Thursday, December 15, 2005

ING Direct cuts rate to 4.5%

While ING Direct has always boasted market-leading rates, that claim will now be quashed. Most of the accounts in This is Money's best savings rates tables beat ING Direct's 4.5% rate.

The online accounts of Sainsbury's Bank, Yorkshire Building Society, Halifax, Nationwide Leeds Building Society and Bradford & Bingley all offer a higher rate. If you're an ING Direct customer, you can search for an account with a better rate using our account finder, which is powered by our partner

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Read the letter that won the internet governance battle

Condoleezza Rice's missive to the EU
By Kieren McCarthy
Published Friday 2nd December 2005 09:07 GMT
Get breaking Internet news straight to your desktop - click here to find out how

The World Summit in Tunis last month was overshadowed by the global argument over internet governance.

Its biggest controversy came with the proposition put forward by the EU a month earlier that there be a new inter-governmental body that oversee ICANN. The US government - which currently enjoys unilateral control over the internet infrastructure - was furious and launched an enormous lobbying campaign, both public and private, across the board to retain its position.Most significant among all those lobbying efforts was a letter sent from the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to the UK foreign minister Jack Straw acting in the role of presidency of the EU.

In the letter, Rice used strong language for a diplomatic missive, to stress how seriously the US administration was taking the issue and how determined it was to retain ICANN in overall charge of the internet. European diplomats privately confessed that the letter had a significant impact on their position.

The result was that the EU never raised its inter-governmental forum again in World Summit meetings, and the end agreement stuck with the US position.

This is the first time time the full text of that letter has been published:

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Guess what just turned 34?

Googler insights into product and technology news and our culture.
Guess what just turned 34?

10/21/2005 03:19:00 PM
Posted by Paul Buchheit, Gmail Engineer

It's difficult to pin down the exact origin of email, but in October 1971, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email.

At the time, it must not have seemed very important – nobody bothered to save that first message or even record the exact date. I've always thought that it would be fun to witness a little bit of history like that – to be there when something important happened. That's part of what drove me to join a little no-name startup named Google, and it's why I was excited when I was given a chance to create a new email product, now called Gmail.
Read on and when you get to the end you will find an invite to join the Gmail fun and Games (Well Fun Anyway)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Quote of the Week:

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. - Isaac Asimov

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quote of the Week:

The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. - Carl Sagan

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Wally by Name --- A Monkey's Tale ---by Wally Payne

Not just an autobiography, Wally by Name is an entertaining and often hilarious account of the doings (and misdoings!) of a soldier in the Royal Military Police, his postings ranging from Germany to Malta, Northern Island to Cyprus and Hong Kong.

Book Description
Having been required to resign from the Leicester City Constabulary for the heinous crime of ‘gross impertinence to a member of the public’, the author crossed the road to the Army Recruiting Office and enlisted into the Royal Military Police. It was a decision that, despite the odd knock back, he was never to regret.

The volumes recount the adventures, mishaps, misdeeds and observations of a character of some notoriety, charting his journey from the NAAFI canteen to the Officer’s Mess via Germany, the UK, Malta, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and the Far East. The tongue in cheek tales are told in a ribald, sometimes bawdy, occasionally cruel and unfailingly irreverent fashion that befit a person with a chip on both shoulders. Described by one officer as ‘arrogant, selfish, self-centred and pig headed’, he never discovered any reason to change.
About the author

A defrocked police constable, Wally Payne joined the Royal Military Police in 1964 and, following an often bumpy ride on the promotion roller coaster, rose to the dizzy heights of captain before retiring from the service in 1991.

Now resident beneath a mango tree in the Philippines , he continues to undertake security work in various far flung outposts. Recent contracts have seen him plying his trade in Algeria , China , Hong Kong , Leicester , Mali , Mozambique and Thailand .

NOTE This posting is to make you aware of yet another Angry (Young) man but this one has written a book. I recommend it to you if you want a good laugh.

ALSO his second book can be found at the same location

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sri Lanka charges Oxfam £500,000 to allow in jeeps

Oxfam has had to pay £550,000 in customs duty to the Sri Lankan government for importing 25 four-wheel-drive vehicles to help victims of the tsunami, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

The sum was levied by customs in Colombo which have refused to grant tax exemptions to non-governmental organisations working to repair damage caused by the giant Boxing Day wave.

The Indian-made Mahindra vehicles, essential to negotiate damaged roads and rough tracks, remained stuck in port at Colombo for almost a month as officials completed the small mountain of paperwork required to release them. Customs charged £2,750 "demurrage" for every day they stood idle.

Oxfam said it had "no choice" but to pay the exorbitant 300 per cent import tax or face further delays to its relief operation.

Sources said that when Oxfam officials tried to reason with the government, the ministry of finance offered three options: pay the duty, re-export the vehicles or hand them over to a ministry of their choice.

Oxfam was one of the major charities to benefit from the generosity of the British public, which donated £300 million for tsunami relief under the umbrella of the Disasters Relief Committee.

It refused to comment on whether the customs payment was a fair use of donations. It said only that it "abides by the law" of the countries in which it operates, "including the tax laws".

Anger is growing in Sri Lanka among aid workers and residents who say that reconstruction is being slowed to a crawl by bureaucracy, corruption, greed and inefficiency.

An aid worker who asked to remain anonymous said yesterday: "When people watched those scenes of destruction and suffering on television they were moved to help the victims - not fill the government's coffers."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

North-south divide: what divide?

If you thought you knew Great Britain, prepare to have your expectations blown away. This is the view of the co-ordinating author of an updated guide to Britain.

Urban regeneration in key cities has dispelled the myth that it’s 'grim up north'. Everywhere in the new North you’ll find dynamic architecture, designer hotels, cutting edge cuisine and buzzing bars and clubs, said David Else, one of the authors of Lonely Planet’s new edition.

The best-known attractions of the South are better than ever, says the guide to Britain. London has always been, and will continue to be, one of the greats with its world-class museums and galleries, vibrant nightlife and rich history. Other perennials include ever-popular Brighton, Bath and Windsor. The guide lauds the region, saying the South "has a sophisticated dynamism that belies its ‘old-style’ appearance. Inside sloping, half-timbered Tudor buildings you may find an Internet café with high-speed connections, a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant or a hip boutique hotel with the latest wallpaper."

But the North-South divide is a thing of the past. According to the authors there are equally compelling destinations beyond the Watford Gap. David Else said, "When it comes to great destinations, the North-South divide is a myth. Great Britain is now comparable to fine countries such as Italy, which boasts an array of unmissable cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, Turin and Milan."

Leeds is described as "an almost perfect reflection of the contemporary British zeitgeist" and admired for its "cutting edge couture" and "contemporary cuisine".

Manchester is described as "one of Britain’s most exciting and interesting cities" whilst Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is "supremely elegant and one of the most compelling examples of urban rejuvenation in the entire country".

Liverpool is applauded for its "great sense of spirit and togetherness at the core of the Liverpool experience… it’s hard to visit and not be affected". Glasgow is praised as one of the "few cities in Britain to have the contagious energy that you’ll find bubbling away on its streets and in its justifiably famous pubs and bars. Glasgow is a highlight of any trip".

Elsewhere the book finds the greatest appeal of the country to be the friendliness and warmth of the British people the authors encountered, stating that 'they're uninhibited tolerant, exhibitionist, passionate, aggressive, sentimental, hospitable and friendly. It hits you like a breath of fresh air.'

The introduction states Britain is a banquet, a feast of delights to make your mouth water. It's hard to believe that Scotland's snow-capped mountains, the azure waters on Cornwall's sandy beaches, the tranquil village pubs of Wales or the high energy clubs of Manchester are all in the same country - a country that takes just 12 hours to drive end to end.

The views of the authors are a world away from those of the last edition, which characterised the UK as a place of misery and rain.

Friday, June 03, 2005

High hedges set for the chop 02 June 2005

Homeowners will no longer need to suffer the misery caused by high hedges, under new legislation that came into effect on Wednesday 1 June.

The new powers mean neighbours who cannot resolve their disputes over high hedges can now ask local authorities to intervene. Local authorities, who have previously been powerless to act in such disputes, can step in to decide if the height of the hedge is unreasonable and spell out exactly what action must be taken.

Excessively high and unruly hedges can block daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, having a negative impact on their quality of life.

The new legislation will take action against those who continually show a lack of consideration for others, although involving the local authority should remain a last resort.

Jim Fitzpatrick, minister at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said, "This legislation offers a light at the end of the tunnel for people whose lives have been made a misery from high hedges. Out of control hedges can block out the daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, becoming a real drain on their quality of life."

Under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, local authorities have the power to intervene in disputes once a complaint has been made. The authority will decide whether the hedge is stopping someone's reasonable enjoyment of their home or garden, striking a balance between the complainant's and hedge owner's interests.

Where it is needed, the local authority will be able to serve a remedial notice to the hedge owner to identify what they must do to sort the problem out. If they fail to comply with the notice, they could be fined up to £1000.

The complainant must show they have tried to resolve the matter with the hedge owner. Complaints will only be considered where the hedge is evergreen, over two metres high and blocking out light, access or reasonable enjoyment of neighbours' property. If this is the case, local authorities will take a range of factors into account to reach a balanced decision on whether the hedge is a problem.

A fee to cover the costs will be charged by the council to the complainant at their discretion.

Other anti-social activities covered by the act include:

* Powers to disperse groups in designated areas suffering persistent and serious anti-social behaviour
* Extending powers to deal with aggravated trespass
* Simplifying powers to deal with unauthorised encampments (provided alternative sites are available)
* New mechanisms for enforcing parental responsibility for children who behave in an anti-social way in school or in the community
* Widening powers to shut down establishments that create noise nuisance
* Powers for local authorities to tackle graffiti on street furniture
* Powers to social landlords to take action against anti-social tenants including faster evictions and removing their right to buy their home
and about time too

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

US biometric ID request raises ID concern in UK

By (feedback at
Published Monday 30th May 2005 10:31 GMT

The UK government plans to issue its ID card as a passport with biometric identifiers stored in a chip – and the US wants those chips to be compatible with its own scanners, raising the possibility that US agencies could have access to the ID Card database.

The US call for biometric standardisation exceeds currently agreed international standards for airline navigation, safety and security. In 2003, it was agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that the initial international biometric standard for passports would be facial mapping, although additional biometrics such as fingerprinting could be included.

Currently, for example, all foreign visitors entering the US have their two index fingers scanned, and a digital photograph taken before they are granted entry. Most visitors are also required to obtain a visa.
Nature of the US request

Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security, last week said this the EU and US were close to a deal on the introduction of biometrics in passports for those seeking entry to the US, and urged the EU to ensure compatibility between EU and US biometric systems.

According to press reports, Chertoff has also asked the UK to consider chip compatibility in respect of the proposed UK national identity card scheme.

He told reporters: "It would be a very bad thing if we all invested huge amounts of money in biometric systems and they didn't work with each other."

"Hopefully, we're not going to do VHS and Betamax with our chips,” he added.
Compatibility could deliver on-line data exchange

According to The Independent newspaper, this could mean that information held on UK identity cards could be accessed in the US.

The potential for this link arises because of the decisions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to promote an international standard for passports. These decisions have been reinforced by a decision of the Council of Ministers of the European Community to introduce a common format passport for member states.

The decision of the UK government to link the ID cards with the passport means that the UK's ID card will be compatible with international passport standards. According to the Passport Office website, "For many UK citizens the identity card will be issued as passports come up for renewal or for first time applications." As a result, "The Home Office, the UKPS and other government departments will now work together "to start to lay the foundations for the scheme, which will establish a more secure means of proving people's identity."

As part of this process, the UKPS "will progress its major anti-fraud and secure identity initiatives including the addition of a biometric to the British passport. So if a biometric passport is linked to the ID Card in a common format which is compatible with the USA's travel requirement, then direct USA access to the ID Card/Passport database becomes an option in relation to travel to the USA."
Lack of biometrics still a problem

The US had initially set 26 October 2004 as the date by which Visa Waiver Program travellers were supposed to present a biometric passport for visa-free travel to the US, but extended it for one year when it became clear that the 27 states that are eligible for the Program – including the UK – would be unable to comply.

Unfortunately EU countries are still unable to produce the biometrically-enabled passports, and unless the US is prepared to extend its deadline again, EU visitors to the US will soon find themselves obliged to obtain a visa before they will be granted entry.

According to reports, the US and EU are now close to a deal on the timing of the biometric passport requirement.
Biometric passports and terrorism

Biometric passports have been identified by governments throughout the world as a key factor in the fight against terrorism, and their implementation is being driven by the US.

The USA-PATRIOT Act, passed by the US Congress after the events of September 2001, included the requirement that the President certify a biometric technology standard for use in identifying aliens seeking admission into the US, within two years.

The schedule for its implementation was accelerated by another piece of legislation, the little-known Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act 2002. Part of this second law included seeking international co-operation with this standard. The incentive to international co-operation was made clear:

"By October 26, 2004, in order for a country to remain eligible for participation in the visa waiver program its government must certify that it has a program to issue to its nationals machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and which incorporate biometric and authentication identifiers that satisfy the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

Citizens from those countries belonging to the Visa Waiver Program (including many EU countries, Australia, Brunei, Iceland, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Slovenia) do not require a visa, but as from 26 October last year, have been obliged to show a machine-readable passport.

Unless a further deadline extension is reached, VWP citizens entering the US after 26 October 2005 must, if their passport is issued after 26 October 2005, use a machine-readable, biometrically-enabled passport or obtain a visa.

Copyright © 2005, (

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

UN rights report whitewashes Turkey

THE first-ever report by the United Nations on the Human Rights situation in Cyprus is remarkable for the fact that it avoids any reference to the Turkish invasion, the continuing occupation of north Cyprus and the consequent ethnic cleansing of the Greek Cypriot population of the north.

Even more astoundingly, the report makes no reference at all to the fact that Turkey has been found guilty repeatedly by the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe of violating the rights of the Greek Cypriot refugees by barring their return, the repossession of their properties, and, what is more, that it refuses to obey the Court's order to restore the rights of these refugees.

The report concludes that the ``persisting de facto partition of the island constitutes a major obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by all Cypriots throughout the island,'' without any explanation, or of Turkey's responsibility for this situation.

The general shockingly superficial approach of the report is that it avoids detailed reference to specific cases or the plight of the enclaved. It is also indicative that the report dismisses the large scale destruction of the Christian and Greek cultural heritage in the occupied north through the sacrilegious destruction of hundreds of churches and cemeteries by saying only that ``there were a few reports of vandalism of unused religious sites.''

Read the report online byu clicking above

Bird flu could put Britain in quarantine, warns scientist

Jo Revill, health editor
Sunday March 27, 2005
The Observer

Offices and schools across Britain could be closed to protect workers if bird flu arrives, the Ministry of Defence's chief scientist has warned.

Professor Roy Anderson, a leading infectious diseases expert, said politicians will face difficult decisions about how far to close down Britain if it is struck by a highly contagious form of the disease.

'I have never seen the international community as agitated about anything as this,' he told The Observer . The disease has a mortality rate of around 76 per cent, and the average age of death is 17. 'Although it sounds alarmist, the balanced view is that we are overdue a major pandemic,' Anderson said.

The government has announced it is to stockpile an anti-viral drug that can help both to prevent and to treat the disease. However, there will not be sufficient doses to cover the population for another two years because of demand from other countries.

'We are a highly connected society,' said Anderson. 'The major risk areas are the centres of the population. If it arrived in London, it is most likely we would have a few days before it would be seated in most major centres of population'. The warning from such a senior figure is likely to increase demands for clarity over Britain's plans for such an emergency.

A special committee has been set up to talk to sectors such as schools and workplaces but there has been little open debate. Canada, by contrast, has invited the public to give their views, after having gone through the enormous logistical difficulties of the Sars epidemic of last year. Anderson, who holds a chair in infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial College, London, is convinced that it is a question of when, rather than if, a flu pandemic arises. The fear is that the virus will then start to acquire human genes as it mutates.

A particular subtype of avian virus, H5N1, is causing alarm. The first presence in a human was confirmed in January 2004, and 48 people across south-east Asia have now contracted the disease. From these, doctors calculate the virus has a mortality rate of between 70 and 80 per cent.

There has not yet been a confirmed case of the disease spreading from human to human, although experts have suspicions over two family clusters. On Thursday a 17-year-old Vietnamese girl died, raising the region's death toll to 48. As there have been no bird flu outbreaks among poultry in the village, officials said they were unsure how the teenager contracted the disease.

Since December 14 people have died from bird flu in Vietnam, while Cambodia has reported two deaths, including one this week. A team of health experts is investigating a cluster of suspected cases in Quang Binh, Vietnam.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Running the gauntlet

s a Westerner working in Iraq, Annia Ciezadlo has to brave military checkpoints just to get around town. It's an ordeal that never gets any less confusing or terrifying.
A very thought provoking article by someone who knows the danger that is everyday Iraq

Friday, March 11, 2005

A First Draft of History?

Call the rewrite man!

Monday, March 7, 2005 12:01 a.m.

Remember Japan Inc.? If you were a semi-sentient consumer of news in the 1980s, it was hard to avoid the impression that Japan would soon overtake the U.S. in global economic clout, if its corporations didn't just purchase the country outright. They've got Rockefeller Center! They're gobbling up Hollywood! Chalmers Johnson, Clyde Prestowitz and other soi-disant experts pronounced sagely on the invincible Japanese model of industrial organization, while the media supplied a diet of stories about how companies such as Sony or Honda remained world-beaters, year-in and year-out.

Now consider the amazing media about-face in recent weeks on Iraq. Prior to Jan. 30, dateline Baghdad was dateline Götterdämmerung. Now it's dateline Democracy. Bombs are still exploding, but we aren't reading much anymore about how we're losing hearts and minds, or how Iraq is ethnically too fractious to have a meaningful democracy. Instead, the media connect the dots between elections in Baghdad and events in Beirut, Cairo and Ramallah, and talk about 1989.

It's right that they should do so. But we should also connect the dots between today's Iraq and 1980s Japan. The myth of Japan Inc. took hold because there was so little Western reporting to suggest that not all was well with the Japanese economy. So, when Japan's real-estate bubble burst and the economy flatlined for over a decade, the world was caught unawares. The myth of an Iraqi quagmire took hold for similar reasons--the media was so busy telling the story of everything that was going wrong in Iraq that it broadly missed what was going right.

The cliché is that journalism is the first draft of history. Yet a historian searching for clues about the origins of many of the great stories of recent decades--the collapse of the Soviet empire; the rise of Osama bin Laden; the declining American crime rate; the economic eclipse of Japan and Germany--would find most contemporary journalism useless. Perhaps a story here or there might, in retrospect, seem illuminating. But chances are it would have been nearly invisible at the time of publication: eight column inches, page A12.

The problem is not that journalists can't get their facts straight: They can and usually do. Nor is it that the facts are obscure: Often, the most essential facts are also the most obvious ones. The problem is that journalists have a difficult time distinguishing significant facts--facts with consequences--from insignificant ones. That, in turn, comes from not thinking very hard about just which stories are most worth telling.

Take Western coverage of Israelis and Palestinians over the past dozen years. During the years of the peace process, a succession of journalists trooped through the region, reporting a handful of stories: the expansion of Israeli settlements; the chemistry between Yasser Arafat and the Israeli prime minister, and their relationship with Bill Clinton; the exact percentage of land offered by Israel at various stages of negotiation; the conflict between moderates and "extremists on both sides."

These were "true" stories, in the sense that they were (for the most part) factually accurate and reflected the realities of the peace process. But the peace process was not the only relevant reality of the time. Arafat and his lieutenants continued to call for Israel's destruction in speeches to Arab audiences. Palestinian Authority maps of the region, posted in schools and public buildings, had nothing named "Israel" on them. Billions in foreign aid were pumped into the PA, but there was little to show for it in terms of a better economy. Arafat's political opponents were sacked from their jobs, arrested, tortured or simply shot by masked men in the street.

All this was public knowledge throughout the 1990s. But because the information sat so awkwardly with the central premises of the peace process--namely, that Arafat was committed to peace and that the Palestinian problem was foreign occupation, not domestic tyranny--it tended to be dismissed as so much trivia. So the PA is corrupt: What else is new? So Arafat makes incendiary speeches? Rhetoric for the masses. Few people could recognize then that Arafat wasn't the key to peace, but the principal obstacle to it. Today that's conventional wisdom.

A similar dynamic took place once the intifada began and the media meta-narrative switched from "peace process" to "cycle of violence." Here, supposedly, Israelis and Palestinians engaged in acts of tit-for-tat killing; whenever a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up in a Jerusalem café, one could be sure to learn that his brother had been killed by the Israeli army. Yet while the cycle-of-violence hypothesis was highly convenient for reporters reluctant to pin the blame on one side, it was also falsifiable--and false: When the Israelis invaded the West Bank and killed the top ranks of Hamas, the incidence of terrorism didn't rise. It peaked.

It is, of course, impossible to anticipate "events," in Harold MacMillan's sense of the word. But none of the examples listed here belong in that category. Norman Podhoretz predicted the peace process would lead to war. Charles Wolf saw the hollowness of Japan Inc. Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union. And George W. Bush understood, and said, that a free Iraq would serve as a beacon of liberty for the oppressed Arab world.

As for the media, it shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources. Beware of exoticizing your subject: If you think that Israelis and Palestinians operate from no higher motive than revenge, you're on the wrong track. Above all, never forget the obvious: that the law of supply and demand operates in Japan, too; that the Soviet Union was a state governed by fear; that Iraqis aren't rooting for their killers; that, if given the chance, people will choose to be free.

Simple maxims, but how much embarrassment would the media be spared if only they followed them.

Mr. Stephens is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Teenagers special: The original rebels


Though the teenage years are most commonly defined by raging hormones, the development of secondary sexual characteristics and attitude problems, what is unique in humans is this sudden and rapid increase in body size following a long period of very slow growth. No other primate has a skeletal growth spurt like this so late in life. Why do we?

Instant Expert: Teenagers

The teenager is a uniquely human phenomenon.

Adolescents are known to be moody, insecure, argumentative, angst-ridden, impulsive, impressionable, reckless and rebellious. Teenagers are also characterised by odd sleeping patterns, awkward growth spurts, bullying, acne and slobbish behaviour. So what could be the possible benefit of the teenage phase?

Most other animals - apes and human ancestors included - skip that stage altogether, developing rapidly from infancy to full adulthood. Humans, in contrast, have a very puzzling four-year gap between sexual maturity and prime reproductive age. Anthropologists disagree on when the teenage phase first evolved, but pinpointing that date could help define its purpose more..
Further links into the mysterious teen mind can be found here

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Local taxes and dubious foreign aid tell on tsunami relief

Tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka is suffering for a number of reasons.

Among them are the new taxes on relief material, the dubious ways of the international aid agencies, and the doubtful value of their work.

On one hand, the cash-strapped Sri Lankan NGOs are facing a serious problem with the government slapping customs duties and VAT on relief material sent by foreign donors and on the other hand, the cash-rich International NGOs (INGOs) and UN organisations — who ought to be doing good work — are mired in wasteful expenditure, administrative inefficiency and gross

Friday, February 25, 2005

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000
By Ben Webster
Turning back after engine failure would have left airline liable to pay out for delays under new rules on compensation
A BRITISH AIRWAYS jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after an 11-hour transatlantic flight with a failed engine.

The fault occurred on take-off from Los Angeles but the pilot declined all opportunities to land in the US and instead continued on three engines for 5,000 miles to Britain.

The incident happened three days after a European regulation came into force requiring airlines to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations. Under the new rules, if the pilot had returned to Los Angeles, BA would have been facing a compensation bill of more than £100,000.

Balpa, the British Air Line Pilots’ Association, gave warning last night that the regulation could result in pilots being pressured into taking greater risks for commercial reasons.

The regulation requires airlines to refund passengers the full cost of their tickets as well as flying them home if a delay lasts longer than five hours. Passengers must also be put up in hotels if the delay continues overnight.

The BA flight departed at 8.45pm on Saturday and the airline admitted that the delay would have been well over five hours if it had returned to Los Angeles.

BA initially claimed that the engine had failed an hour into the flight. But the airline admitted yesterday that the problem had occurred a few seconds after take-off when the Boeing 747 was only 100ft above the ground.

Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles spotted streams of sparks shooting from the engine and immediately radioed the pilot. He attempted to throttle the engine back but was forced to shut it down after it continued to overheat. The plane then began circling over the Pacific while the pilot contacted BA’s control centre in London to discuss what to do. They decided the flight should continue to London even though it would burn more fuel on just three engines.

The Boeing 747 was unable to climb to its cruising altitude of 36,000ft and had to cross the Atlantic at 29,000ft, where the engines perform less efficiently and the tailwinds are less favourable. The unbalanced thrust also meant the pilot had to apply more rudder, causing extra drag.

The pilot realised as he flew over the Atlantic that he was running out of fuel and would not make it to Heathrow. He requested an emergency landing at Manchester and was met by four fire engines and thirty firefighters on the runway.

Philip Baum, an aviation security specialist on board the flight with his wife and three daughters, said he had heard two loud bangs shortly after take-off. “The pilot came on to say we had lost an engine and he was negotiating about whether or not we should land back at Los Angeles.

“A few minutes later, I was amazed to see from the map on the TV screen that we were flying eastwards towards Britain. I would be disgusted if the issue of compensation had any bearing on the decision.”

BA said financial concerns had played no part in the decision. Captain Doug Brown, the senior manager of BA’s 747 fleet, said the only consideration had been “what was best for passengers”.

“The plane is as safe on three engines as on four and it can fly on two. It was really a customer service issue, not a safety issue. The options would have been limited for passengers [if the plane had returned to Los Angeles].” He said the pilot would have had to dump more than 100 tonnes of fuel before landing at Los Angeles. “The authorities would have had words to say about that.”

Captain Brown said pilots always took the final decision on any safety issue and would never choose to put themselves at risk. “Even without 350 passengers behind you, you are always going to be concerned about your own neck.”

But David Learmount, safety editor of Flight International, said: “It was a very odd decision to continue to London. Even if the pilot didn’t want to dump so much fuel, he could have diverted to Chicago.

“You are not as safe on three engines as you are on four and I suspect that, given the choice, most passengers would have opted to return to LA.”

Some airlines are trying to avoid paying compensation for delays involving technical failures of an aircraft. They are citing a clause in the regulation which excludes delays “caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

But the Air Transport Users Council, which advises passengers on how to obtain their rights, said airlines would still be liable in cases involving engine failure because the cause was likely to be poor maintenance. Simon Evans, its chief executive, admitted that the regulation could lead to airlines taking greater risks. “We recognise there is a possibility that an airline might take a decision to fly in order to avoid paying compensation.”

Captain Mervyn Granshaw, Balpa’s chairman, said: “The EU regulation is poorly drafted and increases the pressure on pilots to consider commercial issues when making judgments in marginal safety situations.”

US woman sues over ink cartridges

A US woman is suing Hewlett Packard (HP), saying its printer ink cartridges are secretly programmed to expire on a certain date.

The unnamed woman from Georgia says that a chip inside the cartridge tells the printer that it needs re-filling even when it does not.

The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone in the US who has purchased an HP inkjet printer since February 2001.

HP, the world's biggest printer firm, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

HP ink cartridges use a chip technology to sense when they are low on ink and advise the user to make a change.

'Shut down'

But the suit claims the chips also shut down the cartridges at a predetermined date regardless of whether they are empty.

"The smart chip is dually engineered to prematurely register ink depletion and to render a cartridge unusable through the use of a built-in expiration date that is not revealed to the consumer," the suit said.

The lawsuit is asking for restitution, damages and other compensation.

The cost of printer cartridges has been a contentious issue in Europe for the last 18 months.

The price of inkjet printers has come down to as little as £34 but it could cost up to £1,700 in running costs over an 18-month period due to cartridge, a study by Computeractive Magazine revealed last year.

The inkjet printer market has been the subject of an investigation by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which concluded in a 2002 report that retailers and manufacturers needed to make pricing more transparent for consumers.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Serial burglar caught on webcam

A house burglar was caught after a webcam on the owner's computer recorded images of him carrying out the raid.

Stills of serial raider Benjamin Park, 19, of Cambridge, were sent to an email address so even when he stole the computer, the images could be found.

Police said it was a "brilliant idea" of software engineer Duncan Grisby, who set it after a previous burglary.

Park was given an 11-month jail term by magistrates in Cambridge on Tuesday after admitting burglary.

"It was an absolutely brilliant idea of Mr Grisby's," said Det Sgt Alan Page, head of Cambridgeshire Police Burglary Squad.


"The webcam was set up in his computer and began filming once it registered motion. It captured every movement Park made.

"At one point he stared into the computer as if it might be making a noise or something to make him suspicious.

"He then stole the computer but it didn't matter because Mr Grisby had set it up so that as it was recording it was sending the images to an email address.

"When the break-in was discovered Mr Grisby simply gave us the email address and we were able to watch several minutes of footage and say, `That's Ben Park'.

"Mr Grisby is an extremely bright man. He'd set this up because he'd been burgled some years ago and the quality was superb.

'Better than alarm'

"It was better than a burglar alarm and when Park initially denied breaking in to the property we were simply able to show him the footage."

Magistrates heard Park, who has more than 13 previous convictions for theft, had stolen computer equipment and other property with a value of nearly £4,000 from Mr Grisby's study.

He committed the offence in February while on bail after being charged with an attempted burglary in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in August.

"The webcam made our job really easy," added DS Page. "It was a pleasure to show him the pictures and see his expression when we interviewed him."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/02/16 22:26:26 GMT


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Asia Times: US Arming Militants To Overthrow Iraq Gov't

Don't rub your eyes, this is not a story from two or three years ago.

According to this article from Asia Times, the United States has begun quietly arming small militias in the Ba'athist regions of Iraq to overthrow the just-elected government, should that government ignore US pressures and attempt to form a theocracy.

Asia Times Online has learned that in a highly clandestine operation, the US has procured Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. Consignments have been loaded in bulk onto US military cargo aircraft at Chaklala airbase in the past few weeks. The aircraft arrived from and departed for Iraq.
Taken from Linkfilter

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fresh attacks target Iraqi police

At least 12 policemen have been killed and four injured in a suicide bomb attack near a hospital in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, police say.

Another 13 people died in a car bomb attack on a police station in Baquba, north-east of Baghdad.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories

Intense Grief and Fear in Northern Uganda
No End in Sight to Devastating Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)r
Civilians Caught in Colombia's Crossfire
Tuberculosis Spiraling Out of Control
Somalia Shattered By Anarchy and Chaos
The Trauma of Ongoing War in Chechnya
User-Fee System Excludes Burundi's Poorest From Basic Health Care
North Koreans Endure Massive Deprivation and Repression
Constant Threat of Hunger and Disease in Ethiopia
The War is Over, But Liberians Still Live in Crisis

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

GPs dial in to the great 0870 scam

GPs dial in to the great 0870 scam
by SEAN POULTER, Daily Mail

The Health Service has been accused of trying to cash in on the sick by introducing rip-off 0870 numbers for local doctors' surgeries.

Calls to the numbers are charged at just under 8p a minute, more than double the amount most people pay for phone calls.

Banks, utility companies and government departments are generating massive windfalls from what are effectively premium-rate lines because most large organisations which use 0870 numbers take a slice of the call cost.

Daily Mail readers reacted with fury to the revelations about the 0870 scam. It now appears the NHS has jumped on the gravy train at the expense of patients trying to contact their GP.

An estimated 300 doctors' surgeries across the country have introduced 0870 numbers in recent months in partnership with a company called Network Europe Group.

NEG supplies telephone systems to surgeries in return for a slice of the call charge imposed on patients.

The net effect is that doctors and the NHS get a 'free' or cheap phone system while NEG makes money from call charges. However, all of this is effectively paid for by patients.

Labour MP Dr Howard Stoate, the only practising GP in the Commons, said: "This is a very worrying trend. We are effectively looking at charging for the NHS by the back door.

"Patients who need an appointment or advice don't have any alternative but to pay this charge.

Campaign to bypass 0870 and 0845 numbers

"Doctors will say this is a good way of them improving their phone systems but I don't believe this should be subsidised by patient call charges."

Most Britons currently pay a maximum of 3p a minute for national or local calls under discount packages. However, calls to 0870, and 0845, numbers are excluded from these packages.

The Lib Dem MP for Cornwall North, Paul Tyler, said government departments and agencies were generating huge amounts by using 0870 numbers. It appears the Home Office has 19 such lines while the DVLA makes £1.1million a year from its 0870 prefixes.

Mr Tyler said: "It is a rip-off. Those who ask for information they are entitled to as citizens are facing very high charges. These are effectively premium rate phone lines."

Mail readers from across the country yesterday complained about the 0870 rip-off. One said: "It is disgraceful that I should have to pay 8p per minute for a questioning session from the NHS if I become ill."

A second said: "At least with a commercial firm you can chose to deal with them or not. This is not possible for doctors' surgeries." Another said: "Lets get this disgusting rip-off halted."

NEG said those dialling the system it uses in surgeries are generally on the line for less time than in the past. So while the call charge per minute was higher, they did not pay much more.

A campaign has begun among consumers to bypass 0870 and 0845 numbers.

The website offers alternative, cheaper, numbers for major organisations.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Scientists predict massive global warming

he world is likely to heat up by an average of 11°C by the end of the century, the biggest ever study of global warming showed yesterday.

And the effect could be even more marked in Britain, where temperatures could soar by up to 20°C unless greenhouse gases are cut. ---------------

Jailed for using a nonstandard browser

From Boing Boing

Thursday, January 27, 2005
A Londonder made a tsnuami-relief donation using lynx -- a text-based browser used by the blind, Unix-users and others -- on Sun's Solaris operating system. The site-operator decided that this "unusual" event in the system log indicated a hack-attempt, and the police broke down the donor's door and arrested him. From a mailing list:

For donating to a Tsunami appeal using Lynx on Solaris 10. BT [British Telecom] who run the donation management system misread an access log and saw hmm thats a non standard browser not identifying it's type and it's doing strange things. Trace that IP. Arrest that hacker.

Armed police, a van, a police cell and national news later the police have gone in SWAT styley and arrested someone having their lunch.

Out on bail till next week and preparing to make a lot of very bad PR for BT and the Police....

So just goes to show if you use anything other than Firefox or IE and you rely on someone else to interogate access logs or IDS logs you too could be sitting in a paper suit in a cell :(

Link (Thanks, Patrick!)

Update:: The source that told me about this has corroborated it with more detail in private email, but is leery of going public. I hope that more publicly available details appear soon, and will post them when I have them.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 12:08:00 AM permalink
Next time it could be the colour of your tie or the car you drive?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Worm Steals CNN Headlines To Stay Timely, Fool Users

By TechWeb News
January 21, 2005 (12:50 PM EST)

A new worm uses breaking news -- and a devious technique to keep itself up-to-date -- to dupe recipients into opening attachments, an anti-virus firm said Friday.

U.K.-based security vendor Sophos said that the Crowt.a worm grabs its subject lines, message content, and attachment names from headlines culled in real-time from CNN's Web site. The worm's subject and attachment filename constantly change to mirror the top headline on, while the e-mail message's text is also hijacked from CNN.

The idea is to fool recipients into thinking that they're reading a legitimate newsletter or news brief rather than looking at payload-carrying message about to infect their PC.

Crowt.a also slips in a backdoor component that tries to record keystrokes and send the stolen info to the hacker, an element of many worms that are meant not only to give the attacker later access to the infected computer, but also lets them walk off with valuable passwords or bank account information.

"This latest ploy feeds on people's desire for the latest news," said Carole Theriault, a security consultant at Sophos, in a statement. "Many people subscribe to legitimate email news updates...virus writers are always looking for new tricks to entice users into running their malicious code."

Blogging 'a paedophile's dream'

Online journals and camera phones are a "paedophiles' dream" which have increased the risk to children, the Scottish Parliament has been warned.

The Justice 1 Committee is examining a bill to create the specific offence of "grooming" and bringing in 10-year jail terms for meeting children for sex.

A forensic psychologist spoke about the dangers of online journals, or blogs, and pictures posted directly online.

Rachel O'Connell said adults could use weblogs to learn about children.

Dr O'Connell said that the emergence of moblogs - mobile weblogs - allowed even faster transfer of pictures to the internet using mobile telephones with cameras.

You have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal
Dr Rachel O'Connell
Forensic psychologist

She said: "This is just a paedophile's dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal."

The psychologist, whose research and work with police and other agencies has included posing as a child on internet newsgroups, said predatory adults could use an RSS feeder program - a syndication tool - to be instantly e-mailed any picture when it was added to a blogging site.

"The parameters of grooming are now about to alter whereby they don't necessarily have to have contact with the child," she said.

'New dimension'

Dr O'Connell is director of research at Central Lancashire University's Cyberspace Research Unit.

She described a scenario where a group of paedophiles could exchange information on a child's movement, potentially leading to an abduction.

"This is what we're facing, in that situation you have no prior contact with the child," she added.

Labour committee convener Pauline McNeill said: "It takes it to a whole new dimension for us - I'm beginning to wonder if we've really begun to tackle the protection of children with the bill before us."

'No guidance'

Ms McNeill said the committee may have to consider issues beyond the current bill, a view echoed by Nationalist and Tory members.

Dr O'Connell said there was "absolutely no internet safety information or guidance whatsoever" on most blogging sites as their whole point was about giving out personal information.

"It's going to become a huge issue," she said.

She backed the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill, but also urged greater collaboration between law enforcement and technology developers and more parental information.

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry said ministers and the public wanted to be sure the law was "robust".

"We want to ensure that our laws allow for early intervention to help prevent predatory sex offenders targeting and abusing children," he told MSPs.

"The provisions in this bill will ensure that the police and procurators fiscal have a robust package of measures to deal with predatory sex offenders before they go on to commit physical assaults on children and other victims."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/01/26 16:40:09 GMT



Are you sick of reading what professional technology journalists are telling you? Do you ever feel like reporting your own news or reading about what other likeminded users think is worthwhile? Professionals don’t run the new form of media anymore – you can take a hand in shaping what gets out there, too. If you’re really passionate about something, there are many ways for you to get your voice out to the public. A site called Digg puts the editorial power back where it should be – in the people’s hands.

Let me just tell you right off the bat that I totally dig Digg. For users who just want to read the latest content, browsing through the site is a breeze. Several categories are available for you to peruse as long as you want. By creating a profile on the site, you can click on the “dig this story” option on news stories that you like, and they’ll automatically be referenced on your very own user profile page. Your friends can then use this page to keep track of what you’ve been digging, and they can even keep track of this information through RSS. In fact, all of the categories have their own RSS feeds – very nice.

If you’d like to try your hand at reporting a few stories, just select the option to submit a story. Your submitted story will appear under the selected category’s dig option. If fifteen people dig the story, your submission will appear on the category page, and the home page. This concept is spectacular, and you’ll find stories and links here that you won’t find anywhere else. Power to the people!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Police launch website to protect kids online

Police have launched a website intended to make it safer for children to surf the internet.

The website is part of an international effort to crack down on paedophiles who stalk the net. provides information on how to use the internet safely and contains links to support agencies such as the NSPCC and Childline. Detectives hope its logo - a blue matchstick child and an eye - will become universally recognisable.

The logo is featured on the internet launch site of Microsoft, AOL, BTopenworld and Vodafone.

The system puts an icon on people's screens to let them know of the police presence. The police will engage with other users on the web - making it clear they are officers.

Jim Gamble, deputy director of the National Crime Squad, said: "This is not Big Brother, no one is monitoring you, this is providing you with the safety information and support you need."

He added: "Those who use the internet to search for and share images of child abuse or to approach children in chat rooms to groom them for sexual abuse must be aware that the internet is not an anonymous place."

Childrens Section

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Government warned over patient choice pledge

19/01/05 - Health section

Government warned over patient choice pledge

Urgent action is needed if the Government is to deliver on its pledge to give patients more choice of where and when they get hospital consultations, a report warned.

The National Audit Office looked at Department of Health progress towards its target of offering every patient referred by GPs for non-emergency treatment the choice of four or five hospitals by December.

It found a tiny fraction of referrals had so far been made through the new e-booking service set up to deliver patient choice, many GPs were against the principle, and nearly a third of hospitals had no plans to implement it.

GPs' reluctance and non-compliance of IT systems in surgeries and hospitals with the £196 million central e-booking system along with an intermittent technical fault have been blamed for hampering progress.

Failure to meet targets

Out of 9.4 million non-emergency referrals, up to December last year, just 63 were booked through the NHS's new Choose And Book computerised system, rather than the hoped-for 205,000.

And the system will only be operational across between 60% and 70% of the NHS by December, NAO warned.

While acknowledging some progress had been made, the report exposed a gulf between the Department's target on patient choice and plans for implementation on the ground.

Nearly a third of Primary Care Trusts have no plans to introduce any patient choice while more than a quarter predict they will not achieve the December target, NAO found.

A survey of 1,500 GPs found that half of them knew very little about patient choice and just 6% were well versed on it, according to the report.

While most thought it will have a positive impact on patients' experience, 90% feared it will make consultations longer, increasing their workload.

And 45% of those questioned said patient choice would make health inequalities worse.

Nearly two-thirds of the doctors were either very or a little negative about patient choice.

'Providing choice will not be simple'

The report recommended the Department of Health urgently addresses the low level of GP support and consider speeding up the e-booking system.

Interim IT systems should be monitored and not affect the implementation of e-booking.

NAO head Sir John Bourn said: "Enabling patients who are referred by their GPs for hospital treatment to choose where they want to be treated promised to bring benefits to the patients themselves and to the wider NHS.

"Providing such choice will not be simple, however.

"The Department of Health must take urgent and effective action to inform and engage with GPs about the new arrangements.

"GPs' support may be hard to secure and indeed choice will be hard to deliver successfully by the end of 2005 if the electronic booking system is not largely up and running by then."

The Department of Health is tackling the problem with a campaign to inform and engage GPs.

A new National Implementation Director for Choose And Book has also been appointed.

Health Minister John Hutton said: "We welcome this report. It confirms that providing greater choice over hospital treatment will deliver very real benefits to patients.

"The report also acknowledges that Primary Care Trusts and GPs are moving in the right direction to deliver choice by the end of this year.

"Offering the choice of four or five providers for hospital referrals to patients by December 2005 is a big challenge for the NHS.

Missed appointments

"As we set out in the Department of Health document Choose And Book, published last August, this will be offered mainly through IT but also other means, such as phone booking.

"We have implemented the choice IT programme in stages. First we procured the equipment, second we made sure it worked, now the challenge is to roll out the service across the NHS.

"That is why since the autumn, as planned, we have intensified our efforts to engage with GPs. More than 2,500 GPs have already been involved in developing systems to support choice and booking, and this engagement will increase during this important next stage of implementation."

On GP support for patient choice, Dr Gillian Braunold, joint clinical lead for GPs at the National Programme for IT, said: "GPs want to enable choice and there is plenty of scope for positive engagement.

"I'm optimistic that the profession will respond positively to the choice and access agenda using both IT and other means to make it happen."

The e-booking system for GP referrals cost £196 million to set up over five years with the added annual cost of £122 million offset against administrative savings of £71 million.

It is hoped it will cut the number of missed appointments, currently costing £100 million a year.

Find this story at
©2005 Associated New Media

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Web logs aid disaster recovery

Web logs aid disaster recovery
By Clark Boyd
Technology correspondent

Some of the most vivid descriptions of the devastation in southern Asia are on the internet - in the form of web logs or blogs.

Bloggers have been offering snapshots of information from around the region and are also providing some useful information for those who want to help.

Indian writer Rohit Gupta edits a group blog called Dogs without Borders.

When he created it, the site was supposed to be a forum to discuss relations between India and Pakistan.

But in the wake of Sunday's tsunami, Mr Gupta and his fellow bloggers switched gears.

Text report

They wanted to blog the tsunami and its aftermath.

One Sri Lankan blogger in the group goes by the online name Morquendi.

With internet service disrupted by the tsunami, Morquendi started sending SMS text messages via cell phone from the affected areas of Sri Lanka.

"We started publishing these SMSes," says Mr Gupta.

"Morquendi was describing scenes like 1,600 bodies washed up on a shore, and people burying, and burying and burying them. People digging holes with their hands. And this was coming through an SMS message.

"We didn't have visual accounts on radio or on TV, or in the print media."

Soon, thousands of web users around the world were logging on to read Morquendi's first hand accounts.

In one message, Morquendi wrote about a Sri Lankan woman who was running home with a friend when the wave hit.

"She was being swept away," Morquendi's message read. "She grabbed a tree with one hand and her friend with the other. She says she watched the water pull her friend away."

Mr Gupta says the power of Morquendi's text message blogs was palpable.

"He was running around, looking for friends, burying bodies, carrying bodies," Mr Gupta says of Morquendi.

"I can't even begin to imagine the psychological state he was in when he was sending us reports, and doing the relief work at the same time.

"He was caught between being a journalist and being a human being."

Aid stations

Others blogs are helping to spread information about relief efforts.

Dina Mehta is an Indian blogger who's helping with the newly created South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog. She says the blog is not meant to be filled with first person accounts.

"What we're doing is we're building a resource," she says.

"Anyone who says, OK, I want to come and do some work in India, volunteer in India, or in Sri Lanka or Malaysia, this is the sort of one-stop-shop that they can come to for all sorts of resources - emergency help lines, relief agencies, aid agencies, contacts for them etc."

Ms Mehta also says she wishes that governments in the region would realise the power of blogs.

"Imagine if they had this resource available to them, if there was a disaster, how quickly you could funnel aid in, and get people to help," she says.

Bloggers in the United States are also getting involved.

Ramdhan Yadav Kotamaraja is originally from India, but now lives in Dallas.

Mr Kotamaraja wanted to help those affected by the tsunami by pooling money with concerned friends.

So, he set up an online payment system on his website.

Then, says Mr Kotamaraja, the blogging world found out.

"All my blogger friends started linking up my site, and I saw a lot of people other than my friends. I'd say 70% of the donations came from people I don't know.

"It's simply unbelievable to me, that people that I don't know will come and start donating."

News spreads quickly on weblogs, a phenomenon that helps bloggers expand their audience and scope.

In Sri Lanka, blogger Morquendi is recruiting others to help.

One recruit calls himself Heretic.

In one of his latest posts, Heretic asks: "Have you ever seen fishing trawlers on the road? Ever seen a bus inside a house?

"Well," Heretic writes, "that was just the least affected areas - so you can just imagine - or can you?"

He concludes: "Keep it blogged."

Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World Service and WGBH-Boston co-production.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/12/30 17:00:11 GMT


Saturday, January 01, 2005

Tsunami - Fact file Who's helping?

U.S. announces $350 million in tsunami aid
Pledge will deflect criticism, provide major boost to relief effort

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 4:19 p.m. ET Dec. 31, 2004

The United States is pledging $350 million to help tsunami victims, a tenfold increase over its first wave of aid, President Bush announced Friday. The U.S. aid contribution could rise even beyond that, if needed, Secretary of State Colin Powell said later in the day.

That sum will provide a substantial boost to the overall international aid effort to areas stricken by Sunday's tsunami. As of Thursday, nations had donated about $500 million toward the world's largest-ever relief effort, including $250 million from the World Bank, but U.N. chief Kofi Annan said even more was needed.

The increase in U.S. aid will likely silence criticism of Washington's initial offer, seen by many as meager in light of the enormity of the disaster and the wealth of the United States.

“Initial findings of American assessment teams on the ground indicate that the need for financial and other assistance will steadily increase in the days and weeks ahead,” Bush said Friday in a statement released in Crawford, Texas, where he is staying at his ranch.

“Our contributions will continue to be revised as the full effects of this terrible tragedy become clearer,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this epic disaster.”

The White House announced Thursday that it would be sending a delegation led by Powell to Indian Ocean coastal areas ravaged by earthquake and tsunami to assess what more the United States needs to do. The president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will travel with him.

As the scale of the disaster became clear, other countries, including Spain and China also sharply increased their offers of aid, to $68 million and $63 million, respectively.

Military backup
As fund-raising proceeded, militaries across the globe also geared up to help. A U.S. aircraft carrier battle group was steaming to Indonesia's Sumatra island, which was closest to last Sunday's quake and is home to most of the casualties.

Fact file Who's helping
The United Nations mobilized what it called the biggest relief operation in its history following Sunday’s giant waves, which killed tens of thousands of people.
The following is a list of contributions pledged, compiled from reports by Reuters bureaus and United Nations agencies.
Country/Agency Contributions pledged
Australia Increased aid to $27 million and said it, the United States, Japan and India were considering setting up a group to coordinate help. Also sent five air force transport planes with supplies and medical specialists to Sumatra, and two 15-member emergency medical teams and 12 police to Phuket.
Austria 1 million euros ($1.4 million) in aid to the countries hit.
Belgium Military plane due to stop at Dubai to load most of its cargo -- UNICEF aid such as tents, vaccines.
Britain Pledged 15 million pounds ($28.9 million); plastic sheets and tents worth 250,000 pounds to Sri Lanka; 370,000 pounds to EU aid offer, $100,000 to World Health Organisation.
Canada C$4 million ($3.3 million); Blankets, water tablets, jerrycans and plastic sheeting sent to Sri Lanka.
China 520 million yuan ($63 million), a sharp increase from its initial offer of 20 million yuan.
Czech Republic Sent drinking water and medicine to Sri Lanka and Thailand; pledged 10 million crowns ($446,000).
Denmark Increased aid pledge to 85 million Danish crowns ($15.6 million) after spending almost all initial 10 million crowns pledged. Aid to cover medical supplies, food, water, shelter, reconstruction. UNICEF flight from Copenhagen taking supplies to the area, including oral rehydration salts and medical supplies for 150,000 people for three months.
Egypt Egyptian Red Crescent Society sending a plane with 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($81,000) worth of medicine and other aid as initial step.
Country/Agency Contributions pledged
European Union Ready to release up to 30 million euros on top of 3 million euros already allocated to IFRC.
Finland Pledged 2.5 million euros spread among World Food Program, UNICEF, WHO and IFRC. Local aid groups give 75,000 euros. Finnish Red Cross send field hospital with 15 staff to Sri Lanka and 31 aid workers to Thailand.
France 15 million euros pledged to affected states in Southeast Asia. French authorities and aid groups decide to send 110 tons of aid.
Germany Doubling emergency aid to 2 million euros. Air force medical evacuation plane to set off for Phuket, two more planes chartered to take disaster relief teams, medicine and consular officials there. Germany’s largest utility E.ON donates 1 million euros.
Greece Sending C-130 transport aircraft carrying 25 rescue workers to Phuket on Thursday to help with rescue operations. Sent plane to Sri Lanka with five tons of food and clothes; offered 150,000 euros in aid.
Israel Sent one medical team to Sri Lanka, one to Thailand. Military search and rescue team due in Sri Lanka, held up by coordination problems.
Italy Will send 2 Hercules aircraft, one to Sri Lanka, one to Thailand.
Japan Pledged $30 million in aid, sent three navy vessels to Thailand to help rescue survivors.
Kuwait Pledged aid supplies worth $2 million, sent $100,000 immediate aid.
Country/Agency Contributions pledged
Netherlands Contributing 2 million euros to Red Cross-Red Crescent appeal, plus participating in EU aid program.
Norway Preliminary contribution of 50 million Norwegian crowns ($8.2 million) for emergency relief, including medicine, food, clean water and shelter.
Poland Earmarked 1 million zlotys ($336,000) for Polish NGOs involved in relief.
Qatar Sent urgent relief aid worth $10 million.
Saudi Arabia Pledged $10 million aid package -- $5 million of food, tents and medicine to be distributed via Saudi Red Crescent, $5 million for international aid groups such as the Red Cross and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Singapore Contributing some $1.2 million to global effort, military medical teams and supplies ready to fly to Indonesia.
Slovakia Sent plane with drinking water, tents and medicine to Sri Lanka; aid worth 6.6 million Slovak crowns ($231,660).
Slovenia Donating 20 million tolars ($113,500) of aid through International Red Cross and Crescent.
South Korea Raises aid to $2 million, may send military cargo plane to move aid workers and supplies.
Country/Agency Contributions pledged
Spain Pledges $68 million. It also sent aircraft to Sri Lanka with first aid, sanitary equipment and 19 volunteers.
Sweden Sent 2 communications specialists to help U.N. relief efforts in Sri Lanka. Sending tents and communication equipment to Maldives. Swedish Red Cross to contribute $750,000 to IFRC appeal.
Switzerland Has allotted 2 million Swiss francs in aid on six teams to bring in drinking water, food and shelter supplies.
Taiwan Pledged additional $5 million after giving $100,000 to Indonesia, $50,000 each to Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. Sends more than 100 relief workers.
United Arab Emirates Pledged $2 million in aid; its Red Crescent society to provide food, blankets and clothing.
United States Pledged $350 million. Pentagon ordered 12 vessels to region, though no decision taken on their role.
International Committee of the Red Cross Cargo plane flying from Kenya to Sri Lanka carrying 105 tons of supplies, provide aid to 150,000 people in north and east. Trying to raise more than 50 million Swiss francs ($44 million).
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Has dispensed initial one million Swiss franc grant for relief efforts and launched appeal for 7.5 million francs.
IMF Intends to provide assistance, no specific pledges.
Country/Agency Contributions pledged
UNHCR Initially distributing $380,000 of non-food relief items, including plastic sheeting, clothing, kitchen sets.
UNICEF Delivered 50 water tanks to southern India, 45-tonne shipment of water purification tablets and water systems due to reach Sri Lanka on Thursday. WHO and UNICEF said they were providing four emergency kits to Indonesia to cover 40,000 people for three months, providing shelter, food and clothing.
U.N. World Food Program Sends 168 tons of commodities to Sri Lanka, plus more than 4,000 tons of rice, wheat flour, lentils and sugar, enough to provide 500,000 people with emergency rations for two weeks.
U.N. Development Program Provided $100,000 each to Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Thailand to help assess damage and coordinate emergency needs.
U.N. Population Fund Earmarked up to $1 million and extra staff to help health needs of pregnant and nursing women.
Source: Reuters

C-130 cargo planes touched down there Friday with blankets, medicine and the first of 80,000 body bags. New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan and scores of other nations also had planes in the air, rushing aid to victims.

"This is an unprecedented global catastrophe and it requires an unprecedented global response," Annan said, as aid agencies warned that 5 million people lack clean water, shelter, food, sanitation and medicine.

Relief flights headed to the region from Britain and France carrying bottled water, tarpaulins, cooking sets and medical supplies. Russia sent a third relief plane to Sri Lanka carrying military-issue tents, drinking water, water purification stations and disinfecting supplies.

Coordinating efforts
On Thursday, World Bank President James Wolfensohn announced release of $250 million for tsunami relief by telephone during a meeting at U.N. headquarters convened to plan the next steps in the unprecedented global relief effort, U.N. chief spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Representatives of 18 U.N. agencies and private aid groups or coalitions participated in the meeting, either in person or via a telephone or video link, the United Nations said.

Thursday's meeting was the first in a series scheduled at the world body’s New York offices to focus on how to quickly gear up the aid campaign and prepare for an initial emergency fund-raising appeal to be launched by the United Nations next week.

Annan also held a videoconference with representatives of a four-country coalition announced by President Bush on Wednesday that will serve as “the core group” in relief coordination efforts, U.N. officials said.

Coordination appeared to be desperately needed in the chaotic aftermath of the tsunami. Survivors fought over packs of noodles in quake-stricken Indonesian streets Wednesday while relief supplies piled up at the airport for lack of cars, gas or passable roads to move them.

The United Nations will launch an international appeal Jan. 6 for money to cover the emergency response phase, but U.N. officials have said billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the shattered countries.

Debt relief mulled
Meanwhile, there was a growing call among European nations, led by Germany and France, for the Paris Club group of 19 creditor nations to consider granting a debt moratorium for countries hit by the tsunami, to bolster economic recovery and rebuilding.

On Thursday, Canada announced it had taken such a move unilaterally and that it would urge other creditor nations about offering relief to the stricken nations.

Indonesia, which suffered the worst devastation, would likely be the greatest beneficiary of debt relief. It owes the Paris Club around $40 billion and is the largest debtor in the disaster zone, according to the World Bank.

A moratorium would mean little to countries such as Somalia and Myanmar, which stopped paying their debts to the Paris Club years ago.

Corporations give for tsunami aid

Celebrities do their bit
International agencies reported an unprecedented surge in individual donations for disaster relief. The British-based relief agency Oxfam raised $1.2 million in three days from private donors.

Hong Kong Red Cross said it received $3.3 million in donations from the public and various organizations. Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, who heads a global commercial empire, pitched in $3.1 million to disaster relief efforts.

Movie star Jackie Chan donated $64,282 to UNICEF, the agency said, and actor Chow Yun-fat, gave $25,600 to a disaster relief fund set up by Hong Kong's Apple Daily, the mass-market paper reported Wednesday.

In Thailand, the royal family, mourning the death of 21-year-old Poom Jensen, the Thai-American grandson of King Bhumipol Adulyadej, led nationwide calls for help for the survivors.

In the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $3 million and said it raised more than $3.5 million in online donations to aid South Asian countries devastated by tsunamis.
© 2004 MSNBC Interactive