Sunday, 29 July 2012

BMW to sell luxury cars for less online

The BMW i3 concept car at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January.

The BMW i3 concept car at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

BMW will sell cars over the Web for the first time as the world's largest maker of luxury vehicles seeks an inexpensive way to reach more buyers to recoup spending on its electric models.

A direct online sales platform for BMW's new I sub-brand will be unique in an industry where, outside of small-scale experiments, competitors leave Internet orders for cars to dealers. BMW's range of strategies for the models, including a roaming sales force backing a limited showroom network, reflects the challenge carmakers face as low-emission vehicles trickle into dealerships to sluggish demand after years of development.

"There is considerable risk in BMW's approach of promoting the I brand so prominently," said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Science in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. "There is the image risk, if they don't succeed as quickly as expected, and then there's the main risk of costs, which can only be countered with high deliveries."

BMW opened the I models' first showroom Tuesday in London, although only prototype cars and informational materials will be displayed at first because the vehicles themselves won't go on sale before next year. BMW is spending about $3 billion developing the i3 battery-powered city car and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, according to an estimate by Frost & Sullivan. Industry sales of electric cars last year, at 43,000 vehicles, were only 57 percent of the 75,000 deliveries predicted by Sarwant Singh, a London-based automotive partner at the consulting company.

Starting prices posted

The four-seat i3, scheduled to reach the market in late 2013, will be priced at about 40,000 euros ($48,500), Bratzel estimated. That compares with a 23,850-euro starting price ($29,388) in Germany for the 1-Series, the cheapest BMW-brand car. The i8, targeted for sale in 2014, will cost more than 100,000 euros ($123,221), according to Ian Robertson, BMW's sales chief.

Details of how I-model buyers, the website and dealerships will interact are "still in the planning process" and will be communicated later, Linda Croissant, a spokeswoman at Munich- based BMW, said last week. Sales will be focused on the world's major urban areas, she said.

The online sales option is aimed at a generation of drivers used to making daily purchases over the Internet, and will be an extension of the car configuration that most automakers offer customers to view models with desired options such as interior colors, seat materials and roof styles.

Test drives not an option

The Internet platform may take a while to catch on because "many customers will still want to go somewhere to look at and drive the vehicle before buying," said Ian Fletcher, an auto analyst in London at research company IHS Global Insight.

"With new technologies, there may be even greater skepticism about buying a car over the Internet, as in many cases you'll have to win the confidence of customers that it works and there is support for them," Fletcher said in an email.

The setup may help BMW reduce expenses: Internet sales require less than half the cost of distributing through a dealership, according to Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Center Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. That allows online car prices to be 5 percent to 7 percent less than showroom tags.

Still, BMW sees standard dealerships as "the backbone of what we are doing in the interface with the customer" for the I models, Robertson said in June at a press presentation at the sub-brand's Park Lane showroom in London.

Dealer selection criteria

Outlets will be restricted to dealers with high BMW-brand sales volume who have floor space as well as capacity to work with I models' powering technology and carbon-fiber body material, Robertson said. The carmaker has chosen 45 of its approximately 200 dealers in Germany to sell the i3 and i8, a ratio that will probably be similar elsewhere, he said.

Dealers will be designated as agents for the I models, which provides an "advantage" by keeping the vehicles on the carmaker's books, the association of BMW distributors in Germany said in an email.

Electric vehicles' disadvantages versus conventional cars include costly battery packs, limited ranges and the time needed to recharge. Consumer reception to models like the Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt has been tepid.

"Currently available electric cars have a limited market success because they are a big compromise," said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse AG. "Customers are not willing to compromise and spend a lot of money."

Carbon fiber bodies lighter

BMW Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer started Project I at the end of 2007 as tighter emissions regulations threatened the viability of sporty sedans. BMW chose to create all-new vehicles that use expensive carbon fiber for a lighter body to make up for the weight of the battery system.

The approach contrasts with a decision by Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz Cars division to convert existing models, such as the van-like B-Class or two-seat Smart, to electric power.

To make its electric vehicles more attractive, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler's Smart brand offers to lease the battery separately from the car. The automaker has a target of selling more than 10,000 of the models next year, with a starting price of 18,910 euros plus monthly battery rental at 65 euros.

The I models' new technology poses risks for BMW, "but they have no choice if they want to keep their premium and image as an innovation leader," Ellinghorst said.

The i3 and i8 will probably be among BMW's lowest-selling models through 2024, alongside the existing Z4 roadster, according to IHS estimates. In 2014, the first full year of production, BMW will probably deliver 31,380 i3s, compared with 564,760 of the best-selling 3-Series model and 18,101 Z4s, a study by the research company shows.

BMW's stance is that the models should produce earnings from the start, sales chief Robertson said.

"We clearly, as a company, go into any product launch with the view of making profit, which is no different with the I brand," Robertson said. "This is a car line just as every other car line, and we intend to make profit from Day 1."

NYPD detective suspended after kidnapping victim found in his garage

17-year veteran of the New York Police Department has been suspended without pay after a kidnapping victim was found tied up in his garage. The New York Post reports Ondre Johnson, a detective with the Brooklyn north gang unit, was being questioned in connection with the incident and was forced to surrender his gun and badge. A source tells the Post the 25-year-old victim was snatched off the street on July 26. The victim's friends then got calls demanding $75,000 for the victim's release. The call was traced to Johnson's home, reports. When authorities arrived Friday afternoon, Johnson answered the door and identified himself as a detective with the NYPD. Investigators then found the victim tied up in the garage. Four men have been charged in the apparent kidnapping scheme, reports. 30-year-old Hakeem Clark, who lives in the same building as Johnson, was charged with kidnapping and weapons possession along with 27-year-old Jason Hutson and 27-year-old James Gayle. 24-year-old Alfredo Haughton was charged with kidnapping.

Jamie “Iceman” Stevenson is back on the streets

Jamie “Iceman” Stevenson is back on the streets – less than halfway through his prison sentence for laundering £1million of drugs cash. Scotland’s most powerful mobster has been enjoying meals at expensive restaurants and socialising with pals after being allowed home for a week each month. Stevenson – who was also accused of shooting dead his best friend in an underworld hit – was put behind bars in September 2006 when he was arrested after a four-year surveillance operation by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. He was later sentenced to 12 years and nine months for money laundering. But, we can reveal, he is now allowed out of Castle Huntly open prison near Dundee – just five years and 10 months later. A source said: “He seems determined to show his face all around town to deliver the message that he’s back and, as far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed. “A lot of people are surprised that he’s being allowed out so early. Some are not too pleased about it for a number of reasons.” Stevenson, 47, has been spotted at Bothwell Bar & Brasserie, which is run by his friend Stewart Gilmore. He and his cronies have also dined at upmarket Italian restaurant Il Pavone in Glasgow’s Princes Square shopping centre. And Stevenson has joined friends at various other restaurants and hotels, including Glasgow’s Hilton Garden Inn. A Sunday Mail investigation can today reveal that the Parole Board for Scotland could recommend Stevenson’s total freedom as early as February next year. However, the final decision on his release will rest with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Yesterday, Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “I’m surprised to hear this and that anyone in these circumstances should get out of jail before the halfway point of their sentence – far less so when the conviction is of someone involved in organised crime. “The only circumstances where that would be conceivable would be if someone completely changed their lifestyle. But even then that should not be before they’ve served half their sentence. “I’m sure the victims of these crimes – and with drugs there are direct and indirect victims – will also be surprised at this.” To prepare Stevenson for his release, prison bosses have allowed him to stay a full week each month at his modest flat in Burnside, near Glasgow. On Friday, we watched him leaving the property with his wife Caroline and driving off in a silver Audi. A prison service insider said: “The Parole Board expect the prison authorities to have allowed home visits to test suitability for release ahead of the first eligible parole date. In Stevenson’s case, that’s next February. “There are conditions attached which vary but usually include the obvious ones like not mixing with other criminals and staying only at the designated address. “For prisoners sentenced to more than 10 years, the Parole Board make their recommendations to the Justice Secretary, who then decides whether to release on licence. “Stevenson is trying to keep his nose clean to convince the Parole Board that he poses no threat to society. “But, given his high profile and significance, it’s inevitable that the authorities will be careful before making any final decision.” Stevenson headed a global smuggling gang with a multi-million-pound turnover when he was brought down by the SCDEA’s Operation Folklore, which seized £61million of drugs. He faced drug and money laundering charges along with eight other suspects, including his 53-year-old wife. But his lawyers struck a deal with the Crown Office to admit money laundering in exchange for his wife’s freedom and the drugs charges being dropped. Stevenson’s stepson Gerry Carbin Jr, 32, was also jailed – for five years and six months – but was freed in 2010. Stevenson was previously arrested for the murder of Tony McGovern, 35, who was gunned down in Glasgow’s Springburn in 2000. But prosecutors dropped the case through lack of evidence. A gangland source said: “He does not fear any kind of reprisal from Tony’s brothers, nor does he regard any other criminals in Scotland as a threat or even as rivals. He did not fear any other operation in Scotland before he was jailed. Why would he now?” Two years ago, the Sunday Mail exposed a backdoor deal when the Crown handed back Stevenson’s £300,000 watch collection, which had been seized under proceeds of crime of legislation. Last June, he was sent back to high-security Shotts jail in Lanarkshire from an open prison after a major SCDEA drugs probe, Operation Chilon. Detectives believed that the gang they investigated was controlled by Stevenson. Haulage firm boss Charles McAughey’s home was one of 11 targeted in raids. In 2009, we revealed that French police had found 684kg of pure cocaine worth £31million in a lorry owned by McAughey. Chilon resulted in the SCDEA seizing 242kg of cannabis worth £1.21million and the jailing of three men for a combined 15 years.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Tulisa's Friend, 21, Shot Dead In Gangland Hit

Reece James, 21, a close friend of Tulisa Contostavlos has been shot dead in a reported gangland attack. The 21-year-old, who appeared with Tulisa in a video for rapper Nines, was shot in the head in a "pre-planned and targeted" hit, 100 miles from his home in London, reports the UK's Sun newspaper. Police found James' body in Boscombe, Bournemouth, at around 2.30am near where Somali drug gangs are said operate. A 22-year-old man was arrested. Reece was said to have been in the area with some friends for "a couple of months", though had filmed the video earlier this month with Tulisa and rapper Nines on the Church End Estate in Harlesden, North West London. The former N Dubz star caused controversy at the time, making a "C" symbol to the camera - the same sign that is used by Harlesden's notorious Church Road Soldiers gang. Tulisa claimed it was a reference to Camden, where she was born. Twitter tributes began flooding in last night, with one user writing, "RIP Reece James. Thoughts are with him and his family and friends". Local MP Tobias Ellwood described the killing as "a spill over from the drugs turf war in the capital", adding, "This was one London gang chasing down another, carrying out a professional hit and then going back".

Friday, 27 July 2012

Gangs of highway robbers are targeting British tourists on holiday in Spain.

Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in ‘quick and slick’ distraction muggings.

The thieves typically trick their victims with loud noises, apparent accidents, supposed vehicle problems or pleas for help – before stealing bags and belongings from their vehicles. 

Thieves: Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in 'quick and slick' distraction muggings

Thieves: Hundreds of visitors in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their possessions, passports and money taken in 'quick and slick' distraction muggings

As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ‘an easy target’ for motorway thieves. 

The number of British tourists ambushed on Spanish roads has soared as the euro crisis has deepened, with the British Embassy in Madrid reporting a 10 per cent rise in the first quarter of this year.

 This is likely to increase further as the peak holiday season begins. 

A spokesman for the embassy said:  ‘Motorists may be driving along the motorway and not notice there’s a car close up behind. 

‘Someone in the other car throws a stone at their vehicle which creates a loud bang. The British drivers pull over to see what has happened and the gang is behind them. 

‘They cause a distraction to steal from them or simply mug them. It’s a growing problem.’

Warning: As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ¿an easy target¿ for motorway thieves

Warning: As millions of families begin their summer breaks, the Foreign Office has warned British-registered cars are ¿an easy target¿ for motorway thieves

A hotspot for the gangs is the AP7 motorway between the French border and the Alicante region in southern Spain. 

More than 140 cases of theft on this route were reported to British Consulates last year. 

However, a spokesman said there were likely to be ‘hundreds more’ attacks going unreported across Spain because victims usually contact a British consulate only if they have lost their passport. 

Dave Thomas, consular regional director for Spain, said: ‘Be on your guard against anyone who attempts to stop you or ask you for help.

‘They may well be part of a  gang operating a scam in which an unseen accomplice will rob you of your things.’ 

Stephen and Helen Robinson, from Desford, Leicestershire, had their bags stolen from their Audi Q5 as they stopped to walk their labrador retriever Polly at a service station between Barcelona and Valencia. 

The couple, who are in their 50s, were standing at the boot of their car when a man on a mobile phone asked them how to say something in English. 

While he distracted them, their belongings were taken from the front of the car, despite Polly being inside. 

Mrs Robinson said: ‘It was quick and slick. You may be more tired and therefore more vulnerable when you’ve been travelling, so separate your valuables into different places in the car, and when you stop be aware you may be being watched. You won’t see the accomplice of the person who is distracting you.’ 

In a separate incident, Joy and Alan Horton, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, were driving a Ford Focus hatchback through Spain when they heard a loud bang and pulled over.

A car that had been travelling close behind them also stopped, and while the driver talked to them, his accomplice stole their possessions without them noticing.

Mr Horton said: ‘If you think your car may have been in a collision and you pull over, lock the car as soon as you get out and mount a guard on both sides of the vehicle. Keep all bags and valuables in a locked boot.’ 

Professor Stephen Glaister, of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘Drivers need to remember to stay alert and be ready for unwelcome surprises just as they would be at home.’

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.

Leo blog : Romanian fishermen are cleaning up their net from small dead fish
 Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Some of the biggest fines in British maritime history were handed down to a group of Spanish fishermen on Thursday, for illegal fishing in UK waters.

Two companies owned by the Vidal family were fined £1.62m in total in a Truro court, after a two-day hearing, in which details emerged of falsified log books, failing to register the transfer of fish between vessels, false readings given for weighing fish at sea, and fiddling of fishing quotas.

Judge Graham Cottle said the family were guilty of "wholesale falsification of official documentation" that amounted to a "systematic, repeated and cynical abuse of the EU fishing quota system over a period of 18 months".

He said: "[This was a] flagrant, repeated and long term abuse of regulations. The fish targeted [hake] was at that time a species of fish on the verge if collapse and adherence to quotas was seen as crucial to the survival of the species."

The Spanish fishing vessels had been sailing under UK flags and were landing fish based on quotas given to British fishermen under the EU's common fisheries policy. Two vessels were involved, but the companies own several other large vessels, capable of industrial-scale fishing.

The offending fishermen, who admitted their guilt earlier this year, were not in court to hear him, having been given leave to return to Spain last night. The offences, dating from 2009 and 2010, relate to two companies, Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA and Sealskill Limited, both owned by the Vidal family. They were fined £925,000 on a confiscation order, plus £195,000 in costs, and an additional fine of £250,000 levied on each of the two companies. Two skippers who were acting under the family's instructions were fined £5,000 each.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, who was present for the trial and judgement, said that the fines, while welcome, did not go far enough. "This group of people should never be allowed near UK fishing quota again," she said. "The Vidal's right to fish should be removed completely."

She said the offences showed the vulnerability of the EU's fishing quota system to fraud. "The system that allowed this to happen needs to be fixed," she said. "This case is not a one off. It's a symptom of Europe's farcical fishing rules. The Vidals were permitted to fish under UK flags, using UK quota, and receive huge EU subsidies, with none of the proceeds ever feeding back into the UK economy. The system is skewed in favour of rich, powerful, industrial-scale fishing companies, when really it should be supporting low-impact, sustainable fishermen."

There are currently moves under way in Brussels by the fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to reform the EU's common fisheries policy. The proposed reforms – which include the ending of the wasteful practice of discarding healthy and edible fish at sea – have met stiff opposition, particularly from the French and Spanish fishing industries. Spain has the biggest fishing fleet in Europe and receives the lion's share of the subsidies available for fishing within the EU. A historic agreement was reached among member states last month on the proposals, but they must now pass the European parliament, which is expected to consider the proposals later this year.

True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is. Moderate feelings of guilt are beneficial because they encourage the individual to do the right thing

The Scottish psychologist R.D. Laing once said: True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is. Moderate feelings of guilt are beneficial because they encourage the individual to do the right thing. If nobody felt guilty about anything it would likely lead to a fearful world and it could even threaten the survival of the human species. There is also a more negative form of guilt which is excessive and harmful. This refers to a situation where the individual carries a sense of guilt around with them most of the time. The reasons for why the individual may become a victim of excessive guilt include: They have a poor self image. It can be a sign of mental health difficulties. Some people fall into negative thinking and this tends to include guilt. The individual has been a victim of physical or sexual abuse. Unhealthy relationships can leave people with feelings of guilt. Excessive stress. Alcohol or drug abuse.

A million Britons live with the hell of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Nadine Stewart was convinced she was going to die. Just ten minutes after setting off for a pop concert with her sister, she felt a tingling sensation in her arms and pain in her chest.

‘I knew I was having a heart attack,’ says Nadine, 41, a customer services adviser from Morecambe, Lancashire. ‘I begged my sister to take me to A&E: I ran in and screamed that I was having a heart attack.

‘They put me on a monitor and my heart was fine — what I had suffered was a panic attack. I have no idea to this day what caused it, but it terrified the life out of me.’ 

Nadine Stewart has to do everything nine times or fears her husband will die

Nadine Stewart has to do everything nine times or fears her husband will die

But worse was to come. ‘Afterwards, I developed a fear that if I didn’t do something nine times, something terrible would happen to me, my husband Paul or a member of my family.’ says Nadine. 

‘If I made a drink I had to stir it nine times. If I locked the door I had to check it nine times and if I used a cloth to wipe a surface I’d have to wipe it nine times. I don’t know why it was nine. I realised I was being utterly irrational. But every time I tried to curb it — such as only stirring my drink three times — I’d begin to panic.'

 ‘If I didn’t do these things nine times, I’d imagine Paul and me veering off the motorway in our car and see his injured face in the aftermath.’

Nadine had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten most disabling disorders in terms of its effect on quality of life. 

Last month both the British actress Emily Blunt and the MP Charles Walker revealed they suffered from it, with Walker admitting he had to do everything in multiples of four — and felt the need to wash his hands hundreds of times a day. 

 Who knew?
Surveys estimate that fewer than
10 per cent of those suffering OCD are currently receiving treatment.

They are not alone. Around a million people in the UK are thought to be undergoing treatment for OCD, the majority of them women. Women are twice as likely as men to develop anxiety disorders such as OCD — and high-achieving perfectionists are particularly at risk. 

‘There are two parts to OCD, the obsession and the compulsion,’ explains Joel Rose, of charity OCD Action. ‘The obsession is a thought that pops into your head, about harm coming to someone you love or you causing harm to someone.'

‘Everyone has these thoughts but most of us ignore them and get on with our lives. Someone with OCD will develop a compulsive ritual as a reaction to them. It can be continually washing their hands or something invisible like repeating the same phrase over and over in their heads.'

‘The time spent on these compulsions lengthens with time. A severe OCD sufferer might spend six or seven hours a day washing their hands in the hope nothing terrible happens to their children.’

The cause of the condition is not known, though a stressful event in someone’s life may trigger an underlying problem. 

Nadine has never pinpointed the root of her troubles — though they began in the year she started a new job, moved house and got engaged. ‘I had no reason to feel anxious,’ she said, ‘though I suppose there was a lot of change.

‘I became scared of choking to death so I stopped eating and lost three stone in less than three months. I couldn’t leave the house without Paul, and even then it would take me three hours to pluck up the courage.’

Someone who can empathise with Nadine is Jeni Scott, 31, who’s had OCD for three years. 
It began when her father had a heart attack and her mother was diagnosed with cancer, soon after Jeni left university. 

‘I became obsessed with doing things in order,’ says Jeni, a tutor from Newport, Wales. ‘I started making lists but it had everything on it such as “get up, have shower, make a cup of tea” and if I didn’t stick to it I would punish myself by denying myself a treat.

Actress Emily Blunt, star of Five Year Engagement, has revealed she suffers from OCD

Actress Emily Blunt, star of Five Year Engagement, has revealed she suffers from OCD

‘I developed a phobia of being in the rain in the wrong clothes and had to take a backpack with spare bra, pants, coat, shoes and umbrella everywhere with me. I’d carry antibacterial gel in my bag and use it every ten minutes. I’ve still no idea why I did it, I just found it helped me.’ 

Aisha Faisal, from Reading, Berkshire, also suffers from OCD — and it’s getting worse. ‘I developed it in my teens when my mother fell ill and I had to clean the house,’ the 26-year-old says. ‘Now I’m obsessed with everything being super-clean. I wash my hands 14 or 15 times a day, I shower for an hour at a time and wash the shower head and bath thoroughly before I step in. 

‘If someone touches me, I cringe. My neighbour touched my scarf to tell me it was pretty and I had to have a shower and put all my clothes in the wash.’ Aisha, who has three children under four, admits her obsession extended to giving birth. 

‘Each time I had Caesarean sections — the thought of having a natural birth makes me feel physically sick.’ She made the surgeons assure her everything had been scrubbed thoroughly before each operation. Understandably, her OCD worries the rest of her family. ‘My husband Ali finds it very hard to see me like this. I won’t let him touch me when he comes in from work: he has to shower and put on clean clothes before he can hug me.'

‘With three young children, being clean is impossible and I bathe them twice a day in the winter and sometimes four times a day in the summer if they’re hot and sticky.’

As a result of her obsession her own hands are red raw and she suffers from eczema. ‘I have been to the GP but it’s very difficult to treat. I know I must do something soon, because my eldest daughter, who is four, is picking up on my behaviour and I feel very guilty about that.'

‘The other day she came in from the garden and said she was dirty so needed to get out of her clothes and I washed her and cleaned her thoroughly. My husband can’t believe our electricity bill because the washing machine is on constantly.’

While Aisha is still in the grip of OCD, Jeni and Nadine have overcome the condition. According to the NHS, the two recognised forms of treatment are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which helped Jeni, and anti-depressants. 

But Nadine used another therapy called The Linden Method — a two-day workshop costs £995 — when she reached her lowest point early last year.

‘I was unable to work, leave the house or answer the phone,’ she says. ‘My vision became blurry, my hands would spasm and I’d get pains like rheumatism. I began to think: “What’s the point in living?” yet I was too scared to kill myself.’

The Linden Method — which has also helped OCD sufferers Jemma and Jodie Kidd — works by convincing the sufferer’s sub-conscious that they are safe. 

‘I’m a different person,’ says Nadine. ‘I can leave the house, I’m applying for jobs, taking up hobbies and it’s transformed my relationship with Paul. 

‘He says it’s like having a wife in a wheelchair who can walk again. Except I feel I can not only walk, I can fly.’

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Invasion of the pickpockets

Britain is in the grip of a pickpocketing epidemic as Eastern European gangs descend on London ahead of the Olympic Games.

A surge in sneak street thefts means more than 1,700 people fall victim every day – an increase of nearly a fifth in only two years, according to official crime  figures released yesterday.

At the same time, police warned that professional gangs from Romania, Lithuania and even South America who operate in capitals across Europe are heading to Britain, intent on cashing in on unwitting tourists at London 2012.

How they do it: A member of the pickpocket gang approaches a BBC reporter investigating the rise in thefts ahead of the Olympics

How they do it: A member of the pickpocket gang approaches a BBC reporter investigating the rise in thefts ahead of the Olympics

Keeping him occupied: The man speaks to the victim on the pretense of needing directions while another gang member approaches from behind

Keeping him occupied: The man speaks to the victim on the pretense of needing directions while another gang member approaches from behind

A BBC investigation exposed the tactics used by Romanian thieves, who were previously operating in Barcelona, to dupe their victims.

The criminals boasted of their ‘one-second’ theft techniques which leave targets unaware that anything has happened until  it is too late. They can make £4,000 a week taking wallets, smartphones and laptop bags. The goods are then shipped back to Romania and sold on the black market.

 Scotland Yard has made more than 80 arrests already and warned thieves the capital will be a ‘hostile environment’ in the coming weeks.

The Met has even drafted in a team of Romanian police officers to deal with the problem and patrol in the West End of London and Westminster during the Games. They will not have arrest powers.

Distracted: An accomplice (left) then plays drunk so he can get close enough to the target to strike

Distracted: An accomplice (left) then plays drunk so he can get close enough to the target to strike


Sleight of hand: The 'drunk' man jostles around with the BBC reporter, making it harder for him to notice what is going on

Sleight of hand: The 'drunk' man jostles around with the BBC reporter, making it harder for him to notice what is going on



Rich pickings: The sneering thief walks away with the wallet from the unsuspecting victim

Rich pickings: The sneering thief walks away with the wallet from the unsuspecting victim

Teamwork: The thief quickly hands the wallet to another member of the gang, who spirits it away

Teamwork: The thief quickly hands the wallet to another member of the gang, who spirits it away


Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘These Romanian officers will prove to be a huge asset in cracking down on certain criminal networks who are targeting tourists in central London.’

Official statistics released yesterday showed pickpocketing thefts rose 17 per cent in the past two years.

In 2011/12, a total of 625,000 people fell victim, the Crime Survey of England and Wales showed.

That is an increase of more than 102,000 since 2009/10.

The vast majority of the total are classified as ‘stealth thefts’, but in 83,000 cases the victims’ possessions were ‘snatched’.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


Grabbing a cup of coffee
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Dining out at your favourite restaurant
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Spending some time at the museum
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Meeting at a popular fast food centre 
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Relaxing at the beach
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Going to a game
Description: Description: 86E35EEDDDD8402D90B4DE9C978CB4BF@HomeLT 
   Going out on a date
Description: Description: E2E7E88F4CF34955A4CAA39B6C207ED2@HomeLT   
Taking a drive around town
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I am thankful I belong to another generation  !!!!
“It’s become appallingly clear that our Technology has surpassed our Humanity” -- Albert Einstein

Friday, 13 July 2012

Tattoos are permanent reminders of temporary feelings

'It's wisest to pick someone whom you cannot break up with or divorce.' Photograph: Gary Powell/Getty Images

Tattoos are permanent reminders of temporary feelings – at least if you believe the report in Thursday's Daily Mail, which looked at "embarrassing" matching couple tattoos – designs that complement or complete each other across two, romantically involved bodies.

Yet there are millions of people who feel no embarrassment about the tattoos they share with their friends, lovers and even exes. Moreover, as with most perceived "new trends" in tattooing, this practice is one with a history far older than the current generation; it's a phenomenon that provides both an insight into human beings' fundamental relationships with their own bodies and the bodies and lives of those close to them.


Tattoos have been used as markers of association for probably as long as human beings have walked the earth, to mark tribal affiliations, regimental membership in the military, membership of fraternal orders such as the masons or US college Greek letter groups, and to signify gang membership.

The most common of these types of affiliative tattoos, though, is marking an attachment to a loved one. There's an old adage in tattooed circles that suggests getting your lover's name tattooed on you is a sure kiss of death for that relationship, and it's an old gag too: Norman Rockwell's famous 1944 Saturday Evening Post cover painting, The Tattooist, shows a salty sailor in the tattooist's chair, having yet another name added to an arm already full of the crossed-out names of past paramours. Even earlier, a cartoon in Punch from 1916 shows a "fickle young thing" – a well-turned-out young woman, as it happens – revisiting her tattooist to seek an amendment to the ornamental crest tattoo on her arm as she has, euphemistically, "exchanged into another regiment".


None of this seems to have affected the long-standing popularity of having names or symbols tattooed to commemorate couples' love and bond. Magazines in the 1920s reported the latest fad for newlyweds was getting matching tattooed wedding rings; preserved tattooed skins in the Wellcome Collection from the late 19th century feature names and portraits of lovers; studies of tattoos in the American navy in the 18th century reveal a large percentage of seamen of the period bore tattoos of the names of women; even Christian pilgrims in the 16th century were recorded to have borne the names of their wives on their skins, as tokens or identificatory marks; and records attest to romantic tattooing even in ancient Rome – St Basil the Great (329-380) is said to have condemned the tattooing of a lover's name that he observed on someone's hand. While I'd certainly never advocate getting a permanent mark of your relationship too hastily, it does seem that the instinct to inscribe a permanent token transcends the ages. Caveat amator.


Single tattoos that span multiple bodies appear to be a more recent phenomenon, however. In 1977, New York-based tattoo artist Spider Webb undertook what was probably the first conceptual art project to use tattooing, in a piece called X-1000, in which he tattooed single, small Xs on to 999 individuals, and, as a culmination, one large X on the final, 1,000th skin, conceived as one contiguous work. This tattoo, potentially spanning thousands of miles at any one time, was, Webb said, "the largest tattoo ever done at any point in history". In 2000, as the culmination to a performance art project begun in 1998 designed to highlight the horrific lives and plights of the homeless and hungry in Mexico City, Santiago Sierra produced his piece 160cm Line Tattooed on Four People, a single black line tattooed across the backs of prostitutes in exchange for wraps of heroin, as a symbol of their desperation, interdependence, and utter powerlessness. Sierra would later remark: "You could make this tattooed line a kilometre long, using thousands and thousands of willing people." In 2003, author Shelley Jackson famously published her short story Skin on the bodies of 2095, one tattooed word per person. These tattoos bring together strangers in common cause.


My favourite set of matching tattoos, though, are probably the ongoing collection of work worn by twins Caleb and Jordan Kilby, tattooed with matching work by influential and extraordinarily talented New York-based artist Thomas Hooper. If you must get matching tattoos with someone, it's wisest to pick someone whom you cannot break up with or divorce, and to get the work carried out by a tattoo artist who will produce a piece of work that will stand the test of time on its own terms.

Latvian company creates leather bound Ferrari

Motors News

We're familiar with seeing tight leather on smoking hot women, and weird old men, but it's a first for us seeing a leather bound Ferrari F430.

There seems to be a lot of fuss over this leather bound Ferrari F430 in the UK with both The Sun and The Daily Mail reporting about it recently.

However, this isn’t a new car by any means as US motoring blog Jalopnikreported on the F430 way back in August last year. It’s a pretty cool, albeit manky, car so we thought we’d show you anyway.

It’s the work of a Latvian custom car company called Dartz who hit the headlines in 2009 when they created a $1.5 million ruby red SUV with whale foreskin-covered seats. Yes, foreskin…

Anyway, some high roller with more cash then sense decided it would be a great idea to cover his €170,000 Ferrari in dark leather.

The owner of Dartz, Leonard Yankelovich, said: "One of our very rich customers from the Cote d'Azur wanted a leather exterior and knew we could deliver.

"It took three of my staff 16 working days to apply the leather and finish. He was more than happy when he picked it up."

He won’t be too happy when he scratches it though.

Is this the most expensive way to ruin a Ferrari?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The best insights in my report didn’t emerge in my office, during conference calls, or at meetings. They somehow appeared in the bathroom.

Not too long ago, as I was putting the final touches on a client presentation, I stumbled across a surprising observation. The best insights in my report didn’t emerge in my office, during conference calls, or at meetings. They somehow appeared in the bathroom.

Research on the nature of creativity suggests my experience isn’t all that unique. Often, the most effective way of solving a difficult problem is simply walking away. The moment we allow ourselves to disengage from the individual pieces of a puzzle is the moment a solution appears. It’s why Albert Einstein regularly went sailing and why Charles Darwin planned his day around a countryside stroll. Thomas Edison simply napped.

In many ways, problem solvers are like artists. Taking a few steps back provides painters with a fresh perspective on their subject, lending them a new angle for approaching their work. Problem solving follows a similar recipe, but it’s not always the physical distance that we need. It’s psychological distance; mental space for new insights to bloom.

In a world where finding solutions makes up the crux of a typical workday, we are all artists. Cognitive artists. And to deliver our best work, we need revitalizing breaks. Distancing ourselves from our work grants us a broader view, activating a global perspective that precedes breakthrough.

So, why the bathroom?

If you’re like most office employees, access to sailboats, the countryside and a relaxing couch is in short supply. A walk to the bathroom is one of the few opportunities you have for disengaging, letting go of trivial details and refocusing on the bigger picture--even Steve Jobs recognized the bathroom's potential, insisting that Pixar only build two in its studios, to provide employees with maximum enforced mixing. Neurologically, it is during these moments away from your desk the right hemisphere of your brain comes to life, making you more appreciative of the forest and less sensitive to the trees.

While most of us give little thought to our workplace bathroom, there’s good reason to believe it can have an impact on the quality of the work we produce -- especially in organizations that rely on creativity and problem solving to stand out. Over the past decade, studies have shown that both our thoughts and behaviors are heavily influenced by our surroundings, in ways we often fail to recognize.

A few examples:

  • The sound of classical music makes consumers spend more money
  • The smell of cookies makes shoppers more likely to help a stranger
  • The sight of red hurts intellectual performance but improves physical performance

Psychological findings like these are now commonplace, pointing to one irrefutable fact: Our environment shapes our thinking in powerful ways.

Which brings up some intriguing questions: How can we make the most of our time away from our desks? Is there a way of designing bathrooms to make them more inspiring? And what can organizations do to maximize the insights its employees get out of each bathroom visit?

Recent research on the science of creativity provides some helpful suggestions.

Rethink Muzak

One of the ways we become more creative is by exposing our minds to a broad variety of stimuli. The wider the selection of information you mentally digest--whether it be foreign movies, experimental novels or exotic travel--the more remote associations you’ll have in your arsenal. Or, in laymen’s terms, the more creative you’ll be.

Hearing unusual music primes us to think different--inspiring ideas, emotions and experiences that increase the associations active in our brain.

Surprise The Senses

 Another creativity nugget: We tend to find more insightful solutions to a problem when we're in a good mood. One method experimentally proven for improving people’s moods is enjoyable scents. Positive scents don’t just make us feel better--they lead us to set higher goals for ourselves and experience a greater sense of self-efficacy.

Now, if you’re like most people, the restroom isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of positive scents, and partly that’s because of how hard custodians work to mask negative smells, leaving most bathrooms feeling like an assault on the senses. But in our case, that’s a good thing. It means the bar for surprising people with positive scents is that much more accessible. A few opportunities for enhancing the scent of a workplace bathroom: unusual soaps, exotic candles, and the hallway outside a bathroom, boosting people’s mood before and after a visit.

Encourage Mental Stimulation

Part of what makes bathroom visits a boon to creativity is that they represent one of the few times during the workday when our physiological attention is directed inward, mimicking the psychological experience of insight. But it’s not just inward attention that’s needed--it’s inward attention in the context of fresh ideas.

Think about the last time you saw graffiti in the bathroom. Chances are, not only did you read it, you probably thought about the person who wrote it, perhaps wondering what (the hell) was going through their mind. We can’t help but think about the things we see, but we can choose what we look at. Providing a diet of mentally stimulating material in workplace bathrooms can be done in a number of ways: posting unusual artwork, leaving out thought provoking magazines or using digital picture frames to keep the imagery fresh. The key is for the material to be stimulating and indirectly related to work you do.

Once upon a time, going to the bathroom was a distraction. Something that kept us from work; an unfortunate bodily shortcoming that compromised efficiency. But that world doesn’t exist anymore. Today, our economy is powered by an engine of insight. Creativity in the workplace isn’t a “nice to have”—it’s what keeps companies in business. Which is why it’s ironic that most office bathrooms offer a bleak and unwelcoming environment. One that discourages insight and implicitly chides us to get back to our desks.

There’s just one problem. Creativity doesn’t work that way.

And if the science has taught us anything about the creative process it’s this: Finding unexpected solutions often requires an unexpected approach. Why not start in the bathroom? 

Mobile operator O2 hit by nationwide network failure that left users unable to make calls or text

The O2 mobile phone network crashed tonight leaving thousands of customers across the country cut off. Users were left stranded, unable to make or receive calls or send texts, as the firm - which has 23 million customers in the UK - said it did not know when the problem would be fixed. Some customers also had no internet access. O2, Britain's second-largest mobile phone operator, admitted it was unclear exactly how many people had been affected. It said ‘thousands’ may be experiencing problems. The problems began this afternoon for some mobile users, the network said. O2 are urging customers to check their Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates - but the company’s webpage which displays live information about network coverage crashed. A spokeswoman said the problem was not 'location-specific'. ‘The problem is an issue within part of our core network that is preventing some mobile phones from successfully connecting,' she said. ‘The problem is not location-specific. All possible resources across our and our suppliers’ engineering teams are being deployed to restore service as soon as possible.’ Thousands of angry customers took to Twitter to complain. BBC television presenter Huw Edwards (@huwbbc), tweeted: ‘6 hours of non-service and counting, simply not good enough, O2.’ One Twitter user, Kelly Jones (@kelly-92), tweeted: ‘Having a phone that hardly works usually is annoying, but this whole no signal on o2 all afternoon is beyond irritating.’

Monday, 9 July 2012

The richest woman in the world, according to a respected business magazine, is not Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II or L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

It's a relatively unknown Australian mining magnate. So who exactly is Gina Rinehart?

Asked once to sum up her concept of beauty, Gina Rinehart did not point to the pearls that so often adorn her neck.

Nor did she rhapsodise about the ochre landscape of her beloved Pilbara, a beautiful, if unforgiving, expanse of land in the northwest corner of Australia.

Instead, she spoke of the unlovely commodity that has made her family rich, and the giant holes in the ground from where it came. "Beauty is an iron mine," she famously remarked.

When her father, Lang Hancock, discovered one of the world's biggest reserves in the early 1950s, the export of iron ore was banned in Australia because it was deemed such a scarce and finite resource.

Continue reading the main story

Gina Rinehart

  • Georgina Hancock born in Perth in 1954, studied in Sydney
  • Father Lang Hancock made huge iron ore discovery in Western Australia before her birth
  • Married lawyer Frank Rinehart in 1983
  • After father's death in 1992, Gina became executive of the company
  • Widowed with four children
  • Rinehart 'world's richest woman'

Tens of thousands of iron ore shipments later, royalty payments from that Pilbara mining field in Western Australia continue to swell her coffers.

The Hancocks were not the sole beneficiaries. The multi-billionaire fervently believes that her father's discovery also made Australia prosperous, which partly drives her recent quest for influence, gratitude and respect.

It is partly borne of a lifelong sense of grievance - that Australia's traditional east coast elites have not recognised her family's contribution to the country's development, nor the local media.

With an estimated net personal wealth of $A29 billion ($US29.3bn, £18.79bn), Rinehart has in recent years gone from being Australia's richest woman to Asia's richest woman to arguably the world's.

Australian business magazine BRW has named her the world's wealthiest woman, and Citigroup has also predicted that the 58-year-old businesswoman will soon top the global rich list, with more than $100bn (£64.8bn) of assets to her name.

Gina Rinehart is said to make nearly A$600 (£393) a second

The royalty stream from that initial discovery - the "rivers of the gold," as it has been called - still contributes to her wealth, but it pales alongside the value attached to her mining interests in Western Australia and Queensland.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Whatever I do, the house of Hancock comes first”

She hates being called a mining heiress because she considers herself a self-made businesswoman who turned her company around after her father's death in 1992.

From a worldwide perspective, her spiralling wealth illustrates the shift in economic activity from the west to the east. From an Australian one, she embodies the shift from the east to the west. Once it was media moguls like the late Kerry Packer who topped the Australian rich lists. Now it is minerals magnates who are profiting from the country's China-fuelled resources boom.

Rinehart has set out to become both a magnate and a mogul, which is why she is the subject of so much attention and controversy.

Along with her mining interests, she now owns a share of Channel Ten, one of the three major commercial television networks, and has also become the single biggest shareholder in Australia's second largest newspaper group, Fairfax Media, although she reduced the size of that stake last week.

The group publishes three of the country's most venerable mastheads - the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Age and the Australian Financial Review, and the suspicion among many Fairfax journalists is that she will attempt to turn them into mouthpieces for her right-wing views.

The dark joke is that the Sydney Morning Herald might become the Sydney Mining Herald. However, she has not been able to gain seats on the board because of a dispute about her refusal so far to accept the group's declaration of editorial independence.

Gina and father Lang HancockHer father Lang Hancock was a huge influence on her

Her mining company, Hancock Prospecting, is essentially her life. She has few outside interests. She does not go in for the normal blandishments of wealth, like art, racehorses or a private plane.

She is renowned for her 24/7 work regime, and a tunnel-visioned determination. Her personal feuds are the stuff of legend and her long list of adversaries has included her father, his business partner, her first husband, her Filipino mother-in-law, Rose Porteous, and now three of her children.

Gina RinehartRinehart spoke at an anti-tax rally in Perth in 2010

Famously litigious, many of her battles have ended up in court. "Whatever I do, the house of Hancock comes first," she once told a reporter. "Nothing will stand in the way of that."

Like her rambunctious father Lang, who railed against the scourge of "Canberra-ism," and "eco-nuts" in the environmental movement, her political views are a blend of conservatism and libertarianism.

An early heroine was Britain's Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, whom she met over lunch in 1977. Afterwards, the young Gina took much more care to dress in a business-like fashion, got a new hairdresser and started to wear more make-up.

Another intellectual hero was the free-market economist Milton Friedman. One of the reasons she cited for raising her children in the US, aside from her marriage to the Harvard-educated Frank Rinehart, was the hope that they might be taught by Friedman.

She is also a climate change sceptic, and close to the British Viscount, Christopher Monckton. On a visit to Perth last July, during which he delivered the Lang Hancock Memorial Lecture, Monckton spoke of Australia's need for an equivalent of Fox News, which could be funded by the "super-rich".

Continue reading the main story

Other rich women

  • Christy Walton - widow of John, son of the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton
  • Liliane Bettencourt - daughter of L'Oreal founder Eugene Scheueller
  • Johanna Quandt - third wife of German executive who rescued BMW
  • Oprah Winfrey - television host and media mogul, one of the world's richest self-made women
  • Birgit Rausing - art historian from Sweden inherited packaging firm Tetra Laval after death of husband
  • Rosalia Mera - after dropping out of school to make dresses before her teens, the Spaniard co-founded retail company Inditex, which owns Zara

Rinehart was not present at the private meeting, but few doubted the identity of the "super-rich" person whom Monckton had in mind. When a video of his remarks was posted online, it heightened speculation that she was pursuing some kind of Foxification strategy in Australia.

I have also been told by one of her associates that she met Rupert Murdoch earlier this year, partly to discuss Fox News.

Given that the newspapers published by Rupert Murdoch's Australian arm, News Ltd, boast a 70% share of Australian readership, and that Fairfax has the remaining 30%, the widespread fear is of a conservative duopoly, and an end to editorial pluralism.

Rinehart's $A165m (£107m) stake in Channel Ten has already lost more than half its value and Fairfax, which last week announced 1900 job cuts, is not seen as a particularly attractive investment. Like her father, who started two newspapers, the profit motive is not a major consideration. Her investment, it is thought, is about political influence.

Besides, the amount of money involved is for her comparatively small. As an associate recently explained to me, she is adopting the same approach that the super-rich use when purchasing luxury yachts or private planes, which is not to invest more than 10% of their wealth.

In her ongoing drive for influence, the debate two years ago over the Labor government's plans to hit the mining sector with a super profits tax was a major milestone.

Unusually for a woman who has preferred to exert a behind-the-scenes influence, Rinehart led the chant of "axe the tax" at a protest rally in 2010 aimed at the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Her billionaire activism lent itself to easy caricature. A reporter from the Fairfax-owned WA Today joked that it was possible to hear her gold bracelet jangling "a note-perfect version of 'Money, Money, Money' as she pumped her fist". Within weeks, however, Rudd had been ousted, and his successor, Julia Gillard, immediately announced a climbdown over the mining tax.

Gina Rinehart and the QueenRinehart met the Queen when the British monarch visited Perth

Just as Rinehart wants influence and gratitude, she is also determined to maintain rigid control of her company. Presently, she is locked in a highly-publicised legal battle with three of her four children over a family trust set up by Lang Hancock for his grandchildren.

The trust, which owns a share of her company, was due to settle its assets last September, when Lang's youngest grandchild, Ginia, turned 25. But Rinehart allegedly tried to push back the date that her children could become trustees until 2068.

Determined to retain sole control, she warned her children they faced ruin if they refused to bend to her will. "Sign up or be bankrupt tomorrow," she threatened in an email. "The clock is ticking. There is one hour to bankruptcy and financial ruin."

Her three eldest children described the manoeuvre as "deceptive, manipulative, hopelessly conflicted and disgraceful". It is not so much about greed. Rinehart offered her three estranged children big payments to go along with her plan. It is more about control.

Commentators expect the same aggressive approach with her media strategy. After all, Australia's richest ever person is used to getting her own way.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Britain's financial regulator was warned that banks were blatantly fixing interest rates in the run-up to the financial crisis but did nothing stop it

Britain's financial regulator was warned that banks were blatantly fixing interest rates in the run-up to the financial crisis but did nothing stop it, the former head of Barclays claimed yesterday. Bob Diamond told Parliament that Barclays had raised the issue of banks "under-reporting" the true amount they were having to pay to borrow money but were ignored. Asked if regulators "were asleep at the wheel", he said: "There was an issue out there. [It] should have been dealt with". Asked how bodies like the Financial Services Authority (FSA) had responded to the allegations, he replied: "Various levels of acknowledgement but no action." During his testimony, Mr Diamond, who stepped down as Barclays chief executive on Tuesday, was repeatedly pressed by MPs over whether he had been instructed by the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Paul Tucker, to lower Barclays' own Libor rate of borrowing in October 2008. He insisted he did not believe that to be the case – despite writing a contemporaneous memo suggesting Mr Tucker had told him that his bank's rates "did not always need" to be "as high". "I didn't feel it was an instruction," he explained. "I took it as either a heads-up that you're high or an annoyance that you're high." He also declined to name the "senior" Whitehall officials who had expressed concern at Barclays' borrowing costs, saying he did not want to "speculate" on who they might be. Mr Tucker is expected to be asked to name those who expressed concern over Barclays when he gives evidence to the committee next Tuesday. Mr Diamond told MPs the rate-rigging scandal needed to be seen in the light of three distinct phases. The first between 2005 and 2007, when a small number of rogue traders at Barclays "lowballed" rates for personal and professional gain; the second between 2007 and 2008 when at an institutional level a number of banks were manipulating rates to make their borrowing costs look lower; and the third at the end of 2008, during the banking bailout. Mr Diamond claimed that at no stage was he aware that Barclays' employees were manipulating the rates until he received the final report from regulators. "When I got the results of this investigation… I got physically ill. It's reprehensible behaviour. I am sorry, I am disappointed and I am also angry. There is absolutely no excuse for the behaviour and the types of emails that were written," he said. However, he defended the actions of the bank in co-operating fully with the investigation and suggested it might have been unfairly penalised because it was the first to settle. "The actions we took when we found out, I think all of them were appropriate, including recognising that we would be out ahead of the pack and helping the regulators. We did not think the focus on this would be as intense in terms of potentially harming our brand and reputation," he said. Mr Diamond repeatedly apologised for what had gone on at the bank he "loved" and the behaviour of those responsible. "The culture was absolutely opposite of anything that we wanted," he said. "We are serious in Barclays that when people don't behave they have to leave. We missed it here, we missed it with 14 people, and that's wrong." Afterwards, committee members appeared unconvinced by his testimony. "It was quite difficult to believe that such a successful banker as this, the head of one of the big four banks in Britain, seems to be completely oblivious to the years of the illegality of fiddling Libor," said former Treasury adviser David Ruffley. The Labour MP, John Mann, added: "He didn't give us any straight answers. He saw nothing, he heard nothing, he knew nothing, but he still managed to get these incredibly large bonuses for being the best banker in the world. If he's so good, he ought to have known what was going on in his own bank with his own staff." The former Business minister, Pat McFadden, said Mr Diamond's evidence only strengthened the case for a judge-led inquiry. "What's been exposed here raises wider questions. There's a case for a broader inquiry." In response to Mr Diamond's criticism, the FSA said: "Barclays raised concerns about other banks and did make comments about Barclays' own approach to submitting Libor to external entities including the FSA [in the course of routine liquidity calls]. However the comments made to the FSA did not reflect fully Barclays' conduct."

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A British photographer's adorable images of puppies, ducklings and even kittens in hammocks will brighten up any rainy day.

Master of cuteness Mark Taylor's images are in demand all over the world for the purr-fect way they capture a softer side to our best-loved animals.

His photographs are a legacy from his late mother Jane Burton who pioneered the style so familiar on calendars in offices and maths teacher classrooms everywhere.

Fosset the kitten with a yellow gosling: Photographer Mark Taylor is famous around the world for his cute shots of animals in unusual poses

Fosset the kitten with a yellow gosling: Photographer Mark Taylor is famous around the world for his cute shots of animals in unusual poses

Fosset cuddles up to his gosling friend: Mr Taylor's photographs are a legacy from his late mother Jane Burton who pioneered the style

Fosset cuddles up to his gosling friend: Mr Taylor's photographs are a legacy from his late mother Jane Burton who pioneered the style


Stanley the kitten with a duckling: Despite the menacing look in Stanley's eyes, Mr Taylor has never had any incidents where one subject ate another

Stanley the kitten with a duckling: Despite the menacing look in Stanley's eyes, Mr Taylor has never had any incidents where one subject ate another

Using a simple clean white background and some unusual animal pairings Mr Taylor's style has seen him make the cover of prestigious wildlife magazine National Geographic.

In this set of heart-warming images Mr Taylor shows why he's one of the best in his field tapping into that desire in us all to see something fluffy.



  • Women cat owners are 'more likely to kill themselves' due to higher chance of infection with parasite found in feline faeces


From ducklings with puppies, to dogs with kittens and even rabbits Mark captures them all on camera as if they were the best and friends.

And thankfully so far he's had no case of any of them eating each other.

Hear me roar: Kittens Stanley and Fosset have a cuddle

Hear me roar: Kittens Stanley and Fosset have a cuddle


Guess who! Stanley holds his paws over Fosset's face as they play

Guess who! Stanley holds his paws over Fosset's face as they play


King of the castle: Stanley climbs on top of Fosset

King of the castle: Stanley climbs on top of Fosset


Not just for Christmas: Stanley and Fosset pose inside a gift box

Not just for Christmas: Stanley and Fosset pose inside a gift box

Touch: Stanley reaches out his paw for a fist bump
For me? Stanley poses with a flower

Touch on that: Stanley offers his paw for a fist bump. Right, he poses with a bright red flower


Oh you! Stanley gestures towards the camera as he lies in a hammock

Oh you! Stanley gestures towards the camera as he lies in a hammock


Time for a cat nap: Stanley and Fosset enjoy a snooze

Time for a cat nap: Stanley and Fosset enjoy a snooze

Keeping it in the family: Mr Taylor's daughter Siena, pictured with Stanley, helps to pose the animals for her father's photoshoots

Keeping it in the family: Mr Taylor's daughter Siena, pictured with Stanley, helps to pose the animals for her father's photo shoots

Mr Taylor, 47, creates his images all at his home studio Warren Photographic, in Guildford, Surrey.

His father Kim is a world-renowned wildlife photographer. His mother Jane, who died in 2007 after a brave battle against cancer, was one of the first to use a unique style now so well adopted by her son.

Mr Taylor, a father of one, said: 'There have been a few close shaves when we have put the different animals together, but we often "introduce" the animals to a rabbit in a cage first to gauge the reaction.

'If the dog starts licking its lips we know it might not work out well, and for example it's best not to put a Jack Russell next to a rabbit.

'I have helpers in the studio and some of the animals extras we have here, for example we have six rabbits, but others we have to bring in.

'The key to the photograph is making sure the animals are not doing anything they don't want to do because I think you can tell if they are not enjoying themselves.

'My mother was a pioneer if you like of this idea of using the clean white backgrounds and I like to think I am carrying on her legacy.'

You wanna start something? Stanley goes nose to nose with a Bichon Fris

You wanna start something? Stanley goes nose to nose with a Bichon Fris


My big mate: Stanley nuzzles up with Great Dane pup Tia

My big mate: Stanley nuzzles up with Great Dane pup Tia


Where u go? Stanley and Tia have a play

Where u go? Stanley and Tia have a play

Keeping it in the family Mr Taylor's daughter Siena, 10, is also on hand to pose up with the animals in the pictures.

Mr Taylor, who uses a Cannon 1DS Mark III camera, said that he felt his photographs were so popular because they tap into an desire in us all to relate to animals.

He said: 'I think the fascinating aspect of this type of photography is that it taps into something in us all that sees ourselves and human emotions in our pets and other animals.'

Barclays boss Bob Diamond resigns

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect. The move comes less than a week after the bank was fined a record amount for trying to manipulate inter-bank lending rates. Mr Diamond said he was stepping down because the external pressure on the bank risked "damaging the franchise". Chairman Marcus Agius, who said on Monday he was stepping down, will take over the running of Barclays until a replacement is found. "I am deeply disappointed that the impression created by the events announced last week about what Barclays and its people stand for could not be further from the truth," Mr Diamond said in a statement. He will still appear before MPs on the Treasury Committee to answer questions about the Libor affair on Wednesday. "I look forward to fulfilling my obligation to contribute to the Treasury Committee's enquiries related to the settlements that Barclays announced last week without my leadership in question," Mr Diamond said. Last week, regulators in the US and UK fined Barclays £290m ($450m) for attempting to rig Libor and Euribor, the interest rates at which banks lend to each other, which underpin trillions of pounds worth of financial transactions. Staff did this over a number of years, trying to raise them for profit and then, during the financial crisis, lowering them to hide the level to which Barclays was under financial stress. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the rigging of Libor rates as "a scandal". The Serious Fraud Office is also considering whether to bring criminal charges.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Beware of missed call to check SIM cloning

Next time if you get a missed call starting with +92; #90 or #09, don't show the courtesy of calling back because chances are it would lead to your SIM card being cloned. The telecom service providers are now issuing alerts to subscribers —particularly about the series mentioned above as the moment one press the call button after dialing the above number, someone at the other end will get your phone and SIM card cloned. According to reports, more than one lakh subscribers have fallen prey to this new telecom terror attack as the frequency of such calls continues to grow. Intelligence agencies have reportedly confirmed to the service providers particularly in UP West telecom division that such a racket is not only under way but the menace is growing fast. "We are sure there must be some more similar combinations that the miscreants are using to clone the handsets and all the information stored in them," an intelligence officer told TOI. General Manager (GM) BSNL, RV Verma, said the department had already issued alerts to all the broadband subscribers and now alert SMSes were being issued to other subscribers as well. As per Rakshit Tandon, an IT expert who also teaches at the police academy (UP), the crooks can use other combination of numbers as well while making a call. "It is better not to respond to calls received from unusual calling numbers," says Tandon. "At the same time one should avoid storing specifics of their bank account, ATM/ Credit/Debit card numbers and passwords in their phone memory because if one falls a prey to such crooks then the moment your cell phone or sim are cloned, the data will be available to the crooks who can withdraw amount from your bank accounts as well," warns Punit Misra; an IT expert who also owns a consultancy in Lucknow. The menace that threatens to steal the subscriber's information stored in the phone or external memory (sim, memory & data cards) has a very scary side as well. Once cloned, the culprits can well use the cloned copy to make calls to any number they wish to. This exposes the subscribers to the threat of their connection being used for terror calls. Though it will be established during the course of investigations that the cellphone has been cloned and misused elsewhere, it is sure to land the subscriber under quite some pressure till the time the fact about his or her phone being cloned and misused is established, intelligence sources said. "It usually starts with a miss call from a number starting with + 92. The moment the subscriber calls back on the miss call, his or her cell phone is cloned. In case the subscribers takes the call before it is dropped as a miss call then the caller on the other end poses as a call center executive checking the connectivity and call flow of the particular service provider. The caller then asks the subscriber to press # 09 or # 90 call back on his number to establish that the connectivity to the subscriber was seamless," says a victim who reported the matter to the BSNL office at Moradabad last week. "The moment I redialed the caller number, my account balance lost a sum of money. Thereafter, in the three days that followed every time I got my cell phone recharged, the balance would be reduced to single digits within the next few minutes," she told the BSNL officials.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

France brings in breathalyser law

New motoring laws have come into force in France making it compulsory for drivers to carry breathalyser kits in their vehicles. As of July 1, motorists and motorcyclists will face an on-the-spot fine unless they travel with two single-use devices as part of a government drive to reduce the number of drink-drive related deaths. The new regulations, which excludes mopeds, will be fully enforced and include foreigner drivers from November 1 following a four-month grace period. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser after that date will receive an 11 euro fine. French police have warned they will be carrying out random checks on drivers crossing into France via ferries and through the Channel Tunnel to enforce the new rules. Retailers in the UK have reported a massive rise in breathalyser sales as British drivers travelling across the Channel ensure they do not fall foul of the new legislation. Car accessory retailer Halfords said it is selling one kit every minute of the day and has rushed extra stock into stores to cope with the unprecedented demand. Six out of 10 Britons travelling to France are not aware they have to carry two NF approved breathalysers at all times, according to the company. The French government hopes to save around 500 lives a year by introducing the new laws, which will encourage drivers who suspect they may be over the limit to test themselves with the kits. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - substantially less than the UK limit of 80mg.

The number of Britons arrested overseas is on the rise, official figures have shown.

 The Foreign Office (FO) handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals abroad between April 2011 and March 2012. This was 6% more than in the previous 12 months and included a 2% rise in drug arrests. The figures, which include holidaymakers and Britons resident overseas, showed the highest number of arrests and detentions was in Spain (1,909) followed by the USA (1,305). Spanish arrests rose 9% in 2011/12, while the United States was up 3%. The most arrests of Britons for drugs was in the US (147), followed by Spain (141). The highest percentage of arrests for drugs in 2011/12 was in Peru where there were only 17 arrests in total, although 15 were for drugs. The FO said anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggested many incidents were alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, the Balearics (which include Majorca and Ibiza), Malta and Cyprus. Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. "The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. While we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system. "We find that many people are shocked to discover that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot get them out of jail. We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."