Associated PressTOKYO (AP) – A contentious debate over nuclear power in Japan is bringing another question out of the shadows: Should Japan keep open the possibility of making nuclear weapons _ even if only as an option?It may seem surprising in the only country devastated by atomic bombs, particularly as it marks the 67th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki three days later. The Japanese government officially renounces nuclear weapons, and the vast majority of citizens oppose them. But as Japan weighs whether to phase out nuclear power, some conservatives, including some influential politicians and thinkers, are becoming more vocal about their belief that Japan should have at least the ability to make nuclear weapons.The two issues are intertwined because nuclear plants can develop the technology and produce the fuel needed for weaponry, as highlighted by concerns that Iran is advancing a nuclear power program to mask bomb development.“Having nuclear plants shows to other nations that Japan can make nuclear weapons,” former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, now an opposition lawmaker, told The Associated Press.Ishiba stressed that Japan isn’t about to make nuclear weapons. But, he said, with nearby North Korea working on a weapons program, Japan needs to assert itself and say it can also make them _ but is choosing not to do so.Such views make opponents of nuclear weapons nervous.“A group is starting to take a stand to assert the significance of nuclear plants as military technology, a view that had been submerged below the surface until now,” says “Fukushima Project,” a book by several experts with anti-nuclear leanings. Top Stories Comments Share Japan has 45 tons of separated plutonium, enough for several Nagasaki-type bombs. Its overall plutonium stockpile of more than 150 tons is one of the world’s largest, although much smaller than those of the U.S., Russia or Great Britain.Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken conservative, has repeatedly said Japan should flaunt the bomb option to gain diplomatic clout. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed similar sentiments, although in more subdued terms.The Yomiuri, the nation’s largest newspaper, made a rare mention of the link between nuclear energy and the bomb in an editorial defending nuclear power last year, saying that Japan’s plutonium stockpile “works diplomatically as a nuclear deterrent.”That kind of talk worries Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government panel that shapes nuclear policy. Himself an opponent of proliferation, he said that having the bomb is a decades-old ambition for some politicians and bureaucrats.“If people keep saying (nuclear energy) is for having nuclear weapons capability, that is not good,” Suzuki said. “It’s not wise. Technically it may be true, but it sends a very bad message to the international community.” Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Check your body, save your life Adding to their jitters, parliament amended the 1955 Atomic Energy Basic Law in June, adding “national security” to people’s health and wealth as reasons for Japan’s use of the technology.“The recognition that both nuclear issues must be addressed is heightening in Japan,” said Hitoshi Yoshioka, professor of social and cultural studies at Kyushu University. The link between the two is “becoming increasingly clear.”Yoshioka sits on a government panel investigating the nuclear disaster caused by the March 11 tsunami last year. The subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant have called into question the future of nuclear power in Japan, in turn raising concern among some bomb advocates.Most proponents don’t say, at least not publicly, that Japan should have nuclear weapons. Rather, they argue that just the ability to make them acts as a deterrent and gives Japan more diplomatic clout.The issue dates to the 1960s. Historical documents released in the past two years show that the idea of a nuclear-armed Japan was long talked about behind-the-scenes, despite repeated denials by the government.The papers were obtained by Japanese public broadcaster NHK in 2010 and more recently by The Associated Press under a public records request. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family 5 ways to recognize low testosterone More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories In a once-classified 1966 document, the government outlined how the threat of China going nuclear made it necessary for Japan to consider it too, though it concluded that the U.S. nuclear umbrella made doing so unnecessary at the time.In meeting minutes from 1964, 1966 and 1967, Japanese officials weigh the pros and cons of signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which would mean foregoing the nuclear option. Japan signed the treaty in 1970.The government denials continued, even after former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone wrote in his 2004 memoirs that, as defense chief, he had ordered a secret study of Japan’s nuclear arms capability in 1970. The study concluded it would take five years to develop nuclear weapons, but Nakasone said he decided they weren’t needed, again because of U.S. protection.In 2010, the Democratic Party of Japan, after breaking the Liberal Democratic Party’s half-century grip on power, reversed past denials and acknowledged the discussions had taken place.Given the secretive past, former diplomat Tetsuya Endo and others are suspicious about the June amendment adding “national security” to the atomic energy law.Backers of the amendment say it refers to protecting nuclear plants from terrorists. Opponents ask why the words aren’t then “nuclear security,” instead of “national security.” ___Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama How do cataracts affect your vision?
Instructions issued to the Greek-Cypriot co-chairs of bicommunal technical committees to freeze their operations and meetings, aimed at avoiding turning their work into a substitute for a solution to the Cyprus problem, the government said on Friday.According to an unnamed source cited by the Cyprus News Agency, the instructions were to run any new initiatives by the chief negotiator’s office, not necessarily to end all work.Bicommunal technical committees fall under the remit of the chief negotiator’s office, and the source noted that “some committees continue to operate as normal, like the one on Cultural Heritage”.The clarification followed a flat denial by the government, earlier on Friday, of press reports that it ordered the Greek Cypriot heads of bicommunal technical committees to cease all operations until further notice.Commenting on a report by local daily Politis, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos had said the government has “issued no instructions to end or freeze the operations of the bicommunal technical committees, which help and support efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem” and deemed the allegations “completely baseless”.The paper’s report headlined ‘The technical committees on ice’, claimed the Presidential Palace instructed the heads of “most technical committees” to suspend operations and take no new initiatives, prompting their reaction.The instructions, it added, came in early July, following the collapse of the international Conference on Cyprus at Crans-Montana.Politis noted that the instructions were to run any new actions by the government before committing to them, in order to ensure that they wouldn’t be exploited by the other side as a “substitute to a solution”.However, already-scheduled actions, including those of the committee on cultural heritage, crossing points, and crisis-management, were to continue as normal.In response to the government’s denial on Friday, Greek-Cypriot co-chair of the committee on culture Androulla Vasiliou released the full text of the instruction, emailed to the committee Greek-Cypriot co-chairs.“Following the conclusion of the Conference on Cyprus at Crans Montana without a result, and bearing in mind the crucial ongoing phase, it is the request of the chief negotiator and the coordinator of the technical committees that you adopt a standby stance with regard to the committees’ actions and meetings,” the email said.“Discretion by everyone is deemed necessary, in order to allow (Turkish Cypriot) intentions for substantive negotiations to be revealed. Therefore, the request is that further initiatives are avoided at present, and consult with us in case any issues within your technical committee’s mandate is made public.”As a result of the instruction, one of the committee’s signature annual events – staging a play at the ancient Salamina theatre in the Turkish-held part of Cyprus – has not even been tabled for committee-level discussion yet.The play staged by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation this year is ‘Perses’, a tragedy by Aeschylus, and it should normally be slated for staging at Salamina, just like ‘Ippolytos’ in 2015 and ‘Antigone’ in 2016.But the fact that the committee has not convened meant that the issue was not even tabled, although Vasiliou has not ruled out the possibility of taking up the issue with her Turkish Cypriot counterpart soon.The technical committee on culture was set up in 2015 by a decision of President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.Its decision to stage one play annually at Salamina was met with strong criticism by opposition parties, which claimed it normalizes the occupation, and even prompted a controversial probe by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides into the money sunk in last year’s production of ‘Antigone’.You May LikeDr. Marty ProPower Plus Supplement3 Dangerous Foods People Feed Their Dogs (Without Realizing It)Dr. Marty ProPower Plus SupplementUndoPopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoE Commerce Platform I Search AdsSelling Online Has Never Been Easier. Search The Best E Commerce PlatformE Commerce Platform I Search AdsUndo Pensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoTurkish Cypriot actions in Varosha ‘a clear violation’ of UN resolutions, Nicosia saysUndoRemand for pair in alleged property fraud (Updated)Undoby Taboolaby Taboola
Hellenic Bank on Wednesday announced lowering its interest rates by 1 per cent as of March 1, after its announcement last Friday that it would do so as soon as the Central Bank of Cyprus’ proposal was issued.The reduction will apply to all loans connected to the bank’s basic interest rate, both serviced and non-performing.In a statement, the bank listed the rates to which the reduction will apply. Namely, its basic interest rate will fall from 5.25 to 4.25 per cent; basic rate on business loans and business overdrafts to 3.25 per cent; basic rate on housing loans to 2.65 per cent; and basic rate on housing loans (connected to Hellenic’s older basic rate) to 3.50 per cent.Hellenic said that March 1 would also see a reduction of 1 per cent on all credit card rates.“Hellenic Bank believes that its decision contributes one more step towards restarting the economy of Cyprus,” the statement said.“At the same time, it reaffirms its commitment to continue working with the Central Bank and the Finance ministry with a view to finding solutions to the complex problems caused by the financial crisis.”The move came on the back of a similar announcement by the Bank of Cyprus on Monday, and the Co-operative Central Bank last week.Last Monday, the Central Bank of Cyprus announced a reduction of its maximum deposit rate for commercial banks by one per cent, in hopes that it would encourage them to lower their own lending rates.“The CBC, having considered the governor’s prior consultations on this matter with representatives of the banks, is certain that credit institutions will proceed to commensurate reductions in lending rates promptly,” an announcement said.You May LikeLivestlyChip And Joanna’s $18M Mansion Is Perfect, But It’s The Backyard Everyone Is Talking AboutLivestlyUndoPopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoGundry MD PrebioThrive Probiotic SupplementCardiologist: This Is What Happens When You Eat GlutenGundry MD PrebioThrive Probiotic SupplementUndo Pensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoCruise passenger airlifted to Paphos hospitalUndoRemand for pair in alleged property fraud (Updated)Undoby Taboolaby Taboola
Categories: LaSata News 30Mar Budget increases funds for state universities, holds tuition costs down The House Higher Education Subcommittee on Appropriations today approved a budget that increases funding for the state’s 15 public universities while also tightening tuition restraint language to keep the cost to families down, state Rep. Kim LaSata announced.“I firmly believe in the importance of education and I am proud of the increased investment we were able to propose,” said LaSata of Bainbridge Township, subcommittee chair. “By keeping costs low and increasing access to education, we can better train the workforce of the future.”Overall, the budget increases funding for higher education by 2.3 percent, including a 1.9 percent increase to University Operations Grants. The Tuition Incentive Program, Michigan Competitive Scholarship and the Tuition Grant Program also received increases. In addition, the budget protects Michigan families by lowering the percentage that state universities can increase tuition for Michigan students, and adds new reporting requirements for sexual assault incidents that occur on campus.“The increases we made are an investment in Michigan’s students and lead our state down a path towards more jobs, higher personal incomes, and a healthier economy,” LaSata said, “I look forward to advocating for our budget in the coming weeks and demonstrating how responsible increases to higher education can eventually make Michigan a top ten state.”The higher education budget bill now advances to the House Appropriations Committee.###
State Rep. Aaron Miller of Sturgis today announced his in-district office hours with local residents.“I‘m excited for the opportunity to connect with the people in our community and hear what matters most to them,” Rep. Miller said. “I look forward to listening to my neighbors, addressing their concerns and working together on solutions.”Rep. Miller’s office hours are on Monday, Oct. 30 at the following times and locations:6 to 7:30 a.m. at Rachael’s, 300 E. Chicago Road in White Pigeon;8:30 to 10 a.m. at Caruso’s Candy Kitchen, 130 S. Front St. in Dowagiac; and11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at LA Coffee Café, 145 W. Michigan Ave. in Three Rivers.No appointments are necessary to attend office hours. Those unable to attend may contact Rep. Miller’s office at (517) 373-0832 or AaronMiller@house.mi.gov. 24Oct Rep. Miller schedules in-district office hours Categories: Miller News
23Jan Residents can meet with Rep. Webber on Jan. 25 Categories: Webber News State Rep. Michael Webber will host his monthly office hours on Friday, Jan. 25 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Panera Bread, 37 S. Livernois Road in Rochester Hills.“I am thankful for the chance to connect with neighbors and hear about their top priorities,” Rep. Webber said. “I always look forward to learning more about what’s most important to residents of the Greater Rochester area.”No appointment is necessary. Those unable to attend may contact Rep. Webber at 517-373-1773 or via email at MichaelWebber@house.mi.gov.
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesJanuary 10, 2014; Bureau of Labor Statistics In the midst of the confusing muddle of statistics in the December jobs report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost nothing has been written about the disturbing trend concerning the employment conditions of persons with disabilities. Between December 2012 and December 2013, the labor force participation rate of men with disabilities between 16 and 64 years of age declined from 34.2 percent to 30.6 percent. For women, the labor force participation rate declined from 28.6 percent to 27.7 percent. The labor force participation rate for all persons with a disability 16 and older declined from 20.5 percent to 18.7 percent. The fact that so many persons with disabilities are leaving the work force reflects just how “rocky” the job market is for the disabled, according to Shaun Heasley writing for Disability Scoop. Conservative critics have been writing about the increase in the number of persons receiving disability benefits as a reflection of the welfare state’s disincentives to work. In fact, the number of disabled workers receiving support from the nation’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund reached 8,942,584 in December 2013, an increase of 1.3 percent from the previous year, but an increase of 52.2 percent over the decade. The notion that an average monthly payment to a disabled worker—in December, $1,146.43—is a substantial distinctive to avoid work is hard to imagine, but that is the concept that animates the critics.More troubling was last week’s 205-count indictment of 102 New York City firemen and policemen for participating in a massive Social Security fraud, faking psychiatric illnesses over a 26-year period. Some of the alleged perpetrators claimed disabilities incurred from their roles as first responders to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011. Eighty of the 102 were police and fire department retirees, rather than current workers unable to work due to their disabilities. The coverage of the New York indictments has provoked almost giddy reactions on the parts of critics of employment compensation that the disability insurance system is one of rampant fraud. In truth, the system is one of stringent eligibility, requiring recipients to be both “fully insured” (having worked for at least one-fourth of their adult lives) and “disability insured” (having worked in at least five of the previous ten years), severely impaired (suffering from a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least five months and is expected to last at least 12 months), and unable to perform “substantial work” (meaning earning more than $1,040 a month—or $1,740 for the blind). The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains the growth in the numbers of people receiving disability insurance payments as due not to a flood of fakers, but to the aging of Baby Boomers (now reaching their 50s and 60s, the peak ages for disability insurance) and the increase in the participation of women in the labor force overall. How then to explain the latest proposal of the U.S. Senate—concocted in this case by Democrats, the generally reliable Jack Reed of Rhode Island and supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—to pay for a one-year extension of unemployment benefits by cutting benefits for persons with disabilities? This would be part of the budget “offset” that Republicans are demanding in return for the extension of unemployment benefits that were eliminated in the federal budget agreement last month. The notion is that workers who collect disability payments but also earn a tiny amount of wages or receive other benefits are “double-dipping.” Oddly, President Obama proposed the same in his FY2014 budget proposals. A coalition of nonprofits, including the Arc of the United States, Goodwill Industries, Easter Seals, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Disability Rights Network, issued a letter last week condemning the offset proposal, noting that less than one percent of disability insurance recipients “double dip” and receive unemployment insurance benefits as well, and that this practice has been accepted by both the Social Security Administration and the courts as legitimate. As the letter explains, “Individuals who do receive concurrent benefits do so because they have significant disabilities that make them eligible for DI, and because they have also attempted to work at a low level of earnings but have lost their job through no fault of their own.” Nonetheless, the double-dipping argument has gained traction among our nation’s legislators, including Senator John McCain’s support for the offset idea and Senator Chuck Schumer’s declaration that the idea of people receiving both DI and UI is simply “wrong.” The critics of double-dipping are operating under a major misunderstanding of both programs. Disability insurance and unemployment insurance are meant as bridges to employment, not substitutes for jobs. For the 117,000 persons who receive both disability and unemployment benefits, the average combined annual benefit is all of $13,200—hardly a mammoth disincentivizing alternative to a decent job’s paycheck. But critics will use the increase in the DI rolls and the scandal of New York scammers to buttress their arguments that it is okay to cut disability payments—unless more nonprofits than just the disability advocates speak up with the facts. They had better speak up fast, because it looks like the Senate could agree to cut disability insurance payments today.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share3Tweet6ShareEmail9 SharesBy Disney [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsNovember 7, 2017; Boston GlobeAs political and corporate motivations muddy the public’s access to information, the environment for journalists and the press grows increasingly hostile. Earlier this week, NPQ ran a story on the closing of Connecticut’s CT-N, which airs state legislative sessions and public hearings. Connecticut’s governor expressed concerns that the drastic state budget cuts that led to its closing were a thinly disguised legislature move to restrain “editorial liberty.” Also making headlines last week was the closing of DNAInfo and Gothamist immediately following the journalists’ vote to unionize.On Tuesday, the Walt Disney Company reversed its recent decision to bar critics from the Los Angeles Times from attending press screenings amid growing backlash from journalists and film critics. Disney shut out the L.A. Times news outlet after it published an investigative report on the company’s relationship with the city of Anaheim, home to its Disneyland resort. The report detailed potentially oversized subsidies and incentives Disney receives, as well as the corporate giant’s influence on local elections.Disney, stating the report “showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” quickly moved to bar L.A. Times film critics from the early access to its movie premieres they’d need to write film reviews. This act drew immediate and strong reactions from major news outlets, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the A.V. Club. Celebrities and journalists, including director Ava DuVernay, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, and Washington Post film journalist Alyssa Rosenberg took to Twitter to voice their support of the Times. Prominent film critic associations released a joint statement on Tuesday saying that until the ban was lifted, Disney films would not be considered for year-end awards:Disney’s actions, which include an indefinite ban on any interaction with the Times, are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists.The response to Disney’s blacklisting demonstrates an intolerance and coordinated resistance to suppressing information that’s in the public interest—as well as to the corporate strong-arming that, ironically, is part of what Disney wanted to refute in the L.A. Times piece.Rosenberg seemed to sum up the general sentiment behind the press response. “I like a lot of movies that come out of the Disney corporate behemoth,” she writes, “But I like journalistic independence from corporate influence more. This is a fine price for me to pay for it.”—Danielle HollyShare3Tweet6ShareEmail9 Shares
Share26Tweet8Share2Email36 SharesDecember 5, 2017; New York TimesWhen Trump announced his decision to drastically reduce the public lands associated with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, originally designated by Presidents Clinton and Obama, he crowed, “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington…And guess what? They’re wrong.” Trump then went on to give a speech full of misleading claims implying that he was claiming public land back from the government for use by real people.At least three lawsuits have already been filed to stay the president’s decision—one by the five native American tribes that supported the Bear’s Ears monument, one by a group of paleontologists, and one by a group of wilderness organizations in defense of Grand Staircase. Perhaps they do not represent what the administration considers to be “real.”In response, the most recent corporate-based protest of decisions made by this administration is now being waged by Patagonia, REI, and other outdoor clothing and equipment retailers, which sees Trump’s decree to slash the two national monuments’ land by more than 2 million acres as a call to arms for them and their customers.We just lost millions of acres of protected land. But we remain united as a community. Join us in solidarity by changing your profile pic to this photo. #UnitedOutside pic.twitter.com/czvyIgPgi6— REI (@REI) December 4, 2017This is not the first time that outdoor gear corporations have organized together to express a set of values shared across corporate boundaries. When Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, Patagonia, REI, North Face, and many others were among the signers on an open letter criticizing Trump’s decision. And some are putting up money; Canadian company Arc’teryx announced it would donate the net proceeds of its US after-Thanksgiving eCommerce sales to The Conservation Alliance and will donate another $30,000 to the Alliance’s Public Lands Defense Fund, which is working on legal strategies to save the land. North Face, meanwhile, has pledged $100,000 to develop a Bears Ears Education Center and is engaging their customers in a Kickstarter campaign that by yesterday afternoon raised nearly $124,000 from 1,700 people.Patagonia is also engaging its customers in the fight. “The president stole your land,” a pop-up message reads on its website. “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”Patagonia’s activism has a broader form; not only has it donated millions over the last two years to support groups that protect public lands, but it led the advocacy to move the massive Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show out of Utah and into Colorado after the governor expressed his lack of support for the Bears Ears Monument.“This is a company that knows exactly what it stands for,” said Anthony Johndrow, chief executive of a reputation advisory firm in New York. “They’ve already established what their values are, so when something like this comes down the line, they don’t have to think twice before they act.”—Ruth McCambridgeShare26Tweet8Share2Email36 Shares
Share63TweetShareEmail63 Shares“Neighbors,” C.K. HartmanOctober 23, 2018; Color LinesSeven years ago, the Texas state legislature passed enormous budget cuts to women’s health in a concerted effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Shortly thereafter, legislation passed saying that no provider of abortion services could participate in its Healthy Texas Women network, the state Medicaid program. While there is little argument that the intention of the budget cuts was to defund Planned Parenthood, in reality, the legislation caused 25 percent of the state’s overall family planning clinics to close, not just Planned Parenthood clinics. Those that remained open struggled to stay afloat, being forced to reduce office hours or charge patients, essentially cutting off access to care for women.Moreover, the legislation effectively blocked Planned Parenthood from participating in the state Medicaid network, which provided women’s health services for 40 percent of the state Medicaid network’s patients. Currently, less than half of the Planned Parenthood clinics that existed in 2011 remain today.These sweeping changes alone were enough to cause devastation to women’s health efforts in Texas. In fact, Texas was used as a cautionary tale of what would happen if the federal government defunded Planned Parenthood. Now, a new report out of the Texas Observer indicates an alarming lack of access and oversight in the state. According to the Observer, “Almost half of the approximately 5400 providers in Healthy Texas Women didn’t see a single patient in the program in fiscal year 2017, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Of the 2900 providers that did see patients, more than 700 saw just a single person. Only about 1500 saw more than five patients. Of the 27 providers that served 1000 or more, 11 were labs, which don’t actually see patients and advocates say skew the data.”While the number of providers in the network has increased, it is merely a vanity metric. The number patients served in the network actually decreased. The Observer says, “Though the number of providers increased from just over 1300 in the predecessor program in 2011 to about 5400 in Healthy Texas Women in 2017, the average number of patients seen by each dropped from 150 to 85 during that time, as the state replaced large providers with small ones.” It should be noted that Planned Parenthood was a provider in the predecessor network, serving more than 40,000 patients each year in the state program.Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this situation is that the data seems purposefully shrouded in mystery. For instance, HHSC changed how patients are counted, making it difficult to accurately compare the number of patients served before and after Planned Parenthood was defunded. Without accurate data, advocates face an incredibly steep uphill battle to effect change. Meanwhile, over a million women who need access to these family planning services cannot obtain them.—Sheela NimishakaviShare63TweetShareEmail63 Shares
France Telecom/Orange and advertising agency Publicis Group have teamed up to launch a new venture capital fund to finance and develop digital economy startups.The pair have committed to jointly invest €150 million in the fund, and will invite other investors to join with a target of reaching €300 million.The fund’s targets for investment will be companies focusing on digital technology, content and services, including online marketing, e-commerce, mobile content and services, online gaming and social networks, as well as supporting technologies including middleware, cloud computing, security, and online payments.Seed capital and early-stage investment will target fledgling companies in France and Europe, with investments of up to €1 million. Later-stage financing for more established companies in France and Europe will provide up to €15 million, while at a later stage the fund may opt to invest in start-ups outside Europe, alongside American or Asian partner funds.Separately, Orange has acquired a 34.15% minority stake in Cascadia, the company newly formed to hold radio group Skyrock’s web operations, for €14 million. According to Orange, where Skyrock.com is the leading blog platform in France among the 12-24 age group in terms of pages viewed, recording nearly one billion page views per month.
Cable operator UPC Poland has added Canal Plus Poland’s on-demand service to its video-on-demand line-up.Canal Plus Na Żadanie is the 10th on-demand channel in UPC’s VOD service. UPC On Demand currently offers a choice of about 450 films including over 60 features and documentaries in HD, as well as almost 1,000 free programmes. UPC also offers VOD channels from TVP, TVN, Discovery, Filmbox, Nat Geo, HBO, Disney, Cartoon Network and Sundance Channel.
Roku has added BBC catch-up service iPlayer to its UK service. The over-the-top service said it was about to make a raft of other content announcements as it ramps up activity in Europe. “This is among the first of many significant content partnerships for Roku in Europe and we look forward to making additional announcements in the coming weeks,” said Clive Hudson, vice-president and general manager for Europe at Roku.In the UK and Ireland Roku’s set-tops retails at £49.99 (€60) and £99.99 and allow customers to access iPlayer, Netflix, Crackle and other streamed content on their TV as well as browse the internet and play casual games.
Croatian cable operator B.net has added the Mediaset Italia channel to its line-up.The channel, which provides content from Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4, is aimed at the country’s Italian minority. The channel will be part of B.net’s extended package. Separately, B.net has moved the Motors TV channel from its extended package to its sports package.
Polish cable operator INEA has added three HD channels from broadcaster TVN to its programming line-up.INEA has added movies and series channel TVN 7 HD, female-focused lifestyle channel TVN Style HD and male-focused TVN Turbo HD to its high-definition line-up. INEA has about 40,000 HD-equipped subscribers in total.
German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 has inked a distribution deal with Swiss cable operator UPC Cablecom.The agreement will see the Swiss versions of Sat.1, ProSieben and Kabel Eins air on the service in high definition. The channels will launch in June and is the latest carriage deal between the two companies.
Movie network Shorts International has hired former MGM Channel Central Europe executive Philip Mordecai as president of its European operation.Mordecai, who was previously general manager of the MGM-owned network and has also held roles at ChelloZone, SES and BSkyB, will be in charge of growing the short movie channel’s business in Europe and will report to CEO and founder Carter Pilcher.Shorts International launched in Europe earlier this year, launching a standard definition, HD and video-on-demand library via UPC Netherlands. The channel, which is available via DirecTV and AT&T in the US, is also available in France via Numericable, in Turkey via TTNET and in Belgium and Luxembourg.“Philip brings with him comprehensive experience in television that incorporates a forward-looking perspective that will greatly contribute to accelerating our growth. We are immensely thrilled to have him join the Shorts International family,” said Pilcher.
Lithuanian service provider Teo is allowing TV subscribers to create their own packages, with the option to choose any six of the 27 channels currently available in the operaror’s current Gala TV extra packages.Subscribers to the basic Gala TV package of over 50 channels will be able to select their favourite channels from a range of movie, entertainment, sports, factual and kids channels to create their own package, dubbed Mano Rinkinys (My Package) for LTL6 (€1.74) a month.Subscribers with Motorola VIP 1003 digital set-top boxes will be able to select their own packages from the onscreen menu, while customers with other boxes are being given the opportunity to exchange their receivers.Currently, about a third of Gala TV customers upgrade from the basic offering to take a thematic package on top.“Customers increasingly appreciate the possibility to make their own ‘menu’ of TV programmes individually, according to their needs. They give preference not to the number of channels, but to the content that suits their personal needs,” said Nerijus Ivanauskas, chief marketing officer of Teo.Teo is joining a minority of European service providers that let customers choose their own channels. Last year, IPTV provider Lattelecom in neighbouring Latvia allowed its basic customers to customise their packages with the ability to add between and eight additional channels.
The UK’s Freeview DTT platform returns almost £80 billion (€97 billion) to the economy and delivers more value per unit of spectrum than mobile broadband, according to a new report by Digital UK. The not-for-profit organisation claims the research “challenges the view that mobile broadband delivers more value from airwaves than television” as policy makers in the UK and Europe mull the possibility of freeing up more spectrum for the mobile market.“Digital UK and its members (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva) are urging government to ensure any further transfers of airwaves do not weaken Freeview and other terrestrial TV services, and that viewers should not suffer disruption or foot the bill for making the changes,” said Digital UK.In a joint letter that accompanies the new report, BBC director general Tony Hall, ITV CEO Adam Crozier, Channel 4 CEO David Abraham and Arqiva CEO John Cresswell also stressed that terrestrial services like Freeview were necessary for the UK to remain a “world leader in television.”“This report sheds new light on the value of DTT for viewers, the UK television sector and wider economy. With increasing demand for spectrum it is critical that DTT remains a strong proposition with the same coverage and range of channels viewers enjoy today,” said Digital UK chief executive Jonathan Thompson.The report, which was commissioned by Digital UK, but carried out by media and telecoms consultancy Communications Chambers, claimed that DTT supports 15,000 jobs in broadcasting and independent production in the UK.It also said that DTT provides £79.8 billion to the UK, more than was previously estimated, and drives innovation and investment in programme-making at the same time as keeping consumer costs down.In terms of value, the report claims that the average value per MHz of spectrum for DTT is 50% higher than for mobile data, and claims that mobile “already has a far greater allocation of spectrum than DTT.”“The increasing availability of free WiFi means mobile networks only carry 18% of mobile device traffic,” adds Digital UK.Digital UK was formed by UK broadcasters to help consumers to switch over to digital TV. From last year, the organisation has also started to manage strategy and policy for digital terrestrial television in the UK.
Sky Sports has extended its broadcast partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board by two years, until 2019.The new deal will extend Sky’s cricket partnership into its 14th year and covers England Test matches, all one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches, some women’s and England Lions matches, as well as at least 60 days of domestic country cricket matches each summer.“We’re passionate about our commitment to the game, including the men and women’s England teams and the County set up, and we’re delighted to extend our partnership with the ECB,” said Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports.“Since 2006, our viewers have enjoyed the incredible successes of the England team, including three Ashes victories, winning the ICC World Twenty20 and becoming the number one Test team in the world. We look forward to continuing the partnership until at least 2019.”