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 

Green Letterbox.com provides new means of delivery

Credit Greenletterbox.com

Credit greenletterbox.com

Founded by Nick Keegan and Marcin Jernas in February 2013, Green Letterbox.com is a free online, postal system which is making strides in the Irish mailing industry. It is a service that allows its customers to receive post through a secure, confidential digital post-box.

Customers are asked to register their home address for digital postal mail. Green Letterbox.com then creates a secure connection between their service providers and their digital post-box so that providers can send their customers an electronic version of their document rather than a paper document.

The basic service is free for customers. Green Letterbox.com then makes its profits by charging organisations that send the letters digitally a small fee.

Despite setting up a new service in the midst of a global recession CEO Nick Keegan is pleased with the progress his company has made. “We have had huge growth, phenomenal.” Keegan also confirmed that his business was “on course to reach our targets.”

Keegan highlights the “digital” and “secure” nature of the service as some of the benefits of their service as well as the usefulness for customers who no longer, “have to manage paper.” The company also has an app which allows customers to use the service on their phone.

Furthermore the company emphasises its positive effect on the environment as the traditional mail industry consumes vast amounts of paper and ink every day.

Whilst Keegan is happy with the company’s progress to date he has admitted that there are difficulties in setting up such a service. “It is a difficult market to set up in. Between getting stakeholders on board and getting customers to buy into the service, it’s a balancing act.”

Green Letterbox.com is located at the IDA Business Park, Poppintree, Dublin 11. Further information can also be found on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

John Lillis

Be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help if you need it

Credit K Meighan

Credit K Meighan

WINTERY showers have hit the country this morning with temperatures predicted to plummet as low as -4C later in the week, with snowfall in particular regions.

Residents of Ulster as well as North Connacht and Leinster are being warned to be wary of these conditions and are reminded to drive with caution of icy patches on roads.

Although these harsh conditions are to be seen in parts of the country in the next few days, Met Eireann’s head of forecasting Gerald Fleming thankfully stated last week that there is no reason to believe this winter will be ‘particularly severe’, with assurance very harsh winters occur roughly once a decade.

Big freezes, major chills or large floods are not predicted for the upcoming season with Fleming adding: ‘There is nothing in the runes to suggest that it will be anything other than a normal winter, bringing its share of wet and windy weather and some frosty nights.’

Although this prediction is being welcomed by the public and government, cautionary measures are still being taken with the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning launching its third annual Winter Ready campaign earlier this month.

Up to 210,000 tonnes of salt will be in storage ready to use on the Nation’s roads with an additional 30,000 being made available to motorway operators.

Chariman of the Task Force; Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced last week that there will be ‘enough salt to keep every fish and chip shop around the country operating for over a decade.’

The ‘Be Winter Ready’ information campaign has also been set up for the benefit of the public dealing with harsh conditions this year with information from different Government departments: An Garda Siochana, local authorities, transport providers and the Health Service Executive via its website, an information booklet they are circulating as well as Twitter (@emergencyIE). The public are encouraged to join the conversation with #bewinterready.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has stated that although no sever conditions are predicted this year, ‘drawing on the experience of previous years and lessons learned, both central and local government are prepared and ready to respond to incidents of severe weather and to restore normal society’s functioning.’

Ann-Marie Donelan  

Oxford Dictionaries name ‘selfie’ the word of 2013

OXFORD Dictionaries found that usage of the word ‘selfie’ increased a staggering 17,000% in the last 12 months.

photo

All photos via J Conroy

‘Selfie’ is defined as: ‘A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with
a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.’

photo (1)

The world ‘selfie’ is only listed in the online version of The Oxford English
Dictionary. It is currently on the list of words being considered for inclusion in the print edition.

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Other words included in this year’s shortlist were ‘binge-watch’: compulsively
watching a TV series, and ‘twerk’, which presumably made a late spurt since
Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.

photo (5)

The word of the year is generally seen as a reflection of a given year. The phrase
‘squeezed-middle’ was selected in 2011, ‘unfriend’ in 2009 and ‘carbon neutral’
in 2006.

photo (6)

Is the selfie a fair legacy for 2013? Are we that self-involved?
Let us know in the comment section below!

Joseph Conroy

Kuwait tweeter convicted and jailed for five years

A Kuwaiti Twitter user has been arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.  Musaab Shamsah allegedly insulted the prophet Mohammad on Twitter in May of this year.

The tweet was understood to support Shiite beliefs in contrast to the country’s Sunni majority. The tweet has since been removed from the site.

Hamad al-Naqi, a Kuwaiti blogger, was convicted of similar crimes and sentenced to 10 years in June 2012.  Al-Naqi was accused of insulting the prophet Mohammad and his family through his Twitter account.

Al-Naqi claims his account was hacked and the tweets were not his own personal opinions.

The court’s decision regarding Shamsah is the latest incident in the Gulf Arab Nations suppression of social and political expression through social media.

Katelyn Cook

Will the Second Reduced Rate VAT be increased?

Originally published at 13:21

In the current budget it is unclear whether the food and tourism industry will be allowed to maintain the special reduced rate of 9% VAT (in comparison to 13.5% for most other industries), with the Independent suggesting a rise to at least 10%. As of an hour ago, ‘keep VAT at 9%’ on Twitter had the most retweeted posts about the 2014 budget: Adrian Cummins

15000 jobs created since @KeepVat9

2200 jobs lost @ 10%

4400 jobs lost @ 11%

6600 jobs lost @ 12%

10000 jobs lost @ 13.5%

#Budget14 PLRT’

While these facts are remarkable, it could be argued that these figures have been influenced by other factors. The 9% VAT rate introduced in July 2011 for the tourism and food industries has correlated with ‘The Gathering’, which has seen an increase of 291,000 tourists to Ireland (nearing the 375,000 figure set out by Michael Noonan in his 2012 budget). Is the 9% VAT rate really sustainable in the face of the conclusion of ‘The Gathering’, and is the aforementioned increase in jobs in the sector related to this tourism influx as opposed to VAT breaks?

Adrian Cummins, the Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, certainly thought so in a phone interview today. He said that the special band of 9% VAT was mostly responsible for the 15,000 jobs created since July 2011, with ‘The Gathering’ not impacting the creation of these jobs to the same extent. Asked whether he thought the 9% band was sustainable following the inevitable drop off in tourism at the end of 2013, he stated that based on economic research the maintenance of the 9% would benefit the industry, and that he was confident Michael Noonan would not repeal it in today’s budget. With major newspapers looking more pessimistic, however, we will have to wait until 2.30pm today to see whether this is the case.

Amended at 15:30

Stating that it is important for the Government’s fiscal policy to ‘reinforce success when possible’, Michael Noonan announced today that, in relation to the tourism and hospitality sector, he has ‘decided to continue the 9% rate of VAT for these vital sectors.’ This, coupled with the reduction in Air Travel Tax to zero from April 2014, should hopefully continue to boost the Irish food and tourism industry. Adrian Cummins’ optimism with regard to this issue was clearly well founded, and the forecasts of the Irish Times and the Independent in this case were incorrect.