A DUP politician from the North today launched a scathing attack on wind farms – saying the people of Ireland don’t want them.MLA Jim Wells was speaking at the meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly which is in session at LYIT in Letterkenny today.A number of executives from wind farm companies from Ireland and Britain have addressed parliamentarians from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, the Isle of Man and Jersey. The meeting – chaired by Donegal Deputy Joe McHugh – will continue tomorrow.Having listened to the wind farm companies, Mr Wells described them as ‘monstrosities.’He said the people of Ireland, north and south, don’t want them.The Assembly member said they had destroyed the countryside in his South Down constituency. He also said the idea there was no carbon footprint from wind farms was wrong because one was produced during their manufacture.“There’s also a perception that because of opposition to wind farms in Britain, that the problem is being exported to Ireland,” said Mr Wells.The Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to address the 46th Plenary Session of the Assembly this afternoon.There is a large Garda presence in and around Letterkenny today.Protestors are due to arrive at the LYIT at 2.30pm. BRITISH-IRISH ASSEMBLY: DUP POLITICIAN LAUNCHES SCATHING ATTACK ON WIND FARMS was last modified: March 4th, 2013 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:BRITISH-IRISH ASSEMBLY: DUP POLITICIAN LAUNCHES SCATHING ATTACK ON WIND FARMS
Umps are getting better, and they’re also remarkably consistent. An ump who makes more accurate calls in one year will likely do the same the next; an ump who misses more calls in a given season will likely be as bad the next. Umpire accuracy is more steady than a player’s batting average or a pitcher’s ERA, and as consistent as OPS (on-base plus slugging) and wins above replacement.To see how this works, look at the performance of Lance Barksdale and Tim Welke. While they both follow the league’s general trend of increased accuracy — more about that later — they have, respectively, been one of the best and one of the worst umpires over the past seven years. The difference between Barksdale and a league average ump is about five correct calls per game; the difference between Barksdale and the league’s worst umpire is closer to 10 calls a game. On average, that’s about one judgment call per inning that a good ump is getting right and a bad ump is getting wrong. That might not sound like much, but if once every six outs a batter gets another swing after a third strike that wasn’t or a pitcher strikes a hitter out on a pitch that’s actually a ball, you can start to see the impact.Given their differences, umps develop reputations. Near the end of infielder Mark DeRosa’s 16-year career, he knew what to expect from the umpire calling balls and strikes. “You gain knowledge over the course of being in the big leagues for the course of a couple of seasons,” he said. “You understand which umpires are a little bit wider in their zone, who are a little bit more north-south, who’s going to force the pitcher to come tight.”Before games, he and his teammates would even talk about what they could expect during the game: “A comment would be passed back and forth, whether we should be pulling the trigger tonight or ‘this guy is normally a hitter’s umpire and likes to force the pitcher to come back over the plate, so let’s be a little bit more picky with what you’re going to swing at.’ ”An umpire who understands what calls he is missing is an ump who can improve. “It was amazing how my perspective of the strike zone changed when I got this technology,” Dellinger said. “I thought pitches were on the plate, until you get that data back. You see that some of those pitches were not on the plate. It wasn’t something that was done intentionally. It was just your perception of the strike zone. I was able to quickly make adjustments based on having that information, which was huge to me.”Seeing the data, however, can make fans less charitable. “They see a pitch that is out of the box, and they think, ‘Aw, he’s a bad umpire,’ ” Dellinger said. “I’m thinking, ‘You should have seen it 15 or 20 years ago.’ ”He’s right — ump accuracy has improved since 2008. But it has been on only one type of pitch: strikes.While umps call balls no differently than they did seven years ago, they’re accurately gauging strikes at much higher rates. This distinction is so large that Brian Mills, a professor of tourism, recreation and sports management at the University of Florida, cites the increasing size of the strike zone as accounting for about half of the league’s 50-point drop in OPS since 2008. In other words, steroid testing isn’t the only change responsible for MLB’s drop in offensive output. It’s also more called strikes.While the league and the umpires association have access to data showing that specific umps tend to be better at calling balls and strikes, it does not appear that they use this information to reward those who are the most accurate with choice assignments, like the All-Star Game or the postseason.2MLB declined to make specific umpires available for interviews but did let Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of baseball operations, and Randy Marsh, director of major league umpires, talk.According to Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of baseball operations, balls and strikes play a role, but don’t write Lance Barksdale’s name into your World Series scorecard just yet. “Once you meet a standard, you’re in the mix,” Woodfork said, likening the selection process to that of the NCAA tournament. Assignments are doled out using a mix of analytics and judgment: “Balls and strikes is taken into account along with field work, rules, instant replay and handling situations. Professionalism also factors into grading umpires. The plate work may carry more weight in the evaluation, but they are all important.”If plate work is important, it hasn’t shown in playoff assignments. According to numbers from BaseballSavant.com, umps who were No. 70, 71 and 76 in the accuracy rankings (out of 79) called balls and strikes in the ALCS last year, with only one of the top 10 umps receiving a league championship series or World Series spot. And this more exhaustive look at umps also finds that postseason spots do not appear to be linked to regular-season performance. “Like any other profession, you can go up and go down, but the consistency over time often helps,” Woodfork said. “We don’t ignore what you’ve done in the past, but that year carries the most weight.” If that’s true, expect our old friend Barksdale to receive a high-profile opportunity, as his 90 percent accuracy rate through July 1 is far and away the best single-season number in our data.But while decisions on postseason spots won’t come for several weeks, MLB has already had one opportunity to reward an umpire for past performance, getting to pick a home plate umpire for July’s All-Star Game. It chose Tim Welke — the same Tim Welke who has consistently had one of the league’s worst rankings since 2008. Dusty Dellinger knows how difficult it is to be an umpire. “There’s an old saying that they expect you to be perfect from day one and get better,” the former Major League Baseball official said over the phone. As the director of Minor League Baseball Umpire Development and the Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy, he knows how elusive perfection can be.Correctly calling 140 pitches flying 90-plus mph and breaking six inches or more is a near-impossible standard. And when mistakes are made, players and managers aren’t bashful. Jonathan Papelbon said D.J. Reyburn should “go back to Triple A” after a confrontation over balls and strikes. Joe Girardi complained about inconsistency. Larry Andersen did too after he retired, labeling the men behind the plate arrogant. You don’t have to look too hard for more examples.That’s led plenty of people to wonder when robots will come for the umps’ jobs. But lost amid those blue-sky dreams is what’s happened to the way we judge the blue behind the plate. Technology has changed how we can evaluate umps. It shows that umps are getting better, that there’s a significant gap between the best and worst, and that the best umps aren’t working the biggest games.After every game, umpires receive a report from the league office that informs them about their accuracy, their correct calls, and the ones they missed. Pitchers, hitters and fans have near-instant access to information on an umpire’s accuracy, too. The chart below shows the accuracy rates for calling balls and strikes for each ump since 2008, when MLB installed the PITCHf/x tracking system in every stadium.1The data was collected from BaseballSavant.com. Umps in the data set saw at least 3,000 pitches (called balls or strikes) in each season, with a smaller restriction (1,800 pitches) for 2015.
Close That man of the people, Chancellor George Osborne, is sure to mimic Mr Robertson in giving us all some jam in the Budget on 18 March. After all, we are merely two months away from a May general election and the Conservative Party is sure to want to play its usual low tax card.I would also wager that the Blues will attempt to sway the grey vote their way with further presents for pensioners, in the form of the granting of further pension freedoms. After all, it is clear Ukip have had particular success in appealing to the fiftysomething-plus Saga generation, which has traditionally been the core of Tory support over the post-war decades.Higher personal allowance on the cardsSo lets start with the most obvious tax-oriented measures – the raising of the threshold for the paying of income tax in the form of the personal income tax allowance, currently £10,000 per person per tax year. Firstly, this is one measure the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue to agree on. Secondly, the strength of the UK economy allows Osborne to relax his fiscal shackles a little and give back to UK households.I would pitch for an immediate increase in the personal allowance up to perhaps £12,000 per year (saving all taxpayers £200 per year), with a further pledge to continue raising this threshold if the Conservatives are returned to power.Of course, some of this largesse is likely to be clawed back via indirect taxes such as higher petrol duty, given how oil prices have collapsed over the last six months or so, allowing UK motorists to buy unleaded petrol today 18% cheaper than it was back in July 2014 (Figure 2).Benefits for savers – via IsasSecondly, Gorgeous George will want to help savers, given the paltry interest rates now on offer from high street banks and building societies.The current Individual Savings Account (Isa) limit has already been raised substantially to £15,000 for the current tax year (from £11,520 previously), and is set to rise to £15,240 under existing government commitments. However, it could go further and perhaps round this amount up to a more generous £16,000, allowing savers to shield earned more interest, dividends and capital gains from income and capital gains tax.Targeting pensioners – via pension bondsRemember Pension Freedom Day is approaching with the new tax year, on 6 April.This allows those holding private pensions to liberate them once aged 55 or older, effectively offering a far wider set of financial alternatives for current or those fast approaching retirement. However, this is likely to prove very complicated for the man on the Clapham omnibus, given pensions were an impenetrable subject even before the announcement of these welcome changes.One set of pensioners who are likely to be targeted by the current government are those who have already used their private pensions to buy an annuity (a product that provides a guaranteed level of income for the remainder of ones life). The potential to trade in an existing annuity for a lump sum instead could well be a new measure introduced in this Budget, extending the liberalisation of private pensions.A second measure benefiting pensioners could be the extension of the popular Pension Bonds offered by the government-run National Savings and Investments. Currently, pensioners are limited to investing a maximum of £10,000 in each of a 1-year 2.8% bond and a 3-year 4% bond. The government could well increase the amount of these bonds on offer to pensioners to allow more to benefit from these market-beating interest rates, or to increase the amount that a pensioner can invest in each bond.Caveat voter: All budget commitments could be unwound come MayBut you would do well to remember any pre-election giveaways from the chancellor can be unwound following the May general election by any eventual winner. So it would pay not to get too excited by and long-term measures announced during the Budget.Thus far, the one fact that I can safely state is that there is a record level of uncertainty over the result of this upcoming election, with the two main parties polling less than two-thirds of the total UK vote, a post-war low (Figure 3).Greatest certainty: Another hung parliamentTaking these average poll results and translating them into parliamentary seat swing predictions, no combination of two parties (apart from Conservatives and Labour) looks capable at present of forming a majority coalition government (Figure 4).Even a putative Labour and SNP coalition would not yield the necessary minimum Parliamentary majority of 326 seats, falling short by eight MPs.So what can we conclude from all this? Firstly, any tax giveaways will be limited by the coalition nature of the government, with the Liberal Democrats putting the dampers on any excessive Tory tax cuts.Secondly, tax-free saving and pensioners should get a boost. And thirdly, the chance of an inconclusive May election is at present running very high, with the risk of even needing a second election soon after the first…There remain two months for the main parties to sway current voting intentions their way but they had better get on with it. In the meantime, make sure to use up your current ISA allowance of £15,000 by 5 April (perhaps buying exposure to the current UK and global stock market rally), or else it will be too late.Edmund Shing is the author of The Idle Investor (Harriman House), an expert columnist and a global equity fund manager at BCS AM. He holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence.
E-commerce major Flipkart said Thursday it had shut down its grocery delivery app called “Nearby”. The company shut the app due to a combination of lack of margins and poor customer demand.A Flipkart spokesperson confirmed to Mint the app had indeed shut down. The company initially promised to deliver fruits, vegetables, bath products and various other amenities within an hour from the time the order was placed on the app, started in October 2015 as an experiment. However, Flipkart did not market or promote the app.The company’s newly appointed CEO Binny Bansal is reportedly cutting costs and looking to focus on its key strengths: electronics and fashion sales, and logistics. The company trails rivals Snapdeal and Paytm, which have already started online payments services.Last month, Binny Bansal had stepped down and Sachin Bansal took over as CEO of India’s most-valued startup, The Economic Times reported Jan. 12.However, about two weeks ago it was reported that Flipkart’s head of commerce and advertising business Mukesh Bansal had resigned. Ankit Nagori, Flipkart’s chief business officer, also stepped down to start his own entrepreneurship firm, and Mukesh Bansal remains advisor to Flipkart, Press Trust of India reported Feb. 10. Founded in 2007 by Binny and Sachin Bansal, Flipkart is registered in Singapore but operates out of Bengaluru in Karnataka. In 2014, it took over Myntra.