Dubai World refused permission to use QE2 as floating hotel in Cape Town

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (the QE2) will not be sailing to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town has refused the vessel permission to berth for use by owner Dubai World as a floating hotel.

The Transnet National Ports Authority said that the famed vessel is much too large for Cape Town and that the facilites for the ship do not exist. Dubai World had hoped the ocean liner could serve as a hotel to accommodate football fans attending the World Cup and had previously told the Associated Press that Cape Town was among several possible destinations. No others have been named.

Transnet National Ports Authority port manager Sanjay Govan commented that “It’s the length of stay that was an issue … They wanted to stay much longer than just the World Cup. You have to sacrifice a normal cargo-working berth for such an operation. You wouldn’t do that for such a long time.” Dubai World has confirmed the trip to South Africa is off. South Africa’s Protea Hotels were thought to have won a contract to perform the management of the hotel during its stay in Cape Town. Dubai World also considered private terminals but met the same issue.

Dubai World’s investment arm Istithmar World paid Cunard US$100 million for the British liner in 2007. Since then it has been moored off Dubai’s Port Rashid, having arrived in the emirate in 2008. Original plans were to create a luxury floating hotel for tourists that would be moored beside an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree, but this idea was cancelled in the wake of global market uncertainty.

State-owned conglomerate Dubai World is currently in severe financial difficulties. The firm is seeking an extra six months to pay at least US$22 million in debts and the government has supported a six month delay as the first step towards a restructuring plan. Dubai World’s main units Nakheel and Limitless are the most indebted companies. World markets and media reacted sharply to the revelations on November 25 last year.

Dubai World is rumoured to need to sell assets, including the Queen Elizabeth 2. The company has refused to confirm or deny this, only stating that “There are a number of options being considered for the QE2. Istithmar World is considering which option will best maximise value of the vessel.”

The same year as the Queen Elizabeth 2 the conglomerate also obtained Barneys New York, a luxury retailer based in the United States. Istithmar World paid US$942.3 million for the company. Istithmar World chief executive David Jackson resigned last week; he presided over the acquirements. In December a New York foreclosure auction sold off the W Hotel Union Square for US$2 million, which was owned by Istithmar World.

Grapple Buckets And Root Grapplers}

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Submitted by: Camille Howe

Grapple buckets make it possible to ergonomically move bulky, hard-to-handle materials easily and securely. When it comes to tree removal or clearing land for paving and construction, they are ideal for loading and piling logs, limbs, and brush. The design of the grapple bucket itself allows dirt and sand to fall to the ground while larger pieces of wood, rubble, and debris remain in the bucket. The grapple tines on the end of the bucket curve upward to prevent contents from spilling onto the ground. The curvature of the tines also has another important benefit. It prevents utility lines and cables from being snagged during trash cleanup and tree removal after storms.

Grapple buckets are idea for land clearing. Their ability to uproot tree roots that are still in the ground and carry them away helps clear areas around buildings fast and efficiently. They are excellent tools for clearing away debris after demolition work has been done. Excess construction debris can be quickly removed with grapple buckets. In areas where storms have devastated foliage, they are essential tools in the cleanup of storm debris. Grapple buckets are also a vital mainstay of landscaping projects. They are used from everything from clearing out brush to moving earthworks.

Root grapples and grapple buckets feature a number of benefits that make them dependable, rugged tools for tough construction and cleanup operations. For one thing, they are designed with hydraulic cylinders that allows the bucket to flexibility adjust itself to the diameter, circumference, and unequal weight distribution of cumbersome and uneven loads. This prevents the unit from becoming top- heavy and creating a safety hazard, and it helps extend the life of the unit. To further minimize wear and tear on the grapple bucket, hydraulic cylinders, hoses, and fittings are protected with covers. All pivot points are lubricated with grease zerks to maintain flexibility and avoid stress to moving parts. To accommodate an optional bolt-on-blade, cutting edges are punched so the blade can be fitted securely to the grapple bucket. Additional tines can be added if the space between existing tines is too small. This is often done when moving piles of rubble or in landscaping work where a large amount of leaves, twigs, and other small trash items have to gripped firmly to avoid spillage.

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Demolition Grade Grapple Buckets Make Heavy-Duty Work Faster and Safer

If you are fitting a grapple bucket to a track style skid steer, 70hp or greater skid steer, or skid steer rated at or above 3,500 lbs., we recommend you invest in a demolition grade unit. Demolition grade units feature cylinder hoses routed in an enclosed tube. This built-in covering provides much needed heavy duty protection for fittings in heavy industrial applications.

Demolition grade units offer larger capacity for uneven and extremely heavy loads with reinforcement gussets, and reliable performance is ensured by heavier component manufacture throughout. Grapples on these buckets open wide for full loads. The bottom of the bucket is reinforced by steel plate ribs measuring thick.

Additional options for demolition grade grapple buckets include end plates that contain loose materials and raised rings that protect grease fittings from damage. Ask your account manager about which of these options is best for your next project.

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John Vanderslice plays New York City: Wikinews interview

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called “one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today,” found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. “For the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position…”

Since breaking off from San Francisco local legends, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Titled after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.


DS: How is the tour going?

JV: Great! I was just on the Wiki page for Inland Empire, and there is a great synopsis on the film. What’s on there is the best thing I have read about that film. The tour has been great. The thing with touring: say you are on vacation…let’s say you are doing an intense vacation. I went to Thailand alone, and there’s a part of you that just wants to go home. I don’t know what it is. I like to be home, but on tour there is a free floating anxiety that says: Go Home. Go Home.

DS: Anywhere, or just outside of the country?

JV: Anywhere. I want to be home in San Francisco, and I really do love being on tour, but there is almost like a homing beacon inside of me that is beeping and it creates a certain amount of anxiety.

DS: I can relate: You and I have moved around a lot, and we have a lot in common. Pranks, for one. David Bowie is another.

JV: Yeah, I saw that you like David Bowie on your MySpace.

DS: When I was in college I listened to him nonstop. Do you have a favorite album of his?

JV: I loved all the things from early to late seventies. Hunky Dory to Low to “Heroes” to Lodger. Low changed my life. The second I got was Hunky Dory, and the third was Diamond Dogs, which is a very underrated album. Then I got Ziggy Stardust and I was like, wow, this is important…this means something. There was tons of music I discovered in the seventh and eighth grade that I discovered, but I don’t love, respect and relate to it as much as I do Bowie. Especially Low…I was just on a panel with Steve Albini about how it has had a lot of impact.

DS: You said seventh and eighth grade. Were you always listening to people like Bowie or bands like the Velvets, or did you have an Eddie Murphy My Girl Wants to Party All the Time phase?

JV: The thing for me that was the uncool music, I had an older brother who was really into prog music, so it was like Gentle Giant and Yes and King Crimson and Genesis. All the new Genesis that was happening at the time was mind-blowing. Phil Collins‘s solo record…we had every single solo record, like the Mike Rutherford solo record.

DS: Do you shun that music now or is it still a part of you?

JV: Oh no, I appreciate all music. I’m an anti-snob. Last night when I was going to sleep I was watching Ocean’s Thirteen on my computer. It’s not like I always need to watch some super-fragmented, fucked-up art movie like Inland Empire. It’s part of how I relate to the audience. We end every night by going out into the audience and playing acoustically, directly, right in front of the audience, six inches away—that is part of my philosophy.

DS: Do you think New York or San Francisco suffers from artistic elitism more?

JV: I think because of the Internet that there is less and less elitism; everyone is into some little superstar on YouTube and everyone can now appreciate now Justin Timberlake. There is no need for factions. There is too much information, and I think the idea has broken down that some people…I mean, when was the last time you met someone who was into ska, or into punk, and they dressed the part? I don’t meet those people anymore.

DS: Everything is fusion now, like cuisine. It’s hard to find a purely French or purely Vietnamese restaurant.

JV: Exactly! When I was in high school there were factions. I remember the guys who listened to Black Flag. They looked the part! Like they were in theater.

DS: You still find some emos.

JV: Yes, I believe it. But even emo kids, compared to their older brethren, are so open-minded. I opened up for Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion, and I did not find their fans to be the cliquish people that I feared, because I was never playing or marketed in the emo genre. I would say it’s because of the Internet.

DS: You could clearly create music that is more mainstream pop and be successful with it, but you choose a lot of very personal and political themes for your music. Are you ever tempted to put out a studio album geared toward the charts just to make some cash?

JV: I would say no. I’m definitely a capitalist, I was an econ major and I have no problem with making money, but I made a pact with myself very early on that I was only going to release music that was true to the voices and harmonic things I heard inside of me—that were honestly inside me—and I have never broken that pact. We just pulled two new songs from Emerald City because I didn’t feel they were exactly what I wanted to have on a record. Maybe I’m too stubborn or not capable of it, but I don’t think…part of the equation for me: this is a low stakes game, making indie music. Relative to the world, with the people I grew up with and where they are now and how much money they make. The money in indie music is a low stakes game from a financial perspective. So the one thing you can have as an indie artist is credibility, and when you burn your credibility, you are done, man. You can not recover from that. These years I have been true to myself, that’s all I have.

DS: Do you think Spoon burned their indie credibility for allowing their music to be used in commercials and by making more studio-oriented albums? They are one of my favorite bands, but they have come a long way from A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell.

JV: They have, but no, I don’t think they’ve lost their credibility at all. I know those guys so well, and Brit and Jim are doing exactly the music they want to do. Brit owns his own studio, and they completely control their means of production, and they are very insulated by being on Merge, and I think their new album—and I bought Telephono when it came out—is as good as anything they have done.

DS: Do you think letting your music be used on commercials does not bring the credibility problem it once did? That used to be the line of demarcation–the whole Sting thing–that if you did commercials you sold out.

JV: Five years ago I would have said that it would have bothered me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. The thing is that bands have shrinking options for revenue streams, and sync deals and licensing, it’s like, man, you better be open to that idea. I remember when Spike Lee said, ‘Yeah, I did these Nike commercials, but it allowed me to do these other films that I wanted to make,’ and in some ways there is an article that Of Montreal and Spoon and other bands that have done sync deals have actually insulated themselves further from the difficulties of being a successful independent band, because they have had some income come in that have allowed them to stay put on labels where they are not being pushed around by anyone.
The ultimate problem—sort of like the only philosophical problem is suicide—the only philosophical problem is whether to be assigned to a major label because you are then going to have so much editorial input that it is probably going to really hurt what you are doing.

DS: Do you believe the only philosophical question is whether to commit suicide?

JV: Absolutely. I think the rest is internal chatter and if I logged and tried to counter the internal chatter I have inside my own brain there is no way I could match that.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and their music?

JV: The thing for me is they are profound iconic figures for me, and I don’t even know their music. I don’t know Winehouse or Doherty’s music, I just know that they are acting a very crucial, mythic part in our culture, and they might be doing it unknowingly.

DS: Glorification of drugs? The rock lifestyle?

JV: More like an out-of-control Id, completely unregulated personal relationships to the world in general. It’s not just drugs, it’s everything. It’s arguing and scratching people’s faces and driving on the wrong side of the road. Those are just the infractions that land them in jail. I think it might be unknowing, but in some ways they are beautiful figures for going that far off the deep end.

DS: As tragic figures?

JV: Yeah, as totally tragic figures. I appreciate that. I take no pleasure in saying that, but I also believe they are important. The figures that go outside—let’s say GG Allin or Penderetsky in the world of classical music—people who are so far outside of the normal boundaries of behavior and communication, it in some way enlarges the size of your landscape, and it’s beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say that, but it is.

DS: They are examples, as well. I recently covered for Wikinews the Iranian President speaking at Columbia and a student named Matt Glick told me that he supported the Iranian President speaking so that he could protest him, that if we don’t give a platform and voice for people, how can we say that they are wrong? I think it’s almost the same thing; they are beautiful as examples of how living a certain way can destroy you, and to look at them and say, “Don’t be that.”

JV: Absolutely, and let me tell you where I’m coming from. I don’t do drugs, I drink maybe three or four times a year. I don’t have any problematic relationship to drugs because there has been a history around me, like probably any musician or creative person, of just blinding array of drug abuse and problems. For me, I am a little bit of a control freak and I don’t have those issues. I just shut those doors. But I also understand and I am very sympathetic to someone who does not shut that door, but goes into that room and stays.

DS: Is it a problem for you to work with people who are using drugs?

JV: I would never work with them. It is a very selfish decision to make and usually those people are total energy vampires and they will take everything they can get from you. Again, this is all in theory…I love that stuff in theory. If Amy Winehouse was my girlfriend, I would probably not be very happy.

DS: Your latest CD is Emerald City and that is an allusion to the compound that we created in Baghdad. How has the current political client affected you in terms of your music?

JV: In some ways, both Pixel Revolt and Emerald City were born out of a recharged and re-energized position of my being….I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan; I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, that I had to write my way out of it. I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense and processing what is going on. The question I’m asked all the time is do I think is a responsibility of people to write politically and I always say, My God, no. if you’re Morrissey, then you write Morrissey stuff. If you are Dan Bejar and Destroyer, then you are Dan Bejar and you are a fucking genius. Write about whatever it is you want to write about. But to get out of that hole I had to write about that.

DS: There are two times I felt deeply connected to New York City, and that was 9/11 and the re-election of George Bush. The depression of the city was palpable during both. I was in law school during the Iraq War, and then when Hurricane Katrina hit, we watched our countrymen debate the logic of rebuilding one of our most culturally significant cities, as we were funding almost without question the destruction of another country to then rebuild it, which seems less and less likely. Do you find it is difficult to enjoy living in America when you see all of these sorts of things going on, and the sort of arguments we have amongst ourselves as a people?

JV: I would say yes, absolutely, but one thing changed that was very strange: I fell in love with a French girl and the genesis of Emerald City was going through this visa process to get her into the country, which was through the State Department. In the middle of process we had her visa reviewed and everything shifted over to Homeland Security. All of my complicated feelings about this country became even more dour and complicated, because here was Homeland Security mailing me letters and all involved in my love life, and they were grilling my girlfriend in Paris and they were grilling me, and we couldn’t travel because she had a pending visa. In some strange ways the thing that changed everything was that we finally got the visa accepted and she came here. Now she is a Parisian girl, and it goes without saying that she despises America, and she would never have considered moving to America. So she moves here and is asking me almost breathlessly, How can you allow this to happen

DS: –you, John Vanderslice, how can you allow this—

JV: –Me! Yes! So for the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position of saying, Listen, not that many people vote and the churches run fucking everything here, man. It’s like if you take out the evangelical Christian you have basically a progressive western European country. That’s all there is to it. But these people don’t vote, poor people don’t vote, there’s a complicated equation of extreme corruption and voter fraud here, and I found myself trying to rattle of all the reasons to her why I am personally not responsible, and it put me in a very interesting position. And then Sarkozy got elected in France and I watched her go through the same horrific thing that we’ve gone through here, and Sarkozy is a nut, man. This guy is a nut.

DS: But he doesn’t compare to George Bush or Dick Cheney. He’s almost a liberal by American standards.

JV: No, because their President doesn’t have much power. It’s interesting because he is a WAPO right-wing and he was very close to Le Pen and he was a card-carrying straight-up Nazi. I view Sarkozy as somewhat of a far-right candidate, especially in the context of French politics. He is dismantling everything. It’s all changing. The school system, the remnants of the socialized medical care system. The thing is he doesn’t have the foreign policy power that Bush does. Bush and Cheney have unprecedented amounts of power, and black budgets…I mean, come on, we’re spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, and that’s just the money accounted for.

DS: What’s the reaction to you and your music when you play off the coasts?

JV: I would say good…

DS: Have you ever been Dixiechicked?

JV: No! I want to be! I would love to be, because then that means I’m really part of some fiery debate, but I would say there’s a lot of depressed in every single town. You can say Salt Lake City, you can look at what we consider to be conservative cities, and when you play those towns, man, the kids that come out are more or less on the same page and politically active because they are fish out of water.

DS: Depression breeds apathy, and your music seems geared toward anger, trying to wake people from their apathy. Your music is not maudlin and sad, but seems to be an attempt to awaken a spirit, with a self-reflective bent.

JV: That’s the trick. I would say that honestly, when Katrina happened, I thought, “okay, this is a trick to make people so crazy and so angry that they can’t even think. If you were in a community and basically were in a more or less quasi-police state surveillance society with no accountability, where we are pouring untold billions into our infrastructure to protect outside threats against via terrorism, or whatever, and then a natural disaster happens and there is no response. There is an empty response. There is all these ships off the shore that were just out there, just waiting, and nobody came. Michael Brown. It is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in my life.

DS: Is there a feeling in San Francisco that if an earthquake struck, you all would be on your own?

JV: Yes, of course. Part of what happened in New Orleans is that it was a Catholic city, it was a city of sin, it was a black city. And San Francisco? Bush wouldn’t even visit California in the beginning because his numbers were so low. Before Schwarzenegger definitely. I’m totally afraid of the earthquake, and I think everyone is out there. America is in the worst of both worlds: a laissez-fare economy and then the Grover Norquist anti-tax, starve the government until it turns into nothing more than a Argentinian-style government where there are these super rich invisible elite who own everything and there’s no distribution of wealth and nothing that resembles the New Deal, twentieth century embracing of human rights and equality, war against poverty, all of these things. They are trying to kill all that stuff. So, in some ways, it is the worst of both worlds because they are pushing us towards that, and on the same side they have put in a Supreme Court that is so right wing and so fanatically opposed to upholding civil rights, whether it be for foreign fighters…I mean, we are going to see movement with abortion, Miranda rights and stuff that is going to come up on the Court. We’ve tortured so many people who have had no intelligence value that you have to start to look at torture as a symbolic and almost ritualized behavior; you have this…

DS: Organ failure. That’s our baseline…

JV: Yeah, and you have to wonder about how we were torturing people to do nothing more than to send the darkest signal to the world to say, Listen, we are so fucking weird that if you cross the line with us, we are going to be at war with your religion, with your government, and we are going to destroy you.

DS: I interviewed Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for President, and he feels we should use as a deterrent against Islam the bombing of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

JV: You would radicalize the very few people who have not been radicalized, yet, by our actions and beliefs. We know what we’ve done out there, and we are going to paying for this for a long time. When Hezbollah was bombing Israel in that border excursion last year, the Hezbollah fighters were writing the names of battles they fought with the Jews in the Seventh Century on their helmets. This shit is never forgotten.

DS: You read a lot of the stuff that is written about you on blogs and on the Internet. Do you ever respond?

JV: No, and I would say that I read stuff that tends to be . I’ve done interviews that have been solely about film and photography. For some reason hearing myself talk about music, and maybe because I have been talking about it for so long, it’s snoozeville. Most interviews I do are very regimented and they tend to follow a certain line. I understand. If I was them, it’s a 200 word piece and I may have never played that town, in Des Moines or something. But, in general, it’s like…my band mates ask why don’t I read the weeklies when I’m in town, and Google my name. It would be really like looking yourself in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror you are just error-correcting. There must be some sort of hall of mirrors thing that happens when you are completely involved in the Internet conversation about your music, and in some ways I think that I’m very innocently making music, because I don’t make music in any way that has to do with the response to that music. I don’t believe that the response to the music has anything to do with it. This is something I got from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, I think the perception of the artwork, in some ways, has nothing to do with the artwork, and I think that is a beautiful, glorious and flattering thing to say to the perceiver, the viewer of that artwork. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Paul Klee‘s drawings, lithographs, watercolors and paintings and when I read his diaries I’m not sure how much of a correlation there is between what his color schemes are denoting and what he is saying and what I am getting out of it. I’m not sure that it matters. Inland Empire is a great example. Lynch basically says, I don’t want to talk about it because I’m going to close doors for the viewer. It’s up to you. It’s not that it’s a riddle or a puzzle. You know how much of your own experience you are putting into the digestion of your own art. That’s not to say that that guy arranges notes in an interesting way, and sings in an interesting way and arranges words in an interesting way, but often, if someone says they really like my music, what I want to say is, That’s cool you focused your attention on that thing, but it does not make me go home and say, Wow, you’re great. My ego is not involved in it.

DS: Often people assume an artist makes an achievement, say wins a Tony or a Grammy or even a Cable Ace Award and people think the artist must feel this lasting sense of accomplishment, but it doesn’t typically happen that way, does it? Often there is some time of elation and satisfaction, but almost immediately the artist is being asked, “Okay, what’s the next thing? What’s next?” and there is an internal pressure to move beyond that achievement and not focus on it.

JV: Oh yeah, exactly. There’s a moment of relief when a mastered record gets back, and then I swear to you that ten minutes after that point I feel there are bigger fish to fry. I grew up listening to classical music, and there is something inside of me that says, Okay, I’ve made six records. Whoop-dee-doo. I grew up listening to Gustav Mahler, and I will never, ever approach what he did.

DS: Do you try?

JV: I love Mahler, but no, his music is too expansive and intellectual, and it’s realized harmonically and compositionally in a way that is five languages beyond me. And that’s okay. I’m very happy to do what I do. How can anyone be so jazzed about making a record when you are up against, shit, five thousand records a week—

DS: —but a lot of it’s crap—

JV: —a lot of it’s crap, but a lot of it is really, really good and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A lot of it is very good. I’m shocked at some of the stuff I hear. I listen to a lot of music and I am mailed a lot of CDs, and I’m on the web all the time.

DS: I’ve done a lot of photography for Wikipedia and the genesis of it was an attempt to pin down reality, to try to understand a world that I felt had fallen out of my grasp of understanding, because I felt I had no sense of what this world was about anymore. For that, my work is very encyclopedic, and it fit well with Wikipedia. What was the reason you began investing time and effort into photography?

JV: It came from trying to making sense of touring. Touring is incredibly fast and there is so much compressed imagery that comes to you, whether it is the window in the van, or like now, when we are whisking through the Northeast in seven days. Let me tell you, I see a lot of really close people in those seven days. We move a lot, and there is a lot of input coming in. The shows are tremendous and, it is emotionally so overwhelming that you can not log it. You can not keep a file of it. It’s almost like if I take photos while I am doing this, it slows it down or stops it momentarily and orders it. It has made touring less of a blur; concretizes these times. I go back and develop the film, and when I look at the tour I remember things in a very different way. It coalesces. Let’s say I take on fucking photo in Athens, Georgia. That’s really intense. And I tend to take a photo of someone I like, or photos of people I really admire and like.

DS: What bands are working with your studio, Tiny Telephone?

JV: Death Cab for Cutie is going to come back and track their next record there. Right now there is a band called Hello Central that is in there, and they are really good. They’re from L.A. Maids of State was just in there and w:Deerhoof was just in there. Book of Knotts is coming in soon. That will be cool because I think they are going to have Beck sing on a tune. That will be really cool. There’s this band called Jordan from Paris that is starting this week.

DS: Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

JV I would say they approach me. It’s generally word of mouth. We never advertise and it’s very cheap, below market. It’s analog. There’s this self-fulfilling thing that when you’re booked, you stay booked. More bands come in, and they know about it and they keep the business going that way. But it’s totally word of mouth.

Athletes prepare for 2012 Summer Paralympics at the Paralympic Fitness Centre

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Monday, August 27, 2012

London, England — As Paralympians ready for the Games which are set to open later this week, they have access to a world class fitness center inside the Paralympic Village which is designed to maximise their pre-Game preparations.

According to volunteers staffing the center, instead of being a single large room, as in Beijing, the building has numerous rooms. It, along with the adjacent Village Services Centre, is designed to be converted into a school after the games conclude. Rooms have been structured as a gym, an auditorium, and science laboratories.

Gym equipment is supplied by Technogym, an Italian firm that has supplied gym equipment for the Olympics since 2000. Equipment has been provided not just for for the Fitness Centre, but for gyms at all the Olympic venues. The newest equipment is oriented toward maximum flexibility, allowing athletes to exercise the particular muscles that they most require for their sport.

In addition to the equipment, the Fitness Centre also provides instructors trained in the use of the equipment, the likes of which athletes from many countries have never seen before. There are also a number of instructors available to provide motivational training.

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Refurbished cafeteria opens in Romanian parliament

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Wednesday, May 4, 2005

A new, refurbished cafeteria at the Romanian Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest has opened for the use of parliamentarians. The new cafeteria, which has mahogany furniture and leather draped armchairs, was officially opened yesterday, and is situated at the entrance to the Senate headquarters in the Palace of the Parliament.

Members of Parliament said they were not satisfied with the former cafeteria in the Palace, saying that it didn’t have proper tables and chairs to sit on. Many parliamentarians expressed their satisfaction at the opening of the refurbished dining venue, saying that they can now drink a cup of coffee “in a civilised manner” before sessions.

Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului in Romanian) is the largest building in Europe and the third largest building in the world, with an area of approximately 350,000 m². It contains both houses of the Romanian Parliament (the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate), as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC). It is also frequently used as a function centre.

2006 “Stolenwealth” Games to confront Commonwealth Games in Melbourne

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Friday, March 3, 2006

The possibility of large-scale protests in the face of the 3,000 journalists covering the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, has event organisers and the Government worried.

The group “Black GST” – which represents Indigenous Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty – are planning demonstrations at prominent Games events unless the Government agrees to a range of demands including an end to Aboriginal genocide, Aboriginal Sovereignty and the signing of a treaty.

The Black GST say they hope the focus of the world’s media will draw attention to the plight of indigenous Australians during the Games. Organisers say supporters are converging from across Australia and from overseas. Organisers say up to 20,000 people may take part in talks, rallies, colourful protests and many cultural festivities designed to pressure the Federal Government on Indigeneous rights issues. They want the Government to provide a temporary campsite for the supporters, saying “organised chaos was better than disorganised chaos.”

The 2006 Stolenwealth Games convergence, described by organisers as the “cultural festival of the 2006 Commonwealth Games,” was virtually opened on March 2nd with the launch of the official “Stolenwealth Games” website. Scoop Independent News and Perth Indymedia reported that the launch was held at Federation Square in Melbourne. The site contents were projected via wireless laptop by the Stolenwealth Games General Manager, and a tour of the website was given on the big screen. He said “overwhelming amusement was the response from the audience.” The group say permanent access points to the website are being set up at public internet facilities across Victoria during the coming weeks.

“Interest in the Stolenwealth Games is building all over the world and this fresh, exciting and contemporary site will draw in people from Stolenwealth Nations around the globe to find out about the latest news and events,” said a Stolenwealth Games spokesperson. “We have been getting many requests from around the world wanting to know about the Stolenwealth Games. We have provided many ways that individuals and organisations can support the campaign by spreading the word.”

The Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group (VTOLJG) which represents the first nation groups of Victoria, has announced its support to boycott the 2006 Commonwealth Games until the Government “recognises Traditional Owner rights.” The group asserts that culture has been misappropriated in preparation for the Games.

Organisers of the campaign say they welcome the formal support from the Traditional Owners. “While some seek to divide and discredit Indigenous Australia, this support is further evidence that the Aboriginal people are united in opposition to the ongoing criminal genocide that is being perpetrated against the Aboriginal people” said Black GST supporter and Aboriginal Elder, Robbie Thorpe.

“We now have endorsement from the VTOLJG and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the aims and objectives of the Campaign and we are looking forward to hosting all indigenous and non-indigenous supporters from across Australia in March,” he said. The Black GST group have said “the convergence will be held as a peaceful, family-focussed demonstration against genocide, and for the restoration of sovereignty and the negotiations towards a Treaty.”

But the campaign has received flak in mainstream media, such as Melbourne’s Herald Sun, who wrote: “the proposal to allow BlackGST to set up an Aboriginal tent embassy at a site well away from the Commonwealth Games will be interpreted by some as the State Government caving in to a radical protest group. A major concern for the Government… is to protect the event from disruption… no chances should be taken…”

The Black GST has been planning the convergence for months, calling for Aboriginal people and their supporters to converge on Melbourne. The Melbourne-based Indigenous rights group have called on thousands of people concerned about the plight of indigenous Australians to converge on Melbourne during the Games, which they have dubbed “the Stolenwealth Games”. But the choice of Kings Domain has made conflict almost inevitable, as the area is one of the areas gazetted by the State Government as a “Games management zone”.

Under the Commonwealth Games Arrangements Act, any area gazetted as a management zone is subject to a range of specific laws – including bans on protesting, creating a disturbance and other activities. The protest bans will be in effect at different times and places, and offenders can be arrested. A spokeswoman for the Black GST, which advocates peaceful protest, said the site had been chosen because it was close to where the Queen will stay on March 15. “We figured that she is only in Melbourne for 27 hours or something like that so we thought we would make it easy for her to come next door and see us,” she said. “We are a very open, welcoming group, so she will be welcome to come and join us.”

Kings Domain is the burial site for 38 indigenous forefathers of Victoria. Black GST elder, Targan, said trade union groups have offered to install infrastructure at the site. The group initially worked with the State Government to find a suitable camp site, but the relationship broke down when the Government failed to meet a deadline imposed by the protesters. “While we are disappointed the ministers were not able to meet deadline on our request, we thank them for their constructive approach towards negotiations and the open-door policy exercised,” said Targan.

A spokesman for Games Minister Justin Madden said the Government was still investigating other sites. Victoria Police Games security commander Brendan Bannan said he was not convinced the Black GST represented the views of most indigenous people. “We are dealing with the Aboriginal community and they don’t seem to support it at all … the wider Aboriginal community don’t support disruption to the Games at all,” he said.

The Government was told that Black GST supporters would camp in Fitzroy Gardens and other city parks should it fail to nominate a site. A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavan Jennings said the Government was taking the issue seriously, but had not been able to finalise a campsite before the deadline.

Under special Games laws, people protesting or causing a disturbance in “Games management zones” can be arrested and fined. While prominent public spaces such as Federation Square, Birrarung Marr, Albert Park and the Alexandra Gardens fall under the legislation, such tough anti-protest laws cannot be enforced in the nearby Fitzroy Gardens.

Games chairman Ron Walker has urged the group to choose another date for its protest march through the city, which is currently planned to coincide with the opening ceremony on March 15. The group believes that an opportunity to gain attention for indigenous issues was lost at the Sydney Olympics and has vowed to make a highly visible presence at the Games.

The Black GST said the Australian Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s sacred flame, burning over many years at the Canberra site will be carried to Melbourne before the Games, and its arrival would mark the opening of the protest camp from where a march will proceed to the MCG before the Opening Ceremony.

Black GST claims supporters from all over Australia, including three busloads from the West Australian Land Council, will gather in Melbourne during the Games for peaceful protests.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings had offered Victoria Park to the protesters. Victoria Park, former home of Collingwood Football Club, where one of the strongest statements of Aboriginal pride, when St Kilda star Nicky Winmar in 1993 raised his jumper and pointed to his bare chest after racial taunts from the Collingwood crowd.

Black GST, which has labelled the Games the Stolenwealth Games, said the State Government had failed to find a suitable venue. Black GST may encourage protesters to camp in prominent parks such as Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens. Graffiti supporting the action has also appeared in central Melbourne.

Melbourne City councillor Fraser Brindley has offered his home to the Black GST organisers. “I offered my home up to people who are organising visitors to come to the Games,” he said. Cr Brindley will be overseas when the Commonwealth Games are held and has offered the free accommodation at his flat at Parkville. He said he agreed with the protesters’ view that treaties needed to be signed with indigenous Australians. “I’m offering it up to the indigenous people who are coming to remind Her Majesty that her Empire took this land from them,” said Cr Brindlley. Nationals leader Peter Ryan said: “This extremist group has no part in the Australian community.” Melbourne councillor Peter Clarke said the actions were embarrassing and that he would try to discourage him. “It’s not in the spirit of the Games,” he said.

Aboriginal elder, Targan, said the possibility of securing Victoria Park was delightfully ironic. “There’s a lot of irony going on,” Targan, 53, a PhD student at Melbourne University, said. “GST stands for Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty. We want the genocide of our people to stop; we want some sovereignty over traditional land, certainly how it is used, and we want a treaty with the government,” Targan said.

Atlas rocket launches ICO G1 satellite

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Monday, April 14, 2008

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrier rocket launched this evening from LC-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, USA, with the ICO G1 communications satellite for ICO Satellite Management. Lift-off occurred at 20:12:00 UTC. It is the first commercial launch of an Atlas rocket since responsibility for the launches was transferred from International Launch Services to United Launch Alliance, through Lockheed Martin. Launch was completely successful, with the spacecraft separating from its carrier rocket about half an hour after launch.

The Atlas V flew in the 421 configuration, with a 4 metre wide payload fairing, twin solid rocket boosters, and a single-engined Centaur upper stage. It was the 14th flight of the Atlas V, and successfully placed the satellite into a geosynchronous orbit. The launch was dedicated to former Atlas programme employee Lynn Deckard.

ICO G1 will provide S band mobile communications for satellite phones. Its launch had been delayed from May last year, owing to delays with US government missions which were launching on Atlas, and then in light of the failure of a previous Atlas launch in June. It was constructed by Space Systems/Loral, and is based on the LS-1300 satellite bus. It is the heaviest satellite to be launched by an Atlas rocket, and the heaviest single commercial satellite to be launched into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Speaking after the launch, Jim Sponnik, the Vice President of the Atlas programme told the team who had conducted the launch that they “all did extremely well and the rocket did exceptionally well”. Colonel Scott Henderson, of the 45th Space Wing, United States Air Force, said that the launch was “a great success”, and the result of “phenomenal effort” on the part of those involved. David Malcom, the President of Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems described the launch as a “hole in one”. Tim Bryan, the CEO of ICO Satellite Management told the United Launch Alliance team that he “can’t express…what every person in this room has done for our business”. He also thanked Bob Day, and ICO’s space team, for their work in the build up to the launch. Michael Gass, the CEO of United Launch Alliance said that the successful launch was a “testimony to this entire team”, and told flight controllers “congratulations, you’re the best”.

The satellite’s signal was acquired by ground tracking stations in Australia at 21:17, and the launch was confirmed to be accurate to within one nautical mile of the targeted orbit. The next Atlas launch is scheduled to occur in early July, with a DMSP weather satellite, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NZ law exempts working farm dogs from embedded ID tag rule

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Zealand farmers have won a key victory in Parliament, with MPs voting to exempt Working farm dogs from microchipping legislation, passing 61:60.

The Federated Farmers debated the law for a long time, saying that the cost of microchipping all their dogs will be a huge cost and an inconvenience. Under previous legislation, all newly registered dogs were to have identification microchips embedded by July 1. The microchips in dogs are for owner identification, in case of attacks on humans. This law was introduced when Carolina Anderson, 7-year-old, was attacked in 2003.

Parliament has been debating several proposed amendments to the Local Government Law Reform bill, which aimed to change the microchipping requirement.

Blogger David Farrar says “It is very messy for the Government to lose the vote after piling so much pressure on.” In the end only Labour, Progressive plus New Zealand First voted for it.

The Green party split votes (rare for a party). Four Greens MPs voted for the farm dog exemption and two against.

The four Green MPs were – Sue Bradford, Keith Locke, Sue Kedgley and Nandor Tanczos. The Greens had previously proposed that only dangerous dogs should be microchipped.

In favour of exempting farm dogs:

Total: 61

Against:

Total: 60

Maria Contreras-Sweet Group buys The Weinstein Company assets, saves it from bankruptcy

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

On Thursday in a meeting at New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, Maria Contreras-Sweet Group, billionaire Ron Burkle, and a number of other investors acquired assets of The Weinstein Company for reportedly about US$500 million. The Weinstein Company had financial difficulties and was nearly bankrupt after Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women last year, which impacted the business budget.

At least two of The Weinstein Company board of directors — consisting of Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Bob Weinstein — participated in the meeting, according to The New York Times. Maria Contreras-Sweet Group was represented by Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle. The New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was also in the meeting.

Maria Contreras-Sweet Group agreed to pay The Weinstein Company’s debt, sized at US$225 million, reports indicated. The acquisition would save around 150 jobs held at the Weinstein Company. Maria Contreras-Sweet Group announced the deal, also confirmed by The Weinstein Company. The deal was expected to take about 40 days to be completed.

The agreement required Maria Contreras-Sweet Group to protect the jobs of company employees, and establish a victim compensation fund which would compensate victims of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct while not rewarding the “bad actors”, as Schneiderman put it — people who had contributed to the sexual misconduct. The victim compensation fund would allegedly be around US$90 million, according to reports.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against The Weinstein Company in early February of this year. He reportly indicated he might settle the lawsuit after the deal is finalized.

Maria Contreras-Sweet Group said they would use the assets in creating a new movie studio with a majority-female leadership.

The Weinstein Company said on Monday, three days before the deal announcement, it intended to file for bankruptcy as it could not find a buyer that would keep it afloat until the deal would be finalized.

The Weinstein Company was founded in 2005.

International Board fixes soccer field size, halts technology experiments

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body that decides on the laws of the game, has decided to discontinue all experiments involving technology, and for the first time has also decided on the exact size of a soccer field.

Instead of pursuing the idea of using cameras or microchips in the ball to see if it has crossed the goal-line, the International Board wants to see if the introduction of two extra assistant referees can improve the quality of referee’s decisions.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke declared: “We have decided to freeze for the time being the goal-line technology and all technology experiments. We will look on these two additional referees and we avoid considering any goal-line technology during this time.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the move was necessary to maintain the universal spirit of the game: “We have 260 million people directly involved in the game. If we maintain the laws of the game … it’s so easy to understand … We have to live with errors, football has to keep its human face.”

“We have to maintain the laws of the game in their simplicity. Do you want technical devices to take decisions? That’s why, after three years of tests with no conclusions, I am in favour of putting the whole thing on ice,” Blatter explained.

Either you help them with additional pairs of eyes or with technology and I’m against technology. Once you start, who knows where you might stop. The 18-yard line, the offside trap? All I’m saying is let’s try my idea.

UEFA president Michel Platini agreed: “Football should stay human, but two more officials can help, especially around the goal.” Platini made the suggestion to freeze all investigations into technology and to try two additional assistants behind each goal.

Blatter said the system using the microchip “was very complicated, needing electrified lines on the field of play and other devices including antennae and when we tested it in Tokyo last year there was one mistake during the seven matches we used as an experiment at the Club World Championship.” With regards to the system using cameras, he pointed to “problems with players obscuring the views of the cameras, or of flares or weather conditions.”

The system of the extra referees will be tested at an upcoming FIFA or UEFA tournament, and a final ruling is expected at next year’s meeting, according to FIFA’s Jerome Valcke.

Hawk-Eye, the company that was working on the goal-line technology that is already being used for line calls in tennis, reacted with disappointment: “I’m livid, it is completely out of the blue… A year ago they met and gave us four criteria to meet and we have met all of them, yet they have kicked it out now… We have invested an awful lot of money and now we have no return on that investment,” director Paul Hawkins said. He said he was encouraged to continue research on the project only 10 days ago at a private showing for IFAB members at Reading’s Madejski Stadium.

The FA has always been in the vanguard of helping referees make the right decisions. The two experiments that were being undertaken went a long way to making it work. One was very close to being successful and the other two-thirds of the way. We are disappointed they have now been shelved. It’s hard enough to recruit referees already.

While the Welsh FA were also against the idea, the English Football Association supported the use of technology and was hoping to start using it by next season. The FA clubs and referees supported the use of Hawk-Eye technology, said Mike Foster, general secretary of the English Premier League. A spokesperson of the Premier League said that “A lot of time, money and effort has gone into developing a system that meets all the criteria laid down last year.” The Scottish and Northern Irish FA also voted in favour of the goal-line technology.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick expressed his disappointment at the annual meeting of the IFAB in Gleneagles, Scotland: “We were in favour of goal-line technology but there will be no more experiments and it will not be back on the agenda next year, or in the foreseeable future.”

FIFA President Blatter denied ulterior motives for the decision: “There has been no change of heart. Referees make decisions, not machines… I have defended goal-line technology but it has become clear that such systems are too complicated and very costly. Nor would they necessarily add anything positive to the game and could harm the authority of the referee.”

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