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- 04/27/14--09:34: _The 18 Best Sci-Fi ...
- 04/27/14--10:21: _Why The EU Is Malfu...
- 04/29/14--12:42: _Humans May One Day ...
- 04/30/14--04:14: _GE Offers Alstom $1...
- 05/01/14--04:21: _Scientists May Have...
- 05/01/14--04:35: _Here's Why Giving Y...
- 05/01/14--06:31: _Hotels Are Finally ...
- 05/01/14--07:08: _Noma Chef Reveals H...
- 05/02/14--05:08: _The 15 Best Greek A...
- 05/02/14--05:21: _These Are The Best ...
- 05/02/14--16:18: _The Shocking US Job...
- 05/03/14--04:12: _Ben Affleck Banned ...
- 05/03/14--05:02: _Japanese Youngsters...
- 05/05/14--03:48: _Iran Offers Europe ...
- 05/06/14--07:11: _ 20 Fascinating Fac...
- 05/06/14--12:19: _Pistorius Accused O...
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- 05/07/14--02:58: _The First Trilliona...
- 05/07/14--04:04: _Why Avoiding Sunshi...
- 05/07/14--04:20: _Here's How Pop Star...
- 04/27/14--09:34: The 18 Best Sci-Fi And Fantasy Novels Of All Time
- 04/27/14--10:21: Why The EU Is Malfunctioning
- 04/29/14--12:42: Humans May One Day Have Pig Hearts
- 04/30/14--04:14: GE Offers Alstom $17 Billion For Its Energy Businesses
- 05/01/14--06:31: Hotels Are Finally Phasing Out Minibars
- 05/01/14--07:08: Noma Chef Reveals His Favorite Things To Do In Copenhagen
- 05/02/14--05:08: The 15 Best Greek And Roman Classics
- 05/02/14--05:21: These Are The Best Places To Visit In Yellowstone National Park
- 05/02/14--16:18: The Shocking US Jobs Data Impugns The Recovery And Fed Tapering
- 05/03/14--05:02: Japanese Youngsters Aren't Having Enough Sex
- 05/05/14--03:48: Iran Offers Europe Gas Amid Russian Energy Embargo Fears
- 05/06/14--07:11: 20 Fascinating Facts About The Channel Tunnel
- 05/06/14--12:19: Pistorius Accused Of Making Sinister Remark To Witness
- 05/07/14--02:58: The First Trillionaire Could Emerge Within 25 Years
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Lewis Carroll (1865)
It has been suggested that Alice’s trippy experiences are Carroll’s comment on his contemporary mathematical theory: that all the growing and shrinking is about Euclidean geometry and that episodes such as the caterpillar and the hookah are a send-up of symbolic algebra. Whatever the explanation, it endures.
H G Wells (1898)
Does the county of Surrey make quite enough of the fact that Wells’s malevolent Martians first landed in Woking? Or that the hideous creatures in their tripods laid waste to Walton-on-Thames? Like all immortal science fiction, this is rooted in more earthly anxieties – here, belligerent European rival nations.
Bram Stoker (1897)
Best enjoyed not as Gothic horror, but as a blazing late Victorian imperial adventure. Jonathan Harker may initially travel to the Count’s eerie fastness in Transylvania, but the Count is intent on some reverse colonisation, coming to London and spreading his undead activities into the very heart of bourgeois English society.
4. Titus Groan
Mervyn Peake (1946)
What must post-war readers have made of the denizens of Gormenghast? Of Lord Sepulchrave, Dr Prunesquallor, Nanny Slagg, and Steerpike? What did all that rich and mad Gothic detailing portend? The imagery remains unforgettable, not least Swelter’s infernal kitchens, and Flay hurling a white cat at Steerpike.
Aldous Huxley (1932)
Initially intended as a gentle send-up of H G Wells’s utopian “things to come” visions, Huxley instead conjured a nightmare 26th-century society of babies grown in “hatcheries”, promiscuous casual sex (marriage and families are obsolete) and hallucinogenic drugs. It is frequently pointed out that all such things have come to pass.
George Orwell (1948)
Had Orwell written this one year earlier, we would have associated complete totalitarianism with the year 1974. As it is, Double-Think, Room 101 and the utterly harrowing betrayal of love are attached eternally to every oppressive state regime. Orwell’s warning is undying.
7. I, Robot
Isaac Asimov (1950)
A series of spacey stories chronicling the evolution of man’s relationship with robots, and famous for establishing the law that they cannot harm us. What they can do, however, is create tense philosophical and ethical debates about the chasm between mind and machine, intention and consequence.
John Wyndham (1951)
A few years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, this vivid horror story about a monstrous plant species with lethal stingers played on our ecological fears. Wyndham was writing as postwar agriculture was becoming a vast chemical-led industrial concern, and the Triffids were payback.
William Golding (1954)
A boat-load of English boys are washed up on a desert island and have to create a self-governing society, which starts off with the best of intentions but, as ever, human nature will out, and pretty soon they have turned heaven into hell. A human version of Animal Farm.
Frank Herbert (1965)
A saga of off-world dynasties, harsh alien deserts, giant sandworms and an intricately worked-out ecosystem, this sprawling work of imagination made sci-fi mainstream and inspired much environmental thought.
J G Ballard (1975)
In arguably his most resonant work, Ballard postulated a tower block that contained everything its residents needed, from shops to pools to offices. They need never leave. And they don’t. The internal society begins to fragment, form classes, and savage civil war breaks out. It is a brilliantly unheimlich urban parable.
Terry Pratchett (1983)
The first Discworld novel introduces us to a universe populated by wizards, witches and Death himself. To have these comic stories and gentle pastiches of Tolkien, and everymyth and fairy tale, lapped up by 70 million readers is a spectacular achievement.
Angela Carter (1984)
An extraordinarily vivid and sensual journey following the circus through 19th-century London and Russia, which brilliantly – and movingly – blurs the lines between acute psychological drama, fairy tale and ancient myth.
Margaret Atwood (1985)
Offred is a concubine in a future America where “handmaids” are used to provide children for sterile upper-class women. A tale of institutionalised misogyny and biological tyranny that Atwood explained was not exactly science fiction.
15. Mother London
Michael Moorcock (1988)
The heroes of this novel have emerged from mental institutions; but do they have special powers? In a narrative that sweeps from the Blitz to modern day, we encounter mindreading, preternatural empathy, and fascinating theories about the people who live under the streets.
16. American Gods
Neil Gaiman (2001)
America is now teeming with gods that have been brought over with each successive wave of immigrants – from Odin to Thor. But can these old gods do battle with the new gods spawned by technology?
17. Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell (2004)
Six narrators, six interlocking stories – ranging from a future dystopia to Seventies nuclear thriller, to 19th-century medical drama – Mitchell forces the reader to make the connections across time and space; how can interrupted stories still live on?
Nicola Barker (2007)
An M C Escher tapestry of history, time, language, legend – and all against the backdrop of Ashford in Kent. Here, history is as much absurd linguistic comedy as it is nightmare.
The Best Of The Rest:
Thomas More (1516)
Jonathan Swift (1726)
Edgar Allan Poe (1840)
Lewis Carroll (1871)
Hermann Hesse (1943)
George Orwell (1945)
Arthur C Clarke (1953)
Philip K Dick (1962)
Carl Sagan (1985)
Neal Stephenson (1992)
China Mieville (2002)
Cormac McCarthy (2006)
J R R Tolkien (1954-55)
H G Wells (1895)
Oscar Wilde (1890)
The EU is a malfunctioning construct for today’s world – and even more so for tomorrow’s. It needs either to undergo fundamental reform or to break up.
It was conceived in a world of large blocs, dominated by the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and before globalisation and the rise of the emerging markets. Its agenda of harmonisation and integration inevitably leads to excessive regulation and the smothering of competition.
This is largely why, in contrast to the prevailing view that the EU has been an economic success, its economic performance has in fact been relatively poor.
If nothing changes, the EU’s share of world GDP is set to fall sharply and, with it, Europe’s influence in the world. Meanwhile, the EU is becoming more unpopular; most people do not want to press on to a full political union; and increasing numbers of its citizens want to leave the EU altogether. European integration is the great issue of our day.
Like many British people, I feel both British and European. The culture I love is European – its food and its wine, its history and its buildings, its literature and its art and, for me, especially its music. It is precisely because I am so much of a European, and because I so desperately want Europe to succeed in the world, that I take issue with the EU as it is currently constituted. For me, the EU is the most important thing that stands between Europe and success.
It has several key defects: it suffers from a profound identity crisis; its institutions are mainly badly structured and badly run; it is focused on a largely irrelevant agenda; and it is alienated from its electorates.
To the casual observer, it may seem that the EU has been successful. After all, it is the world’s largest economy and trading bloc. It accounts for almost 30pc of global output, 15pc of trade in goods and about 24pc of overall global trade. Its people are prosperous, with standards of living that their parents and grandparents could only dream about.
It's not all about size
In fact, this does not prove very much. Size alone is not decisive; after all, the Soviet Union was big. It is on income per capita that the issue turns. On that score, the EU’s record is not outstanding. Most countries in the world, including those in Europe that do not belong to the EU, enjoy living standards much higher today than those of 30 or 40 years ago.
Perhaps the very least we can say is that the EU has not been an outright failure. Nevertheless, that is not saying a great deal either. The issue is how much of the success of EU members, and how much of their failure, is down to the EU itself.
The first couple of decades of the European Community’s existence were characterised by very strong economic growth. From 1957 to 1973 (when the UK joined), Germany grew at an average annual rate of 4.7pc, France by 5.2pc, the Netherlands by 4.6pc and Italy by 5.3pc. The six countries that formed the European Community in 1957 – the above four plus Belgium and Luxembourg – grew at an annual average rate of 4.9pc. By comparison, over the same period the UK grew at an average annual rate of only 2.8pc.
The fact that the UK was losing ground to the Continent was one of the driving forces behind the case for British membership. The reasons for the UK’s slow growth revolved around more fundamental issues of excessive trade union power, weak management, under-investment and poor economic structure. When the UK finally addressed these problems under Prime Minister Thatcher, its relative growth performance improved.
Indeed, just to prove the point that it was not membership of the then EEC that made all the difference, other countries outside the Community were also growing nicely over the period leading up to the UK’s accession (1957–73). Switzerland and Sweden grew at an average annual rate of 4.3pc, the United States by 3.8pc, Norway by 4.1pc, Australia by 4.8pc and Canada by 4.6pc.
By contrast with early apparent success, over the last couple of decades the growth of most EU members has been disappointing. Not only has the growth rate fallen back in comparison to their own past histories, but economic growth has also been low relative to the US and even low relative to their fellow EU member, the UK, never mind the rapidly growing countries of Asia.
Between 1980 and 2007 the average annual growth rate was 2.1pc for France, 1.6pc for Germany, 2.4pc for the Netherlands and 1.8pc for Italy. These figures compare with 2.4pc for the UK and 2.9pc for the US.
If the period is extended to 2012 to include the full impact of the Great Recession (which affected the UK particularly badly), although the UK’s lead over the EU average is reduced, it is still there. Over the period 1980–2012, the EU Six, the original signatories to the Treaty of Rome, grew at an annual average of 1.6pc, compared with 2pc for the UK. And by the end of 2013, both the US and the UK were continuing to recover, while most of the eurozone was struggling to emerge from recession.
Admittedly, the EU is by far the world’s most popular destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Over the past decade, though, the share of global FDI going to the EU (including intra-EU investments) has declined substantially from 45pc in 2001 to 23pc in 2010, as the share going to emerging markets has risen.
Interestingly, two European countries that are not members of the EU, Norway and Switzerland, have been just as successful at attracting FDI as most EU members and much more successful than some, such as Italy.
Can some of this relative economic failure be explained by factors other than the EU? Yes. In many EU member countries, the factors holding back investment and inhibiting employment and productivity stem from national, rather than EU, legislation. As a consequence, the EU is often wrongly, and unfairly, blamed for economic failures that are national in origin. This can be seen in the very different levels of unemployment in different EU member countries.
False sense of security
Yet the indirect role of the EU has been to lull national elites into a false sense of security, making them think that however badly they run their economies, other EU member countries would be running theirs similarly and that, in any case, in some sense “Europe” would bail them out. Interestingly, the era when Europe was strongest and most prosperous compared with the rest of the world was a period when it was divided into small states, which competed vigorously with one another.
Let us not get this out of perspective. The EU is not an economic disaster – yet. But in economic terms it is a considerable disappointment to many of its supporters. And, internationally, it is an under-achiever. The rapidly growing countries of Asia do not look to the EU as an example; they regard it as showing what they need to avoid.
What explains this under-performance? There are eight main reasons:
• The EU’s designers put far too much importance on size alone as bringing benefits
• In the process, they under-estimated the growth of the world economy outside the EU
• They under-estimated the importance of good governance as the key to economic success
• The agenda for harmonisation and regulation involved too much interference in business
• The European social agenda with regard to labour laws and benefits was anti-business
• Europe’s leaders paid insufficient attention to getting the basics of economic success right – unlike so many of their equivalents in Asia
• They spent the EU’s funds badly
• The very objectives of harmonisation and integration hid the consequence of bad economic policies and smothered the natural rivalry between countries that could have produced better economic performance
Arguably, these failings would not necessarily have held back the European economy if it had already embarked on a dynamic growth path in a relatively stable world. However, the world of the last 20 years has been anything but stable. Two great revolutions have shaken the modern economy to its foundations – information technology and globalisation – and they required flexibility and adaptation. That is precisely what the institutions of the EU are bad at delivering, hence the EU’s relative decline. It is surely because the US adapted better to these forces that partly explains why it has recently outperformed the EU.
Euro could still cause EU's disintegration
As the EU has continued in sharp relative decline, the concentrated effort of the European elites should have been directed towards the requirements to raise productivity, employment and investment. Instead, European leaders have been obsessed by further harmonisation and integration, by treaty change and, of course, by that ultimate form of integration – the euro.
The European single currency, the euro, has become the focus of European integration – and it could yet prove to be the cause of the EU’s disintegration. If this does indeed happen, it would be deeply ironic, for it was not imperative to have a single European currency. The enterprise was unnecessary and it was embarked on too early and with insufficient preparation. It was an integration too far and too soon.
It is, therefore, the best example yet of bad decision-making in the EU. But, as with so much else, the bad decision did not emerge accidentally. Rather, it derived directly from the EU’s history and its essential nature.
Much of what went wrong with the euro is now so well known that it is pointless to dwell on it. It is on why it went wrong, and what this tells us about the EU, that the euro saga has so much to teach us. And in these respects it may serve as a harbinger of dangers yet to come.
It is easy to see why the formation of a single currency would be a key objective for those who wanted to unite Europe. There are some examples of different states using the same currency, but they are all cases of small countries sharing a currency, such as some of the Caribbean islands, or of a small country using a larger one’s currency without having any say in the issue or management of that currency; Panama’s use of the US dollar is an obvious example. However, I cannot think of any example of major states of roughly equal status sharing a common currency – apart from the members of the eurozone.
The nineteenth-century Gold Standard is sometimes quoted as a counter-example, since it united umpteen different countries at fixed exchange rates. But it doesn’t really count, since the Gold Standard was not itself a currency, or even a system for managing currencies, but rather a regime that left countries in charge of their own economic and financial management, albeit with little room for manoeuvre if they wanted to stay in the system. Most importantly, the Gold Standard did not remove national sovereignty, not least because it was possible to suspend it or leave it, as the UK did twice, in 1914 and 1931.
The danger in sharing your currency with a neighbour over which you have no control is that it will operate policies that will undermine the currency. These may cause either a spike in bond yields, a currency collapse, an upsurge of inflation or a banking crisis – or any combination of the four. That surely means that, if you are going to share your currency with other countries, you will reasonably demand some control over their fiscal (i.e. budgetary) and financial policies. And if one country is going to have oversight over another’s fiscal policy, how can that be done without also having some form of political union?
Economies are not households
So when the architects of monetary union put in place the single currency without arrangements for fiscal or political union, they were in fact constructing a halfway house. It was European integration lite.
When the good ship euro set sail she was equipped for moderate winds and a calm sea. When she instead encountered the violent storm unleashed by the world financial crisis of 2008, she proved a most unseaworthy vessel.
The problems of operating a single currency did not emerge at once. On the contrary, the launch of the euro in 1999 was a massive technical success and, for a time, the different economies seemed to be adjusting well to it.
Then reality began to strike home, not suddenly, but stealthily. In all of these peripheral countries, costs and prices continued to rise faster than in the Germanic core of the union. They had always had this tendency, but the difference was that, in the past, the exchange rate had been able to depreciate to offset any lost competitiveness. Now the exchange rate safety valve had been closed off. The result was a huge loss of competitiveness in the periphery that manifested itself in large and growing current account deficits. Yet the euro elite seemed to subscribe to some equivalent of Brownian economics: there would not be a crisis because the euro had put an end to boom and bust.
Having your own currency is not a panacea for all economic problems. Without an exchange rate to take the strain, how were the peripheral countries to regain competitiveness and restore growth while reducing their budget deficits? The orthodox European (and especially German) answer was through austerity.
The trouble is that economies are not households. When person A cuts their spending, this reduces the income of person B, who cuts their spending and so on. All the while, GDP will be falling and the deficit may remain the same, or even get bigger.
There was a second, more telling flaw. The idea was that austerity would not only improve the public finances but would also restore competitiveness, since the release of resources from the public sector as a result of spending cuts, as well as the reduction in private spending brought on by increased taxes, would reduce aggregate demand and increase unemployment. The resulting excess supply in the economy and increased pressure to win business and keep jobs would lower costs, prices and wages.
This was straightforward deflation of the sort that had been tried (and found wanting) in the 1930s. This being the EU, however, if the politicians involved could not quite alter history or blot it out, they could at least give it a different name. They did: they called it “internal devaluation”. But the change of name did not make the process any less painful, or more effective.
Euro has had a defaltionary bias
Not everyone will agree the euro has been a failure. Some may assert that, as with everything else to do with the EU, the essence of the project is political. To a large extent this is true – certainly as regards its origins.
However, this does not mean to say that the euro had been expected to incur huge economic costs. On the contrary, the progenitors of the euro did not favour it simply as the route to political union. They believed that it would boost economic performance, increase prosperity and create jobs.
Writing about the prospective benefits of EMU in the Europe Quarterly in 1999, the late Wim Duisenberg, then president of the European Central Bank, said: “The introduction of the euro and the single monetary policy will result in higher economic growth in the euro area, while maintaining price stability.”
As late as May 2008, the European Commission was still claiming that the currency union had been “a resounding success. It has brought economic stability, promoted economic and financial integration, generated trade and growth and [provided] a framework for sound and sustainable public finances.”
In practice, the gains from reduced uncertainty over exchange rates and increased market size and efficiency have proved very small. Trade grew no faster between eurozone members than it did between members and non-members.
Meanwhile, again in accordance with sceptics’ fears, costs and prices continued rising much faster in the historically high-inflation countries than in the German-led core.
The result was very weak performance in the peripheral countries, thus, given only moderate performance of the core countries, making for poor performance overall.
The euro has had a strong deflationary bias, with the pressures for adjustment entirely on the deficit countries. Far from bringing a jobs bonanza, it has led to appallingly high unemployment. This is exactly the criticism of the Gold Standard made by Keynes in the 1920s and 1930s.
Euro has all faults of the Gold Standard
The euro has proved to be a modern incarnation of the Gold Standard, with all its faults and few of its benefits.
Between 1980 and 1998 the average annual economic growth of the area that we now call the eurozone was just over 2pc; from 1999 to 2012, it slipped to just under 1.5pc. One might think that, despite disappointing macroeconomic performance overall, at least the eurozone countries would have enjoyed greatly increased trade with each other.
But since the creation of the euro, exports from eurozone economies to the non-eurozone have increased at a faster pace than exports to other members of the single currency bloc, for all member countries except Ireland. The countries of the eurozone are at a crossroads – and they know it. To make the currency work, they now have to press ahead with arrangements for fiscal and political union.
However, that is not an easy assignment. Umpteen sovereign countries with different fiscal, political and parliamentary traditions have to agree on how each other’s fiscal policy should be run and on political institutions that will exercise this power, while being democratically accountable.
This is all the more difficult because different member countries have different ideas about the role of the nation state. While Germany seems to be prepared to submerge its identity in some common Europeanness, this does not appear to be how France views its future.
The euro shows EU decision-making at its worst, driven by national politics, horse-trading, considerations of national prestige and childlike visions of future European unity – with scant regard for economic reality.
One of the most important issues to emerge from the analysis of this disaster, though, is what the euro’s survival or break-up would imply for the future growth of the EU.
Could the end of the euro be part of the EU’s salvation? And if not, what could?
The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU isn’t working – How it can be reformed – What could take its placeby Roger Bootle (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, rrp £18.99) is available to order for £16.99 + £1.35 p&p from Telegraph Books on 0844 871 1515 or at books.telegraph.co.uk.
The hearts of genetically modified pigs could be transplanted into humans to solve the shortage of organ donors, scientists believe.
Researchers successfully grafted a pig heart into a baboon more than a year ago and it is still functioning, they report today.
Until now, organs transplanted into primates have only lasted for a maximum of six months before being rejected.
But scientists have tweaked the DNA of pigs so that their hearts are more compatible with primates and humans.
“The developments may instil a new ray of hope for thousands of patients waiting for human donor organs,” said Muhammad Mohiuddin of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Programme at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the US.
"If successful, this method could change the current transplant paradigm, eliminating the shortage of donor organs including hearts, livers, kidneys, intestine, as well as insulin producing cells for treatment of diabetes."
At present people needing a heart transplant must wait until a suitable donor heart becomes available. Last year 145 operations were carried out at seven hospitals in Britain.
However, only eight out of 10 people in the UK receive the transplant they needed because of a lack of suitable donors. Many adults and children are forced to wait more than a year for a new heart.
Those on waiting lists have to use an artificial heart but these are not perfect and have issues with power supplies, infection, and both clotting and haemolysis, the break down of red blood cells.
Transplantation using an animal organ, or xenotransplantation, has been proposed as an option to save human lives, but the challenge has been to stop hosts rejecting donor hearts.
However researchers found that the pig hearts were alive and functioning well more than year after being grafted in place.
Pigs were chosen because their anatomy is compatible with humans and they have a rapid breeding cycle. Pig valves are already swapped for human heart valves.
Critics claim that because the life cycle of pigs is shorter than humans they will need to be replaced. They could also pass on diseases.
But through genetic changes, the scientists have added several human genes to the pig genome as well as removing genes which trigger a dangerous immune response in humans.
Grafts from these genetically engineered pigs are less likely to be seen as foreign, thus reducing the immune reaction against them.
Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, said: “The fact is you have got lots of people waiting for heart transplants and if you could have a supply of hearts off the shelf then that is clearly beneficial.
“Heart failure is a really horrible condition so anything that could improve quality of life is of great value.
“I think we are a long way off from being able to genetically engineer a whole heart though stem cells so this could provide a good stop-gap.”
The genetic modifications also mean that fewer immunosuppressive drugs are needed which are often responsible for complications. When Christiaan Barnard attempted the first heart transplant in 1967 it was the drugs which killed his patient as his immune system was so weak he died from pneumonia.
The experiments involved using these genetically engineered pig hearts, transplanted in the abdomen of baboons alongside their actual hearts.
The next step is to use hearts from the same pigs to test their ability to provide full life support by replacing the original baboon heart.
Dr Mohiuddin said; "Based on the data from long-term surviving grafts, we are hopeful that we will be able to repeat our results in the life-supporting model.”
Prof Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation said: “I think this stands a high chance of happening but it is still a very long way off.
“There were similar projects happening in the 1990s but they ground to a halt because they struggled to deal with the problems of rejection.
“There is a shortage of organs so this could be potentially promising and we already use pig valves in heart surgery.
“But there is a long way to go. They still have to prove this would work in humans.”
The study was presented at the 94th American Association for Thoracic Surgery annual meeting in Toronto.
GE, the US conglomerate, has submitted a $17bn offer to buy the energy businesses of France's Alstom.
Alstom's board reacted "positively" to the offer and has appointed a committee of independent directors led by Jean-Martin Folz to review the transaction by June 2, GE said in a statement on Wednesday.
"If this review concludes positively, an exclusivity period beginning no later than June 2 will be granted," the US company said. The next steps will include Works Councils consultation, approval from Alstom's shareholders, and clearance by regulators.
GE said the deal would result in more jobs in France.
Patrick Kron, the chairman and chief executive of Alstom, said: “The combination of the very complementary energy businesses of Alstom and GE would create a more competitive entity to better service customer needs. Alstom’s employees would join a well-known, major global player, with the means to invest in people and technology to support worldwide energy customers over the long term."
Bouygues, which owns 29pc of Alstom, supports the deal, although Alstom will be able consider alternative proposals for the businesses.
German industrial giant Siemens confirmed on Tuesday that it would make an offer the energy assets. Should Alstom decide to accept a Siemens offer it would be have to pay GE a break fee of 1.5pc of the purchase price.
The French government has been holding talks with the chief executives of Siemens and GE about the future of the prized industrial company.
President Francois Hollande has said he has no preference on the bidder but wants “what is best for jobs”. While the more outspoken Industry Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, has thrown his weight behind an alternative Siemens offer which could create a “European champion”.
Siemens is understood to be much further away than GE in its ability to make a bid and said in a statement that “suitable due diligience” is a prerequisite of any offer.
France’s Socialist government has already intervened in discussions to put the brakes on a sale of Alstom to the American suitor and give sufficient time for Siemens to be in a position to make a bid.
Mr Montebourg, who previously told Indian industrial tycoon Lakshi Mittal he was “not welcome in France”, has said “the government does indeed intend to defend our country’s interests.”
A cure for heart failure could be just a few years away after scientists successfully regenerated the damaged hearts of primates using human stem cells.
The breakthrough, which was hailed as ‘very significant’ by British experts, will be tested on humans within four years.
If successful it would mean that even people who are bed-bound with heart failure could be "up and about" again within a few weeks.
More than 750,000 people in Britain are living with heart failure, where the organ is too damaged to pump blood efficiently. It is a hugely debilitating condition and can bring early death.
Researchers found that damaged hearts of seven macaque monkeys could be repaired by up to 40 per cent by injecting human stem cells directly into the organ.
“It shows for the first time that we can do regeneration at a scale that the world has never seen before,” said Dr Charles Murry, professor of pathology and bioengineering, at the University of Washington.
"Before this study, it was not known if it is possible to produce sufficient numbers of these cells and use them to re-muscularise damaged hearts in a large animal whose heart size and physiology is similar to that of the human heart."
“We’ve shown that (stem cells) will survive and they will organize to form new heart muscle and they will connect with the surrounding cardiac muscle cells and beat in synchrony.”
Currently heart muscle cannot be repaired and people with severe heart failure must wait for a heart transplant.
In the study the team induced heart attacks, in anesthetized macaque monkeys.
Over the course of two weeks they injected one billion heart muscle cells derived from human embryonic stem cells.
The researchers found that the stem cells infiltrated into the damaged heart tissue, matured, and knitted into muscle fibers, before beginning to beat in rhythm with the macaque heart cells.
After three months, the cells had fully integrated into the heart. On average the transplanted stem cells regenerated 40 percent of the damaged heart tissue and improve the ability of the heart to pump blood.
Although the study has been carried out on macaque monkeys, the researchers at the University of Washington said "the approach should be feasible in humans".
“The results show we can now produce the number of cells needed for human therapy and get formation of new heart muscle on a scale that is relevant to improving the function of the human heart," said Dr Michael Laflamme, assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington.
Although some of the monkeys had irregular heartbeats the scientists believe this could be prevented by allowing the stem cells to mature more before they are transplanted.
“This is really good research and potentially very significant,” said Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London.
“Although a 40 per cent improvement might not seem like a lot, you actually only need a couple of per cent to make a difference to someone’s quality of life.
“So this would be the equivalent of a bed-bound person being able to walk to the shops again within a few days or weeks. It would have a substantial impact on quality of life.
“It may be that this treatment would actually work better in humans because the monkeys in the study had to be given immunosuppressant treatment because the stem cells were human.”
The study was also welcomed by charities.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research brings us one step closer to repairing a damaged human heart, but we still have some way to go until we reach our goal.
“Researchers showed that heart cells derived from human stem cells in a laboratory can survive and function alongside normal heart cells inside a damaged monkey heart.
“But these results demonstrate encouraging progress.
Parents contemplating giving their children complicated names should think again.
The harder your name is to pronounce, the less likely people are to trust you, researchers have found.
An experiment showed that when volunteers were asked to read statements which were attributed to people with less fluent names, they were less likely to believe the statement.
The phenomenon of making a judgement call based on a gut feeling rather than facts has been dubbed ‘truthiness.’
Even though people’s names often infer information such as ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, it appears people are still sensitive to the ease of pronunciation.
A recent study showed that people with easier to pronounce names were evaluated by employers more positively than their harder to pronounce counterparts. They were also found to be more likeable, preferred as election candidates, and held higher positions in legal firms
“Fluency can influence judgement,” said lead author Eryn Newman of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
“Across four experiments, our findings tell a clear story: People with easy names and their claims are evaluated more favorably relative to their difficult counterparts.
“Easy names were evaluated as more familiar, less risky and less dangerous.
“Our findings show that easy names can confer a host of benefits on the people who bear them.”
However the researchers warn that the effect would change depending on your country of origin.
While native Brits may find “Yevgeni Dherzhinsky” to pronounce, the name would cause no problems in Russia, and be therefore deemed more trustworthy, researchers found.
In the study published in PLoS ONE, the researchers asked undergraduate volunteers to rate the pronounceability of real names from 18 countries.
The researchers then told a new group of undergraduate participants that some international students had listed their favourite trivia statements, such as “Giraffes are the only mammals that cannot jump,” and their task was to rate the truthfulness of the statements.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Once an inescapable part of the furniture in hotels across the world, the mini-bar is disappearing,
Guests, it appears, are no longer willing to pay over the odds for a miniature bottle of whisky or a soft drink.
There is similar resistance to the high prices levied for a bar of chocolate or packet of nuts.
In the USA, PKF Hospitality research found that income from minibars fell by 28 per cent between 2007 and 2012.
Now, it is estimated, the mini-bar amounts to only one per cent of hotel revenue.
Given the time taken to restock the mini-bars and the effort in keeping track of what has been used, major hotel groups, including Grand Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott are phasing them out.
The world’s first hotel mini-bar is believed to have been installed in all 840 rooms at the Hilton in Hong Kong in 1974. It led to a 500 per cent rise in drink sales.
However the change in behavior has been underlined by a survey carried out by Trip Advisor.
Only 21 per cent of hotel guests surveyed regarded the mini-bar as an important facility, a quarter of the number wanting free wireless Internet access.
It also found that a quarter of respondents had disputed a mini-bar charge with their hotel.
In some cases a dispute has arisen because a guest placed an item of their own in the fridge and then removed it – triggering a charge because the mini-bar relies on weight sensors.
The death knell of the mini-bar has been accelerated by the growth in urban convenience stores, meaning that a guest can buy a bar of chocolate or a drink for a fraction of the cost.
Noma, the restaurant in Copenhagen headed by chef-owner René Redzepi, was this week voted the world's number one restaurant . Every month, 20,000 people try to make a reservation at the two Michelin-star establishment - given that it only has 45 seats, most of them are unlucky, at least in the short term.
Here, Mr Redzepi offers a guide to Copenhagen, including recommendations on where to eat (apart from Noma), sip a coffee, the day trips to take, and the hotels to stay at.
What makes Copenhagen special
Ah, Copenhagen. Where to start? I walk the streets everyday, I know every nook and every cranny. I've seen the streets at their most beautiful, but also when things aren't as charming. In your home city, you notice mainly only the things that you want to change. What Copenhagen does have is big, wide roads, a gentle skyline not broken by cement skyscrapers, and it has proximity to water – you're never more than 10 minutes away from the gentle splash of water against the quay. It's the sum of small things that makes Copenhagen special. We can't boast about the one magnificent museum that's worth a journey. Or a single monument that symbolizes the city – the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House – that fills people with awe when they first encounter it. (Our Little Mermaid doesn't quite do it.) In Copenhagen, it is about renting a bicycle, traveling through the city at a slow speed, going from park to park and getting lost in the village atmosphere that our capital has. Besides biking, read up on the city's history so that you can walk in the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen or Kierkegaard. Then of course, there's the food, the coffee and the wine, all of which are experiencing a brilliant moment. There is some of the best coffee anywhere in Europe, a progressive wine movement with great bars ... and then the restaurants. As much as Copenhagen is about experiencing the old city, this is also the time to see – and eat – something new.
Where to eat and visit – apart from Noma
Places to enjoy a morning coffee include the Coffee Collective at Torvehallerne ( coffeecollective.dk ) – an upscale market space that's well worth a tour. Once you've spent an hour or two at that market, nearby there is a great museum that very few people know about called Arbejdermuseet. It translates literally as 'the worker's museum' and is a terrific little gem where you can see how the working-class of Denmark would arrange their homes. On the ground floor, there is a nice restaurant for lunch – solid classic Danish fare, which nicely rounds off the whole experience.
A great place for a late afternoon drink is the wine bar Ved Stranden 10 ( vedstranden10.dk ). It has outdoor seating on the canal and if the sun is out, this is the place to sit, have a glass of wine and unwind. Right next to here, there is also another great coffee shop – the Copenhagen Coffee Lab – a neo-classic spot filled with uber coffee-nerds obsessed with these golden drops.
Noma receives 20,000 reservation requests per month
A must-visit restaurant is Amass ( amassrestaurant.com ). During the weekend, it is open for lunch, and has its own private garden and a view of the water. You could spend half the day here. Getting there can be either difficult or fun, depending on how you see it. If you take the public boat, it's a lovely five-minute ride from Hotel Admiral. If you don't like boats, then it's a 20-minute taxi ride from central Copenhagen for you.
Additionally, there are a couple of excursions, each worth a detour. The first involves driving north of Copenhagen (90 minutes) and spending the night at Dragsholm castle, where there is a great kitchen, all vegetable-based, and the 800-year-old structure is set on picturesque grounds.
The second is a day-trip to the magnificent island of Bornholm. A short 20-minute flight gives you the chance to eat lunch at Restaurant Kadeau (there are two Kadeau restaurants: one in Copenhagen proper and the other on this island - kadeau.dk ). If you visit the city during spring and summer, be sure to head to this island, where the restaurant is set right on the beach with gorgeous ocean views and the food is the perfect distillation of the island's summer ingredients.
Noma, Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen (00 45 32 96 32 97; noma.dk/reservations )
Where to stay
This is Copenhagen's Achilles heel. Most hotels are focused on business guests or more formal luxury and one common weakness amongst most hotels is, unfortunately, the poor level of service. Scandinavians aren't meant for service – although they are friendly, their bluntness and directness may come across as a bit rude. If you can live with these factors, one place that many enjoy for the atmosphere is the Admiral ( admiralhotel.dk ). It's an old, historic building with exposed wooden beams everywhere – a genuine Copenhagen place to stay. Make sure to get a room with a view of the harbour.
If you feel like splashing out on some deluxe pampering, there is the D'Angleterre ( dangleterre.dk ). Or the more affordable Axel Guldsmeden ( guldsmedenhotels.com ), just behind Central Station and near where I grew up. It's also certified organic, if that interests you.
In Copenhagen, you're never more than 10 minutes from the gentle splash of water against the quay
Art of Copenhagen
Founded in 1888 by the brewer Carl Jacobsen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek ( glyptoteket.dk ) houses excellent collections of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman art, 40 works by Gauguin, Degas' bronzes and 35 sculptures by Rodin.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art ( louisiana.dk ): One of the most beautiful museums in the world. Set 40 kms from Copenhagen, with a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art. This summer's major exhibition is Emil Nolde.
The Hirschsprung Collection ( hirschsprung.dk ) has wonderful Danish art from the 'Golden Age' (with works by Købke, Krøyer and Hammershøi) to the Skagen painters.
Originally built as a private residence, Ordrupgaard ( ordrupgaard.dk ) – with its new extension by the ubiquitous Zaha Hadid – has one of Northern Europe's finest collections of 19th and 20th century French art. (All the greats are here ... Delacroix, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne)
René Redzepi is the chef-owner of Noma in Copenhagen. He is widely recognized as one of the world's most influential chefs and Noma has taken the number one spot in the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. His latest book René Redzepi: A Work in Progress is available from Phaidon
This article originally appeared in Issue 38 (Spring 2014) of Bonham's Magazine.
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The theme is war, for sure, but really it’s the wrath of Achilles, and what it’s like to work with an unstable killing machine. Each death is separately crafted; the gods mourn their favorites; and even Achilles can show us how to act with dignity.
Here is Odysseus, returning from the war. But this is a poem less about travel and monsters than it is about identity – how the wily hero disguises himself even among his family. This is conflict on a domestic scale.
The Metamorphoses are all over the walls of the National Gallery. This was the most read book of Latin from the Renaissance onwards, and its tales of transformation, punishments fair or unfair, and the mythical roots of the universe, shape our aesthetic outlook even now.
This is Greek prose writing at its best. A dialogue about love at a party that the handsome Alcibiades crashes is deliberately drunken and confusing, to show that no one, not even Socrates, can say what love is.
Men – how can you woo women and keep them? Women – how can you impress men and stop them wearing your clothes? Ovid’s tips on love are sometimes classy, occasionally crass, but always revealing about the intricacies of Roman living and loving.
The death of Socrates is enormously moving for the tremendous calm he shows. He claims this is because he will see the world beyond this one, where things assume their perfect forms. And yet this is a powerfully human portrait of Socrates from his student.
This other Symposium is notable not for its philosophical rigor, but for the way in which Socrates turns into Dr Johnson. “What should we eat?” “Onions.” “Why?” “Our wives won’t think anyone would snog us.” “So what is the best perfume?” Etc.
Sappho (born c612BC)
This won’t take long – many of the poems contained in her nine books have been lost or destroyed – but what survives is stunning – intimate, utterly original and wise. Anne Carson’s edition, If Not, Winter, is a perfect place to start.
Plutarch (before 120AD)
Plutarch composed these detailed portraits of Greek and Roman greats long after the events, but scholars find him staggeringly well informed. It’s also amazing to note how many images in Shakespeare’s Roman plays are really Plutarch’s.
The tale of Trojans founding Rome goes far beyond propaganda (although it’s there). Virgil is the master of pathos, commemorating victims more than victories. And the failed romance between Aeneas and Dido is the ancient world’s best love story.
Saint Augustine (398AD)
As St Augustine struggles excitingly with temptation, one of the most tempting things for him is the Classical world itself, so rich in the rhetoric he would use for his own preaching, but with which he would bid the ancients goodbye.
Lucretius (before 55BC)
Lucretius leaned on the Greek philosophers to create this investigation into how the universe works: it is run by atoms, can you believe, and gods are disinterested. Lucretius can write sensually as well as entertainingly.
Hesiod (after 750BC)
Many of the myths of ancient Greece that seem so natural to us now first appear in Hesiod – for example, how the gods appeared. In Works and Days he is more down to earth, advising on agriculture, but not before he’s offered a frank assessment of mankind from golden age to iron.
Was the father of history even a historian? He did recount the events of the war against Persia, to rally the Greeks once more, but the anecdotes, sketches of other cultures, and his accounts of mummification suggest he’s something more interesting still.
“The best poem by the best poet” in Latin, said the 17th-century English poet John Dryden, and he was completely right. Virgil picks up on Hesiod’s advice for farmers, but knows better how to structure his work, and his range of language helps him to treat the earth as a living organism.
THE OTHER CONTENDERS
Pindar (from 498BC)
Livy (before 17AD)
The Gourdification (or Apocolocyntosis)
Attributed to Seneca (before 65AD)
Lucan (before 65AD)
Juvenal (before early 2AD)
Aristotle (before 323BC)
Locals like to say there’s never a bad day in Yellowstone. But some activities are better than others. Near the top of my list is a slow drive along the north shore of Yellowstone Lake. The easy trail to Storm Point is worth a half hour’s walk, or more if the wind is calm and the boulders are comfortable for sitting. A few miles east, a side road leads to Lake Butte Overlook which offers views across North America’s largest alpine lake to the Teton range 100 miles south. This is a good place to be at sunset.
From the lake, Yellowstone River flows through the rolling, open hills of Hayden Valley, famous for wildlife viewing. At sunrise, the river is often shrouded in mists that have gathered in the cool of the night. Shaggy bison appear and fade away like ghosts on a stage.
Then, a few miles north, the river enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a great yellow gorge with two towering waterfalls. The main overlooks are splendid, but walking the rim trails provide the best range of views, along with quiet spots where you might dangle your feet over the edge and ponder the power of erosion.
Of course there's always Old Faithful Geyser, the icon of Yellowstone and truly a marvel if you see it in the right conditions -- that is, not at noon on a hot July day with a zillion other people. October is a good time to be there, but even in mid-summer it’s easy to beat the sleepy-heads if you go out early. Besides having the place to yourself, the reward is cool morning air, in which the hundreds of hot spring vents and geysers appear stronger, their steam more dense. Indeed, if there is magic in a geyser, it is found at dawn.
From Old Faithful, a boardwalk winds over Geyser Hill, where thermal features are packed in so tightly you think they must be having a convention. Somewhere within sight, a geyser is almost sure to be erupting. The trail continues along the Firehole River, past steamy pools and geysers great and small – all of them promising to erupt if you just wait long enough. Sawmill is among the likely; it erupts often to about 25 feet high. Giant, on the other hand, bides its time, brooding perhaps for years before exploding to 250 feet or more. The main trail ends at Morning Glory Pool, a quiet beauty. Most people turn around at this point, but five minutes farther lies the aquamarine frothing gem called Artemisia.
Speaking of hot water, the biggest springs in the park are found in Midway Geyser Basin north of Old Faithful – just two, in a sort of enormous yin-yang embrace. Both are roughly 300 feet across but one, Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, is the picture of calm, surrounded by colored streamers of heat-loving algae and bacteria. Close beside it, Excelsior Geyser is a rock-rimmed lake of ever-boiling turbulence. Strange twins indeed.
Since wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995, the northern valleys, particularly Lamar Valley, have become famous as a place to see the most controversial animal in the region. It remains a relatively quiet, splendidly scenic place. One of its prime attributes lies just outside the park, but we should count it anyway.
The Beartooth Highway is a glorious excursion into the high country of Montana. Poets gush and painters spill gallons when they see the Beartooth.
If you’d like to stretch your legs on moderate trails, several hikes stand out. The Mount Washburn summit trail follows the old Chittenden Road to a commanding view of practically the entire park. Even if you walk only part of the way, this is a good choice in July for wildflowers and close encounters with bighorn sheep.
Near Mammoth, the Bunsen Peak trail skirts the edge of wide-open Swan Lake Flats with terrific views of the Gallatin Range, then descends through a forested canyon to the main hot springs. It’s all downhill if you can arrange a shuttle back to the trailhead.
For geysers and hot springs without the crowds, the Fairy Falls Trail (in Midway Geyser Basin) offers a path less traveled. The falls are a wispy veil, while nearby Imperial Geyser feeds a warm creek that draws a steamy ribbon through the grass.
Finally, the northeastern corner offers high mountains and wildlife-filled valleys. The Lamar River Trail starting at the confluence of Soda Butte Creek takes in a broad sample of this varied landscape. Two miles or ten, it’s all good.
For more information on the United States, go to discoveramerica.com
About Jeremy Schmidt
Jeremy Schmidt is a wildlife biologist and writer with a comprehensive knowledge of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding Wyoming area. He has worked as a ranger, winter caretaker and guide at Yellowstone for more than three decades.
Friday's figures are a warning that the US recovery may be losing momentum
The US economy has delivered two minor shocks in a week, prompting concerns that bond tapering by the Federal Reserve may be doing more damage than expected.
Non-Farm Payrolls data released on Friday shows that the workforce shed 806,000 jobs in April, a stunning drop that cannot plausibly be blamed on the weather. Wage growth and hours worked were both flat and the manufacturing hours per week fell.
This follows news earlier in the week that the economy to a halt in the first quarter. Growth plummeted to 0.1pc and is now well below the Fed’s “stall speed” indicator. Analysts blamed this on the freezing polar vortex over the winter.
Yet the jobs data confirm a disturbingly weak picture. The headline unemployment rate fell to 6.3pc but that was only because the labour “participation rate” plummeted back to a modern-era low of 62.8pc, last seen in 1978 when there were far fewer women in the workforce. The rate for males is the lowest ever recorded at 69.1pc.
The jobs market is highly volatile – and is often revised later – but the data are a warning that the US recovery may be losing momentum. Lakshman Achuthan, from the Economic Cycle Research Institute, said the trend was already weakening long before the cold weather. “We see a failure to launch. We’re decelerating, not accelerating, and that is a big concern,” he said.
The Fed has gradually been turning down the spigot of dollar liquidity, reducing its bond purchases by $10bn a month at each meeting, even though the bank’s measure of core PCE inflation has dropped to 1.1pc. The net stimulus has dropped from $85bn a month to $45bn.
This is a form of monetary tightening. Interest rates have not risen – though they are rising in real terms – but the quantity of money mechanism may nevertheless be having a powerful effect. The broadest measure of the money supply – Divisia M4 – has dropped from a growth rate above 6pc a year ago to just 2.6pc in March.
The Fed is unlikely to blink yet. Even the once dovish San Francisco Fed has warned that quantitative easing no longer serves a useful purpose and may be doing more harm that good at this stage, fuelling asset bubbles without much benefit for the real economy. Analysts say it would take several months of bad data to force the Fed to halt tapering and change course again.
US policy-makers no longer pay much attention to the monetary data. Robert Hetzel, from the Richmond Fed, said this led to a grave error in mid-2008 when the Fed’s voting board began to talk up rate rises even though the money supply was already buckling. He argues that this played a key part in the Lehman crash several months later.
Erica Groschen, from the Bureau of Labour Statistics, said the sudden drop in jobs last month was caused by fewer people joining the workforce, rather than people leaving. That is hardly reassuring, and conflicts with theories that the participation rate is falling because people are choosing to retire early.
The weakness may be nothing worse than a pause for breath – or a mid-cycle correction – as the US gears up for a second leg of the post-Lehman expansion. The risk is that this instead proves to be the end of growth cycle that is already long in the teeth by historic standards.
The possibility of a fresh downturn with the interest rates already at zero, the Fed’s balance sheet already at $4 trillion, and gross public debt above 100pc of GDP for the first time since the end of the Second World War is what keeps US economists awake night. There is little margin for policy error.
Actor Ben Affleck has been banned from playing blackjack at a Las Vegas casino after he was caught counting cards, according to reports.
Affleck, 41, was stopped by security guards at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas while playing at a high rollers' table and reportedly banned for life when he was suspected of using the strategy.
While card counting - a method of using probability to predict the next hand - is not illegal it can get a player barred.
An alert sent out by the casino is said to have stated that Affleck "uses perfect basic" - an industry term for card counting, "but also takes insurance according to the count."
The source claimed that the hotel staff was polite to the star, telling him: "you are too good at the game."'
Affleck, who won Oscars for co-writing 1997's "Good Will Hunting" and producing 2012's "Argo," recently starred in last year's crime thriller "Runner Runner," where he played an online gambling tycoon.
The father-of-three was on a short break in Las Vegas with his wife Jennifer Garner before he left to shoot Zack Snyder's upcoming "Man of Steel" sequel where he will play Batman opposite Henry Cavill's Superman.
An earlier story by celebrity news outlet TMZ.com said Affleck had been banned for life from the casino for counting cards, a method of using probability to predict the next hand which is not illegal.
A representative for the Hard Rock Hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Japan is a sensual paradox: refined, yet sexually voracious. Westerners are largely aware of the kinkier aspects of Japanese culture, from festivals dedicated to man’s least intelligent organ, to shokushu goukan artworks of octopuses molesting women. Or else of the preponderance of love hotels, where lovers – amateur, or professional – can spend a night in each other’s arms for a flat fee (mini-bar not included). In fact, Japanese culture is so suffused with sex that we might be forgiven for thinking that it was as swinging as a Tory party conference.
And we’d be wrong. Rupert Russell, a Harvard sociologist and good friend, has recently returned from Japan and reports that its youth suffer from“celibacy syndrome… a third of under-30s have never been on a date, and a quarter of men and half of women say that sex just isn’t for them. Over the next 30 years the population is projected to plummet by a third.”
Youngsters claim that they are happy with platonic friendships and are focusing on their careers, and they could be telling the truth. Maybe Japan is populated by clean-living kids who are justwaiting to meet the rightoctopus.
But there are other explanations. One is that Tokyo is now so overcrowded that the amorous can’t find any privacy – hence the popularity of love hotels. Another is the phenomenon of hikikomori, whereby an estimated 700,000, largely unemployed, young people have shut themselves off entirely from human contact in order to avoid interactions that could lead to loss of face. Such is the social pressure of being successful that those who feel they have failed would rather do nothing invisibly, than something they feel is beneath them publicly.
But I agree with Rupert that the celibacy syndrome is more probably a reaction to Japan’s historic sexual intensity. There is, for instance, the perennial obsession with modesty. When Minegishi Minami of the Japanese pop group AKB48 was caught allowing her boyfriend to spend the night, she was so ashamed that she shaved all her hair off and issued a tearful public apology – looking like a poor, plucked eaglet. This wasn’t just an act of prurience: it was a tacit acceptance that by sleeping with one boy she had sacrificed some of her sexual appeal for all the other boys. In Japan, modesty is not just a virtue. It is arousing.
Consider a visit to one of those love hotels. When a paying client enters such an establishment in Tokyo, he can choose his date by watching her doing “proper” things from behind glass. These include reading a book or sewing. If he wants to go further, the client will have to have a manicure before meeting his date out front for some fully clothed role-play. He will ask her the Japanese equivalent of: “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” She will reply, “I’m lonely.” Hewill then offer to buy her a kitten or puppy from one of the dozens of pet stores that operate next door to brothels – an affirmation of her pretence of innocence. Boy and girl spend the evening together; girl takes the animal home. So what does she do with all the puppies she collects? Why, she returns them to the pet store the next day and splits the refund.
While the Japanese obviously do make love, the process of getting to the bedroom is so complex and fraught with the potential for loss of face that many youngsters have stopped bothering. Sad for them, and liberal Westerners will denounce the Japanese attempt to dress filth up with good manners as hypocrisy. But I find the elegance irresistible. Japan is notunlikeits geisha ideal: defianttowards change, eerily beautiful and full of surprises.
Iran has indicated it would be willing to supply natural gas to Europe amid concern that Russia could retaliate against EU sanctions by restricting its own supplies of the fuel.
The Islamic republic’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, said at the weekend: “As a country capable of supplying gas in very big volumes, Iran is always willing to be present in Europe’s market, either through pipeline or in LNG [liquified natural gas] form.”
Energy supplies from Iran – holder of the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves – have been limited by sanctions aimed at curtailing its nuclear programme. However, a recent deal brokered by the US could see Tehran eventually re-emerge as a major global supplier at a time when markets are concerned about the reliability of Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
Stockpiles across Europe are thought to be high enough to absorb any short-term disruption to supplies from Moscow and offset the need to find new imports immediately.
Figures from the US Energy Information Administration show that Russia dominates Europe’s gas supply market, shipping 76pc of its exports of the heating fuel to the region last year.
European Union states have few options to diversify away from Russian gas amid more competition from fast growing economies in Asia and a reluctance to embrace fracking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the Ukraine crisis in a telephone call Sunday and the supply of gas and its transit, based on the results of a recent meeting in Warsaw. In Warsaw on Friday, Russia threatened to cut natural gas exports to Ukraine in June if it receives no prepayment in a row between Moscow, Ukraine and the EU over energy supplies.
"If we don't receive pre-payment for June by May 31, then it is possible Gazprom will reduce gas supplies to Ukraine or provide it with the capacity it has paid for by May 31," said Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak, according to a report by Reuters.
Iran is also keen to emphasize the potential role it can play ahead of a renewal of nuclear negotiations this summer. European oil companies such as Statoil had helped develop gas fields in the Persian Gulf before sanctions were imposed. Tehran is once again planning to reopen its oil and gas assets to foreign investment.
Tehran needs finance as it plans to invest $14bn (£8.3bn) to develop oil and gas fields that it shares with neighbours in the Persian Gulf. The South Pars fields, which combined with Qatar’s North Dome area, is estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to hold 1,800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 51bn barrels of natural gas condensate – a high-value type of petroleum. The area has made Qatar the largest shipper of LNG in the world and a global energy superpower.
Discovered in 1990, the development of South Pars area has been plagued by technical problems, contractual disputes and the imposition of sanctions that forced international oil companies (IOCs) to step back.
Meanwhile, exports of crude oil from Iraq’s main export terminal in Basra have hit the highest levels since 2003, the government has said. Iraq is now producing almost 2.6m barrels per day of crude.
Here are 20 fascinating facts about the Channel Tunnel, one for every year it has been open
1. The Channel Tunnel is 31.4 miles long, making it the 11th longest tunnel in use (the longest is the Paijanne Water Tunnel in Finland, at 74.6 miles), and the fifth longest used by rail passengers. It has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world (23.5 miles).
2. The project cost £4.65 billion (equivalent to £12 billion today), 80 per cent more than expected. Construction took six years (1988-1994).
3. It was recognised as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World" by the American Society of Civil Engineers, alongside the Empire State Building, the Itaipu Dam in South America, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Panama Canal, the North Sea protection works in the Netherlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
4. The first proposal for a tunnel under the Channel was put forward by Albert Mathieu, a French engineer - it included an artificial island half-way across for changing horses. Further proposals were considered by Napoleon III in 1856 and William Gladstone in 1865, while David Lloyd George brought up the idea at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
5. At the height of construction, 13,000 people were employed. Ten workers - eight of them British - were killed building the tunnel.
6. Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Phillippe Cozette carried out the ceremonial break through on December 1, 1990.
7. They didn't quite meet in the middle - the English side tunnelled the greater distance.
8. The average depth of the tunnel is 50 metres below the seabed, and the lowest point 75 metres below. Much of the chalk marl spoil bored on the English side was deposited at Lower Shakespeare Cliff in Kent, now home to the Samphire Hoe Country Park.
9. There are actually three tunnels down there - two for trains and a smaller service tunnel that can be used in emergencies.
10. 11 boring machines were used to dig the tunnel. Together they weighed a total of 12,000 tonnes (more than the Eiffel Tower), while each was as long as two football pitches. One from the British side remains buried under the Channel. Another was sold on eBay for £39,999 in 2004.
11. Up to 400 trains pass through the tunnel each day, carrying an average of 50,000 passengers, 6,000 cars, 180 coaches and 54,000 tonnes of freight.
12. Three fires have occurred (in 1996, 2006 and 2012) inside the tunnel that were significant enough for it to close. The most serious, on November 18, 1996, damaged 500 metres of the tunnel, affecting operations for six months. An automatic fire dousing system has now been installed.
13. A number of train failures have occurred. On December 18, 2009, five Eurostar trains broke down, trapping 2,000 passengers for 16 hours without power, and many without food or water.
14. Last year a record 20.4 million passengers were transported between Britain and France using the tunnel.
15. The vast majority (85 per cent) of car passengers are British.
16. Shuttle trains are 775 metres long - the same as eight football pitches.
17. The lining of the tunnel is designed to last for 120 years.
18. It takes around 35 minutes to travel the length of the Channel Tunnel.
19. The introduction of a pet travel scheme in 2000 has seen more than one million dogs and cats travelling through the tunnel. For more details on travelling to Europe with a pet - see our guide .
20. The Queen and President Mitterrand officially opened the tunnel on May 6, 1994. The royal party travelled from Waterloo to Calais at a sedate 80mph. The presidential party sped to the coast from Paris at 186mph.
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Oscar Pistorius has been caught up in a war of words after a friend of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp claimed he whispered to her “how can you sleep at night?” during a break in his murder trial.
Kim Myers told police officers involved in the case the athlete made the “very sinister” comment out of the blue as she sat with her mother in the public gallery flanked by a large number of journalists.
The 27-year-old athlete flatly denied the claim, telling the Telegraph he had not spoken to Miss Myers or the rest of her family at all during the trial. His lawyer insisted her statement was “grossly untrue”.
But Miss Myers has said she is standing by her allegation. Her lawyer, Ian Levitt, said they have raised it with the National Prosecuting Authority and are considering making a formal complaint of intimidation to police.
Steenkamp referred to Kim, her sister Gina and their parents Desi and Cecil as her “Joburg family” and had lived with them at their home since September 2012, after leaving her own family home in Port Elizabeth. Both sisters and their mother have been in court almost throughout the case.
Mr Myers identified Steenkamp’s body and told the Telegraph last year he had warned the “very moody” athlete to “back off” after the model had complained to him she felt “caged in” by their relationship.
Pistorius is on trial at Pistorius High Court for the alleged premeditated murder of Miss Steenkamp. The prosecution say he shot at the model four times through a locked lavatory door at his Pretoria home after a row. He insists he did so thinking she was an intruder.
The alleged incident involving Miss Myers took place during a morning break in the trial proceedings.
Journalists sitting behind the Myers family say they saw Pistorius lean forwards towards Kim Myers as he left the dock.
She was seen to recoil and was approached by a police officer sitting with the prosecution team who asked what had been said. The officer then spoke to Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, and there was an exchange between lawyers for both sides.
Mr Levitt said his client had “no idea” what prompted the comment and had been left “shocked” by it.
"Kim Myers was approached by Oscar Pistorius in court today and, in a very sinister tone, was asked: 'How can you sleep at night?'” Mr Levitt said.
“My client views this unwelcome approach as extremely disturbing. She wants to continue to be court in support of Reeva but it's very upsetting."
Desi Myers walked out of court with her daughter, telling journalist she was “furious”.
Asked by the Telegraph if he made the comment, Pistorius insisted he had not. "No, I haven't spoken to them," he said. "I haven't spoken to them for a year and a half.
"I walk past them in corridors and hold doors open for them but they don't look me in the eye."
Challenged by another journalist who claimed to have witnessed the exchange, he shook his head and said: "I've heard that one." He refused to respond to further questions.
Brian Webber, Mr Pistorius’s solicitor, initially said he would not “dignify” the claim with a response.
“It's grossly untrue. He never said anything of the sort,” he said.
Mr Levitt said he was not surprised by Pistorius’ denial. “He's denied a whole lot of things,” he said. “He's in a big process of denial.
"Not only is Miss Myers standing by what he said but she finds it unfathomable that he denies it in front of a number of witnesses.”
Police were understood to be last night scanning video recordings of the trial proceedings in a bid to pinpoint the moment the alleged exchange might have taken place.
The Myers family were all named as witnesses on the state list but were not called to give evidence. They have hinted that little of what they told police has been mentioned in court, although it is understood that Pistorius and the defence team would have seen their statements.
Stephen Tuson, a legal expert at Wits University in Johannesburg, said that had Miss Myers been called as a state witness, Pistorius’ comments to her might have been “very serious indeed” and could have prompted the NPA to apply for his bail to be revoked.
“As she wasn’t called, that is academic but if proven this incident could demonstrate possible impropriety by the accused,” he said.
The case continues on Thursday.
Beijing's lack of faith in rule of Kim Jong-un exposed in contingency plans to detain key North Korean leaders, set up border refugee camps and respond to "foreign forces"
China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.
The report calls for stepping up monitoring of China’s 879-mile border with North Korea.
Any senior North Korean military or political leaders who could be the target of either rival factions or another “military power,” thought to be a reference to the United States, should be given protection, the documents state.
According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.
The report suggests “foreign forces” could be involved in an incident that leads to the collapse of internal controls in North Korea, resulting to millions of refugees attempting to flee. The only route to safety the vast majority would have would be over the border into China.
The Chinese authorities intend to question new arrivals, determine their identities and turn away any who are considered dangerous or undesirable.
“This only underlines that all the countries with a stake in the stability of north-east Asia need to be talking to each other,” Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told The Telegraph.
“What we have learned from the collapse of other dictatorships – the Soviet Union, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya – is that the more totalitarian the regime, the harder and faster they fall,” he added.
“This is why we need contingency plans and I am sure that the US and South Korea have extensive plans in place, but the release of Chinese measures is new,” he said.
Okumura believes that the timing of the leak of the study is significant, given that China can have been expected to have similar contingency plans in place for the past two decades that North Korea has been teetering on the edge of implosion.
The release of the study comes just days after Beijing issued a thinly veiled warning to Pyongyang, ahead of a fourth anticipated nuclear test, that China would “by no means allow war or chaos to occur on our doorstep.”
China, which is North Korea’s sole remaining significant supporter, also refused to export any crude oil over its border to the North in the first three months of the year.
The world’s first trillionaire could emerge within just 25 years, financial forecasters have claimed.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and richest person on Earth, is expected by many to be the first to reach trillionaire status.
If the world’s greatest fortunes continue to grow at their current rate, boosted by the rapid wealth creation in emerging markets such as India and China then Gates or one of the planet’s super-rich elite could have a trillion dollars to their name by 2039, according to some predictions.
Others, such as investment bank Credit Suisse, believe there will be 11 trillionaires within just two generations.
“Two generations ahead, future extrapolation of current wealth growth rates yields almost a billion millionaires, equivalent to 20 per cent of the total adult population,” the bank wrote in its annual Global Wealth Report last year.
“If this scenario unfolds, then billionaires will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few trillionaires too, eleven according to our best estimate.”
A trillion dollars is a million million or $1,000,000,000,000 (£590,000 million), the equivalent of $140 for every person on the planet.
It is enough money to buy up every last inch of property in central London at today’s prices, according to The Times .
Bill Gates, 58, currently the richest man on Earth with a fortune of £72 billion, is widely expected to be the world’s first trillionaire.
If the US national wealth carries on growing at its current rate and the richest few continue to increase their share of it in an increasingly polarised economy, Mr Gates will claim the title of world’s first trillionaire in his old age.
The share of America’s national wealth held by the country’s 400 richest individuals has more than tripled from less than one per cent to three per cent since the Forbes 400 list was launched in 1982.
American tax lawyer Bob Lord, who writes for Inequality.org, believes the growing concentration of world wealth will lead to a trillionaire in just a quarter of a century.
“We're sliding back to Gilded Age levels of wealth concentration,” he said.
“My guess is 2039 is the most likely time frame to cross that threshold.”
When Forbes began tracking the wealth of the richest 400 Americans, those with $75 million could make it onto the low end of the list. Now at least $1 billion is needed.
Other contenders for the world’s first trillionaire include Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms mogul and legendary US investor Warren Buffett.
But there are some that doubt the 25-year predictions and believe it may take few generations for another Gates-style entrepreneur to take the title.
Oliver Williams, of the London-based consultants Wealth Insight, told The Times: “You can’t be exact on when we will see the first trillionaire, and it is ‘when’ not ‘if’, but it is doubtful that it will be within 25 years; double that estimate would be more likely.
“The first trillionaire will be an inventor, someone who creates something world-changing, like Bill Gates did with the PC.
“It might be a solution to a global problem, such as the lack of fresh water, or something the world didn’t know we needed, like Facebook.”
Mr Williams believes the world’s first trillionaire would almost certainly be based in the US, where wealth accumulation is most acute.
Others argue they may come from a fast-growing economy such as India.
Women who never sunbathe during the summer are twice as likely to die than those who sunbathe everyday, a major study has shown.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden claim guidelines which advise people to stay out of the sun unless wearing sunscreen may be harming the population, particularly in countries like Britain.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is often cited as a cause of skin melanoma. The NHS currently recommends avoiding overexposure to the sun to prevent all types of skin cancer.
But the new research, which followed nearly 30,000 women over 20 years, suggests that women who stay out of the sun are at increased risk of skin melanomas and are twice as likely to die from any cause, including cancer.
"The results of this study clearly showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group,” said lead author Dr Pelle Lindqvist.
“Sun exposure advice which is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful for women’s health.
“The mortality rate was increased two-fold among avoiders of sun exposure as compared to those with the highest sun exposure habits.”
It is thought that a lack of vitamin D may to be blame. Vitamin D is created in the body through exposure to sunshine and a deficiency is known to increase the risk of diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets.
Cases of rickets have risen fourfold in the last 15 years as sunscreen has increased in popularity.
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D can increase survival rates for women with breast cancer while deficiencies can signal prostate cancer in men. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to more aggressive forms of skin cancer.
Prof Dorothy Bennett, Professor of Cell Biology at St. George's, University of London, said: “The findings support the consensus that the ideal amount of sun exposure for Northern Europeans is ‘a little’, rather than zero.
“As the authors comment, our bodies need sunlight to make essential vitamin D, which can help us resist some cancer types. Those who normally avoid the sun and/or cover most of their skin are advised to take vitamin D supplements.”
The study looked at 29,518 Swedish women who were recruited from 1990 to 1992 and asked to monitor their sunbathing and tanning salon habits.
After 20 years there had been 2,545, deaths and researchers were surprised to find that women who never sunbathed during the summer months were twice as likely to have died from any cause.
1.5 women in a 100 who had the highest exposure to UV were found to have died, compared with 3 in 100 for women who had avoided sunbathing.
Women who sunbathed in the summer were also 10 per cent less likely to die from skin cancer although those who sunbathed abroad were twice as likely to die from melanoma.
Public Health England says it would be considering the research carefully.
A spokesman said: "Public Health England constantly reviews scientific research and our experts will consider this paper along with other peer reviewed research into this issue as part of that process."
Dr Andrea Darling, Post-doctoral Research Fellow from the University of Surrey, said there was still strong evidence that skin cancer is caused by sunbathing.
“The findings from Dr Lindqvist’s team are interesting, but it is possible that the women in the study who had high sun exposure differed from the women who had low sun exposure in ways that may explain their reduced cancer risk.”
Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said striking a balance was important.
“The reasons behind higher death rates in women with lower sun exposure are still unexplained, as unhealthy lifestyle choices could have played a part,” she added.
“Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.
“We all need some sunshine to make vitamin D for healthy bones. Enjoying the sun safely while taking care not to burn should help most people strike a good balance.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Skin cancer can have devastating consequences and it is vital that people take steps to protect themselves.
"However, we also recognize the importance of Vitamin D for good health. Most people in the UK can get enough vitamin D from sunlight, but those at risk of vitamin D deficiency should take daily supplements.
“We are working to raise awareness of the symptoms of cancers through the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns. Anybody concerned about symptoms should visit their GP.”
The research was published in The Journal of Internal Medicine.
The death of the pop music industry has been predicted for years – and certainly since Apple launched a whizzy device called an iPod back in 2001. The rise of free or pirated music online and the declining sales of CDs has at the same time been wielded as a cautionary tale about the power of the internet. Still, this week’s comments by Lily Allen may finally confirm that any aspiring rock guitarists or pop singers might as well pack away their dreams and find a proper job.
“Everyone assumes I made millions from the John Lewis ad. I probably made $13,500,” said the singer, whose cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know made it to Number One last year. It was played incessantly on the radio, and – of course – the television, as the soundtrack to John Lewis’s Christmas advert, featuring an animated love story between a bear and a hare.
Allen, who took a four-year break to bring up her children, has claimed that pop stars now make most of their money from turning up to awards ceremonies and product events. “There are the snobby launches of a new water at Claridge’s. Pointless stuff. And we all turn up because we get paid to be there,” she told Beat magazine.
How much do they pay? “Depends. From $4,200 to $170,000? Now that people don’t buy music, we have to find other revenues. It’s not something I’ve really been offered. But I might,” she said. “I didn’t know how bad the music industry had got in those four years I was out.”
Perhaps she should have taken a look at last year’s charts: not the music charts, but those tracking sales across the entire entertainment industry – albums, films and video-games – put together by the Entertainment Retailers Association. These reveal that the top-selling product in 2013 was the video-game Grand Theft Auto V, which sold 3.67 million copies, followed by the DVD of Skyfall, the James Bond film, which sold 2.96 million copies.
You would need to go down to ninth place before you hit anything melodic – and that would be Now That’s What I Call Music! 86, which scraped just over one million units. The only other music in the Top 20, in physical or electronic format, is Now That’s What I Call Music! 85.
Only a decade ago – the days when Dido, Coldplay and James Blunt were hit machines – it was not uncommon for an album to sell more than three million copies.
You might think that the rise of digital music would compensate for the dire fall in sales of physical CDs, but this isn’t the case. Last year, the sales of all types of albums and singles totaled $1.77 billion in the UK, down 0.5 per cent on the year before and down 7 per cent over three years.
None other than pop’s biggest female star, Beyoncé, complained on her latest album, singing: “Soul not for sale / Probably won’t make no money off this / Oh well.” Queen Bey even makes the credibility-stretching claim that she is going to have to work “nine to five to stay alive”.
The problem is that people just do not buy music in the quantity that they used to. They either pick and choose the odd single, or they stream music on services such as Spotify or YouTube, often free of charge.
But this does not mean that musicians will be forced to become buskers. Indeed, Allen’s candid assessment hints at how some musicians still make a comfortable living, despite falling sales.
Touring has long been the most lucrative way of making money for the big stadium acts, such as the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Now the global recession is over, ticket prices are on the up and new acts, such as One Direction, are cashing in.
All of these events are an opportunity to sell merchandise and push the brand. The days of a Rolling Stone baseball cap are over. Taylor Swift has three different perfumes to her name; Rita Ora, who has recorded just one album, has polka dot shorts, necklaces and an entire range of Rimmel London nail varnish in her stable of merchandise.
As one music agent says: “For a lot of these pop acts, the music is just another piece in their product range.” And no area is off limits. Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk not only spawned 2013’s biggest single, Get Lucky, but also a brand of Get Lucky condoms.
According to PRS for Music, the industry association that helps collect royalty payments, British writers and artists earned $1.09 billion from royalties. But on top of that, they earned $178 million in 2012 from “ancillary brand revenues”. This jargon includes sponsorship of a venue, concert or tour, with the artists taking a cut. Indeed, Rihanna’s latest tour was technically known as the Budweiser Rihanna 777 Tour (the crowd reportedly failed to respond to Rihanna’s call for them to chant “Budweiser and River Island” in support of her associated brands).
Artists’ “ancillary” earnings also include the endorsements they clock up, such as producer Mark Ronson and singer Katy B lending their cool to a corporate brand like Coca‑Cola. For that, they will usually be compensated for both the use of their music and of their image. The deals add up: from Lana Del Rey fronting adverts for H&M, to the likes of Jessie J who has got into bed with VitaminWater. (And this from the girl who sang “It’s not about the money, money, money”.)
PRS does not, however, track the pay cheques about which stars are possibly the most opaque: personal appearances. It is no secret that pop stars can cash in when they are invited to perform at the birthday party of some Russian oligarch or Saudi princess – Lakshmi Mittal paid Kylie Minogue an estimated £315,000 to sing for half an hour at the wedding of his daughter. Jay‑Z and Beyoncé each charge £1 million a night.
What is more surprising is when celebrities are paid just to turn up: not to sing or present an award, but just to be seen at the launch of a product or the opening of a new nightclub, as Lily Allen spelled out.
Yusef Mohamed, director of Big Bang, one of the many agencies that specialize in placing celebrities at events, says: “Many of these celebrities are very busy. Turning up to these things can take a lot of the artist’s time – they are not going to go to them unless someone is paying them.”
And how they pay. The fees start at about $3,400 for the most Z-list of celebrities, all the way up to $340,000 or more for a proper star. Mark Borkowski, the PR man who represents celebrities as well as brands, notes: “This has been going on for some time, particularly in the luxury fashion world, where budgets are high.”
Sometimes, of course, tempers fray. The designer Nicole Farhi caused ructions two years ago when she said she was fed up with stars demanding to be paid to sit in the front row of fashion shows and refused to pay. An A-lister such as Rihanna, it is understood, charges $102,000 to be at a show.
Allen herself back in 2007 was open about how the fashion industry bent over backwards to butter up music stars, claiming that after an Yves Saint Laurent show she was taken to the flagship store and told to help herself, before emerging with $8,500 worth of dresses, handbags and accessories.
These personal appearances have to be managed with caution, however. “You have to be very, very careful,” Borkowski says. “If you become a hired hand, and are seen at the shaking of every stick, your ubiquity will destroy your credibility.”
And rivals for the work will be snapping at your heels. The celebrity market is becoming “saturated”, Mohamed warns, thanks to the sheer number of talent and reality shows, which have created an army of people looking to cash in on their fame.
For some, the old ways still remain the best. One music agent says: “I get these offers coming in quite often – and they are fine for a pop act, who have only a few years to milk it for all it is worth.
“But for a proper music star, you can forget it. Their fans would never forgive them.”