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The latest news on The Telegraph from Business Insider

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    Ebola Texas

    'Ground zero' for Ebola in America is a small first floor flat in a drab looking complex in the northern Dallas suburb of Vickery Meadow.

    Behind the door of number 614 at the Ivy Apartments is where Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, recently arrived from Liberia, shivered and sweated through the night as Ebola took hold of him.

    Days after he was diagnosed his girlfriend Louise Troh, 36, her 13-year-old son, and two of her grown-up nephews, are still there.

    They are subject to a "control order" meaning if they stray too far from their door over the next three weeks they will face criminal prosecution.

    Miss Troh, who is Liberian and works as a home care help, is taking everyone's temperatures, including her own, every hour to see if the feverish symptoms of Ebola emerge.

    The sheets that Duncan slept in, and sweated on, are still on the bed. She has placed the towels she used to mop his sweat in a plastic bag, and has a tub of bleach to disinfect the apartment as best she can.

    "I don't know what to do," she said in a phone call with CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper as she revealed her efforts to avoid the disease. Miss Troh declined to speak to other journalists who called.

    Stanley Gaye, president of the Dallas Liberian Community Association, who has spoken to her, said: "They are doing well. All she asks is for prayers."

    Duncan was diagnosed on Sunday but it took until Thursday afternoon for a delivery of food to arrive at the apartment. It was brought by the American Red Cross and the South Texas Food Bank.

    The Red Cross worker who carried the boxes to the door told the Telegraph: "I just put them on the steps where I was told to. I didn't knock. It was changes of clothes, Gatorade, bananas, water."

    Minutes later a man, believed to be one of Miss Troh's nephews, emerged and carried all the boxes inside without saying a word.

    It also took until Thursday for contractors, four days after Duncan was diagnosed, for workers to be deployed with water jets and bleach to disinfect the car bark beneath Miss Troh's balcony.

    It was here that Duncan was seen by neighbours vomiting on the ground as he was placed in an ambulance.

    There was no cordon around the area and children returning from school passed close by. Outside an apartment beneath Miss Troh's a woman was busy brushing her doorstep. Next door, a young child in a football shirt peered out. One resident emerged from his apartment and headed for his car, saying: "I'm leaving. Haven't you heard what's happened?"

    Some residents of the Ivy Apartments were still oblivious to the Ebola case in their midst.

    The complex is one of dozens in Vickery Meadow that are home to immigrants from countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea and Nepal. There are en estimated 33 languages spoken in the area but many residents do not speak English.

    The area of apartment blocks was once described by the Dallas Observer as an "anthill". It has also been called "Dallas's "Ellis Island".

    One Eritrean resident said: "It's not a good area here. There are drugs. I am working triple shifts so I can get out."

    Some asked why no-one in authority had been to speak to them about Ebola.

    Miss Troh's apartment is just a few hundred yards from Sam Tasby Middle School where one of five children who had contact with Duncan attended.

    Pupils at the school said they were talking about little else, and some parents pulled their children out.

    "This is crazy scary," said one mother on a school Facebook page. Another asked: "Do any of these five children ride a school bus? Have they disinfected any buses these children may have ridden?

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Alan Henning

    The British government "could have done more" to save Alan Henning, the British aid worker beheaded by Isil jihadists in Syria, his brother-in-law has said.

    His comments followed the release of a video by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in which the British-accented Jihadi John again appeared to behead a Western hostage, claiming that Mr Henning’s death was in retaliation for UK strikes against the jihadist group.

    “They could have done more months and months ago. The same with David Haines, the other hostage,” said Colin Livesey.

    Mr Livelsey said he could make no sense of the killing.

    “For a person who went there to give aid and help their kids, for them to do what they did makes no sense,” he said.

    “I don’t understand it at all. They are scum. I just hope they get what’s coming to them.”

    Earlier on Saturday, David Cameron vowed to use "all the assets we have" to hunt down the jihadists responsible for the beheading of

    "We will use all the assets we have to try and help those hostages… and defeat this organisation which is utterly ruthless and barbaric," said the Prime Minister.

    "There is no level of depravity to which they will not sink. No appeals made any difference," Cameron said, after meeting with officials from the intelligence agencies, the military and the Foreign Office on Saturday morning at Chequers.

    US president Barack Obama also condemned the murder.

    “Mr Henning worked to help improve the lives of the Syrian people and his death is a great loss for them, for his family and the people of the United Kingdom,” the American president said.

    “Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder – as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines – to justice.”

    The video followed the same format as a previous video showing the death of David Haines, another Briton murdered three weeks ago. It appeared to depict the same killer addressing the camera before beginning to make a show of the murder.

    He declared that Mr Henning’s blood was “on the hands of the British parliament”. MPs voted last week in favour of taking military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil) militants. RAF Tornados began air strikes this week.

    Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, told BBC Radio 4 Isil had to be "destroyed and discredited".

    "One's heart goes out to Alan's family and his friends but I think it's quite harsh to blame our government for not doing enough in this individual case.

    "We don't know what our government has and hasn't been doing. But I think we are all united in the fact that the so-called Islamic State and these Isil fighters are an abomination and they have got to be confronted and they have got to be faced down.

    "The government is now standing up to its responsibilities and part of the harsh price while this takes times is sadly, if they have got hostages in their hands, these atrocious things seem to be happening and are going to continue to happen."

    As before, it depicted Mr Henning, 47, a father of two, speaking briefly to the camera while kneeling alongside the jihadist.

    “I’m Alan Henning. Because of our parliament’s decision to attack the Islamic State I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision,” he says.

    The masked jihadist then addresses the camera, saying: “The blood of David Haines is on your hands, Cameron. Alan Henning will also be slaughtered but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament”.

    The Prime Minister described Mr Henning’s death as “barbaric and repulsive”.

    “"The murder of Alan Henning is absolutely abhorrent, it is senseless, it is completely unforgivable," he said.

    "The fact that this was a kind, gentle, compassionate and caring man who had simply gone to help others, the fact they could murder him in the way they did shows what we are dealing with," he said.

    The video, just over a minute long, ends with the jihadist threatening an American hostage in retaliation for the US bombardment of Isil.

    Mr Henning is the fourth Westerner to be beheaded on video by the terrorists.

    Majid Freeman, who was on aid convoy with Henning when he was kidnapped, told BBC Radio 4 he felt his friend had been abandoned.

    "He wanted to go out there to make a difference and that is what Alan was doing," he said.

    "He was helping orphaned children, he was helping women..."

    He said Henning had been aware of the risks.

    "There are always risks when you step into a war zone however he had seen the people on the ground that were depending on us ...if the international community had done their job we would not have been putting our lives on the line.

    "We have seen the British Muslim community, we have seen imams we have seen organisations like Cage... since the video came out we were all very loud and clear getting our message across - that he was a simple aid worker, had had not gone there for political reasons.

    "He had not one there for any other agenda other than helping innocent people who the rest of the world had abandoned, so it does not make sense to kill him - there is no benefit at all it does just not make sense.

    "Since the past two weeks, we have been pressuring the government to secure his release but they abandoned him - the British government left him out there.

    "I'm not saying pay a ransom but it was one week after the video came out that we saw that Turkey had managed to release 49 hostages without paying a single penny. The British government, all they had to do was release one hostage...if anything they voted for air strikes which may have sealed his fate.

    "All the hostages in the rest of the world ...everybody managed to bring the hostages home it seemed Alan was the only one out there who was abandoned."

    Mr Henning’s death came despite a series of emotional appeals by his wife, Barbara.

    Earlier this week, she pleaded with his captors to release her husband. “I ask Islamic State: Please release him. We need him back home. Thank you.”

    Mr Henning worked as a taxi driver in Salford but volunteered to join a humanitarian convoy bringing aid to the people of Syria.

    He was kidnapped just after Christmas last year when he entered Syria from Turkey with Muslim friends to bring supplies to children.

    His abduction triggered appeals from Muslims across the world for his release. A hundred British Muslim leaders released a statement expressing their “horror and revulsion” at the threats to his life.

    Even Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a convicted terrorist, urged Isil to release Mr Henning and respect “the judgment of Sharia”.

    Mr Henning’s death came three weeks after the murder of David Haines, 44, a Scottish aid worker. Two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, have also been murdered on camera by Isil in apparent retaliation for Western strikes against the jihadist group.

    Each killing followed a similar ritual, with the victim – dressed in an orange jumpsuit and guarded by a masked man holding a knife – forced to condemn Western policies. John Cantlie, a British photojournalist, is also being held by Isil. Unlike the other hostages, Mr Cantlie has not been directly threatened with death. Instead, he has appeared in a series of videos where is he made to deliver short lectures against the West.

    The video of Mr Henning’s death ends with the masked jihadist threatening threatening to kill Peter Kassig, a former US soldier who started an aid organisation to help the people of Syria.

    The masked terrorist says: “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment in [Syria], which keeps on striking our people so it’s only right we continue to strike the necks of your people.”

    Mr Kassig, 26, served with the US Army Rangers in Iraq in 2007 and later returned as a volunteer to help Syrian refugees.

    In a statement last night, his parents Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis, said: “The Kassig family extends our concern for the family of Alan Henning. We ask everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the world.”

    American and British intelligence agencies claim that they have identified Jihadi John.

    He is believed to be one of more than 500 British citizens who has travelled to Syria to take up arms.

    Senior British politicians last night spoke of their disgust at Mr Henning’s killing. Nick Clegg wrote: “Sincere condolences to Alan Henning’s family. Barbaric actions of Isil are held in complete contempt.”

    Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “It is quite clear that the murderers of Alan Henning have no regard for Islam, or for the Muslims around the world who pleaded for his life.”

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    Parisa TabrizShe is Google's top secret weapon, charged with guarding the world's most valuable brand.

    Parisa Tabriz is the company's card up the sleeve – a young professional hacker they call their "Security Princess".

    As a white-hat hacker, the Iranian-American is paid to attack her own employer so the "bad guys," known as the black hats, do not get there first.

    Her task is to protect the nearly one billion users of Google Chrome – the most-used Internet browser on the planet.

    Miss Tabriz, 31, is something of an anomaly in Silicon Valley. Not only is she a woman – a gender hugely under-represented in the booming tech industry – but she is a boss heading up a mostly male team of 30 experts in the US and Europe.

    As such she has the power to choose her own title – and "Security Princess" is on her business card. She came up with it while attending a conference in Tokyo: "I knew I'd have to hand out my card and I thought Information Security Engineer sounded so boring. Guys in the industry all take it so seriously, so security princess felt suitably whimsical."

    Earlier this year, Google became the first in the Valley to publish figures on the diversity of its workforce. They revealed just 30 out of every 100 staff members are female.

    "Fifty years ago there were similar percentages of women in medicine and law, now thankfully that's shifted," Miss Tabriz says.

    "Technology is one of the fastest-growing fields, but in that respect it has a lot of catching up to do."

    While she says she has never encountered overt sexism at Google since she joined in 2007, when she was offered the job while still at college a male fellow student told her: 'you know you only got it cos you're a girl.' "He said it to my face, but I'm sure a lot of others were thinking it.

    "The jerks are the ones that tend to be the most insecure, but that didn't stop me worrying he might be right," she says, dressed head-to-toe in black – the only colour she ever wears.

    Miss Tabriz, who in 2012 was named one of the top 30 under 30 to watch by Forbes magazine, thinks the lack of women in tech is because they do themselves down. "There was a study done a few years ago which questioned people who had dropped out of their computer science course," she says.

    "Women who left tended to have a B-minus average and the most common reason they gave was that they were finding it too hard, whereas among the men the most common grade was a low C but the reason they gave was that it wasn't interesting."

    Parisa TabrizOne of the most high-profile women in the industry, Sheryl Sandberg, a former vice president at Google who is now chief operating officer at Facebook, tells a similar tale. "Women systematically underestimate their own abilities. You ask men and women to guess their GPAs (grade point average) – men always get it slightly high and women get it slightly low," she told a TED talk a few years ago.

    "It means they don't know their worth."

    Miss Tabriz grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with her Iranian-immigrant father, a doctor, and Polish-American nurse mother, both of whom were incredibly smart but computer illiterate.

    As the older sister of two brothers, she was used to bossing boys around from an early age.

    "They'd say I was a bully, but I played them at their own game, in sports on the field, and at video games," she says.

    "I was older and used to beat them up all the time," she adds. But when her brothers grew up and she was not able to anymore, she felt she had to beat them some other way.

    "I didn't know what I wanted to do at first," she says. "I remember taking a careers test in high school to see which job would suit me, I got police officer.

    "I laughed at the time but I realise now it wasn't all that far off, after all I'm in the business of protecting people."

    She herself had not even touched a computer until her first year of college, the University of Illinois, where she was studying computer engineering.

    She was inspired by the story of one of the earliest hackers, John Draper, otherwise known as Captain Crunch. Draper was working as a US Air Force radar technician when, in the late 1960s, he discovered how to make free long-distance calls using a toy whistle packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal.

    The whistle emitted a tone at precisely 2600 hertz – the same frequency that was used at the time by the US's biggest phone network to route international calls.

    Today, anyone can turn their hand to hacking, which makes profiling that much more difficult a job.

    Parisa TabrizMiss Tabriz sees everything from the common criminal looking for ways to get hold of bank account details to the anti-establishment hactivst networks like Anonymous, to those with much grander aims like bringing down Iran's entire Gmail system.

    Her ability to get inside the mind of the "bad guys" has seen her put in charge of the in-house training of Google engineers wanting to get into security. In her seminars she starts by asking them to think of a way to hack a vending machine for chocolate – but without the use of technology.

    She knows immediately from their answers who has the curiosity and the mischievousness needed to make it.

    One of the smartest – which came from a European employee – was to insert a 10 Thai Baht piece instead of a €2 coin as both are the same size, weight and alloy, but at 25 cent the Thai money is worth just a fraction of the euro coin.

    Google is full of eccentric geniuses, and the company's sprawling campus in Mountain View, California, is designed to harness that genius.

    On the day of our visit, a team from recruitment was holding a meeting on a seven-seater circular conference bike, while another had taken laptops into the giant ball pit to work.

    One employee spent his break in the "thinking zone", taking drags of a cigarette while spinning quickly in circles to deprive his brain of oxygen in the hope that when it rushes back he will see the problem more clearly.

    "I can't say I know what that was about," Miss Tabriz says, "but employees here are on the whole are good at outside-the-box thinking."

    Parisa Tabriz chainsFor many black-hat hackers, Google – the single most recognisable entity of the Internet age – is seen as the Alcatraz of hacks.

    The tech giant has had to work to keep its enemies close. It now offers outside hackers cash rewards of up to $30,000 (£19,000) if they are able to find bugs, or faults, on Chrome, in an attempt to stop them reaching the wrong hands.

    To date they have awarded $1.25 million, fixing more than 700 bugs.

    Miss Tabriz says the incentive of money can turn black hats white. "There's a fine line between the two" she says. "You want these people on your side, not against you.

    "Today, hacking can be ugly. The guy who published the private photos of those celebrities online made headlines everywhere. What he did was not only a violation of these women but it was criminal, and as a hacker I was very saddened by it.

    "I feel like we, the hackers, need better PR to show we're not all like that."

    She is doing her bit to give hacking a good name. She mentors under-16s at a yearly computer science conference in Las Vegas.

    The children who take part in DEFCON are taught how to "hack for good"– and girls are more than encouraged to join.

    Trinity Nordstrom, 16, one of those who attended, says: "Parisa is a good role model, because of her I'd like to be a hacker.

    "In the computer security industry, skill is starting to matter a lot more than whether or not you're a man or a woman. I think that in order to get such a job, you'd need to earn it."

    Miss Tabriz knows a little about hard work and the sleepless nights trying to keep a seventh of the world safe from harm every day.

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    goldman sachs traders

    A new online chat platform aimed at financial firms has already attracted more than half a million user requests, potentially making it bigger than Bloomberg’s messaging service, its chief executive has said.

    Symphony, which this week unveiled $66m (£41.3m) in funding from Goldman Sachs and 13 other Wall Street institutions, will be offered at no cost for individual users when it launches next year.

    Chief executive David Gurle said that while the corporate subscription fee has not been finalized, he has penciled in a price of around $30 per user per month compared to several thousands of pounds to use a Bloomberg terminal.

    “We are going to make sure the price is not going to be an obstacle. To have it offered for free to individual users is a pretty aggressive stance,” said Mr Gurle.

    A former manager at Skype and Thomson Reuters, Mr Gurle set up a start-up named Perzo two years ago to explore new a messaging platform that would bridge the gap between myriad chat and email products. He soon attracted the interest of Goldman Sachs, which was also working on ways to improve communications between its staff.

    The development was known as Project Babel until inspiration struck Mr Gurle for a permanent name.

    “I thought about what the absolute opposite of Babel was, I was listening to The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, which I love, and I realised a beautiful symphony, that was the exact opposite of Babel. It allows everyone to come together,” he said.

    The Symphony developers have worked with banking insiders to create a filter option that allows firms to monitor chats for keywords that might suggest abuse. This feature will be “way more proactive” than similar services on other platforms, Mr Gurle claimed, and has become more pressing in light of the chat transcripts that have formed a key part of the international investigation into Libor-rigging.

    He said Symphony has received at least 500,000 expressions of interest in the platform, from individuals and corporations, since its existence was made public in August. “There’s been more requests than I had expected. I think it’s because the problem resonates with far more firms than just those investing [in Symphony].”

    Instant Bloomberg, the messaging service run by the US media and data group, is widely used in the financial industry. About 320,000 subscribers use Bloomberg’s professional accounts, sending 200 million messages a day. Reuters' Eikon Messenger platform, which offers free accounts, has 250,000 users in the sector. Reuters has said it will work to allow Symphony users to interact with those using Eikon.

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    pot sales colorado

    The governor of Colorado, the first US state to legalize cannabis for recreational use, has said the decision of his voters was "reckless."

    John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who is seeking re-election for a second term, was asked during a debate what he would say to other states considering similar measures.

    He said: "I would view it as reckless before we see what the consequences are."

    The governor added: "I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless.

    "I'm not saying it was reckless because I'll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me I wouldn't have done it right? I opposed it from the very beginning. In matter of fact, all right what the hell, I'll say it was reckless."

    Hickenlooper opposed the decision taken by voters in a ballot in November 2012 at the time.

    The first licensed shops selling cannabis for recreational use opened in the state on Jan. 1.

    The latest estimate from the state, arrived at last month, suggested it can expect to receive about $50 million (£31 million) a year in taxes levied on sales of the drug.

    But Hickenlooper suggested other states should wait.

    Alaska votes on whether to become the third US state, after Colorado and Washington state, to legalize recreational use in a ballot measure in November.

    People in Washington, D.C., will also vote then on Initiative 71, which would legalize possession and home cultivation although not sales.

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    A Chinese poet is facing up to three years in prison after security forces raided his Beijing home and found him in possession of an umbrella.

    Until last month, when major pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong, the umbrella was generally viewed as a useful device to shield oneself from rain or sun.

    However, the former British colony's so-called Umbrella Revolution or Umbrella Movement â?" named after the object protesters have used to protect themselves from police tear gas – has transformed the humble brolly into a potentially subversive item in mainland China.

    Wang Li, the wife of the Beijing-based poet Wang Zang, told The Telegraph her husband was taken into custody on October 1 after the 29-year-old expressed his support of the protests by posting a photograph of himself holding an umbrella on the Internet.

    The following morning a group of around a dozen agents, including two wearing police uniforms, came to the couple's home "demanding to come in for a conversation".

    "They showed me a blank search warrant and rummaged through everything, searching every corner of the house," she said.

    As well as Mr Wang's light blue umbrella, police confiscated a computer, a router and, for reasons that were not immediately clear, a pair of spectacles. The raid left the couple's two children â?" aged 2 and 5 â?" terrified, Mrs Wang added.

    "Judging by the items police took from our home, I figure Wang's arrest is related to the pictures he posted on Twitter supporting the Umbrella Movement," she said.

    "Ever since his university days, my husband has been campaigning and defending the rights of the poor. I am right behind him. I believe what he has been doing is right and just. None of the things my husband has done over the years constitutes crime. What he has been doing is the good thing, the right thing, not a crime.""I will always stand beside my husband. I am proud of him and what he does," Mrs Wang added.

    Sui Muqing, a well-known rights lawyer who has taken Mr Wang's case, said the poet's arrest was "definitely" the consequence of his support of the Umbrella Movement.

    The arrest appeared to be part of a wider Communist Party crackdown on people with "different thoughts and opinions" and the items found in the search of Mr Wang's house, including his umbrella, would almost certainly be used as evidence against him.

    Mr Wang could face up to three years in jail if convicted of "provoking troubles", Mr Sui added.

    At least 25 activists in seven Chinese provinces have been placed under some form of police custody or detention since the Hong Kong protests started on September 26, said William Nee, Amnesty International's China researcher.

    Those cases include several activists in Guangdong province who were "basically abducted by police" after unfurling banners backing the Hong Kong protesters and another activist who was "forcibly traveled" from his home by security agents after shaving his head for the same reason.

    It was not clear if police had seized umbrellas from activists other than Mr Wang, said Mr Nee, but Beijing would certainly want to prevent the item becoming an emblem of opposition to Communist Party rule in mainland China.

    "Clearly they don't want the umbrella as a symbol," he said.

    In recent days Chinese activists have poked fun at Xi Jinping, the president, by posting online photographs showing him holding umbrellas.

    Even president Xi has now decided to support the protests against his own Communist Party, the activists joke.

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    imf telegraphThe International Monetary Fund has released its latest health check on the global economy.

    In the second of its twice yearly World Economic Outlooks, the Fund has revised down its expectations for global growth. The world economy is now expected to grow by only 3.3pc in 2014 (down from 3.7pc in April) and 3.8pc in 2015 (down from an earlier estimation of 4pc), say the IMF.

    According to the Fund's chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, economic growth "is mediocre and a bit worse than forecast."

    But aside from the headlines figures, what are the other takeaways from the report?


    Falling prices have continued to act on a drag on growth in advanced economies. The IMF thinks inflation remains “too low” and the threat of outright deflation – or negative prices – should continue to concern policy-makers.

    chart inflation

    Although the IMF thinks it unlikely we will have outright deflation in any major economy by the end of the year, price rises are likely to remain below many central bank targets of around 2pc (see blue line above).

    The threat of deflation is most acute in the eurozone where prices rose by just 0.3pc last month, the lowest since November 2009. As a result, the IMF think the probability of prices to begin falling across the currency bloc in the last three months of the year, to be about 30pc.

    another chart

    Has some of our potential growth been lost forever?

    One of the reasons inflation has failed to take off, despite growth in many parts of the advanced world, is due to the existence of an 'output gap' in a number countries.

    This is the term economists use to describe the level of spare capacity in an economy, or the difference between current and potential growth.

    A negative output gap indicates an economy is running below its potential and has a way to go before growth begins to generate inflationary pressures and forcing interest rate rises.

    telegraph chart markets

    According to IMF estimates, the United States has the largest negative output gap in the developing world of around 3.5pc of potential GDP, while the UK's is much smaller at around -1.2pc. According to the government's fiscal watchdog, Britain's output gap is not much more than 2pc.

    If the IMF's figures are closer to reality, this narrowing gap is not likely to be good news for the Chancellor, as it would mean the UK is approaching its full potential rate of growth. In such a scenario, less of our deficit and borrowing could be eliminated by stronger output and higher tax revenues, and more of the work of balancing the books would have to come from further austerity instead.

    Could another global recession be on the way?

    For all the gloominess, the IMF still think there is only a one in 100 chance that global output will fall below 2pc next year - the level at which we would say the world is back in recession again.

    However, when it comes to the eurozone, the Fund's estimates are far less sanguine. The IMF thinks there now a four in 10 chance the single currency area will slip back into its third recession since the financial crisis.


    Euro-area growth has been largely flat for most of 2014, and a recession - defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth - remains a distinct possibility due to the continuing "fragilities" in the global economy, say the IMF.

    The European Central Bank has sought to revive growth and stoke inflation by slashing rates and introducing asset buying to get credit flowing back to the continent’s small businesses. But should these measures fail to improve the inflation outlook, the Bank “should be willing to do more, including purchases of sovereign debt,” say the Fund.

    But is the IMF always right?

    The IMF's forecasts, like so many projections, are prone to error and revision. It was only last year that the Fund's chief economist warned George Osborne that his austerity measures were "playing with fire".

    And in a bout of navel gazing, the Fund has turned its attentions to its own forecasting history. They find that from 2011 to 2014, their one-year ahead estimates for growth were 0.6 percentage points too optimistic.

    via the telegraph chart

    Much of these forecasting errors came from the IMF's tendency to over-shoot growth in large emerging economies such as the BRICs, and its failure to factor in the impact of the eurozone crisis three years ago.

    If the recent history of the Fund's outlooks shows it prone to over-optimism, its most latest predictions will leave many hoping that undue pessimism is now the order of the day.

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    germany river black forest schramberg

    The Kaiser Wilhelm Canal in Kiel is crumbling. Last year, the authorities had to close the 60-mile shortcut from the Baltic to the North Sea for two weeks, something that had never happened through two world wars. The locks had failed.

    Large ships were forced to go around the Skagerrak, imposing emergency surcharges. The canal was shut again last month because sluice gates were not working, damaged by the constant thrust of propeller blades. It has been a running saga of problems, the result of slashing investment to the bone, and cutting maintenance funds in 2012 from $76.25m a year to €11m.

    This is an odd way to treat the busiest waterway in the world, letting through 35,000 ships a year, so vital to the Port of Hamburg. It is odder still given that the German state can borrow funds for five years at an interest rate of 0.15pc. Yet such is the economic policy of Germany, worshiping the false of god of fiscal balance.

    The Bundestag is waking up to the economic folly of this. It has approved $330.4m of funding to refurbish the canal over the next five years. Yet experts say it needs $1.27bn, one of countless projects crying out for money across the derelict infrastructure of a nation that has forgotten how to invest, sleepwalking into decline.

    France may look like the sick of man of Europe, but Germany’s woes run deeper, rooted in mercantilist dogma, the glorification of saving for its own sake, and the corrosive psychology of ageing.

    “Germany considers itself the model for the world, but pride comes before the fall,” says Olaf Gersemann, Die Welt’s economics chief, in a new book, The Germany Bubble: the Last Hurrah of a Great Economic Nation.

    Mr Gersemann says the Second Wirtschaftswunder – or economic miracle – from 2005 onwards has “gone to Germany’s head”. The country has mistaken a confluence of exceptional events for permanent ascendancy. It cannot continue to live off exports of capital goods to China and the BRICS as they hit the buffers, or by stealing a march on southern Europe through wage compression, a zero-sum game.

    Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), makes a parallel critique (more Keynesian in flavor) in his new book, Die Deutschland Illusion, no translation needed. It is a broadside against the fiscal fetishism of finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, now written into the constitution as a balanced budget law from 2016 onwards, making it almost impossible to override. It is the self-deception of a country “resting on its laurels”, prisoner of the “household fallacy” that economies are like family budgets, and falsely reassured by the misplaced flattery of foreigners who rarely look under the bonnet at the German engine below.

    The International Monetary Fund gently prodded Berlin this week to pull its weight in a world economy gasping for demand, if only for its own good. “Germany could afford to finance much-needed public investment in infrastructure, without violating fiscal rules,” it said. For good measure, the fund said there is a 40pc chance of a triple-dip recession in the eurozone over coming months and a 30pc chance of deflation.

    The German economy has already stalled. Output contracted in the second quarter. Factory orders fell 5.7pc in August. Germany’s “Five Wise Men” council of economic experts will slash the country’s growth forecast to 1.2pc next year in a report on Friday.

    Prof Fratzscher accuses Germany’s elites of losing the plot in every important respect. Investment has fallen from 23pc to 17pc of GDP since the early 1990s. Net public investment has been negative for 12 years.

    Growth has averaged 1.1pc since the beginning of the decade, placing Germany 13th out of 18 in the eurozone (or 156th out of 166 countries worldwide over the past 20 years). This chronic weakness been masked by slightly better growth since the Lehman crisis, and by the creditor-debtor dynamics of the EMU debt crisis. German looks healthy only because half of Europe looks deathly.

    The Hartz IV reforms – so widely praised as the foundation of German competitiveness, and now being foisted on southern Europe – did not raise productivity, the proper measure of labour reform. Data from the OECD show that German productivity growth slumped to 0.3pc a year in the period from 2007 to 2012, compared with 0.5pc in Denmark, 0.7pc in Austria, 0.9pc in Japan, 1.3pc in Australia, 1.5pc in the US and 3.2pc in Korea. Britain has been negative, of course, but that is no benchmark.

    Prof Fratzscher says the chief effect was to let companies compress wages through labour arbitrage. Real pay has fallen back to the levels of the late 1990s. The legacy of Hartz IV is a lumpen-proletariat of 7.4m people on “mini-jobs”, part-time work that is tax-free up to $571.9m. This flatters the jobless rate, but Germany has become a split society, more unequal than at any time in its modern history. A fifth of German children are raised in poverty.

    Philippe Legrain, a former top economist at the European Commission, says Germany’s “beggar-thy-neighbor economic model” works by suppressing wages to subsidize exports, to the benefit of corporate elites. This is “dysfunctional”, and the more that EU officials try to extend the model across the eurozone, the more dangerous it becomes.

    Capital flows within EMU have been a form of vendor financing for buyers of German exports, but it should be obvious that such a structure must reach breaking point – for Germany as well as EMU – if France and Italy buckle to demands and follow Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland into wage deflation. Europe is already sliding slowly into a contractionary vortex, replicating the errors of the Gold Standard in the 1930s. Doubling down would be calamitous.

    Germany must move with great care. As Mr Gersemann argues in his book, it is enjoying the last days of a particularly powerful demographic dividend, soon to reverse with a vengeance. The European Commission’s Ageing Report (2012) said Germany’s workforce will shrink by 200,000 a year this decade. The old age dependency ratio will jump from 31pc in 2010, to 36pc in 2020, 41pc in 2025, 48pc in 2030 and 57pc in 2045, tantamount to national suicide.

    This is a grave failure of public policy over decades. Tax policies and social structures have encouraged the collapse of the fertility rate. Lack of investment has compounded the error. Within five years it will surely become obvious to everybody that Germany is in deep trouble, and a balanced budget will not prove any defence. Within 10 years, France will be the dominant power of continental Europe.

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    Thomson family_3067141ub

    Flying as a family may soon be an experience parents can almost look forward to – at least if the new vision of Thomson Airways is to be believed.

    The company has revealed a five-year plan for its products and services, promising to “change the face of holiday flying” with several innovations.

    Among the new concepts is a social seating area for four to six people – designed for larger families – at the back of the company’s new fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft. There would be a kids’ club on board longer flights, while an upgraded in-flight entertainment system would include a bedtime story channel for young children as well as bespoke teenage content.

    There are also plans to improve the experience for child-free holidaymakers. A new “duo-seating” innovation is being considered, where “three pod style seats” would become a table for two with champagne and mood lighting – “ideal for customers holidaying at adults only properties.”

    Thomson DuoSeat wi_3t067142cAccording to the company’s overview of “planned product and service innovations”, new “zoning” seat plans may also be introduced, allowing customers to book seats with extra legroom, or sit in dedicated family areas or child-free zones.

    A duvet and pillow service could also be included on the company’s two new Dreamliner aircraft, as well as a “Beach Snack Bar” in the plane's Premium Club Cabin, where food and drinks are themed around the destination.

    thomson food_30671u39cThe airline is also considering training up a member of cabin crew with extensive knowledge of the resort destination, who can mill about the plane on short-haul flights and advise fliers about what they can see and do on arrival.

    Several of the concepts are being considered possible rather than confirmed. A Thomson spokeswoman said: “The seating concepts are in development and we’re looking at these for the arrival of our 737MAX aircrafts in 2018.”

    The on-board kids’ club is due to be trialled next year, along with the new inflight entertainment.

    SEE ALSO: 15 Things Every Great Airport Needs

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    BI DAY2 12

    Cannabis dealing has come to a school playground in Colorado where the recreational use of marijuana has been legal since the beginning of the year.

    A 10-year-old boy was reported for selling a bag of marijuana to three other children for $11.

    To make matters worse one of the pupils, who did not have the ready cash, honored the debt the following day with a marijuana-laced bar of chocolate.

    In both cases the cannabis had been taken from the children’s grandparents.

    With marijuana being legal the authorities in Greeley, Colorado have been unable to prosecute anyone for the playground transactions, even though the children have been disciplined.

    But it has alarmed parents at the school.

    “I didn’t think I would have to have a drug conversation with my six year old,” one parent said.

    Jennifer Sheldon, the principal of Montfort Elementary School, where the drug dealing took place, has sent a letter to parents asking them to be vigilant.

    "We urge all parents, grandparents and anyone who cares for children to treat marijuana as you would prescription drugs, alcohol or even firearms," the letter said.

    "This drug is potentially lethal to children, and should always be kept under lock and key, away from young people."

    Earlier this week John Hickenlooper, the Democrat who is seeking re-election as Colorado’s governor described the decision to legalize cannabis, following a referendum, was reckless.

    Since then Washington State has also legalized recreational use of the drug and moves to follow suit are under way in Alaska, Washington DC and parts of Maine.

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    Kailash Satyarthi

    Kailash Satyarthi's work made a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of children – and yet until he won the Nobel Peace Prize, on Friday, he was not a well-known figure outside of India.

    The founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a charity which has led the campaign against bonded and child labour in India and beyond, Mr Satyarthi, 60, has been dedicated to helping youngsters for almost 35 years.

    His work has been celebrated by Gordon Brown, who met him when he visited India as prime minister in 2009.

    As his colleagues in Delhi celebrated today, his son Bhuvan, who also works in the BBA charity, told the Telegraph the prize was a recognition of his father's role in saving more than 83,000 children from bonded labour.

    The group stages dramatic rescues of child labourers, many of whom are often sold into it by poor families, and rehabilitates them in residential homes.

    "This award is a great recognition of all the activists fighting against exploitation and child labour globally. It is a matter of great pride and humility for all of us because this is the first time an Indian has won this peace prize and it will help us in our campaign against child labour," he said.

    "His biggest achievement has been setting up [this organisation] and inspiring thousands of child rights activists and rescuing 83,500 children from bonded and slave labour in India."

    Living in New Delhi, the father of two has spent his working life trying to ensure that Indian children are free to receive an education.

    He told The Hindustan Times earlier this year : "A few years after we started BBA, we realised that to combat child trafficking and labour we must address the source of the problem: villages since nearly, 70 per cent of child labourers come from villages.

    "So we decided to create an environment where children are withdrawn from the workplaces, attend school, voice their opinions and ensure that authorities hear them out."

    His organisation created a series of "model villages" which are free from child exploitation and promote child rights issues.

    Since the model’s inception in 2001, BBA has transformed 356 villages as child friendly villages across 11 states of India, but most of the work is concentrated in Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

    The children of these villages attend school, and participate in a wide range of governance meetings to discuss the running of their villages, through child governance bodies and youth groups.

    BBA also works to ensure that children up to the age of 14 have access to free, universal and quality education – and that schools have proper infrastructure so that girls don’t drop out.

    It also works with local communities to address traditions such as child marriage, which usually marks the end of education for girls.

    And the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize shines a light on Mr Satyarthi's work - which was not widely appreciated. At 10.02am on Friday, he had 100 followers on Twitter.

    By 10.28am, that figure had risen almost ten-fold, to 999.

    And an hour later, he had more than 5,000 followers - and many people in India were questioning why they had never heard of their new national hero.

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    silhouette computer headphones manHow do websites know who I am?

    Typically, every time you visit a website, a little text file is left in a folder on your computer. These data are called "cookies". They log which websites you visit and when.

    That sounds sinister?

    Cookies were designed to remember the items in your online shopping trolley, passwords, and preferences such as language and timezone and so on. They made using websites faster, simpler and more enjoyable. Without cookies, for example, online banking websites would log off users as they navigated around their accounts.

    How are they used now?

    Cookies also allow companies can build a picture of who you are and what you like to do, creating a detailed browsing history. The information is highly valued by advertisers, which use it to target customers. For example, say you search for a specific set of earrings or cuff links on Google. Minutes later, on another website, you might find there are adverts for the exact product, or similar ones, surrounding the page.

    Isn't this an invasion of privacy?

    That is the accusation. In May 2012, EU legislation took effect that required Internet users to opt-in before cookies could be created, to help the less technically-minded.

    How do I turn off all 'cookies'?

    You can turn off cookies altogether via the internet options for your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and so on). You can also delete cookies that have already been left on your machine. Beware that this could make it difficult to use some websites – and you might lose login details.

    What else do I need to know?

    New technologies have rapidly developed since the EU ruling. One is "canvas fingerprinting” . Here, your browser is asked to draw a small image on your screen when you visit a website, without you knowing. The image is turned into a number and which indicates which websites you've visited and when. There is no opt in out. "Private" modes on browsers can't stop it either.

    Technology developments also allow precise "targeting". For example, a beer advert might be triggered only if the weather was sunny outside, established by checking your location (easily found without the need for cookies) against a local weather feed.

    What about other websites?

    Facebook, in particular, collects a huge amount of information on its users. Even if you keep your date of birth, gender, relationship status and address private, Facebook makes educated guesses, based on what you post, who your friends are and so on. Click on the advertisements it posts and select "Why am I seeing this" to see what it thinks of you.

    Google algorithms also read your emails to "target" advertisements. Say you receive an email from friends about holiday plans to visit France. This would be logged and you might begin to see advertisements for cut-price ferries or flights when you check your mail.

    - The Telegraph website uses cookies. Read our privacy policy here .

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    Six years after offering hope and change, polls show the American public has fallen out of love with their president — so where did it all go wrong?

    Barack Obama romped to the presidency of the United States in 2008 on a tidal wave of ‘hope and change’. Back then, the financial crisis was raging and US troops were still engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a fresh-faced Mr Obama brimmed with confidence.

    He predicted that future generations would look back on his election and see the moment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal … when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.”

    Six years later, Mr Obama is weary and greyed and finds his job approval ratings stuck in the low-40s. This October is the 17th consecutive month in which polls show that a majority of Americans disapprove of his leadership.

    With November’s mid-term elections less than a month away, even fellow Democrats won't be seen dead with the man who once transformed their party's fortunes. Apart from some closed-door fundraisers, Mr Obama is all but invisible on the campaign trail.

    So where did it all go wrong?

    It was the economy, stupid …

    Since Mr Obama took office facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, unemployment has fallen from 10pc to 6pc and American businesses have created 10 million new jobs — that’s more than Japan, Europe and every other advanced economy combined.

    the obamas

    So why do only 39pc of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, according to YouGov? It’s because too many of those jobs are “McJobs” — that is, low-paid and part-time work that don’t leave people feeling better off.

    In numerical terms, GDP has risen by 8pc since Mr Obama took office, but median household incomes are down 4pc and — unlike during the George W Bush years — there is no housing boom or easy credit make up the difference.

    Then there were healthcare reforms … that were bad for a president’s health

    Elected on a wave of euphoria, Mr Obama bet the house on reforming America’s Byzantine healthcare system — quite literally as it turned out.

    He succeeded in forcing the Obamacare reforms through Congress, but the payback came in the 2010 mid-term elections. The Tea Party movement was born and a fired-up Republican base took back the House of Representatives. Washington has been gridlocked pretty much ever since.

    The big hurdle was the ‘individual mandate’ that forced all Americans to buy health insurance on pain of a fine. Mr Obama appeared to underestimate how little Americans, born to be free, like being mandated to do anything.

    Then came the roll-out fiasco …

    Mr Obama had promised America they could go online and buy insurance “the same way you'd shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon”. In the event all they got was error messages and spinning egg timers as the Obamacare website crashed day after day.


    Americans are naturally suspicious about the role of big government, and the disastrous Obamacare rollout only confirmed many in that prejudice. Suffice to say Amazon and Kayak would have filed for bankruptcy long ago if they handled their product launches like Mr Obama’s department of Health and Human Services rolled out Obamacare.

    To confirm the Obama administration’s reputation for incompetence …

    Like George W Bush after Hurricane Katrina, Mr Obama’s approval numbers never recovered from the sight of his flagship piece of legislation capsizing so ignominiously before it had even left the harbour.

    The ship has been righted and re-floated, but with further legal challenges pending no-one is too confident of her structural integrity.

    Add to that the Benghazi disaster, where Mr Obama lost his ambassador to Libya, and the on-going crisis in the administration of Veterans Affairs, and it seems many voters are no longer inclined to give Mr Obama the benefit of the doubt.

    And all this, just as everyone was getting sick of him anyway …

    Call it the whip-lash effect, but as the saying goes, “nothing turns to hate so bitter as what once was love.” Having been elected on a wave of such stratospheric adulation, it was perhaps inevitable Mr Obama would disappoint more deeply.

    Still, America elected to give him a second shot, and at the start of Mr Obama's second term the nation was brimming with hopes for a grand bargain on American finances and for a bolder, more engaged President Obama.

    The second honeymoon didn’t last long: from a January 2013 high of +13, the presidential ratings — the difference between those who approve or disapprove of the president — had slipped underwater by June and in November hit a rock bottom: -15. They have been gurgling along in the -10 region ever since.

    But there is always golf to take your mind of things …

    Golf is usually a retirement option, but to many observers Mr Obama seems to have taken his early, completing nearly 200 rounds since taking office — including nearly 40 this year alone.


    It’s not that the president doesn’t have a right to relax, but it wasn’t just Republicans who were angered by the sight of Mr Obama laughing and joking on a golf cart just minutes after making an announcement condemning the beheading of the journalist James Foley.

    Which perhaps explains why it’s personal now …

    For much of the Obama presidency, voters have tended to draw a distinction between the man and the problems faced by the nation – many of which, like high deficits, wars and unemployment, were blamed either on the George W Bush era or global factors beyond the president’s control.

    It was that buffer that explained how Mr Obama broke all historical precedent and won re-election with unemployment running at nearly 8pc. While some of his policies were unpopular, a strong majority still found the president to be an "honest and trustworthy" leader.

    Now those ratings too are under water, and Mr Obama is identified as part of the problem, with only 27 per cent of Americans believing that “things in the United States are heading in the right direction” according to a CBS/New York Times poll this week.

    For Democrats hoping keep control of the Senate in November that’s a horrible number. The Obama love affair looks well and truly over.

    Curated for the web by David Lawler.

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    the right to be forgotten google

    From a media professional to a former clergyman, here's what people are requesting to be removed from Google search results.

    United Kingdom:

    Right to be forgotten

    *An individual asked to have removed links to articles on the internet that reference his dismissal for sexual crimes committed on the job. Google did not remove the pages from search results.

    *A doctor requested the company remove more than 50 links to newspaper articles about a botched procedure. Three pages that contained personal information about the doctor but did not mention the procedure have been removed from search results for his name. The rest of the links to reports on the incident remain in search results.

    Right to be forgotten*A man asked that Google remove a link to a news summary of a local magistrate’s decisions that included the man’s guilty verdict. Under the UK Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, this conviction has been spent. The pages have been removed from search results for his name.

    *A public official asked the search company to remove a link to a student organisation’s petition demanding his removal. Google did not remove the page from search results.


    Right to be forgotten

    *A request from a crime victim to remove 3 links that discuss the crime, which occurred decades ago. The pages have been removed from search results for her name.Right to be forgotten

    *Request to remove a link to a page that had taken a self-published image and reposted it. The page has been removed from search results for her name.


    *A financial professional asked the search engine to remove more than 10 links to pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. They did not remove the pages from search results.

    Germany:Right to be forgotten

    *An individual asked to remove a link to an article covering a contest in which he participated as a minor. The page has been removed from search results for his name.

    Right to be forgottenBelgium:

    Right to be forgotten

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    Fears are growing that the Ebola epidemic could spread from the Democratic Republic of Congo into neighboring Ivory Coast and Ghana, where 60pc of the world’s cocoa is farmed, causing prices to surge and then crash.

    Economists have warned of an “Ebola effect” to cocoa prices, which are already extremely volatile to pests, civil war, political crisis and the weather. The outbreak of the deadly disease, which has killed 4,000 people worldwide so far, could cause yet another boom and bust, consultants at PwC said.

    The cocoa bean farms of West Africa, which are about to start harvesting, have suffered from a lack of investment over the last 20 years because speculators have been deterred by price volatility, according to the accountancy firm.

    The ageing orchards of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and elderly farmers who are working the land, are in need of further investment in order to satisfy the world’s growing taste for chocolate products.

    Cocoa prices have risen 16pc in the last 12 months, and the average price of cocoa in September is up by 30pc on same period for 2013.

    If these higher prices encourage more investment in new cocoa orchards, there could then be another bust in cocoa products in 2020s, just as the was in the 1980s following the 1970s cocoa price boom,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.

    “The challenge for both policy-makers and confectionary companies will be to smooth out these boom-bust cycles, which can do great damage to the small farmers.”

    Prices also surged in 1969 as the deterioration of West African road network constrained supply, then prices crashed as a result two years later.

    1977 saw the biggest spike in cocoa prices in the modern age up to $8,000 per metric tonne.

    Soaring chocolate sales in China are also crunching supply and putting pressure on West African production, according to Thomas Bischof, marketing manager for Buhler, which makes chocolate-making ­machines.

    His warning came at last week’s World Chocolate Forum in London.

    Experts at the event said ­traditional treats will have to change as demand for cocoa increases.

    Bars will be bulked up with cheaper ­ingredients like sugar, nougat and raisins as prices soar.

    Nestle and Mars are trying to rectify the lack of investment and future supply crisis with $1bn of funds, Mr Hawksworth added.

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    google glass

    Talking on your phone in the street has become accepted behaviour. Talking to your phone in the street is a different matter. So I’m feeling more than a little self-conscious as, in the middle of the camera-happy crowds on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, I ask my smartphone: “OK Google. Show me a good gelateria near here.”

    My words appear on the screen as “Show me if he could chill out a Rooney,” followed by a link to quotes from the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. On my fourth try – by which time my attempts at clear enunciation are attracting some serious attention – a disembodied voice, like that of a slightly stressed London PR girl, informs me “Here are the listings for some good gelaterias”. A selection of nearby ice-cream emporiums pops up, complete with photos, contact details, a map and user reviews.

    However, there’s one thing I haven’t told my Google Now voice assistant. I know Florence at least as well as she does. I’m also a bit of a gelato aficionado – and there’s one glaring omission in the list she's sent me: the Gelateria della Passera, a tiny natural gelateria in a cute little piazza, with knockout flavors such as mojito or chocolate orange. It also happens to be the closest good gelateria to the Ponte Vecchio. Closer than the admittedly excellent Carapina – which Ms Google did recommend, and which would be my second choice.

    I was in Florence on a trip organized by Google to demonstrate “how Google tools and technology are transforming holidays”. The trip would take me and a group of other British and German travel and tech journalists from central Florence to the heart of Chianti, via a fleet of flame-red Fiat 500s that made us all feel like we were in an Italian remake of The Italian Job. All that was lacking was the voice of Michael Caine.

    Some tools, like Google Maps and Street View, are by now old familiars. Along with the chance to be plagued by emails wherever I go, Maps is the reason I have a smartphone – being able to find out how to reach my destination by the shortest route, complete with bus and train times in many cases, has replaced hours spent poring over timetables and paper maps (though I still love these, and continue to use them on mountain walks – smartphones are only as good as long as the battery lasts).

    Florence ItalyGoogle Now is a more recent innovation (it was introduced on the first Android phones in July 2012, and is now also available for iPhones). Confusingly, it’s actually two things in one package. One is Voice Search, that voice-controlled assistant, activated simply by speaking the words “OK Google” (though I discovered it also responds to “OK Goo”, or even “K Goo”). The other is an “intelligent personal assistant” that aims to get you useful information before you even ask for it.

    Let’s say you get a flight confirmation via email. Depending on whether the service has rolled out to your territory yet (America always gets first dibs), Google Now will turn this into a “card” which will pop up on the day you’re due to fly. Your boarding time, terminal and flight status will all appear – eventually, once the relevant deals are sealed, your boarding pass too – and you can also find out when you need to leave for the airport depending on the volume of traffic en route. Other cards might include weather forecasts for your location and destination, the time back home, birthday reminders, bills to pay, hotel and restaurant reservations, and how your favourite football team is getting on. Alarmingly, much of the information is based on daily habits. After a while, it will start giving you traffic updates based on routes you take regularly. Oh, and it also knows where you parked your car. How? You were navigating using Google Maps, and you stopped. Welcome to the all-seeing Googleverse.

    That, at least, is the theory. However, Google Now gave me very few cards apart from the weather and Bristol City’s next fixture. Indeed, there was an element of “beta” in much of the weekend’s challenges. We were ushered into our villa’s herb garden to pick the ingredients for dinner, and encouraged to ask our Google smartphones to show us photos of thyme or marjoram. That worked reasonably well, though “Show me thyme” needed to be spoken as “Show me the herb thyme” if you didn’t want to be told that it was 6.32pm. But when one of our Google minders tried to demonstrate how easy it is to be reminded next time you’re near the supermarket that you’re out of Swiss chard, Google Now stayed stubbornly silent. “It worked yesterday,” became the buzzwords of the trip.

    As for Google Glass, which we got to try before a refreshingly un-technological traditional Tuscan dinner at Villa Vignamaggio, it’s still very much in the gimmick class (something Google itself seems to have realised – many early adopters have stopped using the product, and the general consumer release has been pushed back from 2014 to “we’re not sure”). You can take photos or videos directly from your wearable technology glasses, but the quality is poor, the glasses made me feel dizzy, and attempting to coax them into translating into English the words on the back of an olive oil tin produced no results. A feature that allowed one to stare up at the heavens and see the constellations even in daylight was cool – but it’s not going to turn the travel world upside down.

    In the end – at least until Google can haggle with taxi drivers in Neapolitan dialect – what the trip showed me was that Google’s most valuable features for those on holiday remain Google Search and Maps. Sure, being able to search hands-free and get spoken results can be useful at times. And travelers may find Google Now’s predictive cards handy – personally, I found them slightly creepy. One other function in Google Translate was useful, I’ll admit: being able to photograph a restaurant menu in any of around 50 languages and get an English translation (not a perfect one, but better than nothing). And Street View and/or Google Earth will always be fantastic for checking the surroundings of apartments offered for rent on sites such as Airbnb, or for making sure that delightful Puglian hotel isn’t next door to a wrecker’s yard.

    Many of us no longer take guidebooks with us when we go on holiday because we’re confident that we can get all the information we need from our smartphones. I learned a few new tricks during the Google trip; but what was missing was the sense that I was in the hands of someone I could trust. Reams of facts are available to travelers these days at the swipe of a finger. What’s lacking is quality control.

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    doha qatarThe Qatari government employed an al-Qaeda money man despite him being officially designated a terrorist by the US.

    Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda through a terrorist network while working in the Gulf state’s Ministry of Interior.

    The disclosure will add to the pressure being heaped on Qatar to do more to stop the financing of Islamist terrorists across the Middle East, as well as in Pakistan, Afghanistan and North Africa.

    Qatar has been accused of either directly funding terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to financiers based there.

    American sources have suggested Qatar, the world’s wealthiest country per head of population, has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the leading source of private donations to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), as well as to al-Qaeda.

    According to official US Treasury documents, Kuwari, 37, provided “financial and logistical support to al-Qaeda.”

    The US alleges he was integral to a network running al-Qaeda’s “core pipeline” for moving money and operatives between the Middle East and south Asia.

    The official terrorist designation against him goes on: “Based in Qatar, Kuwari has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to al-Qaeda and has provided funding for al-Qaeda operations, as well as to secure the release of al-Qaeda detainees in Iran and elsewhere.”

    The US accuses Kuwari of operating in a network with another Qatari, Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar, 33. According to the US documents, “Al-Khawar has worked with Kuwari to deliver money, messages and other material support to al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

    "Like Kuwari, Khawar is based in Qatar and has helped to facilitate travel for extremists interested in traveling to Afghanistan for jihad.”

    A US think tank, which is researching Qatar’s links to terrorist funding and is expected in the coming weeks to publish a dossier in which it will identify about 20 Qatari or Qatar-based terror financiers, has now uncovered evidence that Kuwari worked for Qatar’s Ministry of Interior before being placed on the terror list in 2011.

    Kuwari is listed as working in the Ministry of Interior’s civil defence department in 2009, two years before being named by the American government as an al-Qaeda financier.

    He has been questioned and held twice by the Qatari authorities for terror offenses: once in 2009, after which he appears to have been given his old job back, and again in 2011. It is understood he still lives freely in Doha. Qatar refused to comment last week on his status.

    The Ministry of Interior was headed until last year by a controversial and powerful member of the ruling al-Thani family, Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, who was also formerly the minister of religious affairs.

    He is accused in the official 9/11 Commission report of giving shelter to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attack on New York’s Twin Towers.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was given a job with the Qatari government in 1992.

    Four years later, he fled the country after being tipped off by a senior official in the Qatari government that the Americans were planning to arrest him for a car-bomb attack on the Twin Towers in 1993.

    The disclosure of Kuwari’s employment for the Qatari government follows an investigation by The Telegraph that showed another senior al-Qaeda financier — also with links to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — had worked for Qatar’s Central Bank.

    The Telegraph reported how Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy was jailed for six months in Qatar for his role in funding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, only to be released and seemingly allowed to carry on fundraising. Subaiy appears to be well connected in the upper Qatari echelons.

    A diplomatic cable sent in May 2008 hinted at a dispute between the Qatari intelligence agencies and the country’s then all-powerful prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani — known as HBJ for short — over the handling of the Subaiy case.

    The cable by the US’s then chargé d’affaires, Michael Ratney, said: “HBJ was involved very early on, but to the consternation, we believe, of Qatar’s security agencies.”

    Subaiy was released after six months, in September 2009, and immediately added to a United Nations list of individuals subject to targeted sanctions because of their terrorist links.

    Documents released last month by the US Treasury allege that Subaiy is now funding Islamist terrorists fighting in Syria and Iraq. Recipients of the financing included an al-Qaeda terrorist who had been plotting to blow up European and American passenger jets using a toothpaste-tube bomb that could be smuggled on to aircraft. Likewise, Qatar refuses to say what status Subaiy has now.

    Another Qatari terror financier on both a US and UN blacklist is Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaymi, who is accused of sending $2 million a month to al-Qaeda jihadists in Iraq. The group was the forerunner to ISIS. Nuaymi is also alleged to have given £375,000 to al-Qaeda in Syria.

    Nuaymi has been a senior figure in Qatar, having been a president of the Qatar Football Association and founder of a charity linked to the royal family, the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammed al-Thani Charitable Association.

    A human-rights charity set up by Nuaymi in Geneva said last week that Nuaymi was not under arrest in Qatar despite being designated a terrorist financier by the US last December and subsequently by the UN.

    Nuaymi, who was arrested in the late 1990s in Qatar for criticizing some members of the ruling family, has denied the accusations and claimed the US was plotting against him.

    Dr David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank investigating Qatar’s links to terror funding, said: “The United States blacklisted Kuwari in 2011 as part of the biggest terror finance bust in years, which US officials described as al-Qaeda’s core pipeline for moving money and operatives between the Middle East and south Asia. And what did Qatar do? They let him out of jail three months later.

    “When Kuwari and Khawar were arrested in 2009, the government apparently let Kuwari go back to his old job at the Interior Ministry. It is probably no coincidence that the interior minister at the time was Abdullah bin Khalid bin Hamad al Thani, whom US intelligence officials have said helped the mastermind of 9/11 and numerous other plots leave Qatar when US officials were preparing to arrest him.

    "Yet another example of Qatar turning a blind eye to terror finance and letting wanted men escape punishment.”

    Dr. Weinberg is expected to publish a report on the Qatari terror links in the coming weeks and is expected to identify about 20 terror financiers with Qatari links.

    He added: “Given that Nuaymi allegedly provided millions of dollars to ISIS's forerunner, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the fact that Doha has yet to take action against him undercuts the Qatari narrative that it is doing everything it can to fight ISIS. One would think that punishing Nuaymi would serve as a powerful deterrent to others who might think about supporting ISIS or other terrorist groups.”

    Qatar has denied funding terrorism in the Middle East.

    In a statement, Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al- Attiyah, its minister of foreign affairs, said: “The State of Qatar does not support — in any way — the radical groups who are terrorizing innocent citizens and destabilizing the Middle East. As we have stated repeatedly, again and again, we believe their actions are evil, abhorrent, and antithetical to all that Islam stands for.

    “Our efforts to counter terrorism include many actions and initiatives. Internally, our Ministry of Finance and our central bank work closely with other governments to counter the financing of terrorism.

    “Our Ministry of Internal Affairs also works closely with Interpol and other international security forces. Externally, we are a member of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.”

    SEE ALSO: Here's why ISIS is winning

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    Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly paid more than $100 million for a swathe of land in Hawaii where he will create a private getaway befitting one of the world's richest men.

    The Facebook chief executive bought part of Kauai, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands, Forbes magazine reported .

    His 700 acres on the north shore will include a pristine white sand beach, a former sugarcane plantation, and an organic farm.

    Under Hawaiian law the the beach will have to remain open to he public as the state has no private stretches of sand.

    Zuckerberg, 30, who is worth around $33 billion, is the second Silicon Valley billionaire to buy up part of Hawaii.

    Last year Oracle chairman Larry Ellison purchased the whole of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth largest island, for up to $600 million .

    Speculation that Zuckerberg could be interested in property on Kauai mounted last year after he was spotted on the island, with his wife Priscilla Chan, eating at Bubba Burgers.

    northshore2It would be his latest leap up the property ladder. In 2010 Zuckerberg was renting a modest property near Facebook's headquarters while he put in 16 hour days at the office.

    The following year he upgraded to a $7 million, 5,000 sq ft residence in Palo Alto, California which was still modest in comparison to the homes of other technology billionaires.

    He later spent $30 million buying up four homes adjoining his in Palo Alto to fend off a developer who was going to purchase them, and market them as being "next door to Mark Zuckerberg".

    When asked about his latest reported acquisition a Facebook spokesman told Forbes : "We don't comment on rumours and speculation, but thank you for reaching out!"

    NOW WATCH: 7 Crazy Facts That Sound Fake But Are Actually True

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    isis militantThe US military admitted last night that Isil "has tactical momentum on several fronts" as jihadist forces continued to make advances in both Syria and Iraq.

    American warplanes dramatically escalated strikes against Isil fighters laying siege to the Syrian town of Kobani but have so far been unable to push the jihadists back.

    Meanwhile, Isil forces surrounded a major airbase in western Iraq and are threatening to overrun government forces there.

    The jihadists' endurance on the battlefield in both countries raises questions about whether the American-led air campaign is succeeding in meeting President Barack Obama's goal of "defeating and ultimately destroying Isil".

    Mr Obama met with a war council of generals from 22 countries last night to discuss the coalition effort against the jihadists.

    The President said the US was focused on the fighting in Iraq's Anbar province and "deeply concerned" about the Isil siege of Kobani.

    "As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback, but our coalition is united behind this long-term effort," he said.

    A US military official said after the meeting, which took place on American airbase outside Washington DC, that "the coalition has strategic momentum although Isil has tactical momentum on several fronts."

    The official added that Isil was proving "an adaptive enemy" which changed its methods in the face of the air campaign. "The coalition will adapt as well by leveraging all elements of power," he said.

    The White House has long insisted that military power alone would not defeat Isil and that the world would have to unite to cut off its financing, to prevent new recruits from reaching the battlefield and to counter its propaganda.

    During the daily White House press briefing, Josh Earnest, Mr Obama's spokesman, was pressed to explain how the military strategy could be considered a success when grim news continued to come from the battlefield.

    "We're in the early days of the execution of that strategy, but certainly the early evidence indicates that this strategy is succeeding," Mr Earnest said.

    Turkey Kurds Look Kobani October 10The US launched 21 air strikes on jihadist forces around Kobani on Monday, a far heavier bombardment than has been seen before. American jets, joined by aircraft from Saudi Arabia, struck Isil compounds, vehicles and staging locations.

    "Indications are that air strikes have slowed Isil advances," the US military said. "However, the security situation on the ground there remains fluid, with Isil attempting to gain territory and Kurdish militia continuing to hold out."

    Washington remains deeply frustrated by Turkey, which has shown more interest in fighting the Assad regime than the Sunni jihadists.

    Turkey yesterday bombed Kurdish guerrilla fighters opposed to Isil and is so far refusing to allow the US to use Turkish airbases for strikes against Isil.

    Jihadist fighters are meanwhile threatening to overrun the al-Asad airbase in Iraq's Anbar province. There were reports of Iraqi troops burning their uniforms as they prepared to give up the fight.

    Jihadists had earlier seized another base near Hit, a small town in Anbar.

    Both the US and the Iraqi government are concerned that the militants could try to take Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, and the strategically important Haditha dam.

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    tomato juice flightWho knew the divisive power of the humble tomato? A straw poll of Telegraph Travel writers, asking about their in-flight tomato juice consumption, produced these strikingly polarized answers.

    “Tomatoes make me feel weird,” said one. “It is one of the few food/drink things I can't even comprehend let alone enjoy,” echoed another. “Drink of the devil,” added a third, even more adamant member of the anti-tomato brigade.

    At the other end of the scale, others showed an almost perturbing passion for its juice – particularly as a cocktail ingredient. “I drink Bloody Marys on planes, trains and Sundays,” revealed one.

    “Nothing strange about having a craving for Bloody Marys (even when served without Tabasco sauce) on planes,” agreed another.

    “Made properly, a Bloody Mary is one of the great cocktails,” concluded another connoisseur. “Like the Martini and the Old Fashioned and the Gimlet.”

    As revealing as this was about certain writers’ drinking habits, even more intriguing were the remarks of a couple of others, who said they felt the lure of the tomato – but exclusively at high altitude.

    “I definitely only drink tomato juice in the air,” one commented. “I hardly ever have Bloody Marys but on the few occasions when I do, it has always been on a plane,” said another.

    So, why is this interesting? Well, it lends anecdotal support to the notion that tomato juice somehow comes into its own in plane cabins. The internet has allowed previously closet fans to discover they are not alone. Various forums reveal many, many fliers with a partiality for an in-flight Bloody Mary or tomato juice.

    Our Telegraph Travel survey is of course just as unscientific, but there are an increasing number of more substantial studies suggesting the juice genuinely does have more allure at 30,000 feet.

    The German airline, Lufthansa, has long noticed strangely high levels of tomato juice consumption in the air. Last year, there was as much tomato juice as beer consumed on the German airline’s fleet (1.8million liters in case you wondered – which, to the visually inclined, would go a long way to filling an Olympic-sized swimming pool).

    And, as the NBC recently pointed out, the airline commissioned a study to find out why – with interesting results. The Fraunhofer Institute, a Munich-based research organization, devised a test to find out whether if our perceptions of tomato juice change when in the air.

    Subjects took part in an elaborate test in the original fuselage of an airbus A310, where the low cabin pressure, noises and flying conditions of a flight were all recreated.

    “At normal pressure, people give tomato juice a much lower rating, typically describing it as musty,” said Andrea Burdack-Freitag from the organisation. But things changed during the simulated flight, with subjects saying they found it more pleasantly fruity.

    It reinforces previous research carried out by the institute, which had highlighted various olfactory shifts at altitude. When you’re on a plane, your experiences of taste are as though you have a cold, it says. Salt is perceived as 20 to 30 percent less intense, while sugar decreases in intensity by 15 to 20 percent.

    (Telegraph Travel has previously covered the battering taste buds take the air. Cabin pressure and dehydration often collide, making planes particularly unappealing to food-lovers. See the article “ Why does plane food taste so bad?” for more details.) But tomatoes, the theory goes, retain and even improve their flavor higher up – with that slightly acrid tomato taste at sea level becoming an advantage up high.

    Is tomato flavour noise-resistant?

    While the Fraunhofer tests indicate what happens to our tastebuds when airborne, the reasons why are less clear-cut. Cabin pressure and humidity could play a part, it says. But another potential answer is cited in a different article, which also made happy reading for tomato growers when it was widely reported earlier this year. It also said there may be a scientific basis for concluding Bloody Marys are the best in-flight drink and the theory behind is surprising. In the article, Airplane noise and the taste of umami, published in the online journal Flavour, the authors say background sound levels – and not cabin pressure – could be the biggest influence on our taste-buds when airborne. They put it like this: “all tastes may not be created equal when it comes to crossmodal noise-induced sensory suppression effects.”

    Which, in slightly more layman terms, means flavors are likely to be affected in different ways in a noisy plane. Tomato, which is rich in umami, the so-called fifth taste (the others being sweet, sour, salty and bitter), could be relatively resistant to the white noise on an aircraft.

    A more in-depth study of foods that are umami-rich or without umami – under different conditions –is needed to know for sure, its authors say.

    The study concludes “…perhaps all those travelers who order a Bloody Mary after the seatbelt sign has been turned off have figured out intuitively what scientists are only now slowly coming to recognize empirically, regarding the interaction of what we hear, and what we taste."

    Download the full PDF here of the article here.

    Different nations, different tastes?

    Heston Blumenthal – who else? – was in the vanguard of those switched on to the potential of umami. Last year, British Airways announced a new umami-rich menu, inspired by the chef’s efforts to cater to passengers at 35,000ft for Channel 4’s Mission Impossible programme, to counter the bland reputation of airline food offering.

    "You can't load more salt but you can definitely up the umami," Blumenthal said on the show.

    BA’s current head chef, Mark Tazzioli, concurs: “We crave umami rich foods on flights, because the conditions of flying mean that our taste buds are affected at altitude.”

    He also pointed out that two key ingredients of a Bloody Mary – tomato juice and Worcester sauce – are high in umami.

    Several other airlines – including Lufthansa – have introduced similar menu changes. But, when it comes to taste, inevitably no one size fits all. When Telegraph Travel inquired about the popularity of tomato juice – either on its own or in Bloody Marys – elsewhere, the results were inconclusive.

    Air France cited water, fruit juices, especially orange juice, and soft drinks (cola) as their most popular alcohol-free drinks, with champagne and whisky the most served alcoholic tipples. Passengers showed similar patterns on KLM, while tomato juice was at number seven on the Wow Air non-alcoholic chart (tea/ coffee was at the top), and iced tea and wine headed the list for Malaysian Airlines’s passengers.

    Tomato juice was “not a particularly popular choice among passengers”, said a Garuda spokeswoman. It’s hard to know whether the variations are due to availability or taste – although Garuda did suggest regional differences, saying “a Bloody Mary is a popular choice on European and Australian flight sectors.”

    Whatever their current rate of tomato consumption, airlines have plenty of food for thought from these recent studies, although the power of tomato juice may not extend as far as preventing DVT, as one article has suggested .

    Meanwhile, we also wait for conclusive evidence to explain why many people drink tomato juice in the air. But as for the next in-flight tipple, while we do? Make mine a Bloody Mary.

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