Archive for October, 2011

Yemeni women burn veils to protest regime

October 26th, 2011 by Mariah

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) — Yemeni women defiantly burned their traditional veils Wednesday in protest of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.

 

Thousands of women gathered in the capital, Sanaa, said witnesses. They carried banners that read: “Saleh the butcher is killing women and is proud of it” and “Women have no value in the eyes in Ali Saleh.”

 

They collected their veils and scarves in a huge pile and set it ablaze — an act that is highly symbolic in the conservative Islamic nation, where women use their veils to cover their faces and bodies. It’s the first time in the nine months of Yemen’s uprising that such an event has occurred.

 

Inspired by Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman’s Nobel Peace Prize this month, more and more Yemeni women have taken to the streets and escalated their campaign for help from the international community.

More than 60 women were attacked in October alone by the government, said protester Ruqaiah Nasser. Government forces are raiding homes and also killing children, she said.

 

She said silence from tribal leaders on the matter is a “disgrace.”

“We will not stay quiet and will defend ourselves if our men can’t defend us,” Nasser said. “Tribes must understand they will not be respected by Yemeni women if they stay quiet while their women are being attacked by the Saleh regime. Tribes who ignore our calls are cowards and have no dignity.”

 

“Saleh is killing women and children and this is against tribal culture,” she said. “Where are their voices when we need them? It’s a disgrace if they stay quiet.”

 

The women’s protests came after the Yemeni government announced a cease-fire Tuesday. But that did not appear to be holding.

 

At least 10 people died and dozens were injured earlier Tuesday in clashes between Yemeni government security forces in the country’s capital and the province of Taiz, medical officials reported.

Yemen’s government has said that opposition-supported militants are responsible for the violence.

 

Saleh summoned the U.S. ambassador and reiterated a promise to sign an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in which he would step aside in exchange for immunity from prosecution, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

 

However, Saleh has repeatedly promised to sign the council-backed deal and not done so. The embattled leader has clung to power through the protracted protests.

The unsolved mystery of lost 19th century ghost ships

October 26th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — It’s been described as one of the greatest Victorian gothic horror stories of all time. Two ships with 129 men on board and fitted with the latest technology, vanish with barely a trace left behind. One hundred and sixty years of searching — one attempt as recent as last month — have failed to find “HMS Erebus” and her sister ship, the somewhat appropriately named “HMS Terror” — the two vessels lost in the Arctic.

 

In 1845 British Royal Navy captain Sir John Franklin set out with some of the finest sailors of the time on a mission to map the Northwest Passage. Franklin’s expedition wasn’t the first to the region, but it is the most infamous.

 

“Why did this fail when all the others didn’t,” asks author William Battersby. “There was something jinxed about the expedition.” Battersby is one of many to be transfixed by the mystery of Franklin’s last voyage. “We love adventure stories, of derring-do, win against all odds, but in this story they don’t and we still don’t know why.”

 

The environment of the Northwest Passage is unforgiving. The landscape is vast and deserted, comparable only to Jupiter’s moons. The winters are unrelenting and bleak. Franklin’s men were faced with particularly brutally harsh temperatures and blizzards when they reached the region.

 

Despite the ships being reinforced with steel and holding three years worth or provisions, it appears the environment got the better of the crew. “Man proposes, God disposes,” says Bob Headland from the Scott Polar Research Institute, who regularly visits the region. ‘”And the ice gods are a fickle lot.”

 

The disappearance of the Erebus and the Terror has prompted the longest search mission in history: Although there have been numerous attempts to find the ships, there has been no sign of them.

 

Ryan Harris from Parks Canada led the most recent mission to try to locate the shipwrecks. Last month, his crews spent hours scouring the ocean floor, searching waters up to 50 meters deep. “It’s an incredible story. It’s got shipwrecks, the remoteness of the Arctic, putting the might of English industrialism against Mother Nature,” says Harris.

 

Since 1997 Parks Canada has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to locate the “Erebus” and “Terror.” The tale of the Franklin expedition has enthralled Canadians — the wreckage has the dubious honor of being the only national historic site in Canada that hasn’t been found yet.

 

“Once Franklin received his orders that sealed his fate,” Harris explains. “In directing them south-west into ultimately the Victoria Strait it took them to the ice choke point. Once they fell into the clutch of that area, their fate was sealed. There’s not much wildlife there and it is isolated.”

 

The last known account of the “Erebus” and “Terror” came in 1848. A rock cairn with a message on it indicated that the harsh conditions had already claimed their first lives, with only 105 men left alive.

 

Franklin was one of the first casualties of his own expedition. That same year the men abandoned their ships, archaeologists believing they began making their way south in a desperate bid to find food.

 

However the harsh environment supported little, and with few animals to hunt and over 100 men to feed, the chance of survival was low. It’s been suggested that the men may have resorted to cannibalism in their last-ditch efforts to survive. “There were far too many men to live off the environment. What man plans and what nature allows are two different things,” says Headland.

 

Archaeologists have relied heavily upon oral Inuit history to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Based on their accounts it is thought some of the men lived for another three or four years after abandoning ship.

 

But questions remain over exactly what happened to them. In 160 years only two skeletons and three perfectly preserved bodies have been uncovered. It is likely diseases such as scurvy claimed many lives but Battersby believes it may have been the ships themselves that killed the sailors.

 

His theory is that the men succumbed to lead poisoning derived from the internal pipe system used to melt ice into drinking water. It’s hoped the discovery of the ships will provide answers.

 

‘”There’s a charm to the story,” acknowledges Harris. “By solving a mystery it takes the allure away.” But having said that, Harris is determined the search will go on until the “Erebus” and the “Terror” are found. Parks Canada insists that their searches have not been futile and they’ll continue to gather information to help with future efforts. “I hope we’re the last,” says Harris.

 

But after 160 years it’s possible that this tale may be frozen in time forever. “These are the last of the ghost ships,” says Battersby. “It is the world’s biggest ghost story.”

The Top 1 Percent Are Getting Richer

October 26th, 2011 by Mariah

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — From 1979 to 2007, average household income for the nation’s top 1% more than tripled, while middle-class incomes grew by less than 40%, according to a new report from a research arm of Congress.

While those at the top have seen their incomes soar over the past three decades, middle-class and lower incomes have stagnated, the report by the Congressional Budget Office found.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Over the past three decades, the distribution of income in the United States has become increasingly dispersed — in particular, the share of income accruing to high-income households has increased, whereas the share accruing to other households has declined,” the CBO said.

 

For the top 1% of the population, average inflation-adjusted household income grew by 275%. The rest of wealthiest fifth of the population, not including the top 1%, saw household income grow by 65% during that time, faster than the rest of the population, but “not nearly as fast as for the top 1%.”

 

For middle-class earners, it was a different story.

 

Household income grew by just under 40% and the poorest fifth of the population saw their incomes rise by just 18% in a little less than 30 years, according to the study, which was based on IRS and Census data.

 

During that time, income ballooned at the top of the spectrum and government policy did less to redistribute wealth, the CBO found.

“The rapid growth in average real household income for the 1% of the population with the highest income was a major factor contributing to the growing inequality in the distribution of household income between 1979 and 2007,” the report said. “Shifts in government transfers and federal taxes also contributed to that increase in inequality.”

 

That’s also, in part, what has spurred the recent Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters refer to themselves as “the other 99%,” which suggests that they represent a broad segment of the U.S. demographic, excluding the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

 

Their aim, they say, has been to bring attention to the country’s growing economic gap.

 

Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17 in Manhattan’s Financial District and has since grown into a global movement.

Blackberry Outages

October 12th, 2011 by Mariah

Millions of BlackBerry users remained without service on Wednesday as a three-day outage spread to North America.

“BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning,” Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones, said in a statement. “We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available.”

The service outage started on Monday with customers in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, before spreading to South America on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning it appeared to hit the United States and Canada. The outage appears primarily to affect text messaging and Internet access from the mobile phones, not necessarily their ability to place calls.

“BlackBerry users in Canada have been cut off from their smartphone’s messaging, e-mail and Internet services,” the Canadian news site CP24 wrote. Those sentiments were echoed by the CBC, the Canadian broadcaster, which put out a breaking news tweet saying e-mail and texting services had been interrupted in some parts of Canada.

NPR reported some of its staffers in North America had experienced outages. CNN employees in the United States also were having trouble accessing some data connections and text messages. Twitter users complained of similar issues.

In a statement released Tuesday, the company said the “messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested.”

The company said it was working to fix the problem.

“A large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible,” the Tuesday statement said. “We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed.”

There are about 70 million BlackBerry users worldwide. RIM has not commented on how many users are affected, but reports suggest the number of users without some sort of service has climbed into the millions.

BlackBerry users, many of whom use the devices primarily for business purposes, were less than pleased with the outage.

“#DearBlackberry I can’t work, I can’t study, please, please come back from that coma! Don´t go into the light!! It´s a baaad light!!” a Twitter user named @marianaae wrote.

“What did the one #Blackberry user say to the other?……….nothing….,” said another Twitter user, @giselewaymes.

“And iPhone users everywhere smile smugly and search for the ‘I Told You So’ app,” wrote another.

This is not the first time RIM has faced a major service outage.

“I have been an analyst for 25 years and have watched RIM wrestle with this same outage problem time after time. Every few years we get pinched by yet another major problem,” tech analyst Jeff Kagan said in a statement.

This outage, however, comes at a particularly bad time for RIM, since it faces increasing competition in the smarpthone market, Kagan says. Apple’s iPhone and phones on the Google Android operating system have been gaining ground, and the new iPhone 4S goes on sale Friday.

The tech blog Electronista wrote:

“RIM’s outage is now one of its largest in recent memory and is now edging even closer to the iPhone 4S launch than before, leading to a possible temptation for those already looking to upgrade their phones. Commentary on Twitter has shifted gradually from frustrated patience to open anger and has led some to remark that they’re now likely to switch to the iPhone, Android, or another platform.”

Gigayacht: New Toy For The Rich and Famous

October 12th, 2011 by Mariah

CNN) — For the billionaire who has everything, sometimes a superyacht just isn’t enough — that’s why the world’s wealthiest are buying “gigayachts.”

These boats are the ultimate status symbol — a sign of eminence, power and a seemingly limitless supply of cash. And when it comes to showing off wealth and status it seems the rule is “the bigger the better.”

“There’s definitely a ‘mine is bigger than yours’ syndrome in this industry and there is a desire to have the best. That’s the great thing about these yachts,” said Jonathan Beckett, CEO of Burgess Yachts, one of the world’s leading yacht brokers.

“When you get up to ‘gigayacht’ status, it is all about the best and these people are used to having exceptional possessions around them all the time,” Beckett continued.

Although the term “gigayacht” is not new, it is becoming increasingly prevalent as owners seek bigger and better yachts.

“There is no standard definition of what a gigayacht is,” says Paul Ashton, editor of SuperYacht World.

“A gigayacht I would say is anything that is over 220 feet (67 meters) where the majority of the yacht is customized and bespoke.”

Their owners are part of a small but illustrious set that includes Russian oligarchs, Saudi royalty and international business tycoons.

China’s super rich eye superyachts

The yacht to beat is currently Roman Abramovich’s “Eclipse.” The largest private yacht in the world at 163 meters long, “Eclipse” is believed to feature around 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools and a mini-submarine, and was rumored to have cost between $540 million and $1.1 billion.

Although not all gigayachts come with that pricetag, Ashton says the standard measure is around €1 million ($1.36 million) per meter of length.

“That works to a certain extent, but you also have to take into consideration which yard it is made in and the bespoke details involved,” he said.

While that pricing means gigayachts are strictly for the super rich, you get a lot of bang for your bucks, Beckett explained: “There is nothing standard when it comes to this area of our market. But if you are purchasing a superyacht you would want a vessel that was transglobal and you’d want a reasonable speed.

“You’d probably want at least two helicopter platforms, so you can land your own helicopter and visitors can also land theirs, cinemas, hospitals, spas, large entertainments areas and hairdressing salons.

“These vessels have anything from 80 to 120 people onboard including the crew, so it’s a little town.”

But it’s not all about status. The trend towards bigger yachts is due in part to new technological advances in the yachting industry as well as the changing lifestyles of gigayacht owners, says Becket.

“Going back to when I first started in the business, yachting used to be a form of camping almost,” he said. “Nowadays, people are moving aboard their yachts and using them as a second home.

“Instead of going for one or two weeks, people will move onboard for the whole summer,” he said.

The world’s second-largest gigayacht, the “Dubai,” is a perfect example of this, says Ashton. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and Prime Minister of the U.A.E, the “Dubai” is a working boat as well as a holiday yacht.

“There is room onboard for all of the crew, but there are also 20-30 cabins for clerical and support staff that you need when you’re running your business from onboard,” said Ashton.

But the financial crisis means even gigayacht owners are having to spend smarter, says Beckett.

“We’ve got a whole new market landscape. No one’s looking to pay a strong price for a yacht, as they were pre-2008,” he said. “Then it didn’t matter how much you paid, it was cool to pay top price, now it matters a lot. In today’s market it is cool to be paying a low price.”

But, says Beckett, this doesn’t mean superyacht owners are going to scrimp on luxury. “Oh no, they want it all,” he said. “There is no compromise, except on the price.”

Superyacht sailors seek new thrills with ice sailing

October 12th, 2011 by Mariah

(CNN) — Every year, thousands of yachts owners head to warmer waters to escape the bitter cold of winter. But it seems that for some adventurous owners and charter guests, the balmy air of the Mediterranean and Caribbean no longer hold the same allure, and they are swapping palm trees for penguins in a quest for the ultimate sailing experience — ice cruising.

Passengers aboard vessels equipped for ice navigation have the option to explore ‘off-road’ icy waters but Neil Cheston, Director of Yacht Sales and Charter at YCO Yacht explains that one of the reasons behind the rise in popularity of ice sailing is exclusivity.

“You could say that luxury has evolved to mean more than just expensive, the emphasis is also on exclusive. Our clients want to get off the beaten track, to discover something new that all their friends haven’t seen and equally important, to find somewhere where they can be totally alone with friends and family,” he says.

For Paul Ashton, Editor of SuperYacht World, ice sailing is all about the thrill and adventure.

He said: “The yacht is the ultimate getaway tool, and for some owners that means getting away from all those places that everyone else goes to. When you talk to an owner who cruises an explorer-style yacht you really get a sense of their thrill in anchoring in a bay which has rarely been visited by anything other than penguins and seals,” explains Ashton.

However, boats that can navigate ice are not a new phenomenon. Scientists and navies have been making use of them for years, but the trend of building custom yachts to seek alternative cruising grounds has begun to gather speed, according to industry experts.

“Big Fish” is just one of this new breed of boats which are able to sail anywhere in the world. She is pitched as the ‘ultimate adventure boat’ with an ability to take her globe-trotting clients to any destination they desire, whether it’s icy Antarctica or glamorous Monaco.

Chartering the super yacht will set you back $235,000-per-week, accommodating 10 guests in five cabins and the Arctic itinerary promises the possibility of sighting polar bears hunting for seals and walruses.

Built for Aquos Yachts by McMullen & Wing in New Zealand, its new owner sailed “Big Fish” to French Polynesia, the Galapagos Islands, the Cocos Islands, Rio, Florida, the Baltics, Monaco & Corsica in the first year alone. And of course, with an ice-adventurer boat, he spent New Year in Antarctica.

Another expedition boat which can explore every corner of the world, is “Galileo G” which took to the water in July 2011.

Designed by Philippe Briand, the 55-meter superyacht is constructed to ice-class classification guidelines. As usual with high-specification boats, the buyer’s privacy is paramount to the boat makers, but it is thought that the owner plans to use it on the Northwest passage.

The most obvious design difference for an ice-breaking yacht is that the hull needs to be very strong, so “Galileo G” has an “ice-belt reinforcement to have the right thickness on the waterline,” a spokeswoman for Vitruvius Yachts said.

“The yachts need to go through what is called pancake ice (that is ice that is one-year old) and all appendices need to be protected from impact as well as from freezing” she explained.

But there are also other less obvious considerations for the boat makers — space for food and garbage storage is essential because they cannot dump anything in such highly protected areas. They also need to carry enough fuel to ensure that they don’t need to re-fuel in the wilderness of Antarctica.