Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Android Pay finally arrives in the UK

Android Pay has finally arrived in the UK but while some Android phone users may be excited, there are some drawbacks.

After announcing plans for Android Pay's first international expansion in March, Google's contactless payment service is now available in the United Kingdom. Google's rival to Apple Pay works with all NFC-enabled Android devices running KitKat 4.4 and above and was launched in the US last year.

Earlier this month, many stores in the UK began receiving promotional material advertising that Android Pay now works. After downloading the app from the Play Store, users have to enter a compatible credit card or verify one already associated with their Google Wallet account.

Participating banks

In addition to MasterCard and VISA, customers of the Bank of Scotland, First Direct, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society will all be able to sign-up to use Android Pay.

After downloading the app adding cards is relatively seamless. However, users will need to verify their card with their bank either by telephone in the case of some cards or by entering a verification code sent via SMS.

Loyalty card integration

Unlike Apple Pay, Android Pay users can also add loyalty cards which could prove to be a distinct advantage as users can slim down their wallets but still get their points every time they shop. To add a loyalty card users simply search the particular scheme, select it and then scan the barcode  on the card - or add it manually should no barcode exist

Not every loyalty scheme is available however, the Harrods Rewards scheme being just one exception.

Tap and pay

Having added payment and loyalty cards Android Pay users can then go and buy things simply by placing their device on a Tap & Pay terminal at merchants. There's also no needy need to unlock their device for payments under £30. The payment then is deducted and points should automatically added to one's loyalty scheme.

Acceptance

There are a few drawbacks however. The biggest issue is one of acceptance. Not everywhere accepts contactless payments and it may be unclear to consumers if Android Pay is accepted even if other forms of contactless payments are accepted. There are some strange anomalies too. While one can add a Nectar card to the list of loyalty cards, Sainsbury's, which is one of the main partners does not as yet accept contactless payments. This is despite promises the supermarket chain would bring in contactless by the end of 2015 [Guardian].

Contactless is now used in one in seven sales in the UK, although payments are limited to £30 if using a physical card. The maximum amount is set at £100.

Security

Security is at the centre of Android Pay so given you don't lose your phone users should be safe. With industry standard tokenisation, Android Pay doesn't send merchants your real card number when you purchase. Android Pay also makes it convenient to keep track of payments and to lock your device if it becomes lost or stolen. Though while you may be able to lock or wipe an Android device remotely from using Google's own Android Locate app and web interface as well as third party apps such as those made by Norton or Cerberus, it is probably prudent to contact the card issuers should your phone be lost.

No Amex, Barclay, Natwest et al

The other drawback for some consumers is not being able to add all payment card types. While major two payment services Visa and Mastercard may be used with Android Pay, American Express users are left out in the cold.

While American Express is not accepted everywhere this should not be reason enough that it not be an option. Many places that already accept contactless also accept American Express. Indeed all the major supermarkets, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco and Morrisons accept the card and many other High Street outlets welcome the card amongst them most McDonalds, Pizza Express, Costa coffee, Boots the chemist, and Primark.

This is perhaps of particular annoyance to those that collects points with their American Express card or like to keep all their payments on one card.

But it's not just American Express users that have been excluded. Santander, Natwest, Barclays, Barclaycard, Tesco Bank, TSB and boon. by Wirecard are also absent [BBC / GuardianTelegraph / Trusted Reviews / Tech Week Europe]

It is unclear why some banks have not partnered with Android Pay. Android Pay could potentially be more successful than Apple Pay given the number of people using Android devices. However, Apple is supported by most of the major banks in the UK the full list being American Express, the Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Barclaycard, boon. by Wirecard, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, M&S Bank (credit only), MBNA, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Tesco Bank (credit only), TSB and Ulster Bank.

tvnewswatch has reached out to some of the other financial institutions. Of those that responded Natwest said, "It is our intention to introduce Android Pay and we will make an announcement as soon as we are in a position to do so." Meanwhile American Express did not give an absolute assurance it would support the payment method but said, "There is no update to provide at the moment. As soon as we have more info we will communicate it to our card holders." Santander, another banking group missing from the app, said "we’re actively working with Google so that customers can use Android Pay later in 2016". TSB said that, "Android Pay is definitely on our plans but we aren’t in a position to share dates just yet". First Direct were more evasive, claiming that it's cards were "not yet compatible" and asked its customers to "keep an eye" on the Android Pay website for updates. As for Barclays' customers, there is no indication they will support the app at all since they are planning their own smartphone app. Their response was a simple "we have no plans to have Android Pay". Tesco Bank customers also look as though they may also be left out in the cold too. "We're not looking to introduce Android Pay at the moment but if this changes we will let our customers know," was their response.

TfL support

Perhaps the most important supporter of Android Pay is Transport for London [TfL], which has introduced many passengers to contactless and mobile payments. The average number of journeys made on London's transport network using mobile devices has increased from 7,500 a day to more than 35,000, with more than 200,000 unique devices used to make trips in the six months leading up to February – an increase of 1,000 devices per day.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cultural Revolution falls into a memory hole

"Have you heard of the Cultural Revolution?" a teacher at a middle school in southwest China asks me as I pay a visit. "Of course, who hasn't?" Later I ask why she had asked this particular question, but she is evasive and says she can't remember having posed the question.

Her forgetfulness struck me as somewhat ironic given that some 50 years after the Cultural Revolution was declared China is studiously ignoring the anniversary.

Indeed, fifty years after Chairman Mao sent a quarter of the world's population hurtling into a decade of chaos, there is virtually no mention of the anniversary. There appears to be collective amnesia with few if any newspapers making mention of the date.

While there is none of the censorship associated with contentious subjects such as Tiananmen Square, there is little if any enthusiasm to mention it. Indeed, China's microblogging service Weibo has yet to block the Chinese term for "cultural revolution", be it the shortened [文化大革命] or long version [无产阶级文化大革命].

The Beijing Times shunned the anniversary dedicating its front page to a story about police efforts to find missing children. And there have been no official memorial events reported by China's heavily controlled media. Meanwhile Chinese academics have been forbidden from talking about the sensitive period. "Researchers cannot accept any interviews related to the Cultural Revolution," one scholar told Canada's The Globe and Mail.

But there has been no shortage of news and commentary in western media. While not prominent in the schedule the story has been reported on the BBC News and CNN while most traditional print media has reported extensively on the anniversary [BBC / France 24 / Guardian / Daily Mail / ABC / Straits Times / NYT / SCMP]. 

For good or bad the Cultural Revolution has left a mark with rather kitcsh tourist memorabilia. And there are also serious collectors who seek out original items from that turbulent part of China's history.

From badges and Little Red Books to original posters some items can fetch a tidy sum. And then there's the tourist tat on sale in many towns and cities, from tacky Mao medallions and T-shirts to large brass and even gold busts of the former Chairman [Daily Mail / Telegraph].

Some memorabilia tells a story in itself. One example is Mao's so-called Little Red Book, or "Quotations from Chairman Mao". Find an original copy and one may find the page containing Lin Biao's foreword either ripped out or defaced with his name scrubbed out. Marshall Lin Biao https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Biao was Mao's right hand man and played a pivotal role in promoting the red book. But after Lin Biao fell out of favour with Mao, many people were obliged to cross out his name in order to show their allegiance. Lin died on September 13, 1971 when a Hawker Siddeley Trident he was aboard crashed in Mongolia. The exact events of this "Lin Biao incident" have been a source of speculation ever since [BBC].

Lin was only one victim of the Cultural Revolution. There were countless purges and much of China's rich cultural heritage was destroyed forever from books to ancient Buddhist temples. It was a time when China essentially went mad and there were even so-called fresh banquets where people indulged in cannibalism, eating the victims murdered during the violent purges [Time / Daily Mail].  

President Xi Jinping will be wary of anyone attempting to use Monday's anniversary to bring up uncomfortable facts about the party's past. He himself has been likened to Chairman Mao as he consolidates power and weeds out opponents. And any criticism has been met with censorship. Only last month Time magazine became another victim of China's censorship machine after it suggested Xi was following in Mao's footsteps [NYT].

Xi may not have declared a Cultural Revolution but there are strong similarities as he sets out his own vision for China's future with his own cult of personality [Time].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sir John Major on Brexit - Full speech

Speech made by Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, at the Oxford Union on 13 May 2016.

"This is my first formal speech in the Referendum campaign, and it is appropriate that it is here – because it is your generation's future that will be enhanced or diminished by whether we "remain" in or "leave" the EU.

I've no particular reason to be a supporter of the EU. It is far from perfect. A quarter of a century ago it bitterly divided my Party, and European disagreements wrecked many of the ambitions I had as Prime Minister. It opened disputes that linger yet. Nor am I an unquestioning European: I did, after all, say "No" to the Euro, and "No" to joining the Schengen Agreement on open borders.

Even so, I passionately believe we must remain in Europe and help shape its future: geography, trade and logic mean our futures are linked whether we wish it or not.

Tonight I want to explain why I believe that is so, and then cast a critical eye over the flawed – and misleading – arguments for Brexit.

What sort of country are we? For hundreds of years we've been a positive force in the world – a nation that looked outwards, and spread our ideas, our principles, our laws, our democracy, across the world.

But that world has changed. Today, we are 65 million people: less than 1% of a world of 7,000 million, forecast to become 9,000 million by the time your own children are at University.

And the global market is inexorably drawing that world together on a scale we could not have imagined even a few years ago. It is counter-intuitive to try to go it alone and, as our friends around the world tell us, a disastrously bad decision to do so.

Within the EU, we are a large and influential nation and – while we remain a part of a Union of 500 million people – we have serious political and diplomatic clout, as well as economic advantages. Some examples make this clear.

In Europe, we were able to impose sanctions on Russia to keep her in check, and deter further misbehaviour in Ukraine. We persuaded the EU to join America and impose sanctions on Iran, to bring about a deal that halts development of a nuclear weapon. We could not do this alone. If we were to leave, the world would consider us diminished. Departure would be a gratuitous act of self-harm.

The economic argument for Europe is overwhelming: it is nearly half our export market, and nearly five times bigger than all the 52 Commonwealth countries added together, or indeed, six times more than the sum total of trade with Brazil, Russia, India and China.

In the EU, we have unimpeded access to the richest trade market in the world – right here on our doorstep. Access to that market of 500 million people encourages a wealth of investment into our country. That's not an abstract statistic – it's people's jobs, taxes, profits and overall quality of life.

Outside Europe, we would still have to comply with EU rules and regulations, unless we surrendered all access to the Single Market – which all reputable authorities, not least the IMF, OECD, NIESR and the Bank of England, regard as economically foolish.

And, once out – or "liberated" in the more emotive language of the "Leave" campaign – we could no longer protect ourselves against the impact of EU laws on the City of London, nor on our industry and service sectors.

Nominally, we would indeed be "free", but – in practice – we would only be "free" to accept whatever the EU determined, with no power to argue against it. Is that "taking back control" – as the "Leave" campaign describes it? No it isn't. And it's not glorious sovereignty either. It is nothing other than reckless, imprudent folly. And the price for that would be paid by every British family.

It is not the only price. The NIESR warns of a collapse in the value of Sterling. The LSE warns of higher prices. The Bank of England fears higher interest rates and mortgages. All this and more – from independent bodies – is ignored and brushed aside by the "Leave" campaign.

Yet many people – not least in my own Party – wish to leave.

Their motives are many and variable: pride in our country, concern over sovereignty and immigration, and fear that we have no influence in Europe and are heading towards a federal structure.

We must address these instincts, these emotions, and debunk myths that are wrong, but sunk in our national consciousness. If we fail to do so, we may end up leaving Europe because absurd falsehoods are widely believed to be true.

One absurdity is that, subsumed in Europe, we would lose our traditions, our heritage, our individuality. We won't: after sixty years of Europe are the French less French or the Germans less German? Of course not: and nor will we be less British.

In the search for voter support the "Leave" campaign repeatedly overstate their case: if they were to win, they risk a backlash from those who reasonably might say they were misled.

There is no shortage of such exaggerations. One clear example is the cost of Europe. Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan-Smith and Boris Johnson all put it at £20 billion a year; Michael Gove is more modest at £18 billion (£350 million a week), all of which, they tell us – if only we could be free of Europe – would be spent on the Health Service and our hospitals.

If only … if only…. but the truth is their figures are wrong by a factor of over three! During the last five years the average gross payment was £12.7 billion of which £5.6 billion was paid back to us. Last year, our gross payment was just over £11 billion, of which over £5 billion was paid back to our farmers, businesses, science, research and regional aid. This is not my calculation – it is the calculation of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

So, to put £20 billion more into hospitals the "Leave" campaign would have to claw back all the money paid to some of our fellow countrymen and, on top of that, tax us all by an additional £10 billion. Those who make such false claims – and knowingly do so – need to apologise that they've got their figures badly wrong – and stop peddling a demonstrable untruth – as they have been repeatedly asked to do by the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority.

The "Leave" campaign fret that we have surrendered our "sovereignty" to Europe. That is a very rum claim: and – if it were true – how could we offer our nation a Referendum? It is certainly true that we have shared sovereignty: we share ours and, in return, we gain a share of the sovereignty of 27 other nations.

But this is our choice – because it is in our own national interest. And, if it ever ceased to be, our Government can always commence withdrawal with Parliament support. So let me make the position on sovereignty absolutely clear: we share it within the EU only for as long as our British Parliament wishes us to do so.

And even that sharing is partial.

What say does the EU have over our economic policy? None.

Our education system? None.

Our NHS? None.

Our welfare system? None.

Our Armed Forces? None.

Our police? None

I could go on: 98% of government spending is entirely in the control of the British Parliament.

Like much we hear from the "Leave" campaign, the sovereignty argument is emotive but specious. In a global economy, no country truly has sovereignty – not even our mighty friend the US. And in our most crucial area – security – we have happily shared sovereignty within NATO for over 60 years.

Of course, we don't always get our own way. Who does in any relationship of two – let alone one that numbers 27 other Member States? But we should not forget that – in well over 90% of the votes cast in Brussels – the UK wins. The caricature that we are repeatedly voted down in Europe is ill-informed nonsense.

Another cherished "Leave" mantra is that we will all be "dragged" into a "federal" Europe. It is their favourite horror story. But, yet again, it is fantasy.

Were we dragged into the Euro? No

Were we dragged into Schengen and open borders? No

Are we now exempt from "ever-closer union"? Yes, we are.

And if any new Treaty seeks more power, that Treaty would have to be put to the British nation in a Referendum and if – and only if – it were approved by us would it become law.

A final point on sovereignty: we have sovereignty in its purest and most potent form: we – the UK – can leave the EU at any time; nothing legally binds us to the EU forever. That is the fact and we should disregard the fiction.

As the "Leave" arguments implode one by one, some of the Brexit leaders morph into UKIP, and turn to their default position: immigration. This is their trump card. I urge them to take care: this is dangerous territory that – if handled carelessly – can open up long-term divisions in our society.

I grew up in Brixton in the 1950s – a time of massive West Indian immigration. As a boy, I played in local parks with the children of migrants. Some of these newcomers rented rooms in the same house as my family.

So, I can tell you, as a matter of fact, not fantasy, that those I knew then – and later – didn't come here for our benefits: they came half-way across the world to give themselves and their families a better life.

But, at the time, fears were fanned by careless statements from political figures. That was a mistake then, and would be a mistake now.

Do not misunderstand me. Of course, it is legitimate to raise the issue of the sheer number of those wishing to enter our country. I wholly accept that. Nor do I wish to silence debate. We mustn't overlook genuine concerns: but these should be expressed with care, honesty and balance. Not in a manner that can raise fears or fuel prejudice. The "Leave" campaign are crossing that boundary, and I caution them not to do so.

They attribute motives to new arrivals that are speculative and, frankly, offensive. They highlight – with grotesque exaggeration – the risk of mass migration from Turkey – which is unlikely to be joining the EU any time soon and indeed may never do so. And – even if she did – the terms of her accession would need to be agreed by every Member State.

So, when the "Leave" campaign warn of "opening our borders to 88 million" (meaning Turkey and the Western Balkans) they cross the boundaries of responsible comment. It is unlikely in the extreme that – I quote – "another 88 million people will soon be eligible for NHS care and school places for their children".

I assume this distortion of reality was intended to lead the British people into believing that almost the entire population of possible new entrants will wish to relocate to the UK. If so, this is pure demagoguery. I hope that – when the heat of the Referendum is behind us – the proponents of such mischief making will be embarrassed and ashamed at how they have mis-used this issue.

They advance a second migration red herring – that the recent modest rise in our National Living Wage will be "irresistible" to would-be migrants.

This is very dubious. First of all, 40% of all migrants are under 25 and therefore ineligible.

Second, are people really motivated to cross an entire Continent to receive a few pence a week extra? I very much doubt it.

But even if they were – why would they choose the UK, when the minimum wage is higher, for example, in France; and wage levels higher in other countries that have no statutory minimum.

And what of the "numbers" argument?

There are various categories of immigrants. Commonwealth immigration is entirely unaffected by our membership of the EU.

Would-be migrants from around the world need skilled worker visas to enter: and these are under our control.

Refugees are dealt with on a case by case basis. Many of those applying for citizenship have lost everything, and we have always been a compassionate nation. But these decisions are under our control.

But there are clearly undesirables, who we can – and already do – exclude. This includes anyone where there is concern over national security, criminal activity or adverse immigration history. This, too, is already under our control.

But yes, if we were to leave Europe, we could exclude more EU citizens – such as the 54,000 EU migrants now working as Doctors, or Nurses or Ancilliaries in our Health Service, or the nearly 80,000 working in Social Care. We could exclude skilled workers like builders and plumbers – or unskilled labour that takes jobs that are unappealing to the British. In short, the people we could most easily keep out are the very people we most need.

A balanced approach would acknowledge the contribution of migrants to our national wellbeing. Without their contribution, the Health Service would not be able to cope – nor would our public transport system; and our hotels, restaurants and shops would be without staff to serve their customers. We would have a shortage of many skills for industry. This is the reality of what lies beneath the emotive language of those who seek to raise the drawbridge on our country.

This problem of numbers will not be forever. The growth of the Eurozone economy – now clearly underway – should cut demand to come here, as jobs grow elsewhere across Europe. And, in any event, a short term migrancy flow should not be the issue that drives the UK out of an economic union that already benefits our country immensely – and will continue to do so in the future.

I asked earlier: what sort of country are we? And what sort of people are we?

Under our undemonstrative exterior we are an essentially kind and benevolent nation, and more inclined to emotion than the age old caricature of stiff upper lip.

Show us charitable need and we dig deep.

Show us children in need, and we pay up happily.

Show us people starving in Africa, and we text our contributions by the million.

Show us a far away nation suffering from natural disaster, and we rush to help.

We do so because our emotions are touched. But we should not let those emotions be stirred by false fear: nor allow false fear to impair our judgement on the future of our country.

Over the next few weeks we – the British people – will decide the future direction of our country.

This is not a General Election which rolls around every five years: we can't "suck it and see". There will not be another Referendum on Europe. This is it.

So – whatever your view – register and vote. Because the decision you take on the 23rd of June will shape our country, our people, and our livelihoods for generations to come."

Friday 14/05/2016


tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ad-blocking may change the Internet into paywall

New research indicates that ad-Blocking is costing publishers dearly and may well change the very nature of the Internet.

Few people like the intrusive pop-ups and irritating animated ads flickering next to an article we're trying to read, but with an all or nothing ad-blocker filtering out these elements on the webpages we visit, Internet users are essentially starving the publishers of their much needed revenue.

According to new research digital publishers stand to lose more than $27bn of revenue by 2020 as a result of ad-blocking. The report, Worldwide Digital Advertising: 2016-2020, from Juniper Research, revealed that developer activity is set to increase over the next five years, making ad-blockers more sophisticated and difficult to overcome [Register / Research Live].

And on mobile ad-blocking is also increasing and is becoming a growing threat to a mobile advertising market worth more than $31 billion [Guardian].

Even though a lot of people see ad-blocking as harmless, it does harm a lot of businesses. Indeed, for a commercially sustainable Internet, advertising is essential.

Without advertising, publishers will be forced to adopt new models for revenue, which will most likely mean less and low-quality content will be available for free. The rest will be on a pay-for basis.

Ad-blocking is a wake-up call for advertising agencies and the media who use them, it's telling them that consumers are becoming more discerning and demanding, but this could backfire as big news media and publications adopt more invasive advertising approaches including sponsored articles, back-links and so on.

But while the larger organisations will manoeuvre around ad-blocking technology, smaller publishers and bloggers will be harder hit. Smaller publishers are most at risk from the rapid adoption of ad-blocking software as they often solely rely on revenues from advertising to continue operating. And while independent bloggers may only make a few dollars per month from advertising it is an incentive for them to continue providing online content.

Many blogs are trite and not worth the digital space they take up. But free independent content is as important as the big corporate publishing houses. Without the smaller blogs and small independent publishers the Independent may become a domain in which only the likes of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Daily Telegraph exist.

Such publications are already shifting towards limited access with a paywall implemented after a certain number of pages having been accessed.

Even 'free' services such as Google and Facebook may find themselves changing their approach as ad-blocking eats up their main source of income. For Google with so many branches to their tree, solutions may be less problematic. Paid users may essentially subsidise the free content. But for the likes of Facebook finding a business model to replace the ads may be more difficult. How many Facebook users would be willing to pay an annual subscription fee after all?

Advertising, targeted through Google tracking with adsense/adwords or not, never really bothered people until they became intrusive.

Once they were a simple classified type advertisement, maybe with a nice picture. But online ads started to become more and more invasive. Irritating Flash based ads distracted the user from what one was reading. Pop-ups got in the way of what one was reading and had to be closed sometimes prompting another page to open. And then there were embedded videos which autoplayed.

Not only did these ads irritate users, they also used up bandwidth and slowed down the loading time. For those on mobile connections or slower connections these elements are even more unwanted since page downloads will cost time and even money.

So while many web users would happily accept a sensible advertising policy many sites disrespected their readers forcing them to employ ad-blockers.

Unfortunately once people install ad-blockers few people will tweak them to exclude blocking on certain sites. Therefore everyone gets punished, the websites and the advertisers.

The battle is essentially lost and the web will gradually become subscription or PAYG as advertisers lose out to the ad-blockers and content providers are forced to apply different fundraising methods or disappear from the web altogether.

Facebook et al say they'll always be free but given ads pay for their services their hand may be forced. The same may be true of YouTube and other Google services. Ads pay for your Facebook, YouTube and 15 GB Google account. Remember there's no such thing as a free lunch.

In the end, it is not about feeling guilty for ad-blocking your favourite website, it is about realizing how your actions are to your disadvantage in the long-run. Indeed ad-blocking may kill the free Internet and turn it into a massive paywall [Guardian].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, May 13, 2016

Queen's remarks about "very rude" Chinese officials rattles China

It has been described as extraordinary, unprecedented and a faux pas but the Queen's remarks caught on camera describing Chinese officials as "very rude" reveals that there are still tensions that exist between nations despite all the public smiles.

Her remarks, while creating a stir in the media, also reveal that the Queen too is human and indeed has an opinion on things.

The Queen is a stickler for protocol and had clearly been shocked by the rudeness of Chinese officials towards the UK's ambassador to China during a standoff apparent about security, and said so. That she brought this up immediately showed how much it still rankled even after seven months.

So was this a diplomatic gaffe, an attempt to send a message to the Chinese, or a statement of fact? Perhaps it was all three. But it is hard to argue, as some have tried to do, that it was of no importance. Indeed it was important enough for the Chinese to censor the relevant passage in the BBC news as screens of BBC World went black each time the story was mentioned [Telegraph].

On Chinese social media some users have been keen to comment, but many appear to have had their posts removed by online censors.

There are many unanswered questions [BBC]. But there are also some inconvenient truths [Guardian].

Some have suggested the rift was due to a hangover from the Opium Wars and British Imperialism more than a century ago. Indeed the Chinese still refer to the Century of Humiliation and dwell on the British destruction of Beijing's Summer Palace in the 19th Century [FT].

The Queen was not the only one rattled by the behaviour of Chinese officials during last year's state visit. Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D'Orsi, who was the Gold Commander in charge of security spoke of difficulties describing it as a "testing time" [BBC / Telegraph / Daily Mail].

The remarks may refer to an incident when a "Chinese spy master" supposedly posed as President Xi's official translator in a bid to get into the Queen's royal carriage. This was first reported by the Daily Mail last year and led to diplomatic exchanges.

And there have been further reports this week which appear to reinforce the veracity of the story [Sun / Daily Mail / RT].

China for its part also appear to be rattled by the critical reports in the world media. And while foreign reports including those on the BBC Chinese service have been censored state media has dismissed the reports as tittle tattle and Fleet street gossip that has been hyped up out of all proportion [Huanqiu - Chinese / Guardian].

Nonetheless with reports emerging today suggesting that China has a secret plan concerning the building of reactors at Hinkley Point perhaps one has a right to be concerned over Chinese attitudes towards Britain [Daily Mail].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Man in court over plane bomb hoax on day of Brussels attacks

A 26-year-old man from Scotland has pleaded not guilty to charges that he made a bomb hoax whilst on board an Easyjet flight on the same day as the Brussels airport bombings.

Calum John Lochhead, of 42 Boyd Orr Crescent, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, is charged with committing the offence on 22nd March on-board Easyjet flight EZY217 which was flying from Stansted Airport in Essex to Glasgow, Scotland.

On Wednesday this week Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard that Lochhead allegedly "communicated false information to passengers which he knew or believed to be false with the intention of inducing that person or any other person a false belief that a bomb was present."

Prosecutor Harshika Da Silva, told the court that the flight was delayed for a around half an hour amid pandemonium, and the plane was off-loaded after the bomb claims.

Meanwhile, Lochhead's counsel, Jo Pumfrey, told the court Lochhead had not said what he is alleged to have said.

Lochhead indicated a not guilty plea and the case was sent to Chelmsford Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on 25th May.

Lochhead, sported a neatly trimmed beard as he stood before magistrates and was smartly dressed in grey trousers, a white shirt and maroon red tie. He was released on unconditional bail.

A number of reporting restrictions were not lifted for the hearing.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

© 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Obama not the only world leader concerned about Brexit

The Brexit campaign was this weekend fixated with the US President, Barack Obama's intervention and supposedly rigged speech in which he suggested Britain would find itself left out in the cold should it leave the EU.

Obama said Britain might find itself at "the end of the queue" when it came to negotiations for any future trade deals with the United States. This was seen by those in the leave camp as interfering with some fixating on his use of the word queue instead of line, suggesting that Number 10 had been involved in formulating his speech.

But President Obama was not the first major world leader to stick his oar into the EU referendum debate.

China syndrome

Last October China's President, Xi Jinping, made a rare and unusual public statement about Britain's relationship with the EU when he expressed the view that Britain would play a far more constructive role with developing Sino-EU ties.

In a statement, Xi said, "China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties." [RT]

China usually abstains from commenting on the internal affairs of other countries so Xi's statement along with similar comments made by China's Foreign Ministry earlier the same month made it clear that the country is concerned about a possible Brexit.

While the statements coming from both the US and China may well be seen as one of self interest, they also give an indication how Britain's relationship with the world's two biggest trading blocks may well be affected should the UK leave the EU.

If the UK left the EU, it would be leaving the biggest trading partnership in the world. Moreover, the UK may well be left out if the EU is able to negotiate more favourable access for European companies to China's markets.

Some have argued that leaving the EU would create the opportunity for the UK to negotiate its own trade deal with China based explicitly on UK, rather than EU interests. However, critics of this view warn that because of the relatively small size of the UK market, China may remain more interested in negotiating with the EU, leaving the UK out in the cold unless it agrees to less favourable terms than might otherwise be secured through the EU. And Obama's statements over the weekend echo this warning.

Business interests

It is not just the leaders of the two biggest economies that are making their views felt. International business leaders have urged the UK to stay in the European Union, warning of complications that could follow a Brexit vote.

There are suggestions that a Brexit could also bring Britain's so-called special relationship with China to an end. With the real possibility now emerging that Britain could exit the EU, Chinese investors are getting nervous.

China's richest man and the head of airline Qantas have both joined the chorus of corporate heads calling on Britons to vote to remain in the EU.

Billionaire Wang Jianlin, who owns businesses including Britain's Sunseeker yachts and the firm behind the One Nine Elms development in Battersea, predicted that Chinese companies could move elsewhere [Guardian / InFacts].

A Brexit "would not be a smart choice" for the UK, and separation "would create more obstacles" for investors, Wang told the Sunday Times. Meanwhile, Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce voiced his view saying that it was "in the economic interest of Britain and the EU to stay together" [FT / Brookings].

Another big player has warned that a Brexit could seriously harm Sino-UK relations when it comes to business. Chief executive officer of BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, backed the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, saying that exiting the bloc would damage its relationship with China.

"I can tell you from my dealings with the highest level of the Chinese government that China takes Britain far more seriously because we are a major player in the EU," Andrew Mackenzie said [Bloomberg].

Financial services

The focus of Obama's comments have hinged on trade deals. However one major area in which Britain might lose out is with financial services.

Banks in the US that have operations in the EU will have a new headache in an already-difficult year should UK voters opt out of the political and economic union. And most of the biggest banks operating on Wall Street have key operations in places like London and Ireland, which could turn into a management nightmare instantly should UK residents vote on 23rd June to opt out of the governing collective.

US and European banks alike that benefited from "passporting" regulations that let them run trading operations in UK locations like London would have to hastily revisit those operating plans. Some banks may consider relocating trading operations to cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt if the UK opts out of the EU.

"At the moment they can run operations out of London," said George Karamanos, head of European bank equity research at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. "If they lose that, it means that no longer can they run regulated activities out of London." [CNBC]

And Katie Nixon, chief investment officer of Northern Trust Wealth Management, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" that a Brexit could create further uncertainty in already uncertain financial world market.

According to Nixon, "Immediate economic impacts will be felt through the trade channel, as well as through the movement of people. Both are negatives for growth. Further, a Brexit would introduce additional risk to the EU: who would be next?" [CNBC]

Indeed there have already been signs of uncertainty after Asian stocks fell over concerns of a possible Brexit [The Street].

US and EU deals

But what of Britain's relationship with the US. Obama certainly made his position clear, saying he preferred the current status quo and warned of difficulties in making trade deals [WSJ].

"The UK. would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the EU," Obama told the BBC.

And while Brexit proponents insist that deal could be struck with the US, it ignores the hard reality that the US has a preference for big regional agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now being discussed with the EU, something Britain would be left out of.

The same might apply to trade deals within the EU itself. One risk to the UK economy is that much of the trade in today's world of global supply chains is in intermediate goods such as motor parts and electronic components.

British businesses, as well as foreign businesses based in Britain, would be likely to find themselves at an immediate disadvantage and potentially excluded from those supply chains. Following a Brexit the UK government would have to find a way to plug the gap quickly.

Plugging such holes would only be the beginning of what might become a costly and time consuming exercise, not only for the British government but also for British businesses [FT].

While Brexit campaigners are, in a democracy, entitled to their opinion, so too are those that wish Britain to remain a part of the EU. And while those that wish to leave may feel indignant at Obama's comments, he is not the only foreign leader or commentator to express an opinion. And as far as other states are concerned not one single country has of now declared they would prefer the UK to leave the EU. Not one.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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