OPINION – Four things I don’t give a shit about at Christmas

Credit fanpop.com

Credit fanpop.com

Precocious children on the toy show

Why can’t RTE find some nice, well-mannered young fellas who will talk about how they like football and want a Man United jersey for Christmas? Instead we get children like John Joe talking about horology in a manner deserving of a solid slap. The rest of the Toy Show children all blur into one irritating, cheeky, only child-type. It’s a child with “surprising” interests in “kooky” topics, who has learned a few big words and will say something mildly insulting to Tubridy. I blame the parents.

The Coke ad has been on

Every November Facebook and Twitter alight with simpletons telling us “OMG just saw the Coke ad”, or words to that effect.  Even though the ad is run at the same time every year, people still get excited about seeing it. It’s the same thing as getting excited about the clocks going back. If you need a drinks company to tell you when Christmas is coming, you are more than likely a moron.

 “Hilarious” campaigns for the Christmas number one

In Ireland and the UK – countries where protests are generally met with derision from the public – you can always rely on people to get worked up about an X Factor winner taking the Christmas number one. In 2009, Rage against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” was Christmas number one following an online campaign. A campaign conducted largely by idiots. Of all the things to get worked up about, people decided to “fight the system” by seeing to it that the middle-aged, dreadlocked Zack de la Rocha took the Christmas top-spot. Incidentally, I find white men with dreadlocks considerably more offensive than any X Factor winner.

The wise men and their star

There will be a considerable chunk of people who will agree with me that Christmas is not about consumerism, global corporations’ advertisements or the Christmas number one. They reckon it is about a group of wise men following a star and finding a family in a shed with a baby. It’s a nice story, but they may as well try to tell us Christmas is all about a young boy called Jack who bought some beans at the market that turned out to be magic. Actually, that’s probably a better fairy tale. I mean, Jesus never killed a giant.

 Eoghan McNeill 

The Central African Republic: state of chaos

Credit www.voanews.com

Credit voanews.com

Although this war has gone largely unreported it is an unfortunately familiar story – quasi-religious warlords, armies of child soldiers, sexual violence as military strategy, burnt out villages and hostile neighbours.

France is looking to increase their military presence in the region – pending UN backing. They already have 400 troops stationed there.

The Central African Republic (CAR), is a former French colony. It has been in a state of turmoil since December of 2012. Seleka rebels seized power last March and have recently been overthrown by the Comité extraordinaire de défense des acquis démocratiques-(CEDAD)

In July, the ‘African Union’ authorised a peacekeeping mission, 3,600 strong, in an effort to stablise the country.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius described the situation in CAR as bordering on an, “imminent threat of a humanitarian disaster.”

Roughly 460,000 people have been displaced during the conflict so far and there are fears the chaos may spread to neighbouring countries.

“Now the country is facing its worst crisis. In this failed state, entire swaths of land are given over to violence by armed gangs. Looting, the recruitment of child soldiers, burned villages, rapes, summary executions” [are commonplace] he said.

The French government are concerned the violence will spread into the surrounding countries, with South Sudan, Congo, Chad and Cameroon likely to be affected.

U.N. deputy general Jan Eliasson has warned the region is descending into “complete chaos before our eyes. The situation requires prompt and decisive action…There is a breakdown of law and order. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination” he said.

Amnesty International has issued a statement calling on the U.N to take action in the region.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland called on the U.N to “work with other members of the international community, in particular, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, and France to ensure that immediate concrete measures are put in place to establish law and order in the country”.

Since independence in 1960 political instability has been rife in the CAR, with eight coups or mutinies having taking place after the state’s foundation.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders is an independent medical humanitarian aid organisation and has been working in the CAR since 1996. It runs seven regular projects in five of the seven health districts and supports up to seven hospitals and around 40 health centres. In 2012, a total of 600,000 consultations were provided.

Emergency Coordinator, Rosa Crestani described the situation in the region: “Our teams who were already present in the country wanted to reinforce their capability to respond quickly to requirements…The aim is to get as soon as possible to areas where a new outbreak of violence has occurred, to assess and meet the needs.”

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

Cricket deserves praise for understanding complexity of mental illness

Credit www.telegraph.co.uk

Credit telegraph.co.uk

The writer Mark Rice-Oxley believes cricket should be praised for understanding the complex mental issues a number of players have suffered from in recent years.

Rice-Oxley, who has been studying depression in the sport for a number of years, believes the sport has made great advances in the past decade compared to other sports.

The author was speaking after the English batsman Jonathan Trott was forced to return home from Australia yesterday evening due to a stress related illness.

Rice-Oxley told News Anois: “there is a far more forgiving environment in cricket toward mental illness now and much of this is thanks to Marcus Trescothick”.

Trescothick, once a talisman for the English national team, was forced to leave the international scene in 2006 due to a stress related illness.

Rice-Oxley said: “once this wall had been broken down it led to a much greater degree of understanding in the global cricket society and with mental illness matters public understanding is absolutely crucial.

Rice-Oxley warned that the “crazy scheduling” involved in international cricket would guarantee that players will continue to develop mental illnesses, with frantic travelling meaning players can often go months without seeing their friends.

“The international game is full of amazing highs but also, often more frequently, such demoralising lows”, said the experienced writer.

The Australian test player Ed Cowen defines the psyche of cricketers as “spending more time thinking about our next inevitable failure than our next success”.

In order to soften the severe psychological strain test cricketers endure Rice-Oxley argued that confrontation is required between cricket players and international authorities.

However before that could occur the players would have to unite in their belief, something unlikely to happen in the future as some players are keen to maximise their wage while others, often older, are more aware of the effect intense travel can have on the mind.

Rice-Oxley labelled some of the early press treatment of Trott in the Australian media as “crass and insensitive”, while he was extremely critical of Piers Morgan, who yesterday tweeted that winners never quit in relation to the English batsman’s affairs.

“Sport is often painted as a gladiatorial contest… but finally we’re beginning to see the stigma attached to mental illness in sport dissolve”.

Ronan Morrissey

OPINION – Playing the ‘Long’ game

Credit Birminghammail.co.uk

Credit birminghammail.co.uk

At the start of this season Shane Long was left in a state of dismay. With West Brom happy to let the player leave on transfer deadline day to Hull all the while recruiting new strikers, Long would have certainly felt like he was unwanted at the Hawthorne’s.

The deal subsequently broke down due to the deadline passing, the Tipperary man was left in an awkward position at the club.

After the ‘Baggies’ signed Victor Aniechibe for a club record fee as well as French veteran Nicholas Anelka and Sunderland star Stephen Sessengon for their attack, Long must have certainly felt his position in the pecking order had dropped significantly, he would have been correct.

He struggled for fitness and form but failed to feature on a regular basis for the club. When he did it was as a substitute or on the flanks.

Desperate to become the Republic Of Ireland’s main striker, Long would have been allowed to feel aggrieved after being the clubs top goal scorer in the previous campaign. He would now have to prove to Clarke that he was still central to the clubs development. Frustration was also apparent on an international scale as Long was dropped from the starting line up by interim manager, Noel King.

A turning point for Long was certainly his performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after he converted a good header against Mourinho’s side, topped with a strong overall performance. Long maintained his goal scoring form with a well-placed finish in the Republic of Ireland’s victory over Latvia.

With a lot of hard work put in place, Long was granted the opportunity to start in last night’s Midlands Derby at Villa park, he needed a performance and he provided one to a devastating effect by scoring two magnificent goals. His first oozed pure quality. Magnificently touching down a direct pass with his right foot, he then fired in a powerful low shot with his left. His second goal was a mark of a confident striker. Long was like a man possessed for the remainder of the game, showing for every ball, chasing down lost causes and battling with the Villa defence for every opportunity. His persistence paid off after closing down the Villa defence, he intercepted a poor pass, defeated a defender and chipped it over Brad Guzan demonstrating his class. It was a performance which received much appraisal from his manager Steve Clarke who said after the game,

“Shane’s been working hard for that type of performance he’s in a good moment, strikers are like that, they like the ball set in the back of the net… The second goal came because he reads the game well, her reacted to an under hit pass from the Villa defence and he pounced on it and it was another really, really terrific finish so it’s good for Shane, he’s been in a good run of form for us and hopefully he can keep it going.”

It is plain to see that Long is a confidence striker. On his day he’s a hardworking, fast finisher who is ruthless in front of goal, but when things aren’t going his way he can often become petulant and frustrated. A determined Long, speaking to RTÉ spoke of his ambition to become a key figure for Ireland in the aftermath of the Latvia game saying,

“I’ve only started in the competitive games in the last year of Trapattoni’s campaign so hopefully I can force my issue and get into the gaffer’s though for the qualifiers.”

An out and out goal scorer is much needed in the Republic Ireland squad at the moment with Robbie Keane coming into the twilight of his playing career. Many believe Long can be the man to fulfil the position. Speaking to News Anois today was West Bromwich Albion’s head of supporters club, Del Delaney who said,

“On his day he’s a good a centre forward that I’ve seen at the club. He’s got all of the attributes you need to be a top centre forward. He’s definetly restored himself as our main man after last night’s performance and I think that if he maintains that kind of form then we will be lucky to hold onto him after the January window.”

For Long to take his game to the next level, consistency is crucial instead of random moments of brilliance.

One thing is for sure, if Long maintains this level of form then he will certainly become one of the most feared strikers in the premiership, which is essential to his international career.

Darragh Collins 

OPINION – Is Facebook killing romance?

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

There were three in the bed and the little one said ‘GET OFF FACEBOOK’.

When our parents and grandparents met they had to make genuine efforts to see one another. They didn’t have Whatsapp or texts to arrange dates. In fact, a lot of them wouldn’t have had phones at all. They had to base these arrangements on trust. If you said you would be at a certain place on a certain date at a certain time, you were there.

Back then you didn’t have the option of knowing all but your prospective partners blood type prior to meeting. Google wasn’t there to keep track of accomplishments, Facebook wasn’t there to act as a personal reality show, and there was no Twitter to express your opinion.

Everything your partner knew about you and you about them was based off what you told one another or learned through the relationship. This may all sound very “pure”, but it was. These were real relationships built through trust and effort.

People had faith in their partners and society supported this. The proof lies in the statistics – divorce rates in Ireland have been soaring for the past ten years with almost 90,000 people now declaring themselves legally divorced in Ireland and more separating every day.

There are many contributory factors to this but it is undeniable that the presence of social media and its niggling role in modern relationships is important. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat etc… They all know you’re about to break up before you do. They know you’ve been playing away, and they know you’ve ignored those messages. It’s a scary prospect when you lay it bare.

All of these social media outlets together act as the ‘all seeing eye’ on your life. Chances are that Facebook knows more about you than any girlfriend or boyfriend you have ever had.

Recent studies show that when websites such as Facebook are used in excess they can cause conflict in relationships. These websites offer temptations on a plate, and often give users a false sense of privacy.

Dr. Russell Clayton of the University of Missouri conducted a survey amongst users of social media sites ranging from 18 to 22 years old. He posed questions about how much they used Facebook in correlation to how much they would argue with their partners, both past and present, as a direct result of something of the site.

The results showed that overuse of Facebook led to an increase in the chance of cheating, breaking up and divorce. People who are using Facebook excessively are more likely to become jealous and troll their partner’s online activity, leading to FBI-like investigative research on their partner and frequent arguments.

Interestingly those who are using the website more than average run a greater risk of falling for the openness of Facebook in the chance to reconnect with ex-partners and this often leads to cheating emotionally and physically.

The study, published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, recommended that couples in their early days should be weary and possibly stay away from the site.

This advice was based on the fact that the findings of the study only stood for couples who had been together less than three years. This implies that Facebook is a threat for couples whose relationships aren’t fully matured. Cutting back to moderate use of Facebook could reduce the risk of conflict, giving the relationship the time it needs to grow.

Too many temptations are at the tips of your fingers these days. While there’s no denying that social media has made vast improvements on our social lives, it also seems to be taking some of the charm away.

Amanda Connolly

OPINION – Adieu Concorde

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

Ten years ago today Concorde took its last flight, landing at Bristol, U.K., at 13:00 GMT. For more than 3 decades it had been a matter of pride for both England and France, who started the project in the 50s, and a status symbol for those who could afford it.

It was a product of the age of “speed and sputnik“, when it seemed there were no limits to what could be achieved in the skies.

Seen as the carriage of choice for the rich and famous, celebrities regularly travelled the return trip from London to New York, including Elton John, Sting, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Joan Collins, Luciano Pavarotti, Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Mike Tyson, Annie Lennox and Rod Stewart.

As the world’s only supersonic passenger aircraft, Concorde has always seemed to be at the cutting edge of aviation technology. Yet it is the product of another age.

That first flight on a Sunday afternoon in 1969 was watched by millions on black and white television sets.

It was a masterpiece of engineering, a technological marvel – and the greatest financial disaster in aviation history.

Jointly developed and produced by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty, Concorde was one of only two turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner ever used in the aviation history for commercial purposes – the other one being the soviet Tupolev Tu-144, whose prototype first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the first flight of Concorde.

Reaching a speed of Mach 2.2, Concorde flew transatlantic routes from England and France to New York and Washington in half of the time of a regular aircraft. While commercial jets took eight hours to fly from New York to Paris, the average supersonic flight time on the transatlantic routes was just under 3.5 hours.

But Concorde wasn’t all roses. Its high maintenance costs and high consume of petrol caused a regular return fare could be as expensive as £15,000.

And it wasn’t just the costs that were an issue, but the strong environmental impact influenced the eventual dismissal of the project.

The noise of supersonic flight forced the pilots to temporarily throttle back their engines to reduce noise during overflight of residential areas.

It also produced nitrogen oxides in its exhaust which, due to complicated interactions with other ozone-depleting chemicals, are understood to have degraded the ozone layer at the stratospheric altitudes where the Concorde cruised.

Major concerns were also expressed over its structural issues: because of the high speeds at which the plane travelled, large forces were applied to the aircraft’s structure during banks and turns. This caused twisting and the distortion of the aircraft’s structure, and the air friction on the outer surfaces caused the cabin to heat up during flight.

Despite these problems, which suggest a faulty structure, Concorde had only had one accident in its history: on 25 July 2000, it crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, France. All one hundred passengers and nine crew members on board the flight died. On the ground, four people were killed and one seriously injured.

The event encouraged criticism and discussion on the overall safety of the project, and contributed to the decrease of an already slim consumer market that could afford it.

The 9/11 terrorist attack in New York was the last straw, and two years later Concorde took its last flight.

Since then, rumors have occasionally been heard about the possible return of the supersonic aircraft, last one being the Dubai’s Emirates Airline. Alas, economics prevailed, as Tim Clark, president of Dubai Emirates Airline put it: “the cost of operating those jets and the charges that would have to be made to the corporate community are too high.”

The cold war’s dream of beating a common enemy has been changed with today’s need for efficiency and high profits.

Pier Paolo Lisarelli

Petition to ban Melissa Bachman from entering South Africa goes viral

Credit Melissa Bachman's Facebook Page

Credit Melissa Bachman’s Facebook Page

AN image of Melissa Bachman, a professional hunter and media personality with a slaughtered lion has gone viral. The image was posted on Bachman’s personal Facebook page. The by-line of the photo read as follows –

‘An incredible day hunting in South Africa!! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!’

A spokesperson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: ‘ Maybe the public backlash against her revolting photos will help Bachman realise that dressing up like a Laura Croft wannabe, slaughtering wildlife and then posing for photos does not make her a strong and powerful woman’.

PETA continued by stating that ‘Hunting is cruel and completely devoid of sportsmanship. It takes no courage or character to stalk and kill trapped animals.’

Bachman hunted and killed the lion at the Maroi Conservancy, Limpopo. The safari park is on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe and offers safari and farming holidays to its customers. The website contains pricelists, accommodation information and photos of previous customers and their trophies. The hunter pays a rate of €280 per day for a minimum of seven days. Prices vary between species that can be hunted in the park, with the hunter paying per trophy received. Prices vary from €50 for a baboon up to €12,000 for a buffalo. Certain species are available for hunting after obtaining a permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Bachman celebrates her hunting career through her Facebook page, personal website and blog. Her personal photo album contains pictures of dozens of trophy animals; including a zebra, an Illinois buck, crocodiles and an Alaskan brown bear. The user comments underlying the graphic photos highlight the accepted hunting and arms culture in America.

Credit Melissa Bachman's Facebook Page

Credit Melissa Bachman’s Facebook Page

Bachman has been condemned by stars such as Ricky Gervais, who is a prolific Twitter user.  Gervais has received mass response from his over 5.25million followers’ database.  Bachman keeps her Facebook profile public and has 19,742 subscribers to her page.

Credit Ricky Gervais Twitter feed

Credit Ricky Gervais Twitter feed

Bachman stars on the television show, Deadly Passion. The show has released 13 episodes, with each episode focusing on different animals in various locations. Since her involvement in hunting went viral Bachman has received death threats and insults on Twitter, resulting in her account being closed down.

Elan Burman from Cape Town, SA, started a petition online with Change.org. The petition is entitled; The Government of the Republic of South Africa: Deny future entry to Melissa Bachman. The petition has received over 245,500 signatures and the numbers are constantly rising. It is available to sign on Change.org, and offers the option to share on your Facebook and Twitter profiles.


Katelyn Cook