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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Samoan Economics and Time Travel

Samoa - Not ugly
Samoa is a small nation in the Oceanic continent. In order to improve its Economic prospects in the future it has decided to travel back in time, quite literally. You see the Pacific Island nation currently lies in the time zone GMT-12 or WST meaning that if right now its 12 pm in London, Samoans are only beginning their day at 12 midnight, they are however, 21 hours behind their relatively speaking neighbours in Canberra.

Samoans haven't been free from major overhauls in recent history. In 2009 the law was changed to force civilians to drive on the left hand side of the road, the same as is done in key "neighbours" Japan and Australia.

Monday, May 9, 2011

EU imposes arms embargo in Syria

The 27 state European Union has imposed an arms embargo on the beleaguered Middle Eastern Nation of Syria. Part of the so-called Arab Spring Syria has seen numerous anti-Government protests in the past few weeks, many of which have seen increasingly shocking and violent repercussions from the regime of President Assad.

Amateur video captured around the country reports troops backed by armoured tanks entering the main cities and rounding up civilians and the regime continues to block the entrance of journalists into the state. In the past six weeks, unofficial reports have stated that 3000 have been jailed and hundreds more have sacrificed their lives in the hopes of independence.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekend Randomness: Playmate Found Mummified

Yvette Vickers

The body of Yvette Vickers, a former playboy playmate was found severely decomposed in her Beverly Hills home this week. A neighbour of her's had claimed that the B-Movie actress had not been seen outside her home since the Summer.

It was this neighbour (Susan Savage) who noticed cobwebs forming on the Ms Vickers' letterbox. There she found the cordless phone off the hook and the electric heater still on. She claimed the body of her neighbour was barely recognisable.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend Randomness: The Case of Tokyo's Oldest Man

This story is one of the site's most popular Weekend Randomness post originally posted on the 31st of July last year. Its a genuinely bizarre story and one of my personal favourites. 

The current world life expectancy average is 67.5 years with the Japanese being the most long lived population in the world with average life expectancy of 82.6 years. This contrasts with the average in Swaziland of just 39.6 years. This weekends random news comes from Tokyo, a thriving metropolis of nearly 14,000,000 people.

 So in such a long lived population there is a lot of interest in just who is the most aged resident in the city. Up until this week the record was held by one Sogen Kato a man of 111 years. The record for world's oldest man is held by another Japanese person Tamoji Tanabe in the Southern City of Miyakonojo. He is also 111 years.

Racism and the French Football Federation

Laurent Blanc
In one of the most shocking stories I have happened upon since starting this blog, a tape was uncovered this week outlining plans held to introduce an ethnic quota in the French national football team. This has spurred the Football Federation into action organising an inquiry into the origins of such a tape.

The tape implicates people as high ranking as the French national coach Laurent Blanc and François Blaquart, National Technical Director in charge of  youth coaching strategies. The investigative website Mediapart initially broke the story and transcribed the story for the media.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Junction News: Starvation in Africa: An all too Common Tale

 The site's most popular story and undoubtedly one of its most tragic. Originally posted on the 24th of July last it details the world's continuous lack of assistance to its most vulnerable people.

Today  I read a shocking report on the current situation of food shortages in the central African nation of Niger.  Here hunger is threatening up to eight million people in the nation, half of its roughly 16 million population. The nation is in dire need of rainfall after drought has destroyed the lifestock of the largely nomadic country. The great hunger also threatens 2 million people in areas of the neighbouring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and northern Nigeria.

The UN World Food Programme says it only has half of the $213 million people it claims it needs to up the distribution of emergency food aid. Response to the crisis has so far been quite slow. The reason given for this is both obvious and devastating.

Opinion: AV vote in Britain

Perhaps in my old (20) age I am becoming a little bit overly nationalistic as I've noticed that my last two strongly opinion driven pieces have been  tinged with a somewhat anti-British sentiment. I am in no way anti-British or indeed any nation in the world so if any of you feel this way I would like to open this piece with an apology.

However, the media's treatment of tomorrow's AV referendum has me somewhat baffled. For those of you not in the know about UK politics the country will go to the polls today to decide whether to keep the country's current first past the post electoral voting system or to adopt the Alternative Voting System. These will be explained after the page break.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Junction News Anniversary : Homosexuality in Africa

This article was one of the blog's most popular over the course of the past year. LGBT issues in Africa are still largely overlooked and LGBT Africans still face a huge amount of persecution.

Last week saw the passing of Ireland's civil partnership bill in the two houses of the Irish Parliament which will enact some of the same freedoms enjoyed by heterosexual couples to gay people in Irish law qhen it is enacted later this year or early 2011. Considering "buggery" was only decriminalised in this country in 1993 it is fair to say that this is a milestone for the country, still impacted heavily by the Catholic Church. However, on an EU basis Ireland ranks poorly when stood next to its Western European brethren and its clear that there is a long way to go.

As a gay man I am genuinely interested in gay rights worldwide and so last night's channel 4 documentary in its populr Dispatches series was a must for me. If you live in the UK or Ireland you may watch it on 4OD here, Africa's Last Taboo. The show follows an African journalist as he travels around what he refers to as his continent visiting Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. The programme states that over two thirds of African nations have laws condemning acts of homosexuality. 17 of these countries maintain laws passed down by the British in colonial times. The programme all in all was fascinating and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in LGBT rights. It spurred me into taking a closer look into the issue on the world's most conservative continent.

Junction News Anniversary : First Cousin Marriage in Britain

Originally posted in August of last year this post dealt with the thorny issue of first cousin marriage among the Pakistani community in Britain. It was written based on information contained in Channel 4's dispatches series. 

A fascinating documentary on Britain's Channel 4 last night (available on 4OD for British and Irish residents) shed light on the common practice of first cousin marriage in the British Pakistani population. The reporter Tazeen Ahmed documents her family's story on the Channel 4 website also. Her grand-parents were first cousins. Four of her uncles were deaf and her mother was the only daughter of 6 to survive past being a toddler.

Despite making up just 1.5% of the population a third of all children born with rare genetic conditions are ethnic Pakistanis. A half of all Pakistani's in Britain marry their first cousins. A child born to first cousin parents is ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders including deafness, blindness and child mortality. Cultures in Bangladesh, West Africa and the Middle East also partake in the practice but generally to a much lesser extent.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Death of Osama Bin Laden

Obama watches real time footage of the attack

The internet and media outlets will no doubt be abuzz with the aftermath of the death of Osama Bin Laden for the coming weeks and months. His killing on the night of Sunday the 1st of May in Abbottabad has been welcomed by massive celebrations at the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and by public representatives of all political denominations across the world. 

The death raises a number of questions. Firstly, there will be retaliation from Al Qaeda, it is a question of when, not if. It is up to security forces to foil attempts as successfully as they have many times in the past. Osama Bin Laden has undoubtedly become a martyr for the cause of Islamic Fundamentalism and indeed for many he had become a spiritual figurehead for many extremists in the Church. The second question is a little more complex.

Junction News Anniversary : Child Sex Tourism in Asia

 Originally posted on the 19th of July last this post deals with the worrying phenomenon of Child Sex Tourism in Asia.  Unfortunately, it remains a problem largely ignored by the West.

Today Mikhail Pletnev, a prominent and Grammy award winning Russian pianist took to the stand for a brief court appearance In Thailand charged with the rape of a 14 year old boy in Pattaya. The conditions of his bail require him to return to the court every 12 days but between these appearances he is free to travel as he wishes internationally. The maximum sentences for the proposed crime is 20 years. Pletnev has stated he is not guilty of the charge.

This allegation, raises again the issue of child sex tourism in Asia. Recent high profile cases of paedophilia in South East Asia have been the conviction of former pop start Gary Glitter and in Ireland only roughly a year ago a lauded Irish language poet was accused of similar offenses in the same region. Its clear that this is a growing and worrying problem.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tornadoes Ravage the South of America

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
As the world *sigh* celebrated the Royal *sigh* wedding on Friday the people of the Southern states in America were dealing with the aftermath of a multitude of terrifying tornadoes in concentration across 6 states. As of today the lives of some 340 people were claimed by the extreme weather conditions, the majority of which some from the State of Alabama.

The city of Tuscaloosa was badly effected with officials reporting 1,600 people were treated by medical personnel. 31counties among the state's  67 were effected by the storms. President Obama signed the State's state of emergency act and has ordered the mobility of federal services to supplement the local efforts.

100 Posts

Today marks the 100 post of Junction News. Thanks to everyone for the support over the past year-ish. Everyday throughout this week (Monday-Friday) I will be re-posting some of my favourite entries as well as updating you on all the latest news and current affairs. So it should be a busy week for the site but hopefully I can count on your continued support in the future!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekend Randomness: The Tattoo and the Murder Conviction

Anthony Garcia
Tattoos are something that often polarizes opinion. While some consider them a beautiful form of body art, others consider them a  painful laser surgery waiting to happen ( or at least something to be regretted down the line). Few, I would be willing to bet, would consider them possible evidence in a murder trial.

This weeks Weekend Randomness deals with the case of one Anthony Garcia who hails from the city of Los Angeles, California. In 2004 Garcia was arrested regarding driving offenses and while in custody had his tattoos photographed by the police.  Fast forward 4 years and LA Sergent Kevin Lloyd was searching through a mugshot book when he happened on the picture of a bare chested Garcia.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Opinion: In Protest Against the Royal Wedding

To many people in this world of ours, the impending nuptuals of Prince William and Kate Middleton will mean precious little. To me these people are what could be described as mentally sane; for fewer things in this world irritate me more than the coverage of the wedding between one man and one woman, one of whom happens to have been born into an overpaid, underworked family.

I think it is fair to say I am not the greatest supporter of the British monarchy, or indeed any monarchy for that matter. The very idea of handing over millions of pounds to a group of people based solely on their bloodline is in many ways the most ugly manifestation of the human condition Ihqve ever zitnessed. We should celebrate talent and achievement and protect our societies most vulnerable not commend its most henious decadencies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

President Obama's Birth Certificate

Barrack Obama

In the past few hours President Barack Obama has released the long form copy of his birth certificate confirming he is in fact an American Citizen. Perhaps the headline should have read "Hussein" in American birth shocker or maybe another obvious choice would have been "PresidentTtakes Bizarre Decision to Prove he is American".

Numerous people have questioned the President as to his nationality since he began the race for the White House as far back as the last Democratic Caucases.  One of the most notable of these critics is business tycoon and presenter of the US version of The Apprentice, Donald Trump. He has humbly stated his personal pride in "accomplishing someting no-one lese has accomplised. I am really honoured to have played such a big role in hopefuly getting rid of the issue". President Obama's comments on the issue were more dismissive of Mr. Trump's "achievement". He claimed, " We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do".

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekend Randomness: The Georgian Woman who Brought Down the Internet

Hayastan Shakarian - Could you trust this woman?

In my time away from the  blog (and at the library) I've been missing my weekly randomness section quite a bit s today makes its triumphant return with a brilliant story about a  75 year old Georgian pensioner, Hayastan Shakarian,  leaving the internet browsers of bot Georgia and Armenia without access for 8 hours last week.

Shakarian was searching for scrap metal near her home in the village of Ksani, Georgia when she came cross the fibre optic copper wire with as a Georgian minister put it "a view to stealing it". Taking into account her age she has been released pending  further investigation, however, she may face up to three years in prison if properly convicted in the future.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Homosexuality and the Case of the Quiet Footballers

Anton Hysen

While thralling through the CNN website I came across an interesting piece on a professional footballer named Anton Hysen.You are unlikely to have of him before, playing as he does in the 4th division in Sweden, however, a recent interview with him has caused his name to rocket to the back pages of many major news wires on this side of the Atlantic. The reason, Hysen is gay.

Few sports are known to have such a masculine and tough image as that of football, at least in the British Isles. While the stamp out racism in football campaign has had some success and the recent backlash against Andy Gray and Richard Key's rather ignorant comments against a female line judge shows that sexism is being seen as unacceptable in the sport also. However, I know from my own experience that homophobic insults have their own place in the soccer stands, just as they do in playgrounds up and down the country.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reform in Cuba as Castro Steps Down?

Fidel Castro
Around the world there are few leaders as well known as Fidel Castro. The leader of the small Communist nation of Cuba has been a key figure in International Politics for decades, owing to his conflicts with US presidents and close ties with other Communist or Socialist regimes.  He has been awarded the" Golden Medal and the First Class Order of the National Flag" by everyone's favourite North Korean dictatorship in 2006 while in 1962 he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the then Pope John XXIII. These are just two of the many dubious accolades attained by Mr Castro in his long career spanning over 4 decades. However, in what had been suspected for months even years, he officially announced his resignation yesterday as leader of his country's Communist Party.

Political analysts are now pondering what ths may mean for the country. Perhaps the face at the top, Castro's brother Raul may not look so different but his policies do show the beginnings of a possibly bigger change for the small nation.  The country is currently suffering economically and those with the power in Cuba are fully aware of this. Just this past Monday a raft of legislation was introduced in order to aid the suffering of ordinary Cubans.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gudhafi Remaining Defiant

Colonel Gudhafi

Over the course of the break in updates the world watched in amazement as rovolts began all across North Africa and the Middle East.  However, none as yet seem to have gone on as long or are as bloody as the continuing conflict in the North African nation of Libya.

No doubt spurred on by there neighbours the uprisings against Gudhafi began on the 11th of February 2011. Gudhafi responded with armed violence to these protests and made it known he had no intention of leaving power. Rebels moved eastward to the coastal city of Benghazi from where they were able to establish an coalition Government known as the Transitional National Council. In early March Gudhafi's forces began to rally to the East and have since reclaimed the rebel stronghlold of Benghazi and numerous other major cities along this coast. The final remaining stronghold of Misratah is currently undergoing an intense offensive by Gudhafi's troops. The situation is now subject to an international response.

Japanese Disaster- The Aftermath

For the return of Junction News I have chosen a story very close to my heart. I have written a number of stories about Japan on Junction News from the light hearted (Sumo Association) to the downright bizarre (Tokyo's Oldest Man) however, the world was collectively forced to look eastwards in March to witness the land of the rising sun sufferring its worst disaster since World War 2.

Of course as a self-confessed Japanophile and student of the Japanese language tit is strange not to feel some sort of  affinity with the Japanese people, even if I have never yet made the journey to Nihon and a great sadness at the complete levelling which ccurred at some of the Northern towns.  One of the most shocking pieces of footage filmed throughout the disaster was this one linked below taken at an airport in Sendai.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Election Time

As an ardent follower of politics, whether Irish or international I have been following the current general election in my country with significant interest. Billed as the most important election since the foundation of this state it is hard to argue with the analysts predictions that this is going to mark a monumental change in the face of Irish politics. 

As I sit writing this only 7 of the 165 seats up for grabs in the parliament have been filled.  Since the foundation of the Irish state the largest party in the country has been the centrist Fianna Fáil party with the largest opposition being Finne Gael who have experienced terms of Government in coalition with the State's third largest Labour Party. However, owing to Ireland's well publicised Economic Meltdown Fianna Fáil has seen its share of the vote decimated with a projected seat count of just 17, less than a third of the 70 they had in the last Dáil (Parliament). This meltdown in the party's seat count has lead to a surge in support for almost every other party out there. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Randomness: A Little Sexism for the Weekend - Man Flu

This is easily one of my favourite weekend randomness posts. In South Korea scientists investigating the man-flu phenomenon have made a startling discovery, it may in fact be real.

The scientists analysed over 1,200 manual workers in 40 companies in Incheon, South Korea. The found that men in more demanding jobs were 74% more likely to report having a cold or flu symptoms than those under less pressure. There was at 42% heightened risk of illness in men with insufficient control over their jobs and 40% among those who lacked adeqate "social suport".

The study should that work related illness was by and large a problem reserved only for the male population. Women were said to be generally less susceptible to work related pressures and are more "stoic" in their approach to such matters according to the scientists who carried out the research. I can't help maintaining an aura of skepticism around this research. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Drowning Globe

Brisbane, Australia

The news wires were full of reports over the last two weeks of horrendous flooding across Sri Lanka, Brazil and Australia. All three nations have suffered greatly at the hands of our increasingly tumultuous weather conditions.

The Australian treasurer has stated the the floods in his country will be the biggest National Disaster in the State's history, in economic terms. The waters inundated the country's third largest city Brisbane and 45 other townships across four states have been effected. So far the death toll has reached 22, however, this has expected to rise in heavily battered Queensland. The floods are expected to cut 1% off of the rate of economic growth equal to $6bn according to the central bank. The Greens, the smaller partner in Julia Gillard's minority Government have agreed somewht controversially that it should be the oil companies who should pay for the costs, as they have been blamed for causing the global warming which the Australian Government states has directly caused the floods.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Turmoil in Tunisia

One of the the biggest stories of the week is the ongoing turmoil in Tunisia where anarchy and rioting lead to the ousting of President Ben Ali who has fleed the country and is now taking refuge in Saudi Arabia. Close aids including the man in charge of his security are now being detained accused of formenting violence.

The constitutional authority has declared a presidential election must be held within sixty days. In the interim the speaker of the parliament has now be sworn in as president. However the presidency had been originally claimed by the Prime Minister which has created a degree of uncertainty in the country. Indeed the very success of the popular uprising is somewhat under threat as the military moves swiftly in order to try the stem the violence analysts are wondering if a coup is possible. A fire brock out at a jail over the weekend klling 42 inmates while at another facility a mass jail break of over 1,000 people occured.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Randomness: The Bullet Sneezing Man

This weekends bizarre and wonderful nugget of random information comes courtesy of Darco Sangermano a 28 year old labourer from Italy. While in partying in Naples with his girlfriend on New Years Eve, Mr Sangermano was struck with a stray bullet which  entered into his temple. I know what you are thinking, this doesn't sound like the typical fluffy weekend randomness fodder. Read on.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ireland's Economic Meltdown

While I was away from the site the major story making the headlines here in Ireland was the effective implosion of the Irish economy. For those of you who weren't following the story Ireland became the first country to enter recession in the Eurozone in September 2008 and it is suspected to be the last to come out of it.

The crisis came about as a mixture of a number of factors. The housing market in Ireland was big business for a number of years, with prices rising rapidly and the construction sector employing an eight of the entire population. Owing to the global economic slowdown of late 2008 the property bubble in Ireland burst and by the middle of 2010 house prices had plummeted 35% compared with the second quarter of 2007. Therefore the construction sector was also mortally wounded creating waves of unemployment and mass emigration. The pressure greater unemployment put on Government funds added to the national debt already soaring.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Haiti: One Year On

This time last year I was just beginning this little blogging endeavor and my first post dealt with the tragic earthquake in Haiti and looking behind the disaster to tell you a little bit more about the poorest nation in the Northern hemisphere. You can find it here, Haiti:Behind the Quake.

The devastating quake occurred on the 12th of January 2010, measuring a crippling 7 on the Richter scale. The earthquake left 1.5 million people homeless and 800,000 people, more than half of that number are still living in tents in the capital Port au Prince. The earthquake took the lives of between 95,000 and 220,000 people and the conditions in the tents are making life incredibly tough for those Haitians facing a challenging relief effort.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tragedy in Tucson: The Debate

The people of Tucson, Arizona remain in mourning for those lost in Saturday's attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's public forum with constituents outside a commercial outlet in the city. The attack left 5 dead, including a federal judge, with Gifford now in a stabilising condition in a nearby University Medical Centre.  The 22 year-old gun man named as Jared Loughner will face charges which may result in a sentence as severe as the death penalty.

The coverage now seems to be turning towards motive and the prevention of further attacks of this nature from re-occurring. As a general rule of thumb after tragedies of this nature that force people to do considerable amounts of soul searching numerous figures appear on television (indeed generally with far more expertise than myself) hypothesising as to what could have spurred someone to commit such an atrocity. While I do not profess to be an authority or even have any considerable knowledge of mass killings of this kind I hope you may indulge me in some opinions of my own on this tragic event.

Sudanese Schism?

This week has the potential to be a historic one in the history of Africa's largest nation, Sudan. The people of Southern Sudan are voting in a week long referendum on whether they should separate from the North, forming the continent's 54th sovereign nation, and what would undoubtedly become the UN's latest inductee since Timor-Leste in 2002.

The week of voting began on Sunday, when large numbers of voters were turned away due to enormous crowds at polling stations, particularly in the southern capital of Juba.  The poll requires a turn-out of 60% in order to be valid, a figure which authorities expect will easily be reached. The result of the vote will be confirmed by the 15th of February, however preliminary results are expected by Friday.  If the Southern Sudanese vote for independence then the process is expected to be completed by July.