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- 03/16/16--18:53: _Donald Trump's butl...
- 03/19/16--12:40: _The remains of a 12...
- 03/21/16--12:01: _Iran to build a sta...
- 03/26/16--11:57: _Why 1971 was the gr...
- 03/26/16--12:01: _Japan still can't g...
- 03/27/16--10:46: _Inside Netflix: How...
- 03/29/16--08:25: _We've 'fried' the m...
- 04/02/16--09:16: _Why losing Wisconsi...
- 04/05/16--07:13: _A former CIA operat...
- 04/06/16--07:35: _FITCH: China's debt...
- 04/07/16--12:51: _David Cameron admit...
- 04/14/16--02:48: _Kenya forced Coca-C...
- 04/26/16--08:27: _BREXIT: The Leave c...
- 05/27/16--08:22: _KRAUTHAMMER: 'Obama...
- 06/14/16--16:40: _Alibaba CEO Jack Ma...
- 07/12/16--10:11: _This recently arres...
- 07/17/16--04:20: _2 years later: Vide...
- 08/18/16--07:09: _A battery breakthro...
- 09/01/16--15:30: _Researchers in Sout...
- 09/28/16--09:34: _What life is like u...
- 03/19/16--12:40: The remains of a 12,400-year-old puppy have been found in Siberia
- 03/26/16--11:57: Why 1971 was the greatest year of all time for pop culture
- 03/26/16--12:01: Japan still can't generate inflation
- 03/27/16--10:46: Inside Netflix: How it's building the first global TV network (NFLX)
- 04/02/16--09:16: Why losing Wisconsin could cost Trump the Republican nomination
- 04/06/16--07:35: FITCH: China's debt explosion threatens financial stability
- What UK Thinks: Remain 54 / Leave 46
- ORB poll for The Telegraph: one in five still undecided
- Obama's intervention yet to make a notable impact
- 05/27/16--08:22: KRAUTHAMMER: 'Obama's naive idealism has caused havoc'
- 06/14/16--16:40: Alibaba CEO Jack Ma: Fakes are often better than the real thing
Donald Trump’s butler has seen it all.
From the times that Ivanka Trump, the owner’s daughter, ordered the gardeners off the grounds so that she could swim in the pool naked, to the day the historic library was turned into a bar.
From the happy day Mr Trump married Melania Knauss at the Florida estate, with Hillary Clinton watching on, to the sad moment when he was ordered to move out of his apartment in the 118-room Mar-a-Lago property by Marla Maples, Mr Trump’s then wife.
Anthony Senecal, 74, has worked at the estate for almost 60 years — almost half of the time for Mr Trump.
“You can always tell when the king is here,” said Mr Senecal, pointing out the rows of secret service cars parked outside.
The house was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post, a cereal heiress, in the 1920s. When she died in 1973, she left the house to the United States government with the idea that it would become a presidential retreat.
But the upkeep proved too expensive, and ownership was transferred back to Mrs Post’s daughters, who sold it to Mr Trump for less than $10 million (£7.07m) in 1985. He turned it into a private club a decade later.
Mr Senecal has told The New York Times about his long-time boss who, on being told in 2009 that Mr Senecal wanted to retire, told him: “Tony, to retire is to expire. I’ll see you next season.”
What the butler saw:
He does his own hair
Mr Trump’s hair has, for decades, been a source of fascination to the American public.
And Mr Senecal revealed that, despite the estate having a salon, the billionaire preferred to style his own hair.
He only needs four hours of sleep a night
Like Margaret Thatcher, General David Petraeus, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Pepsi's Indra Nooyi, Mr Trump sleeps only for four hours a night, his butler said.
Then he rises before dawn to read the newspapers before playing golf.
The White House has had a light-sleeping incumbent before. George W Bush was famously in bed by 10pm, but Bill Clinton frequently survived on four or five hours sleep.
He likes his steak rock hard
Mr Trump famously owned a steak company, which went out of business. He still sells “Trump steaks” at his venues — but they are now sourced from a variety of other producers, rather than Mr Trump’s own supplier.
But the New Yorker’s decision to go into the steak business may have been a surprise to those who know him, given that his butler confirmed The Telegraph’s observation that he likes his steaks well done.
“It would rock on the plate, it was so well done,” said Mr Senecal.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The remains of a 12,400 year old puppy have been found in permafrost in Siberia. This has given scientists and important and fascinating opportunity to examine a well-preserved Pleistocene canid for the first time.
The puppy is thought to be the sibling of another whose remains were found in 2011.
It is believed the creature was killed in a landslide, and then became mummified.
The previous kind was in a more advanced state of decay, but the latest discovery has been described by Sergey Fedorov of the North-East Federal University as “preserved from nose to tail, including the hair.”
Interestingly, an MRI scan found the brain was 70 to 80% intact.
Speaking to the Siberian Times, Dr. Pavel Nikolsky, research fellow of the Geological Institute in Moscow, said that the brain “has dried out somewhat, but the parencephalon, cerebellum and pituitary gland are visible. We can say that this is the first time we have obtained the brain of a Pleistocene canid.”
As well as examining the brain, the scientists hope to look at the bacteria in its digestive system and the parasitic ticks in its fur in order to learn more about the diversity of life in Siberia during the Pleistocene – a geological epoch spanning the repeated glaciations known as the last Ice Age.
DNA analysis has revealed the animal to be a dog rather than a wolf.
The mummified canine was found on the banks of the River Syalakh in the Sakha Republic.
Here is a video via Siberia Times:
The discovery of stone tools nearby suggests human activity nearby, leading researchers to speculate that the puppy may have been a pet.
Controversial Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, who wants to clone a number of extinct animals, attended the discovery.
He took samples of the dog's skin, muscle and cartilage, and said he was very excited about the level of preservation.
The scientist has added the dog to the list of animals he wants to clone, which includes wooly mammoths and cave lions.
This article was written by Helena Horton from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is planning to build a statue of the US sailors who were captured in Iranian waters earlier this year, a senior officer said.
The provocative proposal is likely to cause outrage in the US and be seized on by Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran .
Commander Ali Fadavi, the head of the Guard’s naval forces, said the monument of the surrendering Americans would be a “tourist attraction”.
“There are very many photographs of the major incident of arresting US Marines in the Persian Gulf in the media and we intend to build a symbol out of them inside one of our naval monuments,” he told Iran’s Defense Press news agency.
The capture of the 10 US sailors in January was hailed by hardliners in Tehran as a victory over the US and presented as proof that Iran was still resisting America despite the nuclear deal.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said the arrest of the sailors was “God’s deed” and presented medals to the Iranians involved.
The sailors were held at gunpoint and paraded before the cameras but released after a day following phone calls between John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign ministry.
While the Obama administration expressed outrage over the incident, officials said later that the sailors swift release was evidence that communication between the US and Iran was improving after years of estrangement.
But Republicans, including Donald Trump, lambasted the White House and accused President Barack Obama of weakness in the face of Iranian aggression.
"Those young people were on their hands and knees in a begging position with their hands up and thugs behind them with guns, and then we talk like it's OK. It's not OK. It's lack of respect,” Mr Trump said.
Iran’s hardliners are under pressure after the successful negotiation of the nuclear agreement and the victory of the relatively moderate allies of President Hassan Rouhani in last month’s elections.
The construction of the statue would fit with a pattern of provocative behavior intended to show the Guard are still a major player inside Iran.
Earlier this month the Guard test fired two ballistic missiles with the words “Israel must be wiped out” written on their sides in Hebrew. Joe Biden, the US vice president, was visiting Israel at the time of the launch.
The statue is likely to be built on Kharg, a small Iranian island in the Persian Gulf not far from where the sailors were captured.
The monument could feature as a stop for travelers on the Rahian-e-Nour, a semi-mandatory pro-regime pilgrimage that takes visitors to historical spots from the Iran-Iraq war and extols the virtues of the Iranian military.
Commander Fadavi is head of the Revolutionary Guard’s own naval force, which is separate from the main Iranian navy. As well as a military force, the Guard owns a vast economic empire inside Iran.
The Guard report directly to the Supreme Leader and not to the elected president.
Neil McCormick may not agree, but David Hepworth's book 1971: Never a Dull Moment puts a playful case for the year of Ziggy and the Stones
It was the year David Bowie headlined the first Glastonbury festival, recorded Hunky Dory and invented Ziggy Stardust. Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers and recorded Exile on Main Street; Carole King’s stratospheric album sales for Tapestry broke the record, Led Zeppelin and The Who made the heaviest rock ever heard and socially conscious soul was given a rich new tone by Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder.
Having started with The Beatles splitting up, the year ended with “American Pie”, a song “about the loss of innocence, in pop music as well as in the grown-up world”, presaging a new pop era that would fetishise the past.
Don McLean's 'American Pie' ended 1971Credit: Alamy
Was 1971 the greatest and most profoundly influential year in the history of modern popular music? David Hepworth thinks so. But then, he would. Born in 1950, he turned 21 in 1971.
Most fans will have their own golden period within music, the time of their first powerful immersion in pop culture. For me, it was 1977, when I was 16, and rocked to my core by punk. One could mount an equally strong case for 1966, with the trifecta of Revolver, Blonde on Blonde and Pet Sounds, when Jimi Hendrix plugged in and The Velvet Underground hooked up with Andy Warhol.
Hepworth acknowledges the primacy of personal whim in any attempt to pick the year “we felt most alive”, but of 1971 he declares: “The difference is this: I’m right.” And he has written a clever and entertaining book to prove it.
Although his premise is essentially sentimental, Hepworth, a former editor of Smash Hits, Q, Mojo and The Word, proves a refreshingly independent thinker. His style is pithy and his eye for anecdotal detail sharp. With benevolent cynicism, he digs beneath the myths that surround this era’s great recordings, rarely accepting a musician’s own self-serving version of events. Rather, a combination of happenstance, technological changes, artistic egotism, and the naked self-interest of managers and record companies are the driving forces in his account.
Most of the shifts Hepworth identifies were not perceived as particularly seismic at the time. He convincingly explains how Carole King woke up the music industry to the purchasing power of women; how the idiosyncratic radio DJs of the Sixties were replaced by audience-researched playlists that culled multiple singles from a single album to extend its shelf life, creating blockbuster multimillion sellers; how The Rolling Stones, living the “life of a hippy on the budget of a banker”, established a new template for the record business of the future: “funky on the outside, fiscal as hell below”.
As enduring archetypes for contemporary music, Hepworth identifies the surprising trio of Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart and Cat Stevens: “twinkling old-fashioned entertainers” who can convince each member of the audience that they are singing to them alone, “fabulous nine-day wonders who deliver less than meets the eye”, “patently sincere while painfully vague” singer-songwriters.
In the scruffy ambience of Marvin Gaye’s accidental masterpiece What’s Going On and the layered looseness of Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, he detects the roots of modern urban music, more concerned with creating a groove than with song-craft. As fascinated with the margins as with the mainstream, Hepworth notes how the bruised soulfulness of Nick Drake helped to establish “the cult of the noble underrated”; from this cult would later arise the indie reverence for beautiful losers, and “a new cohort of bands that became best known for being unpopular”.
Underlying his examination of the explosive consequences of what, by any measure, was a fantastic year for recorded music is a sense of what we might be losing as we come to the end of the album era. Hepworth offers a sad summation of why a group with the musical swagger and mystique of Led Zeppelin could never emerge in the era of digital recording and social media. As he says of the Stones after 1971: “The rest is pyros.”
His guide to the pioneering trends of 1971 ends, ominously, with the already veteran Elvis Presley parading his greatest hits on a self-referential, Vegas-style tour: a prophetic glimpse of the way all music would be presented in the 21st century.
Am I convinced that 1971 was the most important year in popular music? Not in the least. Many of the trends Hepworth identifies, such as the growing importance of albums over singles, were already at work before the Seventies began; others, such as the transfer of power from live bands to self-producing solo artists, would take decades and many more technological and demographic shifts to take root. Moreover, his parade of greats is haunted by the absence of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, arguably the most influential figures in rock history.
But for a book underpinned by the spurious notion that one musical year might be quantifiably greater than any other, Hepworth’s guide to 1971 proves a thoroughly provoking delight.
This article was written by Music Critic and Neil McCormick from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Japan is still struggling to generate inflation three years into its extraordinary policy assault on low growth and deflation.
Consumer prices remained flat in February, while annual inflation rose by 0.3pc - still a far cry from the Bank of Japan's official 2pc inflation target . Core inflation - which excludes fresh food and energy - rose by 1.1pc last month, unchanged from February.
Standing on the brink of its sixth recession in just seven years, Japan's sluggish economy contracted by a bigger than expected 0.4pc in the last quarter of 2015.
Persistently low inflation has long been a scourge of the central bank, which unleashed the most ambitious set of monetary policy measures ever seen in a modern economy to lift Japan out of its malaise.
The Bank of Japan is purchasing 80 trillion yen in government bonds a year and has sent its main interest rate to -0.1pc to stimulate growth and lending in the world's third largest economy.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe has urged businesses to lift wages for Japanese workers in a bid to get inflation to its 2pc target by the end of the year. This ambitious aim has been held up by Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, but is now set to be revised down after last month's inflation numbers, said analysts.
“Inflation hasn’t hit bottom yet - it’s going down further,” said Shinichiro Kobayashi, economist at Mitsubishi UFJ. “It’s gradually becoming clearer that Kuroda won’t attain the price target as he projects.”
The central bank refrained from any further interest rate cuts this month, having ventured into negative territory in January - a move which sent shockwaves across global markets over fears monetary policy was hitting its limits.
Negative rates have also failed to weak the yen which has risen by 7pc against the dollar since the negative rates move at the end of January. An appreciating currency further dampens inflationary pressures in an economy.
"The Bank of Japan is falling into a vicious cycle in which it remains under pressure for further easing even as it has few effective policy means available," said Koya Miyamae, economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.
This article was written by Mehreen Khan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
SEE ALSO: Japanese stocks are getting destroyed
The lobby of the sprawling, low-roofed Netflix headquarters in a sleepy town in California is dominated by a huge television screen, a popcorn cart and a series of glass display cabinets. They hold 13 golden Emmy Awards that Netflix has won for its stellar original series, including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
In 2007, less than 10 years ago, Netflix was a DVD rental business, like nearly-defunct rental store Blockbuster.
Now it is the dominant internet television service with 76m users worldwide, more than 100 original series and films, and delivered the best return of any stock in 2015.
In the first quarter of 2016, the Californian company is expecting 6.1m new subscribers. Its market cap has doubled from around $20bn (£14bn) in January last year, to $41bn today, putting it on the heels of entertainment behemoth Time Warner, which owns HBO and the Warner Brothers Hollywood studio, and is valued at $53bn. Next up for the streaming giant: scaling up profits.
Earlier this year, Netflix went fully global: it launched simultaneously in 130 new countries. That means whether you’re in Bombay, Bogota or Bangkok, you can now officially subscribe to and stream Netflix. “Today you are witnessing the birth of a new global internet TV network,” chief executive Reed Hastings said during the launch in Las Vegas. “With the help of the internet, we are putting power in consumers’ hands to watch whenever, wherever, and on whatever device."
Netflix by the numbers
Netflix has genuinely transformed how we watch television – the platform has grown almost 10-fold in users since 2000, and reportedly accounts for 36.5% of all Internet traffic during prime time— twice that of its closest competitor, YouTube.
Over the last year, the company’s international audience has been the biggest driver of user growth – more than 35 pc of subscribers are currently non-US, and the percentage is going up. In 2015, it brought in $6.7bn in revenue, with a slim net profit of $122m – less than half of net profits in 2014.
Netflix’s big bet for the future of internet TV is pure storytelling – in 2016, it will reportedly spend $5bn on content, compared to HBO’s $2bn budget, launching 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, stand-up comedy specials, and 30 kids' series.
But betting on quality content is hardly Netflix’s secret sauce – competition is mounting quickly, with the likes of Amazon and Apple entering the fray for original content production, alongside more traditional competitors ranging from HBO to Sky and Hollywood. As Netflix places increasingly more chips on content production, will its revenues be able to catch up?
Reed Hastings, the company’s founder and chief executive, is a slim, bearded Bostonian who started out as a mathematics teacher in Swaziland. At the Netflix headquarters, he doesn’t have an office. Instead, he prefers to work in the cafeteria or other communal spaces on his laptop, replacing closed-door meetings with walks in the dense woods surrounding the office buildings.
“Think about the last month, what did you do every night of the month? How many nights did you watch Netflix?” he said. “What did you do when you didn’t watch Netflix? You watched cable, you watched a sports game, you killed time on Facebook. That’s what we compete with.”
He seems unperturbed by critics’ concerns about Netflix’s rising costs, responding facetiously: “We have been profitable every quarter for 15 years. So the plan is the same for the last 15 years, grow a little bit every quarter.”
Upon being pressed further, he allows: “You improve the service, it gets more members, a bigger budget and we use that to get more content and do more R&D. That’s the virtuous cycle we have been on for the last 15 years. We are only 75m members still – relative to the global footprint of the internet that is small.”
These global aspirations will be the key to Netflix’s success – it’s clear that it is already approaching saturation in its home market, the United States. Last quarter, Netflix missed its own US subscriber growth estimates for the second quarter in a row. It also raised its subscription prices in the US and Europe last year to further fight costs of international expansion.
Meanwhile, it beat its own expectations of international growth, adding 4m new users outside the US. If it can genuinely become the world’s preferred internet TV network, its subscription revenue will eventually subsidise its spending spree.
“The challenge is having enough local content to your footprint and collecting the money. Whether that’s building a local ad business or a subscriptions business,” says Benedict Evans, mobile analyst and venture capitalist at Silicon Valley’s premier investment firm Andreessen Horowitz. “Whether they’ve got enough local content to load the cost of big US shows onto, remains to be seen. But there’s no reason it’s impossible.”
In order to appeal to global audiences, Netflix didn’t take the traditional route – they didn’t try to hire on-the-ground media experts to teach them about local tastes. Instead, they leveraged their copious amounts of data collected over 20 years, right from its DVD days.
Even before Netflix started making successful original content, its license-only service was built on the bedrock of user data. According to Todd Yellin, Netflix’s head of product innovation, a typical member logs in and scrolls through 40 titles, before giving up and logging out.
From the thousands of titles available on the entertainment channel, Netflix has to bubble up the few dozen you want to the top of your page. “That’s why your Netflix page will look starkly different to your neighbour’s,” Yellin said. The ultimate goal is to figure out what to put in front of you, so you come back every single time.
The data Netflix collects is startling in its granularity: what devices members watch on, how many devices they watch on, what time of day they watch a piece of content, what day of week, how long they watch for, do they watch three minutes and abandon a program forever or come back to it? Did they binge through five episodes of something in one night? Did they watch on one profile or three, what did they watch right before, what did they watch right after?
All this content is then algorithmically weighted. For instance, how important is it that you watched a piece of content yesterday versus a year ago?
Each of these nuggets of information is combined into an algorithm that picks out the top 40 titles for each user, based on 75,000 different genres . These range from “Mother-Son Movies from the 1970s” to “Visually-striking Foreign Nostalgic Dramas” or "Critically-acclaimed Emotional Underdog Movies."
Each genre is displayed to the user as a row on their home screen. “Members connect with these rows so well that we measure an increase in member retention by placing the most tailored rows higher on the page instead of lower," Netflix has said previously.
Before Netflix launched in Europe, it presumed age and gender data were the most important variables to predict taste in entertainment. “We thought the 19-year-old guy and the 70-year-old woman have such different tastes that personalisation would be easy,” Yellin said. “But the truth is 19 year old guys like to watch documentaries about wedding dresses. Hitting play just once on the Netflix service, that’s a far more powerful signal than your age and gender.”
When Netflix went global, Yellin realised that people’s geographies didn’t seem to matter either – tastes are universally distributed. For instance, 90pc of Japanese anime shows on Netflix are watched outside of Japan. “Now we have one big global algorithm which is super helpful because it leverages all the tastes of all consumers around the world,” Yellin said.
To target the viewing habits of customers from new countries, Netflix’s algorithms have divided up all its viewers around the world into two thousand clusters. One person can belong to three or four different clusters. These categories don’t have descriptive names like the genre labels do, because they group people with multi-faceted tastes. Clusters are not geographically distributed. Yellin proves his point by doing a quick analysis of the 15 people that most closely match his own “cluster” – turns out they are spread out everywhere from Dalston in East London to Bangalore, India.
But the plan isn’t just to push American entertainment worldwide – Hastings is focused on creating international content in several languages that can be subtitled and watched worldwide. Earlier this year, Netflix added Arabic, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese to the 17 languages it already supports, even though it is not yet available in China. In August 2015, Netflix launched its first non-English language originals: Club de Cuervos, and crime drama Narcos.
“Narcos, was created for us by a French company, which is the oldest movie company in the world, filmed in Bogota, Colombia with a Brazilian star and super popular in Germany,” Hastings says. “This is the internet age, where content blends through boundaries.” He is particularly excited about upcoming British royal biopic The Crown, to be created and directed by British writer Peter Morgan. “That’s going to be globally incredible,” he enthuses.
Narcos is a Spanish language crimeshow with a Brazilian star, popular in Germany
In 2016, he hopes to supercharge international productions. “We have a show in Germany, in France, in Spain, in Italy, several in Brazil, two in Mexico, several in Japan, but that needs to be 5x or 10x,” Hastings admitted. “We have to localise product, expand content and all that content needs to be available globally.”
Netflix’s major advantage is that, unlike traditional television networks, it doesn’t have an optimum window during which its content has to be released. When TV networks broadcast a new show, they have to hit primetime audiences in order to survive beyond their first few episodes.
Netflix is an on-demand service, so it can cater to niche audiences who may binge-watch content weeks later.
“We do really deep data analysis to find how much a new program would be viewed, and therefore how much budget we should put behind it,” Hastings explained. Ultimately, it is not about absolute numbers or ratings but the ratio of content spend to number of viewers.
As Evans of Andreessen Horowitz said: “If you want your rocket to get into high orbit, you burn more hydrogen.” If this strategy is successful, analysts project Netflix’s net profit could get to $535 million in 2017 and cross $1 billion by 2018.
This is the main reason Netflix consistently refuses to reveal individual viewer numbers for its original shows. Hastings insists they will never rely on advertisements as a business model, and have no interest in doing live television like sports or news. So why bother arm-wrestling TV networks?
Instead Hastings is looking out to the horizon. Despite being available globally, offering a handful of English shows to a Vietnamese audience that pays with international credit cards is not truly "global". Beyond local programs, Netflix will need to offer local currencies, tailored billing options and far more languages if it wants to truly survive the internet TV revolution.
“It seems crazy ambitious unless you think about these big inflection points that come about every 50 years like the invention of radio, free-to-air TV, and cable satellite TV,” he shrugs. “People have built major new networks around that transition, because everything is up for grabs.”
This article was written by Madhumita Murgia from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
An aerial survey of 520 sites across the 1,500-mile stretch of delicate coral reefs in north-east Australia found that the most pristine sections had been “fried” and were facing some of the worst bleaching in recorded history.
Scientists say an underwater heat wave in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has led to devastating coral bleaching — the worst in history — which has damaged or killed 95% of the northern reefs.
An aerial survey of 520 sites across the 1,500-mile stretch of delicate coral reefs in north-east Australia found that the most pristine sections had been “fried” and were facing some of the worst bleaching in recorded history.
Long stretches of the famously colourful reef, which is world heritage-listed and one of the country’s top tourist destinations, have turned “snow-white” following bleaching which began six months ago, according to the researchers.
"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Professor Terry Hughes, from James Cook University, told ABC News.
“We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so."
Scientists believe the bleaching was triggered by a temperature spike due to the El Niño weather pattern, which added to already warmer waters caused by climate change. Warmer temperatures can kill the tiny marine algae which are required to maintain the health of coral and give it colour.
It is the third and worst bleaching phenomenon since 1998 but there is no evidence of any other events in history.
"The north has fried," said Professor Hughes. "This is an ongoing, slow-motion train wreck."
The bleaching has affected virtually all species of the reef’s coral.
Cloudy weather is believed to have kept temperatures down and prevented heavy damage in the southern parts of the reef.
The damage has raised fresh questions about whether UNESCO may list the marine park as “in danger”. The organisation last year decided not to downgrade the park’s listing but expressed concern about the damage caused by mining and coastal pollution.
Conservationists and scientists urged Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, to visit the reef and limit mining in the region and to take action to reduce carbon emissions.
"The reef is one of the wonders of the world,” Imogen Zethoven, from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told Fairfax Media.
“It is being ruined by global warming in front of our eyes."
Scientist in Australia have warned for years that climate change has led to warmer waters which threaten the long-term future of the reef.
"What we're seeing now is unequivocally to do with climate change," Professor Justin Marshall, from the University of Queensland, told ABC News.
"The world has agreed, this is climate change, we're seeing climate change play out across our reefs."
Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, flew over the area earlier this month and pledged to add further resources to monitor the health of the reefs.
“There's good and bad news — the bottom three quarters of the reef is in strong condition," he said.
"[But] as we head north of Lizard Island it becomes increasingly prone to bleaching."
This article was written by Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Wisconsin’s Republican primary election on Tuesday might turn out to be Donald Trump’s “Waterloo.”
Okay, that’s not a perfect example; a loss wouldn’t stop him in his tracks, but a defeat in the Badger State would probably stop him from clinching the Republican nomination.
There are many variables, but the simplified explanation goes like this: if Mr Trump loses Wisconsin and if Ted Cruz picks up a good share of delegates in California’s June 7 primary, then - assuming everyone wins the other states they are expected to win, based on past performances - Mr Trump will fall short of the 1,237 delegates needed to avoid a contested convention.
Now, on the surface, Wisconsin might seem tailor-made for Mr Trump. Unlike Texas and Ohio (the home states of Ted Cruz and John Kasich, respectively), none of his opponents hail from there.
And unlike Utah, where he lost badly, Wisconsin is not a caucus, nor does it have a large percentage of Mormons.
Moreover, Mr Trump tends to do well in “rust belt” states where plenty of non-college educated white voters (who do not happen to be Christian evangelicals) reside. What is more, Democrats and independents can vote in the Wisconsin primary, which tends to help Mr Trump.
But Mr Trump appears to be on the verge of getting trounced in the state. According to a recent Marquette University Law School poll (which is considered the gold standard in Wisconsin surveys), Mr Cruz has 40 per cent of the vote, Donald Trump has 30 per cent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 21 per cent.
There are multiple factors to explain this. Some of it is simply about Wisconsin’s unique political culture. You might have heard of “Minnesota Nice” or “North Dakota Nice.” Well, there’s also “Wisconsin Nice.”
The state has what Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes described to me as a “Midwestern culture of civility and decorum” that simply does not jibe with Mr Trump’s in-your-face style.
There is an aversion to conflict and confrontation - you know, the very things that Mr Trump thrives on.
And the news leading into Tuesday’s primary vote has done nothing but highlight Mr Trump’s very un-Wisconsin-like campaign . His campaign manager was arrested and charged with simple battery for allegedly grabbing a reporter .
Mr. Trump suggested this week that a woman having an abortion should be punished - a position he quickly reversed after it became clear this angered pro-choices and pro-lifers, alike. Meanwhile, Mr Trump re-tweeted an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz, the wife of Ted Cruz. That’s not "Wisconsin Nice".
“I’m under the impression that the way Trump behaves is more acceptable in the New York or New Jersey area,” said Mac Davis, a former state senator and retired judge, whose father Glenn Davis represented Wisconsin in the US House of Representatives.
Trump-ism also seems to thrive in places where there is a sense of social incohesion. But Wisconsin has high social capital - people there still join bowling leagues. It has become common for journalists to assume that Wisconsin voters ought to favour Mr Trump (based partly on his performance in states like Michigan), but it is important to remember that he came in a distant third in Minnesota’s March 1 caucus.
Another important factor explaining Mr Trump’s unpopularity is the uniqueness of Wisconsin’s influential local talk radio. Unlike some places that rely on syndicated content from national figures (most of whom, like Rush Limbaugh, have treated Mr Trump with kid gloves), Wisconsin boasts a thriving cadre of conservative talkers who haven’t been buying what Mr Trump is selling.
“Conservative radio here is not providing Donald Trump the air power he’s gotten elsewhere,” Mr Sykes told me.
The state, which is also home to Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Reince Preibus, the RNC Chairman, has a knack for producing serious conservatives.
Lastly, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed Ted Cruz (it is important to know that, in the span of four years, Mr Walker won three state-wide elections).
Mr Trump responded to Mr Walker’s endorsement of Mr Cruz by attacking the governor for (get this) not raising taxes (Mr Trump argued that this contributed to the deficit).
“The way Trump reacted to Walker’s endorsement, I just think is another solar flare of reaction by Trump that turns a lot of people off,” said Mr Davis.
The attack was “almost weapons-grade stupid here in Wisconsin,” Mr Sykes said.
Wisconsin reminds me of a proper, bookish private school and Mr Trump is a big, rude American bully swinging his arms around at random on the playground.
Memo to Trump: You’re not in New York or Florida anymore.
Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor at the Daily Caller in Washington DC and the author of “Too Dumb to Fail.”
This article was written by Matt Lewis from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
A former CIA operative is to be the first to be extradited to face court over the Bush administration's heavily criticised policy of kidnapping terror suspects and smuggling them to third countries for interrogation.
In the latest twist in a decades-long transatlantic espionage scandal, the Portuguese Supreme Court has upheld a request from Italy to extradite Sabrina de Sousa, who was detained in Lisbon last year.
Ms de Sousa, 57, has already been convicted in absentia for her alleged role in the CIA kidnapping of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric accused of jihadist sympathies. He was seized in broad daylight from a Milan street, flown to Egypt and handed over to the authorities there who are said to have jailed and tortured him for four years before releasing him without charge.
The development sets the stage for a high-profile trial in Italy that could reveal new details about the CIA’s secret transfer and detention of terror suspects between countries in Europe under the so-called extraordinary rendition programme that operated for years after the 9/11 attacks.
“This gives me the chance to finally clear my name after a decade of legal jeopardy that made it nearly impossible to expose a cover up,” Ms de Sousa told the Telegraph from Lisbon.
Under the terms of the extradition, she will be allowed to appeal against her conviction and four-year sentence, bringing her side of the story into the open.
“If this ruling truly guarantees me the right to a fair trial in Italy, then I’m ready,” she said.
Unlike other countries who co-operated in the rendition programme, Italy investigated its own practices and put individuals on trial as a result - including both American agents and members of its own security services.
Ms de Sousa was among 26 Americans convicted in absentia in 2009 for the kidnapping of Abu Omar, whose real name is Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.
He was seized by US and Italian agents in 2003, and transferred to Egypt via US air bases in Italy and Germany.
Ms de Sousa was one of several CIA agents working undercover in Milan as accredited diplomats, but maintains she was not responsible for planning, authorizing or executing the rendition.
She said the decision was taken by Jeffrey Castelli, a former Rome CIA station chief who was one of three CIA officers whose claims to diplomatic immunity were accepted.
Other senior American operatives and military officials who were among those convicted were subsequently pardoned, following high-level diplomatic negotiations involving the Italian authorities on the one side and the Pentagon, the then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and attorney-general, Eric Holder. The Italian agents were acquitted, granted immunity or offered plea bargains.
However, Ms de Sousa left the CIA in 2009 and was excluded from both immunity and pardon deals. A dual US-Portuguese national, she was arrested under a European warrant after moving to Portugal last year.
She has since been under state arrest, her passports confiscated, while Portugal’s courts considered extradition.
She has now begun speaking out against both the rendition programme and the American government’s reaction to the Italian case.
“One man’s decision destroyed so many lives, including that of Abu Omar, and yet the CIA is hell bent on protecting him,” she said, of the immunity granted to Mr Castelli.
“This case is no longer just about me. It is symbolic of the CIA’s defiant refusal to hold accountable those who authorise every rendition, detention and interrogation programme worldwide."
Ms de Sousa’s lawyers point out the contradiction in the fact that some officers have been granted full or partial pardons but not Ms de Sousa. However, they are hindered by the fact that the US government has refused to confirm its involvement in Abu Omar’s rendition .
In declarations filed in the US courts by the CIA last month and seen by the Telegraph, the US government again refused to release key documents on grounds the material was classified and too sensitive.
“The CIA has put her in an impossible position,” said Jeffrey Light, Ms de Sousa's US lawyer. “They have evidence she needs to present a defence, but refuse to process her freedom of information requests.”
The Portuguese lawyer handling the case, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, said that the extradition ruling meant the Italian courts would allow new evidence to be heard. However, Ms de Sousa's Italian legal team believes the best chance for resolution is ultimately with the presidential office in Rome, given the international issues at stake and the president's role in agreeing the earlier pardons.
The case will once again expose continuing investigations into the rendition programme, in which suspected jihadists were flown secretly around the world for interrogation and imprisonment.
In an interview with La Repubblica, a former CIA officer responsible for the programme, Michael Scheuer, described Abu Omar as “low-hanging fruit” who did not meet the rendition threshold.
However, Ms de Sousa said that Mr Castelli still managed to obtain authorisation from Tyler Drumheller, Chief of European Operations, Chief of Counterterrorism Jose Rodriguez, CIA Director of Operations James Pavitt and his deputy at the time.
She said that CIA Chief Counsel John Rizzo and lawyers for the State Department and the National Security Council also signed off.
Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for violating Abu Omar’s human rights, saying it knew about and participated in the CIA’s kidnapping, then failed to offer redress or hold anyone accountable.
China's huge debt levels will weigh on growth over the next five years and could threaten the country's financial stability unless policymakers rein in credit, Fitch has warned.
The ratings agency said a "remarkable build-up in leverage across China's economy" since the 2008 financial crisis meant Beijing's ability to meet ambitious annual growth targets of 6.5pc to 7pc between 2016 and 2020 looked "extremely challenging".
While China's public debt ratio stood at 55pc of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of last year, total credit in the world's second largest economy climbed to almost 200pc of GDP in 2015, from 115pc in 2008, according to official estimates.
Fitch said the "true figure" was likely to be closer to 250pc. It expects this to climb to 260pc of GDP by the end of this year as total debt continues to grow faster than the economy.
"High and rising leverage in the economy is a mounting source of systemic vulnerability," Fitch analysts wrote in a note.
"The longer the economy's indebtedness goes on rising, the greater the difficulty of unwinding it, and the higher the risk of a shock to economic and financial stability."
Fitch's warning came just days after the International Monetary Fund warned that negative growth surprises in China could trigger a global market rout .
However, Fitch said a "hard landing" in China, where growth slows to near-zero, was very unlikely.
Analysts said they believed China had the tools to engineer a successful transition towards consumption-led growth and away from investment and exports.
It noted that China's financial system was largely funded by retail deposits, while many banks and borrowers were "either state-owned or heavily state-influenced".
"These factors combine to suggest that the kind of collapse of confidence among creditors that might precipitate a financial crisis is unlikely in China," Fitch said.
The ratings agency expects Chinese growth to slow to 6.2pc this year, from 6.9pc in 2015. Growth in 2017 is expected to ease further, to 6pc.
While Fitch currently has a "stable" outlook on China's A+ rating, it warned that a "sharp and sustained rise in general government indebtedness would be negative".
Separate survey data showed activity in China's service sector strengthened last month.
The Caixin services purchasing managers' index (PMI), rose to 52.2 in March, from 51.2 in February.
Economists said the moderate expansion suggested China's economy was improving on the back of Beijing's supportive measures.
This article was written by Szu Ping Chan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
David Cameron has admitted that he had a stake in his father's offshore company which he sold for £30,000 shortly before he became Prime Minister.
Mr Cameron sought to end days of questioning about his families tax affairs by insisting that he paid income tax on the dividends in the "normal way".
He insisted that he does not have "anything to hide" and said he is proud of his father's achievements, adding that he "can't bear to see his name being dragged through the mud".
It comes after the Prime Minster has faced four days of intense scrutiny over his family's financial arrangements.
The Prime Minister has previously insisted that he does not receive any current benefit from an investment in an offshore trust and will not do so in future.
PM: I've no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore fundsPlay!01:16
However the he has now revealed that both he and his wife benefited from the trust in the past.
He told ITV News: "Because of course I did own stocks and shares in the past - quite naturally because my father was a stockbroker. I sold them all in 2010, because if I was going to become Prime Minister I didn't want anyone to say you have other agendas, vested interests. Samantha and I had a joint account.
"We owned 5000 units in Blairmore Investment Trust, which we sold in January 2010. That was worth something like £30,000.
"I paid income tax on the dividends. There was a profit on it but it was less than the capital gains tax allowance so I didn't pay capital gains tax.
"But it was subject to all the UK taxes in all the normal way. So I want to be as clear as I can about the past, present and future.
"Because frankly I don't have anything to hide. I am proud of my dad and what he did, the business he established and all the rest of it. I can't bear to see his name being dragged through the mud. For my own, I chose to take a different path from my father, grandfather and great grandfather, who were all stockbrokers, and I have nothing to hide in my arrangements. "
He also said that he had received a £300,000 inheritance from his father when he died, adding that he could not be sure if it came from offshore source.
He said he is committed to publishing his tax return: "I think the idea of publishing the information that goes in your tax return, I am very relaxed about that. It didn't happen before the last election. It did not come about.
"I don't think this should be for every MP. It is a very big change in our system. It should be for the prime minister, and the potential prime minister. I am very happy for that to happen."
A kissing scene has been edited out of a new Coca-Cola television advert for audiences in Kenya following complaints it was unsuitable for family viewing, according to a Facebook post by Kenya’s state film regulator on Wednesday.
The advertisement, part of Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign, caused a public outcry from viewers who took “issue with the offensive scenes involving kissing, violating family values," the post said. An edited version that drops the scene will start running on Wednesday evening in Kenya after discussions between the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and the management of Coca Cola Central, East & West Africa.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola in southern Africa confirmed the company had agreed to edit out the scene for Kenyan audiences.
“Following a recent request received from the Kenya Film Classification Board, we have made a minor revision to one of the TV advertisements and a new version will air from this evening,” Zipporah Maubane, head of communications for Coca-Cola Southern Africa, said in an emailed statement to the Telegraph.
“We’re committed to marketing in line with local guidelines and consumer values and look forward to sharing more adverts within the campaign to help people ‘Taste The Feeling’.”
Coca-Cola's new campaign is being rolled out worldwide this year, according to the company website, depicting “a diverse cross-section of people from around the world enjoying ‘their’ Coca-Cola in simple, everyday moments.”
One of the commercials features a montage of good-looking characters engaged in various activities with a frosty Coca-Cola in hand, including the scene in question of a young couple having a steamy everyday moment whilst kissing in a library.
The regulator’s CEO said in another Facebook post that his agency’s action was designed to shield children from content meant for adults during viewing hours when families might be watching TV. Last year, the film board restricted viewing and distribution of the film Fifty Shades of Grey, citing its “prolonged and explicit sexual scenes depicting women as sexual slaves,” among other objections.
The announcement was met with mixed reviews on social media on Wednesday. The Consumers Federation of Kenya praised the agency, calling the move to “compel” Coca-Cola to amend “the excessive romance” in the ad “commendable” on Twitter.
But other users complained the film board was being old-fashioned, heavy-handed, or grasping for relevance.
The agency defended itself, stressing the ad was not banned. The board was upholding the mandate to ensure all film and broadcast content adheres to “national moral values,” said one tweet sent out on the official KFCB account. Every government agency has its mandate,” said another. We are doing our bit.
This article was written by Krista Mahr from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
There are still two months until the EU referendum and the latest round of polls show the continuation of a worrying trend for the Leave campaign — it isn't winning.
What UK Thinks' most recent EU Poll of Polls has given Remain a lead of eight points (54% > 46%) — this number is an average taken across six polls released between the 12th and 19th of April.
Remain isn't exactly in a commanding position, but it is consolidating its lead. David Cameron and Remain advocates look reasonably comfortable and a surge in support for a Brexit doesn't appear to be forthcoming.
As the graph below illustrates, this development is nothing new. The campaign for Britain to remain part of the 28-nation bloc has consistently polled higher than Leave, and although the winning margin isn't huge, it continues to remain intact.The Leave campaign needs a surge. If Vote Leave — the official Brexit campaign — is to persuade enough British people to pull the country out of the EU on June 23, then its next move needs to be an offensive one to capture the undecided vote.
According to the latest ORB poll for The Telegraph, 21% of respondents (one in five) were undecided or likely to change their minds before voting day. In a referendum where the winning margin remains modest, this 21% could be a hugely significant chunk of the turnout. Leave needs to target this group and win it.
Why? Because other important factors are starting to shift in favour of Remain. For example, the newest ORB survey showed that those who support Britain staying in the EU were just about as likely to participate in the referendum as those who want a Brexit (66 - 70%). Four points is the smallest the gap ORB has found between the two groups in weeks. In fact, a look at its last four surveys shows that this gap has been getting gradually smaller, as reflected by these figures:
How certain are you to turn out and vote Leave or Remain?
March 15: Remain 72 / Leave 79 (7 point difference)
April 5: Remain 61 / Leave 70 (9 point difference)
April 19: Remain: 65 / Leave 70 (5 point difference)
April 26: Remain 66 / Leave 70 (4 point difference)
The notion that Brexit-backers are much more likely to participate than Remain supporters doesn't appear to be true at the moment.
Then there's the possibility of Barack Obama's intervention having a positive effect for Remain. The What UK Thinks poll of polls is based on surveys published between the 12th and 19th of April. The US President only arrived in London on the 22nd and the BBC interview in which he claimed Britain could face a 10-year wait to strike trade deals with the US if it was to leave the EU was aired on the 24th.
This means the impact of the President's warnings on public opinion is really yet to be seen and future surveys could yield even worse results for Brexiteers.
With just 8 weeks to go until June 23, an 8 point deficit may feel like a lot for Leave to overcome in not a lot of time. However, a significant portion of the British public is yet to be convinced, and this means an opportunity still remains for Leave to make up some vital ground.
How do you distinguish a foreign policy "idealist" from a "realist," an optimist from a pessimist?
Ask one question: Do you believe in the arrow of history?
Or to put it another way, do you think history is cyclical or directional? Are we condemned to do the same damn thing over and over, generation after generation -- or is there hope for some enduring progress in the world order?
For realists, generally conservative, history is an endless cycle of clashing power politics. The same patterns repeat. Only the names and places change.
The best we can do in our own time is to defend ourselves, managing instability and avoiding catastrophe. But expect nothing permanent, no essential alteration in the course of human affairs.
The idealists believe otherwise. They believe that the international system can eventually evolve out of its Hobbesian state of nature into something more humane and hopeful.
What is usually overlooked is that this hopefulness for achieving a higher plane of global comity comes in two flavors -- one liberal, one conservative.
The liberal variety (as practiced, for example, by the Bill Clinton administration) believes that the creation of a dense web of treaties, agreements, transnational institutions and international organizations (like the U.N., NGOs, the World Trade Organization) can give substance to a cohesive community of nations that would, in time, ensure order and stability.
The conservative view (often called neoconservative and dominant in the George W. Bush years) is that the better way to ensure order and stability is not through international institutions, which are flimsy and generally powerless, but through the spread of democracy. Because, in the end, democracies are inherently more inclined to live in peace.
Liberal internationalists count on globalization, neoconservatives on democratization to get us to the sunny uplands of international harmony. But what unites them is the belief that such uplands exist and are achievable. Both believe in the perfectibility, if not of man, then of the international system. Both believe in the arrow of history.
For realists, this is a comforting delusion that gives high purpose to international exertions where none exists. Sovereign nations remain in incessant pursuit of power and self-interest. The pursuit can be carried out more or less wisely. But nothing fundamentally changes.
Barack Obama is a classic case study in foreign policy idealism. Indeed, one of his favorite quotations is about the arrow of history: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." He has spent nearly eight years trying to advance that arc of justice. Hence his initial "apology tour," that burst of confessional soul-searching abroad about America and its sins, from slavery to the loss of our moral compass after 9/11. Friday's trip to Hiroshima completes the arc .
Unfortunately, with "justice" did not come peace. The policies that followed -- appeasing Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, the butchers of Tiananmen Square and lately the Castros -- have advanced neither justice nor peace. On the contrary. The consequent withdrawal of American power, that agent of injustice or at least arrogant overreach, has yielded nothing but geopolitical chaos and immense human suffering. (See Syria.)
But now an interesting twist. Two terms as president may not have disabused Obama of his arc-of-justice idealism (see above: Hiroshima visit), but they have forced upon him at least one policy of hardheaded, indeed hardhearted, realism. On his Vietnam trip this week, Obama accepted the reality of an abusive dictatorship while announcing a warming of relations and the lifting of the U.S. arms embargo, thereby enlisting Vietnam as a full partner in the containment of China.
This follows the partial return of the U.S. military to the Philippines, another element of the containment strategy. Indeed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself is less about economics than geopolitics, creating a Pacific Rim cordon around China.
There's no idealism in containment. It is raw, soulless realpolitik. No moral arc. No uplifting historical arrow. In fact, it is the same damn thing all over again, a recapitulation of Truman's containment of Russia in the late 1940s. Obama is doing the same, now with China.
He thus leaves a double legacy. His arc-of-justice aspirations, whatever their intention, leave behind tragic geopolitical and human wreckage. Yet this belated acquiescence to realpolitik, laying the foundations for a new containment, will be an essential asset in addressing this century's coming central challenge, the rise of China.
I don't know -- no one knows -- if history has an arrow. Which is why a dose of coldhearted realism is always welcome. Especially from Obama.
Jack Ma has described Chinese-made counterfeit goods as better than the genuine article, complicating the effort to root out fakes on the country’s largest online shopping services.
The founder and chairman of Chinese online empire Alibaba, said factory bosses were now using the internet to sell directly to consumers, giving them more choice over their purchases.
“The problem is that the fake products today, they make better quality, better prices than the real products, the real names,” Mr Ma said in a speech in Hangzhou, China.
“It’s not the fake products that destroy them, it’s the new business models.”
Mr Ma, who is one of China's richest men, appeared to defend the actions by Chinese factory bosses, saying: "The exact factories, the exact raw materials, but they do not use their names."
Alibaba has been criticised in the past for profiting from the sale of fake goods.
The company handles more transactions than Amazon and eBay combined and expects to reach 423m online shoppers around the world this year.
"We have to protect [intellectual property], we have to do everything to stop the fake products, but OEMs are making better products at a better price," he added, referring to original equipment manufacturers that typically make products for branded sellers.
This article was written by Telegraph reporters from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
A British-trained navy officer who joined Islamic State has turned supergrass after being arrested by Kuwaiti authorities, becoming one of the most senior figures to hand over intelligence on the terrorist group.
Kuwait-born Ali Omar Mohammad Alosaimi, 27, was picked up on the Iraq-Syria border on July 4, according to officials.
Alosaimi, who had three years of merchant navy officers' training at South Tyneside College’s Marine School - one of the UK’s most prestigious maritime colleges - left his home in South Shields for Syria in April 2014.
Alosaimi, who has since married a Syrian woman with whom he has a child, is now cooperating with Kuwaiti authorities, who said he has confessed to playing a senior role within Isil.
Mugshots of suspected Islamic State jihadists arrested by Kuwaiti authorities earlier this month. Ali Alosaimi (top right) is among those detainedCredit: Kuwaiti government handout
He said he was put in charge of oil fields in Islamic State-held territory around Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northeast Syria, where he managed exports. He said the group's leaders had chosen him for his proficiency in English, expert engineering knowledge and previous experience at a state-owned Kuwaiti oil company.
Isil seized control of the Syrian government’s most lucrative fields after capturing vast swathes of the east of the country in the summer of 2014. It appointed some of its most skilled foreign jihadists to run the oil business - the group's biggest money-maker.
Alosaimi, who used the nom de guerre Abu Turab al-Kuwaiti, revealed to interrogators how Isil smuggles oil and sells it in black market to regional buyers as well as international traders at a lower price to undercut the competition. He also handed over names of individuals involved in the trade.
He said he had a “good relationship” with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which bought oil from the Islamist group, and claimed to have attended meetings with senior Syrian officials as well as Iranian intelligence officers.
Kuwait, a US ally, has passed the information on to the international coalition fighting Isil.
Alosaimi is one of only a very small number of captured senior Isil figures that has provided intelligence on the group and will likely prove crucial in the coalition's targeting of its oil trade.
Oil is the largest source of funding for Isil, which is thought to still make as much as $30million (£23m) a month from sales despite frequent aerial attacks by the coalition.
Alosaimi’s testimony also provides some of the most concrete evidence yet of the deals cut between the Assad regime and its enemy Isil.
According to his uncle, Ali was radicalised after his younger brother Abdullah was killed in battle in Iraq in late 2013. “He seemed a changed man after his brother’s death,” he said. “He grew a beard and did not talk to anyone like he used to. He used to call his family every fortnight but he visited at the end of 2013 and that was the last we heard from him.”
A few months later he travelled to Syria. His name appears on leaked Isil "entrance forms" seen by the Telegraph, in which he described himself as a “navy officer in Britain.”
Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said it was unusual for Western fighters to be made privy to such high-level information, and that the intelligence was a coup for the coalition.
“The capture of Alosaimi provides a valuable source of information in the war against the Islamic State,” he said. “Such information is unfortunately rare, as under the coalition's current policy of airstrikes, there is no mechanisms for the gathering of information from inside the jihadist networks.”
This article was written by Josie Ensor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
This post was originally published on July 17, 2015. Sunday marks the second anniversary of the MH17 tragedy.
Footage from the MH17 disaster shows Russian-backed rebels handling bodies and rummaging through the bags of dead passengers while expressing shock that the aircraft they brought down was a commercial aircraft.
Describing the footage as "sickening to watch," Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, said it was further evidence that the plane was deliberately targeted by a missile.
"It is certainly consistent with the intelligence advice that we received 12 months ago, that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile," she told Channel Nine.
"[The victims'] grief is inconsolable and the burden of grieving and then seeing this footage will be almost too much to bear."
The footage appears to be an extended clip from video filmed and released last summer.
The 17 minutes of footage, apparently smuggled out of a rebel base in Ukraine, was released by Sydney's Daily Telegraph on the anniversary of the attack, which left all 298 passengers and crew dead.
The footage shows the uniformed rebels examining the contents of backpacks and collecting phones and other items as they try to find the black box.
The rebels seem surprised that the aircraft was a commercial airliner, not a fighter jet, and can be heard saying "civilians, civilians," and "this is a passenger plane" in Russian.
Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, said the video further highlighted that "this was an atrocity; it was in no way an accident."
"They may not have known that they were shooting down a passenger plane, but they were deliberately shooting out of the sky what they knew was a large aircraft," he told ABC News.
"Rebels don't get hold of this kind of weaponry by accident. I mean, this was obviously very sophisticated weaponry. We are confident that it was weaponry that came across the border from Russia, fired, and then shortly thereafter, once it was realized what had happened, went back into Russia."
Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Ukraine have been conducting a criminal investigation into the attack and have asked the United Nations Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal to try those responsible. Twenty-eight Australian citizens and 10 residents were aboard the plane.
Abbott urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to cooperate with those investigating the attack.
"I am not suggesting that the Russian president knew anything about this in advance," he said. "I suspect, based on my own conversations with him last year, that he is horrified that all of this has happened."
This video fits with accounts of the crash but also sheds new light on the immediate aftermath of the crash.
One fighter I met on the scene the following night said his unit had arrived shortly after the crash expecting to find the wreckage of a Ukrainian military aircraft and described being shocked at what he found.
He also told me they had gone through belongings to look for documents — that appears to fit with this footage — but strongly denied looting.
That fighter, as most others, said he was convinced the Ukrainians had shot down the aircraft, insisting that the separatists had no technology capable of reaching that altitude.
The desperate search for the "black boxes" fits with an intercepted phone call earlier released by the Ukrainian Security Service, which it says is of a prominent separatist commander, Alexander Khodakovsky, instructing his men at the scene to find the flight recorders.
The separatists did recover the black boxes, and they handed them over to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk on July 21, four days after the crash.
There is also a lot of confusion. The talk about five parachutists, about the pilot "crawling" in Rosipnoye is typical of the chaos and muddled information you get in a war zone, especially in the aftermath of a big event like this.
Often, it turns out to be half-true — the cockpit did come down in Rosipnoye, but the pilots would have been killed instantly. No one would have parachuted out of a civilian aircraft, but the search party was expecting to find military wreckage, and Ukrainian pilots and crew had survived shoot-downs and been captured in the past — so as confused reports come in, they set off to find the "parachutists."
Then there is talk about a second aircraft — a Sukhoi jet that supposedly shot down MH17 and was in turn shot down by the separatists:
As far as we know, there was no second shot-down plane — if a Sukhoi had been hit, the wreckage would have been found if not by the fighters, then by the army of journalists who shortly afterward descended on the area.
Three things seem to be going on here:
It could simply be a matter of confusion.
It could be a quickly thought-up excuse, a cover story to tell civilians and journalists to excuse what had happened: the fighters getting their story straight.
But it could also be the quick work of a subconscious mind in denial.
One of the features of the war in Ukraine is the ability of soldiers on either side to perform seemingly impossible feats of double-think in order to convince themselves of their virtue and their opponent's guilt.
To take a depressingly mundane example: Ask a Ukrainian about the shelling of civilians in rebel-held areas, or a rebel about rocket attacks on Ukrainian-held towns, and they'll often tell you — with a straight face — that the enemy attacked themselves as a "provocation."
Often, these are straight out, cynical lies by people who know are guilty. But equally often they appear to be the incredible yet genuinely believed excuses people tell themselves to avoid facing up to uncomfortable truths.
It is that bizarre human ability that has made the lies and propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine — and the MH17 tragedy — so effective, and deadly.
Here is the full video:
A new type of battery that carries twice the energy of today's lithium-ion ones could arrive in smartphones as early as next year.
The "lithium metal" technology is an engineering breakthrough that allows a battery to hold twice as many ions - the particles that store a battery's charge - as lithium-ion products.
It could mean manufacturers being able to shrink the batteries inside phones and maintain their capacity, or use batteries of the same size that can keep a phone running for twice as long.
Smartphone and laptop manufacturers have long sought to extend their products' battery life but have been frustrated by the chemical limits of lithium-ion technology, which has improved only marginally in recent years even as microchips get exponentially more powerful.
The new batteries are developed by SolidEnergy Systems, a company started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which plans to make them available to smartphone and wearable manufacturers next year and electric car makers the year after.
In typical lithium-ion batteries, ions move from a negatively-charged graphite cathode to a positively-charged anode through a solution known as an electrolyte, sending electrons that were attached to the ions through a circuit that powers a device such as a phone.
While graphite has proved the best and most reliable substance for a cathode to date, it can only hold so many ions. Researchers have long aimed to replace this with a lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions, but the foil has typically reacted badly with the electrolyte, causing it to overheat, potentially igniting, and rapidly lose capacity.
SolidEnergy Systems has developed a hybrid electrolyte solution which does not react badly with the lithium-metal foil, making it as safe and reliable as an everyday battery.
"It is kind of the holy grail for batteries," Qichao Hu, SolidEnergy’s chief executive, told MIT News.
"With two-times the energy density, we can make a battery half the size, but that still lasts the same amount of time, as a lithium ion battery. Or we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long."
As well as vastly increasing phone life, allowing two days or more of charge, the new battery could double the range of electric cars, reducing the "range anxiety" that has afflicted many electric car drivers.
Several other purported replacements for lithium-ion have been touted, but Mr Hu said the lithium-metal technology would fit with current manufacturing processes.
SEE ALSO: Say hello to Uber's self-driving car
South African researchers have found the first known pair of identical twin puppies.
Scientists from the University of Pretoria were presented with the pair of wolfhound puppies after the mother dog's owner brought them to her local vet, Kurt de Cramer .
They confirmed in a research paper that the male puppies are the first known identical twin dogs.
The paper said: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of monozygotic twinning in the dog confirmed using DNA profiling".
The mother dog had been in labor for two hours with no results, so had to have a C-section.
Seven puppies were delivered, but there was a remaining bulge which appeared to be a puppy in a second placenta.
Mr de Cramer did blood tests on the pair and found they were identical.
"When I realized that the puppies were of the same gender and that they had very similar markings, I also immediately suspected that they might be identical twins having originated from the splitting of an embryo," he told the BBC.
The research team did further tests when they were 6 weeks old, this time from their DNA, and found the same.
The puppies were genetically identical, and no other puppies in the litter shared similar genetics.
Researcher Carolynne Joone said that although these are the first ever identical twin puppies to be observed by humans, it's possible more have been born.
She said some could have been delivered without sharing a placenta.
“There have been rumors about twins in dogs before,” she told the BBC. “We just happened to be lucky enough to be able to confirm it genetically.”
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The city of Chongjin, once stricken by famine, is today developing a rather different reputation.
The average person is still poor, but in this emerging capitalist era, this port city is growing in importance as a trading hub. Chongjin has become the first place where foreign fashions arrive.
Even Pyongyang cannot match Chongjin in terms of style. This may seem surprising, since Pyongyang is the seat of both new money and old power.
But security is much stricter in the capital, with conformity more rigorously enforced.
This means that clothes that can be worn in the street elsewhere are only suitable for a young Pyongyang woman to wear at home.
Pyongyang is supposed to be the city of regime loyalists; Kim Jong Il is understood to have once said that his government could survive as long as he retained a firm grip on Pyongyang. He was much less interested in the provinces — and this is reflected both in the distribution of favours and the enforcement of laws.
Thus, Pyongyang is the only part of the country where the state is in full control of public order. The government will still crack down hard on serious dissent wherever it arises, but generally, it lacks the resources and respect to compel people in the provinces to adhere to the full range of its rules and regulations.
Chongjin administrators in particular are understood to have a looser approach to public order. Chongjin is probably the closest North Korea has to a “Wild West.”
Chongjin traders frequently receive 100kg packages of clothes by boat from Japan. The authorities frown on this — but not to the extent that local Chongjin officials cannot be paid to look the other way.
The contents of such packages will be unknown until opened, and as a precaution, all the labels that identify each item’s country of origin are removed. And though the random jackets, jeans, skirts, and other items they contain are cast-offs that Japanese consumers no longer want, they are of a much higher quality and more fashionable than anything made in North Korea (or China, for that matter).
For the young women of Chongjin, then, even Kim Jong Un's wife Ri Sol Ju’s style is not particularly impressive. One young female defector from the city states that Ms Ri’s red-and-black check outfit was “nothing special,” although she did praise a green dress the first lady famously wore when out in public with Kim Jong Un.
She also claims that Ms. Ri’s hairstyle is “jom chonseuropda” (roughly translated, “a bit dowdy”), and the she never wears anything that other North Korean women could not get away with. Some Pyongyang sources, though, call Ms Ri a rule-breaker — thus highlighting the differences between the two cities.
What are Chongjin people wearing today? For those who are interested in such trends, Chongjin is known as the place in North Korea where skinny jeans first became popular. One defector, who left in 2010, states that both jeans and any type of clothing that shows off the body were forbidden — but that she and many others were wearing flared skinny jeans that “make your legs look slim and good so you can show off.” For young women, showing off in this way seems to be a new and liberating experience.
There is a common belief in East Asia that big eyes, with fold lines along the lids, are attractive. Some people are naturally born with them, but most are not. This is easily “corrected” with a simple surgical procedure called blepharoplasty, which requires very little in the way of medical skill, and can be com- pleted in under ten minutes. In North Korea, the wealthy can have it done properly, by paying a real surgeon. For most, though, the operation is done in a very “back street” fashion.
In such cases the procedure costs as little as US$2, and is performed in the patient’s home — without the aid of anaesthetic. Many of those who perform the operation are not even doctors. It is in fact possible for anyone to learn how to make an eyelid fold, and start offering the service. Those who do it well will benefit from word of mouth, and be able to make a good living.
As with all forms of plastic surgery, the double-eyelid procedure is illegal in North Korea. It is, however, so common among young urban women of all social classes that the authorities cannot do very much about it. Proving someone has undergone the operation is also difficult, since there are some who were born with double eyelids. Those caught may also be able to get friends and relatives to state that their double eyelids are natural. And even when guilt is established, this is nothing that a bribe cannot fix.
In international media, the DPRK citizen is shown as either a blind follower of state propaganda, or a helpless victim of it. But the fact that there are young North Koreans who are prepared to risk severe punishment — as well as the strong disapproval of elders — simply to look good, should disabuse the reader of such a simplified, caricaturish notion.
Those who adhere to the stereotypical view should consider the case of the growing “rooms by the hour” cottage industry that exists in all North Korean cities. As with people the world over, North Koreans have desires, and no amount of prohibition or social disgrace is going to stop those desires from being expressed in the end. In a country where premarital sex is frowned upon, and even holding hands in public can result in harsh words from Youth League goons, there are young people who engage in the risky business of renting private apartments merely for the length of time it takes to have sex.
Young South Korean couples have the option of “love motels,” which form a huge industry there. But North Koreans have no such choice — and this has resulted in a grassroots, free-market solution. In any given big city neighbourhood, there will be an ajumma — a middle-aged lady — known to let out her apartment by the hour. Her preferred time will be in the afternoon, when her children are at school, and her husband is at work. An amorous couple will knock on her door, and hand over some cash.
The ajumma then leaves them alone, perhaps for an hour or two. She may take a walk in a local park, or spend the money she received on goods at the nearest jangmadang. The process is very simple, but it acts as a reasonable summary of the people’s adaptation to post-famine North Korea: it is illegal; it is informal; it corresponds to basic human needs; and, it is one hundred per cent capitalist.
North Korean property market
The army is heavily involved in construction, as a source of cheap labour for the building of apartment complexes, hotels, roads, bridges, and so on. Contrary to the popular image of the North Korean soldier as a goose-stepping, brainwashed loyalist and ruthless killing machine, the average military man is likely to spend more time building things than working to crush the “puppet” regime in Seoul. Even state media often refers to them as “soldier-builders.” Military units are now little more than free labour teams.
Some apartment complexes are built with specific tenants in mind — military veterans, star athletes, or scientists, for example. Ministry of Foreign Affairs apartments in Pyongyang are considered rather ritzy, as foreign ministry staff have grown used to such apparent luxuries as round-the-clock electricity on postings abroad, and expect nothing less when they return home. In a country where blackouts are very common and winters brutally cold, 24-hour electricity is a real indicator of who can be considered properly “elite,” and who cannot.
Just as in any capitalist country, apartments in North Korea can be traded. Probably a majority of units in an upmarket newbuild apartment block will be sold on the market, rather than given to the state employees they were officially intended for.
The only real difference is the lack of a formal system for apartment transfer, since owning private property is forbidden. If you live in any North Korean city, however, it will be possible to “sell” your apartment: people living in the same district are legally allowed to swap homes, so this may even be done in a semi-legitimate fashion, facilitated by a cash payment, though often, house trading is done without any registration at all. In Pyongyang, where apartment prices have risen more than tenfold since the turn of the century, trading may even be facilitated by an (illegal) estate agent.
Apartments in ordinary areas and without lifts or reliable electricity may change hands for as little as US$3–4,000. Lower floors command higher prices, though. It is generally accepted that the poorer you are, the higher up you live. This contrasts with South Korea, in which the best views are prized. But when there are no lifts — or a power outage can get you stuck in one — the top floor suddenly seems less appealing.
A decent apartment in the central Pyongyang district of Mansudae (which is now jokingly referred to by expats as “Dubai” or “Pyonghattan”) will change hands for US$100,000 or more. There are even those who talk of US$250,000 apart- ments. That is a lot of money to spend on a place that you don’t officially own. But if you have that kind of sum at your disposal in North Korea, you will be able to ensure that it stays yours.
Moonshine and house parties
North Koreans have always enjoyed homemade moonshine. For the majority — especially those in the countryside, and with little or no disposable income — this remains the only reliable option. Typically, homebrewing will be of the most rudimentary form — corn, fruit, or ginseng, left to ferment in a bottle or jar, and buried under a pile of clothes for warmth. The end product can be consumed by the maker’s family, or even sold or bartered with neighbours.
Home-made alcoholic drinks there are typically referred to as nong- taegi (or sometimes nungju). Most housewives know how to make it, and those who do it well become famous within their village. Such ladies will then even be able to turn their moon- shining into a small business, if they wish.
Though nongtaegi is illegal, any efforts to stop its production are utterly doomed to failure. Those whose job it is to eradicate it enjoy it as much as anyone else. And according to one defector, around 80–90 per cent of North Korean men drink every day. There is even a popular song, “Weol, hwa, su, mok, geum, to, il Banju,” which can be translated as “Drink on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.” North Korean men drink more even than their famously bibulous Southern brethren. Northern women drink much less than those in the South, but this is also starting to change. As working class women are now often the breadwinners, they have much more freedom — but also, more stress to relieve at the end of the day.
Unlike in South Korea, house parties are very common in the North. Those who have attended one will say that the amount of drinking at house parties would put South Koreans to shame. One defector states that she never had as much fun in Seoul as she did at house parties back in her home town. She and her friends would dance to South Korean and Western pop music (see below), whilst knocking back nongtaegi. They would connect a combined USB/DVD/MP3 player to large speakers and play music files obtained via USB drives.