Aug 24
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Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?

Aug 24
Reasons Calling A Plumber For Help With A Clogged Drain Can Be Best

byAlma Abell

Anytime there are clogged drain problems in a home, it can be a very stressful experience for the homeowner. Not only do they have to worry about the damage a backed up drain can possibly cause to the home and the things within it, but they also must try to figure out how to correct the problem as quickly as possible. Because of this, very often a homeowner will decide to try to correct the problem on his or her own.

There are many ways a homeowner can correct a drainage problem in their home. Plungers will often work to move the clog and allow water to begin draining once again. If the clog does not respond to a plunger, a hand held plumbing snake can sometimes be used to dig out the clog and free it from the pipes. In addition, there are home remedies such as using a combination of vinegar and baking soda to remove the blockage. While some of these techniques may work, often the results are only temporary and the clog will reappear later on.

When this type of problem happens, it is best for a homeowner to contact a professional company, such as Drain Right Services, for assistance with the problem. Many times a clogged drain may be the result of issues deep inside the pipes of the home. In order to correct this type of problem it will generally require heavy duty equipment used by a professional who understands how to use it properly.

Most plumbers will first begin work on this type of problem by sending a special type of camera into the pipes of the home. This camera will allow the plumber to see exactly what is causing the blockage in the pipes and this will allow them to choose the right type of tools for the job.

Many clogs are caused by a buildup of hair, food scraps and grease, which has become lodged deep in the drain pipes. In this type of situation, a plumber may need to use a heavy-duty auger, which can reach the clog and tear it up so water can move freely. In some cases, the clog may be caused by a buildup of grease, soap scum and other organic matter, which is lining the interior of the pipes. Often the plumber will need to use a hydro jet to clean this matter from the pipes completely.

Aug 23
Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control
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Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

Aug 23
International forces in Dili reach agreement
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International forces in Dili reach agreement

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The international forces in East Timor have reached an agreement about the coordination of the military and police forces in the field. Representatives of the four countries reached the agreement during an urgent meeting after an incident between Australian and Portuguese soldiers yesterday.

In the agreement reached between Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Portugal and the Timorese government, operational autonomy is given to the international forces, which will operate in cooperation and coordination with each other.

The agreement also stated that in an initial phase Dili will be divided into sectors, and each area will be under the control of an international force. Outside of its area of responsibility, the military or police force will only be able to operate if other international forces request their actions. Also was agreed that the police forces will assume total control of the city after the military forces leave their current occupied positions. A situation that is expected after the arrival of the remaining equipment, mainly vehicles, for the Portuguese Republican National Guard (GNR) and the arrival of the remaining Malaysian police officers and their equipment.

In an official notice, the Timorese Foreign Minister, José Ramos Horta stated that “the objective on a long run is for the GNR to operate has a tactical intervention force in all the city of Dili”.

Ramos Horta explained that “in the next days, maybe already tomorrow morning, they [the Australian, Malaysian, New Zealand and Portuguese forces] will do some coordination training, in way to assure that the four forces know exactly what each one will do”. “Since some are from the Army and the others [Portuguese Republican National Guard] are a specialized police and that they never worked together, its useful to carry out some practical exercises”, he added.

In another subject, Ramos Horta explained that the Australian soldiers that are in Maubisse, next to a rebel group lead by major Reinado, and in Gleno, Ermera, next to another group of “military opponents”, are there “containing those elements”.

“Those groups are not comparable with other people that are here in Dili and that must be disarmed”, Ramos Horta said.

“The Australian presence in Maubisse and Gleno aims in containing those groups on their areas, until arrives the moment in which the President decides that is time for also mister Alfredo Reinado and the others to put down their weapons”, he said. “This is not urgent because they are not causing problems to anyone”, he justified.

The urgency of the resolution and clarification of the command and cooperation of the international forces was originated after an incident between Australian and Portuguese soldiers. When yesterday a Portuguese GNR patrol transported three people to a temporary detention center managed by Australian soldiers.

The detainees were arrested by a GNR Special Operations team, after being caught looting a governmental warehouse, in Balide, Dili.

The Australian soldiers then refused to receive the detained men, questioning the legitimacy of the Portuguese soldiers to make arrests. The Portuguese contingent transported the detainees to the Timorese prison services in Dili.

Aug 23
Electronic voting disputed in France
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Electronic voting disputed in France

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In France, voting has traditionally been a low-tech experience: voters isolate themselves in a booth, put a pre-printed sheet of paper indicating their candidate of choice into an envelope. After officials verify the voter’s identity, the voter drops the envelope into the ballot box and signs the voting roll. French electoral law rather strictly codifies the proceedings. Since 1988, ballot boxes must be transparent so that voters and observers can witness that no envelopes are present at the start of the vote and that no envelopes are added except those of the duly counted and authorized voters. Candidates can send representatives to witness every part of the process. In the evening, votes are counted by volunteers under heavy supervision, following specific procedures.

In the past, voting machines, though authorized by law, were scarce. But this year, during presidential elections (the first round was April 22, the second is on May 6), the country is shaken by controversy about the machines intended to count about 1.5 million votes.

As in the United States, there is a group of academic computer scientists that oppose voting machines. They argue that voting machines replace a public, easily understandable counting process, where large-scale fraud would entail large-scale corruption, by an opaque process where votes are counted by machines that voters have to blindly trust. Voting machines have to be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, but this approval is based on confidential reports by private companies. Opponents to the machines point out that the Ministry was long held by Nicolas Sarkozy, who happens to be the leading candidate. Opponents also list a number of weaknesses and discrepancies that have occurred in other countries using voting machines.

All main political parties except UMP, Mr Sarkozy’s ruling party, oppose the voting machines. Some citizens have filed for court injunctions against the voting machines. Opponents have given detailed instructions that voting witnesses should check whether the machines correspond exactly to an approved type, including software versions, and fulfill all legal conditions. In a sign of the frenzy over the issue, on April 12 the Ministry of the Interior issued a last-minute authorization for a specific model (hardware, firmware). The stakes are high: votes on unapproved machines should be canceled by the Constitutional Council for the official count.

The opposition has crystallized on the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. Issy’s mayor, André Santini is a well-known technophile; his city organizes a “World E-Gov Forum”. Here too, last minute fixes are at work. The machines delivered to the city are of a yet-to-be-approved type. The manufacturer, the American company ES&S voting systems, is now delivering older 2005 machines. Le Monde reports that other municipalities have already replaced their recent machines by an older, approved, model.

Proponents of the machines, such as the French company France Élection, claim they are being defamed and dispute the competence of their critics. Elected officials supporting the machines claim the machines save on paper, time, and the need to find volunteers to count votes.

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Aug 18
New case of Mad Cow disease found in Canada
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New case of Mad Cow disease found in Canada

Monday, January 23, 2006

A cow in the Province Alberta, Canada, has tested positive for Mad Cow disease, said Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials on Monday.

Officials also stated that the six-year-old cross-bred cow did not make it into the human or animal feed chain.

“Last evening the…laboratory for BSE located in Winnipeg confirmed the presence of BSE in a cross-bred cow born and raised in Alberta,” said CFIA chief veterinarian Brian Evans. “The animal was detected on the farm where it was born and no part of this animal entered the food for human consumption or feed for animal consumption purposes.”

It is the fourth case to turn up in Canada since 2003.

Evans also stated that it is too early to tell whether or not export markets would ban Canadian cows and beef.

The United States has seen two cases of Mad Cow disease. The first was discovered in December of 2003 in the state of Washington. Officials later linked this case to Canada because the cow was born on a farm in Alberta. The second infected cow was discovered in Texas in 2005. The later case was diagnosed in England after earlier samples tested had shown conflicting results.

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Aug 11
UK Wikinews Shorts: December 23, 2009
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UK Wikinews Shorts: December 23, 2009

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, December 23, 2009.

Contents

  • 1 Two-year-old child in Northern Ireland dies of H1N1 swine flu virus
  • 2 Woman killed in collision with ambulance in Staffordshire, England
  • 3 90-year-old man dies after car crash in Northern Ireland
  • 4 Man dies while carrying child in railway station in Edinburgh, Scotland
 Contribute to Wikinews by expanding these briefs or add a new one.

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Aug 11
Schweinsteiger announces retirement from international football
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Schweinsteiger announces retirement from international football

Monday, August 1, 2016

On Friday, German football captain and Manchester United F.C. midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger announced retirement from international football.

Debuting in 2004, Schweinsteiger has won 120 international caps, Germany’s fourth all time most capped player. He was part of the German squad for the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France and became the first German to play eighteen Euro matches, surpassing the fourteen-match record of Philip Lahm. Schweinsteiger has played in four Euro tournaments — 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.

Schweinsteiger said, “I have asked the national team coach to not consider me for Germany selection in future, as I would like to step down from the national team. I would like to thank the fans, the team, the DFB, the coaches and the national team’s backroom staff.” ((de))German language: ?ich habe soeben den Bundestrainer gebeten, mich in Zukunft bei der Nominierung für die Nationalmannschaft nicht mehr zu berücksichtigen, da ich gerne zurücktreten möchte. Mein Dank gilt den Fans, der Mannschaft, dem DFB, den Trainern und dem Team um die deutsche Nationalmannschaft.

Schweinsteiger won the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He has featured in three FIFA World Cup tournaments — in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He has played 38 matches in major international tournaments, which is a world record. Schweinsteiger’s last match in Germany’s jersey ended in a 2–0 defeat against France in the Euro 2016 semi-final.

After Schweinsteiger announced his retirement, his former Bayern Munich teammate and German player Thomas Müller tweeted, “Thanks for 120 international caps with the @DFB_Team [German Team] and many great and shared hours with the national team” ((de))German language: ?Danke für 120 Länderspiele im @DFB_Team [Deutschland Mannschaft] und viele großartige, gemeinsame stunder bei der Nationalmannschaft.

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Aug 11
In depth: Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal controversy
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In depth: Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal controversy

Friday, May 26, 2006

Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

In February of 2006, the Savarino Services Construction Corp. proposed the construction of a seven million dollar hotel on Elmwood and Forest Avenues in Buffalo, New York. In order for the hotel to be built, at least five properties containing businesses and residents would have to be destroyed. It was not certain whether the properties were owned by Savarino or by the landlord Hans Mobius. The hotel was designed by Karl Frizlen of the Frizlen Group, and is planned to be a franchise of the Wyndham Hotels group.

Elmwood Avenue is known by the community as a popular shopping center, and Nancy Pollina of Don Apparel (who is “utterly against” the construction) claims it’s the only reason why students from Buffalo State College leave campus. Additionally, Michael Faust of Mondo Video said he did not want to “get kicked out of here [his video store property].”

In 1995, a Walgreens was proposed to be built on the same land, but Walgreens later withdrew its request for a variance because of pressure from the community. More recently, Pano Georgiadis tried to get the rights to demolish the Atwater House next to his restaurant on Elmwood Avenue, but was denied a permit due to the property’s historical value. He has since been an opponent to the hotel construction.

In the process of debating the hotel, it was thought that a hotel had previously existed on the proposed site, however; research done at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society had shown that no hotel had previously existed on the site.

Contents

  • 1 In depth
    • 1.1 The initial meeting
    • 1.2 Hotel redesign
    • 1.3 The second meeting and the planning board’s decision
    • 1.4 Threats of lawsuit
    • 1.5 Approval by the Common Council and Planning Board
    • 1.6 Lawsuit filed
    • 1.7 Proposal withdrawn
    • 1.8 Properties for sale
    • 1.9 Documents threaten hotel proposal, businesses on site
  • 2 Chronology
  • 3 Gallery
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Aug 11
Heavy hailstorms leave Sydney appearing snowed in
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Heavy hailstorms leave Sydney appearing snowed in

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Recent heavy hailstorms occurring at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon today left parts of Sydney with the appearance of being snowed in, with thick blankets of hail covering streets and sidewalks with layers of hail.

The hail was observed in the Central Business District of Sydney, where cars were observed — possibly sheltering from the worst of the downfall — under awnings on Paramatta Road, and areas in the Inner West.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Sydney Harbour weather station recorded a drop in temperature with the storm: at 4pm the temperature was 17 degrees Celsius, while the temperature reached a low at 11 degrees half an hour later.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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