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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kraft crumbles: stupid iSnack2.0 name for new Vegemite scrapped

Kraft has bowed to public pressure and ditched the name iSnack2.0 for its new Vegemite-cream cheese blend.

“We have been overwhelmed by the passion for Vegemite and the new product. The new name has simply not resonated with Australians. Particularly the modern technical aspects associated with,’’ said Kraft spokesman Simon Talbot.

In a statement this afternoon, the company said it would once again throw open the challenge to Australians to come up with a new name.

But the company denied it had all been a publicity stunt.

"At no point in time has the new Vegemite name been about initiating a media publicity stunt," Mr Talbot, said. "We are proud custodians of Vegemite and have always been aware that it is the people's brand and a national icon."

Thousands of the jars with the new name will be distributed to supermarkets ready to go on sale, ensuring that the soon to be scrapped name will quickly become a collectors' item.

"Our Kraft Foods storeroom currently has thousands of jars of the iSnack2.0 named Vegemite. This product will be distributed around Australia, and will continue to be sold in supermarkets for months to come - until Australia decides upon a new name," Mr Talbot said.

“Australians and New Zealanders will shortly be invited to help us make a choice. Please bear with us for the next 48 hours as we finalise how Australians and New Zealanders can decide the new name through an independent popularity vote."

The number of negative comments posted on blogs and on social networking sites is now running into the thousands, prompting Kraft to step back from the new name, which was chosen from 48,000 as part of a competition to get Australians to name the new spread.

Almost 3 million of the promotional ‘‘Name Me’’ jars were sold during the naming competition, suggesting it had been popular.

But the new name has roused almost universal indignation

Australian Pirate Party launches

After winning 7.1 per cent of Swedish votes in this year's European Parliament elections, The Pirate Party has opened up a branch in Australia and plans to contest the next federal election.

The party, which will campaign on a platform of anti-internet censorship and the decriminalisation of non-commercial file sharing, has already signed up 550 members, enough for it to register as a party with the Australian Electoral Commission.

It plans to hold internal elections for leadership positions - president, general secretary, treasurer and their deputies - on October 7.

But party spokesman Brendan Molloy was quick to point out that free file sharing was only one aspect of the overall mission, which was to "bolster our nation's Democratic conventions".

"We've here to actively change the landscape of Australian politics forever, by advocating freer copyright and protection of our civil liberties, especially against [Communications Minister Stephen] Conroy's censorship regime, which is not welcome in Australia," he said.

"We also have a strong stance for the reform of the patent system to be much fairer, especially in regards to pharmaceuticals and software."

In the European Parliament elections in June, the Pirate Party won 7.1 per cent of Swedish votes, allowing its leader, Christian Engstroem, to take one of Sweden's 18 seats in the European Parliament.

The group gained significant traction in Sweden following this year's introduction of laws that criminalised file sharing and the sentencing of four Swedes to a year in jail for running illegal download site The Pirate Bay.

In the recent German elections, The Pirate Party won 2 per cent of the vote, short of the 5 per cent required to gain a seat in the German Parliament. Spiegel Online reported that the party won as much as 13 per cent of votes for first-time male voters.

Further, in the German city council elections held in August, the group gained seats in the Munster and Aachen councils.

The party has branches in 35 countries and they all co-operate via a collective called Pirate Party International.

The Australian branch is headed by a University of Western Sydney law student, Rodney Serkowski. He was not available for comment but told ITNews he would contest the next federal election provided he was permitted to register as a political party.

The party argues that file sharing should be legalised and, far from being detrimental to artists, was one of their best means of advertising their music.

It is worried by recent revelations that Conroy is considering legislation that would have persistent file sharers disconnected from the internet.

"Our policies are all geared towards copyright reform, patent reform, anti-censorship, non-commercial file sharing, policy in regards to having Digital Rights Management abolished and policy supporting the right to privacy of every Australian," Molloy said.

Despite its clear overseas success, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft does not appear to be alarmed by the presence of the Pirate Party in Australia.

"It will be interesting to see if a party advocating illegal activity is able to contest the election," a spokeswoman said.

"If they are able, perhaps they could do a preference deal with the Shoplifting Party."

Online activist group GetUp campaigns on similar issues to the Pirate Party and has obtained more than 115,000 signatures for its petition opposing Conroy's internet censorship policy.

GetUp chief executive officer Simon Sheikh said his organisation might decide to work with the Pirate Party on campaigns but could not support any individual party directly "because we're a non-partisan organisation".

"In saying that, we believe in intellectual property reform and we believe in protecting Australia's internet from Senator Conroy's censorship agenda," he said.

A spokesman for Conroy did not respond to calls requesting comment.

Tourists using Uluru as toilet may have killed off shrimp

Tourists may have killed off a rare species of shrimp by relieving themselves on Australia's iconic Uluru, or Ayers Rock, a report said yesterday.

Biologist Brian Timms said his research had showed one species of small inland shrimp living in pools atop the monolith had become extinct while another had thrived.

"The people going up the rock somehow have affected the animals which live in the pools, possibly by peeing on the rock and pooing on the rock," Timms told state radio.

The Branchinella latzi species had not been seen on Uluru since the 1970s, and would have been susceptible to "enrichment" of the pool's water, he added.

"Certainly if (tourists) go up, they should be behaving themselves, not pooing on the rock," Timms said.

However, a species of fairy shrimp had survived, probably because it was "widespread and tough," according to Timms.

Australia is mulling a ban on tourists climbing the rock, which is a sacred part of Aboriginal tribes' creation mythology.

Tour operators claim visitors are often caught short on the arduous climb, and most had a "toilet roll tucked away" in case of emergency.

Park officials in July announced plans to end the popular climb on cultural and safety grounds, a stance endorsed by Peter Garrett, Australia's environment minister and former frontman of rock band Midnight Oil.

Signs at the site ask people not to climb the rock, out of respect for the Aboriginal community, but one-third of the 350,000 annual visitors still do so.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said it would be "very sad" if tourists were kept off the desert icon, which was handed back to Aborigines in 1985 and is one of the nation's most recognisable landmarks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

UK musician Dan Bull's musical open letter to Lily Allen

UK musician Dan Bull's musical open letter to Lily Allen, after she made comments earlier this week about how filesharing is detroying the music industry. Great stuff. Pass it on.

“I’ve also tried to outline some of the main moral arguments for filesharing in the lyrics. Hope you enjoy..”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno adventures

Cute little short-film about the sex life of bees starring Isabella Rossellini. SFW.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Stop Australian Internet Censorship!

Australia’s laws on Internet censorship are, theoretically, amongst the most restrictive in the Western world. However, the restrictive nature of the laws has been combined with almost complete lack of interest in enforcement from the agencies responsible.

We're all mutants, say scientists

Each of us has at least 100 new mutations in our DNA, according to research published in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists have been trying to get an accurate estimate of the mutation rate for over 70 years.

However, only now has it been possible to get a reliable estimate, thanks to "next generation" technology for genetic sequencing.

The findings may lead to new treatments and insights into our evolution.

In 1935, one of the founders of modern genetics, JBS Haldane, studied a group of men with the blood disease haemophilia. He speculated that there would be about 150 new mutations in each of us.

Others have since looked at DNA in chimpanzees to try to produce general estimates for humans.

However, next generation sequencing technology has enabled the scientists to produce a far more direct and reliable estimate.

They looked at thousands of genes in the Y chromosomes of two Chinese men. They knew the men were distantly related, having shared a common ancestor who was born in 1805.

By looking at the number of differences between the two men, and the size of the human genome, they were able to come up with an estimate of between 100 and 200 new mutations per person.

Impressively, it seems that Haldane was right all along.


One of the scientists, Dr Yali Xue from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire, said: "The amount of data we generated would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

"And finding this tiny number of mutations was more difficult than finding an ant's egg in an emperor's rice store."

New mutations can occasionally lead to severe diseases like cancer. It is hoped that the findings may lead to new ways to reduce mutations and provide insights into human evolution.

Joseph Nadeau, from the Case Western Reserve University in the US, who was not involved in this study said: "New mutations are the source of inherited variation, some of which can lead to disease and dysfunction, and some of which determine the nature and pace of evolutionary change.

"These are exciting times," he added.

"We are finally obtaining good reliable estimates of genetic features that are urgently needed to understand who we are genetically."

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