‘Freedom Tower’ renamed ‘1 World Trade Center’

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The 108-floor central component of the new World Trade Center in New York City has been officially renamed 1 World Trade Center, ending the Freedom Tower moniker it had sported since 2003.

Freedom Tower was envisioned as a symbol of America’s victory over terrorism. It is currently on track for completion in 2013, with 10 floors partially finished so far.

Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia commented on the change, “It’s the one that is easiest for people to identify with — and frankly, we’ve gotten a very interested and warm reception to it.”

Former Governor George Pataki, who revealed the Freedom Tower name nearly six years ago, was critical of the switch, saying “The Freedom Tower is not simply another piece of real estate and not just a name for marketing purposes.”

1 World Trade Center has been the building’s legal name and address for the past two years, with the public change precipitated by the ramp up of construction and the commencement of lease marketing.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed ambivalent to the change, saying “I would like to see it stay the Freedom Tower, but it’s their building, and they don’t need me dumping on it. If they could rent the whole thing by changing the name, I guess they’re going to do that, and they probably, from a responsible point of view, should. From a patriotic point of view, is it going to make any difference?”

The change was approved following the signing of a two-decades-long lease by a Chinese real estate company, which plans to occupy floors 64 through 69. Other future tenants include the U.S. General Services Administration and the New York State Office of General Services.

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UK Chancellor of the Exchequer makes 2005 Budget speech

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honourable Gordon Brown PC MP, in a speech to the British House of Commons today presented his ninth Budget, what is very likely to be his last Budget before the next UK General Election. This opened the parliamentary debate on the 2005 Finance Bill, and was followed by responses from the opposition parties.

In a 48 minute long speech, the Chancellor presented a Budget of “tax cuts that are reasonable, spending that is affordable, and [economic] stability that is paramount”, that was “the prudent course for Britain”. There were few surprises that had not already been indicated in his 2004 pre-Budget report. The increase in the threshold on stamp duty was greater than that forecast by commentators, as was the amount of the Council Tax rebate to households with pensioners.

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France votes no in EU referendum

Sunday, May 29, 2005

In a result predicted by polls, a 54.87% majority of French voters voted non in Sunday’s European Constitution referendum. Of France’s 42 million eligible voters, over 70% turned out at the 55 thousand polling stations across the country, which were open from 8:00 to 20:00 on Sunday (except in Paris and Lyon where voting finished at 22:00, and French oversea possessions and other polling centers in the Americas, which voted on Saturday in order not to have them vote when the results are already known). A 70% turnout is very large compared to Spain 42%.

The result comes as no surprise to European political commentators as opinion polls had consistently suggested that the “No” camp was on course for a strong victory. Indeed, the last opinion poll before the actual referendum suggested a 56% win for the “No” camp.

The treaty was supported by all 3 major political parties (center-left PS, center-right UMP, center-right UDF), though a significant minority of the PS, and some in the UMP, chose to oppose it.It was opposed by the French Communist Party, as well as Trotskyite movements such as the Revolutionary Communist League, other far-left movements such as the Party of the Workers, parts of the Socialist party, parts of The Greens some members of UMP, and the nationalist National Front.

According to polls, the vast majority of blue collar workers, farmers and other categories threatened by globalization and international concurrence voted against the treaty. The urban, better educated or richer population voted in favor.

Some supporters of the “No” camp have argued that the mainstream media was biased in favor of the “yes” cause, and this was supported by some analyses of times awarded by television to both camps. However, the “no” camp also waged an aggressive campaign, with the walls of major cities being plastered with posters linking the EU Constitution and the European Union to all kind of social ills, such as high unemployment.

You can read the entire proposed European Constitution at Wikisource

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Australian government to tackle banks on mortgages

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In response to higher than expected mortgage rate increases last week, Australian treasurer Wayne Swan flagged changes to banking regulations to increase competition between lenders on home mortgages.

Swan announced yesterday he had sought a Treasury report on the banking sector ahead of talks over the next fortnight on reforms to make it easier for bank customers to move mortgages between lenders by forcing banks to reduce exit fees, to “make the market more competitive”.

“Everybody knows we’ve been impacted upon by the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis that has pushed up the cost of money,” Swan said.

“But, as I said last week, some of the increases we saw by the banks were not justified. In my view, they were excessive. I urge people to vote with their feet. If there are obstacles to people voting with their feet, switching their accounts, we’ll have a look at those.”

The banking industry, however, insists that loan refinancing is not a complicated process currently, according to the head of the Australian Bankers Association (ABA), David Bell. “There is a competitive marketplace for home loans and the Cannex website shows the many products that are available,” said Bell. “Regarding the switching of transaction accounts, the Australian Payments Clearing Association is conducting a community consultation process on this issue. ABA member banks support this process.”

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Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 9 browser

Friday, March 18, 2011

At 9:00 p.m. PDT Monday (0400 UTC Tuesday), Microsoft rolled out the first stable Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) release, available in 39 languages, for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Internet Explorer is the most used web browser, responsible for 56% of webpage hits. The new version adds support for new technologies with relation to the HTML5 specification and several feature changes. The browser was released as a beta with a campaign promoting the benefits of HTML5.

It includes support for SVG and the HTML5 canvas, audio, and video tags. It has a failing Acid3 score of 95/100, below Mozilla Firefox 4.0’s 97/100, rating and the 100/100 in Google Chrome 10. The program is the first of its series not to run on Microsoft Windows XP. It includes a redesigned layout of the address bar and the ability to pin sites to the taskbar on Windows 7, along with several minor improvements.

The browser received mixed reviews. “IE9 as a Consumer Browser — Not Worth It,” Jason Mick, DailyTech, concluded. A study by Which? on Tuesday showed that IE9’s Tracking Protection Lists, an optional anti-tracking feature, may mislead users. “We’re disappointed with the way these lists work, and feel consumers who install multiple lists could be left with a false sense of security.” Dr. Rob Reid, Which? Policy senior advisor, said.

In a more positive review, a PC Magazine reviewer said that the positives of the new browser outweighed the negatives, and it is “a major improvement over its predecessor.”

The announcement comes after the company launched a campaign to get Internet Explorer 6 usage down to 1%. Microsoft delayed the Japanese release “to reduce load on network bandwidth at such a critical time” with reference to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this past Friday.

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Two-story building in Lynn, Massachusetts catches fire

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

A two-story building caught fire yesterday afternoon on Boston Street in Lynn, Massachusetts. The fire engulfed the entire second floor and left nothing of the Essex County building.

According to a witness, the fire started while children were cooking french fries in an apartment on the second floor.

The fire took its toll on the firefighters, many were suffering from heat exhaustion. However, a tent was set up by a rehab truck, offering firefighters a chance to recover.

The fire was finally put out, however, some portions of the structure did reignite with small flames. Firefighters climbed onto the roof and began tearing it open in order to find the source of the ignition. A ladder truck also sprayed down the roof.

According to a witness, the roof was a tarred double roof, which may have been a factor that caused the fire to be so troublesome.

The first floor consisted of storefronts for a convenience store and a video store. The second floor held apartments.

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Water main bursts in west Edinburgh; traffic, utilities disrupted

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, part of an underground water piping system has exploded, forcing local residents to be evacuated. The pipe broke around 03:30 BST (0230 UTC) today, within Allan Park Road, causing flooding in the Slateford area of the city.

A spokesperson for Scottish sewerage and water corporation Scottish Water explained: “Early this morning reports were received of flooding in Allan Park Road and Scottish Water operatives attended the scene. A large diameter water main had burst. The water was shut off and re-routed via other pipes to keep supplies flowing to households in the area. Repairs are under way and the customers affected by the flooding are being offered assistance.”

Stating that repairs to resolve this problem had commenced and would take a few hours to conclude, Lothian and Borders Police have advised that the floods may disrupt the supplies of water and other utilities, as well as transportation on roads and railways in the west of Edinburgh. Hospitals and rest homes in the region have been notified of the incident and bottled water is now anticipated to be supplied at these buildings.

According to local residents, Slateford Road (A70), a major throughway, was closed for several hours this morning. Telephony and broadband in the area is disrupted, with local residents and businesses having to rely on cellphones. Further work, such as digging up the road and using temporary traffic lights, will be required to restore these services in the area.

As of 13:15 BST (1215 UTC), Scottish Water has excavated around the burst main, but has not yet begun work on replacing the damaged section of pipe.

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Youths riot in Paris suburb, attack police station

Monday, November 26, 2007

In six hours, dozens of young people in Sarcelles and Villiers-le-Bel, a suburb of Paris, France, attacked a police station, burned cars and broke into shops after two teenagers were killed in a car crash with a police vehicle. The station was pelted with Molotov cocktails and guns were fired at officers inside the station.

A police captain, who tried to negotiate with the youths, had to be hospitalized with serious injuries to the face. The youths also set several cars ablaze. According to police, at least 21 officers were injured in rioting in Villiers-le-Bel and Arnouville. The police station in Villiers-le-Bel was set on fire and the one in Arnouville was ransacked.

Two hours before, a police patrol vehicle collided with two teenagers riding a stolen green mini cross motorbike without helmets. The teens, aged 15 and 16, were both killed in the accident which took place in Villiers-le-Bel.

Didier Vaillant, mayor of Villers-le-Bel, appealed for calm and assured there will be “an impartial investigation, for full light to be shed” on the accident.

Omar Sehhouli, brother to one of the dead teenagers, said the unrest “was not violence but an expression of rage.”

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Major US bankruptcy reform bill signed into law

Thursday, April 21, 2005

U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law Wednesday a major bankruptcy reform bill, making the most sweeping changes to the laws of personal bankruptcy in the past two decades. Bill S.256 is predicted to reduce the chances of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy for 30,000 to 210,000 families per year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

The legislation was strongly opposed by some consumer advocates and by some Democrats in Congress, who complained about the lack of debate on exemptions they attempted to introduce and tried to derail the passage of the bill. Those who are unable to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will then be forced to file under Chapter 13, which requires payment of some debts by order of a judge based on the financial resources of the debtor.

Opponents said the bill will end a chance for a fresh start in the financial lives of the American people by keeping them in debt to collection agencies, as well as credit card companies and banks who have made it easy to obtain high credit limits amid mounting consumer debt.

In his remarks before signing the bill, which he supported, Bush said, “The bipartisan bill I’mabout to sign makes common-sense reforms to our bankruptcy laws. By restoringintegrity to the bankruptcy process, this law will make our financial systemstronger and better. By making the system fairer for creditors and debtors,we will ensure that more Americans can get access to affordable credit.”

The bankruptcy bill received a 302-126 approval in the house, after receiving a 74-25 vote in the Senate last month following strong, mostly partisan debate.

The US bankruptcy system was established in 1898. It allowed judges and debtors to come to terms with the costly medical bills that can follow a relative’s death, or a family illness. Such cases form nearly half of all bankruptcies filed in the USA, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Now many of those people will have to work out repayment plans suitable to creditors instead of having debts erased by a judge, according to the new law, which takes effect in six months.

In the past, a judge or court representative would calculate an individual’s income and subtract necessities of life to come up with a practical repayment plan of some debt. The new law stipulates that a graph, showing the poverty level in whichever state the consumer is living will be the criteria. It assumes that if people can subsist at that poverty level, then everything over that can be used to repay creditors.

Additionally, a provision that allowed debtors to file their own Chapter 7 fresh start bankruptcy has been changed to require a lawyer, paid by the debtor, to do the filing.

The new law also erased “usury” provisions in lending laws, with some lawmakers saying that paying 30 percent interest was not too much when a debtor was behind on payments.

But Bush said that credit will “be more affordable because when bankruptcy is less common, credit can be extended to more people at better rates,” meeting demands of the credit card companies which they have been pressing for the last eight years.

“The big winners under the new law will be the special interests that literally wrote it, particularly the credit card industry,” said Travis B. Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America. “This is particularly ironic because reckless and abusive lending practices by credit card companies have driven many Americans to the brink of bankruptcy.”

The forces arrayed on the losing side of this bill said it will hurt low-income working people, single mothers, minorities, and elderly and will end a safety net for people who have lost jobs or face major medical bills. People who fail (refuse) to pay or refuse to go to court will punished by a fine and or arrest warrant made out in their name. About fifty thousand Americans will be punished by a fine and or warrant about three thousand Americans every year will go to jail under the new bankruptcy law. For some people this will be a third strike so they will be put in jail for life.

But Mallory Duncan, a lawyer for the National Retail Federation, said “Bankruptcy has gone from a stigma to a financial planning tool for many.”

New personal bankruptcy filings have increased from 172,423 in 1978 to 1,599,986 last year, an increase of 828% during that time; however, it edged down slightly last year.

About 2 percent to 13 percent of those who dissolve their debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy each year in exchange for forfeiting some assets will be disqualified from doing so under the law, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Bankruptcy lawyers anticipate a rush to the courthouse to beat the six-month window before the new reforms take effect.

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