Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Over 37 Syrian Protestors Killed

In media on March 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm


(Reuters) – The main hospital in the southern Syrian city of Deraa has received the bodies of at least 37 protesters who were killed in a confrontation with security forces, a hospital official said Thursday.

Security forces opened fire on hundreds of youths at the northern entrance to Deraa Wednesday afternoon, according to witnesses, in a dramatic escalation of nearly a week of protests in which at least 44 civilians have been killed since Friday.


Stating the Obvious Helps.

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2011 at 11:10 am

Story by: DH

It’s a rookie mistake to do too much too soon.  It’s a bigger mistake to do nothing, ever, and complain. Stating the obvious:  boldness in stating the simple things goes unrewarded when those things go without action.  Buried in the middle of the Metro Mail this morning I saw Cameron’s picture. He said entrepreneurial risk-taking or better yet, as I call it, old-fashioned American Chutzpah is key to our economic recovery.

Few people would willingly describe themselves as peripatetic social climbers.  I am an English born, Canada-raised Glaswegian with an Atlantic accent and little tolerance for unGerman indirectness. That is my CV. I now run a small business and am hiring and innovating.  I have no fear.  Cameron stated the obvious in his speech yesterday when he said: ‘’stability enables risk.’’ He lambasted the established government elite, whose limitless disposable income means those wealthy people in government will never understand the fear that weighs a common person’s head down and stymies the small businessman’s expansionist dreams. He could have just said “Chin up” in the way of my old country. Effectively, they do not understand the patter of the common man’s mind.

Cameron feels that stability, and government action to enact stability, will lift the chin of our economy. Instead of mass importing US government institutional reforms, how about reforming our own minds  with that old stiff upper lip, chin up and add a bit of American chutzpah.  Only then will achieve the rookie mistake he dreamt of: the Big Society.

-I work in the Education Management Industry

A Global Nuclear Reaction

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

A series of explosions at Japan’s Fukushiima Daiichi nuclear plant have threatened meltdowns in three of the six atomic reactors, and caused major fires in reactors 3 and 4.

In Tokyo, radiation exposure levels have been recorded to be 20 times the national average. Radiation is reportedly 400 times the legal limit at the Fukushiima plant. Workers inside the plant are being treated for radiation sickness after exposure to the leaks, and have been evacuated over health concerns. Outside the plant, people are also at risk of developing cancer from exposure to radioactive isotopes. However, experts claim that the current risk of radiation exposure is relatively contained.

The  emergency in Japan has triggered a global re-examination of nuclear projects, as the crisis has added fuel to the fire of public alarm over the safety of nuclear power.

The Guardian is providing live updates on the situation at the nuclear plant in Japan, and the global responses to it:

12.02pm (9.02pm JST): China has become the latest nation to re-think its nuclear plans following the situation in Japan. The State Council in Beijing announced tonight that it will suspend approval of new nuclear projects until new safety rules are introduced, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Until now China had been eagerly trying to build nuclear power stations as fast as possible, trying to reduce its traditional reliance on old and polluting coal-fired facilities. The nation currently has 25 nuclear plants under construction, with 13 already running, the WSJ calculates.

On Monday Germany announced the temporary closure of its two oldest nuclear power stations and suspended plans to extend the life of remaining plants. Switzerland has also put on hold plans to build and replace nuclear plants.

Secrets and Lies

Public trust of nuclear power has been low since its inception, one reason for this could be that this is an industry traditionally shrouded in secrecy. Cover-ups and lies over accidents at nuclear plants in Britain, America (Rocky Flats, Colorado), Russia (Chelyabinsk) and Japan have all but erased public faith in government statements on nuclear energy. The bottom line is: nuclear energy is costly and needs to be funded with public money, the nuclear industry simply can’t afford to lose public support.

When we turn to Japan, we find an identical culture of nuclear cover-up and lies. Of particular concern has been the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), Asia’s biggest utility, which just happens to be the owner and operator of the stricken reactors at Fukushima.

Tepco has a truly rotten record in telling the truth. In 2002, its chairman and a group of senior executives had to resign after the Japanese government disclosed they had covered up a large series of cracks and other damage to reactors, and in 2006 the company admitted it had been falsifying data about coolant materials in its plants over a long period.

Last night it was reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency warned Japan more than two years ago that strong earthquakes would pose “serious problems”, according to a Wikileaks US embassy cable published by The Daily Telegraph.

Even Chernobyl, the world’s most publicised nuclear accident, was at first hidden from the world by what was then the Soviet Union, and might have remained hidden had its plume of escaping radioactivity not been detected by scientists in Sweden.


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Player Haters!

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Can playing video games make the world a better place? Game designer Jane McGonical suggests than in  a game world, we become “the best version of ourself”. Whilst playing the game we are persistent, resilient, cooperative, and seek creative solutions to problems. Of course, in real life we cannot maintain the same level of detachment that we experience when playing a video game, because when faced with a barrage of obstacles we frequently feel frustrated, depressed, and as McGonical states, “overwhelmed”.

So how do we harness the power of Videogames to bring out the best in our human nature? If  only we could  find a way to  utilise the positive collaborative experience of the MMORPG to change society for the better, or better yet – to change the world. Francesco Ciriaci, a self-proclaimed ‘webworker without borders’ and founder of  Italian software development company reflab, believes this is an achievable dream. His radical and exciting  ‘Better World‘ project would equip NGOs with the ability to engage potential social activist/gamers with a variety of online situational environments. The theory is that, gamers will become actively engaged in the work of the NGO while they work on completing their Quest, and that this will kick sleeping-activists into action.

Francesco’s ‘Better World’

So here is the idea, crazy and worth pursuing: build an environment to match resources (time, ideas, money, skills, etc) needed by NGOs and resources available in the world (from all people) in a huge games-like experience aimed to changing the world.

The idea came while working on Miomood (a startup on mood tracking&sharing): to build an application, a Facebook application or Facebook “extention” that would help engage users in quests, missions, “call to arms” and battles… in the real world. The application would make it easy for NGOs to develop it’s social mission (whatever it is) using the Social Network…

A world-changer, the user, the player would join the “call”. The identity of the “world-changer” would be his/her real identity, enriched and customized with special skills and abilities, experience, place visited, language spoken, etc. The world-changer answering the call would need the help of his/her friends very often to complete the Quest, the Mission or the action. She/he would along the way socialize with others, maybe even people of distant countries. Along the way discover new and more complex ways of interacting. And be rewarded.  Francesco Ciriaci

In theory this sounds great, but I was curious about the practical application of this project. Ever the sceptic, I had a few questions to put to Francesco, which he kindly answered in the following interview:

Q.The “Better World” project would engage people, but would it effect a change in the “sleeping activist’s” real life actions?
A: absolutely, yes. It aims to make it fun, engaging and simple to participate in online as well as offline (real-life) actions: NGOs would create online tasks but also real-life tasks.

Q: wouldn’t it be impossible to reflect the complexity of real life situations in the CRPG? How could this be combatted?
A: the system does not aims to recreate real-life situations or authentic representation of a situation, but to streamline complexity. The idea is to guide the user/”player” step by step from an entry point (example: I’m looking for something simple to do in my neighbourhood) to learning more and more of the complexity of an issue (example: poverty in rich countries, water crisis, etc.) as they make progress.

Q: You mentioned you were inspired by Jane McGonigal’s talks from the TED conference…any other influences?
A: Influences… at least 100, but inspiration came really from looking at WOW and FarmVille.

I’m sold on Francesco’s ‘better world’ idea. It’s a creative, constructive and interesting project which could certainly be used to help raise awareness of international issues. Using gaming to help find the better angels of our nature must surely must be a good thing.

Pancake Day for the Secular Humanist…

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm

The British have a great history of make-do-and-mend cooking, with bubble and squeak being a prime example of the kind of hodgepodge delicacy which can be concocted from the remnants of last night’s Sunday roast. Pancakes are one such dish, traditionally made by the English to use up the last of their eggs, milk and fat, before fasting for Lent.

Pancake day was the stag night of the hedonistic Christian masticator; enjoy one last blast of indulgence before committing yourself to a life of restraint and moderation, and then be absolved for your sins (hence the original name for Pancake Day – Shrove Tuesday, which derives from the verb ‘to shrive’, meaning “to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance”).

Well, good old Christian traditions die hard, and like Christmas this one has been appropriated and repackaged for the secular humanist of modern Britain. It is a strange fact, that given the diversity of available ingredients for elaborate toppings, and the preponderance of magazine recipes for sumptuous Crepe Suzette, most people prefer to succumb to the ultimate indulgence – full fat butter, eggs and non-skimmed milk pancakes, topped with a generous helping of sugar and drizzled with lemon juice. As I said, old habits die hard.

International Women’s Day

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm