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Microsoft tops export table


MICROSOFT was the biggest exporter from Ireland last year, as the information technology sector continues to dominate trade in Ireland.

According to the Irish Exporters Association’s (IEA) annual Top 250 survey, Microsoft was comfortably the busiest firm in Ireland during 2012, sending goods and services worth €13.7bn overseas during the year.

That was €1bn more than Google, who exported €12.5bn worth over the same period.

IT companies dominate the list, making up five of the top 10, and nine of the top 20 firms overall.

Microsoft’s trade levels increased 37pc in the past year, driven in part by the rollout of the company’s Windows 8 operating system and its increase in software and consulting services.

Dell, which still has a PC manufacturing business but is morphing into more of a consulting business, was fourth.

The computing giant, which is at the centre of a takeover battle, exported some €9.9bn worth of goods and services.

Outside of IT, pharmaceuticals and life sciences are by far the second biggest sector doing business overseas in Ireland.

The US firm Johnson & Johnson is the third biggest trader in Ireland, with exports worth €10.5bn leaving the country every year. Seven of the top 20 fall into that category.

The list is dominated by foreign multinationals, with few indigenous firms featuring high up. There are some exceptions, however.

Packaging firm Smurfit Kappa Group, which is based here but has operations around the world, is the biggest native-Irish exporter. It sells goods and services worth €7.4bn a year – good enough for fifth overall. Kerry Group is eighth with exports worth €5.7bn a year, but that is more than double Glanbia, which is the third biggest exporting Irish firm in 17th place.

IEA chief executive John Whelan pointed to the continued growth in the IT sector in Ireland, and warned that Ireland was failing to fill all the vacancies being created by the sector.

“Total IT exports grew 12pc in the past year, maintaining Ireland’s place as the second-largest exporter of computer and IT services in the world,” he said.

“The continuing rapid growth in the sector, which now employs 75,000 people in 8,000 companies, will require an increase in the availability of software developers and engineers.

“Recruitment demand is currently for computing and electronic engineers and the expansion and replacement demand for these skills is estimated at 2,500 per year.

Minimum

“Co-ordinated, sustained actions by the third-level institutions will be required to ensure a doubling of the output of graduates, which is the minimum to ensure that recruitment difficulties do not become the bottleneck to restrict export and FDI growth in the sector over the coming years,” he added.

Exports from the pharmaceuticals sectors jumped 42pc between 2006 and 2011, but slipped back 2.5pc last year, partially due to the patent cliff.

The IEA, however, warned we had yet to experience the full effect of the patent cliff, and the drop was likely to continue into 2013 and beyond.

Investec’s Aisling Dodgson, who helped compile the report, said recent growth in the amount of exports from indigenous companies had been boosted by the weak euro vis-a-vis sterling and the US dollar.

via Microsoft tops export table – Independent.ie.

As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point


7796132926_5e196a0848-2586-20130506-131Well, the Bradley Manning trial has begun, and for the most part, the government couldn’t have scripted the headlines any better.

In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there’s a reporter character named “Sam Miller” played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power. He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you’re doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you’re probably eating Chumpbait.

There’s an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you’re running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.

The Trials of Bradley Manning

The CNN headline read as follows: “Hero or Traitor? Bradley Manning’s Trial to Start Monday.” NBC went with “Contrasting Portraits of Bradley Manning as Court-Martial Opens.” Time magazine’s Denver Nicks took this original approach in their “think” piece on Manning, “Bradley Manning and our Real Secrecy Problem”:

Is he a traitor or a hero? This is the question surrounding Bradley Manning, the army private currently being court-martialed at Fort Meade for aiding the enemy by wrongfully causing defense information to published on the Internet.

The Nicks thesis turned out to be one chosen by a lot of editorialists at the Manning trial, who have decided that the “real story” in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lax of good due diligence vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.

“With so many poorly protected secrets accessible to so many people, it was only a matter of time,” Nicks wrote. “We can be grateful that Bradley Manning rather than someone less charitably inclined perpetrated this leak.”

Dr. Tim Johnson of the Telegraph took a similar approach, only he was even less generous than Nicks, calling Manning the “weirdo [who] tried to bring down the government,” a man who was “guilty as hell” and “deserves to do time.”

“Private Manning was a self-absorbed geek who should never have enjoyed the level of access that he did,” Johnson wrote. He went on to argue that Manning’s obvious personality defects should have disqualified him for sensitive duty, and the fact that he was even hired in the first place is the real scandal of this trial:

His personality breakdown was there for all to see – criticising US policy on Facebook, telling friends, “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment”, and even entertaining “a very internal private struggle with his gender”. He told hacker Adrian Lamo that he “listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.” You go, girl.

All of this shit is disgraceful. It’s Chumpbait.

If I was working for the Pentagon’s PR department as a hired press Svengali, with my salary eating up some of the nearly five billion dollars the armed services spends annually on advertising and public relations, I would be telling my team to pump reporters over and over again with the same angle.

I would beat it into the head of every hack on this beat that the court-martial is about a troubled young man with gender identity problems, that the key issue of law here rests inside the mind of young PFC Manning, that the only important issue of fact for both a jury and the American people to decide is exactly the question in these headlines.

Is Manning a hero, or a traitor? Did he give thousands of files to Wikileaks out of a sense of justice and moral horror, or did he do it because he had interpersonal problems, because he couldn’t keep his job, because he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, because he was a fame-seeker, because he was lonely?

You get the press and the rest of America following that bouncing ball, and the game’s over. Almost no matter what the outcome of the trial is, if you can convince the American people that this case is about mental state of a single troubled kid from Crescent, Oklahoma, then the propaganda war has been won already.

Because in reality, this case does not have anything to do with who Bradley Manning is, or even, really, what his motives were. This case is entirely about the “classified” materials Manning had access to, and whether or not they contained widespread evidence of war crimes.

This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.

Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names.

Slate was one of the few outlets to approach the Manning trial in a way that made sense. Their story took the opportunity of the court-martial to remind all of us of the list of horrors Manning discovered, including (just to name a very few):

During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports…

There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers…

In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff…

This last incident was the notorious video in which our helicopter pilots lit up a group of civilians, among other things wounding two children in a van, to which the pilots blithely commented, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”

Except that there had been no battle, none of the people on the street were armed, it was an attack from space for all these people knew – and oh, by the way, we were in their country, thanks to a war that history has revealed to have been a grotesque policy error.

It’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle. It’s lines like this, truly horrific stuff that’s evidence of a kind of sociopathic breakdown of our society, that this trial should be about. Not Manning’s personal life.

Unfortunately, the American people would rather make it about Manning, because they know they were complicit in those and other murders, because they loudly brayed for war in Iraq for years, no matter how often and how loudly it was explained to them that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not the same person.

Hacks like Johnson reassure the public that they have the right to have the results of their own moral decisions kept well hidden from them. His kind of propaganda soothes people into believing that Manning was just a freak and a weirdo, a one-off kink in the machinery, who hopefully will be thrown in the hole forever or at least for a very long time, so that we don’t have to hear about any of this awful stuff again. At the very least, according to Johnson, we shouldn’t have to listen to anyone call Manning a hero:

At the centre of the storm is a person who one suspects should never have been in uniform, let along enjoying access to military intelligence, who has blundered into the history books by way of a personality crisis. Incredibly, some people actually want to celebrate him as a gay icon. Who next, the Kray twins?

Wow. We’re the ones machine-gunning children, and yet Manning is the one being compared to the murdering Kray twins? And Jesus, isn’t being charged with the Espionage Act enough? Is Manning also being accused of not representing gay America skillfully enough on the dock?

Here’s my question to Johnson: What would be the correct kind of person to have access to videos of civilian massacres? Who’s the right kind of person to be let in the know about the fact that we systematically turned academics and other “suspects” over to the Iraqi military to be tortured? We want people who will, what, sit on this stuff? Apparently the idea is to hire the kind of person who will cheerfully help us keep this sort of thing hidden from ourselves.

The thing is, when it comes to things like the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, whether it’s Bradley Manning or anyone else, any decent human being would have had an obligation to come forward. Presented with that material, you either become part of a campaign of torture and murder by saying nothing, or you have to make it public. Morally, there’s no option.

Yes, Manning went beyond even that. One can definitely quibble about the volume of the material he released and the manner in which he released it. And I get that military secrets should, in a properly functioning society, be kept secret.

But when military secrets cross the line into atrocities, the act of keeping these secrets secret ceases to have much meaning.

The issues to be debated at this trial are massive in scope. They’re about the character of the society we’ve all created, not the state of mind of one troubled Army private. If anyone tries to tell you anything else, he’s selling you something.

via As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone.

Can you Trust big Business? Practicing the most stark acts of corporate inhumanity -Pharmaceutical Giants


Pharmaceutical Giants

‘There were times not long ago that drug companies were merely the size of nations. Now, after a frenzied two-year period of pharmaceutical mega-mergers, they are behemoths, which outweigh entire continents. The combined worth of the world’s top five drug companies is twice the combined GNP of all sub-Saharan Africa and their influence on the rules of world trade is many times stronger because they can bring their wealth to bear directly on the levers of western power.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable industries in both the US and Great Britain. Gross Profit margins of some of the leading pharmaceutical companies in recent years has been around 70 to 80 percent [1].

The global drugs market is controlled by corporate behemoths such as Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, Merck & Co, Pharmacia, Novartis, Johnson&Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, American Home Products, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, GlaxoSmithKline and Allergan. Their market domination enables them to dictate drug prices . In past years, pharmaceutical prices have risen faster than the rate of inflation. The fact that there is very little price elasticity (the elasticity of demand tells us how much the quantity demanded changes when the price changes) associated with price increases is a major factor contributing to the high profitability of the pharmaceutical industry. A patient will not change the demand for a product with a small change in price when there are no close or available substitutes. Actual manufacturing costs of medicines are relatively low [2].

The big pharmaceutical companies’ profits can be even higher due to limited competition in the pharmaceutical industry caused by strict patent laws [when a company owns a patent for a key drug, profits can mount up since the company faces no competition] and high barriers for small firms [new competitors] to enter the industry. In addition, through a recent and ongoing wave of mergers and acquisitions the big companies intensify the process of consolidation [limiting competition in the so-called free market even further]. Also, more frequently strategic alliances (less costly than mergers and acquisitions) are being formed with small biotech companies in order to reap the (new) economic benefits biotechnology offers. The drug giants cannot keep track of all new developments themselves, but want to keep their pipelines full

Tomorrow: Can you Trust big business? A look at Pfizer Inc

via Corporate Watch : Overview : Overview.

via Corporate Watch : Overview : Overview.

Major drug companies lobbied Kenny over HSE scheme


The Government was subjected to an intense lobbying campaign by the pharmaceutical industry earlier this year over a HSE decision not to approve for payment new drugs and medicine.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was warned the decision could have implications for 25,000 jobs and future investment.

Early this year, the HSE decided not to reimburse new drugs that had passed all regulatory stages and were becoming available for use in patients. They included drugs for treating skin cancer and cost up to €85,000.

In correspondence with Mr Kenny, up to 20 multinational drug firms claimed that the HSE move was portraying Ireland negatively and could have “unintended consequences” for Ireland.

The details have emerged against a backdrop of continuing controversy over the price of medicines and Government efforts to curb costs, including the cost of drugs. A recent survey found that the cost of some medicines here is among the highest in the world.

Price referencing

It has also emerged that the price paid for drugs in Ireland is of critical importance for pharmaceutical companies as it influences the price in many other countries, both within and outside the EU, as part of an international price-referencing effect.

Earlier this year the HSE argued that no specific budget had been provided to it to pay for the cost of new drugs and medicines coming on the market after approval.

However, the multinational drug companies argued that a ban on reimbursing new drugs by the HSE represented a breach of a supply agreement with the State.

In June Minister for Health James Reilly reached an interim deal with the pharmaceutical industry that involved reductions in the price of certain off-patent medicines. He claimed this could save up to €20 million in a full year.

As a condition of the agreement the HSE was obliged to add to its list of items for reimbursement “drugs which in the normal course of events would have been approved under its schemes”.

In effect, this meant that the HSE could not refuse to pay for drugs for financial reasons.

In October the Government secured a full agreement with the pharmaceutical industry which it said could generate €400 million in savings over three years. In return for making price concessions, the pharmaceutical companies reinforced the principle that new medicines will be approved under the HSE’s drug schemes once they have been proven to be cost effective.

Strong representations

However, new documents released by the Government show that Mr Kenny received strong representations on the cuts by leading pharmaceutical companies. The letters had been written in February and March and many struck a similar tone.

In one, the president of Eli Lilly, John C Lechleiter, was concerned that “your Government’s recent decision not to reimburse new medicines puts at risk this aspiration and portrays Ireland negatively to inward investors such as Lilly”.

Mr Lechleiter pointed out that Lilly employed more than 700 people in Ireland in two manufacturing sites. “I believe further price cuts and a blanket ban on reimbursement of new medicines could have a number of unintended consequences for the wider Irish economy.”

The chairman of Johnson and Johnson, William C Weldon, told Mr Kenny in a letter: “When new medicines are scientifically and independently judged to be of value and improve health outcomes, it is imperative that they are made available to Irish patients.”

via Major drug companies lobbied Kenny over HSE scheme – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 10, 2012.

via Major drug companies lobbied Kenny over HSE scheme – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 10, 2012.

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