Friday, 19 November 2010

World gone mad: 'Should this woman have an abortion? Vote now'

The fate of an unborn child might be decided by a number of anonymous online web users, after a married American couple set up a website inviting people to cast their vote on whether the woman should have an abortion.

Alisha Arnold and her husband Peter, who live in the American city of Minneapolis, are unsure if they can combine parenthood with full-time careers and have decided to let the public make the decision for them. Now Alisha is 17 weeks pregnant the decisive moment is slowly approaching: the last votes will be counted on December 7, two days before she reaches the 20-week cut-off for a legal abortion in the State of Minnesota.

They upload scans and pictures of the foetus regularly and doctors have told them it is a healthy boy. On her website, Alisha asked herself: “we vote on everything from president to American Idol, so why not to continue or abort a pregnancy?”

Visit to cast your vote

Thursday, 11 November 2010

City life can be a lonely bitch

Yesterday night I watched a show on tv called Royle Family: behind the Sofa - on GOLD Channel - where they discussed a recent survey about family life in the UK. The presenter disclosed that family units in London are the most lonely and isolated of all 92 counties in the United Kingdom. Surprised?

According to the survey, more than 20% of London teenagers said ‘not to respect their parents at all’ and an equal proportion does not get along with siblings. Compare that to the north (Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland) where a fifth beyond the age of 24 still live with their parents. And in the midlands (Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Shropshire) this is even a third (34%).

In the south, however, more than 40% has left home by the time they turn 20 and that percentage is even higher in London. This surprised me, since the average London lifestyle is – by far – the most expensive in the UK, if not in the whole of Europe. Having said that, the presenter gave as one of the possible explanations that education levels in the north are much lower, and that more people in the south have a degree. People with higher education qualifications tend to move out sooner (for example, when they go to uni or for a job change) and, generally, earn more money - so they have the funds to move out.

In Newcastle or Preston, parents are ‘lucky’ compared to the south, more than 20% of northerners claim to visit - or be visited by - their parents every day, a figure that is less than 10% in the south. Overall, families in the north spend more time together and argue less frequently, the presenter continued. They also share more interests than people in the south.

Christmas: family time? With Christmas coming up in less than seven weeks, the research showed that northern family units will be spending the most time together, over 65% will spend the holidays in the company of their (extended) family, compared to less than 40% in the south. And it’s not just during Christmas, 60% of the northerners enjoy a family meal at least three times a week - in the midlands even 65% - compared to relatives in London, where only 1 in 3 has a ‘regular weekly family meal’.

The programme said the survey had merely focused on British-born residents with most of the extended family living in the UK. If the large immigrant, foreign and expat communities in the British capital – to whom I belong – were included in the examination, figures would have been even lower, since most of their families are based overseas, which makes it is impossible to ‘stop by for a chat’ or have a family meal three times a week.

While the presenter was busy making his slot remarks, I tried to justify this given fact by concluding that family time should be about quality, not quantity. A lame excuse perhaps, but it still works for me.

Royle Family: behind the sofa - every Wednesday at 9 pm - GOLD Channel

Friday, 5 November 2010

Time out (for US' online gambling industry)

Since 2009 there have been glimmers of hope the United States might move towards a legalisation of online gambling. Since the online market was outlawed in 2006, huge efforts have been made to bring back online gambling. 

Expectations in and outside the United States were raised with the introduction of two bills in Congress in the last 18 months. The Democrat Barney Frank submitted in May 2009 HR2276 and not long after that his fellow Democrat Robert Menendez introduced S1597. Both legislative pieces aim to bring online gambling activities back to the US and would make it possible for operators to re-enter this potentially lucrative market under strict requirements. 

Operators and businesses became increasingly hopeful on 28 July of this year, when the Financial Services Committee of the House of Representatives approved Frank’s Bill. Many in favour of regulation believed legalisation had become a serious possibility and though the financial climate – the US being desperately in need of funds and the federal government’s active search for new revenue sources – could be the final push to a ‘yes’ vote. 

Three months down the line, however, many experts believe it is unrealistic to expect any bill to succeed anytime soon. Speculation might have been building and a number of legislative proposals submitted, but the moment has passed.

With the mid-term elections in less than a month, the chance of any legislation being passed before the elections is practically zero. “I’m not optimistic”, Frank said last month, pointing out that the busy House of Representative Fall schedule simply does not allow a vote before the elections. 

If the outcome of the elections will indeed be a reflection of the current polls – Republicans are expected to win and the Democrats to lose their majority in both houses - things are not looking good for those in favour of regulation. Not one leading Republican has plans to overturn the legislation passed in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which banned online gambling in the US. 

Most Democrats ignore the issue or have spoken out against regulation, since many American voters believe (online) gambling to be immoral and see it as a dangerous spare time activity. After the elections, no heavyweight in US politics - Democrat or Republican - is expected to put regulation of online gambling on top of the agenda anytime soon, certainly not in the run-up to the presidential election in 2012. It is simply not a priority. Frank and Menendez will become lonely voices at Capitol Hill and their bills will in all probability be buried in the bottom drawer. Realistically, that means the next opportunity for a serious attempt to regulate will most likely not take place until the Spring of 2013.

The information in this editorial might be outdated, since it was first published in World Online Gambling Law Report magazine, London 2010. Copyrights apply.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Business unusual

China is well-known for the trade of exotic animals, and parts of the animals. Think of rhinoceros horn or bear bile. Now sea turtle guitar picks are being offered too. Last week Qing Song was convicted by a Californian Court to violate US laws, because she had imported turtle shells of the hawksbill turtle as well as guitar picks from China. Judge Breyer has ruled she has to spend 10 months in prison, pay a $2000 fine for her remarkable business activities and has been forbidden to ever sell the animal - or parts of it - again.

The Hawksbill turtle is very rare and hardly seen. It is considered to be one of the most endangered turtle species in the world and is listed under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. They are considered to be 'extremely endangered' - one step above being extinct in the world. 2010 (c)