OpenSync Interview – syncing on the free desktop

Friday, May 19, 2006

This interview intends to provide some insight into OpenSync, an upcoming free unified data synchronization solution for free software desktops such as KDE, commonly used as part of the GNU/Linux operating system.

Hi Cornelius, Armin and Tobias. As you are now getting close to version 1.0 of OpenSync, which is expected to become the new synchronisation framework for KDE and other free desktops, we are quite interested in the merits it can provide for KDE users and for developers, as well as for the Open Source Community as a whole. So there’s one key-question before I move deeper into the details of OpenSync:

What does OpenSync accomplish, that no one did before?

Cornelius:

First of all it does its job of synchronizing data like addressbooks and calendars between desktop applications and mobile devices like PDAs and cell phones.
But the new thing about OpenSync is that it isn’t tied to a particular device or a specific platform. It provides an extensible and modular framework that is easy to adopt for application developers and people implementing support for syncing with mobile devices.
OpenSync is also independent of the desktop platform. It will be the common syncing backend for at least KDE and GNOME and other projects are likely to join. That means that the free desktop will have one common syncing solution. This is something really new.

How do the end-users profit from using synching solutions that interface with OpenSync as framework?

Cornelius:

First, the users will be able to actually synchronize all their data. By using one common framework there won’t be any “missing links”, where one application can sync one set of devices and another application a different one. With OpenSync all applications can sync all devices.
Second, the users will get a consistent and common user interface for syncing across all applications and devices. This will be much simpler to use than the current incoherent collection of syncing programs you need if you have more than the very basic needs.

How does OpenSync help developers with coding?

Cornelius:

It’s a very flexible and well-designed framework that makes it quite easy for developers to add support for new devices and new types of data. It’s also very easy to add support for OpenSync to applications.
The big achievement of OpenSync is that it hides all the gory details of syncing from the developers who work on applications and device support. That makes it possible for the developers to concentrate on their area of expertise without having to care what’s going on behind the scenes.
I have written quite a lot of synchronization code in the past. Trust me, it’s much better, if someone just takes care of it for you, and that’s what OpenSync does.

Tobias:

Another point to mention is the python wrapper for opensync, so you are not bound to C or C++, but can develop plugins in a high level scripting language.

Why should producers of portable devices get involved with your team?

Cornelius:

OpenSync will be the one common syncing solution for the free desktop. That means there is a single point of contact for device manufacturers who want to add support for their devices. That’s much more feasible than addressing all the different applications and solutions we had before. With OpenSync it hopefully will become interesting for manufacturers to officially support Linux for their devices.

Do you also plan to support applications of OpenSync in proprietary systems like OSX and Windows?

Cornelius:

OpenSync is designed to be cross-platform, so it is able to run on other systems like Windows. How well this works is always a question of people actually using and developing for this system. As far as I know there isn’t a real Windows community around OpenSync yet. But the technical foundation is there, so if there is somebody interested in working on a unified syncing solution on Windows, everybody is welcome to join the project.

What does your synchronisation framework do for KDE and for KitchenSync in particular?

Cornelius:

OpenSync replaces the KDE-specific synchronization frameworks we had before. Even in KDE we had several separate syncing implementations and with OpenSync we can get replace them with a common framework. We had a more generic syncing solution in KDE under development. This was quite similar from a design point of view to OpenSync, but it never got to the level of maturity we would have needed, because of lack of resources. As OpenSync fills this gap we are happy to be able to remove our old code and now concentrate on our core business.

What was your personal reason for getting involved with OpenSync?

Cornelius:

I wrote a lot of synchronization code in the past, which mainly came from the time where I was maintaining KOrganizer and working on KAddressBook. But this always was driven by necessity and not passion. I wanted to have all my calendar and contact data in one place, but my main objective was to work on the applications and user interfaces handling the data and not on the underlying code synchronizing the data.
So when the OpenSync project was created I was very interested. At GUADEC in Stuttgart I met with Armin, the maintainer of OpenSync, and we talked about integrating OpenSync with KDE. Everything seemed to fit together quite well, so at Linuxtag the same year we had another meeting with some more KDE people. In the end we agreed to go with OpenSync and a couple of weeks later we met again in Nuernberg for three days of hacking and created the KDE frontend for OpenSync. In retrospect it was a very pleasant and straightforward process to get where we are now.

Armin:

My reason to get involved (or better to start) OpenSync was my involvement with its predecessor Multisync. I am working as a system administrator for a small consulting company and so I saw some problems when trying to find a synchronization solution for Linux.
At that point I joined the Multisync project to implement some plugins that I thought would be nice to have. After some time I became the maintainer of the project. But I was unhappy with some technical aspects of the project, especially the tight coupling between the syncing logic and the GUI, its dependencies on GNOME libraries and its lack of flexibility.

Tobias:

Well, I have been a KDE PIM developer for several years now, so there was no way around getting in touch with synchronization and KitchenSync. Although I liked the idea of KitchenSync, I hated the code and the user interface […]. So when we discussed to switch to OpenSync and reimplementing the user interface, I volunteered immediately.

Can you tell us a bit about your further plans and ideas?

Cornelius:

The next thing will be the 1.0 release of OpenSync. We will release KitchenSync as frontend in parallel.

Armin:

There are of course a lot of things on my todo and my wishlist for opensync. For the near future the most important step is the 1.0 release, of course, where we still have some missing features in OpenSync as well as in the plugins.
One thing I would really like to see is a thunderbird plugin for OpenSync. I use thunderbird personally and would really like to keep my contacts up to date with my cellular, but I was not yet able to find the time to implement it.

Tobias:

One thing that would really rock in future versions of OpenSync is an automatic hardware detection mechanism, so when you plugin your Palm or switch on your bluetooth device, OpenSync will create a synchronization group automatically and ask the user to start syncing. To bring OpenSync to the level of _The Syncing Solution [tm]_ we must reduce the necessary configuration to a minimum.

What was the most dire problem you had to face when creating OpenSync and how did you face it?

Cornelius:

Fortunately the problems which I personally would consider to be dire are solved by the implementation of OpenSync which is well hidden from the outside world and [they are] an area I didn’t work on 😉

Armin:

I guess that I am the right person to answer this question then 🙂
The most complicated part of OpenSync is definitely the format conversion, which is responsible for converting the format of one device to the format that another device understands.
There are a lot of subsystems in this format conversion that make it so complex, like conversion path searching, comparing items, detection of mime types and last but not least the conversion itself. So this was a hard piece of work.

What was the greatest moment for you?

Cornelius:

I think the greatest moment was when, after three days of concentrated hacking, we had a first working version of the KDE frontend for OpenSync. This was at meeting at the SUSE offices in Nuernberg and we were able to successfully do a small presentation and demo to a group of interested SUSE people.

Armin:

I don’t remember a distinct “greatest moment”. But what is a really great feeling is to see that a project catches on, that other people get involved, use the code you have written and improve it in ways that you haven’t thought of initially.

Tobias:

Hmm, also hacking on OpenSync/KitcheSync is much fun in general, the greatest moment was when the new KitchenSync frontend synced two directories via OpenSync the first time. But it was also cool when we managed to get the IrMC plugin working again after porting it to OpenSync.

As we now know the worst problem you faced and your greatest moment, the only one missing is: What was your weirdest experience while working on OpenSync?

Cornelius:

Not directly related to OpenSync, but pretty weird was meeting a co-worker at the Amsterdam airport when returning from the last OpenSync meeting. I don’t know how high the chance is to meet somebody you know on a big random airport not related at all to the places where you or the other person live, but it was quite surprising.

Tobias:

Since my favorite language is C++, I was always confused how people can use plain C for such a project, half the time your are busy with writing code for allocating/freeing memory areas. Nevertheless Armin did a great job and he is always a help for solving strange C problems 🙂

Now I’d like to move on to some more specific questions about current and planned abilities of OpenSync. As first, I’ve got a personal one:

I have an old iPod sitting around here. Can I or will I be able to use a program utilizing OpenSync to synchronize my calendars, contacts and music to it?

Cornelius:

I’m not aware of any iPod support for OpenSync up to now, but if it doesn’t exist yet, why not write it? OpenSync makes this easy. This is a chance for everybody with the personal desire to sync one device or another to get involved.

Armin:

I dont think that there is iPod support yet for OpenSync. But it would definitely be possible to use OpenSync for this task. So if someone would like to implement an iPod plugin, I would be glad to help 🙂

Which other devices do you already support?

Cornelius:

At this time, OpenSync supports Palms, SyncML and IrMC capable devices.

Which programs already implement OpenSync and where can we check back to find new additions?

Cornelius:

On the application side there is support for Evolution [GNOME] and Kontact with KitchenSync [KDE] on the frontend side and the backend side and some more. I expect that further applications will adopt OpenSync once the 1.0 version is released.

Armin:

Besides kitchensync there already are a command line tool and a port of the multisync GUI. Aside from the GUIs, I would really like to see OpenSync being used in other applications as well. One possibility for example would to be integrate OpenSync into Evolution to give users the possibility to synchronize their devices directly from this application. News can generally be found on the OpenSync web site www.opensync.org.

It is time to give the developers something to devour, too. I’ll keep this as a short twice-fold technical dive before coming to the takeoff question, even though I’m sure there’s information for a double-volume book on technical subleties.

As first dive: How did you integrate OpenSync in KitchenSync, viewed from the coding side?

Cornelius:

OpenSync provides a C interface. We wrapped this with a small C++ library and put KitchenSync on top. Due to the object oriented nature of the OpenSync interfaces this was quite easy.
Recently I also started to write a D-Bus frontend for OpenSync. This also is a nice way to integrate OpenSync which provides a wide variety of options regarding programming languages and system configurations.

And for the second, deeper dive:

Can you give us a quick outline of those inner workings of OpenSync, from the developers view, which make OpenSync especially viable for application in several different desktop environments?

Cornelius:

That’s really a question for Armin. For those who are interested I would recommend to have a look at the OpenSync website. There is a nice white paper about the internal structure and functionality of OpenSync.

Armin:

OpenSync consists of several parts:
First there is the plugin API which defines what functions a plugin has to implement so that OpenSync can dlopen() it. There are 2 types of plugins:
A sync plugin which can synchronize a certain device or application and which provides functions for the initialization, handling the connection to a device and reading and writing items. Then there is a format plugin which defines a format and how to convert, compare and detect it.
The next part is a set of helper functions which are provided to ease to programming of synchronization plugins. These helper functions include things like handling plugin config files, HashTables which can be used to detect changes in sets of items, functions to detect when a resync of devices is necessary etc.
The syncing logic itself resides in the sync engine, which is a separate part. The sync engine is responsible for deciding when to call the connect function of a plugin, when to read or write from it. The engine also takes care of invoking the format conversion functions so that each plugin gets the items in its required format.
If you want more information and details about the inner workings of OpenSync, you should really visit the opensync.org website or ask its developers.

To add some more spice for those of our readers, whose interest you just managed to spawn (or to skyrocket), please tell us where they can get more information on the OpenSync Framework, how they can best meet and help you and how they can help improving sync-support for KDE by helping OpenSync.

Cornelius:

Again, the OpenSync web site is the right source for information. Regarding the KDE side, the kde-pim@kde.org mailing list is probably the right address. At the moment the most important help would be everything which gets the OpenSync 1.0 release done.
[And even though] I already said it, it can’t be repeated too often: OpenSync will be the one unified syncing solution for the free desktop. Cross-device, cross-platform, cross-desktop.
It’s the first time I feel well when thinking about syncing 😉.

Armin:

Regarding OpenSync, the best places to ask would be the opensync mailing lists at sourceforge or the #opensync irc channel on the freenode.net servers.
There are always a lot of things where we could need a helping hand and where we would be really glad to get some help. So everyone who is interested in OpenSync is welcome to join.

Many thanks for your time!

Cornelius:

Thanks for doing the interview. It’s always fun to talk about OpenSync, because it’s really the right thing.

Armin:

Thank you for taking your time and doing this interview. I really appreciate your help!

Tobias:

Thanks for your work. Publication and marketing is something that is really missing in the open source community. We have nice software but nobody knows 😉

Further Information on OpenSync can be found on the OpenSync Website: www.opensync.org


This Interview was done by Arne Babenhauserheide in April 2006 via e-mail and KOffice on behalf of himself, the OpenSource Community, SpreadKDE.org and the Dot (dot.kde.org).It was first published on the Dot and is licensed under the cc-attribution-sharealike-license.A pdf-version with pictures can be found at opensync-interview.pdf (OpenDocument version: opensync-interview.odt)

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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Canadian inspectors to test food ingredients from China

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued border alerts for specific protein ingredients, imported from China, that may be incorporated into products destined for human consumption.

Inspectors from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will hold products, such as wheat and corn gluten, as well as soy and rice proteins until they can be tested for melamine, the contaminant found to have sickened pets through its use in pet food. If determined to be free of melamine, the ingredients will be released to the intended recipient. Materials such as glutens and protein powders are used commonly in many forms of food products.

The CFIA said it was not acting on specific information, but rather taking a cautious approach to human protection. “That’s why we have the border lookout for the ingredient, so that we can proactively assess any potential that the product is contaminated,” Paul Mayers of the CFIA told CBC News.

Since the border alert for melamine is a new procedure, the government can’t be sure if the contaminant made it into the food chain previously. The CFIA acknowledged that the same Chinese company under suspicion in the tainted pet food affair had shipped wheat gluten to a Canadian company, which in turn used it in food for fish farms. Although the fish were subsequently eaten by people, the CFIA believes the health risk from such consumption would be low.

In related news, Canadian researchers at the University of Guelph believe they may have determined the mechanism of how melamine caused illness in cats and dogs.

Both cyanuric acid and melamine were found in urine samples from pets that died after consuming contaminated pet food. The two compounds react with one another to form crystals that may block kidney function, researchers at the university said. The researchers observed crystals formed in cat urine by the addition of melamine and cyanuric acid. The composition of these crystals matches those found in the urine of affected pets when compared by infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).

“You wouldn’t normally expect to find those compounds in pet food, and hence nobody was really looking for it,” said John Melichercik, director of analytical laboratory services. “It’s just another piece of the puzzle along the way in this particular pet-food issue.”

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Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, on animal rights and the film about her life

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Last night HBO premiered I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA. Since its inception, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has made headlines and raised eyebrows. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the movement against animal testing and their efforts have raised the suffering animals experience in a broad spectrum of consumer goods production and food processing into a cause célèbre.

PETA first made headlines in the Silver Spring monkeys case, when Alex Pacheco, then a student at George Washington University, volunteered at a lab run by Edward Taub, who was testing neuroplasticity on live monkeys. Taub had cut sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to the monkeys’ fingers, hands, arms, legs; with some of the monkeys, he had severed the entire spinal column. He then tried to force the monkeys to use their limbs by exposing them to persistent electric shock, prolonged physical restraint of an intact arm or leg, and by withholding food. With footage obtained by Pacheco, Taub was convicted of six counts of animal cruelty—largely as a result of the monkeys’ reported living conditions—making them “the most famous lab animals in history,” according to psychiatrist Norman Doidge. Taub’s conviction was later overturned on appeal and the monkeys were eventually euthanized.

PETA was born.

In the subsequent decades they ran the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty against Europe’s largest animal-testing facility (footage showed staff punching beagle puppies in the face, shouting at them, and simulating sex acts while taking blood samples); against Covance, the United State’s largest importer of primates for laboratory research (evidence was found that they were dissecting monkeys at its Vienna, Virginia laboratory while the animals were still alive); against General Motors for using live animals in crash tests; against L’Oreal for testing cosmetics on animals; against the use of fur for fashion and fur farms; against Smithfield Foods for torturing Butterball turkeys; and against fast food chains, most recently against KFC through the launch of their website kentuckyfriedcruelty.com.

They have launched campaigns and engaged in stunts that are designed for media attention. In 1996, PETA activists famously threw a dead raccoon onto the table of Anna Wintour, the fur supporting editor-in-chief of Vogue, while she was dining at the Four Seasons in New York, and left bloody paw prints and the words “Fur Hag” on the steps of her home. They ran a campaign entitled Holocaust on your Plate that consisted of eight 60-square-foot panels, each juxtaposing images of the Holocaust with images of factory farming. Photographs of concentration camp inmates in wooden bunks were shown next to photographs of caged chickens, and piled bodies of Holocaust victims next to a pile of pig carcasses. In 2003 in Jerusalem, after a donkey was loaded with explosives and blown up in a terrorist attack, Newkirk sent a letter to then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat to keep animals out of the conflict. As the film shows, they also took over Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s Paris boutique and smeared blood on the windows to protest his use of fur in his clothing.

The group’s tactics have been criticized. Co-founder Pacheco, who is no longer with PETA, called them “stupid human tricks.” Some feminists criticize their campaigns featuring the Lettuce Ladies and “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads as objectifying women. Of their Holocaust on a Plate campaign, Anti-Defamation League Chairman Abraham Foxman said “The effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent.” (Newkirk later issued an apology for any hurt it caused). Perhaps most controversial amongst politicians, the public and even other animal rights organizations is PETA’s refusal to condemn the actions of the Animal Liberation Front, which in January 2005 was named as a terrorist threat by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

David Shankbone attended the pre-release screening of I Am An Animal at HBO’s offices in New York City on November 12, and the following day he sat down with Ingrid Newkirk to discuss her perspectives on PETA, animal rights, her responses to criticism lodged against her and to discuss her on-going life’s work to raise human awareness of animal suffering. Below is her interview.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
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Why Marketing With Custom Printed T Shirts Is So Effective &Amp; Affordable

Submitted by: Joe Caricari

If you re looking for an alternative marketing strategy you should highly consider using Custom Printed T Shirts. A custom printed t shirt is one item that everyone loves to have.

Would you rather have a pen (which will more then likely get lost) or a t shirt that is a one of a kind? If you have your logo printed on a shirt with a really catchy slogan printed on the back people will be knocking your door down to get one. If you compare the price of a one to two month print ad to the cost of batch of custom printed t shirts you ll see that you can get much more for your money. While a print ad only stays in circulation for a certain amount of time a custom t shirt will last for a long time. Another great advantage is that people won t just see you when they have a need. They see you time and time again. That will make your name stick in their mind!

You can take your t-shirts and hand them out at a trade show. You can even hand them out at a parade. Even if people don t know who your company is they will take a shirt because t shirts are like gold to people. People are proud to wear something that attracts attention to them and a nicely designed t-shirt will do that. You don t have to spend a lot of money to get a really awesome designed t-shirt either. A t shirt can be designed with fewer colors on it then most people think and it still have the same effect and in some cases even more.

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You can use your custom printed t shirts in other ways as well. You really want people to sell for you. Put a company shirt on every one of your employees and they become your sales people. People that have an interest will approach your employees if they are wearing one of your shirts. Train your employees to sale your services. They don t have to be a full fledged sales person but a knowledgeable employee can send potential prospects your way. That potential customer wouldn t have approach your employee if they had not been wearing a custom printed t shirt with your name on it.

Custom printed t shirts are such a great way to stand out no matter what the case may be. If you ve got a business you definitely want to make an everlasting first impression on your customers. A sharp dressed crew will make people say, WOW, this company has really got it together. You may be bidding on a large contract and it may come down to rather your crew looks and acts professional. When you have your crew outfitted in custom printed t shirts they know that they are representing your company. That gives them a little incentive to perform at a level. People want to work for a company that knows how important it is to look your best while at work. It shows that you re not just any other company. It shows that your company has great potential. That large contractor will notice that as well.

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Confirmed bird flu death in Nigeria

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A woman, one of three people who recently died of flu like symptoms, in Lagos, Nigeria, has tested positive for the H5N1 strain of Avian influenza.

It is the first bird flu in Nigeria since the strain arrived in Nigeria a year ago. H5N1 was confirmed in blood samples tested in Rome and London from the three recent deaths.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that while the threat from avian flu has decreased from last year, there still remains flare-ups around the world, urging countries to “remain vigilant and fully cooperate with international organizations”.

Bird flu is spread by wild birds for whom the virus is a stomach disease and, generally, not fatal.

Although the disease has killed 164 people, it has only been out of 269 cases, this gives the disease around a 60% fatality rate compared to the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic which had a mortality rate of around 5%.

The outer coat of the virus particle is characterised by two types of glyco-proteins, neurominidase and haemagglutinin, both of which interact with sialic acid.

Haemagglutinin has sixteen forms, H1 to H16, and binds to sialic acid on the target cell, facilitating the entry of the virus.

Neurominidase is found in nine forms, N1 to N9, this protein allows the progeny viri to escape the infected cell by cleaving sialic acid.

The two main drugs against bird flu currently on the market, Tamiflu® and Relenza®, both target the sialic acid binding pocket of neurominidase. Neither of these drugs will cure the disease, but will stop its spread through the body. As such they have to be administered within 48 hours of symptoms appearing. In all 9 sub types of neurominidase, the structure of the target area for the drugs is the same. There is also a flu vaccine but the current flu vaccine does not protect against H5N1.

Human to human transmission is very rare, at the moment bird flu can only be caught from prolonged exposure to infected birds, specifically their droppings from which the bird flu virus has been crystallized and parts of the structure solved.

Unlike diseases such as smallpox and measles, for which their are effectively protecting vaccines, the flu virus constantly mutates. Each year the virus is slightly different from the last, this is the genetic drift of the virus – small point mutations on the surface, causing an evasion of our immune system. Many of the problems arise when there is a major shift of the surface proteins, for instance when a different subtype appears, such as H5.

There are three strains of human influenza circulating around the globe; H1N1 first isolated in 1933, H2N2 first isolated in 1957 and H3N2 first isolated in 1968. Other than humans; pigs, seals and horses have various strains of influenza, however only wild birds have all the known subtypes of haemagglutinin and neurominidase. Of the 144 combinations of N(1-9) and H(1-16) we have had three.

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Dog owner to face felony charge

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Two dog attacks in a week puts Spotsylania County authorities in the spotlight to take action on pet owners for their dog’s behavior. In unrelated incidences, an elderly woman was killed and another woman was bitten. Three dogs have been shot dead by police.

An 82 year old woman was walking her Shih Tzu breed of dog in her front yard last week when she came under attack by three Pit Bulls. She died being transported to the hospital after police responded and shot two of the attacking dogs. They later captured the third dog and euthanized it.

More recently, a 31 year old woman was bitten on her hand during a fight that ensued between two Pit Bulls in her back yard. The responding police officer shot the aggressor dog.

Public outcry over the death of the elderly woman stirred procecutors to charge the dogs’ owner, Deeana Large, with involuntary manslaughter. This is a first for the Commonwealth of Virginia where charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years are leveled in a case involving a pet’s owner. In order to gain an indictment, prosecuters will have to prove the dogs’ owner was criminally negligent. In the biting incident, the attacking dog’s owner faces a misdemeanor charge of letting the dog run at large.

Deeana Large, who initially said she owned only 1 of the 3 dogs involved in the mauling case, has not yet been formally charged and awaits indictment. Investigators in the case say there were earlier reports of her dogs allegedly killing a German Shepard and a kittten in her neighborhood. Complaints by neighbors spurred an animal control officer to be looking for the dogs at the time the woman was killed.

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Useful Ideas On Quick Products In Remortgage

Useful Ideas On Quick Products In Remortgage

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Rachel Weisz wants Botox ban for actors

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

English actress Rachel Weisz thinks that Botox injections should be banned for all actors.

The 39-year-old actress, best known for her roles in the Mummy movie franchise and for her Academy Award-winning portrayal in The Constant Gardener, feels facial Botox injections leave actors less able to convey emotion and that it harms the acting industry as much as steroids harm athletes.

In an interview with UK’s Harper’s Bazaar, coming out next month, Weisz says, “It should be banned for actors, as steroids are for sportsmen,” she claims. “Acting is all about expression; why would you want to iron out a frown?”

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Currently living in New York, she also mentions that English women are much less worried about their physical appearance than in the United States. “I love the way girls in London dress,” she claimed. “It’s so different to the American ‘blow-dry and immaculate grooming’ thing.”

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Fake impotence drugs linked to low blood sugar outbreak

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An article in the February 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports on an unusual cause for an outbreak of low blood sugar among men in Singapore: illegal use of sexual performance enhancement drugs that were contaminated with a diabetes drug.

Between January and May 2008, 149 men and one woman between 19 and 97 (mean age 51) were admitted to five public hospitals for unexplained low blood sugar. Similar cases were reported in media reports from Hong Kong. Seven Singaporean patients remained in a coma because of prolonged sugar starvation of the brain, and four subsequently died. The diabetes drug glyburide was found in blood and/or urine samples in 85% of cases; 30% admitted having used illegal sexual performance enhancers.

The contaminated products were a counterfeit version of the drug Cialis (meant for the treatment of genuine erectile dysfunction), and three purported herbal preparation (the affected brands included Power 1 Walnut and Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule). All four preparations additionally contained Viagra in varying concentrations. Two herbal products contained traces of the weight loss drug sibutramine, a compound related to amphetamines.

The drug packaging mentioned names of non-existent overseas production facilities, so the source of the contamination with the diabetes drug could not be established.

The authors underline the risks that is known to be associated with purchasing drugs from unreliable providers or from online resellers. The clandestine use of impotence drugs as sexual performance enhancers seems to have provided a good illustration of this problem. They further call for more efforts by national and international health and law enforcement agencies to curb the manufacturing, international transport and sales of untrustworthy medication.

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Market maker Bernard L. Madoff arrested in $50B ‘giant Ponzi scheme’

 Correction — January 10, 2009 This article incorrectly states that Mr Madoff attended Hofstra University Law School. His education was actually with Hofstra College, which he graduated from in 1960. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top broker and Wall Street adviser Bernard L. Madoff, aged 70, was arrested and charged by the FBI on Thursday with a single count of securities fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud. He allegedly told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that his $50 billion business “is all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme (since at least 2005).” Mr. Madoff faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5 million. FBI agent Theodore Cacioppi said Mr. Madoff’s investment advisory business had “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in investors’ losses of approximately $50 billion dollars.”

The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market is also the founder and primary owner of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he launched in 1960. The firm is one of the top market maker firms on Wall Street. He founded his family firm with an initial investment of $5,000, after attending Hofstra University Law School. He saved the money earned from a job lifeguarding at Rockaway Beach in Queens and a part time job installing underground sprinkler systems.

A force in Wall Street trading for nearly 50 years, he has been active in the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), a self-regulatory organization for the U.S. securities industry. His firm was one of the five most active firms in the development of the NASDAQ, having been known for “paying for order flow,” in other word paying a broker to execute a customer’s order through Madoff. He argued that the payment to the broker did not alter the price that the customer received. He ran the investment advisory as a secretive business, however.

Dan Horwitz, counsel of Mr. Madoff, in an interview, said that “he is a longstanding leader in the financial-services industry with an unblemished record; he is a person of integrity; he intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event.” Mr. Madoff was released on his own recognizance on the same day of his arrest, after his 2 sons turned him in, and posting $10 million bail secured by his Manhattan apartment. Without entering any plea, the Court set the preliminary hearing for January 12.

Madoff’s hedge fund scheme may rank among the biggest fraud in history. When former energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, one of the largest at the time, it had $63.4 billion in assets. The scheme would dwarf past Ponzis, and it would further be nearly five times the telecommunication company WorldCom fraud and bankruptcy proceedings in 2002.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a separate civil suit on Thursday against Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and its eponymous founder Mr. Madoff. It was docketed as “U.S. v. Madoff,” 08-MAG-02735, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). SEC, New York associate director of enforcement, Andrew M. Calamari, asked the judge to issue seizure orders on the firm and its assets, and appoint a receiver. The SEC pleads, among others, that “it was an ongoing $50 billion swindle; our complaint alleges a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions.” It further accused the defendant of “paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other, different investors” for years. Madoff’s hedge fund business had previously claimed to have served between 11 and 25 clients and had $17.1 billion in assets under management. But virtually all of the assets were missing.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Louis L. Stanton on Thursday appointed Lee Richards, a Manhattan lawyer, as the firm’s receiver. A hearing is set for Friday, for a ruling on the SEC’s petition to grant plenary powers to the receiver over the entire firm, and an absolute asset sequestration.

Doug Kass, president of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management said that “this is a major blow to confidence that is already shattered — anyone on the fence will probably try to take their money out.”

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