Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

A classic, really tugs at the heartstrings. RIP.

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o’clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying–
He had always taken funerals in his stride–
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble,”
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.


More than 50 Police Injured in Belfast Violence

More than fifty Northern Irish police officers were left needing medical attention after clashing with loyalist protestors on Friday night. Members of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) were pelted with bricks, masonry and other missiles as they patrolled the route of a controversial Republican parade held in central Belfast.

The march, which was approved by the body responsible for sanctioning marches in the six counties, the Parades Commission, had been expected to draw the attention of the loyalist community due to the highly controversial event it is held to commemorate.

It was held to remember two IRA volunteers who were killed 40 years ago when the explosives they were carrying to a site they intended to bomb, exploded accidentally in their car.

After the event, Northern Ireland’s chief constable Matt Baggot condemned the violence and challenged both Unionist and Nationalist politicians to behave as “statesmen” and not allow the rioting to affect the normal flow of politics.

“I know that 99 per cent, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night,” Baggot told a packed press conference. “Those people had no intention of peaceful protest – they lack the self-respect, and they lack the dignity”.

Baggot, who confirmed that seven arrests had been made so far, issued a stark warning to the rest of the mob, warning that more arrests are to come and that the “prisons will be bulging” once the police have completed their investigation.

In all, fifty-six police officers were injured. Most injuries are believed to be minor. Two civilians were also injured.

The violence was also condemned by Theresa Villiers, Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. “Last night’s violence and attacks on police officers were shameful. Disorder on the streets is a hugely regrettable step backwards,” she told media.

Parades are always a point of contention in Belfast, with both Republican and Loyalist events attracting troublemakers throughout the summer months, the period when most marches are held.

Last month, 12th of July celebrations – a Unionist holiday – saw Orangemen riot in the streets of Belfast, and again clash with police.

The violence comes one week after Belfast played host to thousands of police and fire personnel from around the world, who gathered in the Northern Irish capital to take place in the World Police and Fire Games.

Since the march on Friday, another Republican parade, this time in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, has passed off peacefully.

Dell committee accepts founder’s increased offer to take the tech giant private

Michael Dell’s hopes of being allowed to take the company he founded private received a significant boost on Friday after a special committee of Dell’s board agreed to accept an increased offer that would see the tech mogul tack a dividend to his original offer.

Michael Dell, along with partner firm Silver Lake, last week offered to buy the company at a price of $13.75 per share. The revised offer will see an extra 13c paid out to shareholders for each share owned.

As part of the augmented deal, Michael Dell will be allowed to avail of new, more favourable voting rules. Before, ballots which had not been marked because their holders abstained counted as votes against; the new rules will see abstainers not counted. Experts believe that the new paradigm will force those in the middle to climb down from the fence or withdraw their vote, conditions which are expected to benefit Michael Dell’s bid.

The offer will also see the prospective new owners guarantee that the company’s 8c-per-share third-quarter dividend is paid promptly.

“The committee is pleased to have negotiated this transaction, which provides as much as $470 million of increased value, including the next quarterly dividend that will now be paid regardless of when the transaction closes,” commented Alex Mandl, Chairman of the Special Committee.

Mandl also expressed his delight at the new voting system proposed by Michael Dell, saying that it provides a “level playing field” for shareholders. He explained that the original system was designed to facilitate a vote on whether to accept a bid or to maintain the status quo, and that it was not suitable for a straight yes/no ballot.

The new offer was approved just 30 minutes before shareholders were due to meet, most likely to reject the offer. Since, several angry shareholders have voiced criticism of the board’s handling of the offer, claiming that some of its members openly displayed favouritism for Michael Dell, ignoring other options.

Among the shareholders to voice their anger was Carl Icahn, who had tabled an alternative offer in conjunction with property firm Southeastern Asset Management. Icahn, who announced his intention to sue Dell on Thursday in an attempt to prevent the company from changing the recorded date of Michael Dell’s first offer, criticised the offer for falling short of what investors should have been offered.

The vote had already been delayed twice as Michael Dell could not rally enough support to make a count worthwhile.

The ballot on whether or not Michael Dell will be allowed to take the company he founded as a teen private will take place on September 12.

After the announcement was made by Dell’s board, shares in the company rose by more than 5 per cent – or 64c – to $13.65, a three-month high.

Potential Attack Prompts US State Department Travel Alert

The US State Department has issued a travel alert to all US citizens planning to travel to abroad, advising them to keep vigilant and be aware of the threat of a potential terrorist attack.

The warning, which has already prompted the US government to temporarily shut a number of its embassies around the world, focuses on the threat posed by militant groups linked to al-Qaida in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the department said, without being more specific.

“The Department of State alerts US citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring or emanating from the Arabian peninsula,” read a statement issued by the department.

“Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the statement explained.

The State Department said that the alert will remain in place for the entire month, expiring effective August 31. It said that its decision to close some embassies was taken purely out of caution and that they will remain closed beyond Sunday – a business day in Muslim countries.

The warning comes as the end of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan approaches – a period when fighting is traditionally put on hold – approaches.

Several high-ranking legislative officials have spoken out about the seriousness of the threat. Ed Royce, a Republican and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the committee is aware of “a series of threats”. “In this instance, we can take a step to better protect our personnel and, out of an abundance of caution, we should”.

House Intelligence Committee member Dutch Rupersberger said that the committee’s most important duty is the protection of American lives and that the warning was not issued as a result of the “regular chit-chat” it normally analyses.

Although the warning is aimed specifically at US citizens, its message has been heeded by a multitude of global bodies, including the European Union, which issued a statement saying it is taking “all necessary precautions” to ensure safety within its borders.

Alerts like the one today are often issued around international events or widely observed anniversaries. One of the last notable alerts was issued by the State Department last year on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, after which the US ambassador to Libya and three others were killed as protests raged in Benghazi.

Media speculation suggests that today’s alert may be somehow connected the inauguration of the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, which will take place on Sunday.

The State Department is recommending that all US citizens planning to travel abroad register their plans with the Consular Section of the US Embassy through its travel registration website and that they enrol in the Department’s Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme.

TransCanada to proceed with $12 billion cross-country pipeline

North American energy firm TransCanada Corp has revealed that it has decided to proceed with a $12 billion plan to begin transporting large quantities of oil from the west of Canada to the country’s east coast. The project, which involves constructing a lengthy new conduit, dubbed the Energy East pipeline, is the largest ever undertaken by the company and has been lauded by politicians, interest groups and industry professionals throughout the country.

TransCanada, based in Calgary, hopes to deliver 1.1 million barrels per day through its new pipeline. It hopes to begin supplying terminals in Quebec in 2017 and New Brunswick a year after. The oil will be pumped from receipt points in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Of the 1.1 million bpd that will be produced, 900 million are secured by long-term, binding commitments the company has already entered into with shippers.

Although 3,000km of the pipeline to be used is already underground, a further 1,400km of new pipes will need to be laid through Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The 3,000km already underground is currently used for gas transportation and will need to be converted.

Although the project is yet to receive full regulatory approval, it has been given the thumbs up by two provincial governments – New Brunswick and Alberta – and is hoping to secure the blessing of a third – Quebec – in the near future. It will also be subject to an environmental review.

TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling likened the project to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway, ambitious ventures which in their time delivered new economic opportunities to millions of Canadians. “This is a historic day for TransCanada and a historic day for our country,” he said.

“Each of these enterprises demanded innovative thinking and a strong belief that building critical infrastructure ties our country together, making us stronger and more in control of our own destiny.”

TransCanada’s announcement was welcomed by Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who said that the new pipeline will mean a better deal for refiners and will provide a way for the country to reduce its reliance on foreign imports.

Alberta finance minister Doug Horner also commented on the news, saying that the pipeline will have a “huge” impact throughout his province. “The impact is going to be huge because obviously if you can move a million barrels per day to the eastern seaboard and get additional markets that perhaps we weren’t looking at getting into as quickly as this, that’s going to have a pretty significant impact on investment decisions for Alberta,” he explained.

The pipeline also has its detractors. Despite receiving ringing endorsements from public officials, some critics are sceptical about whether the project can deliver the energy security and job creation its backers promise. Similar worries have already led to the delay of another project, linking pipelines in Canada with one further south in the United States. The Keystone pipeline, which could pipe 300,000 bpd between the two markets, has been awaiting US State Department clearance for several years. President Obama is expected to make a definitive decision sometime later this year.

As well as announcing that it’s green lighting the development of the pipeline, TransCanada also announced that will partner with Irving Oil in building a new export terminal near Saint John, New Brunswick. The company announced that the new terminal’s capacity will be 30 per cent greater than it had originally planned after receiving greater-than-expected interest from shippers.