Monday, January 24, 2011
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Thursday, March 04, 2010
The city witnessed fierce fighting in 2004 as US forces carried out a major offensive against insurgents. Now, the level of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than in Europe.
The US military says it is not aware of any official reports showing an increase in birth defects in the area.BBC world affairs editor John Simpson visited a new, US-funded hospital in Fallujah where pediatrician Samira al-Ani told him that she was seeing as many as two or three cases a day, mainly cardiac defects.
Simpson also saw children in the city who were suffering from paralysis or brain damage - and a photograph of one baby who was born with three heads.
Throughout his report published on the BBC News site he writes about the many times that he heard officials in Fallujah warning women that they should not have children. Doctors and parents believe the problem is the highly sophisticated weapons the US troops used in Fallujah six years ago.
British-based Iraqi researcher Malik Hamdan told the BBC's World Today programme that doctors in Fallujah were witnessing a "massive unprecedented number" of heart defects, and an increase in the number of nervous system defects. She said that one doctor in the city had compared data about birth defects from before 2003 - when she saw about one case every two months - with the situation now, when, she saw cases every day.
Ms Hamdan said that based on data from January this year, the rate of congenital heart defects was 95 per 1,000 births - 13 times the rate found in Europe."I've seen footage of babies born with an eye in the middle of the forehead, the nose on the forehead," she added.
A spokesman for the US military, Michael Kilpatrick, said it always took public health concerns "very seriously". "No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues," he said.
"Unexploded ordinance, including improvised explosive devises, are a recognised hazard," he added.
The next few years will prove of great importance to scientists and Doctors studying these birth defects in Fallujah, they hope that in the near future they will be able to prove that the weaponry used by the US in 2004, caused huge deformities in the next generation of Fallujah's population.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Gritting Northern Ireland's roads in severe weather conditions costs £150,000 a night, the Roads Service has said.
Usually gritting the road network costs £75,000, but Roads Service said they were currently "double salting".
A severe weather warning remains in place after another night of freezing temperatures.
The weather is also continuing to affect air travel and a number of rural schools will be closed on Wednesday.
The Roads Service had 134 gritting lorries out overnight, battling to keep over 4,000 miles of roads open and safe for traffic.
It advised motorists to exercise extreme caution, particularly when driving on untreated roads.
Colin Brown from the Roads Service said they were close to spending all of their £5m budget, but that road safety was a priority.
"Budgetary concerns are one thing we have to bear in mind, but road safety has to take precedence," he said.
"We'll be working within the department very closely to make sure any finance we need is made available to us.
"We are quite confident we'll be able to get through the rest of the winter."
Bad weather in England, Scotland and Wales has affected flights in and out of Northern Ireland.
At George Best Belfast City Airport the morning flights from Birmingham and Bristol have been cancelled.
Air travellers are advised to contact their airline before making their way to the airport.
For a collection of great snow photos click here
Monday, December 07, 2009
The current convention on climate change summit being held in Copenhagen, seen as the most important step in history towards combating global warming, it aims to draw up a treaty to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
- Set a "binding goal" to cut Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2020
- Wants rich countries to reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 level by 2020
- Says they should pay 1% of their GDP per year to help other countries adapt
- Wants West to provide low-carbon technology
- The world's biggest Green House Gas (GHS) producer (20.7% of global emissions)
- Emissions per head: 30th in the world
- GDP (2008): $4.3tn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 1,152t
- Kyoto: Signed as a developing country so not obliged to cut emissions
- Will cut emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 pending congressional approval - this is close to 4% below 1990 levels
- Against Kyoto-style treaty imposing international legal obligations
- Insists China, India, South Africa and Brazil must commit to slow growth of emissions
- Climate bill is currently bogged down in Senate
- The world's second-biggest GHG producer (15.5% of global emissions)
- Emissions per head: Fifth in the world
- GDP (2008): $14.2tn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 441t
- Kyoto: Signed, but never ratified
- Aspires to play "leading role" at Copenhagen
- Will cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, or 30% if other big emitters take tough action
- Wants rich nations to make 80-95% cut by 2050
- Wants poorer nations to slow emissions growth
- Says they face costs of $150bn per year by 2020, of which EU will pay $7bn-22bn from public finances
- The world's third-biggest GHG producer (11.8% of global emissions)
- Emissions per head: 17th in the world
- GDP (2008): $18.3tn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 315t
- Kyoto: Signed - has to get average emissions for 2008-2012 8% below 1990 level
- Will cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020
- Rejects legally binding target, but wants rich countries legally bound
- Says rich countries are to blame for climate change and points to big gap in per capita emissions
- Wants 40% cut in rich country emissions by 2020
- Opposes goal of halving world emissions by 2050
- The world's sixth-biggest GHG producer (5% of global emissions)
- Emissions per head: 66th in the world
- GDP (2008): $1.2tn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 655t
- Kyoto: Signed as a developing country, so not obliged to cut emissions
- Will cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, if other countries show similar ambition
- This amounts to a cut of 30% in 10 years, and is opposed by industry
- "Hatoyama initiative" will increase financial and technical assistance to developing countries
- Backs proposals in which each country would set its own commitments
- The world's seventh-biggest GHG producer (3.3% of global emissions)
- Emissions per head: 15th in the world
- GDP (2008): $4.9tn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 301t
- Kyoto: Signed - has to get average emissions for 2008-2012 6% below 1990 level
- Like China, wants rich countries legally bound to cut emissions to 40% below 1990 level by 2020
- Describes 20 to 30% cuts as "unacceptable"
- Wants rich countries to pay 0.5% of GDP to help developing countries tackle climate change
- Wants $67bn per year for adaptation in Africa
- Threatening to walk out if demands are not met
- The African Union accounts for 8.1% of global emissions
- GDP (2008): $34bn
- Kyoto: African nations signed as developing countries so are not obliged to cut emissions
- Opec and Saudi Arabia seeking financial aid for oil-producers if new agreement requires cuts of fossil fuels
- Keen on a deal that would advance use of carbon capture and storage
- In 2007 Opec members pledged $750m to fund climate change research
- Qatar and Abu Dhabi investing heavily in clean energy technology
- Gulf states account for 2.3% of global emissions
- Emissions per head: 25t of CO2 equivalent
- GDP (2008): $468bn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 875t
- Kyoto: Gulf States signed as developing countries so are not obliged to cut emissions
- Regard rising sea level as threat to their existence
- Seek to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels
- Want concentration of CO2 in atmosphere lowered from 380 to 350 parts per million
- Want global emissions to peak by 2015 and fall 85% below 1990 level by 2050
- Want at least 1% of rich country GDP spent on "climate-inflicted damage"
- The small island states account for 0.6% of global GHG emissions
- Emissions per head: 4t of CO2 equivalent
- GDP (2008): $46bn
- Amount of GHG emitted per $1m of GDP: 551t
- Kyoto: Alliance of Small Island States members signed as developing countries so are not obliged to cut emissions
The BBC provide a great interactive global warming history chart here which I found very interesting, it's definitely worth the click!
First Zero Carbon Supermarket Opened
In other news Tesco have opened their first zero carbon supermarket in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, in the UK, and have created 190 new jobs.
Tesco aim to be a carbon zero business by 2050. The store uses a generator, which is powered by renewable sources (biofuels), for the heating, and rainwater for flushing toilets, the car wash and cleaning the petrol station forecourt.
The petrol station even has special lights that dim and suddenly alight once a vehicle approaches the petrol pumps.
The supermarket has been designed to be energy efficient, and has been constructed from sustainable timber, with skylights to allow natural light in, but not heat.
Vents control a natural airflow to reduce energy requirements.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
History books describe Thanksgiving as a modern-day re-creation of a celebratory meal eaten in 1621. It took place in what is now the state of Massachusetts, and was attended by British settlers and Native Americans.
But the true, current meaning of this sacred American holiday has little to do with the Pilgrims. It can be summed up in a single word: overeating.
There are regional variations in the menu, but certain items are more or less required by law. First among them is turkey, which is probably eaten by 95 per cent of American households on that day. Most people wouldn’t even consider eating anything else.
Turkey is not the whole event, or even the main event; indeed, it’s considered woefully incomplete without the traditional side dishes. There are four in all, the first being sweet potatoes, which are indigenous to the Americas (Central America, to be precise).
The ultra-traditional preparation pairs them with marshmallows, which are dotted on top of the baked tubers to create a sickly-sweet, gooey-brown crust. You have to have been sleeping for the last 20 years to regard this approach as gastronomic heaven, but the link between sweet potatoes and sweet flavourings is eminently sound.
Baking them with maple syrup (as they do in the Northeast), honey, or brown sugar is just as good. Some cooks use fruit, either dried or fresh. In some places, especially in the southern states, sweet potatoes are used to make pies and puddings of rare excellence.
The second essential is cranberries, also indigenous to the Americas (the New England states in this case). Here, too, the standard preparations are on the sweet side. Cranberry relishes are one of the best ways to eat them. They can be very tart but in small doses, they are a perfect, cutting counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the food.
The third essential is stuffing, often called 'dressing' in the US. It's often regarded as being just as important as the festive bird, if not more important. While British stuffing's tend to be fairly standard wherever you go, in the US there are huge regional variations.
In the southern states and in New England, cornbread may be used as the base rather than a standard white loaf. In Minnesota and other states where wild rice is cultivated, that might be used; and in places where long-grained rice is grown, that may find its way into the dressing.
While herbs and ordinary sausages may be used in most places, cooks in Louisiana are more likely to prefer their own spicy andouille sausage and an abundance of pungent spices. They may also use oysters and other shellfish in preference (or in addition) to meat, and in areas with a marked Mexican influence you may find chillies in the mix. You could write a whole book about American stuffing's, and a jolly good book it would be.
The final essential, just to ensure that no one rises from the table easily, is pie. The expression 'as American as apple pie' is not quite accurate, because it's pie in all its forms that Americans adore - and never more than on Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie is hallowed ground in much of the country, though in some places the obligatory pumpkin might appear as a side dish or a pudding. Pumpkin in pies is an acquired taste, but those who love it will throw plates around if they don't get at least two slices. Apple, peach and various berry pies may also be eaten, while south-western cooks would rather lose a limb than omit a rich, gooey pecan pie from the menu. For four people, it's best to make at least four pies.
There's another dimension to Thanksgiving that's just as important as gluttony. Thanksgiving is the day when most people will do anything to be with their families, or with whomever they regard as their nearest and dearest - even if they have to travel 3,000 miles to get there. It isn't grossly commercial. It isn't religious. It isn't patriotic. It involves no present-giving or decoration-shopping.
In millions of households it's followed by a semi-comatose afternoon of watching football games on television, but that's just part of the laid-back approach that makes Thanksgiving the best holiday in the American calendar. No self-respecting American would miss it for a million bucks. And if a million calories enter the equation, so much the better.
You don't need to be American to indulge in the great Thanksgiving feast.
Give these recipes a go:
- The classic roast turkey by BBC Good Food
- Sweet potato gratin by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- Cranberry sauce with port and orange by BBC Good Food
- Cranberry relish by Slavka Bradley
- Sage and onion stuffing by Holly Jones
- My favourite stuffing by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- Jerk-spiced pumpkin pie by Simon Rimmer
- Proper apple pie
Thursday, November 19, 2009
"Over recent months, US authorities have allowed the Guantánamo detentions to become a political football, and the politics of fear to trump human rights," said Susan Lee, Director of the Amnesty International's Americas Regional Programme.
"Now, as should have been the case from day one, the government should resolve these detentions by either bringing the detainees to fair trial or immediately releasing them," Susan Lee said.
On 22 January 2009, President Obama signed an executive order committing his administration to resolving the cases of the detainees held at Guantánamo "as promptly as possible", and to closing the detention facility "no later than one year from the date of this order."
In his comments on Wednesday, President Obama would not put an exact new date on closure, stating only that he anticipated it would happen sometime later next year, and adding that it would “depend on cooperation from Congress."
Hopes for an end to the Guantánamo detentions this year have receded over recent months as members of Congress sought to block the closure of the facility, and the administration has been slow to charge detainees.
At the same time, diplomatic efforts to find solutions for detainees who cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of the human rights violations they would face there have been undermined by the refusal of the US authorities to release any in mainland USA.
Amnesty International has long called for the Guantánamo detainees to be brought to trial in an independent and impartial court – not a military commission – or immediately released.
It has also repeatedly called for the USA not to seek the death penalty in any case.
Since President Obama took office, 26 detainees have been transferred out of Guantánamo, leaving 215 still there.
One detainee has been transferred to face trial in a federal court in New York and the administration has announced that another five will also be transferred to the city for such trials, with the likelihood that the death penalty will be sought against them.
The US Attorney General has also said the administration has decided to refer another five cases back to the Pentagon for trial by military commission.
In his 22 January order requiring his administration to ensure "prompt and appropriate" resolution of each and every Guantánamo case and to close the Guantánamo facility within a year, President Obama pointed to the "significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally".
"Those concerns have not gone away, and will be reignited by President Obama's comments today", Susan Lee said.
(Source: Amnesty International, BBC News, CNN, Flickr)
Monday, November 09, 2009
The first chancellor to have grown up in communist east Germany, Merkel is hosting dozens of world leaders, past and present, to remember the fall of the Wall.
"The night of November 9, 1989, was the fulfillment of a dream," Merkel said. "Many played a role. But it would not have been possible without the courage of the people in the former East Germany."
Merkel took a walk with former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and former Polish leader Lech Walesa across the bridge at Bornholmer Strasse where East Berliners first breached the border two decades ago in an emotional rush to freedom.
Later Monday, 1,000 brightly colored dominoes set up along a 1.5 km (0.9 mile) stretch where the Wall once stood will be toppled as world leaders watch from the Brandenburg Gate, once a symbol of division and now the signature image of a reunited Germany.
Images of the historic night when easterners trapped behind the 3.6-meter (12-foot) high concrete barrier crowded into checkpoints have dominated German television and newspaper coverage for the past week.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- representing the World War Two allies -- are all in town to give speeches.
In pre-released excerpts of his Monday evening remarks, Brown hailed the "unbreakable spirit" of men and women who dared to "dream in the darkness."
Sarkozy put a picture of himself on social networking site Facebook that he said showed him hammering away at the Wall on the fateful night.
"It was a night full of enthusiasm: the German people reuniting marked the end of the Cold War and the start of a period of great freedom in Europe," he wrote.
Backed by the Soviet Union, the East German government began erecting its "anti-fascist protection barrier" in the early hours of August 13, 1961, to end a mass flight of its citizens into capitalist West Berlin.
Initially a makeshift fence of barbed wire, it was gradually built up into an imposing 156-km (97-mile) barrier that encircled the three western sectors of the city and was patrolled by guards who were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to escape.
According to a study published this year, at least 136 people were killed at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989 while trying to flee.
Thousands of others managed to evade the minefields, guard dogs and watchtowers, using schemes including tunnels, aerial wires and hidden compartments in cars to make it to the West.
The Wall fell after Politburo spokesman Guenter Schabowski told a news conference on November 9 that East German citizens could leave through border crossings, effective immediately.
He was unaware that the decision was not supposed to be announced until 4 a.m. the next morning. Watched by thousands on television, it prompted a rush to the border that unprepared, overwhelmed eastern guards were unable to contain.
Not a single shot was fired and the night turned into a giant city-wide party with easterners roaming the streets of West Berlin in disbelief and residents from both sides of the Wall embracing each other impulsively.
"You made this all possible," Merkel said to Gorbachev, who refused to order a crackdown. "You courageously let the things happen. That was much more than we could have expected."
Helmut Kohl, chancellor when the Wall fell, promised easterners "flourishing landscapes" when the two Germanys unified a year later.
But despite an estimated 1.3 trillion euros in transfers to rebuild the East, the so-called "new states" still suffer from unemployment rates twice that of the West.
A poll of over 1,000 Germans for the Leipziger Volkszeitung daily showed one in eight wanted the Wall rebuilt -- with the numbers nearly equal in East and West.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Moir was a late nominee, but was chosen after Stonewall received an unprecedented response from its members following the publication of her piece last month.
Citing the MP David Wilshire, who is being investigated over his expenses, Summerskill reminded the crowd he was the politician who pushed Section 28, which banned teaching about homosexuality in schools, through parliament.
He said: "If any government tries again to introduce a piece of legislation as offensive and demeaning as Section 28, Stonewall is here and we will fight back."
Summerskill then introduced television presenter Gok Wan as the evening's host.
The first award, for Publication of the Year, went to G3, the magazine for gay women.
Next up was Politician of the Year. Ben Bradshaw, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport. Introducing him, Wan paid tribute to his struggle through discrimination, saying he was the first openly gay man to reach cabinet level. Bradshaw said he was "honored and humbled" by the award.
Booker Prize nominee Sarah Waters won the Writer of the Year award. Accepting her gong, she said: "This probably isn't a good time to mention my new book doesn't have any lesbian characters." But she added: "I'm thrilled to bits."
He got the biggest cheers of the night while walking up to the stage to collect the award from host Gok Wan. Cowles told the crowd that Shane Lynch from the band had hoped to attend the awards but was not able to make it.
Bakewell said she was "enormously proud" and recalled the days when gay men could be prosecuted for their sexual orientation.
Hari said: "Joan was on our side when things were totally different. It's up to the rest of us to take these battles forward. The cultural battle is still here."
Samira Ahmed, of Channel 4 News, won the award for Broadcast of the Year for her piece on 'corrective' rape of lesbians in South Africa. Ahmed was not able to attend the ceremony and her husband collected the award on her behalf.
Jan Moir - Bigot Of The Year
Inevitably, the announcement of the Bigot of the Year award caused the most boos and hisses. Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir had been added to the list of nominees at the last minute, after Stonewall received a deluge of complaints about her article on Gately's death from supporters.
She was announced as the joint winner with Father John Owen, who said most paedophiles were gay.
Summerskill told the audience that he had phoned Moir to invite her to the ceremony "but she was so excited she dropped the phone".
Rennie's ordination was opposed by many because he lives with another man, but his congregation overwhelmingly selected him as their minister.
Accepting his award, Rennie said: "Thank you very much. I am deeply humbled to receive this." He also paid tribute to his congregation, thanking them for their support.
Overall the decision of who actually won the wards seemed to go down well with the audience, however through watching the awards, with most of them going to gay men, Stonewall realised that there don't seem to be many British gay women television personalities.
(Source: Pink News, Flickr, BBC News, CNN)
Friday, October 30, 2009
The regulatory body overseeing the internet has approved the use of website names being written in non-Latin characters.
Viewed as the biggest change in the 40-year history of the internet, it will allow millions of users to use Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Japanese characters for a full internet address, instead of just part of it as now.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), voted on Friday to allow such scripts in domain names at the conclusion of a seven-day meeting in Seoul, the South Korean capital.
The approval comes a day after the 40th anniversary of the internet's inception in a computer experiment by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"The Arabic domains is actually a great initiative which shows that there is global interest in the Arabic domain as well as it solves a clear problem of transliteration whereby there are a lot of different ways where you can write an Arabic name into English."
There are an estimated 40 million Arab internet users and the number is rising daily.
The decision also allows governments or their designees to submit requests for specific names. That move is expected to begin on November 16 and users could start seeing the names in use early next year, particularly in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts in which demand has been among the highest, Icann officials have said.
However, not everyone is happy with the changes. Chang Yong-wong, an internet user, says that certain language domain names could pose some problems. "If Korean is used during the international communication, foreigners will not be able to understand and will not be able to read it well enough, so there could be some problems in communication." Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the Technical maneuvres have been used to allow portions of the internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters. That has meant internet users with little or no knowledge of English still had to type in Latin characters to access websites in Chinese or Arabic. Now, Icann is allowing those same technical means to apply to the suffix as well, allowing the internet to be multilingual.
26 characters in the Latin alphabet used in English, as well as 10 numerals and the hyphen.
Chang Yong-wong, an internet user, says that certain language domain names could pose some problems.
"If Korean is used during the international communication, foreigners will not be able to understand and will not be able to read it well enough, so there could be some problems in communication."
Since their creation in the 1980s, domain names have been limited to the
Technical maneuvres have been used to allow portions of the internet address to use other scripts, but until now, the suffix had to use those 37 characters.
That has meant internet users with little or no knowledge of English still had to type in Latin characters to access websites in Chinese or Arabic.
Now, Icann is allowing those same technical means to apply to the suffix as well, allowing the internet to be multilingual.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I've applied for everything from Journalism and PR to Web and Online and even retail! I now have a Christmas temporary job at The Disney Store on Oxford Street, London.
I had my first shift last Monday and all I could think about when handing out baskets to customers, was how I have spent over £20,000 educating myself (BA Politics + MA Journalism) over the last five years.
I recently went to a John Lewis assessment day where I did exceptionally well, I got selected to stay behind with only four others out of 50. I am not sure how many people they were hiring but I suspect it to be around 50-80 as they are only temporary Christmas positions.
I haven't heard anything from John Lewis so I take it I didn't get the job, how I don't know, is that what £20,000 has bought me; interviews with 17 years old for a pathetic shop job!
Should You Go To University?
A lot of the feedback I get from failed interviews tends to sound like this: "We thought you were too over qualified for the job" of course I'm over qualified to work as a charity fundraiser but I need a job!!!
Have I educated myself out of a job? I hope not but the more time that goes by that's how it looks.
If a 18 years old were to ask me whether they should go onto University, I would say NO, don't bother. Instead go into an apprenticeship scheme or do a few internships for large organisations and work your way up the ladder, at least by the age of 24 you will have a job!
Out of all the people I know from both my undergraduate and postgraduate degree I would have to say that only 5% of them have actually got a job that they can foresee becoming their career.
The rest are either desperately unemployed and only the dole or working in retail and hospitality to try to get some urgently needed cash to pay back the mountain of University debt.
They are not only competing with there own year of graduates (2008) now they have the class of 2009 to wrestle with for those all important secure well paid jobs.