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The latest news on The Telegraph from Business Insider

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    china cloudy rain red umbrellaThe International Monetary Fund has warned that China is taking ever greater risks as surging credit endangers the financial system, and called for far-reaching reforms to wean the economy off excess investment.

    "China's growth has become too reliant on an unsustainable surge in credit. Failure to change course and accelerate reforms increases the likelihood of an accident or shock that could trigger an adverse 'financial-real’ feedback loop," said the Fund in its latest report on G20 imbalances.

    "While China has the resources and capacity to maintain stability even in the face of an adverse shock, the margin of safety is narrowing.”

    The country has relied on loan growth to keep the economy firing on all cylinders but the law of diminishing returns has set in, with the each yuan of extra debt yielding just 0.20 yuan of economic growth, compared with 0.85 five years ago. Credit of all types has risen from $9 trillion to $23 trillion in five years, pushing the total to 200pc of GDP, much higher than in emerging market peers.

    There is growing concern that China is reverting to its bad old ways despite reform rhetoric, cranking up loans once again and pouring money into the giant state enterprises - known for chronic inefficiency - to keep growth alive for another cycle after two sharp slowdowns in the past 18 months.

    Premier Li Keqianq said last week that the country would try to ensure solid growth to smooth the way for reforms expected at the 3rd Plenum of the Communist Party in December. But vested interests within the party appear to be fighting back against real economic change.

    China's investment rate is the world’s highest at almost 50pc of GDP, an effect largely caused by the structure of the state behemoths that gobble up credit. This has led to massive over-capacity and wastage.

    "Existing distortions direct the flow of credit toward local governments and state-owned enterprises rather to households, perpetuating high investment, misallocation of resources, and low private consumption. A broad package of reforms is needed," said the IMF.

    This is not just an internal Chinese issue. Low consumption is the chief cause of China's current account surplus, which has deflationary trade effects on the global system. China's surplus has narrowed sharply from 10pc of GDP to just over 2pc since 2008 but the IMF expects it to start rising again unless the underlying structure is changed, and if Beijing continues to hold down the currency.

    The Chinese will soon be so large that a rise in the surplus back to 4pc - as the IMF fears - may be more than the global economy can endure.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    U.K. plastic banknotes

    The Bank of England is taking its new plastic £5 and £10 notes on a nation-wide roadshow – what will the public make of them?

    "Oh yes, I like them. They are so much more hygienic,” says Elizabeth Dillon, stroking something that looks very much like a £10 note. “It feels lovely and clean.” The 77-year-old is one of the very first members of the public to get her hands on the Bank of England’s prototype banknotes, which look nearly identical to the existing ones but are made of plastic.

    The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has gone on a roadshow. Yesterday marked the first day of her two-month national tour, when Bank officials set up a little stall in the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford.

    Outside Primark and (very appropriately) Poundland, officials were canvassing people’s opinion of these notes, which – if the public gives them the thumbs up – will be introduced in 2016.

    Is the hygiene of banknotes a genuine worry, I ask Mrs Dillon. “Yes!” she insists. “You don’t know where they have been.”

    She is one of many members of the public, especially pensioners, immediately won over by the “cleanliness” of the notes.

    Ann Walsh, in her sixties, is lovingly fingering one of the fresh, plastic notes. “I tell you why I am a fan,” she says, fishing out her husband’s wallet and pulling out an old tenner. “This is tired, dirty and unpleasant.”

    Her husband is in firm agreement. “For 15 years I was treasurer of our village church; a lot of tatty notes have passed through my hands. These ones feel nice and smooth.”

    Many passers‑by were surprised that the notes – launched with much fanfare this week – were not stiff. They have been called plastic, but this suggests something rigid. The material is technically polymer, a thin, transparent and flexible film made of polypropylene on to which layers of ink are printed.

    The prototype notes have a distinctive, shine to them – a matt gloss similar to that which is used on many hardback book dustjackets. Some shoppers described them as “silky”, others as “not real”.

    To my fingers, they do not feel cheap. But many are taken aback by the sensation of touching them. “Ooh, that’s really weird,” says Shannon Page, a young mother. “They feel like they’d just slip out of your pocket.”

    There is a crispness to them, but they lack that distinctive tactility that allows you to run your fingers across the weft and warp of, say, a £20 note. With the new ones, your fingers simply glide across.

    Brenda Kulesza, a retiree, is one of the very few people I meet who is strongly opposed to the plastic notes. “I just prefer the touch and feel of paper. I paint and draw and sew – I like natural materials. This new one has a synthetic feel. I don’t like it.”

    The plastic notes – contrary to some alarmist reports – do fold into a wallet. But they do not fold completely flat. They “bounce” back into shape, which Mr Walsh says would help church wardens trying fish out donations folded into those tiny gift-aid envelopes.

    The Bank – whose new governor, Mark Carney, introduced polymer notes to Canada last year – promises it will listen to all views before it makes a decision. But Victoria Cleland, the director of notes at the Bank, makes it clear that she would prefer to join the ranks of Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore, all of which have plastic notes.

    There are a number of reasons why the Bank thinks change is necessary. For starters, it is more difficult to forge. With polymer you can incorporate many more security features, including a clear window into the note, instead of a watermark.

    Cleland says: “Windows are difficult to counterfeit. The forger has to essentially cut a hole in the paper. Also – unlike a watermark – they are big and clear. People don’t need to hold up notes to the light to see it.”

    The other benefit is that they are more durable and need to be replaced less frequently. Last year the bank produced 1.3 billion new notes and there are currently 2.99 billion notes in circulation. A fiver barely lasts a year before it needs to be shredded into tiny particles in a secret warehouse in Essex and turned into compost.

    The new notes are not biodegradable, although in Australia they are turned into plastic plant pots or furniture after they have come to the end of their life.

    Though the plastic notes are more expensive to produce, on average they will last at least 2.5 times longer than paper ones, so the Bank estimates it will save £100 million over 10 years.

    Intriguingly, one of the main benefits touted when they were unveiled this week was that they could survive being put through the washing machine. The Bank actually published detailed figures as to how many times members of the public ask for notes to be replaced because of damage.

    Last year, 1,189 requests were received because of damage by fire, 5,740 because they were “chewed/eaten” and 2,082 because they had been washed – not enough, one would think, to change the 320‑year-old tradition of printing on the material still used, which is a combination of recycled linen, rags and paper.

    Of course, if members of the public deeply care about the tattiness of their fivers they could visit the City, go to the counter in the imposing Sir John Soane-designed bank hall and ask for their dirty or out-of-date notes to be swapped for fresh ones. “Absolutely,” says Cleland. “But don’t encourage people to do it. Please.” She is worried about long queues stretching down the road.

    After the first few hours in the shopping centre it is clear that the public is definitely in favour of the plastic notes, convinced by the cost-savings, durability and cleanliness of polymer.

    But then I ask one fan, Tracey Samways, 48, what she thinks about the Bank of England’s other plan, to shrink the new notes by 15 per cent. “That’s terrible. What a bad idea. I really like the current size.”

    One of the officials explains that Britain has some of the biggest bank notes in the world, even after they were shrunk in 1990. “Well, yes,” says Mrs Samways, a full-time carer. “I don’t want to have notes the same size as everyone else.”

    Indeed one of the many glories of sterling is the generosity of scale of its banknotes. Yes, we no longer have to unfold a white five pound note the size of a handkerchief from our pocket, but there is a heft to even a tenner – especially when compared with the flimsiness of a euro or the meanness of a dollar.

    Cleland tries to justify the decision: “A lot of people are beginning to think they are a bit big. We have heard from focus groups and people say 'my husband brought me back a beautiful wallet from New York, and my notes don’t fit into it’.”

    It is true that many of the Oxford shoppers say they do not like how their notes sometimes stick out of their purses. But the fact that leather goods manufacturers of the world are making smaller products seems a risible reason to shrink the size of our currency. “We are trying to make the notes easier to handle,” says Cleland.

    The public are not being asked to give their views on this aspect. The decision has already been made.

    Ros Altmann, a pensions expert and former government adviser, is often a harsh critic of the Bank, but says: “We will have to trust that they know what they are doing. But one thing is of comfort – at least they are continuing to print banknotes.”

    Many high street banks and retailers would love it if we abandoned notes and coins, and used debit cards or, better still, contactless swipe cards. It would save them a fortune in cash-handling charges. But reassuringly, cash is more popular than ever and makes up 4.12 per cent of GDP, up from the 3 per cent a decade ago.

    With super low interest rates, many people no longer bother to keep cash in the bank. And others, hit by the recession, find it easier to budget using cash, rather than cards. “We are still seeing a demand for cash. And that is pretty common across the industrialised world,” says Cleland.

    The folding stuff is here to stay. Even if it won’t fold quite so easily in the future.

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    Bashar AssadHow will Syria dispose of its chemical weapons?

    Syria has formally applied for membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This obliges the country to get rid of its 1,000 tons of chemical gases and nerve agent following a full and immediate declaration of its stocks. It can invite the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to supervise and carry out the task. But the Geneva deal goes above and beyond these requirements. It demands a complete Syrian inventory within one week and unfettered access for chemical weapons inspectors as soon as they arrive.

    Can the task be completed in just nine months?

    American has spent more than 20 years and $30 billion getting rid of its 30,000 tons but the task is only 90 per cent complete. Russia is similarly behind schedule. Syria has a smaller arsenal but there is a raging civil war that will affect the security of inspectors and the feasibility of large-scale disposal operations. The best prospect is to export the stocks.

    Export? How and to where?

    America says it has been tracking Syria as it moves its chemical weapons around the country in response to the civil war and the threat of air strikes. It claims the material remains within government controlled zones. These are mostly concentrated around the coast. In the best of conditions the stocks could be taken to the ports and put on ships to Russia, even America.

    Is the Syrian government really willing to hand over its deadliest asset?

    Everything has its price. The Syrian regime may see this as an opportunity to show it can survive a confrontation with the world's greatest superpower. Furthermore it now knows that further use of the weapons would bring retaliation. Moscow's firm response to events also demonstrates it draws a firm line against chemical weapons. Lastly, the removal of chemical weapons diminishes the likelihood that extremists opposed to the regime will take control of parts of the arsenal and use it against the government.

    What if Syria uses negotiations over inspections to drag their feet?

    The rebels are significant here. There are clear warnings that while the Damascus government has overall responsibility for the safety of the inspections regime, rebels must also given undertakings for safe conduct. The unknown aspects of this deal are myriad but one of the most potent is daily wrangling over the safety and the free movement of the inspectors. Similar game-playing during the near-decade of weapons inspections in Iraq led to a regular cycle of confrontation and crises.

    Russia has conceded that ultimately Syria could face Chapter 7 sanctions, including military action. Does that put Syria on the same path as Iraq?

    Bashar al-Assad is not facing the same tests as Saddam Hussein. But it is now forgotten that Saddam did give up practically all his arsenal to the UN-sanctioned inspection regime. Assad appears to have achieved no tactical advantage in eastern Damascus by using the weapons. Instead the attack changed the international political calculus on the conflict. It has improved prospects for a peace conference that could hasten the end of the civil war.

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    netflix house of cardsVideo streaming giant Netflix has revealed that it looks at pirate downloading sites to work out which television series to buy.

    The company will check the popularity of shows on file-sharing websites when considering whether to buy broadcasting rights, an Netflix executive said.

    Speaking ahead of the company's launch in the Netherlands, Netflix Vice President of Content Acquisition Kelly Merryman discussed the role sites such as BitTorrent have in purchase decisions.

    "With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites,” she said a recent interview with Tweakers .

    Explaining the acquisition of rights to the show Prison Break in the Netherlands, she said: "Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites."

    Prison Break is an American television series starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell which was broadcast on Fox for four seasons between 2005 and 2009.

    Traditionally Netflix, one of world's leading video streaming sites, is seen as a rival provider to sites that offer films and television shows to download without the owners' permission.

    Yet recent comments from another Netflix executive, CEO Reed Hastings, suggest that the company can actually benefit from the additional demand created by so-called "torrent sites".

    "Certainly there’s some torrenting that goes on, and that’s true around the world, but some of that just creates the demand,” Hastings said.

    Netflix can then attempt to upsell some of those users with the offer of better overall watching experience.

    “Netflix is so much easier than torrenting. You don’t have to deal with files, you don’t have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch," he said, according to TorrentFreak .

    Indeed three years after Netflix launched in Canada there is evidence that traffic to BitTorrent has halved, according to Hastings.

    While Netflix remains heavily reliant on broadcasting shows created by other production companies, it has begun creating its own programmes.

    Earlier this year the website premiered the political drama House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey as scheming Congressman Frank Underwood.

    The first season's 13 episodes were released all at once for customers to watch immediately. A second season has been commissioned.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    fly swatter

    Flies avoid being swatted in the same way Keanu Reeves dodges flying bullets in The Matrix, by watching time pass slowly, research suggests.

    The smaller an animal is, and the faster its metabolic rate, the slower time passes for it, scientists found.

    This means that across a wide range of species, time perception is directly related to size, with animals smaller than us seeing the world in slow motion.

    The findings, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, come from research into the ability of animals to detect separate flashes of fast-flickering light.

    "Critical flicker fusion frequency" - the point at which the flashes seem to merge together, so that a light source appears constant - provides an indication of time perception.

    Comparing studies of the phenomenon in different animals revealed the link with size.

    Dr Andrew Jackson, from Trinity College Dublin, who led the study, said: "A lot of researchers have looked at this in different animals by measuring their perception of flickering light.

    "Some can perceive quite a fast flicker and others much slower, so that a flickering light looks like a blur.

    "Interestingly, there's a large difference between big and small species. Animals smaller than us see the world in slo-mo. It seems to be almost a fact of life.

    “Our focus was on vertebrates, but if you look at flies, they can perceive light flickering up to four times faster than we can.

    "You can imagine a fly literally seeing everything in slow motion."

    The effect may also account for the way time seems to speed up as we get older, Dr Jackson said.

    He decided to conduct the study after noticing the way small children always seem to be in such a hurry.

    "It's tempting to think that for children time moves more slowly than it does for grown ups, and there is some evidence that it might," he said.

    "People have shown in humans that flicker fusion frequency is related to a person's subjective perception of time, and it changes with age. It's certainly faster in children."

    More than 30 species were studied for the research, including rodents, eels, lizards, chickens, pigeons, dogs, cats and leatherback turtles.

    Kevin Healy, a Phd student at the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of the study, said: "Our results lend support to the importance of time perception in animals where the ability to perceive time on very small scales may be the difference between life and death for fast-moving organisms."

    Professor Graeme Ruxton, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who also took part in the research, said: "Having eyes that send updates to the brain at much higher frequencies than our eyes do is of no value if the brain cannot process that information equally quickly.

    “Hence, this work highlights the impressive capabilities of even the smallest animal brains.

    "Flies might not be deep thinkers, but they can make good decisions very quickly."

    Find Us On Facebook — Business Insider: Science

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    oktoberfest

    Munich’s Oktoberfest is one of the world’s largest food and drink festivals in the world, attracting around seven million visitors a year.

    Here’s our guide on how to make the most of your time and money at Wies’n (the locals’ name for the festival), which kicks off on September 21 and lasts until October 6.

    1. Accommodation is sparse during the festival: most rooms have been booked up months in advance. However, the experts at deals website Travelzoo suggest looking into private renting: many people in Munich rent out their spare rooms during Oktoberfest.

    If you would prefer to stay in a hotel or b&b, we’ve tracked down some places that still have rooms available:

    Pullman Munich, 4*, doubles from £140

    Leonardo Hotel Munchen City West, 4*, doubles from £159

    Leonardo Royal Hotel Munich 4*, doubles from £159

    Best Western Hotel Crystal, 4*, doubles from £167

    All of the above can be booked through www.laterooms.com

    If you want to book a package, try:

    • The easyJet Holidays website offers three nights on a b&b basis at the Drei Lowen hotel, departing on October 1 from London Gatwick for £701 per person. ( easyJet.com/holidays ; 0843 104 1000)
    • Lowcostholidays.com has three nights from September 30 on a room-only basis at the four-star Regent Hotel for £619 pp, with easyJet flights from Gatwick ( www.lowcostholidays.com )

    2. Travelzoo also recommends setting your alarm early to score a table in the beer tents around Theresienwiese, where Oktoberfest is cent red. Think 8am at the weekends, slightly later on weekdays.

    Festival-goers sit at a table with rare free seats - turn up early to get a table

    3. According to the festival’s official website, over 4000 items go missing during Oktoberfest. There is a Lost & Found office in the Service Centre, behind the Schottenhamel tent (opening hours 1-11pm).

    4. The dearest Oktoberfest beer is 35 pc more expensive this year than in 2012 at € 9.85 per Maß– one liter glass. You’ll find this tipple in the Armbrustschützen, Schottenhammel and Löwenbrau tents. The cheapest drinks can be found in the Ammer, Vinzenz Murr Metzgerstubn and Museumszelt tents, at €9.40.

    5. Mug up on Oktoberfest language: aufmandeln (v.) means to self-aggrandize, particularly on failing to find any free seats in the beer tents. Aufstöin (v.) indicates donating a beer, and Bazi (n.) is a crook, a rascal or a cheater. The word for “cheers”? “Prost!”

    6. With room for 6000 people inside and 2500 outside, the Augustiner-Festhalle is large – and is also said to be the friendliest of all Oktoberfest’s tents. Its website, www.festhalle-augustiner.com, has lots of useful information, including excerpts from the tent’s food menu.

    7. Looking for something cosier? Oktoberfest’s smallest tent, Glöckle Wirt, has room for just 98 people, and its walls are lined with traditional instruments, cooking utensils and paintings. Despite not being the trendiest of tents, it is said to attract the odd celebrity.

    It's not all about the beer - funfair rides keep visitors young and old amused

    8. Both Tuesdays are family days at Oktoberfest: prices on tickets, games and rides are lowered, so children who can’t sample the beer can still take part in the fun. Hostelbookers.com advises that the best time to bring children to the festival is on weekdays before 5pm.

    9. It’s not all about the beer – copious quantities of Bavarian food are also on offer. Hostelbookers’ guide says Schützen-Festzelt is one of the best tents for food – think tender suckling pig with malt beer sauce and potato salad. Also look out for strudel and mid-morning coffee at multiple outlets.

    The official stein for Oktoberfest 2013

    10. Don’t take your stein(s) out of the tents – this is considered theft, warns Travelzoo. If you want to take home a souvenir, you’ll either have to cough up for the official gift range, including beer mugs, mats and, more strangely, snow globes, or buy a Maß more cheaply in Munich’s shopping malls.

    11. Munich’s website features an Oktoberfest barometer, allowing visitors to see when the festival is at its most crowded. It’s in German, but is not difficult to interpret: red means ‘full’, green ‘calm’, etc. It's one way, at least, of attempting to make your Oktoberfest trip brim with steins of beer and pretzel stops - rather than queues and rowdy, sozzled tourists.

    Oktoberfest takes place from September 21 to October 6 2013. For more information, see the official Oktoberfest site or the German Tourist Board's website here

    SEE ALSO: Munich Is Already Preparing For Millions Of Oktoberfest Revelers

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    titanic ii Titanic_Exterior01

    A model of the proposed 'Titanic II' cruise ship – a replica of the ill-fated Titanic liner – has been tested in Germany.

    The 9.3-metre wooden model was put through propulsion and power testing in a 300-metre tank in Hamburg earlier this month, ahead of the ship’s construction in China.

    Clive Palmer, the wealthy Australian behind the project, said the results would be received later this year.

    Mr Palmer first announced his intention to build a replica of the Titanic last year. The vessel is expected to make its inaugural cruise in late 2016, sailing from Southampton to New York. It will be built to resemble the original, with the only upgrades being air conditioning, a hospital and a helipad.

    Mr Palmer has suggested that there will be no televisions or internet access, and said that passengers will be provided with period clothing should they wish to dress up.

    As in 1912, there will be three passenger classes. Even the gym and the swimming pool will be almost identical to those on the 1912 ship.

    One crucial upgrade will be the number of lifeboats. The original Titanic, carrying 2,224 passengers and crew, sank after hitting an iceberg during its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. It had 16 wooden lifeboats which accommodated just 1,178 people – a third of the total capacity.

    “The model testing by the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA), including resistance and open water tests, is an important part of the process in the Titanic II project,” Mr Palmer said. “The Titanic II model was tested by HSVA at speeds of up to 23 knots and this testing is crucial for assessing the speed and power performance of this prototype vessel design.”

    Mr Palmer, who was estimated to be worth $795 million (£511m) by Forbes magazine in 2012 but describes himself as a billionaire, has refused to say how much the venture will cost.

    He made his fortune in mining, but also owns a number of holiday resorts. The Titanic II isn’t his only business idea apparently inspired by a Nineties blockbuster film. Last year he reportedly took an interest in cloning a dinosaur to attract guests to the Palmer Coolum Resort near Brisbane. He later announced plans to install more than 100 mechanical dinosaurs at the resort.

    He also stood in this month's Australian elections after founding his own political party this year.

    SEE ALSO: Here's What The Titanic II Will Look Like

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    blackberry Thorsten Heins BlackBerry shares slumped on Friday after the troubled smartphone maker said it will slash 4,500 jobs and lose almost $1bn in the second quarter. Here is what a few analysts had to say of the announcement.

    Ryan Cram, analyst at Charter Equity Research

    "It's obviously a disaster. They're pre-announcing half the revenue the street expected this quarter."

    Part of that shortfall may stem from a change in how the company recognizes revenue, by recognizing only end-customer sales rather than sales into the channel, he said.

    "Switching to a sell-out number reflects what customers are actually buying."

    BlackBerry sales of 5.9m were still short of his expectation for 7m under the company's old reporting method.

    "The number probably keeps shrinking in the future and that's probably why they're making this change."

    The restructuring "makes sense from a survival standpoint. That's really what they're trying to do these days. It just shows the dire situation they're in. It's going to be tough for them to overcome."

    Keeping entry level phones suggests they're still trying in emerging markets. But he said the outlook was not good for them in emerging markets either.

    "Android is cleaning up in the emerging markets space. Samsung is just eating everybody's lunch. Everybody who's run into trouble has tried to revive their brand. It's been nearly impossible," he said, referring to Ericsson, Siemens and Nokia.

    James Faucette, analyst at Pacific Crest Securities

    "They're trying to arrest their slide by cutting headcount. I think that's going to make it really difficult. There's also some hope that by taking these steps right now, it helps cleans things up for any type of potential deal or acquisition that they've been very forthright about seeking.

    "It's still a really hard business to acquire. It's probably going to find limited value for most potential buyers. They're in a really, really difficult position.

    "I don't think [what they're doing now] will work, but I don't think anybody could do much better with it and that's why it's a hard business to acquire.

    "I honestly believe that they're trying their best to preserve things for as many people as they can, but it's a very, very hard market."

    Amitabh Passi, analyst at UBS

    "The revenue and device shipment numbers are pretty surprising given how weak it is. I think many of us were expecting a pretty difficult quarter, but this much worse than we anticipated.

    "They have to do something. To me the fact that they are exploring a sale is the only real alternative at this point. I think in the meantime, the fact that they are cutting operating expenditures deep is the best they can do to try to stabilise this ship."

    Colin Gillis, analyst at BGC Partners

    "The company has sailed off a cliff. What do you expect when you announce you're up for sale? Who wants to commit to a platform that could possibly be shut down?"

    BlackBerry's 3.7m unit shipments were roughly half what he said he expected. But their plan to restructure the company and narrow its focus is "reasonable".

    "It has to be done," he said.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    food cart china

    In life, Xia Junfeng was a nobody: he lived hand-to-mouth, selling fried sausages from a food cart in the Chinese city of Shenyang and trying to raise his young son.

    But his death on Wednesday morning ignited one of the largest public outcries in recent years, with the Chinese internet voicing its disgust at the Communist party.

    Mr Xia's case began in May 2009, when a group of "chengguan", city officers charged with keeping the streets in order, confronted him as he manned his stall.

    According to several witnesses who were later barred from testifying in his defence, he was beaten to the ground and his cart upturned.

    The men then took him to a local detention centre for interrogation where Mr Xia pulled a knife and stabbed two of them to death before fleeing.

    He claimed it was in self-defence, but he was convicted of double murder and given a suspended death sentence.

    In China, the chengguan are notorious for their brutality. Earlier this year they beat a watermelon seller to death in Hunan province.

    In Mr Xia's case, the public were quick to sympathise, despite his conviction, seeing him as another victim of chengguan violence. A campaign soon began to reverse his sentence.

    By Tuesday night, however, the authorities had decided to execute him. In a series of heartbreaking tweets, his wife, Zhang Jing, chronicled her pain.

    A painting by their 13-year-old son, Xia Jianqiang, showing him climbing on his father's back, also quickly went viral.

    "Why do they have to do this to us. What can I do, I am so scared. Please help me. Please give Xia Junfeng a chance and some hope to me and my son," Mrs Zhang tweeted at 9.13pm on Tuesday night.

    "Tonight is the third time in four years I am on the verge of breaking down. I swear I will not cry. I will let my husband leave in peace."

    At 1.35am, she tweeted again that she was still awake, afraid that her crying would wake the couple's son.

    By 6am on Wednesday morning, officials had sent a car for her to visit her husband. "I am crazy, I am about to leave," she tweeted.

    In the midmorning she told the now huge number of supporters watching her tweets that a request for a family photograph with Mr Xia had been turned down flatly.

    "He begged for them to take a photo of us and they refused. He begged for a photo of him to give to us, but they refused. Why must you be so brutal? Can't you let my son have a picture of him?"

    Shortly afterwards, Mr Xia was executed and his remains cremated, prompting a flow of outrage over Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

    "Mighty, glorious, always-correct Communist party, 30 times I ---- you," wrote Ye Jing, a professor at the China University of Political Science.

    "I am no legal expert, but I know a simple rule: If Gu Kailai can be spared of her life for a premeditated murder, then Xia Junfeng should not die," said Yao Bo, a former columnist in the state media, comparing Mr Xia's case to that of Bo Xilai's wife.

    "Justice is dead," wrote Yi Chen, an author, adding: "His life and death are more than just a legal matter, but a bellwether of the era, with the tsunami-like public opinion firmly on the side of Xia Junfeng."

    Meng Fei, a television anchor at Jiangsu Television with 32 million followers on Weibo, posted a picture of a candle next to Mr Xia's name.

    There was no response to the outrage from Chinese officials, but Mrs Zhang left one final tweet acknowledging the support. "I told my husband this morning that many people are seeing him off. May he have peace."

    Additional reporting by Adam Wu

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    qantas boeing dreamliner 787 at paris air show 2013 cockpit pilot

    Two airline pilots have confessed to being asleep in the cockpit at the same time during a long-haul flight into the UK.

    The captain and his co-pilot on the packed 325-seat Airbus A330 had decided to take turns in having 20-minute naps during the journey on August 13.

    But less than two hours after take-off, both were reportedly asleep, leaving the plane cruising on autopilot with no-one to take control in the event of an emergency.

    They admitted what had happened to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), blaming longer shifts over the peak holiday season, which left them unable to get more than five hours’ sleep in the preceding 36.

    The watchdog has declined to name the airline concerned for fear of deterring other pilots from reporting problems.

    It confirmed the carrier was UK-based but would not say where the plane had departed from or where it was heading.

    David Learmount, an air safety expert, told The Sun : "The plane is capable of cruising on autopilot, but if there's an emergency there would be no one to take the controls.

    “The pilots need to be alert. But the greatest danger is they wake up and do something as a knee-jerk reaction while still suffering sleep inertia."

    A CAA spokesman said: "We take fatigue-related incidents extremely seriously."

    The British Airline Pilots Association has warned that proposed changes to flying rules being voted on by MEPs next month would lead to pilots working up to seven starts in a row and being awake for 22 hours if standby hours are taken into account.

    Last month a survey of more than 2,000 adults commissioned by the association suggested that nine out of 10 would be worried about being in an aircraft flown by a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours.

    DEBUNKED: 10 Airplane Myths That People Still Believe

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    ice cube

    It is a phenomenon that has baffled the world's brightest minds since the time of Aristotle.

    Now a team of physicists believe they may have solved the centuries-old mystery of why hot water freezes faster than cold water.

    Known as the Mpemba effect, water behaves unlike most other liquids by freezing into a solid more rapidly from a heated state than from room temperature.

    Scientists have suggested dozens of theories for why this may occur, but none have been able to satisfactorily explain this strange physical property.

    A team of physicists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have now published what they believe may be the solution.

    They claim that the explanation lies in the unusual interaction between the molecules of water.

    Each water molecule is bound to its neighbor through a highly charged electromagnetic bond known as a "hydrogen bond."

    It is this that produces surface tension in water and also gives it a higher than expected boiling point compared to other liquids.

    However, Dr Sun Changqing and Dr Xi Zhang from Nanyang Technological University argue this also determines the way water molecules store and release energy.

    They argue that the rate at which energy is released varies with the initial state of the water and so calculate that hot water is able to release energy faster when it is placed into a freezer.

    Dr Changqing said: "The processes and the rate of energy release from water vary intrinsically with the initial energy state of the sources."

    The Mpemba effect is named after a Tanzanian student called Erasto Mpemba, who observed that hot ice cream mix froze before the cold mix.

    Together with a physics professor at University College at Dar es Salaam, he published a paper in 1969 that showed equal volumes of boiling water and cold in similar containers would freeze at different times, with the hot water freezing first.

    Similar observations have been described in the past, however, by Aristotle, Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes.

    The effect can also have some real world implications, such as whether to use boiling water to defrost the windscreen of your car on a winters day and whether hot water pipes are more prone to freezing than cold ones.

    Some people deny that the effect exists at all and is in fact an artifact of experimental procedure, but others claim to have shown it using carefully controlled experiments.

    There are a number of theories for might cause this, including that evaporation of hot water means there is less water to freeze.

    Another theory suggests that dissolved gasses in the water are released in hot water and so make it more viscous.

    Last year the Royal Society of Chemistry offered a £1,000 prize to anyone who could explain how the Mpemba effect worked.

    Nikola Bregovic, a chemistry research assistant at the University of Zagreb, was announced as the winner for the prize earlier this year.

    He conducted experiments using beakers of water in his laboratory and his resulting paper suggested that the effect of convection was probably responsible.

    He said that convection currents set up in the warm water cause it to cool more rapidly.

    However, Dr Changqing and Dr Zhang have attempted to explain the effect further by examining the process at a molecular level.

    Last week they published a paper in the journal Scientific Reports showing how water molecules arrange themselves when forming ice.

    They also published a paper on arXiv Chemical Physics that explained the Mpemba effect.

    They say the interaction between the hydrogen bonds and the stronger bonds that hold the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in each molecule together, known as covalent bonds, is what causes the effect.

    Normally when a liquid is heated, the covalent bonds between atoms stretch and store energy.

    The scientists argue that in water, the hydrogen bonds produce an unusual effect that causes the covalent bonds to shorten and store energy when heated.

    This they say leads to the bonds to release their energy in an exponential way compared to the initial amount stored when they are cooled in a freezer.

    So hot water will lose more energy faster than cool water.

    Dr Changqing said: "Heating stores energy by shortening and stiffening the H-O covalent bond.

    "Cooling in a refrigerator, the H-O bond releases its energy at a rate that depends exponentially on the initially stored energy, and therefore, Mpemba effect happens."

    The Royal Society of Chemistry received more than 22,000 responses to its call for a solution to the Mpemba effect and it is still receiving theories despite the competition closing a year ago.

    Mr Bregovic, who was judged to have developed the best solution by a panel of experts a conference at Imperial College London last year, said: "This small simple molecule amazes and intrigues us with its magic."

    Aeneas Wiener, from Imperial College who helped to judge the competition, added: "The new paper demonstrates that even though a phenomenon seems simple, delving deeper reveals even more complexity - and that is certainly worth looking at.

    "We hope it'll inspire young people to pursue scientific studies."

    Dr Denis Osborne, a lecturer at University College in Dar es Salaam who published the paper with Mr Mpemba on the effect they had observed, said: "Several different mechanisms may cause or contribute to an Mpemba effect.

    "What the authors describe as a property of H-O bonding may be one of these."

    SEE ALSO: 35 Science 'Facts' That Are Totally Wrong

    SEE ALSO: See The World's First Images Of Actual Hydrogen Bonds

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    Tom Cruise minority Report

    Drivers may soon be able to open and close windows or control the air conditioning in their vehicle with the wave of a hand.

    Internet giant Google and car manufacturer Ford are both developing vehicles where a range of functions can be controlled using hand gestures.

    Specific hand movements would be detected by in car cameras to replace the range of buttons and knobs that currently litter vehicle dashboards.

    Patent applications published by both companies show how they want drivers to use a swipe gesture, for example, to lower and raise a window.

    A flick of the fingers around the steering wheel, however, would turn on windscreen wipers or indicators.

    A twisting hand movement in front of the dashboard could turn on air conditioning or control the car radio, while pointing at the sunroof will cause it to open.

    Google, which has been developing a vehicle that can drive itself, also raises the prospect that gestures could even be used to allow passengers to give the car's on board computer directions and instructions.

    However, Google claims gesture recognition will be of most use when drivers are still required to steer as it will help keep them from being distracted by buttons.

    Their patent said: “While a user is manoeuvring a vehicle, the user may wish to perform a number of additional functions, such as navigating to a destination, changing the temperature in the vehicle, or changing the volume of music playing in the vehicle.

    “The user may perform a gesture in a region of the vehicle. Example regions include a steering wheel, an air-conditioning vent, and an ear of the user.

    “The predetermined gestures may include, for example, any gesture that an occupant of the vehicle may make with his or her hands, fingers, arms, legs and head.

    “For instance, the predetermined gestures may include swiping, tapping, pointing, grasping, pinching, or waving gestures.”

    Google proposes using three dimensional video cameras inside the vehicle to recognise the gestures and a speaking function or display would confirm the function selected.

    Google lists a range of functions that could be controlled by gesture including changing the volume or skipping tracks on a car’s audio system, modifying the fan speed or temperature of the air conditioning.

    It adds that gestures could also change the speed of a cruise control system and change a seat position.

    Describing how the system might work, the patent states: “If the swipe gesture is in a region that includes a window, the vehicle may determine an extent of the swipe and further may determine how far to open the window based on the extent of the swipe.

    “For instance, the vehicle may open the window further for a longer swipe than for a shorter swipe.”

    Ford has also published a similar patent that describes how vehicle controls can be operated using gesture recognition.

    Their system would also use cameras to obtain information about the drivers attentiveness and so recognise whether the commands were intended.

    It proposes allowing users to open their sunroof by pulling an imaginary cord or using gestures to control a heads up display on the windscreen.

    Drivers can confirm their commands by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down.

    The system could also be used to help tell if a driver is paying attention to any threats n the road ahead and even recognise the owner of the car.

    The patent said: “On recognition, a set of personalised functions corresponding to the person are reset to a set of pre-stored settings.

    “For example the temperature of the interiors can be automatically set up or the driver side window may half open automatically when the person occupies the seat.”

    Ford is not the first car manufacturer to toy with using gesture recognition – last year Mercedes showcased a basic gesture control system at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    SEE ALSO: Here's What It Will Take To Get Self-Driving Cars On The Road

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    Le Georges Restaurant, Pompidou Center, ParisTwo trendy Parisian restaurants have been accused of seating guests according to how good-looking they are to raise the tone of the establishments

    Two trendy Parisian restaurants have been accused of seating guests according to how good-looking they are to raise the tone of the establishments.

    Former hostesses have claimed that Thierry and Gilbert Costes — brothers whose group owns hotels, cinemas, restaurants and cafes in the French capital — have introduced a highly discriminatory selection procedure for guests of Le Georges, in the Pompidou Centre, and Café Marly, overlooking the Louvre.

    “The good-looking ones are led to the good places, where they can be easily seen,” they told Le Canard Enchaîné, an investigative and satirical weekly. “As for the non good-looking ones, it is imperative that they be dispatched to the corners of the room.”

    Failure to obey the rules was said to result in reprimands such as: “What are these ugly mugs doing at this table? Everyone can see them when they come in. It’s very bad for our image.”

    The hostesses themselves were picked according to equally exacting criteria: anyone short "without a model's physique and over 30 need not apply". One was told off for "not showing my breasts enough".

    They said that periodically one of the bosses, Gilbert, would come in person to “harp on about the house principles of which he is very proud, as he invented them, saying: ‘There are good looking people, you put them here; there are bad looking people, you put them there! Really, it’s not that complicated.'”

    The only exception to this rule, they told the weekly, was celebrity guests, who “pretty or ugly, old or young", get to sit before the “vast panorama” of the Parisian skyline.

    Telephone bookings naturally posed a problem. To get round this tricky issue, the welcome desk was asked to remain non-committal on seating arrangements, saying: “We’ll do what we can but can promise nothing.”

    In the Cafe Marly, another chic eatery overlooking the Louvres museum and its pyramid owned by the Costes group, the hostesses claimed phone bookers were told balcony seats could not be guaranteed.

    Depending on the physical attributes of the guest, they would then receive the go-ahead to sit “on the terrace” for all to see or not.

    A member of the Georges restaurant “did not deny" the existence of such rules, according to Le Canard, merely saying: “It’s a little complicated to answer.”

    A spokesman for the Costes brothers told the Telegraph: "They have no comment."

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    bacteria_nasa

    Nasa does not need to travel to the stars to find new forms of life – it has discovered a new species of bacteria living in the special rooms used to build spacecraft.

    The US space agency uses sterilised clean rooms to build spacecraft for missions to other planets to help avoid any contamination that may hinder the search for life.

    These rooms are kept extremely dry, are cleaned with chemicals including bleach and have negative air pressure to keep out any contaminants.

    Ultraviolet light and heat treatments are also used to kill off any life on objects that go in and workers are required to wear special suits.

    However, Nasa has revealed that it has discovered a hardy new species of microbe that has is able to survive in this highly inhospitable environment.

    The berry-shaped bacteria, called Tersicoccus phoenicis, is so unusual that it has been classified not just as a new species but also a new genus.

    Scientists said they have now found the bacteria in two separate clean rooms – one in Florida where Nasa's Mars Phoenix Lander was constructed and at the European Space Agency's facility in Kourou, French Guiana.

    "This particular bug survives with almost no nutrients," said Parag Vaishampayan, a microbiologist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

    "We want to have a better understanding of these bugs, because the capabilities that adapt them for surviving in clean rooms might also let them survive on a spacecraft.

    "The same bug might be in the soil outside the clean room but we wouldn't necessarily identify it there because it would be hidden by the overwhelming numbers of other bugs."

    Analysis of the new bacterium, which is about one micrometre across (0.00004 inches) is published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology .

    The name for the bacteria comes from Tersi, the Latin for clean, and coccus, which is Greek for berry.

    Phoenicis is derived from the Phoenix Mars Lander, the spacecraft that was being constructed when the bacterium was first collected in floor swabs.

    Nasa regularly conducts swabs and tests of its clean room facilities to monitor for the presence of bacteria.

    It means that if a spacecraft does detect signs of life during a mission, it can be checked against the species known to inhabit clean rooms.

    This allows scientists to determine whether they have found extraterrestrial life or a species from Earth that has hitched a ride.

    Only species that are able to survive in harsh, nutrient poor conditions are generally found in clean rooms.

    "Tersicoccus phoenicis might be found in some natural environment with extremely low nutrient levels, such as a cave or desert," said Dr Vaishampayan.

    SEE ALSO: Why Playing It Cool Is Psychologically Attractive

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    moscow metro photos chandelier

    Commuters in Moscow are being given free metro tickets – as long as they can perform 30 'Olympic-standard' squats.

    A machine that issues a free ticket if passengers can perform the squats within a two-minute time limit was installed at a station to the east of the city on Friday.

    Officials hope that the unusual move will encourage Muscovites to incorporate “Olympic values” into their commute, ahead of the country hosting the winter games next year.

    The machine at Vystavochnaya station is fitted with sensors and a supervisor is on hand to ensure the commuters are not slacking in their squats, with a single ticket worth 30 rubles (57p) printed out if the challenge is successfully completed.

    The first to earn their ticket was gymnast Yelena Zamolodchikova, who won two gold medals at the Sydney Olympics.

    The installation is part of a wider campaign to encourage Russians to exercise regularly before the Sochi Olympics in February.

    Other projects in the scheme include replacing the handles on busses with exercise bands and putting bikes on the street which people can ride to produce electricity for their mobile phones.

    Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told the state-run news agency RIA-Novosti: “We wanted to show the Olympic Games are not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but are also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle.”

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    This is the dramatic moment a Greenpeace ship was boarded by armed Russian authorities during a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic

    The newly released footage was shot on September 19 and shows a Russian helicopter hovering over the deck of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise.

    Armed men drop on to the deck, while members of the Greenpeace crew are seen with their hands in the air.

    The footage also shows the ship being towed towards Murmansk, where the 30 people on board were taken ashore and arrested.

    The protesters were initially charged with piracy, but this has been changed to hooliganism, which carries a lesser sentence.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has called the charges "excessive" and urged President Vladimir Putin to make sure those being held can come home.

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    flowers phonesA Woman's Perspective On Tinder

    Relationship expert Caroline Kent tests out dating app Tinder for a week. Here's how she fared.

    As a trailblazer of casual sex and being skint, I am allegedly the prime example of the demographic that is turning to the Tinder iPhone app.

    If you believe the hype, a growing number of people like me are getting repetitive strain injury from swiping 'yes' to intimate invitations from relative strangers.

    Tinder uses your existing social networking data from Facebook to locate people in the immediate vicinity, tell you a bit about them, whether you have any friends in common and (most importantly) show you a pic.

    It has slimmed down the emotional, cognitive and financial investment required by the virtual dating process to one simple question: “Do I want to do you?” What more modern way to make that most basic binary decision of whether you want to shag someone than a game of real-world "Hot or Not"?

    Social media has made us expert first-daters, well-versed in smalltalk and over-sharing with strangers. The quick follow-though from swipe to sex is similarly instinctive for a generation with an appetite for immediacy.

    Under-delivering dating websites prove that personality analytics and mutual interest algorithms do not equate to good sexual chemistry. So what lessons will I learn from this sexual satnav?

    Monday

    Turns out I've been signed up to Facebook as male, so Tinder is only matching me with women. After ten minutes of contemplating if this is the Universe's way of telling me that I‘m not compatible with any men (Mum's been saying it for years), I realign my social-media gender. I promptly get trigger-happy and tick "yes" to a local lad who “likes” me too.

    On closer inspection, his pics are all selfies, which screams "I’m vain and don’t have any friends to take pics of me.” Another cutie introduces himself with a coy "heyyy" (words are stretched out on Tinder, for some reason – "How are you?" becomes "hiiii how ya doiiin??") but I note his height in comparison to his friends in group shots. Shortest. Swipe left, sorry “David”. Maybe I'm being a tad picky for someone using a free hookup app?

    Tuesday

    My sociopathic curiosity and appetite for constant validation are fuelled by Tinder's addictive swipe function. I start consuming hundreds of profiles on boring journeys or in queues for a slow barista. Oh, the immediate gratification of having eight suitors when I woke up this morning! Didn't reply to any, but it's nice to know they're out there.

    Tinder totally complements my lazy and attention-seeking personality. It's as compulsive as moodboarding baking projects on Pinterest: swipe, scroll, drool, click, reload. I keep coming back for more cheap, mindless thrills throughout the day. Could the next Tinderer be "the one"? Do I even care?

    Wednesday

    The localised aspect of the app hits me tonight – at my local. How many guys in here have I swiped? What if someone recognises me off Tinder? Am I a virtual slut? This is London, it's normal to have never met my neighbours, but is it normal that I might be dating them online?

    It usually takes me a few drinks to start talking to strangers but, thanks to my iPhone, I'm now virtu-flirting while I wee. I don't even need to leave my sofa to flirt, let alone risk liver damage in pursuit of enough Dutch courage to politely humour a clinger for 45 minutes. Online, I simply opt-in to a flirt, and if I don't respond no one gets hurt. Dilemma: Friend of my ex comes up: swipe or stay?

    Thursday

    I'm headed to Yorkshire to visit a friend for the evening and take the opportunity to spin the Tinder wheel. It seems northern men are better at smalltalk and far more fond of vests. When you depart from more densely populated urban areas, you have to cast your geographic net wider.

    Back in London it's more like "18 shared interests! Only one mile away! Oh, wait, you have a weird fringe. Bye." But up here I find myself more forgiving of the profiles, pouncing on any within a 30-mile radius who seem to have the slightest grasp of grammar. “Richard” gives me the impression he has Tinder-banged so many women in his town that one in 10 children born in the next generation will be biologically his.

    Friday

    Been chatting to someone cute for three days now. He’s asked to meet but he's not showing his teeth in any of the photos. Would it be impolite to ask him to Snapchat me a gum-shot, so I can be sure he's not a toothless hick? His main profile pic includes three of his mates (those are almost worse than the sneaky selfies because you don't know if you've pulled an alpha male or his loser friend) but we have a mutual acquaintance who assures me he's a "safe bloke".

    We meet at a street food diner in Soho. He's exactly the sort of 20-something that Tinder or OkCupid would welcome: hip, active on social media, possibly polygamous (a cheat), but authentic and upfront about it. I’m honest about being a writer but I don't rein in my flirting. He's cute so I take the ethnographic approach as he describes the back-and-forth of flirting on Tinder as “tedious intellectual foreplay." He tells me he’s met up with several Tinderers with the sole aim of having sex almost immediately – a game plan that has seen him ditched more times than it’s worked.

    “I'm not on Tinder for a relationship but I enjoy going on dates and having casual sex. I’d never lie to someone about that.” But would he be economical with the truth to obscure the one-way street the relationship was headed down? “Misunderstandings happen,” he shrugs, before asking how I rate the date so far from one to 10.

    Saturday

    We ended up in the sort of Soho tequila bar where dinner dates come to die. We held hands as we walked to his place, kissing on a quiet square in Clerkenwell and I felt like a spontaneous 17-year-old … Well, right up until this morning, when he asked me how I rated the sex so far from one to 10. Tinder isn't a dating app, it's the Yellow Pages for ego-boosting one-night-stands.

    Sunday

    It's autumn, I think to myself, which means a whole new influx of American PhD student suitors moving into my Tinder radius. Just think of all the money I'll save on dinner dates now I can skip straight to the unfulfilling sex ...

    A Man's Perspective On Tinder

    Online dating afficionado Willard Foxton tries out the Tinder dating app for a week, with mixed results.

    Monday

    I sign up to Tinder, the hottest new thing in online dating. As a veteran of practically every dating site known to man, I'm immediately impressed with it. It cuts out all the nonsense and pretence of online dating.

    It’s simple. Swipe a picture left, that person is gone forever. Swipe right, and if they've done the same for you, it allows you to chat to them. It's like browsing through an Argos catalogue of ladies, or shuffling through a deck of female top trumps.

    10 or 15 pictures through, I hit an ex. Few things more satisfying than that swipe to the left.

    Tuesday

    I show a male friend the app, just to explain how it works. He immediately starts riffling through my possible matches. "Too fat..No...Too thin..No...Eww, ugly dress...No! That's never her car...binned! Mirror Selfie... No!"

    Before I can wrest the phone out of his hands, he's rejected twenty or thirty perfectly attractive ladies. The first clear Tinder lesson I've learned is not to let it anywhere near your perfectionist friends.

    Wednesday

    I'm starting to get worried about the amount of matches and replies I'm getting. It's far lower than what I'd expect on a normal dating site. I'll be the first to admit I'm not the most handsome of men, but surely there are some women who like the look of me out there?

    I ask for help from a female friend. She takes one glance at my profile and immediately comprehends more about people's behaviour on Tinder than me. "You've used your Facebook profile picture, haven't you? The one with you looking fat and quizzical? Also, in your bio, you say you're looking for a relationship. Chubby and looking for a relationship? That's a bad Tinder combination".

    She searches through my pictures for more flattering ones and we replace the bio with a witty one-liner.

    Within minutes I'm contacted by a woman with big tattoos on her neck. I'm not sure this is an improvement.

    Thursday

    Replacing the chubby picture with a more svelte one makes me into lady catnip. I am amazed my potential mates are so shallow - but flattered to be suddenly so bombarded with requests I almost can't keep up. I end up with a choice of five for a date on Friday night.

    It's only after a small amount of conversation with some of my matches that I realise my iPhone thinks it's in Texas. The likelehood of these these ladies flying in to London from Texas tomorrow is low.

    Tinder lesson number two: it doesn't cope with regular international travel very well.

    Friday

    It's Friday and I'm still dateless. This should be the ultimate test of Tinder: can I get a Friday night date from someone near my house? I sit in a bar nearby and start riffling through pictures, putting my fate in the hands of the Tinder Gods.

    After about fifteen minutes, I recognise a friend on it. I swipe her to the right, and we start messaging. We're both surprised to find the other one on there. She comes to the pub and we have a pleasant evening over pints.

    Has Tinder passed the test?...

    Saturday

    I wake up in my cold and blameless bed alone.

    One of the things about internet dating is it teaches you nothing if not perserverance. I know that it's imperative I ignore the voice in my head telling me I'm a failure: a man who can't even get a date on an app that's supposedly designed for casual sexaholics.

    Almost against my own will, I reach for my phone and start swiping. Left, left, right, left.

    It takes a while (you have to put the time in with online dating, and Tinder is no different), but I eventually manage to arrange a date with a pretty lady for Sunday afternoon. Phew!

    I get out of bed and carry on with my day.

    Sunday

    I meet the lady for drinks on the Southbank. We have a lovely chat in the sun about online dating, hookup apps, all the rest of it. She tells me a hair raising story about accidentally flirting with two brothers through Tinder at the same time. A hazard of location based dating, I guess.

    It turns out she has another date later on that evening - I'm merely one in a parade of meet-ups. She loves Tinder, and homes in on the secret of its popularity: it's the first dating app that's better for women than men, because it puts them in control.

    on Tinder, women only get messaged by men they find attractive, rather than drowning under the barrage of messages they get from unfiltered hopefulls on regular dating sites. Of course, there are still creeps - many of them - but they are easily blocked and ignored. Besides, she likes the occasional "dick pic", she says.

    My date tells me she blocks most people who send her sleazy messages and only dates people who can spell. A good maxim for life in general, I feel. We part, and agree we'll see each other again as friends.

    I walk home and ready myself for another night warming my own sheets without company. Tinder may work for some, but it's not the right dating app for a chubby chap in his thirties...

    SEE ALSO: The History Of Twitter In 10 Tweets

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    Super Typhoon

    Only when Lynette Lim started to walk into Tacloban City, a few hours after 'Super' Typhoon Haiyan wreaked unimaginable devastation across the Philippines, did she realise how lucky she herself had been to survive the storm.

    "Everything was just flattened," said Miss Lim, the Asia communications manager for Save the Children, who arrived in Tacloban with a group of aid workers assessing the potential need for help just 24 hours before Haiyan smashed into the city on Friday.

    "The water was knee high and there were bodies floating in the streets. I saw several dead children. I'd say two out of every five corpses I saw were kids. Most of the houses were wooden and they were completely destroyed.

    "There were trees and electrical poles strewn across the road and corrugated iron roofing that had been ripped off houses."

    Making her way through the villages south of Tacloban, she discovered the full extent of the horrific damage caused by winds that came close to 200mph, and storm surges that sent waves as high as the second storey of houses crashing ashore.

    "Everywhere we went, people told us between 10 and 50 people had been killed in their communities," said Miss Lim. "Most of the families who had decided to evacuate ahead of the storm left one member behind to guard their homes and possessions. Unfortunately, most of them died."

    Others had decided to disregard government warnings to leave. "They told me they'd seen typhoons before and that they never imagined a storm could be as bad as this one."

    Miss Lim herself had not foreseen how catastrophic Haiyan's impact would be. "I knew it was coming but its force was still really unexpected when it arrived at 5.30 in the morning," she said. "It started with strong winds and heavy rain and it just got stronger and stronger."

    Despite staying in a government building far sturdier than most of the homes in the city of 220,000 people, Miss Lim felt the full force of the typhoon.

    "Windows were shattering, cars were overturning in the car park and parts of the roof blew off. I ended up moving from room to room and then hiding under a table with a pillow over my head to protect myself from flying glass and debris."

    When she did emerge into the open, few government officials or police were in evidence. Many were grieving the loss of their own relatives.

    "Bodies in the streets were being cleared away, but there was no one around from the government apart from a few police," said Miss Lim. "We just tried to help as best we could." Shocked survivors waded through the filthy, black water in search of missing family and friends, or just aimlessly wandered because they had no homes to go to.

    "There was a sense of 'What do I do now?'" said Miss Lim. "There's no food, no work to do, no supplies for people to start re-building their homes. They couldn't do anything."

    But soon the shock induced by Haiyan gave way to a growing fury. "Everyone expressed anger that the government wasn't doing enough for the survivors. Everyone was angry that there was no food and water and that no one was counting the dead, or that there no coordination of relief at all," said Miss Lim.

    Then the looting began. "It was unlike anything I had seen before. Everything people could take, they took. People were filling up grocery carts with what food and water they could find, but also microwaves and televisions, even washing machines," she said.

    As night fell, Tacloban became a city gripped by fear. "It was scary walking around after dark. There were people raiding private homes and I was worried that I might be robbed."

    By Saturday, Tacloban's main sports arena, the Astrodome, had become the temporary home for what Miss Lim estimated to be around 15,000 people living in terrible squalor. "It was very shocking to see dead bodies actually in the evacuation centre," she said.

    Worse still, was the state of the young children. "They were frightened because they had never experienced anything like this. The younger ones were all hungry."

    Yet, at least those crammed into the Astrodome and the other makeshift evacuation centres that have sprung up are alive. The mayor and local police estimate at least 10,000 people were killed in the city and its immediate surrounds.

    There is still no word from many coastal communities south and north of Tacloban, or from the most remote parts of neighbouring Samar Province, where Haiyan first made landfall in the Philippines. "Save the Children's greatest concern is the people in the coastal areas. We've heard of one fishing village called San Jose that has been completely wiped out. That's probably around 200 people," said Miss Lim. "If that is the case, then it must be as bad or worse in Samar because that's where the typhoon first hit."

    Like everyone else trying to escape Tacloban yesterday, Miss Lim ended up walking almost 10 miles to the airport. "The road was just miles and miles of devastation. The airport was completely packed when I arrived. There were locals, as well as western, Japanese and Chinese tourists who were trying to get on military flights out."

    The only consolation for Miss Lim and the other aid workers is that much-needed aid is now beginning to arrive into the airport. "I flew out on a plane that brought in supplies from the World Food Programme," she said. "I hope I can go back again to help too."

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    egypt womenEgypt is the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, according to a poll of gender experts which found high levels of sexual harassment and female genital mutilation as well as an increase in violence and Islamist sentiment following the 2011 revolution.

    Hopes that the Arab Spring would improve the lot of women in Egypt have not only been confounded, their situation has in fact worsened, the survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation suggested.

    It cited instability and conflict in the country as well as the rise of Islamist groups in many areas as some of the reasons for that deterioration. Discriminatory laws as well as a surge in trafficking had also had a negative impact, experts said.

    "We removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms," Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy said, referring to Egypt's ousted military ruler, Hosni Mubarak.

    "As the miserable poll results show, we women need a double revolution, one against the various dictators who've ruined our countries and the other against a toxic mix of culture and religion that ruin our lives as women."

    Iraq came in as the second worst Arab nation for women's rights, with the Middle Eastern country now more dangerous for females than it was under toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, the study indicated.

    Both outstripped Saudi Arabia, the Gulf state notorious for repressive attitudes towards women under its strict Wahabi Islamic law. It came in as the third worst country for women, followed by Syria and Yemen.

    Syria has in the past been known for its relatively liberal attitudes towards women, particularly in major cities such as Damascus, but the surge in Islamist groups there and the introduction of Sharia law in some regions now controlled by hardline militants have rolled back progress in the field of gender equality.

    The civil conflict had also seen government forces rape and torture women, according to rights groups, while displaced women in refugee camps were left vulnerable to trafficking, forced and child marriage and sexual violence.

    "The Syrian woman is a weapon of war, subjected to abductions and rape by the regime and other groups," a Syrian women's rights campaigner said.

    The poll assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman's role in politics and the economy.

    The best Arab country to be a woman was Comoros, the tiny island nation off the east coast of Africa. There, women hold 20 percent of ministerial positions and wives are generally able to retain property after divorce.

    Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar ranked the most highly after the small Indian Ocean state.

    The poll surveyed 336 gender experts in August and September in 21 Arab League states and Syria, which was suspended from the organisation in 2011.

    Questions were based on provisions of the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which 19 Arab states have signed or ratified. Experts were asked to give ratings on factors affecting women's rights, which in turn produced the rankings.

    Egypt scored badly in almost all categories as activists said the post-revolutionary rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and election of Mohamed Morsi had set back women's rights.

    Hopes for greater freedoms following the ousting of Mr Morsi by the army in June have been dampened by the everyday dangers for women on the street, experts said.

    In April, a UN report found that 99.3% of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment in Egypt, which experts attributed to a general rise in gender-based violence in the past few years.

    Human Rights Watch reported that 91 women were raped or sexually assaulted in public in Tahrir Square in June as protests against Mr Morsi intensified.

    "The social acceptability of everyday sexual harassment affects every woman in Egypt regardless of age, professional or socio-economic background, marriage status, dress or behaviour," said Noora Flinkman, communications manager at HarassMap, a Cairo-based rights group that campaigns against harassment.

    "It limits women's participation in public life. It affects their safety and security, their sense of worth, self-confidence and health."

    Respondents also cited high rates of forced marriage and trafficking.

    "There are whole villages on the outskirts of Cairo and elsewhere where the bulk of economic activity is based on trafficking in women and forced marriages," said Zahra Radwan, Middle East and North Africa programme officer for the Global Fund for Women, a US-based rights group.

    Female genital mutilation is endemic in Egypt, where 91 percent of women and girls - 27.2 million in all - are subjected to cutting, according to UNICEF.

    In Iraq, women's freedoms have regressed since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the poll showed, as a decade of insecurity and conflict affected women disproportionately. The study painted a grim picture for females with domestic abuse and prostitution on the rise and illiteracy soaring, according to Refugees International

    Experts noted some small advances in Saudi Arabia, which, while it remains the only country to prohibit female driving, has seen some cautious reforms to allow women more employment opportunities and a greater presence in public life.

    Since January, 30 women have been appointed to the150-member Shoura Council, the nearest thing Saudi Arabia has to a parliament - though the body has no legislative or budgetary powers.

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    warhol collection auctionA 50-year-old Andy Warhol painting is going head-to-head with a Francis Bacon triptych in New York's auction houses this week to reach more than $80 million

    New sales records may be broken this week in New York by an Andy Warhol painting and a triptych by Francis Bacon, the late British artist, both striving to get the highest bid.

    Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), painted in 1963, is expected to reach between $60 - 80 million (£37 - 50 million) at Sotheby's on Wednesday.

    However, it may be beaten to being sale of the week by Bacon's portraits of his friend and rival, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which is being auctioned at Christie's on Tuesday.

    The triptych has the highest-ever estimate for a work of art at auction: $85 million (£53 million), topping the $80 million estimate that Edvard Munch's The Scream was listed at in May 2012. It sold for $120 million.

    The Warhol piece, which shows a twisted body inside a mangled car, is and one of four that the artist produced when he was 35. It is, however, the last one of its size still owned privately.

    warhol silver disasterBacon's triptych is one of two that the artist painted of Freud, also a popular artist, and the other's whereabouts are unknown.

    After being sold separately by a dealer in the Seventies, the three panels were bought from collectors in Paris, Japan and Rome.

    Currently, Roman Abramovich holds the record for paying the most for a Bacon triptych, after paying $86.2 million in 2008.

    bacon

    Andreas Rumbler, auctioneer of the sales and deputy chairman of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie's in New York, explained the appeal of Warhol despite the fact he was so prolific: "With Warhol, although his output is so large, his other pieces act as comparables for potential buyers.

    Buyers know they can bank on a Warhol because they do well, despite not being particularly rare."

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