Articles on this Page
- 06/20/14--18:53: _A 102-Year-Old Woma...
- 06/22/14--12:15: _Here's What It's Li...
- 06/23/14--04:06: _This App Allows You...
- 06/23/14--04:21: _New Pacemaker Exten...
- 06/24/14--04:24: _Google's $3.2 Billi...
- 06/24/14--09:46: _Witless Foreigners ...
- 06/24/14--10:42: _Why Pele Is Overrated
- 06/24/14--15:15: _Russia Sent A Myste...
- 06/25/14--05:35: _Here's What It Was ...
- 06/25/14--06:17: _Lethal Stun Guns Di...
- 06/25/14--06:27: _Tinder Use In Brazi...
- 06/30/14--02:36: _MH370 Investigators...
- 07/01/14--18:59: _New Flu Strain Crea...
- 07/02/14--07:55: _The Nazi's 'Perfect...
- 07/02/14--08:36: _This Artist Sold He...
- 07/03/14--10:44: _China Arrests More ...
- 07/03/14--12:15: _The Time Greedo Ask...
- 07/04/14--10:22: _French Schoolteache...
- 07/08/14--05:51: _6 Massive Chinese P...
- 07/09/14--02:44: _7 Fun Things You Pr...
- 06/20/14--18:53: A 102-Year-Old Woman Is Accused Of Murdering Her Roommate
- 06/22/14--12:15: Here's What It's Like To Come Out Of A Coma
- 06/24/14--09:46: Witless Foreigners Are Being Lured Into Karaoke Honey Traps In China
- 06/24/14--10:42: Why Pele Is Overrated
- 06/24/14--15:15: Russia Sent A Mysterious Warship To The Baltic Sea
- 06/25/14--05:35: Here's What It Was Like Being A Bodyguard For Michael Jackson
- 06/25/14--06:17: Lethal Stun Guns Disguised As iPhones Seized By Canadian Police
- 06/25/14--06:27: Tinder Use In Brazil Has Skyrocketed During The World Cup
- 07/02/14--07:55: The Nazi's 'Perfect Aryan' Poster Child Was Jewish
- 07/02/14--08:36: This Artist Sold Her Messy Bed For $4.4 Million
- 07/04/14--10:22: French Schoolteacher Stabbed To Death In Front Of Her Students
- 07/08/14--05:51: 6 Massive Chinese Projects That Are Reshaping The World
- 07/09/14--02:44: 7 Fun Things You Probably Didn't Know About Germany
A 102-year-old woman accused of killing her 100-year-old roommate in a nursing home nearly five years ago is facing a second-degree murder charge.
Laura Lundquist - the oldest murder defendant in Massachusetts history - was 98 when she was charged in 2009 on allegations that she strangled Elizabeth Barrow, who was found with a plastic bag tied around her head in her bed at the Brandon Woods nursing home in Dartmouth.
Lundquist had a longstanding diagnosis of dementia and was ruled incompetent to stand trial. Since her indictment, she has been held at a state psychiatric hospital.
Barrow's son, Scott, said he realises Lundquist will likely never stand trial in his mother's death.
"It would be like prosecuting a two-year-old," he said. "It's just an awful thing that happened. How could she be held accountable for this when she's not in her right mind?"
After Lundquist was indicted in 2009, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said prosecutors pursued a second-degree murder charge because they didn't believe Lundquist had the cognitive ability to form premeditation, which must be proven in a first-degree murder case.
Mr Sutter's spokesman, Gregg Miliote, said the case remains open.
Scott Barrow is hoping a lawsuit he filed against the nursing home, its owners and operators will eventually be heard by a jury. In 2012, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the nursing home and found no negligence.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court heard arguments in the case in April and is expected to rule soon on whether the case can go to trial.
After Lundquist was indicted, Sutter said she suffered from paranoia and thought Barrow "was taking over the room" they shared at the nursing home. Sutter also said Lundquist had told Barrow she would soon get her bed by the window because she would outlive her.
Scott Barrow said he had asked nursing home staff to separate his mother and Lundquist, but they assured him the two were getting along. He said his mother did not want to leave the room because she and her husband had lived in the room together before he died in 2007.
Lundquist's lawyer, Carl Levin, declined to comment on Lundquist or her health, citing the ongoing criminal case and health care privacy laws.
After Lundquist was charged, Scott Picone, then the nursing home's chief of operations, said the two women had been offered room changes twice in the months before Barrow's death in September 2009 but both declined. He said the two women were friendly toward one another and often told each other "goodnight" and "I love you."
Picone did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Peter Knight, a lawyer representing Picone and other nursing home officials in Barrow's lawsuit, also did not immediately return a call.
Michael Schumacher’s return to consciousness brings back powerful memories for a writer who was considered lost to the world after suffering bacterial meningitis.
When Michael Schumacher was brought out of his medically induced coma last week, six months after the skiing accident that almost killed him, it should have been a moment of joy for him and his beleaguered family.
However, doctors said there is only a 10% chance that the former F1 champion will ever make it back to full health.
As someone who knows what it’s like to survive a brush with death against seemingly impossible odds, I’d call that a good sporting chance.
Ten years ago, I collapsed at home with bacterial meningitis and went into a coma. By the time I was eventually discovered, I was barely breathing. My mother was told to make her way immediately to the hospital, if only to say goodbye. Doctors said I wouldn’t last the night.
Over subsequent days, my odds improved only slightly. Although I had responded to treatment for the meningitis and resulting blood poisoning, if I were ever to emerge from my coma, which was still thought unlikely, I would probably be — in the words of one specialist — “a vegetable”. My mother was then asked the question that no parent wants to answer: in that instance, would you be prepared to switch off his life support?
I was 30, single, working for a travel magazine, and had spent the weekend on assignment in Warsaw. By the following Thursday, I was complaining of feeling fluey, with a raging throat and headache. I was sent home from work and must have gone straight to bed. Colleagues weren’t too concerned when I didn’t show up the next day, just a little surprised that I hadn’t bothered to phone in sick.
By Saturday afternoon, my best friend, Simon, who by now hadn’t heard from me for days, was wondering where I could be. I hadn’t answered my mobile, so he tried the landline. Pamela, my flatmate, who hadn’t seen me for days either, presumed I was out of town on another story, but said she’d check my room just in case. “He’s here,” she said after a shocked silence. “I’ll have to ring you back. He needs an ambulance.”
I was sparked out on the bedroom floor and could not be roused. Judging from the mess, there had been quite a struggle: the duvet was in a knotted pile, and with a violent thrash I had knocked over a bedside lamp. The bulb, hot from being left on for several hours, if not days, was now spot-welded to my forehead.
Pamela later told me that I was so swollen, she barely recognised me. I had doubled in size — “like the Michelin Man” — and was rock hard to the touch. I was also covered in black welts from the onset of meningococcal septicemia.
Needless to say, I don’t recall any of this — and certainly have no memory of the fortnight I spent in a coma. I’m told that on admission to Homerton University Hospital in east London, I was packed in ice to reduce the swelling, especially on my brain, and given a transfusion to remove from my bloodstream the toxins that had caused my body to balloon. I also underwent emergency surgery to prevent gangrene from taking my right arm and leg, on which my entire body weight had been resting. I needed skin grafts to patch up the lamp burn on my forehead and the surgeon’s various incisions made to cut away the ulcerated tissue.
I only found out about my ordeal, and the doctors’ dire prognosis about the likelihood of recovery, once I’d emerged from the coma. It was a hot August afternoon, some 13 days after I’d been admitted. My sister Nicola was at my hospital bedside, rather than the Hawaiian beach on which she had been sunbathing a fortnight earlier on her honeymoon. My first voluntary movements for days before slipping back into unconsciousness were an anguished blink and a weak grab for the feeding tubes scratching at my throat.
The next day, I was able to maintain consciousness briefly — this time, as a work colleague, Angelina, sat at my bedside. Now, there was no pain or discomfort, not that I remember anyway: I was pumped with morphine in anticipation of a woozy slide back into the outside world.
It dawned slowly that I couldn’t move my legs. My right one was in a cast after an operation to remove the pressure sores I had acquired on the bedroom floor, while the left was bandaged up after strips of skin were lifted from it to patch up my scorched forehead (now also under wraps). I imagine it was quite a sight.
But as I lay there, able only to move my one good hand, which I navigated over my broken body, I found something that gave me hope: I had lost so much weight on the floor and in the coma (I was now less than eight stone) that, for the first time in my life, I had something approaching a six-pack.
But there was more bad news to come. In spending so much time lying unconscious at home, I had crushed a nerve in my right forearm that meant my hand was no longer functioning; lifted out of the supportive splint, it flopped lifelessly at the wrist. I was warned it might never repair itself; the first knockback.
However, little fazed me in those first few days after the coma, as I was on morphine. My first conversation was about why my friend was sitting beside me at all; to my spaced-out mind, I was in a hotel bed the morning after my sister’s wedding, which had happened a full month earlier. Ah, but no — the room was sweltering and bright with sunlight, so I reasoned I must be somewhere hot, like Sydney! How, then, had Angelina got here?
“I drove by after work,” she said, a little teary at my being back in the room.
“Don’t be silly,” I said, opiate pain relievers being no match for pure logic. “You can’t drive to Australia . . .”
Over the following days, a volley of friends and family, relieved to see that I had emerged from the coma, were kept entertained, in between naps, by my morphine-induced hallucinations. I had become convinced that the pattern in the ward’s green curtains kept shifting shape. The “No Smoking” sign on the hospital wall, if I dared look for more than a split second, scrambled its letters like an airport departure board. On one occasion, I pointed at the heart monitor by my bed and whispered proudly to my visitors: “Look who’s come to see me — Madonna!”
I spent almost 10 weeks in two different hospitals — which at the time felt like forever, but I’m surprised now that I recovered so quickly. The initial steps in my rehabilitation were the hardest. In the first days after the coma, being kept in anything other than the horizontal position made me so queasy, I had to close my eyes and sleep. It was days before I could think about sitting up. Standing — with the aid of, first, a walking frame, then crutches — was something attempted over the weeks. It was only when I could show nurses that I could manage a flight of stairs unaided that I was allowed to go home.
Ten years on — and this might very well just be early onset middle age — I get the occasional mental block, especially with names. I don’t suffer from migraines or, worse, flashbacks (the memory bank of those days leading up to the coma is shot). The damaged nerves in my squashed arm did, after much care from the physios at the Royal London Hospital, eventually repair themselves and give me back the use of my hand. The movement in my wrist is restricted, though, which can make handshakes awkward, painful even, and I sometimes have to ask for help opening jam jars. A game of tennis is out of the question — I couldn’t grip the racquet — but I can still type and play the piano.
To pass me in the street, you wouldn’t know I’d ever had a brush with death. The oblong burn on my hairline is concealed with the judicious application of styling wax. The only obvious reminder of the incident is the collection of remarkable scars up my right side. In T-shirt weather, inquisitive children ask questions but rarely directly: “Mummy, what happened to that man’s arm?”
And if I am asked outright, a white lie usually does the trick: “Shark attack . . .”
It couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s easier than explaining what really happened.
No time to catch up on your favourite soap opera or the box set everybody is talking about? Now you can thanks to technology that can condense a film or television episode into two or three minutes.
The “video summarization”, which takes just a minute to be “crunched” from a programme, can then be sent to your smartphone or iPad so you can catch up while you wait for the bus, or in your lunch break.
With the system an episode of EastEnders would take just two minutes to watch while you can catch up with a whole season of Breaking Bad in 20 minutes.
The entire five seasons of the acclaimed Baltimore crime series The Wire can be seen in just three hours.
The system, developed in Silicon Valley, works by analyzing the “language" or "grammar” of the film itself, but instead of letters, words and sentences, it looks at the scenes, shots and frames.
Filmmakers – either consciously or unconsciously – usually follow a formula when making a video to make the viewing experience easier and more enjoyable.
This means that crucial scenes are given extra visual and sound impact.
The firm known as Skimo– short for Skim the video – has developed the Skimo Engine that uses “computer vision algorithms” to extract the interesting parts and put them together in a shorter video.
The Video Summary is usually made up of six 30-second crucial scenes.
Vasu Srinivasan, the founder, said that the company was in talks with the American network NBC, the Spanish Telemundo and the Discovery Channel to offer the system to its viewers.
He even is in talks to summarize the British made Harry Potter series of films.
“While every director has their own way of doing things just like every writer, they also have to follow a uniform pattern, ” said Mr Srinivasan who formerly worked for Motorola, the smartphone manufacturers.
“Otherwise it would be too distracting to the viewer. Crucial scenes are given more focus, are often brighter, have more detail or shots and it is this that the Skimo Engine picks up.
“Most long play films and television episodes will have six or less crucial scenes and by crunching them together we can produce a summary.”
“Our hope and dream is that one day Skimo will become part of the language like watching a trailer or film commentary.
“The great thing is it works for any type of film or programme in any language.”
The summary’s have already been used in Tamil language soaps and the comedy Series Frazier and the company are in talks with US networks
A new pacemaker which synchronizes heart rate with breathing could "revolutionize" the lives of people with heart failure, scientists say.
The device, which is being developed at the Universities of Bath and Bristol, is targeted at more than 750,000 patients who live with heart failure in the UK.
More than 40,000 patients in England had a pacemaker fitted during 2012 to 2013.
Currently, the pulses from pacemakers are set at a constant rate when fitted - which does not replicate the natural beating of the human heart.
The normal, healthy variation in heart rate during breathing is lost in cardiovascular disease and is an indicator for sleep apnea, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
The new pacemaker uses synthetic neural technology to restore this natural variation of heart rate with lung inflation - modulating its pulses to matching breathing rates.
Researchers say the device works by saving the heart energy, improving its pumping efficiency and improving blood flow to the heart muscle itself.
Pre-clinical trials suggest the device gives a 25% increase in the pumping ability, which is expected to extend the lives of patients with heart failure.
The project, which is being awarded funding by the British Heart Foundation, aims to miniaturize the device to the size of a postage stamp.
Dr Alain Nogaret, senior lecturer in physics at the University of Bath, said the team aim to develop an implant that can be used within humans within five years.
"Our work to develop a new type of pacemaker will significantly improve the lives of patients suffering with heart failure, both in the UK and internationally," Dr Nogaret said.
"Using state of the art nanotechnology, the new pacemaker will respond to patients' breathing rate to increase the pumping efficiency of the diseased heart.
"This is a unique therapy for heart failure which will complement existing therapies for cardiac arrhythmias and cardiac resynchronization which are addressed by existing pacemakers."
Dr Nogaret said the pacemaker delivered treatment "not currently addressed by mainstream cardiac rhythm management devices."
The research team has patented the technology and is working with NHS consultants at the Bristol Heart Institute, the University of California at San Diego and the University of Auckland.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study is a novel and exciting first step towards a new generation of smarter pacemakers. More and more people are living with heart failure so our funding in this area is crucial.
"The work from this innovative research team could have a real impact on heart failure patients' lives in the future."
It is hoped the technology can also be applied to other areas of brain research, including prosthetics and potentially to stimulate the rebuilding of nerves following a stroke.
The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods.
Google-owned thermostat and smoke alarm maker, Nest Labs, has announced a new programme to encourage developers to integrate their products and services with Nest's own devices.
Over the past year, a multitude of connected devices have come onto the market – ranging from a from a toothbrush that analyses your brushing habits to a smart door lock that sends you a text when it is activated.
All of these devices claim to be part of the 'smart home' of the future. But the vision for the smart home is not just about hooking up everyday objects to the internet. It's also about connecting them to one another.
Nest's developer programme allows anything from lighting to appliances to fitness bands and cars to connect with the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect alarm, with the aim of making homes safer, more energy efficient, and more 'aware'.
To kick off the programme, Nest has partnered with a range of brands including Mercedes-Benz, Jawbone, Whirlpool, Logitech, Chamberlain, LIFX and IFTTT.
For example, your Mercedes-Benz car can now tell Nest when you’ll be home so that your thermostat can start heating or cooling at exactly the right time to ensure the house is the right temperature when you walk in the door.
Or your Jawbone UP24 band can detect when you wake up and tell Nest to start to heating up or cooling down the home before you even step out of bed.
If you're out for the day, your Nest thermostat can have your Whirlpool washer and dryer keep clothes fresh and wrinkle-free when the cycle ends. The dryer can also switch into a longer, more energy efficient cycle when you’re away.
Or if Nest Protect detects elevated smoke or carbon monoxide levels, LIFX light bulbs can flash red to let you know there might be danger and help signal those who are hearing impaired.
These integrations are just the beginning, according to Nest, and the company hopes that many developers – from global corporations and small companies to startups and tinkerers – will build integrations with Nest products using the Nest application programming interfaces (APIs).
Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have also launched a 'Thoughtful Things Fund' to help smaller developers get the support and visibility necessary to get their projects off the ground.
"We have no idea what people are going to do, and that's part of what makes this so exciting. It's a lot like when the iPhone came out, there were the apps that Apple pre-loaded, and then there were the thousands of apps that people went to on to build," said Matt Rogers, founder and vice president of engineering at Nest.
"We did a hackathon internally to see what people would do, and we had a developer do a Shabbat app, to make the temperature constant from Friday night to Saturday night because he was Jewish. We had a developer create a Twitter handle for his house, so he could Tweet his house to say he's coming home."
Rogers explained that customers will be able to see and manage all their integrations within the Nest app, but the intention is not to replace existing apps, which offer their own unique interfaces and experiences.
"We don't really believe in this 'one app to rule them all' strategy, because what happens is you lose a lot of the interesting features and benefits that each product brings," he said.
Nest requires all developers to let users know what information they are requesting and why they are requesting it, so that when users choose to authorise a connection between their Nest device and another product, they understand exactly what they’re authorising and how it will benefit them.
Nest also limits the amount of data held by developers by not sending them personally identifiable information about users or permitting them to retain more than 10 trailing days of data. Users can choose to disconnect an integration at anytime.
Fifteen members of a “karaoke crime gang” have been arrested by Shanghai police for allegedly luring witless foreigners into underground crooning dens and forcing them to pay thousands of pounds for the pleasure.
The group reportedly specialized in ripping off foreign singing enthusiasts who had ventured onto the streets of Pudong, a skyscraper cluttered district on the east side of this Asian mega-city.
Victims were picked up by touts and lured into “karaoke honey traps” on the east side of Shanghai’s Huangpu river.
Inside, they were offered a night in the company of “beautiful hostesses,” the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported.
However, the men soon discovered that they had come to exercise their debit cards rather than their vocal cords.
After being allowed to stay in the karaoke club for “an unspecified amount of time”, the victims were informed by “large men” that they would have to cough up thousands of pounds for their experience.
Police discovered the illegal scheme after one victim – an Egyptian male who claimed he had been drawn to the karaoke honey trap while taking a “night time stroll” – fled a car in which the gang was holding him. “He jumped from the vehicle and ran to a nearby police car,” the Shanghai Daily reported.
Police subsequently caught the gang, whose members admitted conning more than 200,000 yuan (£18,900) out of at least seven victims, whose nationalities were not given.
China is famed for its infatuation with karaoke. Last year a “luxury KTV bar” stocked with Black Label whiskey, Chinese beer and golden cans of Red Bull was even discovered inside a Communist Party training centre in Shaanxi province .
However, the country’s penchant for late-night crooning sessions has a distinctly dark side. In 2012 two people were hacked to death with a meat cleaver in a karaoke club in the city of Xi’an following a row over a four-year-old child who had refused to surrender the microphone.
Why, Jesus? Why are we being punished?”
In 1962, a plane carrying the Brazilian football team was crossing the Andes on the way to the World Cup in Chile.
Suddenly, the plane hit a pocket of turbulence, and started shaking violently. Dinner had just been served, and steaks were leaping off the plates. Pandemonium swept the cabin. This was only four years after the Munich air crash had claimed the lives of eight Manchester United players.
In the middle of the consternation, as a plane full of footballers became convinced they were heading for a rocky grave, one man sat in a state of utter restfulness.
His team-mates could scarcely believe their eyes. “You’re crazy!” they said. “Don’t you have family?”
In fact, Pele did have family. But he turned to face his colleagues. “What do you want me to do?” he asked calmly.
The turbulence passed, and shrieking quickly turned to laughter. As Pele later wrote: “I believe in God. If we are going to die, then so be it.”
The first key to understanding Pele is his faith. Most Pele narratives inevitably fixate upon the extreme poverty in which he was raised, first in the southern state of Minas Gerais, and then in the poor Sao Paulo suburb of Bauru. Few deal in any great depth with the devout Catholicism that accompanied him every step of the way. As a child, he would not be allowed to play football in the street unless he went to mass, inextricably intertwining the two destinies in his young mind.
When Pele was nine, Brazil lost to Uruguay in the final match of the 1950 World Cup, an event that traumatised the entire nation. The young Edson Arantes do Nascimento went to his father’s room, which was adorned with a picture of Jesus on the wall, and started wailing.
"Why has this happened?” he screamed at the picture. “Why has it happened to us? Why, Jesus? Why are we being punished?”
“I continued crying, overcome, as I continued my conversation with the picture of Christ,” he remembered. "You know, if I’d been there I wouldn’t have let Brazil lose the Cup. If I’d been there, Brazil would have won.”
Then he went back to his father and told him: “One day, I’ll win you the World Cup.”
Pele’s faith remained undimmed in adulthood. “When I had problems,” he said, “I asked Him why He put me here, unless He wanted me to do good.”
This clutch of anecdotes, probably grotesquely misleading, nonetheless reveals a little of how Pele has always seen himself. Not just as a subject of God – for that could be any of the world’s 1.2 billion Christians – but as his servant. From a very young age, Pele saw his role as one of doing the Almighty’s work on Earth.
“In music there is Beethoven and the rest. In football there is Pele and the rest.”
As Pele was brought up to believe unquestioningly in the potency and pre-eminence of God, so generations of football lovers were brought up to believe unquestioningly in the potency and pre-eminence of Pele.
For decades, the fact that Pele was the greatest footballer that ever lived has simply been taken as gospel. Despite the emergence of more recent challengers in Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele remains the reference point against which all are judged.
Those who played with or against him, from Alfredo di Stefano to Ferenc Puskas to Franz Beckenbauer to Bobby Moore, queued up to anoint him as the greatest. As did Pele himself. “In music there is Beethoven and the rest,” he said in 2000. “In football, there is Pele and the rest.”
But it is an orthodoxy that has permeated subsequent generations too. To take one example out of thousands, Cristiano Ronaldo once said: “Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pele.” By the time Ronaldo was born in 1985, Pele had already been retired for eight years.
How can you call someone the greatest player of all time if you’ve barely seen them play?
To be fair, there is a good deal of evidence in his favour. Only the merest fraction of his 1,283 goals (give or take a few) were recorded on film, but what does remain paints a compelling if incomplete portrait of a truly special footballer.
Lightning pace, effortless grace, immense poise, impressive power, supreme cunning and gigantic balls: all are on display. At the very least, there is enough footage to conclude that Pele was not simply Adam Le Fondre with a stepover. He really was astoundingly good at football.
Then there is his record. Three World Cup victories in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Two Intercontinental Cups with Santos. Those 1,283 goals, of which 77 came for Brazil and 12 in the World Cup.
But even as you list Pele’s achievements, it is possible to pick holes in them. Ali Daei of Iran is international football’s leading goalscorer, with 109 goals in 149 caps. This does not make him the greatest player of all time. Hundreds of Pele’s goals came in friendlies, against up-country teams or down-at-heel invitational sides. Pele scored against the very best, but he scored against the very worst too.
His World Cup record, while impressive, is susceptible to overstatement. Injury in 1962 means that effectively, he only really won two World Cups, and was not the outstanding player either time. In 1958, it was Didi who was voted player of the tournament, while in 1970, it was very much a team effort, with the likes of Tostao and Jairzinho at least as important.
Pele’s home country has long been aware of this. Ask a Brazilian who is their greatest ever player and you are as likely to hear Heleno, Garrincha, Jairzinho or Zizinho mentioned. Pele’s multiple post-football careers, wayward predictions and often contradictory public statements have turned him into a figure frequently parodied, and occasionally disdained.
“I believe that Pele knows nothing about football,” current Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said in 2002. “He has done nothing as a coach and all his analysis always turns out to be wrong. He’s an idol in all of Brazil, but his analysis is worth nothing.”
“There is a sense that Pele belongs more to global heritage than he does to Brazil’s,” the Brazil-based writer Alex Bellos explained in his book Futebol. “He is an international reference point, and one who is simple to understand: a poor black man who became the best in the world through dedication and skill. But Brazilians do not love him the way they love Garrincha.”
Just a couple of weeks ago, Pele was criticised again for coming out against the recent political protests, describing them as “a great loss for the country”. Not for the first time, the arch conformist had shown himself to be out of touch with the skittish insurgency characterising the new Brazil.
“I’ve already fought for my country. Surely I don’t need to do it again?”
If you really boil it down, Pele’s legacy rests on those two World Cup wins. In 1958, he forced his way into the side halfway through the tournament as a 17-year-old, scoring a hat-trick in the semi-final against France and two goals in the final against Sweden. In 1970, he was the most famous player in perhaps the greatest side in international history. Later that decade, a survey showed that Pele was the second most-recognised brand name in Europe after Coca Cola.
What was interesting about Pele’s exaltation was how much of it was done in retrospect. Contemporary reports of the 1958 final clearly mention Pele, but reserve most praise for Garrincha, the most flamboyant player on the pitch. In the following months and years, though, the story of the 17-year-old kid from the poor background began to take an increasing hold.
Books, films and newspaper articles began to accumulate. His club Santos, sensing they might have the box office draw of the century on their hands, took him out on tour, playing exhibition games all over the world. Pele played more than 100 games in 1959, including 15 in three weeks on a tour of Europe. By the early 1960s, he was regularly playing three times a week with extensive travelling in between.
These tours served a dual function. Not only did they help to bulk up Pele’s record; they also spread the gospel.
In hindsight, Brazil’s 1958 win, coming so soon after the disaster of 1950, came to be seen as the turning point for an emerging, confident nation. “With the 1958 victory, Brazilians changed even physically,” wrote Nelson Rodriguez, the playwright who would go on to be one of Brazil’s most influential football writers in Brazilian history. “After 1958, the Brazilian was no longer a mongrel among men, and Brazil was no longer a mongrel among nations.”
The young, upwardly-mobile Pele assumed the face of this new Brazil. Later still, the joyful, fluid 4-2-4 formation Brazil deployed in that tournament would be set in contrast to the “anti-football” that would emerge from Argentina in the mid-1960s.
It was a marvellous tale, and Pele fitted perfectly into it. He knew it too, unsuccessfully attempting to use his fame to lever himself out of doing national service at the age of 18. “I’ve already fought for my country,” he protested. “Surely I don’t need to go to the army to do it again?”
In this country, it seems Pele’s myth was firmly established by 1964. That was the year England went to the Maracana and were caned 5-1, with Pele scoring four goals. “ENGLAND BEWITCHED BY BLACK DIAMOND”, read the headline in The Times. The report was more effusive still: “This was fiesta, this was a reflection of the moving colour film, Black Orpheus; this was life; this was the night of Pele… it was worth being alive to see, even in defeat.”
There is another factor to consider: television. The 1970 World Cup was the first to be broadcast worldwide in colour, and it was Pele’s great fortune to emerge just as mass media was catalysing an unprecedented explosion in the global scale of the game. Had he been born in 1920 rather than 1940, like the Botafogo genius Heleno de Freitas, it is likely almost no footage of him would have survived. And it is just as likely that like Heleno de Freitas, most people would never have heard of him.
“Pele has no colour or race or religion. He is accepted everywhere.”
The Pele who would go on to describe himself as the Beethoven of football had still not emerged by 1963. “It wasn’t me who started people saying I’m the best player in the world,” he said in that year. “I’ve got nothing to do with it. I believe the greatest player hasn’t been born yet. He’d have to be the best in every position: goalie, defence, forward.”
But what had begun to develop was an awareness of his own marketability. Following the 1958 World Cup, lucrative offers had flooded in from Europe, but he turned them all down, instead negotiating a deal with Santos by which he would receive half of any fee for playing an exhibition match abroad. He entrusted his financial affairs to a Spanish businessman called Pepe Gordo, who turned out to be downright useless: by 1966, pretty much all his investments had failed, and Pele was driven to the brink of bankruptcy.
In retrospect, it was a formative experience. In order to clear his debts, Pele negotiated a new deal with Santos on unfavourable terms, and took much greater control over his financial affairs. He signed a $120,000 deal with Puma to wear their boots, and during the 1970 World Cup was often to be seen very conspicuously stooping to tie his laces.
It was the beginning of what one might describe as the Pele brand. Over the subsequent decades, Pele has used his face and name to promote everything from Hublot watches to Subway sandwiches to erectile dysfunction.
Now 73, his thirst for endorsements is as unquenched as ever. Some weeks, he will visit three or four continents doing promotional work. Bloomberg estimate the Pele brand will generate $25 million in revenue this year.
“It’s not easy to separate Edson from Pele psychologically,” Pele wrote a few years ago. “Pele has taken on a life of his own. He overtook everything. I sense the dichotomy between Edson and Pele every time I take out my Mastercard. On one side is the image of me doing a bicycle kick together with the signature of Pele, and on the other is my real signature.”
But none of this would have been possible without the tenacity of the original Pele legend. The story of the poor black kid conquering the world is, essentially, what these companies are buying into. “Pele,” he says, “has no colour or race or religion. He is accepted everywhere.”
It may or may not surprise you to know that Pele is a Mastercard ambassador.
“Who was I? What was I? Just a footballer? No, it had to be more than that.”
Of course, everybody has to put food on the table. All athletes endorse products. But it is possible to identify a certain relish in Pele as he Hoovers up these sponsorship deals. He was not contractually obliged, for example, to include a plug for Mastercard in his autobiography. But he did it anyway. Why? Perhaps the answer lies in his character: rational, accumulative, fiercely competitive.
Being the best at football was not enough in itself for Pele. After all, he was God’s servant. He had to conquer all he saw.
“Who was I?” he would reflect. “What was I? Just a footballer? No, it had to be more than that.”
One of the preoccupations that comes through in Pele’s autobiography is race. For all his claims to be colourless and classless, being black shaped Pele’s view of the world, and the world’s view of him. Brazil was the last country in the Americas to ban slavery. Pele was only three generations removed from his slave ancestors. Even in 1966, his marriage to a white woman attracted negative comment from some newspaper columnists.
The Brazil 1958 team were the first genuinely multiracial side to win the World Cup. “All the other teams had only white people,” he wrote later. “I thought it was really weird. I can remember asking my team-mates: ‘Is it only in Brazil that there are blacks?’”
In these circumstances, then, perhaps it is not surprising that the narrative of the black boy rising above his disadvantaged station to smash open the “white” worlds of football and business held an intimate appeal for Pele. There is a proto-messianism to Pele’s self-image, especially when he feels he is not being sufficiently revered. “In America, Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King have wonderful memorial museums,” he wrote. “But in Brazil, there is no Pele museum. There is something not right about that, it seems to me.”
This is how Pele saw himself – a cultural icon like Elvis, a great liberator like Dr King. It explains why he was so keen to shape his own legend. And it explains why he continues to take any paying gig. “People treat you differently when you have money and celebrity,” he wrote. “It is almost like a race apart – not black, or white, but famous.”
In 2012, the Pele Museum was opened in Santos.
“The truth is that I hate seeing dead bodies”
Contrary to many impressions, Garrincha and Pele were not enemies. They were just different. But despite coming from similarly poor backgrounds, the differences between them could scarcely have been more pronounced. Bellos again: “Pele is revered. Garrincha is adored. Garrincha argued with the establishment. Pele became the establishment.”
But many Brazilians will tell you that Garrincha was at least as good a footballer as Pele, if not better. Pele would beat a man because he had to. Garrincha would do it because he wanted to. Garrincha virtually won the 1962 World Cup single-handedly. Pele could never claim that.
But the one thing Garrincha was less good at was self-promotion. Garrincha had little time for business empires and product endorsements. He hardly ever did interviews. He never stayed in the public eye for long enough to develop a persona. What he wanted to do, above all else, was to get drunk and get laid. This he did with remarkable efficiency, fathering at least 14 children before dying of severe liver failure at the age of 49.
Pele did not even attend his funeral. “The truth is that I hate seeing dead bodies,” he said by way of excuse. “I prefer to pray on my own.”
Years later Diego Maradona took issue with Pele for this. “I would have liked him to look after Garrincha instead of letting him die broke,” he wrote. In truth, there was little anybody could have done to arrest Garrincha’s decline, but Maradona’s intervention opened up a new fault-line between the two players now generally regarded as the greatest ever.
“We never clicked,” Maradona said. “We always rubbed each other up the wrong way; we would see each other and sparks would fly.” A less charitable observer would say they turn into children around each other: a petty enmity that has diminished them both.
Every couple of years the world is treated afresh to the sight and sound of the world’s two most respected footballers essentially trolling each other. Maradona describes Pele as looking like “a doll that’s being moved by remote control”. Pele accuses Maradona of going into coaching for the money. Maradona tells Pele he should be in a museum. Pele says Maradona must be in love with him. Maradona calls Pele gay. It’s simultaneously wonderful and awful.
But here’s the point. There’s a reason why Pele and Maradona are always discussed as the two greatest footballers ever, and Garrincha isn’t even in the conversation. Garrincha’s not around to state his case. Perhaps it’s time to admit that greatness is two parts genius to one part salesmanship.
“A story in Brazil isn’t worth telling unless there are alternative versions to call upon.”
There’s something in psychology called the “reminiscence bump”. You’ll be familiar with the concept. In essence, it’s the reason all your favourite books and favourite films and favourite albums are the ones from your youth. Your teens and your 20s are when your memory is at its most efficient, which is why memories from your youth tend to be the strongest of all.
In 2012, three psychologists called Steve Janssen, David Rubin and Martin Conway decided to see if the effect extended to football. They asked more than 600 participants to name who they thought were the five greatest footballers of all time. Seeing as the questionnaire was presented in Dutch on the Amsterdam University website, perhaps it is little surprise that most people named Johan Cruyff (86 per cent), followed by Pele (56 per cent) and Diego Maradona (48 per cent).
What was more interesting was who had named who. Pele was mentioned most frequently by people born between 1946 and 1955. Cruyff was most popular amongst those born between 1956 and 1965. And if you were born between 1966 and 1975, chances are you said Maradona.
The researchers matched up the age of the respondents with the career-midpoint of the players they had selected. The magic number was 17. That was the age at which the strongest impressions were made. In short, you’re more likely to rate a great player in your late teens than at any other stage of your life.
Coincidentally, that was Pele’s age when he played in the 1958 World Cup. Perhaps that’s why he ended up as his own biggest fan.
Source: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
But there’s a semi-serious point at the heart of all this. “A story in Brazil isn’t worth telling unless there are alternative versions to call upon,” writes Pele at the start of his autobiography, and in the indomitably stupid debate over the world’s greatest player lies a little of football’s maddening charm.
And in retrospect, it’s easy to see why the generation that grew up with Pele was so keen to put him on a pedestal. Of course he was a brilliant player, but maybe there’s something more sinister at work there too. The legend of Pele was bequeathed to each subsequent generation almost as a fait accompli, as if the debate over the world’s greatest ever footballer was over before most of us had even clapped eyes on this world. “Here, take Pele,” the older generation seemed to be telling us, “as lasting and incontrovertible proof that everything was better long ago. You are welcome.”
But the virtue of youth is its resilience. Perhaps in a half-century from now, Pele’s name will be long forgotten, and our grandchildren will be embroiled in a similarly tedious debate about the relative merits of Lionel Messi and Ross Barkley. Every generation ultimately remakes its own truth.
Alex Bellos, Futebol: The Brazilian Way Of Life
Andreas Campomar, Golazo! A History of Latin American Football
Ruy Castro, Garrincha
Pele, My Life And The Beautiful Game
Pele, The Autobiography
The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, volume 65
Jonathan Wilson, Inverting The Pyramid
A British frigate on exercise in the Baltic Sea was dispatched to investigate an unknown Russian warship last week, the Ministry of Defense said.
HMS Montrose was sent to investigate the Russian vessel in international waters off the Danish coast “after picking up the radar signature of an unidentified surface ship”.
The Royal Navy type 23 frigate identified the mystery ship as the 340ft-long Steregushchiy-class corvette RFS Soobrazitelny.
As HMS Montrose tracked the Russian warship, she was circled by an Ilyushin IL-20 “Coot” maritime patrol aircraft.
Naval sources described the June 19 incident as routine, but it came as relations between Nato and Moscow are at their worst since the end of the Cold War and the encounter is believed to be linked to the heightened tensions.
Nato has reinforced exercises in Eastern Europe since the Ukraine crisis flared, and Russia annexed Crimea. HMS Montrose is part of a fleet of vessels from 12 countries taking part in the multinational BALTOPS exercise
“Both the Russian vessel and aircraft appeared to be carrying out their normal business,” the MoD said.
British fighter jets patrolling NATO airspace over the Baltic have also been scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft in recent weeks.
Michael Jackson was so broke before he died he had one of his bodyguards carry around two Oscar statuettes in a briefcase in case he had to pay a bill.
"The Oscars were in a silver briefcase and I had to carry them with us at all times," Bill Whitfield, the King of Pop's security man told The Telegraph. "They were for Gone with the Wind and he'd bought them in 1999 for $1.5 million. It was a bit surreal and I felt uncomfortable carrying these things, but after a while you realise this is Michael Jackson, this is how it goes."
Whitfield, a former police officer, guarded Jackson between his return to the US from living in Bahrain in early 2007, and his death on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles. The singer's second bodyguard was Javon Beard, a 6ft 5ins former basketball player.
Towards the end, as Jackson's debts mounted to an estimated $500 million, the men's wages stopped and Whitfield found himself paying for petrol out of his own pocket as they drove Jackson around.
"I didn't mind doing it. We stayed with him out of loyalty," he said. "But there were times we were in hotels and credit cards were being maxed out and management were about to ask us to leave. This was Michael Jackson and I was thinking 'How is this happening?'"
Jackson died aged 50 on the eve of a 50-date residency at the O2 Arena in London. His personal physician Dr Conrad Murray was subsequently convicted of involuntary manslaughter and jailed for four years for giving him an overdose of the sedative propofol.
The entertainer's debts have since been more than wiped out and his estate is flourishing. In 2013 Forbes rated him the top earning celebrity in the world, living or dead, making $160 million. Last month a posthumous album Xscape debuted at number one in the UK. His children Prince, 17, Paris, 16, and Blanket, 12, now enjoy an allowance of $8 million a year.
According to the bodyguards Jackson had been concerned about performing 50 dates in London.
Whitfield, 47, said: "It should have been a joyous time, he was going to perform again and do what he loved, but it didn't feel like this was a happy time. He once said to me 'You're going to see the vultures come down. Everyone's going to want a piece."
The singer's paranoia was increasingly evident towards the end. He was convinced he was being bugged and the bodyguards would use a hi-tech scanner to sweep for electronic devices in his homes and hotel rooms, but never found any.
There had been death threats against Jackson and the bodyguards carried 9mm sidearms,and also had automatic weapons in reserve.
"Guarding Michael Jackson was like guarding the president," said Beard, 35 who would play basketball with his boss. "There was no-one more famous and we had a motto that nothing would happen on our watch. He was a good boss. He was really thoughtful and would ask about my family".
Beard said Jackson had vowed never go back to Neverland, the ranch at the centre of his 2005 child molestation trial, in which he was cleared of all charges.
"He felt it was contaminated by evil after it was raided by law enforcement," said Beard.
The bodyguards, who have published a book called "Remember The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days," watched as Jackson spent money like water.
On one occasion during a secret trip to a shopping mall in New Jersey the singer, disguised in an orange hooded top, saw a giant Ferris wheel and told Whitfield "I want one of those". The cost was $300,000.
In a rare book shop in Los Angeles he spontaneously offered the owner $100,000 for his entire stock.
"We had to get two trucks and bring them back to Las Vegas where he was living," said Whitfield. "I set up shelves and put up all the books and he was just so happy to have this library.
"That's something people don't know about him, reading was something he did more than anything else. When he was walking around the house if he didn't have one of the rare books he would be carrying a Bible. TV was not his thing."
Jackson listened almost exclusively to classical music and would send him to shops to buy dozens of classical CDs, he said.
The men were also privy to Jackson's dalliances with women, the most prominent of whom was an eastern European who was referred to by the code name "Friend".
During a spell living in Virginia, Whitfield was told to pick up a Tiffany's bracelet for "Friend" on the way to get her from the airport.
He said: "Seeing him prepare for this person, we knew she must be special. We took him to meet her at a restaurant and they hung out together on the back seat of the car. They were having a good time like any guy and girl.
"She had an eastern European accent and dark brown curly hair. He liked women with curly hair. We would be on the street driving and he would point out certain women and say 'She's cute, what do you think?'.
"There was also another girl called Flower. Once she came to stay but she had to stay in a hotel room for a week because one of the children was sick and he stayed home."
According to the bodyguards Jackson devoted much of his time to his children, holding lavish birthdays.
"He would go all out," said Whitfield. "We would decorate and hire clowns, but there were no other children there.
"He loved being with the kids. They were like four siblings and they were pretty much all that each other knew. He was a great dad, you would hear "I love you" so much. But it was sometimes sad to see that it was just the four of them, it wasn't like there were family and friends around, just sometimes his mom."
"Sometimes he would come with us and the kids to a park with child swings, and he would have to sit in the car because if he got out there would be chaos. That was really hard for a father to watch them having fun and not be able to be with them."
Beard said: "He just wanted to turn off that fame. He told me 'I just want to be able to walk into a bar and have a beer. I want to go to the grocery store with the kids.' He was just fighting to be normal."
Canadian police have seized two potentially lethal stun guns disguised as iPhones and warned that anyone buying or carrying one faces arrest and prosecution.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Hinton, Alberta, said that they had seized the devices this month and reminded the public that they are illegal to carry in the country.
Stun guns are prohibited in the UK and Canada where they are classed as weapons, but can be carried in around 42 US states.
The first device was confiscated after police received a report that someone was attempting to sell it online. The second was taken after reports of a disturbance outside a bar.
A woman has been arrested and remanded in custody and is due to face charges of assault with a weapon and possession of a prohibited weapon in July, according to a report on Canada.com.
Earlier this year an iPhone case called Yellow Jacket was unveiled which doubled as a stun gun. The case had a built-in battery which doubled the standby time of the handset or powered 50 "zaps" of the 950,000 volt, 1.3 milliamp stun gun.
However, the device is no longer for sale and the company’s website is no longer available.
Tinder has experienced a 50 per cent increase in downloads and use in Brazil fueled by amorous tourists as the country hosts the World Cup.
The dating app, which was launched 18 months ago, has more than 10 million users across the world. Behind the US and UK, Brazil is Tinder's third-largest user base.
“The average user spends more than one hour a day on Tinder, approximately 77 minutes, and that number is up by nearly 50 per cent in Brazil since the start of the World Cup,” Tinder spokesperson Rosette Pambakian told Quartz.
Users are presented with an image of a person of the gender of their choice, and given the chance to swipe right for yes, and left for no. Only once a pair have liked each other are they given the chance to send a message.
Tinder and sporting events seem to go hand-in-hand - athletes competing in February's Sochi Winter Olympics also appeared to be fans of the app.
American snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who went on to win gold in the Women's Slopestyle Event, said she forced herself to delete her account in order to focus on her sport.
"Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level," she told US Weekly. "It's all athletes! In the mountain village it's all athletes. It's hilarious. There are some cuties on there."
Yet Tinder in not the only dating app reporting increase use in Brazil. Gindr, a location-based dating app for gay and bisexual men, has been opened 31 per cent more in the last few weeks compared to early June.
The influx of tourists to Brazil is expected to add around $3 billion to the country's economy, with around 3.7 million people travelling through Brazil during the tournament.
Air crash investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH-370 have discovered possible new evidence of tampering with the plane's cockpit equipment.
A report released by Australian air crash investigators has revealed that the missing Boeing 777 suffered a mysterious power outage during the early stages of its flight, which experts believe could be part of an attempt to avoid radar detection.
According to the report, the plane's satellite data unit made an unexpected "log-on" request to a satellite less than 90 minutes into its flight from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to the Chinese city of Beijing. The reports says the log-on request - known as a "handshake" - appears likely to have been caused by an interruption of electrical power on board the plane.
"A log-on request in the middle of a flight is not common," said the report, by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. "An analysis was performed which determined that the characteristics and timing of the logon requests were best matched as resulting from power interruption."
David Gleave, an aviation safety expert from Loughborough University, said the interruption to the power supply appeared to be the result of someone in the cockpit attempting to minimise the use of the aircraft's systems. The action, he said, was consistent with an attempt to turn the plane's communications and other systems off in an attempt to avoid radar detection.
"A person could be messing around in the cockpit which would lead to a power interruption," he said. "It could be a deliberate act to switch off both engines for some time. By messing about within the cockpit you could switch off the power temporarily and switch it on again when you need the other systems to fly the aeroplane."
Inmarsat, the company that officially analysed flight data from MH370, has confirmed the assessment but says it does not know why the aircraft experienced a power failure.
"It does appear there was a power failure on those two occasions," Chris McLaughlin, from Inmarsat, told The Telegraph."It is another little mystery. We cannot explain it. We don't know why. We just know it did it."
The Australian report released by Australian authorities has revealed that the Boeing 777 attempted to log on to Inmarsat satellites at 2.25am, three minutes after it was detected by Malaysian military radar.
This was as the plane was flying north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The aircraft had already veered away from the course that would have taken it to its destination of Beijing, but had not yet made its turn south towards the Indian Ocean.
The aircraft experienced another such log-on request almost six hours later, though this was its seventh and final satellite handshake and is believed to have been caused by the plane running out of fuel and electrical power before apparently crashing, somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. The other five handshakes were initiated by the satellite ground station and were not considered unusual.
Asked whether the power interruption could have been caused by a mechanical fault, Mr Gleave said: "There are credible mechanical failures that could cause it. But you would not then fly along for hundreds of miles and disappear in the Indian Ocean."
Another aviation expert, Peter Marosszeky, from the University of New South Wales, agreed, saying the power interruption must have been intended by someone on board. He said the interruption would not have caused an entire power failure but would have involved a "conscious" attempt to remove power from selected systems on the plane.
"It would have to be a deliberate act of turning power off on certain systems on the aeroplane," he said. "The aircraft has so many backup systems. Any form of power interruption is always backed up by another system.
"The person doing it would have to know what they are doing. It would have to be a deliberate act to hijack or sabotage the aircraft."
An international team in Malaysia investigating the cause of the crash has not yet released its findings formally, but has indicated it believes the plane was deliberately flown off course. The plane disappeared on March 8 with 239 passengers aboard but an international air, sea and underwater search has failed to find any wreckage.
The Australian report added that the plane appeared to have flown on autopilot across the Indian Ocean and that the crew and passengers were likely to have been unresponsive due to lack of oxygen during the southward flight.
It has recommended an underwater search in an area about 1,100 miles west of Australia, around the location where the plane's seventh "handshake" is believed to have occurred.
The report also notes that the plane's in-flight entertainment system delivered a satellite message 90 seconds after the first power failure but not after the second failure hours later. This, it says, "could indicate a complete loss of generated electrical power shortly after the seventh handshake".
The new underwater search will begin in August and cover about 23,000 square miles. It is expected to take up to a year.
A scientist who carried out research on making influenza viruses more infectious has deliberately created a potentially lethal strain of flu that can evade the human immune system.
Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has genetically manipulated the 2009 strain of pandemic flu in order for it to “escape” the control of the immune system’s neutralising antibodies, effectively making the human population defenceless against its reemergence.
Most of the world today has developed some level of immunity to the 2009 pandemic flu virus, which means that it can now be treated as less dangerous “seasonal flu”.
Professor Kawaoka intentionally set out to see if it was possible to convert it to a pre-pandemic state in order to analyse the genetic changes involved, the Independent said.
The study is not published, however some scientists who are aware of it are deeply concerned that Dr Kawaoka was allowed to deliberately remove the only defence against a strain of flu virus that has already demonstrated its ability to create a deadly pandemic that killed as many as 500,000 people in the first year of its emergence.
Professor Kawaoka has so far kept his research secret but admitted that the work is complete and ready for submission to a scientific journal. The experiment was designed to monitor the changes to the 2009 H1N1 strain of virus that would enable it to escape immune protection in order to improve the design of vaccines, he said.
“Through selection of immune escape viruses in the laboratory under appropriate containment conditions, we were able to identify the key regions [that] would enable 2009 H1N1 viruses to escape immunity,” Professor Kawaoka said in an email.
“Viruses in clinical isolates have been identified that have these same changes in the [viral protein]. This shows that escape viruses emerge in nature and laboratory studies like ours have relevance to what occurs in nature,” he said.
Prior to his statement to The Independent, Professor Kawaoka’s only known public mention of the study was at a closed scientific meeting earlier this year. He declined to release any printed details of his talk or his lecture slides.
The work was carried out at Wisconsin University’s $12m (£7.5m) Institute for Influenza Virus Research in Madison which was built specifically to house Professor Kawaoka’s laboratory, which has a level-3-agriculture category of biosafety: one below the top safety level for the most dangerous pathogens, such as Ebola virus.
However, this study was done at the lower level-2 biosafety. The university has said repeatedly that there is little or no risk of an accidental escape from the lab, although a similar US Government lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta with a higher level-3 biosafety rating was recently criticised over the accidental exposure of at least 75 lab workers to possible anthrax infection.
Professor Kawaoka’s work had been cleared by Wisconsin’s Institutional Biosafety Committee, but some members of the committee were not informed about details of the antibody study on pandemic H1N1, which began in 2009, and have voiced concerns about the direction, oversight and safety of his overall research on flu viruses.
Rebecca Moritz, who is responsible for overseeing Wisconsin’s work on “select agents” such as influenza virus, said that Professor Kawaoka’s work on 2009 H1N1 is looking at the changes to the virus that are needed for existing vaccines to become ineffective.
“With that being said, this work is not to create a new strain of influenza with pandemic potential, but [to] model the immune-pressure the virus is currently facing in our bodies to escape our defences,” Ms Moritz said.
“The work is designed to identify potential circulating strains to guide the process of selecting strains used for the next vaccine…The committee found the biosafety containment procedures to be appropriate for conducting this research. I have no concerns about the biosafety of these experiments,” she said.
Professor Kawaoka said that he has presented preliminary findings of his H1N1 study to the WHO, which were “well received”.
“We are confident our study will contribute to the field, particularly given the number of mutant viruses we generated and the sophisticated analysis applied,” he said.
“There are risks in all research. However, there are ways to mitigate the risks. As for all the research on influenza viruses in my laboratory, this work is performed by experienced researchers under appropriate containment and with full review and prior approval by the [biosafety committee],” he added.
When Hessy Taft was six months old, she was a poster child for the Nazis. Her photograph was chosen as the image of the ideal Aryan baby, and distributed in party propaganda. But what the Nazis didn’t know was that their perfect baby was really Jewish.
“I can laugh about it now,” the 80-year-old Professor Taft told Germany’s Bild newspaper in an interview. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
Prof Taft recently presented the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel with a Nazi magazine featuring her baby photograph on the front cover, and told the story of how she became an unlikely poster child for the Third Reich.
Her parents, Jacob and Pauline Levinsons, both talented singers, moved to Berlin from Latvia to pursue careers in classical music in 1928, only to find themselves caught up in the Nazis’ rise to power.
Her father lost his job at an opera company because he was Jewish, and had to find work as a door-to-door salesman.
In 1935, with the city rife with anti-semitic attacks, Pauline Levinsons took her six-month-old daughter Hessy to a well-known Berlin photographer to have her baby photograph taken.
A few months later, she was horrified to find her daughter’s picture on the front cover of Sonne ins Hause, a major Nazi family magazine.
Terrified the family would be exposed as Jews, she rushed to the photographer, Hans Ballin. He told her he knew the family was Jewish, and had deliberately submitted the photograph to a contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby.
“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” the photographer told her.
He succeeded: the picture won the contest, and was believed to have been chosen personally by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Frightened she would be recognised on the streets and questions asked about her identity, Prof Taft’s parents kept her at home.
Her photograph appeared on widely available Nazi postcards, where she was recognised by an aunt in distant Memel, now part of Lithuania. But the Nazis never discovered Prof Taft’s true identity.
In 1938, her father was arrested by the Gestapo on a trumped up tax charge, but released when his accountant, a Nazi party member, came to his defence.
After that, the family fled Germany. They moved first to Latvia, before settling in Paris only for the city to fall to the Nazis.
With the help of the French resistance, they escaped again, this time to Cuba, and in 1949 the family moved to the United States.
Today the Jewish woman who was once a Nazi poster child is a professor of chemistry in New York.
“I feel a little revenge,” she said of presenting her photograph to Yad Vashem. “Something like satisfaction.”
Tracey Emin's controversial My Bed modern artwork has sold at auction for £2.2 million.
The 1998 work, which features an unmade bed and a littered floor including empty vodka bottles, cigarette butts and discarded condoms, went under the hammer at Christie's in London tonight.
The 1999 Turner Prize shortlisted work had been put up for sale by millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi, with a guide price of between £800,000 and £1.2 million.
Emin was in the packed auction room as the work was sold, to applause from the crowd.
Saatchi, who paid £150,000 in 2000 for My Bed, one of the key works of the Young British Artist movement, sold it to support the work of the Saatchi Gallery Foundation.
Other works sold in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction included Francis Bacon's Study For Head Of Lucian Freud, which sold for a hammer price of £10.2 million.
Christies said that with buyer's premium My Bed went for £2,546,500, which is a world record for the Margate artist at auction.
Christie's said My Bed was bought by an anonymous bidder.
Emin, 50, who went from rebel to establishment when she was made a CBE in the New Year Honours in 2012, grinned as she left the auction after her piece, which was Lot 19, was sold.
She first made an impression on the wider public outside the art world in 1997 with a drunken appearance on a television discussion show about the Turner Prize which ended with her pulling her microphone off and telling the audience "I've had a really good night out".
Two years later, she was shortlisted for the prize and exhibited My Bed at the Tate Gallery.
It divided the critics but began the process of making her one of the country's most famous living artists.
Speaking at Christie's in central London last week ahead of the sale she said she still stands by her work which "changed people's perceptions of art".
My Bed was on display in the foyer at Christie's during the sale.
Francis Outred, head of post war contemporary art for the auctioneers, said the "iconic work of British art from the 1990s" quadrupled her previous world record, achieving £2.546 million. Her previous best was £481,000.
Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer and president of Christie's Europe, added: "Tracey is very, very happy.
"I just caught Tracey at the Serpentine party, I just called her to see how she felt about things and she said she was absolutely delighted.
"She was very nervous going into the sale.
"Thanks everyone for supporting the sale of that object, it meant a huge amount to her.
"People wondered why she was so engaged in the process of selling that object but for her that was her biography, that was a statement, that was a self portrait.
"It is quite unusual actually to have an artist so involved in their own works that for them it is a sort of step into the next stage of their lives.
"For Tracey seeing that here at the top of the stairs... it was incredibly meaningful."
Emin's work was one of four pieces which achieved a world record at the auction, whose 75 lots sold for a total of £99.4 million.
Bacon's Lucian Freud work accounted for more than a tenth of that, selling for £11.5 million including buyer's premium.
State-run newspapers in mainland China fight to discredit one of the largest pro-democracy rallies in the country’s recent history after hundreds of thousands hit Hong Kong’s streets to protest against Beijing
More than 500 protestors were arrested as police dismantled an overnight occupation of Hong Kong’s financial district on Wednesday morning following the largest pro-democracy rally in China’s recent history.
Organisers said that more than half-a-million demonstrators took part in Hong Kong’s annual July 1 march on Tuesday, braving tropical showers and soaring temperatures to parade across the city with placards reading, "We want real democracy" and "Anti-Communist".
Protestors at the march, which has been held each year since 2003 to commemorate the anniversary of handover in 1997, demanded the right to democratically elect their own leader and an end to Beijing’s meddling in its “special administrative region”.
“I think we should stand up and say, ‘No!’ to the Chinese government,” said Alex Tsang, a 30-year-old computing teacher who was among those who took part in the 2.3-mile march.
The last demonstrators reached the march's end in Hong Kong’s glamorous financial district at just after 11pm and an overnight sit-in followed as members of two student protest groups set up camp on Chater Road, a stone’s throw from luxury boutiques such as Cartier and Chanel.
Police began removing those protesters at around 3am on Wednesday morning and were still carrying them away into police vehicles and coaches at around 8am, as arriving office workers looked on.
Demonstrators and bystanders cheered and clapped in support of the protesters who were being detained as hundreds of police officers cleared the street.
Authorities said 511 arrests were made for offences including illegal assembly and obstructing police work.
The arrests follow weeks of escalating tensions between Beijing, which is desperate to prevent similar calls for democracy spreading to the mainland, and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy groups, who are pushing for the right to choose and elect their leader by 2017.
The increasingly fractious row has fuelled fears of a physical confrontation between protesters and Chinese security forces.
“A showdown is getting more and more inevitable by the day, and some degree of violence is imminent,” Lau Nai-keung, a pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
“If worst comes to worst, the PLA will come out of its barracks,” he added, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Tuesday’s march attracted around 510,000 people according to the Civil Human Rights Front, its organisers, and at least 92,000 according to an apparently incomplete police count.
“Can you hear the people sing?” Hong Kong’s The Standard newspaper asked on its front page on Wednesday, citing a song from Les Misérables, the musical, that has become an unofficial anthem for the former colony’s protest movement.
Despite its size, the protest was almost totally absent from the front pages of China’s heavily controlled state media, which sought to downplay or discredit the rally as the work of extremists with backing from Beijing’s “western” enemies.
Leung Lap-yan, a pro-Beijing commentator, said Chinese authorities should do “whatever necessary” to bring protesters under control.
“Playing nice is no longer effective,” he wrote in the state-run China Daily, arguing that: “A colour revolution can break out any minute now”.
“To quote the late Chairman Mao, ‘Dust will remain until the broom sweeps it away’,” Mr Leung added.
Writing in the same newspaper, Bob Lee, an editor, blamed the demonstration on “hysterical” protest groups.
“Frankly speaking, Beijing is still fighting an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of the people of this former colony.”
Interviews with the overwhelmingly young participants in Tuesday’s march suggested that battle had, in many cases, already been lost.
“I hate the government of the People’s Republic of China,” said Eric Fong, a 22-year-old protester.
T-shirts being sold beside the sit-in in the former colony’s financial centre featured the slogan: “I’m Hongkongese! Not Chinese!”
Earlier this year, a photo appeared on the internet of the cast and principal crew of the new Star Wars film gathered for a script reading.
For a global fan community, this represented the culmination of decades spent dreaming.
Mark Hamill was deep in conversation with Max von Sydow and, dotted around them, were cast members classic and new, ready to embark on the continuation of a phenomenon that started not far from that room some 38 years earlier.
My eyes were drawn to the bottom of that picture, to the back of a head, a mop of brown hair sat behind producer Kathleen Kennedy. I wondered who it was. I didn’t think this might be a celebrity whose involvement had yet to be announced. I just… wondered who it was. What were they doing in the room on this momentous occasion? That is how my mind has been trained. Not to look at what’s going on in the foreground but instead drawn to the denizens of the periphery, wondering what their stories might be.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been making a documentary called Elstree 1976 . It’s a film about Star Wars which isn’t really so much about Star Wars as about who that person on the periphery is. I’ve tracked down and interviewed the people behind the masks and helmets in the first film, from highly respected veteran actors to extras who spent just a day on set. From cinema’s most iconic villain to characters who didn’t even make it on to the screen in the final cut. I wanted to know who these people were and how this global cultural phenomenon had affected their lives.
The making of Star Wars is by now a well-documented Hollywood legend, but I found the perspectives of those Britons and North American expats on the sidelines to be refreshingly reflective, sardonic and bemused. Here are some of their recollections…
Played Stormtroopers throughout the production and is most famous for banging his head whilst rushing through a door; one of the most notorious on-screen bloopers in cinema history
"I must have eaten a bit of food that was off. I put this Stormtrooper’s costume on, got on the set and as soon as I put it on I wanted to go to the loo. Upset stomach. I took the costume off in this cubicle; juggling myself about trying to get it all off, hanging it up. Went to the loo, put it all back on again, got on the set and then wanted to go back to the loo again! I couldn’t concentrate, I was shuffling along and I hit my head. No one said 'Cut', so I’m thinking to myself I’m not in shot and when it came out, I thought, 'That’s me!'"
Played Greedo, the bounty hunter killed by Han Solo in the Cantina scene
"I was working with Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO, on Jackanory. He rang me after the show one night and said 'I’m doing this film, it’s a science-fiction film and the director’s asked me if I know any other youngish character actors around who could do it, and I said you might be interested.'
The next day, I found myself at Elstree and I walked out very early in the morning after a long journey, desperate for something to drink. Walked out on to this massive soundstage, with this spaceship – the Millennium Falcon – at the other end. There’s nobody there except for one bloke in the corner. He looked like an assistant, so I said, 'Excuse me, my name’s Paul. Somebody’s called me over here to see some guy, you couldn’t get me a cup of coffee, could you?' And he went and got me a coffee.
I said, 'Thank you very much, do you know this guy called Lucas? George somebody-or-other? He’s the director of this.'
He said, 'I’m George Lucas.' So I’d made George Lucas go and get me a coffee.
He said, 'This alien – do you want to do it?' It was as simple as that. Being a serious young actor, I said, 'George, how do you want me to play this alien?' and he said, 'Well, do it like they do in the movies,' – which is the best advice anyone can ever give you about being in a film, really."
Played Fixer, a friend of Luke Skywalker, who was completely edited out of the film. He does appear on screen, however, as the Stormtrooper mind-tricked by Ben Kenobi to say “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.”
"I sometimes now think that maybe the fact that Fixer’s not actually in the finished film has made the character more famous than if he had made the final cut; he might have been completely forgotten. We shot the sequences and you can still see the footage [as an added extra on the Blu-ray version of the film]. He’s a friend of Luke’s who, basically, runs Tosche Station. He’s part of this group of young people who are hanging out in the nether regions of [Luke’s home planet of] Tatooine.
One thing that I’ve always felt about [the making of] Star Wars is that it was much more like an indie film. It didn’t feel like a Hollywood film. It felt much more homely, much more independent than that. I think that part of it was that George was a young film-maker at the time and he’s very good, he surrounds himself with great people, very talented people, so he’s very open-minded like that. I do remember, and it was probably very cheeky of me, but I do remember when I had a chance, I asked George, 'How do you like directing?' and he said, 'I don’t. I like to write.'"
Played Gold Leader, one of the pilots killed during the assault on the Death Star
"I got into the cockpit to do this scene and George said 'Have you learnt your lines out of sequence?' and I said 'What are you talking about?' and he said 'Just your lines,' and I said, 'No… I’ve learnt my lines with the cues,' you know, somebody cues me and I talk…
He said 'No, just do your lines.'
And so we started shooting and it was just a nightmare. I mean, it turned into a s---storm because I couldn’t remember anything without the cues. I needed that other voice to respond to, so I kept drying. I knew the lines perfectly well, I just couldn’t remember them [laughs]. I thought, 'What am I going to do here?' and I started sweating, so I needed a make-up artist there with a mop. I mean, I was sweating; buckets.
I was in a flat panic and [George] came and said 'Well, can you read them?' and I said 'Yeah, let’s do that.' I was so panicked at that point that I would have done anything. If he’d said, 'You need some heroin,' I would have rolled my sleeve up.
So, I had a piece of script on this leg, a piece of script on this leg and I had a chunk of script above me and a chunk of script over here. So, we shot the whole thing and I read the stuff off [them]. There’s no performance – in that sense – at all. It’s just reading lines and I thought, 'I don’t care. I’ve just got to get out of here.'"
Played Darth Vader, although the character was voiced by actor James Earl Jones. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Vader has his helmet removed
"Everybody comes up and says, 'It wasn’t you they unmasked as Darth Vader, was it?' and I say, 'Well, no, it wasn’t actually.'
The guy that played Darth Vader was a guy called Sebastian Shaw and Sebastian Shaw was a good friend of Alec Guinness’ s and, by all accounts, he was out of work. He’d been out of work for a long period and he was having a bad time financially. And he said to Sir Alec, 'Could you do me a favour?' He said, 'I’m destitute. Is there any chance of you having a word with George Lucas to see if there’s a possibility of a part in this movie?'
So Alec had a word with George and George said, 'The only part we can offer you is the dying Darth Vader.' And all this was done without me knowing anything about it. I mean, I’m watching the movie and they unmask somebody completely different and then you sort of think, 'Well, why wasn’t that me?' But then, when you learn how it all came about, you know, if it helped him in any way, then all well and good.
But everybody comes up to me and says, 'Why wasn’t it you that was unmasked as Darth Vader?' And I say, 'I’ll tell you about it later.'"
Played Biggs Darklighter, Luke Skywalker’s best friend. His role was significantly cut down in the final edit
"George didn’t say much. Irene [Lamb – casting director] didn’t say much. Even when I got the script, I didn’t really understand it. I was doing a television play – The Lady of the Camellias for the BBC – and I had it on my desk and Kate Nelligan, who was the star, said 'What’s that?' and I said 'Oh, I don’t know… space thing, I’m going to do it in Tunisia.'
'Oh,” she said, 'wouldn’t you rather be doing the next thing I’m doing for the BBC? It’s called Shakespeare.'
'I’d really like to be doing that!'
Anyway, I told her I was committed to this film… When I went down to Jerba to shoot it, I knew a little bit more about it, but most of us were mystified as to what it might be. It was a bit of a romp, really. We just did stupid things. I remember going out and hiring horses, Tony Forrest, Mark [Hamill] and myself, racing up and down the beach, which I later learned is verboten; you don’t take the star on a horse ride and go dangerously fast. But we did. It was kind of a holiday atmosphere."
Played both a medal bearer and a Massassi Temple guard in the film’s final scene
"I got on very well with Mark Hamill; we found out we had the same date of birth – September 25. It was like a holiday camp, we had these tents outside H stage and we’d all eat together. I remember there was a big set to the left of H stage and Mark asked, 'What is it, Derek?' and I found out it was the Oliver stage, from Lionel Bart’s Oliver, so I said, 'Look, Mark, if I bring my camera – the next day – we can get some photographs taken.'
Now, I didn’t want a photograph taken with Mark Hamill because he was Mark Hamill — I didn’t know who the hell he was, I didn’t know who anyone was. Anyway, the next day I brought my little camera and we went and looked at these amazing Dickensian sets and Peter Mayhew [Chewbacca] followed us and we took some photographs.
So I took photographs of Mark, Mark took photographs of me, Peter Mayhew took photographs of me and Mark. We got on so well. Every day, we chatted and laughed and he was great."
Played the bulbous-headed alien Leesub Sirln in the background of the Cantina scene
"I didn’t know half of what was going on. They’d say, 'Stand there, talk to him.' It was just like any other job except you looked weird. They made a full head cast and from that they moulded the big head. Then they put on a thin film, looks like skin, then you had all the hair and stuff, then the make-up and then you got the outfit on. So it was quite a long process. I think by day five, I’d had enough because when they pull the glue off your head, it pulls all the baby hair off your face. It was getting quite sore after five days."
Played fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett in the sequels to Star Wars
"I was aware of Star Wars… my half brother Robert Watts was associate producer and he said, 'It’s going very well, why don’t you get your agent onto this; there’s a small part, probably a couple of days, but it’d be fun for you to do.' I was in a play down at Leatherhead and I said, 'When does the filming start?' He said, 'Tomorrow.' It was that quick.
So the agent said to go down, I was seen and I got dressed in the costume. I was taken on to set where they were doing the Wampa – the big snow creature – and I thought 'This is incredible!'
I was in with the helmet on, walking around and I finally stopped in front of George Lucas and he said, 'Well, yeah, uh huh, mm-hmm, OK. Welcome aboard, it’s not a big role but I think you’ll have some fun.'
I thought, 'Is he talking to me or someone behind me?' So, I was turning my head and just looking and then was sort of… eased off the set.
'Elstree 1976’ will be released in 2015. You can watch the trailer, pre-order the DVD, Blu-ray or download and become part of the project by visiting kickstarter.com
PICTURE GALLERY: 10 facts about Star Wars characters
A French primary schoolteacher has been stabbed to death in front of her pupils on the last day of term by one of their mothers in an attack described by President François Hollande as an "abominable drama".
The woman entered the school in the sleepy southwestern town of Albi with a knife and stabbed 34-year-old Fabienne Terral-Calmès in her classroom as pupils arrived at the start of the school day, officials said.
Paramedics tried to save Ms Terral-Calmès, who is the mother of two small girls, but she died from multiple stab wounds around two hours after the assault.
Her attacker fled the scene but was arrested a short time later in her home. It was not immediately clear if the attacker’s own child was one of the pupils who witnessed the murder at the Edouard Herriot school, which has round 300 pupils aged from three to 11.
The horrific attack came just over two years after a French Islamist gunman killed three Jewish children and a rabbi in front of a school in the nearby city of Toulouse.
Education Minister Benoit Hamon, who rushed to the scene, said the 47-year-old alleged attacker was a woman who suffered from "serious psychiatric problems".
"This is an odious act, this murder, the killing of a teacher in her classroom,” he said.
The alleged assailant has a police record for child neglect and for not reporting a runaway child, RTL radio reported. Other reports said that during the attack the killer said that her act was justified because “the teacher wasn't nice to my daughter” and that she had shouted “I am not a thief.”
The victim is believed to have been in charge of a class in the kindergarten section of the school.
Police have provided no information on why the mother, who one report said is a Spanish national, had carried out the attack.
The French president said he had learned of the attack “with dismay” and had ordered his education minister Benoit Hamon to immediately travel to Albi.
“All the services of the state have been mobilised to take care of the children and the staff who witnessed this abominable drama,” Mr Hollande said.
The incident in Albi, a popular tourist destination, comes amid concerns in France over assaults by parents on teachers.
A survey published this week said that while violence against teachers in France was relatively rare - fewer than one percent of them said they had been physically attacked - one in ten school workers said they had been subject to threats and insults - twice as many as in any other profession.
The study by the INSEE national statistics agency, which covered the period between 2007 and 2013, said that teachers and other school workers in primary schools were often subjected to threats from adults, notably pupils’ parents.
The teachers most affected by abuse were those in their 30s, with women just as likely to be targeted as much as men.
It said that in secondary schools the threats were more likely to come from pupils themselves.
In recent years, Chinese companies have begun a huge wave of construction that is already reshaping the world. Here are six of the most ambitious projects.
$32 billion - China-Pakistan economic corridor
An enormous project to connect Gwadar port in southern Pakistan to the west of China involves roads, railways and oil and gas pipelines and will eventually give China a highly-coveted port in the Indian Ocean. When the corridor is finished, it will serve as the main gateway for trade between China and the Middle East and Africa. Control of Gwadar port was transferred to China's state-owned Overseas Ports Holding company in February 2013. Earlier this year, a plan to build an airport at Gwadar was also agreed, as well as the laying of fibre-optic cables between the Chinese border and Rawalpindi.
$13 billion - Nigeria's high-speed railway
In May, China Railway Construction Corporation inked a £7.6 billion contract to roll out an 860-mile high speed railway across Nigeria for trains traveling at 75mph. So far there have been no details on the route of the line.
$11.1 billion - Algeria's East-West Highway project
First launched in March 2007, an ambitious project to build a six-lane toll road across Algeria has been hit by confusion, allegations of bribery and delays for workers' salaries.
China Rail Construction Corporation and CITIC won contracts for parts of the highway, while a Japanese consortium also won a construction contract.
When finished the highway will run 756 miles from the Moroccan border to the Tunisian border, connecting Algeria's coastal cities.
$1.7 billion - Baltic Pearl Project
On the coast of the Gulf of Finland, south-west of St Petersburg, China is building a new town for 35,000 residents.
With £1 billion of investment from the Shanghai Industrial Investment Company, the project was scheduled to take six to eight years but has slowed since the financial crisis.
When finished, the town will have 14,000 apartments, five schools and nine kindergartens, as well as shopping centers, restaurants and cinemas. However, there has been criticism of poor conditions for the construction workers and traffic and access problems getting to the town.
$1.5 billion - West Texas wind farm
In 2011, Shenyang Power Group (SPG) signed a deal to develop a 36,000 acre wind farm in West Texas, one of the largest in the United States. Chinese-made turbines will power the plant, funded by a £880 million loan from China's Export-Import Bank.
$1.3 billion - Nigeria's Zungeru hydroelectric power plant
Last July, on a visit to Beijing, Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, agreed a deal to build a 700MW dam on the Niger river, roughly 90 miles from Abuja. Construction will take five years and three-quarters of the cost will be loaned by China to Nigeria for 20 years at 2.5 per cent interest.
Additional reporting by Adam Wu
Following Germany's 7-1 drubbing of the hosts, here are seven facts you didn't know about Germany — and one you didn't know about Brazil.
1. Watching the slapstick 1963 British comedy sketch “Dinner for One”, starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, is an essential part of the German New Year’s Eve celebration.
2.The word Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz (law delegating beef label monitoring) was removed from the German language this summer, but there are still some crackers – kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung (automobile liability insurance) and donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe (widow of a Danube steamboat company captain), to name but two.
3.If you ask a German the time and are told “halb drei” (literally “half three”) the time is in fact half past two (half two in English). Germans count the minutes to the next hour rather than after.
4. The Munich Oktoberfest actually starts in late September. Don’t worry too much if you miss it: there are 60 beer gardens in and around the city that are open all summer.
5. In 1888 Germany had three emperors: Wilhelm I, Frederick III and Wilhelm II. Frederick III died from cancer of the larynx aged 56 having ruled for just 99 days. A liberal by disposition, he would have been a very different emperor to Wilhelm II.
6. There is a Barbie doll modelled on Germany’s current Chancellor Angela Merkel.
7. The opening of Berlin’s long awaited new international airport has been delayed five times and it is still not exactly clear when it will be ready for service. What happened to Teutonic efficiency?
1. Osama Bin Laden-themed bars are something of a trend in Brazil. Well, there’s at least two, anyway. Bar do Bin Laden in Sao Paulo – run by an Osama lookalike – and Caverna do Bin Laden, or “Bin Laden’s Cave” – can be found just in Niteroi, around 25 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro.
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Telegraph Travel Awards 2014: vote for your favourite destinations and travel companies for the chance to win one of 40 luxury breaks worth a total of £800,000.