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Maynooth University and TCD speakers win Irish Times Debate final awards



Maynooth University students Rí Anumudu and Chikemka Abuchi-Ogbonda were crowned team champions of the 61st Irish Times Debate competition at the event’s grand final on Saturday night.

The individual speaker’s award went to Gabrielle Fullam of the TCD Historical Society.

The event, Ireland’s longest-running third-level debating competition, took place at an outdoor black-tie event in the gardens of the Museum of Literature Ireland, St Stephens’s Green, Dublin.

Speakers were competing for the Demosthenes Trophy for best team, and the Christina Murphy Memorial Trophy for best individual.

The runner-up team was made up of Kate Maher and Megan O’Driscoll of the TCD Philosophical Society, while the runner-up speaker was Daire McMullin of the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (Sadsi).

Speakers were assessed across a range of competencies including the reasoning used, the examples and rebuttals offered, and how well arguments were made.

The motion for the debate was “This House Believes privacy is dead”, and was chaired by Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The debate was opened by Tony O’Halloran of the UCC Law Society, who, arguing for the motion, said privacy was currently undergoing “a postmortem”.

“The industrial revolution was fuelled by the destruction of our planet,” he said. “Today’s technological revolution isn’t fuelled by coal and steel. It is fuelled by data. This data is you. Your hopes. Your fears. Your thoughts.

‘Privacy is dead’

“Environmental concerns stood in the way of the industrial revolution, so we ignored them. Privacy stood in the way of the technological revolution so we killed it. Privacy is dead. This debate is not a diagnosis or a surgery. It is a postmortem.”

Much of the focus from the speakers against the motion focused on the definition of “privacy”.

Winner Ms Anumudu suggested that while Big Tech may have access to people’s social preferences, the “persona” of the individual remains outside their grasp.

“Essentially we care more deeply about the living, breathing image we have carefully curated than the stagnant factoids that make up our data,” she said.

Also speaking against the motion, Mr McMullin of Sadsi told the audience: “If you have any doubt about the vim or vigour of privacy, just ask members of the proposition if you can have their email password, or – better yet – ask them to turn on their Zoom cameras when they are attending lectures from their beds.”

Ms Fullam of the TCD Historical Society, arguing against the motion, focused her argument on the concept that privacy is not dead “because the information is incorrect”, and touched on racial profiling scandals on the part of US law enforcement agencies to support her point.

“The California gang database contains the names and details of over 150,000 suspected gang members,” she said. “In 2016, it was ruled to be full of unsubstantiated and incorrect entries, mainly affecting Black and Latino residents.

“The database, fuelled by machine-learning algorithms, had recorded the names of 42 babies under the age of one of being self-described gang members.

“Being born in the wrong part of LA, with the wrong name and the wrong skin, said more to law enforcement officials than you could ever articulate yourself.

“They will not even wait until you are old enough to speak to decide what you have to say.

‘Totally fabricated’

“The proposition wants you to think privacy is dead. That the surveillance state knows you better than you know yourself. But what they fail to understand is that for millions of people around the world, the data collection is not just biased or warped, it is totally fabricated.”

The judges were Paul O’Neill, editor, The Irish Times; Dr David Kenny, associate professor, Law, Trinity College Dublin and team winner in 2008; Clíodhna Ní Chéileachair, individual winner in 2016; Dara Keenan, team winner in 2017, and Aishling Kinsella, individual runner-up in 2019.

Previous winners of the debate, which was first held in 1960, include broadcaster Marian Finucane, comedian Dara Ó Briain, writer Gerry Stembridge and the late Adrian Hardiman. President Michael D Higgins and former president Mary Robinson were finalists.

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Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again



Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.

“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.

“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”

Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.

“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”

‘It has been a struggle’

Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.

“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.

“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”

Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.

“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.

‘We can’t wait to open’

In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.

During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.

“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”

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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday



In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy



US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.

Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.

Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.

The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.

Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.

Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.

According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.

And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.

The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.

The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.

Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.

Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.

The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.

Kelly’s private life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.– AP

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