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- 05/07/14--12:37: _Chinese Police Will...
- 05/08/14--10:57: _6 Ways Acting Like ...
- 05/09/14--04:00: _Lack Of Exercise Is...
- 05/12/14--04:23: _An Australian Curre...
- 05/13/14--12:24: _Here Is A Good Reas...
- 05/13/14--15:25: _Brazilian Security ...
- 05/14/14--06:33: _Oscar Pistorius Tri...
- 05/14/14--14:26: _The House Where Hit...
- 05/16/14--03:47: _10 Of The World's G...
- 05/17/14--10:39: _Turkish Mine Protes...
- 05/17/14--11:25: _Kim Jong-Un's 'Exec...
- 05/18/14--07:36: _Senior Air Force Of...
- 05/18/14--10:42: _MUSK: You Can Drive...
- 05/21/14--11:05: _Here's How The US I...
- 05/22/14--05:00: _Putin Demands Apolo...
- 05/22/14--12:35: _This Man Fell Down ...
- 05/23/14--04:21: _Study: Anorexia And...
- 05/23/14--06:20: _Vladimir Putin Is H...
- 05/24/14--11:15: _Here's Why The Mons...
- 05/24/14--16:31: _We Could Be Heading...
- 05/07/14--12:37: Chinese Police Will Soon Patrol The Streets Of Paris
- 05/08/14--10:57: 6 Ways Acting Like A Psychopath Can Help You Succeed
- 05/09/14--04:00: Lack Of Exercise Is Hurting Women Over 30 More Than Smoking
- 05/13/14--12:24: Here Is A Good Reason Why You Don't Want To Die In The UK
- 05/13/14--15:25: Brazilian Security Will Wear 'Robocop' Style Protection Equipment
- 05/16/14--03:47: 10 Of The World's Greatest Late Bloomers
- 05/18/14--07:36: Senior Air Force Officer: The F-35 Is An Epic Waste
- 05/18/14--10:42: MUSK: You Can Drive A Tesla Across Britain On Only One Recharge
- 05/21/14--11:05: Here's How The US Is Fighting Terrorists Through Twitter
- 05/22/14--05:00: Putin Demands Apology After Prince Charles Compares Him To Hitler
- 05/23/14--06:20: Vladimir Putin Is Having His Own 'Nixon In China’ Moment
Chinese police will be patrolling the streets of Paris this summer alongside their French counterparts to help combat a surge in attacks against high-spending Chinese tourists.
The French authorities are determined to improve security for more than a million Chinese tourists who visit the capital for shopping and sightseeing each year.
Their habit of carrying large amounts of cash has made them a “prime target for muggers and pickpockets”, a police source said.
Chinese visitors to Paris are estimated to spend an average of €1,470 (£1,205) each on shopping, mainly buying designer brands, according to Global Blue, the Swiss-based duty free services company.
An interior ministry official said the number of Chinese police to be deployed in Paris was still being decided. “Their role will be preventive and they will carry out patrols with French police at tourist sites,” the official said.
In an incident that caused alarm in Beijing and received wide media coverage, a group of 23 Chinese visitors were robbed of cash and passports last year as they left a restaurant only a few hours after landing at Charles de Gaulle airport.
“That was the tipping point,” said Tang Lu, the manager of the travel agency Chine Tourisme. “There had always been pickpockets, but last year physical attacks started happening along with the thefts.”
The Chinese are the biggest buyers of duty free goods in Paris. The department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps employ hundreds of bilingual staff to help Chinese customers find their way around, but say they are powerless to protect them as they leave the stores.
“We’ve witnessed a lot of muggings,” said a Chinese saleswoman at a luxury goods store. “The thieves are usually on motorbikes. They ride up on to the pavement and grab the tourists’ bags.”
More Chinese tourists are expected this summer because of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and Communist China.
In an indication of the importance Paris attaches to encouraging Chinese visitors, Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, personally welcomed tourists arriving on a flight from Beijing last week.
Behaving like a psychopath could help you in your career and love life. It’s counterintuitive – who, after all, would hire Hannibal Lecter or want to date Norman Bates – but that’s the idea behind The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, part popular science book, part self-help guide from Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton.
“I wanted to debunk the myth that all psychopaths are bad,” says Dutton, who has explored this subject before . “I’d done research with the special forces, with surgeons, with top hedge fund managers and barristers. Almost all of them had psychopathic traits, but they’d harnessed them in ways to make them better at what they do.”
It was through this research that he met retired SAS sergeant and bestselling author McNab, who in tests exhibited many of these psychopathic traits, including ruthlessness, fearlessness, impulsivity, reduced empathy, developed self-confidence and lack of remorse.
“There’s no one thing that makes a psychopath,” Dutton explains. “You want to think of those traits being like the dials on a studio mixing desk, that you can turn up and down in different situations – if they’re all turned up to maximum, then you’re a dysfunctional psychopath.
“Being a psychopath isn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, like height and weight.”
As one dysfunctional psychopath – who was serving a life sentence for multiple murders – put it to Dutton: “It’s not that we’re bad, it’s that we’ve got too much of a good thing.”
How, then, can you act more like a psychopath in your everyday life?
“If I’m in a hostage situation I’d rather have a psychopath coming through the door than anyone else because I know he’s going to be completely focussed on the job in hand,” says McNab.
The ability psychopaths have to turn down their empathy and block out other concerns make them the best operators in high-pressure environments, he says. “If I was on trial, I’d want a psychopath [to represent me] too. I want someone who’d be able to rip people apart in the witness box, go back to their family and not think anything more about it, because it’s just a job for them.”
The lack of fear which characterises psychopaths could also help people in the work place, says Dutton, who asks of the book’s readers: “What would I do in this situation if I wasn’t afraid?” (It matches, almost word for word, a sign which greets visitors to Facebook’s California HQ, “What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?” though Dutton insists this is coincidental.)
“If it’s asking for a raise or picking up the phone to call someone you wouldn’t otherwise, functioning psychopaths have a natural advantage in that they can turn this fear down.”
Lack of empathy
But it’s important, McNab says, not to turn down the ‘empathy dial’ completely when doing business. “You don’t want to be a Gordon Gekko character, screwing people over all the time. They get hurt once but you get hurt forever because they’ll never trust you again. That’s the difference between a good and a bad psychopath: knowing when to turn that up and when to kill it.”
One dysfunctional psychopath Dutton worked with used to have a competition when out with his friends: not to see who could get the most phone numbers from women but see who could get the most rejections. “It’s something anyone could learn from,” Dutton says.
“Once you get used to being rejected it doesn’t hurt, you realise it doesn’t matter. Then your confidence gets up and you start approaching everyone – you’re coming across as less confident, less worried and your hit rate starts going up. It’s a great example of how you can turn this fear down if you work on it.”
“A lot of the problems in relationships come from the fact that people stick in them when they’d be better off out,” says McNab, who had been married five times – though has been with his current wife for 14 years. “You have to know when to cut loose.”
Psychopaths never mind striking out on their own – and this is a good example to follow, Dutton says, if you start feeling constrained by your friends. “Your friends might be smoking and drinking all the time while you’ve decided to get fit. You have to be prepared to stand apart sometimes. It doesn’t mean ditching them, it’s just healthy to be your own person once in a while.”
When it comes to self-confidence, as with all the psychopathic traits the pair explore, the most important thing is to be able to strike a balance. To anyone worrying that the book will create a wave of unfeeling monsters, Dutton says: “We are absolutely not aiming to turn people into psychopaths.
“It’s for people who have those mixing dials turned down too low and need to get them up.”
Are you a psychopath? Take the test on thegoodpsychopath.com
The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Successis published on 8 May, priced at £12.99 in paperback or £8.99 as an ebook
A lack of exercise is a bigger cause of heart disease in women over 30 than smoking, researchers have found.
Researchers found that in the rankings of causes of heart disease in women, once they are over the age of 30, a lack of exercise becomes more important than smoking.
Women around that age are giving up smoking as they start a family and that makes them less likely to take enough exercise, the researchers said.
This means that fewer women are smoking but more are becoming inactive, making that the bigger problem for society, they said.
The findings from the University of Queensland in Australia were published British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Professor Wendy Brown, at Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health, said: "Smoking is serious but it is only serious if you keep doing it. In Australia women tend to give up smoking and the rates drop sharply after the age of 30 when women are getting pregnant and that is when physical activity gets worse."
The study followed 32,154 women and found that the proportion of women smoking in their 20s was more than one in four but this dropped to around one in 20 by the time they were in their 70s.
The proportion of women who were inactive increased with age.
They calculated that if all women aged between 30 and 90 did half an hour of brisk walking per day then 2,000 lives could be saved in Australia annually.
Prof Brown said a similar number could be saved in the UK as the populations, smoking rates and exercise rates were alike.
"Our data suggest that national programmes for the promotion and maintenance of physical activity, across the adult lifespan, but especially in young adulthood, deserve to be a much higher public health priority for women than they are now," she said.
Thembi Nkala, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We already know physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Interestingly, this study shows its dominant influence on heart disease amongst women, and suggests a greater need to promote regular physical activity amongst this group.
“It’s important to remember that heart disease is linked to other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It’s essential to manage these too, as the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of heart disease. Speak to your GP or Practice Nurse if you have any concerns about your heart health.”
An alleged insider trading scams was exposed via LinkedIn after a suspicious broker used the social media network to uncover links between a banker trading in foreign currency and a government statistician.
The foreign exchange broker, Owen Kerr, had been alerted by a staff member that a client, National Australia Bank associate director Lukas Kamay, was apparently making large bets on the Australian dollar, frequently seconds or minutes before the official announcement of economic data at the regular release time of 11.30am.
Examining Kamay’s LinkedIn account, Mr Kerr realized the banker had been to Monash University with a man named Christopher Hill, who worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The link was passed on to police, who conducted a nine-month surveillance operation which eventually led to the arrests of Kamay and Hill last week over an alleged scam in which they are believed to have netted up to $6.6 million. Police also made inquiries through Facebook to discover that the two men were “friends”.
Kamay, 26, who faces seven charges, allegedly offered his friend more than $47,240 to disclose the inside information. Authorities have frozen his assets, including his purchase of a luxury $2.19 million loft apartment in inner city Melbourne.
Hill, 24, who faces five charges, allegedly provided confidential information such as housing and building approval figures to ‘‘predict fluctuations in the Australian dollar’’.
Mr Kerr, from Pepperstone Financial, said the currency trades were usually submitted at about 11.25am but sometimes just 30 seconds before the official data was released.
“Kamay was taking quite decent size positions which were larger than his account size could sustain if they went the wrong way,” he said. “So they were really an all-or-nothing bet and not something someone would normally rationally make.”
A national shortage of grave space has become “critical” with some towns now on the brink of having nowhere to bury the dead, MPs have warned.
Growing pressure to secure land for development and the needs of farmers and existing owners have left local councils struggling to find space for burial sites, they said.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Tory MP, said that in one part of her Devon constituency there are now only 16 empty burial plots, after emergency efforts to create more space have been exhausted.
She urged ministers to give serious consideration to the possibility of reusing older graves, as has already been allowed in parts of London, to ease the crisis across the country.
Sir Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP who speaks for the Church of England in Parliament, said there was effectively a gap in the law leaving it unclear whether churches or councils are responsible for providing burial space.
Earlier this year the Church of England put forward plans to offer discounted funerals for those who choose cremation rather than burial because of the shortage of space.
Pressure on graves is expected to intensify within the next few years as deaths rates rise sharply because of Britain’s ageing population.
Although for centuries local churches provided the main community graveyard, many traditional churchyards are already full and have been formally “closed” to burials.
Meanwhile councils are finding it more difficult to secure space for new cemeteries. A study last year showed that many local authorities are already resorting to converting car parks and pathways into new burial plots to meet the demand.
The warning came during a Commons committee debate about ecclesiastical law, which includes minor technical changes to the rules on burials.
Dr Wollaston intervened to ask: “Has the Church Commissioner considered the critical shortage of burial places?
“In Kingsbridge in my constituency, there are only 16 places left. All the measures available have been instituted, such as using plots that have not been taken up and clearing extra ground in cemeteries, but we are now reaching a critical shortage, and I gather that the situation is repeated around the country.”
Sir Tony replied Dr Wollaston was “absolutely right”.
“She has identified what I suspect is something of a lacuna in the legislation about who is responsible for making provision for new cemeteries and new burial ground places,” he added.
“In my constituency, in Bicester, there are difficulties.
“Land around the towns is valuable as development land — farmers and landowners are not keen to give up land for new burial grounds — and it can be quite a challenge for district or town councils to provide new burial space.”
Dr Wollaston explained that despite extensive efforts to extend space in the local cemetery in Kingsbridge there are now only 16 space for burials and 20 from cremated remains.
“I feel that it is best to deal with this before we reach the point where there is nowhere left,” she said.
“Although this is an uncomfortable question and of course no one likes the idea of having to reuse plots.
"The reality is: what is the alternative?”
World Cup police in Rio de Janeiro will be kitted out in a 'RoboCop' style suit of armour to protect officers in the event of violent protests during the tournament.
Members of a special unit set up for the World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio received 200 sets of the special 22lbs (10kg) protective equipment, which is flame resistant to up to 427C.
The equipment also includes a helmet and vest that protects the back, chest and shoulders, as well as space for a pistol, stun gun, handcuffs, baton and gun loader.
The Major Events Police Battalion (BPGE), a branch of the military police, was formed in January this year in response to widespread public demonstrations during last year’s Confederations Cup.
Last year, there were ugly scenes of clashes between police and demonstrators as thousands protested against public spending ahead of the World Cup, which starts next month.
Rio de Janeiro will host seven games during the competition, including the final on July 13.
The unit was announced in Rio state’s Official Gazette and has 600 specially trained officers.
The announcement by Jose Mariano Beltrame, state secretary for security, cited “the need to give the military police specialised, efficient and intelligent instruments for patrolling, aimed at the preservation of public order in public places where there is the presence of a crowd of people gathered together.”
Lieutenant colonel Wagner Villares, commander of the unit, said the equipment, which is reminiscent of the action character RoboCop, would protect officers from missiles like the firecracker that killed cameraman Santiago Andrade earlier this year.
“The plastic uniform is resistant to knocks and blows,” he told news website Ultimo Segundo.
“Underneath the plastic that covers the back and the chest, there is another protective layer that absorbs and spreads the force of a blow.” The armour is similar to that worn by the Choque battalion, a special riot control unit.
Like police units in Sao Paulo, the Major Events Police Battalion officers have also received martial arts training.
The trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic athlete accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been dramatically halted after the judge referred him for compulsory psychiatric assessment at a state mental hospital.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said evidence introduced by a psychiatrist that Pistorius was suffering from a Generalised Anxiety Disorder which might have influenced his actions on the night he killed Steenkamp “cannot be ignored”.
She said she was aware of the delay the referral for 30-day evaluation would cause, but said any suggestion of mental illness that might diminish his criminal responsibility for what happened should “never been taken lightly”.
"This is not about anyone's convenience but about whether justice has been served,” she said.
Pistorius, 27, is accused by the state of shooting Steenkamp, 29, four times through a locked lavatory door at his Pretoria home in the early hours of February 14 last year after the couple had a row. He insists he did so thinking she was an intruder.
He is expected to be admitted to Weskoppies public psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Pretoria where he will be observed by three psychiatrists over 30 days.
Crucially for the defendant, the judge asked for him to be admitted as an outpatient, meaning he will be able to return each night to his uncle’s comfortable home in Pretoria where he has been living since the shooting on February 14 last year.
“The aim is not to punish the accused twice,” Judge Masipa told Pistorius’s lawyer and the prosecutor after making her order. “If there is a possibility of making sure he's an outpatient, that's preferable."
Pistorius was told to stand as the judge read out her decision, and seemed calm with the outcome, which was communicated to him beforehand by his lawyers who had been informed by the judge in chambers.
He declined to speak to journalists as he left court, but his family indicated that they understood the judge’s need for a “belts and braces” approach. Pistorius’s personal psychologist, who has been at his side throughout the trial, said her greatest concern had been his possible admission as an inpatient.
Arnold Pistorius, the athlete’s uncle, said in a statement that the family was “comforted by the thoroughness and detail of this judgment”.
A source in the defence team said they were happy with the outcome, despite opposing the referral requested by Gerrie Nel, the state prosecutor.
“If they find there was an aspect of diminished responsibility, that’s an open pass,” the source said.
The police investigating team said they had not expected the judge to rule in the state's favour but welcomed the chance to rule out any diminished responsibility Pistorius might have had for what happened. Mr Nel had warned the judge Pistorius might raise the lack of proper psychiatric evaluation at appeal if he is convicted of Steenkamp's murder.
“Better now than on appeal,” one said. “If it’s an issue, we need to know. We’re prosecutors, not persecutors.”
Pistorius’s legal team had opposed the state’s application for their client to be referred, saying the GAD was only raised as a factor in what happened rather than a cause.
Mr Nel suggested Barry Roux, Pistorius’s barrister, introduced the evidence late in the trial because his client had done “badly” on the witness stand.
Judge Masipa said that either way, the possibility of mental illness had been raised. "Dr Vorster's evidence was placed before court by the defence,” she said. “A doubt has created that the accused may possibly have another defence."
The judge will hand down her official order, which will include the terms of Pistorius’s assessment, on Tuesday next week.
It is understood that Mr Roux will not be charging Pistorius for legal fees during the month that he is being evaluated. Last week it was reported that Pistorius had to sell his house where he shot Steenkamp to help cover his spiraling legal costs.
The house where Adolf Hitler was born could become a language school for immigrants, under new plans being considered by the Austrian government.
From the outside, the former guesthouse at 15 Salzburger Vorstadt could be just another historic building fallen on hard times.
The town where it lies, Braunau am Inn, is a tiny backwater near Linz, where nothing much tends to happen.
But on April 20, 1889, Adolf Hitler was born here, and the debate over what to do with the house is so politically charged, it has gone all the way to the Austrian interior ministry.
"For us, given the meaning this building has, it's important to use it in a way that benefits people," Alexander Marakovits, a spokesman for the interior ministry told The Telegraph.
The ministry has been locked in discussions for over a year with the owner of the building, a retired local woman who insists on remaining anonymous.
According to local press reports, she has rejected suggestions the house be made into an anti-Nazi memorial, and even refused the town authorities permission to put a plaque on the building, for fear it could provoke attacks from neo-Nazis or anti-fascists.
Instead, a small memorial stone on the street outside records the fact that this was Hitler's birthplace.
Until two years ago, the building was used as a day centre for people with learning difficulties. The interior ministry carefully vets all prospective tenants to ensure it doesn't become a neo-Nazi shrine, and the possibility of residential use was rejected in case it attracted Hitler admirers.
Now, after talks in Vienna dubbed the "Birthplace Summit" by Austrian newspapers, the interior ministry is optimistic it has found a solution acceptable to all parties – and one that seems a fitting response to Hitler's racist policies.
Under the plan, after extensive renovation, the building would be used as a language school and integration centre for migrants.
Hitler spent the first three years of his life in the house. At the time, it was a modest guest-house where his parents rented rooms while his father was working as a minor customs official at the nearby border with Germany.
After his father was posted to Passau in Bavaria, the family moved away.
In 1938, after the Anschluss with Austria, huge crowds watched as Hitler returned to Braunau in triumph.
His private secretary, Martin Bormann, bought the house at 15 Salzburger Vorstadt for four times its market value, with the intention of turning it into a shrine.
In 1954, the former owner bought it back for a fraction of the price.
Patience, as your mom told you, is a virtue – but some people have to wait longer than others for success to come. After all, who wants to be some burnout in their early thirties, their best years behind them?
Join us, then, as we bide our time, and run you through some of the greatest late bloomers of this world…
The star of the new Godzilla has established himself as a god of screens both big and small – but it wasn’t always so. His first prominent role came in 1994, as a recurring dentist in classic sitcom Seinfeld, when he was 38. Prior to this, Cranston had paid his dues in decades of roles on daytime soaps and English dubs of foreign animation, as well as such Troy McClure-esque films such as Amazon Women on the Moon and I Know My First Name is Steven.
Like any jobbing actor worth his salt, Cranston also appeared in the odd TV commercial. Here he is, selling haemorrhoid cream...
The KFC founder – Christian name Harland – first franchised the name that would become a global fast food brand in 1952, when he was all of 62-years old. Before that, he was worked as a railroad laborer, and managed companies that offered ferry services and acetylene lamps, until eventually running a motel. There, his fried chicken proved popular -but it was still 12 years before his secret recipe was sold in more than one place.
In stark contrast to the Mozarts of this world, who were wheeled before emperors when barely able to reach the keys of a piano, Austrian composer Anton Bruckner didn’t write his first symphony until he was 41. Before then, he worked as a teacher and organist, spending much of his thirties as a devout student of music.
In contemporary music, LCD Soundsystem kingpin James Murphy was 32 when his band first got any attention, and 35 on the release of their first album – positively antediluvian in dance music circles. He’d been in bands before, but had made his living from being a sound engineer, and ultimately ran his own record label.
In an odd echo of Bryan Cranston’s career, Murphy was offered a writing job on Seinfeld, but turned it down.
The legendary fashion designer spent the Sixties as a primary school teacher, selling jewelery on Portobello Road at the weekend. She finally stopped teaching in 1971, at the age of 30, when she and Malcolm McLaren opened their boutique Sex on the King’s Road, but her designs did not achieve nationwide recognition until the McLaren-managed Sex Pistols exploded into fame in 1976.
Although he had had some success before it, it was The Wind in the Willows that marked the true breakthrough in Grahame’s writing – even though it was turned down by almost every publisher it was sent to. The book was first read in 1908, when he was 49 – and had recently retired from a senior position at the Bank of England. They allotted him a £400 pension, far less than the £710 he was entitled to.
He’s already part of television history, but the suave Mad Men star was still working as a waiter when he was 29, and was 36 when he was cast in the role that would make him a star. Hamm had previously been dropped by his first agent, and worked in the art department on softcore porn films.
The American essayist and humorist dabbled in art in his twenties, but his career didn’t take off until radio producer Ira Glass heard him reading from a childhood diary in a club in 1992 – when he was 36. This led to appearances on public radio, and the subsequent publication of his first collection of essays and stories in 1994.
The Harry Potter creator finished her first book in 1995, at the age of 30 – but it wasn’t until 1998 that the series showed signs of becoming the phenomenon it would, when the US rights were sold for a vast sum. Prior to her success, Rowling worked abroad as an English teacher, and spent a period after her divorce on income support. She is now worth over $1 billion.
Sport can be particularly unforgiving when it comes to age – there’s only so long knees and ankles can hold out against the pressures of hardcore training. So it's heartening to read the story of one Rickie Lambert, who played for Blackpool, Stockport County and Rochdale (among others) before getting a shot at the Premier League big time with Southampton at the ripe old age of 31. In two seasons of top flight football, Lambert has scored 28 goals, and will travel to Brazil this summer as part of the England squad. Bravo.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, faced fresh allegations on Saturday over his conduct following the country’s worst mine disaster after he was heard telling protesters they would be “slapped” for booing him.
A recording of the threat was made public after the Turkish leader allegedly punched a man in a supermarket in the western town of Soma as crowds voiced anger over the tragedy.
The government yesterday said rescue workers had ended rescue efforts after retrieving the bodies of the last two missing miners, with the final death toll put at 301.
“What happened, happened. It is from God,” Mr Erdogan is heard saying in footage aired by DHA, a Turkish broadcaster. “If you boo the country’s prime minister, you get slapped.”
In a separate recording, Mr Erdogan – a fierce critic of Israel – was heard issuing anti-Israeli epithets at a protester, saying: “Why are you running away, Israeli spawn?”
Criticism of his behaviour intensified further when Evrensel, a Turkish newspaper, reported that he repeatedly punched a teenage girl who had shouted at him: “What is the murderer of my father doing here?”
“The girl was saying, ‘don’t do it, brother’. I’ve never seen anything like this. I was horrified,” the paper quoted an eyewitness, identified only by her initials, GK, as saying. “How can a prime minister do something like this? What is this fury?”
The incident was alleged to have happened in the same supermarket where it was claimed that Mr Erdogan assaulted Taner Kuruca, who worked in the mine where the last Tuesday’s fatal accident struck.
Eyewitnesses told The Telegraph that Mr Kucura was not a protester and merely shopping in the supermarket when the incident occurred. TV footage showed him being set upon by bodyguards, who were later said to have removed the store’s CCTV recording.
Mr Kucura – said to be a supporter of the prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) – has declined further interviews after telling one Turkish TV channel that Mr Erdogan may have struck him “involuntarily”.
The revelations will harden the belief among many Turks that Mr Erdogan – whose 11-year rule has faced growing public opposition in the past year – was unsympathetic in his response to the disaster.
Erkan Akcay, an MP for Soma in the opposition National Movement Party (MHP), said he would raise Mr Erdogan’s behaviour in parliament. “The prime minister is a provocateur,” he said. “He has an aggressive and pugnacious manner and these things can happen in seconds. But he also does it thinking it can benefit his party. This kind of behaviour is deliberate.”
The miners apparently died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a fire broke out. The causes are under investigation amid widespread criticism that Mr Erdogan’s government – which is said to be close to the pit’s owners – allowed lax safety standards in the mining industry.
Sporadic clashes between police and demonstrators were reported in Soma for a second successive day on Saturday. Roadblocks were set up in the approaches to the town and officers aggressively demanded identity documents of motorists and pedestrians.
At least eight water-cannon vehicles were on the streets, while a group of lawyers who had come from outside the city to offer legal advice to victims’ families said they had been manhandled by security forces.
A North Korean singer said to be Kim Jong-Un’s ex-girlfriend and reported to have been executed by firing squad last year has appeared on state television, apparently alive and well.
Hyon Song-Wol was shown on state television delivering a speech at a national art workers rally in Pyongyang on Friday.
The singer was reported to have been caught up in palace intrigue last summer having incurred the displeasure of Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim’s wife.
The 31-year-old North Korean leader and the performer were said to have been teenage lovers but had been forced to break up their relationship by Kim Jong-il, the deceased Dear Leader.
Then in August, Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper with close links to that country’s intelligence services, reported that Hyon and eleven other well-known performers had been caught making a sex tape and executed.
But on television this week, Hyon expressed gratitude for Mr Kim’s leadership and pledged to work harder to “stoke up the flame for art and creative work”.
The reappearance of Hyon - perhaps best known for her hit song Excellent Horse-like Lady - came after months of speculation about whether or not she was alive.
“They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on,” sources reportedly said at the time.
South Korea’s spy chief Nam Jae-Joon added weight to the reports when he said in October that he was “aware” of the alleged execution.
“We are aware of the execution of some 10 people associated with the Unhasu Orchestra”, two lawmakers quoted Mr Nam as saying at a closed door parliamentary session, according to Yonhap news agency.
It was also reported that other bands that were part of the “new wave” of music ushered in by Mr Kim’s succession to the leadership had before forced to witness the execution as a salutory lesson.
Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s best selling daily, joined in the reporting, claiming the rare execution of state performers had been ordered to prevent rumours spreading about the supposedly decadent lifestyle of Ms Ri, North Korea’s first lady, while she was an entertainer.
North Korea angrily denied the reports, calling them an “unpardonable” crime.
The North’s state news agency KCNA said the reports were the work of “psychopaths” and “confrontation maniacs” in the South Korean government and media.
“This is an unpardonable, hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership,” a KCNA commentary said.
In an apparent attempt to prove the rumours untrue, North Korean radio in October aired a performance by the Unhasu orchestra but the lack of pictures of the singer until last week reports of her death had continued to dog the Pyongyang regime.
Edited by Hannah Strange
A senior US air force officer says Britain's new stealth jet may be no better than existing aircraft.
Britain's long-delayed $117 million stealth fighter may need to be cancelled because of its poor performance, according to analysis by a senior US Air Force officer.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being built for British and US forces is based on outdated ideas of air warfare, it is claimed. The aircraft could be unable to evade enemy radar and be too expensive for long campaigns.
The critique in the US Air Force’s own journal concludes that the new fighter may even have “substantially less performance” than some existing aircraft.
Britain is preparing to buy at least 48 of the Lockheed Martin aircraft to replace its scrapped Harrier jump jets; the US military is expected to order more than 2,400.
The $395 billion programme is the most expensive weapons system in history at a time when defence budgets on both sides of the Atlantic are being cut.
“Specifically, its performance has not met initial requirements, its payload is low, its range is short, and espionage efforts by the People’s Republic of China may have compromised the aircraft long in advance of its introduction.”
Advances in Russian and Chinese radar defences mean it is not clear that the stealth technology will still work, the analysis warns, adding: “The F-35 might well be the first modern fighter to have substantially less performance than its predecessors.”
The author, Col Michael Pietrucha, suggests the F-35 programme should be put on hold and the US Air Force should instead look at a mix of fighters for the future.
If America pulled out of the programme, Britain would have to follow, analysts said.
Col Pietrucha told The Sunday Telegraph: “All fighter programmes have developed problems. This one is particularly troubling, not necessarily because the aircraft is inherently bad, but because … they are being bought before they have been proven. They have not been tested outside a computer simulation.”
Britain originally said it would buy 138 of the fighters, but has now committed itself to only 48 of the jump jet variant, spread between the RAF and Navy. The first are due to enter service in 2018.
Edward Hunt, a senior aerospace analyst at IHS Jane’s, said the F-35’s performance was the subject of widespread debate in military aviation circles.
“It’s very difficult to peel back what’s being said because lots of people have an axe to grind,” he said.
“The whole F-35 programme hinges on US orders, so any significant cuts … would have significant knock-on effects for partner nations.”
Elizabeth Quintana, senior research fellow for air power at the Royal United Services Institute, said there was a debate to be had about whether it was wise to rely exclusively on a fleet of high-end stealth fighters when a mix of high-end and cheaper, light attack or remotely piloted aircraft could give more options for a range of future battlefields.
The Ministry of Defence defended the F-35 as the “most advanced combat jet in the world”, “designed to be updated … so it can benefit from new technology to counter emerging threats”.
Tesla electric car owners will be able to drive 300 miles without stopping and restore almost half of battery life in just 20 minutes, company claims.
Drivers of Tesla electric cars will soon be able to drive the length of the country with only one 20-minute recharging break, according to the company’s billionaire founder Elon Musk.
Next month the first right-hand-drive models of Tesla’s £70,000 Model S Performance Plus car will arrive in Britain, with the company claiming it can travel 300 miles on a single charge.
The company is placing supercharging stations along an “electric highway” stretching from Dover and Bristol to the M25, and north along the length of the M1, The Sunday Times reported .
It says drivers will be able to add an extra 130 miles’ worth of charge to their vehicles in just 20 minutes, meaning it could be possible to drive the length of the country with just one break.
In contrast, most electric cars currently available in Britain have a range of up to 100 miles and must be plugged in overnight to recharge their batteries.
Conquering the “range anxiety” of drivers is seen as the key to boosting the vehicles’ popularity in Britain, and one of the main reasons why expensive government campaigns aimed at promoting the market have fallen flat.
Similar charging networks in America, leading from Canada to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts, have helped make the Model S the third highest-selling luxury car in California.
One of the first charging stations to be installed in Britain will be at South Mimms services in Hertfordshire, at the junction of the M25 and A1, with construction work close to completion.
Drivers of the most expensive Tesla models will reportedly be able to recharge for free, while others will pay a one-off fee for unrestricted access to the charging network.
Mr Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, was appointed as an “electric car tsar” by the government last year, with ministers hoping he would be able to ignite demand after years of disappointing sales.
Only 1,547 electric cars were registered in Britain between January and April this year despite the government spending millions on charging points, publicity campaigns and financial incentives for drivers.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said Tesla could prove a “game changer”, adding that if the Model S meets the company’s claims on charging time and range, it would satisfy 98 per cent of drivers.
The U.S. State Department has launched an experimental unit to fight al-Qaeda ideologists on Twitter across the web. But can it actually stop terrorism?
The jihadist pauses briefly from his snowball fight to address the camera.
"It's not a horror movie here," he says gleefully. Behind him his comrades sling their AK-47s as they laugh in the snowy Syrian grove. "We are not those so-called 'evil Salafist'. We can also have fun."
The fighter is Denis Cuspert, a German rapper who went by the stage name Deso Dogg until he turned to Islamism and moved to Syria to take up jihad.
Cuspert is the kind of extremist who keeps Western security agents up at night: a charismatic convert who makes terrorism look glamorous and speaks in German as he exhorts fellow Europeans to take up arms.
"Look my dear brothers and sisters, this is jihad," he shouts, gesturing at the carefree scene around him. "I invite you to join jihad!"
But the Youtube video ends on an unexpected note. Cuspert is lying on the floor, soaked in blood, as others try desperately to resuscitate him. The final frame is of the American flag and the Statue of Liberty.
The video was not produced in some terrorist lair but instead at the US State Department in Washington, where filmmakers spliced together the militants' own footage with scenes of the bloody reality in Syria.
"His message was that jihad is basically a joy ride," says Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, as he plays the video in his office. "Our task is to show that it's not."
Mr Fernandez is the head of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), an experimental unit of the State Department intended as America's answer to the digital propaganda put out by al-Qaeda and other extremists.
The CSCC was created in 2011 and for the last three years its team of operators have worked in Arabic, Urdu and Somali as they trawl through the murky world of online jihad.
But its newer English language Twitter account has attracted the most attention, mainly for the spectacle of the US government arguing publicly on the internet with supporters of al-Qaeda.
Where most State Department Twitter feeds post only platitudes and rarely respond to other users, @ThinkAgain_DOS is caustic and high tempo and actively looks for places to start fights.
"What we're doing is very different from anything else in US government public communications," says Mr Fernandez, a career diplomat and a fluent Arabic speaker. "Our goal is not to make people love the U.S. Our goal is to make al-Qaeda look bad."
The ambassador describes his target audience as people in the "antechamber of al-Qaeda," those sympathetic to jihad but who have not yet made the decision to turn to violence.
To reach that audience the State Department goes wherever the jihadist recruiters go, from Twitter to Facebook, Tumblr to Youtube. "The whole ethos is to contest the space. The extremists were there but no one was pushing back against them," Mr Fernandez says. His team has recently been looking at expanding into Ask.fm, a social networking site popular with British Islamists.
The CSCC makes its case by attacking al-Qaeda for killing Muslims, belittling Osama bin Laden as a coward who sent others to die while he hid in Pakistan, and warning of the violent end that awaits would-be jihadists like Denis Cuspert.
(For the record: Cuspert survived the injuries shown in the State Department's Youtube video but is reported to have been killed last month by a suicide bomber from a rival jihadist faction.)
The State Department, however, avoids getting into debates about whether the Quran can justify violence. "We don't feel its effective for the US government to be talking about religion," says Mr Fernandez.
But is there value to this strategy of aggressive public engagement? Can snarky tweets and Youtube clips actually stop real-world violence?
John Rosenthal, an Al-Monitor contributor who covers European jihadist networks and the Syrian war, doubts it. "If their goal is convincing people not to join jihad then I imagine their success rate is going to be zero," he says.
The CSCC's output is all proudly branded as official US government material, complete with American flags and the State Department seal. Critics argue this overt approach means its works will be dismissed out of hand by exactly the people it is trying to reach.
Even if potential jihadists take a serious look at the CSCC's messaging it is unlikely to resonate, says Mr Rosenthal. He points to the State Department's habit of illustrating al-Qaeda's brutality with gruesome images of beheadings and executions. "Jihadist online propaganda is itself full of such images. For the jihadists, these are selling points."
In an unscientific test, The Telegraph emailed several of the Islamist Twitter users who had crossed swords online with the State Department in recent weeks to ask whether the back and forth had changed their thinking.
Most refused to talk but one man, who had argued with the CSCC about Syria and identified himself as Herman Sholef, sent back a scornful reply.
"The [CSCC Twitter account] is just a joke comedian acting like a clown for the real jihadi," he said, suggesting that it was in fact raising the profile of the extremists it tangled with. "One mention and you get more followers. Who doesn't like free marketing?"
In purely numerical terms the jihadists also seem to have the upper hand. The CSCC's most popular Twitter account, which focuses on Pakistan, has fewer than 6,000 followers while many of its opponents boast tens of thousands.
The CSCC retains the support of both Rick Stengel, the former editor of Time who is now the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy, and Ed Royce, the Republican chair of the House foreign affairs committee, which oversees its $5 million budget.
In a statement, Mr Royce said that aggressively confronting al-Qaeda online "must be a fundamental part of overall US counterterrorism strategy".
We are in a battle of ideas with extremist ideologies. The CSCC is battling, though on a relatively small scale. Its successes are often challenging to measure and incremental, while its failures are visible. The Committee will keep pressing the Administration to make CSCC efforts a priority, because bottom line, extremism is growing.”
In his office in Washington, Ambassador Fernandez acknowledges that in a war of words it is difficult to give metrics of success. "The holy grail would be someone saying 'I was a terrorist but I changed my mind because of you.' I don't have a firm example of that," he says.
Instead, he offers a dozen examples of what he says are signs that the online jihadists are rattled by the CSCC's work.
In July 2013, a prominent al-Qaeda supporter, @Al_Bttaar, organized an unsuccessful spamming attack on the State Department's Arabic language account. Five months later, Syrian jihadists tried again, warning that the account was trying to instigate fitna, an Islamic word for strife, between its fighters.
Above all, Mr Fernandez argues that the CSCC is contesting a digital and ideological battlefield that would otherwise be ceded to the jihadists and their supporters.
"This is some of the most difficult, dangerous ungoverned space of all," he says. "We can't just leave it to the enemy."
A senior Russian ambassador is to meet an official from the Foreign Office on Thursday after the Prince of Wales caused a diplomatic row by comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.
The Prince made his remark, in which he likened Russia’s annexation of Crimea to the actions of Nazi Germany, during a visit to a museum of immigration in Halifax, Canada.
He told a woman whose relations were murdered in the Holocaust: “And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.”
Russian diplomats contacted the Foreign Office on Wednesday night seeking an urgent meeting to clarify whether Prince Charles’s provocative remarks amounted to an “official position”.
As a result, Russia’s deputy ambassador will meet a senior FCO official on Thursday, The Telegraph understands.
The comments are regarded as particularly offensive by Moscow as 20 million Russians were killed during the war, including members of Mr Putin’s family.
A senior Russian diplomatic source said: “We are seeking clarification [from the FCO] at a working level. It’s not clear if it is an official position. The response from Clarence House is it was a private talk. We hope there is nothing behind it. But it is unclear to us: what does it mean? He is the future king, after all.”
The source added: “It is very serious. Every family in our country lost someone in that war.”
After years of thaw, including the awarding of medals to the British veterans of the Second World War Arctic Convoys, British and Russian relations were put into “deep freeze” after the Russian occupation of Crimea.
The European Union and US responded with sanctions on Russian MPs and the suspension of defence deals.
The Russian president has sought to revive the memory of the “Great Patriotic War” in order to bolster his reputation as the leader of a resurgent Russia. Prince Charles and Mr Putin are due to appear together at the anniversary of the D-Day landings in France next month.
Nick Clegg has defended the Prince over his comparison, saying that the heir to the throne is “entitled to his views”.
The Deputy Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast: “I have never been of the view that if you are a member of the Royal family somehow you have to enter into some sort of Trappist vow of silence. I think he is entitled to his views.”
Not every MP was as sympathetic. Mike Gapes, the Labour MP and member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “In a constitutional monarchy, policy and diplomacy should be conducted by Parliament and Government. Monarchy should be seen and not heard.” The Russian media took a stronger stance, warning that the Prince’s comment could “trigger an international scandal”.
The Moskovskij Komsomolets, a popular Russian daily, said that the Prince had risked complicating already “not unclouded” UK-Russian relations.
Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the issue. A spokesman for Clarence House said: “We do not comment on private conversations. But we would like to stress that the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a public political statement during a private conversation.”
An American academic has filmed his escape from “certain” death as crawled in agony to safety after falling seventy feet onto a Himalayan mountain crevasse, breaking his arm, ribs and suffering severe cuts and bruises.
Dr John All, a geography lecturer from West Kentucky University who specialises in mountain science was collecting snow samples on 23,379 feet Mount Himlung, close to Mount Everest in the Nepal Himalaya, when he fell into a deep crevasse which had been hidden by recent heavy snow.
His body ricocheted between the walls of the crevasse as he fell before he landed on a precarious ice ridge 70 feet down but more than 300 feet from the bottom. He spent the next six hours in excruciating agony crawling inch by inch with his ice pick, knowing that at any moment one slip and he would fall to a certain death.
“My body was shattered and I was in agony”, he told the Telegraph on Thursday.
“My face hit one wall, my back and stomach hit the back wall and I bounced between them. My face was pretty torn up. I landed on a piece of ice at a midpoint.”
“I could have fallen another 100 metres and it’s amazing I didn’t. The entire time climbing out I knew if I slipped I would have been dead”, he said.
His pain was excruciating. His ribs were shattered and his chances of successfully climbing out were slim. His right arm, his strongest, was broken and his injuries had sapped his strength.
But despite the constant threat of death and the debilitating pain, he slowly pulled himself up, zigzagging slowly to make sure he didn’t slip again on soft-snow on top of the ice. He also managed to take several video clips of his predicament and remarkable struggle to survive.
He climbed for six hours to get out of the hole, and then another three to reach his tent where he rested in pain until he was rescued the following morning. He is now recovering in a Kathmandu hotel from where he spoke to the Telegraph.
He and his team of mountain scientists had earlier planned to climb the south summit of Everest but had been diverted by the avalanche which killed 16 Sherpas and led to the climbing season being cancelled amid protests.
On Thursday night he said although he is not married and doesn’t have children, the thought of his mother and friends kept him focused on survival. “Your survival instinct kicks in and that’s why I filmed the video – I couldn’t allow myself any doubt”, he said.
He is now planning his next mountain trip to Peru next month.
Mental health problems including anorexia and recurrent depression are as deadly as smoking, research has found.
The loss of life expectancy associated with some serious mental health problems is the same or worse than that from smoking, Oxford University researchers said.
People with mental health problems in Britain have the same life expectancy as the general population in North Korea and Bangladesh or people in Britain in the 1930s, the authors said.
It highlights the need for patients with mental health problems to have their physical health monitored closely.
The team calculated that smoking 20 cigarettes a day is associated with a reduction in life expectancy of eight to ten years.
This compared with an average reduction in life expectancy in people with bipolar disorder of between nine and 20 years, 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between 9 and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.
One in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year and it is estimated and around a fifth of people smoke.
The research found that all mental health conditions studied had higher death rates when compared with the general population, with a reduction in life expectancy of between seven and 24 years.
Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, said: "People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society. This work emphasizes how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case. We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking."
The study was published in the journal World Psychiatry and was funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The research involved analyzing data from 20 studies including more than 1.7m people and 250,000 deaths.
Study author, Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said: "We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day.
"There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide. The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.
"Many causes of mental health problems also have physical consequences and mental illness worsen the prognosis of a range of physical illnesses, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Unfortunately, people with serious mental illnesses may not access healthcare effectively.
"All of this can be changed. There are effective drug and psychological treatments for mental health problems. We can improve mental health and social care provision. That means making sure people have straightforward access to health care, and appropriate jobs and meaningful daytime activities. It’ll be challenging, but it can be done.
"Smoking is recognised as a huge public health problem. There are effective ways to target smoking, and with political will and funding, rates of smoking-related deaths have started to decline. We now need a similar effort in mental health."
Geoff Heyes, policy and campaigns manager at the charity Mind, said: “This new research adds to the significant body of evidence that people with mental health problems die younger than the general population. We know it is possible to live a long and healthy life with a mental health problem but under-funded and poorly integrated services are preventing people accessing a range of quality treatments to enable them to manage their both their physical and mental health.
“Campaigns such as Time to Change have helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental health problems, and people are becoming more willing to seek help sooner. However, when people with mental health problems do seek help, they can find it more difficult to access physical health services and have worse outcomes for physical health conditions, sometimes because health professionals write off their concerns about legitimate physical complaints as a symptom of their mental health condition.
“While smoking-cessation has been a public health priority and smoking related deaths have reduced in recent years, too little attention has been paid to evidence-based and targeted interventions to help people with mental health problems stop smoking. After all, 42% of all cigarettes smoked in England are by people with mental health problems.
“We urgently need to see mental health services given as much importance as physical health, and much better integration of mental and physical health services, so that people are treated as a whole and taken seriously.”
When China and the Soviet Union came so close to war that hundreds of soldiers were dying in border clashes, Chairman Mao sought the advice of four venerable generals. In suitably delicate and elliptical terms – and after being assured that their counsel would not cause them to be shot – the greybeards recommended a rapprochement with America, stressing how the alternative was to leave the US “sitting on top of the mountain to watch a fight between two tigers”.
More than four decades after that pithy strategic judgment in 1969, China’s leaders must feel that they now have the luxury of reclining on the summit, calmly surveying America and Russia scrapping over Ukraine.
Just as the Sino-Soviet split of the Sixties created an opening for Richard Nixon’s seminal mission to China in 1972, so the renewed confrontation between America and Russia has caused President Vladimir Putin to hasten to Shanghai to sign a gas export deal that had eluded him for the previous decade.
Make no mistake: the agreement signed on Wednesday is only tangentially about gas. True enough, Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, will be delighted to have a customer for 38 billion cubic metres of gas every year from 2018, if only to reduce a perilous dependence on the European market. China, meanwhile, needs ever more gas to power an economy that is still growing by more than 7 per cent.
But in Mr Putin’s mind, this episode soars above the humdrum details about pipelines and prices. To him, the signing ceremony in Shanghai represents the epitome of grand strategy. At the very moment when America and its European allies are trying to punish the Russian economy, Mr Putin thinks he has thwarted their designs by deftly turning east and forging a new anti-Western axis with his giant neighbor.
While in China, Mr Putin declared: “Our positions on the main international issues are similar – or even identical.” So this was not a man coming to Shanghai as a glorified gas salesman, but a Russian leader seeking his own version of a “Nixon in China” masterstroke. In the great game of “strategic triangulation” between America, Russia and China, Mr Putin thinks that he has brought two points together in a way that significantly weakens the third.
But are these hopes remotely realistic? Whether President Xi Jinping of China shares this grandiose vision of the gas deal is highly questionable. Where Mr Putin sees the chessboard of strategy, the Chinese might simply see the balance sheet of business.
To the question “Who needs the deal more?”, the answer is almost embarrassingly obvious. Unlike his Russian counterpart, President Xi is not acting under pressure. Mr Putin has America and Europe holding a sword of Damocles over the Russian economy (which is, let us remember, no bigger than Italy’s), but Mr Xi is master of one of the great commercial powerhouses of the world. True, he needs energy imports to guarantee China’s continued expansion, but Russia is only one of a range of suppliers. Mr Xi can buy gas from countries as far-flung as Turkmenistan, Burma, Qatar and Australia.
For years, negotiations between the two countries foundered over the vital question of the price of Russian gas. The terms of the final deal have been kept secret, but few doubt that Russia will have yielded more.
As for Mr Putin’s ambition to insulate Russia from the effects of Western sanctions, this may also prove unrealistic. Even if everything goes according to plan and a mammoth new pipeline linking Russian gasfields with Chinese customers is completed on time, the first gas will not flow for another four years. Until then, Gazprom’s fortunes will depend on selling energy to unwilling Europeans, leaving Russia fully exposed to the risks posed by the Ukraine crisis.
And are Russia and China really in harmony on every international issue? China’s foreign policy is based on the idea of “non‑interference” in the sovereign affairs of other countries. Authoritarian regimes across the world know that China will never criticize their domestic repression, however bloodstained or egregious it might be. When Russia seized Crimea, however, and then demanded that Ukraine rewrite its constitution to introduce federalism, this drove a coach and horses through the principle of “non-interference”. Russia also placed China in an impossible position, forcing Beijing to choose between siding with the West or abandoning the keystone of its foreign policy. When the Security Council debated the issue, China was left with no option but to abstain.
In the end, a triangular game only changes in a fundamental way when two of three players are drawn together by roughly equal pressures. There is no such balance between Russia and China today. When Nixon dealt face-to-face with Mao, both knew the momentous nature of their engagement. Nixon was seizing his chance to alter the balance of the Cold War; Mao was securing his regime against the threat of war with the Soviet Union. We now know that in October 1969, Mao was so fearful of a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the Kremlin that he ordered senior figures in China’s leadership to leave Beijing and disperse around the country. President Xi is not in a remotely comparable position today. To adapt the metaphor of Mao’s generals, Mr Xi is safely on the mountain; Mr Putin is trying – and probably failing – to clamber up to the summit.
Who dies in Godzilla ? A friend of mine is vexed because someone told him before he'd seen it. To which one can only reply – surely you can work it out for yourself? And if you can't, read no further, because SPOILERS!
The scenarios of monster and disaster movies (which have so much in common I'm mashing them together under the banner "monsterclysm") follow a fixed pattern. Characters over a certain age are pretty much doomed; in many cases – Elizabeth Hoffman in Dante's Peak, Bruce Willis in Armageddon, Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure, Nicolas Cage and everyone else in Knowing – they sacrifice themselves so that the young ones may live.
To which I take exception, since I am over a certain age myself and, I'm sorry, but I have no intention of sacrificing myself for a generation that can't even be bothered to give up its seats to me on public transport.
In any case, Godzilla is great. The human characters?
Not so much.
Each time the film cuts to boring interchanges between Aaron Taylor-Boring, Elizabeth Boring and their boring offspring, saying things like "I'll meet you at the hospital at dawn" (hello! the city is being trampled by monsters – do you honestly think you'll be able to keep that appointment?) the viewer's eyes start to glaze over. You feel like shouting "NO! I don't care about these dullards! I don't care whether they live or die. Now let's get back to the MONSTERS!"
It's a monsterclysm characteristic. The creatures are awesome, the collapsing cities thrilling, the earthquakes and tsunamis and erupting volcanos terrifying, but the human characters are cut from cardboard. They say and do all the generic things characters in such movies have always said and done.
In a realistic collapsing city scenario, we would probably be cowering in a corner, or killing ourselves, or praying, or taking up smoking again. But where's the fun in that? The monsterclysm needs survivors, otherwise it would be too depressing. And survivors need to behave in an unrealistically go-getting way.
And also be unfeasibly lucky, since they're never hit on the head by a falling brick from one of the skyscrapers collapsing all around them.
You can understand why these characters are there – they're supposed to put a human face on the drama, since our minds are deemed too tiny to get upset about an abstract body count in the billions.
Who cares about half the world turning into zombies in World War Z when Brad Pitt's family is in peril? Who cares about the population of Los Angeles sliding into the Pacific Ocean in 2012, so long as John Cusack and his loved ones can escape by the skin of their teeth?
And who cares about a few old people when there's a bland white American couple predestined to emerge unscathed from the chaos, so we can have one of those last-minute Hollywood hugs and send audiences home with a song in their hearts?
Monster movies started out as B-movies – it's only in the last 30 years or so that the genre has been elevated to A-movie status but, whereas budgets have boomed and the special effects have improved to the point where you can believe a 300-foot lizard really is on the rampage in San Francisco, the characterisation has remained stuck at the basic B-movie level.
You can count the well written examples on the fingers of one hand. For example, I would propose Jaws, Alien and The Host (the Korean one, not the Stephenie Meyer adaptation) as monster movies in which the characters are more credible and affecting than usual. We actually care whether they live or die.
Tellingly, the directors of these films could all be (loosely) described as auteurs, suggesting something approaching a personal vision as opposed to blockbuster-by-committee.
And in each case, the human characters are written so their travails and personal concerns are inextricably bound up with the monster elements. In Jaws, police chief Roy Scheider, who is afraid of water, has to confront a killer-creature that thrives in it, and must wrestle with the responsibility of needing to close the beach so that no-one else gets chomped.
The shambolic family in The Host (we might as well call them Mr and Mrs Korea) has to overcome its own inadequacy and band together to rescue one of its own from the giant mutated tadpole. And Sigourney Weaver, in Alien, is a surrogate mother who must confront the monstrous matriarch whose offspring she has helped destroy in – yes! – the mother of all showdowns.
There's another factor, too – one rarely taken into consideration. The characters in Titanic may be one-dimensional, but can you imagine how devastating that movie would have been if Jack and everyone else who perished in front of our very eyes had been well-written, realistic, flesh-and-blood people – as victims of that historical disaster obviously were in real life?
Watching cardboard characters meet horrible fates can be entertaining, but where's the fun in watching real human beings die in what you thought was going to be light entertainment?
A certain plot development in one of the films mentioned here made me sob so convulsively it almost washed my contact lenses away, and, honestly, I'm not sure how much of that level of cinematic trauma I could take. The better-written the characters, the harder their deaths are going to hit us – but how grief-stricken do we really want to be?
Oxford professor warns that far from having too many people, actually we’re in danger of a population crisis where there are too many elderly people.
The Earth needs more people if it is to prevent a catastrophic decline in population, an Oxford economist has argued.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University, said 70 per cent of world’s population was “below replacement level” – reproducing at a rate of at least one child per adult.
Only populations in Africa are growing substantially, he said, while Western and emerging economies such as Hong Kong and Taiwan are facing critical shortages in new births.
Prof Goldin said in many Western economies children are no longer an asset and have become a burden.
“When women get educated and people get urbanised the cost of having children goes up and the benefits go down.
“They are just a burden in their youth and then they vanish. People are choosing to have pets not children.”
Although the global population is set to rise to ten billion by the middle of this century, Prof Goldin said by the end of the century it could start to fall back to levels of today, around 8 billion.
“It could be the case that in the second half of the 21st century there might well be too few people not too many.
“70 per cent of the world is below replacement level and collapsing extremely rapidly.
“There will be too many old people and not enough young people to look after them."
Britain’s population is predicted to rise by 10 million within the next 25 years, increasing from the current level of 63.7 million to just under 78 million.
And it could reach and as much as 132 million by this time next century.
That would mean that the UK would pass the milestone of 70 million people – a figure once considered controversial and which some politicians have suggested might never be reached, by around 2024 – at least four years earlier than previously predicted.
However Prof Goldin said it would be sensible to embrace rises in population.
“More people means more creativity, more geniuses. More and more people means more and more extraordinary things for the planet,” he said.
“When we ask if the planet is too full we are questioning whether people in the future have a right to exist. And I am not sure anyone would say that about their own grandchildren.”
Ian Goldin, was promoting his book Is The Planet Full?, a collection of essays looking at the dangers and benefits of population growth. It is published by Oxford University Press.