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Multi-billion pound govt IT contract 'out of control' – report

RT -

In a highly critical report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that the Aspire contract, designed to streamline government IT services, went drastically over budget after civil servants commissioned more work than expected.

The contract – led by services conglomerate Capgemini, along with IT firms such as Fujitsu – has now cost the government double the amount it originally expected, jumping from £4.1 billion (US$6.9 billion) to £10.4 billion ($17.7 billion) since it began in 2004.

According to the latest figures produced by NAO, the Aspire program accounts for 84 percent of HMRC’s spending on IT.

Due to the structure of the deal, where HMRC relinquished its right to the program’s profits, Fujitsu has reaped at least £1.2 billion ($2 billion) since the initiative began.

"HMRC faces a considerable challenge to reform the Aspire contract while evolving a new approach to its technology suitable for its planned move to digital services. HMRC now has minimal time contingency to do this before the Aspire contract ends in June 2017" the NAO warned.

Aspire, the latest in a series of troubled Whitehall technology projects, provides around 650 IT systems in order to collect income tax and national insurance, costing taxpayers £813 million ($1.3 billion) every year.

The program will expire in 2017, following new government rules stating that departments should not be dependent on a small number of IT companies when outsourcing work.

At an inquiry held on Tuesday, Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said that HMRC’s management of the contract was “unacceptably poor,” claiming that £5 billion ($8.5 billion) had been spent recklessly.

“It is deeply depressing that once again a government contract has proved better value for the private companies involved than for the taxpayer,” she said.

She added that the department’s “lack of skills” meant it was too heavily dependent on contractors to conduct its work.

“All this gives me little confidence that HMRC’s senior team has the capability to manage large and complex contracts,” Hodge stated.

However, HMRC has hit back at Hodge’s claims, stating that the extra costs were incurred because of the government’s reforms to welfare and child benefits, which require the use of real time information.

An HMRC spokesman said the department will “continue to improve the performance of the contract over the next three years.”

Pro-Life Nurse-Midwife Who Won’t Prescribe the Pill Sues Family Planning Center for Not Hiring Her

Socialism OnLine! -

URL: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/07/21/sara_hellwege_sues_tampa_family_health_centers_pro_life_nurse_says_her_religious.html

Pro-Life Nurse-Midwife Who Won’t Prescribe the Pill Sues Family Planning Center for Not Hiring Her. Sara Hellwege is a nurse-midwife in Tampa, Florida, who opposes the use of some of the most effective and female-controlled forms of contraception, such as the birth control pill. Despite that position, Hellwege applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. When asked by the human resources director about her affiliation with an anti-contraception group called the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired. Now, Hellwege is suing, with the backing of the Christian right organization Alliance Defending Freedom handling her case...

Topic(s): Geography:  Vote Up/Down

Islamic scholars speak out against expulsion of Iraqi Christians

RT -

Fleeing Christians described being stopped by gunmen on the outskirts of the city and robbed of their possessions, suggesting the militants were implementing an order for Christians to leave behind everything they had. That was the final straw for many, including Zaid Qreqosh Ishaq, who was forced to flee with his family.

"We had to go through an area where they had set up a checkpoint," he said. Islamic State group militants "asked us to get out of the car. We got out. They took...our things, our bags, our money, everything we had on us,” he told AP.

With nothing more than the clothes on their backs, Ishaq's family fled to St. Joseph Church in the northern Kurdish city of Irbil. But they may be forced to move to camps that have been set up for the flood of Christians trying to escape the violence.

The Christian community has been living in the Mosul area for nearly 2,000 years. Now the city is under the control of Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), who formed the Islamic State (IS) in the regions of the country they captured. The militants imposed a deadline last Saturday for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or face death.

Such treatment of the Christians has led to criticism from moderate Sunni Islamists, including the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

"The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) condemns the forced expulsion of the Christian brothers of Iraq from their homes, cities and provinces," the group said in a statement posted on the website of its leader, the influential cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, on Tuesday.

"These are acts that violate Islamic laws, Islamic conscience and leave but a negative image of Islam and Muslims,” the group added.

The IUMS comprises of senior Sunni religious scholars from around the world who have moderate views of Islam. They reject the Islamic State as being too extreme and say its doctrine contradicts the true teachings of Islam. It also denounces the militant group's declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria as illegal under Muslim law, saying that such a development can only be made after enough legitimate representatives of Muslim peoples have pledged their allegiance.

The Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, relayed its ultimatum from mosque loudspeakers and spray painted Christian properties with the letter "N" for Nasrani, or Christian, residents said.

The UN said on Sunday that at least 400 families from Mosul – including other religious and ethnic minority groups – had sought refuge in the northern provinces of Irbil and Dohuk.

Mosul is home to some of the most ancient Christian communities, but the number of Christians has dwindled since 2003. On Sunday, militants seized the 1,800-year old Mar Behnam Monastery, located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Mosul. The resident clergymen left for the nearby city of Qaraqoush, according to local residents.

Noel Ibrahim, who fled Mosul last week with his family, said gunmen from the Islamic State stopped cars and stole cash and gold from women inside.

"One of the gunmen told us, 'You can leave now, but do not ever dream of returning to Mosul again,'" Ibrahim told AP.

The IUMS urged the Islamic State to allow Christians to return to their homes, saying the forced expulsion amounts to "spreading discord” – a serious crime in traditional Muslim law.

"They [Christians] are native sons of Iraq and not intruders," the group said. "The aim must be to bury discord, unite the ranks and solve Iraq's problems, rather than thrusting it into matters that would further complicate the situation," it added.

The Islamic State has vowed to continue its offensive to try and capture Baghdad, although it appears to have stopped for now after overrunning Iraq's predominantly Sunni areas. However, the country's government has been unable to launch an effective counter-offensive against the militants, and politicians are still struggling to form a government after April’s elections.

In Baghdad, newly-appointed Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri said on Tuesday that the only way to tackle the growing violence is a quick consensus among feuding political parties over the selection of a new government.

"Such acts should be confronted and this can be done through the establishing of democratic institutions that will start when the president of the republic is chosen and the Cabinet is formed," al-Jabouri said.

FAA extends ban on US flights to Tel Aviv for 24 hours

RT -

Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Israel's ground operation in Gaza

“The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to US civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible,” the FAA said in a statement according to AP.

The decision was taken following a warning from the FAA after a rocket fell on the city of Yehud, located just five kilometers from the airport, Haaretz reported.

Air France and Germany’s two largest airlines on Wednesday canceled more flights to Tel Aviv because of ongoing safety concerns amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Lufthansa and Air Berlin extended their cancelations through Thursday and Air France said it was suspending its flights ‘‘until further notice.’’

The European Aviation Safety Agency said late Tuesday that it ‘‘strongly recommends’’ that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv, adding that it would ‘‘monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops.’’

Major American and European airlines suspend flights to and from Israel

British Airways, however, said on Wednesday that it has not canceled any of its twice-a-day Tel Aviv flights, and has no immediate plans to do so.

A spokesman stressed that British Airways would not fly to Israel if the airline thought it was unsafe, adding that ‘‘each airline draws its own conclusion’’ on safety.

Aviation security expert Chris Yates told AP that British Airways would have assessed the situation with input from the intelligence services and ultimately concluded that there was an acceptable level of risk. He said this may be because the rockets from Gaza ‘‘are fairly rudimentary and can’t be targeted easily at planes in flight.’’

Yates said other airlines might have canceled flights due to the possibility that rockets could strike their plane on approach or take off. He added, however, that Israel’s Iron Dome defense system makes that very unlikely.

Some airlines were forced to turn back planes on Tuesday. A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean Sea heading for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Russian airline Transaero also decided to turn back a flight bound for Tel Aviv. Flight number 311 was en route to the Israeli city but instead headed back to Moscow. A spokesman for the company said that Wednesday’s flights to Israel had also been canceled.

Airlines and passengers have been growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Clashes between Israel and Palestine entered their third week on Tuesday, and the death toll continues to increase. Reuters says the number of Palestinians killed has risen to more than 650.

Unlock your Moto X smartphone with a digital tattoo

Liliputing -

Worried you’ll get repetitive stress injuries if you keep unlocking your smartphone by tapping in a passcode or swiping an unlock pattern? Some you can use facial recognition to unlock many Android phones, Motorola’s also trying a new approach: digital tattoos. Slap a temporary, digital tattoo on a body part and for all you need […]

Unlock your Moto X smartphone with a digital tattoo is a post from: Liliputing

Researchers Print Electronic Memory On Paper

Slashdot -

MTorrice (2611475) writes Electronics printed on paper promise to be cheap, flexible, and recyclable, and could lead to applications such as smart labels on foods and pharmaceuticals or as wearable medical sensors. Many engineers have managed to print transistors and solar cells on paper, but one key component of a smart device has been missing—memory. Now a group of researchers has developed a method that uses ink-jet technology to print resistive random access memory on an ordinary letter sized piece of paper. The memory is robust: Engineers could bend the device 1,000 times without any loss of performance. The memory is not yet very dense, but could be: "Each silver dot they printed was approximately 50 microns across and separated from its neighbor by 25 microns, so each bit of memory is 100 microns on a side. At that size, a standard 8.5- by 11-inch piece of paper can hold 1 MB of memory. Der-Hsien Lien, the paper's lead author, says existing ultrafine ink-jet technology can produce dots less than 1 micron across, which would allow the same piece of paper to hold 1 gigabyte. Reading and writing the bits takes 100 to 200 microseconds"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Netrunner 14 - The perfect blend of usability and flexibility

LXer -

Linux used to be perceived as being difficult to install, difficult to use and bereft of decent applications. With the current crop of distributions such as Linux Mint, Zorin OS and Netrunner, those perceptions will forever be consigned to the history books. Netrunner 14 is easy to install, easy to use and comes packed with the best applications that Linux has to offer.

Obama administration sending military advisers to Ukraine within weeks

RT -

On Tuesday this week, the Washington Times reported that a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense confirmed plans to put Pentagon advisers in Ukraine.

“Within the next few weeks, a group of Defense Department representatives who specialize in strategy and policy will head to Kiev to evaluate specific programs that the United States may want to help bolster,” reporter Maggie Ybarra wrote for the Times.

The newspaper says that Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told the Times that the objective of sending DoD advisers overseas is to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through subject-matter expert teams and long-term advisers.”

RT reported previously back in early June that US military advisers were being offered to Kiev “to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions” and to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through training, education and assistance.”

Last month’s announcement came after the White House approved more than $23 million security assistance to Ukraine in a matter of weeks. As the crisis in eastern Ukraine intensifies, however, particularly in the aftermath of last week’s tragic plane crash that cost the lives of nearly 300 civilians, the US is once again reportedly offering assistance, this time by way of providing Pentagon advisers.

Clearly, we have an interest in what happens in Ukraine and it’s far better to have an idea of where we can maximize any support we are willing to provide,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) told the Times this week.

It’s important to keep in mind that one of the reasons we’re sending people over there now to help them establish enduring programs is because they don’t have enduring programs,” one defense official told the paper on condition of anonymity. “So two months ago, when they generated their request list, that list wasn’t a result of a well-established defense strategy.”

On Wednesday this week, The Daily Beast went even further by alleging that those earlier requests made by Kiev to the Pentagon were for “sensitive equipment to jam the radars that Russian anti-aircraft systems use to lock their missiles on planes.”

According to Eli Lake at the Beast, a former senior US official said on condition of anonymity that Kiev officials last month specifically “requested the radar jamming and detection equipment necessary to evade and counter the anti-aircraft systems Moscow was providing the country’s separatists.”

Col. Warren, the Pentagon official who confirmed to the Times that DOD advisers were being sent abroad, told the Beast that “The Ukrainian government has requested support, but we’re not going to detail the types of support they have requested.”

SpaceX Releases Video of Falcon Rocket's Splashdown

Slashdot -

First time accepted submitter cowdung (702933) writes In spite of Elon Musk's characterization of the landing as a KABOOM event. Judging by this video SpaceX has managed to land the first stage rocket booster nicely on the ocean after their Orbcomm launch on July 14th. It seems we're one step closer to a landing on dry land. Both this and the previous landing seem to have gone well. Hopefully the next landing test camera has something to deice the camera lens.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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