The Central African Republic: silencing the press

Credit GlobalPost

Credit GlobalPost

Conditions for journalists have deteriorated quickly in the Central African Republic. The country was ranked 65th in Reporters Without Borders’s 2013 Press Freedom Index, ahead of countries like Greece and Bosnia Herzegovinia.

In October, Reporters Without Boarders reported there have been “arbitrary arrests and serious threats targeting journalists in the country since the Seleka rebels came to power.”

The NGO reported that “there has been a major escalation in harassment, threats and intimidation against journalists with privately-owned media, which is being carried out or encouraged by the authorities”.

Amnesty International released a detailed report concerning human rights abuses in the country on October 30th of this year. The October report was damning and painted a portrait of a failed state in need international intervention: “The security forces are out of control and urgent action is needed by the national authorities and the international community to establish law and order”.

Amnesty international told News Anois they currently have no representatives on the ground but are hopeful they will have people back in the country documenting what is happening by Christmas.

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

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News Anois bites

Hannah Popham 

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 

Should Ireland join Britain in re-evaluating cycling safety?

Credit Paolo Lisarelli

Credit Pier Paolo Lisarelli

650 police officers have been deployed around London in a bid to enforce awareness and cycling safety. Officers have been stationed at various busy areas during rush hour.

The number of officers is set to be raised to 2,500 over the coming weeks and will stay in place until after Christmas. The officers will issue penalty notices to people breaking traffic rules. Helmets and hi-visibility vests are not a legal requirement but officers will be pushing cyclists to use these safety precautions.

The clamp down on cycling safety comes as a result of six deaths over 14 days in London. Each incident involved a lorry, bus or coach.

The incidents in London have caused widespread recognition of the importance of cycling safety and the controversy of mandatory bicycle helmets. A spokesperson for Cycling Ireland said “there is no doubt that wearing a helmet saves lives. However, it is important that the onus of safe cycling is not solely on the cyclist”.

Boris Johnson caused controversy across the cycling world by stating he wants to ban the use of headphones while cycling. This ban would encourage cyclists to become more aware of their surroundings and potentially lessen the amount of cyclists killed on public roads.

Ireland does not currently have laws regarding helmets, hi- visibility wear or headphones while cycling. Dan Martin, an Irish profession cyclist for Team Garmin- Sharpe, said “The blame/claim culture means if you don’t wear one [a helmet], the first thing they will say when you crash is ‘were you wearing a helmet’ but until I was pro I never wore one.” Martin continued by saying the helmet can often create the illusion of invincibility in the cyclist and the real concern should be driver’s awareness.

He stated “it makes people think they are safe if they have their helmet on. When in reality it does very little. It will somewhat protect against fracture and abrasions but concussion they are useless.” Martin is required to use a helmet when racing and acknowledges the issue of headphones while out on busy roads: “I wore headphones once training and it scared the hell out of me. You don’t realise how much you use hearing on a bike”. Cycling Ireland agreed with the movement towards a safer cycling environment for Irish cyclists. A spokesperson for Cycling Ireland concluded by stating that “Increased awareness should lead to fewer incidents, accidents are not caused by not wearing a helmet; they are caused by bad drivers or bad cycling”.

Katelyn Cook

Great demand for Xbox One and PS4

Credit Techradar.com

Credit techradar.com

With Christmas around the corner there are two gaming consoles which have taken over the technological universe. There has been a great demand for Microsoft’s Xbox One since its release last Friday.

“The demand has been pretty high, it’s up until after Christmas the demand is” said one Gamestop employee, who was somewhat taken aback by the desire for the product. The employee stated “it was falling behind at first but now it’s after creeping back up. I think it’s because people can’t get the PS4 (Play Station 4), they decided to go to Xbox.”

In addition to this more than one million Xbox One games consoles were purchased in the first 24 hours of being on sale in the UK and 13 other countries.

While there has been a great deal of requests for the Xbox One it would appear that Sony’s Play Station 4, which will be released this Friday, will be even more popular again. “A higher demand, a way higher demand. We have a lot more pre orders on PS4’s” admitted Gamestop’s worker.

The popularity of the PS4 will also cause the business some issues. The Gamestop employee advised “Yeah it’s backlogged until after Christmas, I think you’re looking at the end of January at the earliest to get one now.”

The Xbox One is priced at €499.99 whilst the PS4 can be bought for €399.99.

John Lillis

No snow on Christmas Day

Credit Irishtimes.ie

Credit irishtimes.ie

Notorious weather forecaster Ken Ring, who successfully predicted the July heat wave back in January and our extreme winter of 2010, expects snow in December but Ireland will miss out on a white Christmas. The New Zealander uses the moon, sun and tidal activity to make his forecasts.

Talking to the Irish Examiner, Ring says “Some southern areas may get isolated heavier falls but these are not expected to be widespread. There will be a sudden downward plunge into sub-zeros in the last few days of November. The first serious cold spell is in the last few days of November with the possibility of widespread snow on or near the last day”.

“There may be chances of snow in the last days of the year and the first few days of January, in the third week of February and in the first week of March” he said.

The weather expert is not expecting the arctic conditions of 2010 to return.

A Dublin City Council spokesperson, along with the Stephen Smith from NRA (National Road Authority), confirmed that they have increased their stock pile of salt since the severe winter of 2010. Their current stock pile is 2200 tonnes, with a reserve of 2000 tonnes. From October until March the Dublin City Council monitors road conditions and responds once temperatures reach below 1 degree Celsius. They cover approx. 300 km of Dublin city roads concentrating predominantly on key roads, bus routes and emergency routes, but housing estates are not included. Once in operation, 80-100 tonnes of salt could be used on a severe night.

Last week, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., and Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D. launched the Government’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ 2013-2014 Information Campaign at the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Dublin. Advice from Government departments, the Gardaí, the HSE, local authorities and transport providers will now be available on the website www.winterready.ie.

The campaign intends to provide practical advice on how best to prepare for the coming winter. It aims to ensure the public are aware of where advice and help can be found if needed and to reassure the public that arrangements have been put in place to ensure that there will be a coordinated response to severe weather events.

The weather, as un-predictable as it is to most of us, remains unthreatening. Most of us can rest assured if Ring’s predictions are true, along with the comprehensive preparations in place at the NRA and Dublin City Council, a severe winter doesn’t pose a threat.

Lilah Gaafar