Articles on this Page
- 04/25/13--11:28: _Man Claims He Was K...
- 04/27/13--06:28: _North Korea To Put ...
- 04/30/13--04:56: _North Korea Is Buil...
- 05/01/13--03:22: _Amanda Knox: 'I Was...
- 05/02/13--03:46: _Gene Linked To Migr...
- 05/04/13--07:25: _Obama To Mexico: Mo...
- 05/07/13--07:18: _Amazon Accidentally...
- 05/08/13--08:23: _Disgraced Designer ...
- 05/11/13--10:46: _ The Incredible Sto...
- 05/11/13--14:50: _The Eccentric Life ...
- 05/14/13--04:16: _Ecuador Voted The B...
- 05/16/13--04:13: _I Tried Google Glas...
- 05/20/13--04:24: _Apple CEO Tim Cook ...
- 05/20/13--07:24: _Airport Code Screwu...
- 05/21/13--07:00: _There's A New Tour ...
- 05/26/13--05:34: _Jack Dorsey Says Th...
- 05/27/13--06:13: _Europe Wants To Kno...
- 05/27/13--06:38: _Prosecutor May Prob...
- 05/27/13--08:34: _'Arrested Developme...
- 05/28/13--10:29: _The Tea Kettle On T...
- 04/27/13--06:28: North Korea To Put American Citizen On Trial
- 05/02/13--03:46: Gene Linked To Migraines Discovered
- 05/11/13--10:46: The Incredible Story Of The Man With No Memory
- 05/11/13--14:50: The Eccentric Life Of Noble Prize-Winning Physicist Richard Feynman
- 05/14/13--04:16: Ecuador Voted The Best Place In The World To Live In Retirement
- 05/16/13--04:13: I Tried Google Glass, And It Is Obviously The Future
- 05/20/13--04:24: Apple CEO Tim Cook Will Take Hard Questions From Congress This Week
- 05/21/13--07:00: There's A New Tour For Game Of Thrones Fans
- 05/27/13--06:13: Europe Wants To Know If Apple Has Rigged The Market For iPhone Sales
- 05/27/13--08:34: 'Arrested Development' Fanatics Will Love The New Season
- 05/28/13--10:29: The Tea Kettle On This JCPenney Billboard Looks A Lot Like Hitler
A man claims he was asked to disembark a Southwest Airlines aircraft for being overweight.
Matthew Harper, who weighs about 24 stone (154 kg), was reportedly asked to step off the flight from Chicago to Denver after being told it was overbooked.
He alleged a cabin crew member asked whether the 34-year-old was aware of the company’s “customer of size” policy, which encourages passengers who “encroach upon any part of the neighboring seats” and cannot fit in the 17-inch space between the armrests, to purchase a second seat prior to travel.
Mr Harper told the official he was aware of the policy, but pointed out there was still an empty seat remaining between his brother and himself. He was eventually allowed to board the plane again following further discussion.
The Texas resident, who was addressed publicly in front of other passengers, said he had “never been humiliated like this in my life,” and that he “felt like a criminal” when asked to leave the flight, according to Denver-based local TV station KDVR.
“I mean, when I got back on the plane, the only thing I could do was put my head down,’ he added.
Mr Harper filed a complaint with Southwest Airlines, a low-cost US domestic carrier, but refused the £65 ($100) in compensation he was offered. He is reportedly planning instead to take legal action.
A spokesman for Southwest Airlines has said the company plans to examine the incident.
“We sincerely regret Mr Harper’s unhappiness over his experience,” said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz.
“We have personally called Mr Harper to offer him our apologies and better understand his concerns. It’s important to clarify that he did travel as scheduled—we did not deny him boarding. Our Employee informed him of our policy, and he proceeded to travel as scheduled.”
But Mr Harper argues he was frustrated for being singled out.
“What made it worse was there was two guys on there that was bigger than me, and they didn’t get pulled off the plane,” he told KDVR.
In 2011, Southwest was criticized for telling a passenger and her mother that they were “too fat to fly” when they asked cabin crew about weight restrictions on the flight. The passengers were questioned about their weight and what size clothing they wore in the presence of more than 100 other passengers, according to MSNBC .
Earlier this month, Samoa Air, the Pacific national airline, became the world’s first airline to charge passengers by their weight, asking passengers to pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route.
The head of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, claimed the new system was fairer and that families with small children were now paying substantially cheaper fares.
North Korea has announced the trial of an American citizen who was mysteriously arrested six months ago while leading a tour group into the country.
The announcement focused attention back on Pyongyang after a near two-week lull in North Korea's sabre-rattling rhetoric.
Kenneth Bae (Pae Jun-ho), a 44-year-old ethnic Korean with US citizenship, was arrested last November as he accompanied five Europeans into the Rason Special Economic Zone, a pilot region on the border of China and Russia which is open to foreign companies.
Since then, almost nothing has been heard of him. In January, Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, and Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, travelled to North Korea to try to secure his release but were not allowed to see him.
Mr Bae's crime is not clear. However, the Korean Central News Agency announced on Saturday that a "preliminary inquiry" had been completed and that Mr Bae had "admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with hostility toward it".
"His crimes were proved by evidence," it added.
The maximum punishment for such a charge is the death penalty and North Korean officials have already suggested that Mr Bae faces harsh punishment and possibly execution.
It is not clear when the trial will be held. Under North Korea's criminal code, prosecutors are required to file a formal charge within ten days of the completion of their investigation. Mr Bae's case will be heard directly by the Supreme Court.
Mr Bae, who is believed to have lived in China, ran a travel agency called Nation Tours and had visited North Korea several times before without incident, according to Do Hee-youn, who heads the Citizens Coalition for the Human Rights of North Korean Refugees, based in Seoul. The website for Nation Tours has now been taken down.
His father is reported to live in South Korea while his mother lives in Lynnwood, Washington State. His family has declined to comment for fear of exacerbating Mr Bae's situation.
Mr Richardson, on his trip to North Korea, handed officials a letter from Mr Bae's son to give to him.
The US, which has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, has conducted negotiations for Mr Bae's release through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.
Some analysts have suggested that Mr Bae is being used by North Korea as a bargaining chip. In the past, the US has sent high-profile figures to North Korea to plead for the release of its citizens. Six Americans have been detained by North Korea since 2009.
In 2009, Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists who were arrested on the North Korean border, a moment that is enshrined in North Korean propaganda as the humbling of its historic enemy.
However, on Monday, Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said the North has not made any request for an envoy to negotiate Mr Bae's release.
The circumstances of Mr Bae's arrest are unclear, but Do Hee-youn told the New York Times that Mr Bae may have taken photographs of orphans begging for food in the markets of Rason.
"The most plausible scenario I can think of is that he took some pictures of the orphans, and the North Korean authorities considered that an act of anti-North Korean propaganda," he said. However, taking photographs has never before led to the arrest of a foreign visitor to North Korea.
According to the South Korean media, North Korean officials reportedly found a hard disk which contained sensitive information about North Korea.
Mr Bae is thought to be a Christian and his Facebook page links to an organisation in Ohio called the Joseph Connection. It describes itself as "a Christ centered, humanitarian outreach to the Least of the Least world-wide. The Joseph Connection organizes short term trips into closed or restricted countries to touch the average person."
Christian missionaries have been severely persecuted in North Korea and proselytising is an extreme crime.
North Koreans are to be given a taste of London life with a replica of Big Ben reportedly being erected in the country's capital.
Pyongyang's take on Augustus Pugin's iconic clock tower will feature in a theme park that is planned to open this year, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
The "miniature world" park, which will also boast a replica of Paris' Eiffel Tower, is reportedly part of a construction boom that began in the capital in 2010.
Last year, North Korea 's leader Kim Jong-un vowed to bring to an end decades of austerity and hardship with the slogan: "No More Belt-Tightening."
The Associated Press, which is the only western news organisation allowed to operate permanently inside the secretive state, reported that Pyongyang's "transformation" had seen its downtown areas spruced up with "glossy construction" including "department stores, restaurants and high-rise apartments." At the centre of this construction frenzy is Changjon street, in downtown Pyongyang, where a brand-new supermarket trades in Hershey's Kisses, Coca-Cola and Doritos.
"Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwi fruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants," the Associated Press reported.
"They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos and cocktails while listening to classical music."
Last month the China Daily newspaper said North Korea was also a building a "mini-golf theme park" in order to boost tourism.
But despite attempts to give Pyongyang a makeover, conditions outside the capital remain dire with food rationing widespread and the supply of electricity sporadic.
Last month, the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that around 2.8 million North Koreans were "in need of regular food assistance amid worrying levels of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity." Twenty-five per cent of North Korean children suffered from "chronic malnutrition," the report said.
"Supplies of medicine and equipment are inadequate; water and heating systems need repair, and the infrastructure of schools and colleges is deteriorating rapidly."
Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old ethnic Korean with US citizenship, is currently facing a possible death sentence in North Korea on charges that he attempted "to topple the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" during a visit last November.
The details of Mr Bae's alleged crimes are unclear but reports have suggested he may have angered authorities by taking photographs of impoverished children.
Miss Knox, 25, said she was "thinking about" Miss Kercher's family, adding: "It bothers me when people say she wasn't my friend. I was stunned by her death. She was my friend."
Asked directly by ABC News interviewer Diane Sawyer: "Did you kill Meredith Kercher?" she replied firmly "No."
The American student and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were sentenced to 26 years and 25 years in prison for the killing of Miss Kercher in Perugia six years ago.
They were acquitted on appeal and released in 2011, and she returned to her native Seattle. But in March Italian authorities overturned that judgment, and ordered another trial.
Miss Knox said her controversial actions in the aftermath of Miss Kercher's death, which included being seen kissing Mr Sollecito, had been "mischaracterised."
She said: "I think everyone's reaction to something horrible is different.
"My friend had been murdered and it could just as easily have been me. Somehow she had died in the house where we were living and it could have been me."
Miss Knox said reports that she had been seen doing a cartwheel were not true, and that she had done the splits once.
She described herself as "incredibly vulnerable" during police questioning.
Explaining why she had wrongly named an innocent bar owner to police, she said: "I am still sorry to this day that I named him. I was demolished in that interrogation."
Of her reaction to being convicted at the original trial, she said: "I was naive enough that I didn't understand the way bad things can happen to regular people for no reason. What happened to me hit like a train and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was really afraid.
"I lost it. Everything I thought I knew about the way justice and life worked was gone.
"I was in the courtroom when they were calling me a devil. It's one thing to be called certain things in the media, and it's another thing to be sitting in a courtroom fighting for your life while people are calling you a devil. For all intents and purposes I was a murderer, whether I was or not. I had to live with the idea that that would be my life."
Miss Knox said she wanted the Kercher family "to know their grief has my every respect, has the respect of my family, and we just don't want to... we don't want to invade their life and their grief.
"And I really want them to understand that my need for justice for myself is not in contradiction with theirs."
Remembering the six weeks she spent sharing a house with Miss Kercher before her death, Miss Knox said: "She talked about how she wanted to be a journalist like her dad. And she talked about her sister. And if that's all I can give them is this memory that I have of her to add to... all of theirs, that they can carry with them when she's gone."
Of an Italian court's decision to put her back on trial, Miss Knox said: "I felt like after crawling through a field of barbed wire and finally reaching what I thought was the end, it just turned out that it was the horizon, and I had another field of barbed wire that I had ahead of me to crawl through."
Scientists have discovered the first gene involved in typical migraines, which could lead to new and better treatments for the millions afflicted by pounding headaches.
Researchers found the gene after first studying the genetics of two families of migraine sufferers, allowing them to pinpoint a common genetic flaw.
To make sure that the gene is key to migraines, the team of US scientists studied mice carrying the same genetic fault.
Lead researcher Louis Ptácek, of University of California, San Francisco, said: “Obviously, we can't measure a headache in a mouse but there are other things that go along with a migraine that we can measure.”
Experiments showed the mice, like people with migraines, were very sensitive to pain, touch, sound and light, according to the Daily Mail.
The mice with the genetic flaw were also more prone to a pattern of brain waves linked to the flashing lights or other visual problems that can precede a migraine.
Migraine drugs appeared to ease the mice’s symptoms, the journal Science Translational Medicine reported.
Professor Ptácek said that working out how the flaw in a gene called casein kinase I delta causes migraines could lead to improved treatments.
He said that existing drugs “only help some patients, some of the time”, adding: “This is the first gene in which mutations have been shown to cause a very typical form of migraine. It's our initial glimpse into a black box that we don't yet understand.
“As we come to a clearer understanding, we can start to think about better therapies. The need for better treatments is huge.”
Peter Goadsby, a professor of neurology and medical trustee of the Migraine Trust in the UK, hailed the work as an “exciting new development in understanding migraine”.
Professor Andrew Charles, a researcher from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “There simply hasn't been enough attention paid to migraine as a major cause of disability worldwide.
“Compared to other common medical problems relatively little research has been done on the cause of migraine and its potential treatments.
“We desperately need a better understanding of the condition and new treatments so that we are better able to help these many people whose lives are devastated by the disorder.”
Researchers hope that the gene, which is also involved in the control of sleep, will also shed light on links between sleeping too much and too little and the onset of migraines.
Migraines affect one in four women and one in 12 men, and feature in the World Health Organisation's top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions.
President Barack Obama has concluded a trip to Central America by promising to help Mexico fight its deadly drugs gangs, and to enhance the trade between the two countries.
More than a billion dollars of trade is conducted across the border each day, making the two nations by far each other's most important bilateral trading partner. And yet the border also has a dark side: Mexican drug lords have the world's biggest market right on their doorstep, and illegal access to the firearms that Americans pride themselves in owning.
It was something the president touched on when he addressed a group of students in Mexico City's famed anthropology museum on Friday.
"The United States recognises that we've got responsibilities, that much of the violence in the region is fuelled by demand for illegal drugs, including in the United States," he said.
"We also recognise that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States."
More than 70,000 people have died in Mexico's drugs wars since 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderon "declared war" on the cartels. The surge in gun violence in Mexico also coincided with the 2004 expiration of a ban on assault rifles in the US.
But Mr Obama said that Mexico, now under the leadership of President Enrique Pena Nieto, was ready to take "its rightful place in the world."
"The relationship between our two countries should not be defined by the threats we face, but by the prosperity and opportunities we can generate together," he told the 800 students.
"You are the dream – the Mexico that you imagine has to be built, has to be won. No one else can do it for you – you are the future."
An inescapable theme during the trip was the US effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws – an issue of intense interest among Latinos in the United States and in Mexico and Central America. The vast majority of the 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States are from Latin America, with six million of them from Mexico alone. Mr Obama supports legislation that would give those immigrants a path to US citizenship.
As Congress debates immigration legislation, Mr Obama's bullish – even overly rosy – depiction of Mexico's economic prospects were meant to convince the US public and politicians that Mexico no longer poses the illegal immigration threat it once did.
"The long-term solution to the challenge of illegal immigration is a growing and prosperous Mexico that creates more jobs and opportunities for young people here," he said.
Mexico, Mr Obama said, has lifted millions of people from poverty.
But while its economy has grown, the wealth has yet to trickle down to average workers. Huge poverty rates held steady between late 2006 and 2010, the most recent year for which government statistics are available. Between 40 and 50 per cent of the population of 112 million Mexicans live in poverty, earning less than $100 a month.
After 24 hours in Mexico – Mr Obama's fourth visit to the country – he moved on to Costa Rica, again pressing other Central American leaders to deal with poverty and security while reaching out to a politically powerful Latino audience back home.
The trip served as a nod to the vast Hispanic population in the United States, which heavily supported him in the 2012 election and which retains strong family and cultural ties to Latin America.
"In fact," he said on Friday, "without the strong support of Latinos, including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing today as president of the United States. That's the truth."
In the fiercely competitive world of smartphones and tablets, new product launches are usually shrouded in such secrecy that many of the company's own employees don't set eyes on the device until it is launched.
When it comes to the latest tablet device in Microsoft's arsenal, however, Amazon has let the cat out of the bag. The online retailer has accidentally published pictures of a new 7-inch Acer tablet, which would break new ground as the first small tablet to run on Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.
It is thought to be one of a number of tablets which Microsoft will use to compete with Apple's iPad Mini, Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's own Kindle Fire device, in the tablet-makers' intensifying battle for dominance.
According to the listing, which appeared briefly on Amazon's US website before being removed, the Acer Iconia W3 will be priced at $379.99 (£244) for a 32GB model. There were no details about when the device might be launched, but it is expected to be in the next few months.
Leaked images on other websites suggest that the new tablet will come with a detachable keyboard, allowing customers to use it as a miniature laptop, as well as a simple tablet device.
The Acer tablet is one of a number of new Windows-powered devices expected to launch in the next few months, as Microsoft attempts to claw back some of the ground it has lost over the past decade.
The company founded by Bill Gates made its tablet debut last year, with the launch of its Surface, which includes a detachable keyboard. Sales of the device have disappointed analysts, but Microsoft has argued that it always intended the first Surface as a flagship product to establish a foothold in the tablet market, and that bigger sellers would follow.
The company is expected to detail plans for two more, smaller, versions of the Surface at a developers' conference next month, including another 7-inch device which will sit alongside the Acer Iconia.
Microsoft is among old-guard technology behemoths under pressure to take a slice of the lucrative tablet market, as sales of PCs fell 14pc last year.
Former Dior designer John Galliano will no longer teach a master class at Parsons in New York due to his unwillingness to discuss his career.
It seems John Galliano’s career as a teacher is over before it has even started.
The master class he was scheduled to teach at New York’s Parsons fashion college was yesterday cancelled, and an email was sent to the establishment's students explaining why.
“We are writing to follow-up on messages we shared with you on April 26 about the planned workshop with John Galliano,” begins the email which was forwarded to The Cut . “It was a condition of our agreeing to host Mr. Galliano that we also hold a larger forum, which would include a frank discussion of his career. Ultimately, an agreement could not be reached with Mr. Galliano regarding the details of that forum, and so the program will not move forward.”
In the initial email announcing the class, it was stated that students would be encouraged to interact with Galliano throughout the four days in an effort to understand the pressures faced by those who helm an international design house. On the final day, the college “expected to invite students, faculty and staff to ask Mr. Galliano how his trajectory as a designer was changed by his offensive remarks and to learn from that example.” But it appears the former Dior designer was uncomfortable with the prospect of talking about his hampered career openly.
Yesterday’s email also hinted at the opposition felt by some of the students towards Galliano teaching at the college, saying: “Over the last several weeks, many members of the university community wrote to express their views about this visit. Regardless of your opinion, you remind us all that it is our commitment to debate, and our willingness to support the possibility of change, that makes Parsons and The New School such an extraordinary place to learn.”
As yet there is no word from Galliano’s representative, but the situation is undoubtedly a blow to his attempts to re-enter the fashion world.
SEE ALSO: The Rise And Fall Of John Galliano
A disastrous brain operation left Henry Molaison forever stuck in the same moment. But his amnesia proved a gift to science.
I first met Henry Molaison more than half a century ago, during the spring of my third year in graduate school. I have tried to resurrect the details of my interactions with him that week, but human memory does not allow such excursions.
The explicit minutiae of unique episodes fade as time passes, making it impossible for us to vividly re-experience the details of events in the distant past. What I do know is that I was very excited to have the opportunity to study such a rare case as Henry, and I had spent months preparing.
Looking back at the results of all the tests he did that week, it was clear even then that the consequences of the operation carried out on him in 1957 – an experimental procedure to cure his epilepsy – had been catastrophic. Henry was left in a permanent state of amnesia, unable to retain any new information.
At the time of Henry’s operation, little was known about how memory processes worked. The extensive damage to the inner part of the temporal lobes on both sides of Henry’s brain made him a vital case study for memory researchers then and now.
As the years passed, his fame grew and eventually spread to countries outside North America – and all that time Henry was stuck in the same moment. From time to time, I would tell him how important and well known he was, and he would smile sheepishly, as the praise was already slipping out of his consciousness.
In his lifetime he was known as HM; only after his death, in 2008, was his identity revealed to the world.
I moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. There, we were fortunate to have a Clinical Research Center on campus where my colleagues and I could admit patients for days and weeks at a time to conduct research.
Henry visited us there on 50 occasions, and I got to know him better and better as the years went by. In addition to collecting groundbreaking data in our experiments, we also documented details of his medical condition and daily life.
His nursing home chart was replete with examples of persistently failed memory. Even after living there for years, he needed directions to his room, bathroom, and lounge areas.
Not only was he confused about finding his room but, once there, he was uncertain about which of the two beds was his and which side of the double closet housed his clothes. But occasionally, his memory was surprisingly intact.
In the Eighties, when he was still allowed to smoke, the staff noted, “Henry, at times, seems to exhibit a selective memory. He has absolutely no trouble remembering when and how many cigarettes he’s had and can at times recall staff names.”
During the same period, he was troubled by false memories. On several occasions during a period of three weeks, he insisted that another resident had a pillow that had been his father’s, stating, “It has great value to me.”
Then, one day, many years after his mother died, “Henry came out of the lounge and stated, ‘my mother is coming to visit me, and there are no chairs for her to sit in!’ When the nurse tried to convince Henry his mother wasn’t coming, he became very insistent, throwing himself backwards and almost falling.”
The note in his chart concluded, “It seems you have to agree with him, or he becomes quite upset.” For most of the day, Henry saved a chair “for mother”.
He never really knew who I was but, beginning in the Eighties, he would say that he knew me from high school. We had both grown up in the Hartford, Connecticut, area but he was 11 years older than I, and we attended high schools in different cities.
So, what gave him the idea that we were schoolmates? Over the years, he heard my name over and over, and saw my face on many occasions.
As a result of this constant exposure, he built up a sense of familiarity, a sense that he knew me, and this feeling likely became stronger over time.
I was not the only person he claimed he knew from high school. At his nursing home, there was at least one nurse whom he said he had encountered during those years. One of my fondest memories of him is that he created a special name for me: “Doctress”.
Henry was a gentle person, and also intelligent, friendly, and altruistic. In 1992, when I asked him how he felt about being a research participant, he said, “I don’t mind. What is found out about me helps you to help others.”
And that “I figure that’s more important in a way, and it helps restore my memory, too. And that’s the important part right there, I say to myself. Because I know that if I could get my memory back in a way, that others can do the same; and possibly they learn too.”
In talking with a student who was conducting a research project in my lab, Henry said, “It’s a funny thing, you just live and learn. I’m living, and you’re learning.”
I was able to track down a few of Henry’s high-school classmates, and they all described him as a quiet person who kept to himself, and they noted that he was very polite. He smiled a lot and enjoyed interacting socially, but he lacked initiative. He waited for people to speak to him, but when they did he was very conversational.
Among the memories of Henry that my colleagues and I cherish are his “Henryisms”. These were the trademark phrases that dominated his conversation, such as “I’m having an argument with myself,” “There I have a question with myself,” “Question mark,” and “Knock on wood”.
Why was he always having an argument with himself? His unrelenting amnesia kept him riding on the horns of a dilemma, which must have been unsettling. He could never be sure if he had acted improperly or like a gentleman, whether he had met a particular individual before, how old he was, what month and year we were in, and whether his memory for current events was accurate.
Henry knew that he was different, and unlike many of us who keep our cards close to our chest, he told us what was on his mind. His dream, his ambition, was to be a brain surgeon, yet he believed this career path was closed to him.
He cast himself as disqualified not because his academic credentials were insufficient but because he wore glasses. Even though he was an intelligent man, he did not consider the possibility that some neurosurgeons do wear glasses or that doctors often use a microscope to view the operating field. In this case, reason was trumped by Henry’s overriding concern that he would harm the patient.
Although he was a quiet person, his inner thoughts imagined various catastrophes. When he retreated into his imagination, he witnessed the tragic scenarios that might have occurred. This line of thought was not altogether fantasy because Henry’s neurosurgeon had deemed his operation experimental, and the experiment had failed.
Henry had amazing insight into his tragedy. He knew he had epilepsy and was constantly aware that he forgot things. He also knew that his operation had been tried on only a few people before him, and he had a sense that the outcome was not good.
In 1985, Henry shared these thoughts with a postdoctoral fellow in my lab, Jenni Ogden, a neuropsychologist from New Zealand:
Ogden: Do you remember when you had your operation?
Henry: No, I don’t.
Ogden: What do you think happened there?
Henry: Well I think it was, well, I’m having an argument with myself right away. I’m the third or fourth person who had it, and I think that they, well, possibly didn’t make the right movement at the right time, themselves then. But they learnt something.
We get a sense here that Henry had come to terms with his catastrophe. It is a challenge to fathom what it must have been like to live as Henry did, with his memory decimated.
We can imagine at least two scenarios. In the first, we would wake up every morning without a memory, and it would be like dropping into hell. We would be suspicious of any new person we encountered because we did not know whether the person was a friend or a foe, and we would be hesitant and guarded when confronting new people and places.
We would constantly be stressed, agitated, and mistrustful for fear that something bad would happen.
In a different scenario, we would greet every new person with a handshake and a smile, with a glass-half-full approach to the world. We would judge new people as friends, not foes, and we would be happy to engage in conversation with anyone who spoke to us.
Henry was the latter type, which made his life much more enjoyable than if he had viewed everyone as a potential enemy.
Henry’s operation took a toll on behaviours apart from memory. His sense of smell was almost completely eliminated by the removal of areas in his cortex that process the odours that enter our body through our nose.
All he was left with was the ability to say that one test sample contained an odour and another did not. He could not identify specific odours or tell whether two odour samples were the same or different.
When attempting to name odours, his responses were unusual. On one occasion, he called cloves “fresh woodwork”, and on another he said, “dead fish washed ashore”. We know that the smell of food and drink contributes to our appreciation of them, but fortunately Henry’s loss of smell did not inhibit his desire to eat and enjoy his meals.
Whenever I asked him whether he was hungry, he typically said, “I can always eat.”
In addition to removing the memory circuits in the temporal lobe, the surgeon took out his left and right amygdala, a complex structure that sits just in front of the hippocampus.
The amygdala is one of the main sites in the brain for processing emotions, especially fear, so we wondered whether Henry was ever fearful. His caregivers could not remember his being afraid of anything.
The one exception occurred in 1986, after he underwent hip-replacement surgery. His doctor told me that Henry was afraid of being alone, but that was temporary; he eventually returned to normal after the effects of the anaesthesia had worn off.
The damage to Henry’s amygdala did affect other behaviours, and in particular, he seemed to be out of touch with his internal states.
Even though he enjoyed his meals, he never commented on being hungry or thirsty, and he did not complain of pain unless it was extreme. On one occasion, when a psychiatrist asked Henry in various ways about his sexual desire, he indicated that he did not have any, and believed that he did not masturbate.
In other words, the operation rendered him asexual.
Although not interested in sex, Henry was sustained by a different kind of motivation. Throughout the time I knew him, he clung to the belief that his research participation would benefit other people, and it did.
His case alerted neurosurgeons that they must never remove the hippocampus and surrounding structures on both sides of a patient’s brain because if they did, the person would immediately become amnesic.
An offshoot of this knowledge was that neurosurgeons who wanted to remove key memory structures on one side of a patient’s brain (say the left) had to be sure that the corresponding structures on the other side (the right) were intact. If the right side were damaged, then removing the memory area on the left side would cause a bilateral lesion and guaranteed amnesia.
To protect against the possibility that Henry’s tragedy would be repeated, doctors devised a test that could be given before an operation to see whether the alleged “good side” was in fact undamaged.
The procedure was to inject each side, on separate days, with a drug that would temporarily inactivate one side of the brain. If patients showed impaired memory when the drug was given to the abnormal side, then the conclusion would be that the alleged healthy side was not functioning properly, and the operation would not be performed.
As crucial as this lesson was for science and medicine, Henry’s life had a more universal impact. He showed the world that you could be saddled with a tremendous handicap and still carry on with your life and make a significant contribution.
He did not complain or ask for pity, and he was always a willing and cooperative research participant. Henry engaged his strong intellect to cope as best he could, and his resilience continues to be inspirational to humanity.
He stood tall in the face of his limitations, and never gave in to his tragedy.
In these days of frivolous entertainments and frayed attention spans, the people who become famous are not necessarily the brightest stars. One of the biggest hits on YouTube, after all, is a video of a French bulldog who can’t roll over. But in amongst all the skateboarding cats and laughing babies, a new animated video, featuring the words of a dead theoretical physicist, has gone viral. In the film, created from an original documentary made for the BBC back in the early Eighties, the late Nobel Prize-winning professor, Richard Feynman, can be heard extolling the wonders of science contained within a simple flower.
Good living, great weather and excellent medical care make Ecuador the top spot for retirees.
The tiny country of Ecuador has been voted the best place in the world to retire to.
Located in the remote north-west region of South America, Ecuador has a population of just 15 million. But it is proving attractive for expats – with a cheap cost of living, good weather and top-class yet affordable health care.
Expats qualify for health care by paying a small monthly fee, while those looking for employment will find applying for a work visa much easier than in many Western countries.
Property is relatively cheap to buy or rent, particularly beachfront villas considering the premium normally attached to them. Rural locations are even cheaper and there is no tax to pay on importing your goods from overseas.
The country topped a poll on the International Living website, which is about overseas retirement. The site used its international network of writers, editors and expats to assess factors ranging from how easy it is to make friends in the country to the ease at which one can get around.
Jim Kennedy, a British expat retiree who moved to Ecuador last year, said: “If you are a senior citizen you can qualify for some discounts on eating out and travel. But these things aren’t expensive anyhow, so your pension goes a lot further out here.”
Ecuador, where Spanish is the official language although English is widely spoken, also has an excellent safety record by South American standards.
Paul Green, a spokesman for Surtrek South American Travel (www.surtrek.com), said: “My wife and I are currently renting a three-bedroom, comfortable apartment in the capital Quito’s safe yet bohemian village of Guápulo. We wake up daily to truly breathtaking mountain views through the bedroom window and our rent is a mere $200 (£129) a month.”
The 57-year-old semi-retired expat added that there were no heating bills given Ecuador’s warm climate, and a combined phone-internet-English channel TV package costs $50 (£32) a month.
He added: “A French neighbour of ours who works for the UN pays more than double what we do for a fully furnished place. It all depends on what you need and what you want to pay. Some say it’s half the cost of living in the US, while I would argue it’s even less to live here without compromising style and comfort.”
High-quality hospital care is also a major attraction, especially for retirees, while health insurance premiums are low for those who prefer not to use the subsidised public system.
Few new technologies have been as hyped - or as misunderstood - as Google Glass, says Matt Warman
Price: $1,500 (not currently available to the public)
It’s the computer that has both excited and worried millions. Forget the next iPad or the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Google Glass is the hottest property in today’s overheated world of technology, despite the fact that almost nobody who is talking about it has yet worn one and they’re a year away from going on sale. So what is it really like to use? Is it recording everybody’s every move? Is it selling your soul to Google?
Glass is a wearable computer the like of which we have never really seen before. While police and the military developed cameras that can record and send images, Glass is fundamentally a product of the web. It consists simply of a screen, sitting above the wearer’s right eye, that looks to them like a 25” display just inside their peripheral vision, a battery, and a panel that allows users to swipe through what is displayed on that screen. But the novel part is the voice control: wake up Glass by tapping the side then saying “OK Glass - take a picture”, or “record a video” or “get directions to...” Google’s idea is that Glass will integrate all the benefits of the web into human interaction, but it will be less conspicuous, less of a barrier than a mobile phone. You can ask it how to say words in a foreign language and its subtle speakers will tell you instantly. That’s useful, and it implies a future that is fundamentally more connected to the web than it is today.
For now, of course, Google’s not quite there yet. Wearing Glass around London, you’d stick out like a sore thumb. Interrupting a conversation to say “OK Glass, take a picture” would be even ruder than grabbing your mobile. And constantly flicking your eyes up to look at its screen is just as obvious as looking at a mobile phone, and rather more disconcerting.
But at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco, a number of things are obvious. When enough people have Glass that it becomes normal then the fear factor evaporates. It’s easy to forget you’re wearing Glass yourself because the lightweight, titanium frame isn’t too intrusive, and it doesn’t take long to stop staring at other people wearing them. And when we stop concentrating on the weirdness, the power of wearable technology is revealed, from instant translation to directions to simple web search.
For now, though, perhaps the key thing about Glass, however, is the realisation that it’s not yet got many uses. In conversation, Glass is usually redundant. It’s not recording everything you see, and its video defaults to 10 second films. Although an app has been written to make it take a picture with a pronounced wink, that would make it just about the least useful covert camera on the market. If you really want to take pictures nobody knows you’re shooting, far better to do it on a phone or invest in a spy camera - you can get them hidden in a tie or a pen, which are both rather easier to conceal than a computer on your face. A battery life of three hours active use, or an estimated 45 minutes of constant recording is similarly inefficient. If you want to worry about covert surveillance, better to bang on about CCTV than Google Glass. Certainly, in the UK if not America, we are all filmed almost constantly in a way that Google Glass would hardly change.
Indeed, Glass’s main disadvantage is that it looks slightly weird, rather than that it should scare people by its implications. If anything, my concern was that Glass doesn’t yet do enough to be set to be truly ubiquitous.It integrates with Google Now to provide suggestions on, say, when you need to leave to make it to your next appointment, and it can, say, provide prompts to augment a conversation. One developer has written an app that makes Glass flash up facts he’s trying to learn so that over time he remembers them. That’s useful but not a revelation. If you forget an important fact, Googling it via voice command and instantly being shown the answer is great, but it’s not life changing.
A cheap shot is to suggest that because Google is an advertising company, Glass simply exists to further the company’s evil aims. But on using Glass there are a number of things that make that accusation seem implausible: an unwanted advert on Glass is so easy to ignore as to be largely useless. And more to the point, it introduces, so far, nothing other than greater convenience. It can film or take pictures more easily than we can currently, and when it is built in to smaller units that will be even more the case. But it is, as things stand, simply not built to package your soul in a new way that is more useful to Google. Your Android phone already tells Google where you are, providing you with useful information and Google with data on traffic conditions. And it too can film and take pictures and show you emails and search the web.
Some developers who have used Glass say they would not now live without it. I didn’t find it to be so useful that that was the case. But it nudges toward a future where Google’s growing expertise in predicting what we want will be built in to wearable technologies.
The Glass interface itself is slightly finnicky - at I/O, a number of users can’t help but look slightly awkward when, failing to use the touchpad on the side they use the back-up function of tilting their head backwards to get to the start screen so the can say ‘OK Glass' and have the thing respond. The effect is so uncool as to make a cynic wonder if Glass is somewhat over-hyped.
But Google’s idea is obviously the future - the web should be more of a part of all our lives. Those who are scared of it will, I think, find it becomes ever more present because it is obviously useful and it in reality poses very few new threats. But this design is not yet small enough or quite fit for mass market consumption. If Google can market it for $200 and iron out the kinks, they have just one major challenge with Glass: as the mobile phone was harder for them to monetise than the PC, so too Glass could be a triumph of consumer interest over corporate power.
The Apple chief executive is likely to be asked to justify why his company reports a 25.2 per cent tax rate, yet pays 15 per cent to the US authorities and then sets aside additional cash for possible future tax liabilities.
The complex tax planning, commonplace in large companies, has allowed Apple to avoid criticism leveled at Google and Amazon over their tax affairs. Mr Cook has insisted Apple does not funnel profits abroad.
The iPhone-maker has $102.3billion in cash outside the US. To pay a dividend, Apple is borrowing $17billion at home rather than risk huge tax bills, which could be up to $9billion, by bringing its foreign money into the USA.
The Apple chief executive is likely to use his appearance to call for a “dramatic simplification” of America’s tax laws, in a move that could have a dramatic effect on the valuations of UK companies.
Mr Cook will lobby for a change in the rules which mean that companies bringing tax back to the US from overseas have to pay 35pc tax on that money.
He is expected to petition Senators for a reduction in the levy when he is due be grilled by about the way Apple has moved profits overseas.
Mr Cook told the Washington Post: “If you look at it today, to repatriate cash to the US, you need to pay 35pc of that cash. And that is a very high number. We are not proposing that it be zero. I know many of our peers believe that … But I think it has to be reasonable.”
American companies like Oracle have previously called for the repatriation tax to be reduced or scrapped altogether.
Such a move would have an impact on companies around the world.
Many US companies currently use their overseas cash to buy up businesses overseas, to help them avoid a massive tax bill, inflating valuations across the board.
The repatriation tax is thought to have been a factor in Microsoftﾒs $8.5bn purchase of Skype, which is based in Luxembourg, and Hewlett-Packardﾒs $11.1bn swoop on the British software firm, Autonomy.
The row in Washington comes as major US companies including Google and Amazon face a grilling by MPs over the amount of tax they pay in Britain.
The Public Accounts Committee is questioning the companies over the way they use loopholes to pay paltry amounts of corporation tax, despite racking up billions of dollars worth of sales in the country.
Two US holidaymakers found themselves a long way from their intended destination after an airline confused two airport codes.
Sandy Valdiviseo and her husband Triet Vo were intending to fly from Los Angeles to Dakar in Senegal with Turkish Airlines.
However, instead they ended up almost 7,000 miles away – on an entirely different continent – in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, after the airport codes were mixed up, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The airport code for Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is DKR, while the code for the airport in Dhaka, which is the capital of Bangladesh, is DAC.
After arriving in Istanbul, the couple had boarded a connecting flight. It was only after seeing the route map of the flight’s progress, which showed the plane over the Middle East, that they realised the error.
“When the flight attendant said we were heading to Dhaka, we believed that this was how you pronounced 'Dakar' with a Turkish accent," Ms Valdivieso said.
When they arrived in Bangladesh, the pair informed Turkish Airlines about the mistake, and tried to arrange a transfer to Senegal.
According to reports, the airline insisted on tracking down the recording of the initial booking before acknowledging the error and installing the couple on flights to West Africa, 12 hours after their arrival in Bangladesh. Their baggage arrived in Senegal two days after they did.
The incident happened in December last year, but has only just been reported after the couple’s long battle to obtain compensation.
"I have called them [Turkish Airlines] every Friday for the past four months," said Ms Valdivieso. "They told me each time that they will review my case and get back to me. But they never do."
"We are very, very sorry that this happened," a Turkish Airlines spokeswoman said. The couple have since been offered two free economy-class tickets to anywhere on the airline’s flight network.
Fans of the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones can visit sites made famous by the television drama on one of two new walking tours around Dubrovnik and Northern Ireland.
The tours visit some of the most popular filming locations and will be launched this summer by the company Viator. Guides will be up-to-date on the latest gossip and stories as the drama reaches the end of its third series on HBO and Sky Atlantic.
The plot follows the fortunes of various warring dynasties and the tours will take in the castles, fortifications, caves and sections of countryside that formed the backdrop to some of the most memorable scenes.
A four-hour walking tour of Dubrovnik’s picturesque old town, set besides the Adriatic, features stops at the city parks used by film crews and gives visitors the chance to climb the same walls that were attacked by the Baratheons in the first series.
There is also the opportunity to hear about the dastardly exploits of King Joffrey and admire the castle used as King’s Landing, capital of the Seven Kingdom’s realm, in the television series. The 11th-century Lovrijenac Fortress has been used for many of the Game of Thrones battle scenes.
The second private tour will take place around Belfast, which is the series’ most permanent base. Many scenes were set along the Causeway Coastal Route. From here, fans can walk from the village of Cushendun to the caves where Melisandre of Asshai gave birth.
From Ballycastle, visitors can also walk through the “The Dark Hedges” near Armoy (pictured below), a path lined with gnarled, foreboding trees, which young Ayra Stark passed through on her escape from King’s Landing.
There is also a chance to see Ballintoy Harbour, used as Lordsport Harbour in the series, and Downhill Strand, a location that doubled as “Dragonstone” during the burning of the Seven Idols of Westeros.
All these sites are found near the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO-heritage site, which visitors can also explore.
The Dubrovnik tour costs from £46.93 per person, the Belfast tour, from £72 per person. Book at viator.com .
On nearly every shop counter around the world, there’s a till that’s hardly changed in two or three decades. Usually grey, always ugly, these machines clutter the single point that every customer is guaranteed to see when they go to buy something. Little wonder that luxury brands from Hermes to Burberry would rather take your credit card away, deal with the dirty business of payment and then bring back a bill neatly encased in a leather wallet for customers to sign.
Jack Dorsey doesn’t think things have to be this way. Not content with co-founding micro-blogging site Twitter, this superstar of Silicon Valley now wants to change how the world pays for things. With his own worth now estimated at $1.1billion, he should know a thing or two about money.
The vehicle for that transformation is a company called Square: it’s built its burgeoning reputation on a small, square credit card reader that plugs in to the headphone jack of an iPhone and lets any user take credit card payments via a simple app. Once you’ve used a card once and registered it, receipts are emailed automatically.
After taking off in California, it’s allowed thousands of merchants, from taxi drivers to businesses big and small, to take card payments where previously it was impossible because of high charges and embedded vested interests. And they’re also, in America, already working with Burberry.
The argument runs that Square makes the transaction more efficient, cheaper for the seller, and more convenient for the buyer thanks to emailed receipts and a quicker process. This week, Square announced its first market outside North America, and after that Japanese expansion it hopes to launch services in many more countries.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Dorsey confirms “We want to bring Square to the world,” and indicates for the first time that the firm is planning a rapid international expansion.
“We’ve driven a lot of growth in the United States, but we’re really excited to get outside the United States,” he says. “You’ll see some announcements very soon.”
Dorsey remains chairman of Twitter, which is widely thought to be focusing on increasing its own profitability with a view to a stock market flotation in the fairly near future. But with Twitter established as a global force, used by more than 500 million people and a permanent fixture in worldwide communications, it is Square that is increasingly likely to attract the attention of a major-sized audience too.
Last week the company announced a surprising new direction, however: with a housing unit for an iPad, called Square Stand, it moved toward competing directly with those decrepit cash registers, aiming for what Dorsey calls “medium-size, high-volume businesses with a line out of the door”. The company that was long tipped as aiming to replace tills, cash and even eventually credit cards themselves seemed to begin to embrace what some hoped was the past. The stand can easily plug in to a cash drawer and a printer, although its sleek, minimalist looks mean they’re likely to at least be under the counter.
Dorsey himself is clear on what Square can do, and what it can’t: “It’s not about killing cash,” he says. “It’s about being able to account for your entire business.” The stand’s main feature is its built-in card reader and while in Britain contactless card payments are growing rapidly, in the US this combination of ease of use and elegant design is proving popular. That’s not just for a number of aesthetic and timesaving reasons, but also because significantly more data is made available through a system such as Square. And Dorsey uses an example close to home to demonstrate what he means.
“My mother owns a coffee shop,” he says. “Some basic analytics meant she realized opening an extra hour meant they could increase revenue by 20 per cent.” Dorsey claims with rival systems, that kind of data-based insight would have been almost impossible for any small business to garner, and he’s certainly right that the kind of kit required would have been expensive. “With old technology, people come by to set it up, you’re in to $10,000 service contracts. With our Stand we wanted to make all that stuff simple and affordable.”
It does not sound like a revolution, and in some ways it is indeed simply Square moving from hot young start-up to maturing business. Last year Dorsey signed a deal with Starbucks that sees the coffee giant using his service across America.
“The way to think about the simple card reader was that we wanted to let individuals take credit card payments, whether that’s roaming personal trainers or golf instructors, and then with the partnership with Starbucks we took the product to a much bigger level. Now we’re looking at really high volume, big service restaurants, those folks that have lines out the door and also even more brick and mortar places. With the stand we’re showing that Square can really grow with your business.”
What Square offers, Dorsey claims, is a mixture of doing something new and something more prosaic – simply getting paid. “We’re in the business of breaking down the barriers and making things more convenient,” he says.
The future, however, is marked not solely by becoming another service, albeit a neatly designed one. For all the talk about Square making things fit the ‘Apple aesthetic’, Dorsey is unimpressed by the focus on that superficial aspect of Square. “Design is not just about how it looks, it’s about how it works,” he says. “The technology should disappear when you’re just using it. Any technology can be made to look good.”
He says that Square used iPhones and iPads because they were so simple – “a two-year-old could teach you how to use it” – and because they could easily look “timeless”.
“But we focus more on the experience than design so it’s something that’s intuitive and people can pick it up before it goes ahead,” says Dorsey.
Of much more importance, and increasingly so in the future, is a renewed focus on the analytics that Square offers simply by automatically recording everything that happens and making it easily available. That translates into both a simple analysis of cashflow and an instant snapshot of what is being sold when.
Further down the line, however, the bother of getting a credit card out at all could yet be eliminated. The “Square Wallet” is a product that Dorsey himself admits “right now is ahead of its time”, and is itself limited by the number of people who have signed up for Square overall. But the idea is a simple one: anyone who has linked their credit card to their account can simply identify themselves to a merchant, and use their presence in a shop to verify that they want to make a purchase. Simply, put a user tells a shop assistant who they are, and the system brings up an image of their face that allows the store to verify they are who they say they are. Again, Burberry is already using the service in America.
“It’s a big part of our future,” says Dorsey. “I want to be able to walk into a restaurant, have a great conversation, a great meal and get up and walk way when I’m ready. For a number of people that have house accounts that world already exists, and it allows the restaurant or me to focus on what’s most relevant – more tables or having a better time. We can make all the inconvenient stuff around that disappear. People get to choose where they spend their time.”
For now, however, Square must be content to real ise that people are not yet ready for that level of trust: “We have some education to do,” agrees Dorsey. “Any new payments system people have to get used to, but with this I can walk around without my wallet. I never have to bring it from my house. And the more and more we can have digital presence in the cloud the better, because we need it for security if I lose my wallet, for instance.”
The expansion into Japan is just a first step for a business that Dorsey says will become “a global company”. It’s already looking to new territories.
“We need to find a great partner bank, establish the maturity of credit card systems in new markets,” he claims. “But we’re finding more and more that what we do is universal – we have the ability to build one product for the world, although we do need to tailor it for the market.”
Square’s rapid growth in Canada and the USA means, as Dorsey puts it, “the credibility’s getting a lot better” when he approaches those potential new partners. He says that opens up new possibilities for more rapid growth. And if the man who co-founded Twitter knows about one thing more than any other, it’s rapid growth.
European watchdogs have invited mobile operators to weigh in on Apple’s iPhone distribution tactics, over concerns they block competition from other smartphone makers.
Operators have received a nine-page preliminary questionnaire from the European Commission, focused on whether the deals that allow them to sell the iPhone are so favourable to Apple that other manufacturers cannot compete fairly.
It asks whether clauses in the contracts guarantee that no other manufacturer gets a better deal than Apple on handset subsidies, according to The FT.
Apple is known for driving a hard bargain with operators, who believe they must offer the iPhone to compete for the most affluent subscribers. Sources at British operators said they are forced to fund Apple’s television advertising and guarantee a certain number of sales, for instance.
The Commission has information indicating that Apple and Mobile Network Operators (“MNOs”) have concluded distribution agreements which may potentially lead to the foreclosure of other smartphone manufacturers from the markets,” the questionnaire says.
The interest from regulators in Brussels comes after unidentified European mobile operators informally complained in March.
As well as distribution terms, the questionnaire also addresses how the iPhone works on 4G mobile broadband. There have been reports that Apple insists operators submit to independent testing of their networks before it allows the iPhone 5 to use them.
“There are also indications that certain technical functions are disabled on certain Apple products in certain countries in the EU/EEA. If the existence of such behavior were to be confirmed, it might constitute an infringement of [antitrust law],” the questionnaire says.
The iPhone now accounts for only around a quarter of the European smartphone market, so regulators may struggle to make a case for monopoly abuse. IIt adds to the regulatory pressure on Apple, however, after it was sharply criticized over its tax avoidance at a US Senate committee hearing last week.
Apple says it complies with all European laws.
Stronger competition in the last two years, particularly from Samsung and its Galaxy handsets, has limited Apple’s power. British operators are aiming to extract new concessions from the company when they negotiate distribution terms for the next iPhone, due out in August or September.
The European Commission is currently considering a formal complaint led by Nokia against Google over alleged anti-competitive behavior around Android, the search giant's smartphone operating system. It accounts for around 70pc of the market.
An Italian prosecutor has launched an investigation into how Facebook allowed the publication of insults and bullying posts aimed at a teenager, who later leapt to her death from her third floor bedroom window.
Carolina Picchio, 14, from Novara in northern Italy, committed suicide in January after a gang of boys circulated video on Facebook of her appearing drunk and disheveled in the bathroom at a party.
The group, aged between 15 and 17, were said to be friends of Miss Picchio’s ex-boyfriend. He had allegedly insulted her on Facebook when she left him days earlier, although he claims to have later apologized.
“Isn’t what you have done to me enough? You have made me pay too many times,” Miss Picchio wrote in a note to the boy which was found in her room by investigators.
Before taking her life, she wrote on Facebook: “Forgive me if I am not strong. I cannot take it any longer.”
The Italian Parent’s Association has already filed a criminal complaint in Rome directly against Facebook for allegedly having a role in the instigation of Miss Picchio’s suicide.
“This is the first time a parent’s group has filed such a complaint against Facebook in Europe,” said director Antonio Affinita. “Italian law forbids minors under 18 signing contracts, yet Facebook is effectively entering into a contract with minors regarding their privacy, without their parents knowing.”
Francesco Saluzzo, the Novara prosecutor, said he did not rule out placing Facebook staff under investigation.
Mr Saluzzo told The Daily Telegraph he was probing how the videos had stayed online “for days”, even after Miss Picchio’s friends requested their removal.
“There is a procedure for asking for the removal of messages that break rules,” he said. “This is an open investigation without named suspects, as yet. Facebook itself is not under investigation. But we could theoretically investigate employees of Facebook who failed to respond to these requests.”
Mr Affinita, of the parents’ association, said Miss Picchio’s death was “the last straw” after a 15 year old school boy in Rome killed himself in 2012, having allegedly been taunted as a homosexual on Facebook.
Facebook offers “report” links on its pages to allow the highlighting of offensive content, and in 2011 launched a “Stop Bullying, Speak Up” application to raise awareness of the problem.
In Novara, a social media backlash against Miss Picchio’s torment quickly emerged, with one online commentator, thought to be a schoolfriend of Miss Picchio, condemning the boys who videoed her. She said: “Tomorrow I have to go back to school and see those idiots. I can’t do it.”
Eight boys, aged 15 to 17, are now being questioned by magistrates, including Miss Picchio’s former boyfriend, who has reportedly claimed he was not at the party where she was filmed. In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica, the boy’s mother described her son as “an extraordinary boy who has never given me problems.”
Italian magistrates already have a record of challenging social media providers who host offensive content.
Three Google executives were given six month suspended sentences in 2010 for allowing the posting on Google Video a film in Italy of the bullying of a handicapped student. Prosecutors claimed that Google had allowed the student’s privacy to be violated.
The case was then overturned on appeal last December, but a magistrate is now appealing the acquittal before Italy’s Supreme Court.
An entire fourth series of Arrested Development is out on Netflix. Avoid the temptation to watch them all in one sitting, says Ross Jones.
For the last month or so, a small but vocal section of the internet has been on the horns of a dilemma: to binge or not to binge? After a seven-year wait, the fanatics (‘fans’ doesn’t quite cover it) who have campaigned for the return of their favourite TV sitcom, Arrested Development, were about to get their wish. Fifteen brand new episodes, potentially full of hundreds of new jokes to dissect, all available to watch at exactly the same time on the streaming service Netflix . How to resist watching the whole seven-and-a-half hours at once?
The show’s creator Mitch Hurwitz, perhaps spooked by the mania by now routinely attached to his name, advised against binge-viewing; you’ll get tired and become numb to the jokes, he explained. That Netflix released this fourth series yesterday, Memorial Day weekend in America and the hottest Bank Holiday weekend Britain can remember, no doubt helped his cause. But it probably caused a few domestics, too.
Whether or not it was worth the wait depends largely on how tickled you are by the words ‘Steve Holt!’ or ‘motherboy’. Embracing the impenetrably self-referential joke-within-joke formula that got it taken off the air in the first place, the new series makes no concessions whatsoever to new viewers. Even producer Ron Howard’s opening narration - ‘this is the story of a family whose future was abruptly cancelled’ - is an in-joke.
The Bluth clan are still utterly corrupt, still barely tolerating each other and still trying to out of jail; Rashoman-like, each episode takes place with the same time period from a different Bluth’s perspective. MIchael ( Jason Bateman ), the family straight man and fall guy, is bunking up in a college dorm with son George Michael (Michael Cera) after ploughing all his money into a housing development doomed by its lack of wi-fi. George Snr (Jeffrey Tambor) is mentoring business leaders in his ‘desert sweat lodge’, while trying to build an immigrant-proof wall at the Mexican border. Pickled matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter) is being tried in maritime court for trying to steal a gay cruise ship. Dozens more plotlines are piled on from there.
Keeping up with them all is near-impossible, and the constant exposition doesn’t help a bit. In a neat visual touch, flashbacks are announced using a ‘swipe’ that apes Netflix’s own rewind function. Kristen Wiig is purse-lipped perfection as a young Lucille, but the endless leaps back and forth in time only confuse matters; it’s often impossible to know where, or when, you are.
What makes Arrested Development perfect for Netflix are the detail-obsessed recurring jokes that have always been this show’s calling card. Now it’s all too easy to pause and appreciate the effort the that went into creating, say, the web page of ‘Haliburton Teen’ (the rendition experts rebranded as a lifestyle brand), or the pages of Altitude in-flight magazine (“the number two most read magazine in coach, three after the safety card”).
Less successful is the new single-character format. Each has great moments (the underrated Bateman chasing a ball of tumbleweed around his living room; Walter’s every racist or homophobic remark or eye-roll), yet one of TV’s greatest comic ensembles has effectively been reunited in order to keep them apart.
And as much as you may want to instantly see more of deluded magican Gob (Will Arnett), hook-handed simpleton Buster (Tony Hale) or closet-case ‘never-nude’ Tobias (David Cross), Hurwitz was right to urge moderation. I managed four episodes in one sitting before fatigue set in; though it gets funnier, I laughed less. Besides, some of us actually like our family.
Trouble is brewing for an American retailer after customers noted that one of its tea kettles bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler.
Bemused motorists took photographs of the huge JCPenney billboard advertising the kettle as they drove past it on the 405 Interstate highway near Culver City in California, one of America's busiest stretches of roads.
"That Hitler looks like a kettle," commented one user of Reddit, one of several websites where the image was posted over the weekend.
"He even has his right arm extended," wrote another, while a third added: "I'm a little Nazi, short and stout."
Things that look like Hitler has become a popular web meme — with the genre perhaps defined by the house in Swansea that bears an unsettling resemblance to the Nazi Fuhrer.
The kettle — officially the Michael Graves Design "Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle" - retails for £35.08 on the JCPenney website, and can be delivered to the U.K.
"This stainless steel tea kettle has all the bells and whistles you'll need — a cool-touch handle, space-saving design and a delightful whistle to let you know when it's ready to pour," the website stated.
One reviewer on the website noted that she loved the kettle's "sleek European design.""My kids love when it boils and starts to whistle," she wrote. "I can not say enough good things about this!"
A second reviewer was less enthralled, however, describing the quality of the kettle as "extremely poor.""Mostly (sic) importantly the kettle's bell does NOT ring and its whistle volume is extremely low!" the consumer wrote.
When listing pros, however, the same user noted that the appliance "looks beautiful."
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