guilty to causing three incidents that paralyzed a number of government websites including that of the Quebec Institute of Public Health, and the Chilean government.

Some sites were out of service for as long as two days, the Toronto Sun reports, while thousands of students were rallying against tuition fee hikes in Quebec in 2012, clashing with police and disturbing public order.

Police estimate that the child caused $60,000 in damages, as he appeared before the court accompanied by his father and a lawyer on Thursday.

In court, the lawyer had told the judge that the 12-year-old's actions were not politically motivated.

"He saw it as a challenge, he was only 12 years old,"
his lawyer said. "There was no political purpose," as quoted by Toronto Sun.

The boy, who has been in hacking since the age of nine, was practicing three basic types of attacks, a police expert told the court.

Reuters / Thomas Peter
Reuters / Thomas Peter
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was one of the methods used by the fifth grader to break the government servers by flooding them with traffic and rendering them ineffective.

Another way the young Montreal hacker disabled the systems was by altering information and making it appear as a homepage with his own information. In such an attack, known as website defacement, the hacker gets access to a web server of the target and replaces the original page with a fake one.

The child also exploited security holes to access database servers. The boy allegedly had managed to mine personal information belonging to the sites' administrators and users, and sent some of the mined information to the hacktivist group Anonymous in exchange for video games.

Others involved in the hacking attack have reportedly been arrested but it was the boy who opened the way.

“And he told others how to do it,” explaining it was easy to hack, but not so easy to remain untraced, a police expert testified in Montreal court on Thursday.

According to the paper, a detailed report into the allegations will be handed over next month when the 12-year-old is expected to be sentenced.

It is not the first time in Quebec’s history that a minor has plead guilty to hacking charges.

In 2001, a 17-year-old Canadian hacker was sentenced to an eight month juvenile term for crippling several web sites when he was 15-years-old, including that of Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and  CNN, causing an estimated $1.7 million in damage.

Known as the "Mafiaboy," the teenager pleaded guilty to more than 50 charges related to the attacks. The judge in Montreal also banned the teenager from owning any non-commercial computer and talking to other hackers.

In his book, "Mafiaboy: A Portrait of the Hacker as a Young Man" published in 2001, Michael Calce (Mafiaboy's real name), said that his attacks in 2000 were "illegal, reckless and, in many ways, simply stupid."

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cash-for-bitcoins: World’s first palm scan-activated bitcoin ATM to open in Canada

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Robocoin, first real bitcoin ATM. (Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin)
Robocoin, first real bitcoin ATM. (Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin)
 
 
The world’s first bitcoin ATM will open in Vancouver, Canada, next week – dispensing Canadian dollars in exchange for the anonymous crypto-currency. But only if your palm scan matches the ATM’s records, that is.
The machine will be set up near downtown Vancouver coffee house Waves, is one of five ATMs bought by Canadian firm Bitcoiniacs from Nevada-based producer Robocoin. 

Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin
Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin
The machine will exchange bitcoins for Canadian dollars via Canada’s VirtEx exchange. The transactions themselves will be anonymous, the vendor says, but clients will have to identify themselves via a palm scanner first.
This is done to enforce Canadian anti-money laundering laws, due to which the ATM will only allow transactions of up to 3,000 Canadian dollars (around $2,700) per day per customer.
The four other ATMs will be rolled out in Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa in December, the company says.
"Basically, it just makes it easier for people to buy and sell bitcoins," Mitchell Demeter, founder of Bitcoiniacs and co-owner of Robocoin, told CBC.
Bitcoin is an internet-based currency designed to exist without any centralized regulatory authority. New Bitcoins are generated by spending computer processing time to conduct complex calculations, and the process is limited by a maximum of about 21 million bitcoins that can exist.
The currency has long been a fad among online privacy activists, financial futurists and shady dealers, but is so far little known to the general public. It lately hit the headlines after the FBI bust of the Silk Road website that US authorities say facilitated the trade in illegal goods and services, from drugs to assassinations.

 

At least 42 killed in series of Baghdad bomb blasts

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Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
 
Ten car bombs ripped through the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 42 and wounding dozens more, officials said. It was the latest in a series of coordinated attacks that have killed hundreds of people a month and inflamed sectarian tensions.
Nine of the blasts targeted predominantly Shiite Muslim districts over the course of half an hour, police said.

The deadliest blast occurred in the town of Nahrawan, south of the capital, where two back-to-back car bombs exploded near a busy market, killing seven people and injured 15 others.

Attacks in the northern Shaab and southern Abu Dshir neighborhoods killed six people each. Other explosions hit the neighborhoods of Mashtal, Baladiyat and Ur in eastern Baghdad and the northern Sab al-Bor and Hurriyah districts.

Six medical officials confirmed the casualty figures to AP. All spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.


Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although such coordinated attacks have in the past been a hallmark of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – al-Qaeda's local branch.

On Friday, a series of nine bombs detonated by remote control killed 16 people across the country as Shiite Muslims commemorated the religious festival of Al-Gadeer. Last week, a suicide bomber killed at least 38 people outside a cafe in a mainly Shiite Muslim district of Baghdad.

Violence has spiked in Iraq since April, when tensions between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite dominated government and Sunni groups claiming to be the victims of discrimination boiled over.
Iraq is seeing its worst year of violence since 2008, when bloodshed leveled off following two years of intense sectarian violence which some scholars characterized as civil war. But while the upward spike in violence is universally recognized, determining exact causality figures in the country remains an inexact science.
According to AP, today's attacks bring the death toll across the country this month to over 500. Iraq Body Count, meanwhile, which did not include Sunday’s violence in its tally, placed October’s death toll at 904.

An Iraqi woman walks across the debris following an explosion at a bus center on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
An Iraqi woman walks across the debris following an explosion at a bus center on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
 

Blasts hit city of Patna in eastern India ahead of opposition rally, at least 1 killed

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Image from maps.google.com
Image from maps.google.com
 
 
Several small explosions have hit the city of Patna in eastern India. At least one person has been killed and several others injured. The blasts happened just hours before a major opposition rally.
The first blast happened Sunday morning at a railway station in the city, the capital of the Indian state of Bihar.
The explosive went off in a toilet in the station, which Indian police said was detonated with a crude timer device.
It was followed by more blasts, as bombs exploded near the Elphinstone Cinema and Twins Tower. Five blasts have been reported in the city in total by local media.
Initial reports say that at least one person has been killed and five others injured in the attacks.
The explosions happened a few hours before a rally called in support of Narendra Modi, a candidate for Indian prime minister from the Hindu nationalist BJP party.

Gujarat state Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi (AFP Photo / Sajjad Hussain)
Gujarat state Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi (AFP Photo / Sajjad Hussain)
All the explosions happened not far from Gandhi Maidan, a park in Patna named for Indian independence campaigner Mahmatma Gandhi, where the rally was scheduled to take place. The rally was expected to be attended by thousands of Modi’s supporters.
The party said it would continue with its rally plans despite the blasts.
"Even after this lawlessness following the blasts, we are ready for the rally. Narendra Modi-Ji will address the rally," NDTV cited BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy as saying, using the honorific form of Modi’s surname.

 

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