23 October

Greek film director Yannis Dalianides dies at age 87

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yannis Dalianides, a Greek film director who worked on over 60 movies, has died at the age of 87. Dalianides died after spending a month in hospital. He was known as the “godfather” of the Greek musical and the “Gentle Knight of Popular Cinema”.

Born in 1923, Dalianides was placed in a children’s home until he was adopted. He made his first appearance in children’s theatre at the age of 10. He studied at the Drama School of the Thessaloniki Conservatory, before moving to Vienna and studying dance. Dalianides tried choreography before turning to cinema.

After appearing as an actor he directed his first film in 1959, titled, Mousitsa (The Temptress). He continued to have success with films such as Some Like It Cold, Downhill, and Training Old Man Yorgis. From 1961 to 1977, Dalianides worked exclusively for the Fino’s Film Company. Dalianides is credited with the introduction of the musical into Greece but preferred the term “musical comedy”.

Dalianides worked into his seventies. His last project was Mikres Amarties, a television series made in 1999. Dalianides funeral will take place on Monday; he will be buried at Athens’ First Cemetery.

23 October

State of the health care system in Sierra Leone critical

Saturday, December 5, 2009

According to Médecins Sans Frontières the health care system in Sierra Leone causes loss of life because the poor cannot afford medical treatment.The maternal death rate and the child mortality rate in Sierra Leone are the highest in the world.Experiences of Médecins Sans Frontières had shown that free care or low fees lead to a dramatic increase in the number of patients.Nonetheless the national health system of Sierra Leone demands payment for all treatment with simple consultations costing as much as 25 days of income.According to Action Against Hunger the number of children with acute malnutrition has reached almost twice the level of the WHO‘s emergency threshold of 2% in the Moyamba district of Sierra Leone.

The Los Angeles Times writes that Sierra Leone, in spite of decades of foreign aid, has not yet increased the standard of living of its people considerably and 60% of the public spending of Sierra Leone come from other governments and nonprofit organizations.Since 2002 the country received $1 billion in aid but the infant mortality rate is almost the highest in the world, lower than Angola but higher than Afghanistan. The newspaper further reports that the United Nations state that 1 in 8 Sierra Leonean women die giving birth, as compared to 1 in 4,800 in the United States and that life expectancy in Sierra Leone is merely 41 years while in Bangladesh life expectancy reaches 60 years.

The government of Sierra Leone had expressed its intend to abolish user fees for women and children with a new plan for a fairer health care system that was to be revealed on the Sierra Leone Investment and Donor Conference, which was held in London on November 18 and 19.

“The Sierra Leone government has publicly stated its commitment to abolish user fees, and the UK government and other donors have promised to help,” said Seco Gerard, advisor at Médecins Sans Frontières’s analysis and advocacy unit. “What is crucial now is that Sierra Leone actually receives the necessary funding and technical assistance to realise this objective. It is time that words are being followed up by concrete action. If not, people who could otherwise be saved will continue to die needlessly every day.”

The Telegraph reports that president Bai Koroma was also hoping to secure a significant increase in aid donations with his new health plan.While Germany declined to support president Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change” and urged to give more consideration to women’s welfare the country received support from the European Union, DFID, UNIPSIL, World Bank, IFAD and the African Development Bank. From the pledges of $850 million the government of Sierra Leone was hoping for only about $300 millions could be secured, with attached conditionalities concerning the use of funding.

In a presentation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Freetown the Unicef representative for Sierra Leone, Mr. Mahimbo Mdoe, expressed gratitude about a pledge of about $1.3 million conveyed by the Ambassador of Japan to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Mr. Keiichi Katakami, and about earlier donations to UNICEF-Sierra Leone in the past years, amounting to over $20 million.The intended application of the funding is the goal to half child and maternal mortality by 2010, to introduce a social health insurance scheme, to improve equipment and to train health professionals.

23 October

Web browser Firefox increases market share in Europe

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Firefox share by continent %
1. Oceania 28.9%
2. Europe 27.8%
3. North America 18.7%
4. South America 15.5%
5. Africa 14.7%
6. Asia 14.3%
source:XiTiMonitor

The French web survey provider XiTiMonitor reports that in their study conducted from Monday, July 2 to Sunday, July 8, 2007 on 95,827 websites, web browser Mozilla Firefox reached a 27.8% share in Europe, compared to 21.1% during the same period last year.

Firefox has its biggest market share in Slovenia and Finland where it amounts to 47.9% and 45.4%, respectively, while only 14.6% of people from the Netherlands and 15.2% of surfers in Denmark used Firefox in this survey. The share rose most in Ireland: from 24.9% to 38.6% (i.e. +13.7 points).

Microsoft’s web browser Internet Explorer remains the most used browser in Europe with a market share of 66.5%. Opera and Safari have a 3.5% and 1.7% share respectively, with other browsers at less than 1%.

Oceania remains the region with the highest usage of the freely licensed and open source software browser Firefox, with 28.9%. The continent with the strongest relative increase in market share is South America, where there is a 30% increase compared to last March. Numbers from the U.S.-based company Net Applications Inc. last month showed a fall in Firefox’s share from 15.42% in April to 14.54%.

22 October

US Army chief of staff: more troops needed in Afghanistan

Monday, November 9, 2009

The United States’ army’s chief of staff, General George Casey, said today that he believes more troops are needed in Afghanistan.

In a US television interview with NBC’s Meet the Press programme, Casey said he believed additional forces are needed to cut the Taliban’s successes and train Afghan security forces. He did not, however, say how many more troops he thought should be sent to the war.

“I believe that we need to put additional forces into Afghanistan to give General McChrystal the ability to both dampen the successes of the Taliban while we train the Afghan civilian forces,” he said.

In CNN’s State of the Union programme, Casey remarked that “[t]he Army remains out of balance. But we started in 2007 with a program to get ourselves back in balance by 2011. And since 2007, we have added 40,000 soldiers to the active force, which is a significant step forward.”

President Barack Obama has been deliberating for weeks whether to deploy 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as requested by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces there.

21 October

Bowler Brett Lee to miss first Ashes Test

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Australia’s cricketer Brett Lee is out of the first Ashes test match – which starts on July 8 in Cardiff – with a torn muscle in his left side. He is also doubtful to play the second Test at Lord’s, which begins on July 16. It will be at least two weeks before he can start training in the nets again.

“I am very very disappointed and gutted that I will not be there for the first Test match but I will find a way to bounce back,” said Lee. “I still see myself hopefully playing a major role for Australia through the end part of the series, whether that’s the second, third, fourth or fifth Test match depending on how things go.”

The fast bowler complained about soreness in his left side after playing the England Lions at Worcester. Scans on Monday revealed he has a tear to his rib muscle. Other reports have described the injury as a strained abdominal muscle.

Kevin Pietersen commented on Lee’s absence saying it was “a huge, huge, huge loss” for Australia.

Australia now have to choose which player to pick as a replacement for Lee. Two likely options are spinner Nathan Hauritz or pace bowler Ben Hilfenhuas.

England will start their campaign on Wednesday to attempt to regain the ashes after Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash last time.

21 October

Controversy over whether New Orleans Mayor failed to follow hurricane plan

Sunday, September 4, 2005

New Orleans’ Mayor Ray Nagin is facing criticism over the evacuation of citizens before Hurricane Katrina struck.

In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of buses were sitting in bus yards, some less than a mile from the Superdome. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco commented, “The buses could have saved an estimated 20,000 people if they had been used for emergency evacuations which President Bush had declared two days before Katrina hit.”, however the evacuation was ordered by Mayor Nagin, President Bush having no direct authority to order evacuations. Thursday, after the storm, Blanco by executive order used school buses for evacuation.

The 2000 edition of the southeast Louisiana evacuation plan on page 13, paragraph 5 states:

5. The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.

There were however alternative emergency plans, including ones held by state Homeland Security offices, and it is unclear which one was being operated to.

The Superdome had been opened shortly before the storm as a shelter of last resort for those who had not evacuated. As FEMA observed at that time: “Most residents have evacuated the city and those left behind do not have transportation or have special needs.” Roughly 150,000 people were not evacuated from the city. During the Hurricane Ivan evacuation 600,000 people failed to evacute the city.

According to WWLTV, during a news conference on Sunday before the hurricane struck, Mayor Nagin claimed he “could and would commandeer any property or vehicle it deemed necessary to provide safe shelter or transport for those in need”. However photos circulated appear to show unused school and privately owned busses left stranded in flood waters.

It is unclear whether Mayor Nagin knew these particular buses existed, since the Orleans Parish School Board is not under his jurisdiction and his office would not normally know the location of OPSB bus yards or be able to contact the drivers of those buses to place them into service. Normally it is the job of FEMA to coordinate between the various local jurisdictions such as the OPSB and the City of New Orleans in this case. That is, under the rules of prior hurricane responses, FEMA would ask all local jurisdictions for a list of resources under their control. Then FEMA would have taken a request from Nagin for buses, relayed it to the Orleans Parish School Board or other local jurisdictions which had buses, and at that point the OPSB would have provided the buses to Nagin. That coordination did not happen here, but it is unclear whether Nagin ever made such a request prior to the hurricane and after the hurricane they were underwater and useless.

However, if he had known about them, the declaration of a state of emergency on August 26 gave him the right under Louisiana law to commandeer them for the duration of the emergency. The failure to issue a timely evacuation order in effect made it physically impossible to evacuate the nursing homes, hospitals, and those without automobiles.

In a radio interview on WWL-AM shortly after the hurricane, Mayor Nagin said, ” I need 500 buses, man. We ain’t talking about — you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here. I’m like, “You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.” “

21 October

Top exorcist says schoolgirl was kidnapped for Vatican sex ring

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gabriel Amorth, the Roman Catholic Church’s leading exorcist, has suggested missing schoolgirl Emanuela Orlandi was kidnapped for sexual abuse at orgies attended by foreign diplomats and arranged by Vatican police. Orlandi was fifteen when she vanished in 1983.

Amorth, 85, who was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II, makes his remarks as Italian police try to determine if bones buried near the body of a mobster belong to Orlandi. Anonymous claims have suggested the tomb of Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis contains clues to her disappearance.

Investigators are examining bones removed from his burial site in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare. Buried in a nearby crypt, the bones are thought to be centuries old but forensic tests are ongoing. One theory is Pedis kidnapped Orlandi to press Vatican officials over a financial dispute, with his onetime lover claiming her body was disposed of in a cement mixer.

Amorth refutes this explanation, and also an alleged “international dimension”; another theory is that the kidnapping was to try and secure freedom for Mehmet Ali Agca of Turkey, who shot at the pope in 1981. Orlandi’s vanishing “was a crime with a sexual motive” says Amorth. “Parties were organised, with a Vatican gendarme [policeman] acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls.”

He further told La Stampa “The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle”. “It has already previously been stated by [the late] monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.”

Orlandi has not been seen since she set off from the family apartment in the Vatican City, heading for a Rome music lesson. Orlandi’s father worked for the Holy See. Amorth is a controversial priest who lays claim to thousands of exorcisms and has criticised activities such as yoga and children reading Harry Potter books as spiritually harmful.

20 October

Turkey sets the price to lift the ban on YouTube and Google services

Friday, June 11, 2010

Turkey’s Finance Ministry has given Google a tax demand of $18.6 million, and Transport and Communications Minister Binali Y?ld?r?m called on Google to register as a taxpayer in the country to “help accelerate” the lifting of a ban on YouTube and Google services.

As The Register reported, access to search engine Google had been limited due to a block imposed on its IP set, and most of Google’s online services had been inaccessible in Turkey since June 4. The IP addresses were shared between YouTube and other Google services. As International Business Times reports, YouTube has been banned in Turkey since 2008.

Accoring to HaberTurk, which is the Turkish version of Bloomberg, Yildirim said that “YouTube is a tax-payer in 20 countries, and we want them to do the same in Turkey.” Turkey’s Finance Ministry has given Google a tax demand of $18.6 million. Y?ld?r?m called on Google to register as a taxpayer in the country, and he said that it is a step that “would help accelerate the lifting of a ban on the company’s Youtube video-sharing website.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned “the growing repercussions of Turkey’s censorship of YouTube” and quoted Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul as saying “I do not want Turkey to be included among the countries that ban YouTube and prevent access to Google.”

Several internet sites have recently been banned in Turkey. The Register reports that 3,700 websites are “blocked for arbitrary and political reasons” in Turkey, including foreign websites, sites aimed at the country’s Kurdish minority, and gay sites according to The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Reporters Without Borders added Turkey to the list of “countries under surveillance” in its report on “Enemies of the Internet,” issued March 2010.

20 October

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO apologies for financial planning scandal

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ian Narev, the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, this morning “unreservedly” apologised to clients who lost money in a scandal involving the bank’s financial planning services arm.

Last week, a Senate enquiry found financial advisers from the Commonwealth Bank had made high-risk investments of clients’ money without the clients’ permission, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars lost. The Senate enquiry called for a Royal Commission into the bank, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Mr Narev stated the bank’s performance in providing financial advice was “unacceptable”, and the bank was launching a scheme to compensate clients who lost money due to the planners’ actions.

In a statement Mr Narev said, “Poor advice provided by some of our advisers between 2003 and 2012 caused financial loss and distress and I am truly sorry for that. […] There have been changes in management, structure and culture. We have also invested in new systems, implemented new processes, enhanced adviser supervision and improved training.”

An investigation by Fairfax Media instigated the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning division and ASIC.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris, who reported the misconduct of the bank to ASIC six years ago, said in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald that neither the bank nor ASIC should be in control of the compensation program.

19 October

Australian researchers confirm stress makes you sick

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Australian researchers say they have scientifically proven that stress causes sickness. The Garvan Institute in Sydney has discovered that a hormone, known as neuropeptide Y, (NPY) is released into the body during times of stress. Their findings show the hormone can stop the immune system from functioning properly.

Neuropeptide Y is one of those hormones that gets unregulated or released from neurones when stressful situations occur…it’s known for example that it regulates blood pressure and heart rates so your heart rate goes up but it hasn’t been known that it actually can affect immune cells as well,” said Professor Herbert Herzog, one of the researchers.

Herzog feels it is good to finally have proof of something people have suspected for so long.

“Now we have proven without doubt that there is a direct link and that stress can weaken the immune system and that makes you more vulnerable when you for example have a cold or flu and even in the more serious situations such as cancer can be enhanced in these situations,” said Herzog.

The Garvan Institute study centres on two key events that enable the human body to recognise foreign substances and control invaders. When our body encounters a pathogen (bacteria and viruses), the immune cells retain and interrogate suspects. Their activation is made possible by NPY. These cells then return to the lymph nodes, which are found all over the body, with information about the foreign invaders. The lymph nodes are where decisions about defence are made.

“Most of us expect to come down with a cold or other illness when we are under pressure, but until now we have mostly had circumstantial evidence for a link between the brain and the immune system,” said lead Garvan researcher, associate Professor Fabienne Mackay. “During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it directly impacts on the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens (bacteria and viruses) in the body.”

In the case of bacteria and viruses, TH1 cells are part of the attack team that is sent out on the ‘search and destroy’ mission. But when their job is done they need to be turned ‘off’ and the immune system reset. The same hormone, NPY, that activates the sentry cells now prompts the TH1 cells to slow down and die.

“Under normal conditions, circulating immune cells produce small amounts of NPY, which enables the immune cells on sentry duty and the TH1 immune cells to operate – it’s a yin and yang kind of situation. But too much NPY means that the TH1 attack is prevented despite the foreign invaders being identified – and this is what happens during stress,” added McKay.

The impact of stress on the body has been observed in athletes. Ph. D researcher at the University of Queensland, Luke Spence, together with the Australian Institute of Sport, studied elite and recreational athletes over five months.

They found elite athletes were more susceptible to respiratory diseases under stress.

“A lot of elite athletes put themselves through vast amounts of physical stress in their training, but also their emotional, psychological stress of feeling the pressure of Australia on their shoulders, wanting to compete and wanting to do their best,” said Spence.

It’s not just athletes who are prone to stress. Pressures at work and at home may cause emotional and mental stress that can be equally damaging. Almost a third of all work absenteeism in Australia is due to illness, costing employers over $10 billion a year.

“I think it has a huge impact for the work force and also for employers – if their employees are constantly stressed, constantly under pressure, they are more likely to get sick,” Spence said.

Further research could lead to the development of new drugs which may inhibit the action of the neuropeptide Y hormone.

Herzog warns people to minimise stress before it becomes a problem.

“Relaxation methods like yoga will help you to prevent that but there will still be people out there that are not responding to that and treatment by interfering with the system will be important,” he said. “There’s obviously some time until such a treatment will be available but this is something we will definitely work towards.”

The Garvan research will be published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Volume 202, No. 11.


Wordpress Themes