Saturday, July 09, 2016

Pro-European paper launches on back of Brexit

A new newspaper has launched in the UK aimed at the 48% of Britons who voted unsuccessfully to stay in the European Union.

The tabloid sized paper hit news stand on Friday [8th July] exactly a fortnight after Britain learnt the so-called Brexit campaign had victored over the Remain camp.

The New European paper says it aims to cater for what it called a sense of dismay and anger amongst Remain voters. Although with a cover price of £2 [currently equivalent to $2.60 or €2.34] some potential customers might themselves recoil with dismay given most newspapers sell for a pound or less.

However, The New European will appear weekly for the next three Fridays, mostly in areas that voted to stay in the EU in June's referendum such as London, Liverpool and Manchester.

The New European is said to be the quickest newspaper launch in British history but its future will however depend on sales. Essentially "every week's sale will be a referendum on the next" according to the publishers Archant who have run off 200,000 copies - a quarter of which which went to Manchester alone.
The first edition featured a brightly coloured front page carrying trailers for the paper's contributors alongside a large cartoon depicting a dog thinking to itself why people would vote for uncertainty, instability, isolation and beleaguerment.

Inside the first issue editor Matt Kelly writes of the shock he says many pro-EU voters felt at the referendum result.

"Walking in London the day after the vote was like walking through the world's biggest funeral parlour," he said in an introductory leader. "Everywhere the sense of bereavement was palpable."

The paper features articles from journalists across Europe including Tanit Koch, editor of Germany's Bild, and Wolfgang Blau, former journalist for the Guardian and Germany's weekly Die Zeit.

While it's difficult to judge sales after only a day on the newsstands, there were some indications the price was putting some people off.

One retail worker Catherine Dash, 20, told Reuters she liked the paper's style and colours but said, "I don't think it's worth two pounds."

The New European's launch comes at a difficult time for the newspaper print industry which has been in decline in recent years. In March this year the Independent newspaper went online-only after nearly 30 years in print, and publisher Trinity Mirror closed its "New Day" title in May just two months after it was launched.

More reports: MetroNewsweekHuffington PostThe DrumReuters

tvnewswatch, London

Friday, July 01, 2016

Anarchy in the UK - Brexit vote brings chaos & uncertainty

If it were not so tragic, the fallout from Britain's EU referendum result could be seen as some sort of political farce or Greek tragedy [Guardian].  

But it's a very English tragedy and one that's very real, very dangerous and may completely destroy the country altogether both politically and economically.

Cameron's unnecessary gamble

In a vain attempt to quell the Eurosceptics in his party and stop defections to UKIP, Prime Minister David Cameron last year promised a referendum on whether Britain should remain a part of the European Union. The promise may have won him an election, but his gamble has cost him, his party and the country dear.

Perhaps he thought it would be a slam dunk, a sure bet, a no brainer. After all Britain benefits hugely from the EU - though Eurosceptics would doubtlessly argue to the contrary.

But rising immigration and the emotive issue concerning sovereignty and the feeling that British laws were made by so-called 'unelected bureaucrats' swayed many to the Leave camp.

Perhaps Cameron should have made clear that the referendum was not legally binding or suggested that a pull-out would only be implemented upon a decisive majority - say two thirds of the vote, or that it should even be compulsory to vote. Indeed he could have decided not to call a referendum in the first place and not made it an election promise. Neither Labour or the Lib Dems would ever have called a referendum and UKIP would never win under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

But Cameron did none of these things and the result - after months of wasted electioneering - was a 52% to 48% split in favour of leaving the EU. With a 72% turnout it means that only 38% of the electorate actually voted to leave. But Cameron was adamant that the people should be heard and plans should be made to extricate Britain from the European Union [BBC].

Anger and buyer's remorse

However, that decision has in itself left many people, potentially up to 16 million of them who voted to remain, extremely angry [New Statesman]. The anger is compounded particularly by the lies and half truths used in the Brexit campaign [New Statesman]. There is also a sense, especially amongst the young, of being betrayed by the older generation who tended to vote to leave. There is also a sense of buyer's remorse with many people - amongst them Kelvin McKenzie of The Sun [Independent / Guardian]. And America is watching closely on this one too [Vox].

Resignations and party splits

After the vote came one tragedy after another. Cameron announced he was to step down as leader of the Conservative party. The stock markets went into a spin and the pound crashed to a 30 year low. Then there were calls for opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to quits as party members saw him as being partly responsible for the result having not made clear Labour's stance or forcefully put the case for remaining a part of the EU.

"I know the honourable gentleman says he put his back into it. All I'd say, I'd hate to see him when he's not trying," Cameron said as he scolded Corbyn during PMQs before telling him to step down. "For heaven's sake, man, go!" Cameron hollered across the chamber [Guardian].

Labour certainly have their own issues [Newsweek]. But for Cameron he is likely to leave behind a legacy that he triggered the disintegration of the UK. Scotland will almost certainly leave - or at least try - should the British government follow through and actually leave the EU. There are even rumblings that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the south could unite to join EU — which would certainly be ironic, given their history.

Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, voted overwhelmingly to Remain, as did Scotland.

And Gibraltar's First Minister Fabian Picardo said on the Monday following the referendum that he's been in talks with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to find a way for them to unite in some fashion to stay in the EU.

Boris leaves the battlefield

A week after the Britain's went to the polls the front contender for the next Tory leader Boris Johnson decided he was not the right person to take the party forward [BBC]. Only a week before he had spoken of rebuilding Britain and bridges but now he was quite chapfallen [BBC]. It is often said in Tory ranks that "He who wields the dagger never wears the crown" and this appears to have come true for Boris.

It was almost as if he'd gambled by playing the part of a Eurosceptic in order to take over the party and lead it through the next election with a populist following. In other words he'd hedged his bets on Remain winning before launching a coup against Cameron. But despite the upbeat comments from Boris Johnson and others in the Leave camp, things have not gone quite as planned. Whatever his intentions, the aftermath is being felt far and wide.

The dismay expressed concerning Boris Johnson's announcement was almost immediate. "So Cameron destroyed, Johnson destroyed, just a shame the country is also heading that way" the Guardian's Jonathan Hayes wrote on Twitter.

"So Boris smashed up the whole place for nothing. For nothing." wrote Philip Collins a writer and contributor to the The Times and chair of trustees of Demos.

But it wasn't just the columnists. Former Deputy PM Michael Heseltine waded in calling Boris Johnson a disgrace. Lord Heseltine said Boris had "ripped the (Conservative) party apart, he's created the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times he's knocked billions off the value of the nation's savings. He's like a general, that led his army to the sound of guns, and at the sight of the battlefield abandoned the field."

"I have never seen so an irresponsible and contemptible situation," Lord Heseltine added [BBC / BBC]

Tory leadership battles

Meanwhile other Conservatives had already thrown their hats in the ring. One major contender, and the only one who originally came out to remain in the EU is the Home Secretary Theresa May.

However in her leadership announcement launch, May seemed resolute and claimed she was the right choice to, "Bring together the country and a sensible organised departure from the EU".

But her statement "Brexit means Brexit" will hardly bring about confidence in the City where there was a feeling Article 50 might never be invoked. Indeed her assertion that there will be "no rejoining the EU by the back door" gives no wiggle room.

There appears to be strong backing for May within the party. "The UK needs strong and proven leadership" Michael Ellis MP told the BBC echoing the words of another May supporter Chris Grayling MP.

She certainly has some support but there'll be few making bets quite yet given the series of unpredicted events that neither the bookies, political pundits nor polls got right.

The bookies and many polls seemed to hinge upon the Remain camp having seized the day. But by 1 a.m in the morning on Friday 24th June it appeared clear that the vote had swung the other way.

Repercussions of Brexit vote

The repercussions were almost immediately felt as the markets crashed around the world. More than $2 trillion were wiped off the value of shares globally and Sterling sank to a 30 year low against the US dollar.

While there was some recovery the following week, the pound still remained low. Meanwhile three major ratings agencies all downgraded Britain's credit rating removing its AAA status [BBC]. And less than a week after the vote had been declared others were declaring UK banks a bad bet.

RBS and Barclays, which had seen up to 10% wiped off their share value in the days after the EU referendum, were declared as "uninvestable for months" according to investment management and research group Bernstein [Reuters].

Of course Leave campaigners insist that the downturn would only be short-lived and that confidence would return.

Those in the City are less optimistic with some commentators predicting a recession. Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, has described the fallout of the Brexit vote as probably "the most disastrous single event in British history since the second world war" and says he would not be surprised if Britain fell into recession [Yahoo - Video].

Wolf was one of several who had aired the possible outcome of Brexit being abandoned .

"Prime Minister Johnson might, to paraphrase Emperor Hirohito's remarks at the end of the second world war, declare that, given the "unexpected" economic damage and the risk of a break up of the UK, the situation "had developed not necessarily to the UK's advantage". He might forget the whole thing or, alternatively, call another referendum, merely to make sure the people remained as determined." [FT]

Little hope of a U-turn

A U-turn on Brexit seems unlikely with hardline Tory candidates such as Andrea Leadman and Michael Gove. Even former Remain campaigner Theresa May has left few options open after declaring "Brexit means Brexit".

On the other side of the house, Labour remains in disarray with its own leadership battles as Jeremy Corbyn clings onto his position despite countless votes of no confidence.

No Future?

So what's the future for Britain? Simply put everything's gone tits up. Bank stocks are down with the outlook negative. Ratings are down from AAA to AA with an outlook of negative. Vodafone is mulling over the possibility of leaving the UK while some tech start-ups have already left as uncertainty of the next two years takes hold [Business Insider / Register]. Ryanair has also hinted at shifting focus as have other firms in the City [BBC / Guardian / Sky News].

There is an irony that London this year 'celebrates' the 40th anniversary of punk. The Sex Pistols anthems Anarchy in the UK and the lines 'No future in England's Dreaming' taken from God Save the Queen seem particularly apt at this time.

It's easy to fall back on metaphors, but as regards Britain's future there is little to fall back on. Certainly one should not fall on one's laurels.

In the last week there have been headlines such as "Britain sailing into uncharted waters" or "Heading into a storm without a captain" or "The only thing certain is uncertainty" [Economist].

"The futility of it all"

And for what? Politicians continue to maintain Britain will recover and build by trading with other countries. This may be true, in the medium to long term. But all the signs point to uncertainty and an unwillingness to invest in the UK.

The weak pound may encourage some tourists to Britain's shores. But equally the rise in xenophobic and racist attacks on Muslims, Poles, Romanians and even an American of mixed race, could deter people from wanting to visit [Express & Star / Al Jazeera / Guardian]. More than 300 hate crime incidents had been reported to a national online portal in the week since the referendum - compared to a weekly average of 63. While the numbers are small in the great scheme of things such incidents are still disturbing.

How long before people become impatient with politicians as wages freeze or even diminish as Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, indicated might happen in the third and fourth quarter of 2016 [BBC / City Wire].

It is all very well for the Leave camp to say people should not talk Britain down, but what else can one do? To take another metaphor one should call a spade a spade. If the market is unstable, if the pound is at its lowest for 30 years and there is political and economic uncertainty and chaos, one can only call it what it is; utter chaos. The front page of one Australian paper perhaps had it right when is headlined with the slogan "Anarchy in the UK" above the word Brexit as the results became clear last week.

With the experts, that said that Brexit would be a disaster, being proved right it is hard to be anything other than pessimistic [Bloomberg / Independent].

Many economists have argued that the longer the uncertainty drags on, the more investments will be delayed, or even scrapped altogether. A fall in investment, especially from abroad, poses a significant threat to the UK economy, although there is varying opinion on how bad it is [ZeroHedge].

Some have been somewhat flippant almost to the point of showing signs of Schadenfreude. "You have to admire Leave Brits. They were so worried about immigrants ruining their economy than they preempted it by doing it themselves," wrote one Twitter user soon after the result was announced. Many papers around the globe were also rather bemused or even ridiculed of Britain's decision [New Statesman].

Uncertainty

But how long is the uncertainty going to drag on? In short no-one knows - or at least no-one's prepared to say.

Without implementing Article 50 Britain remains in the EU. However, while there is an element of status quo before that happens, no company is going to set up shop in the UK before it's clear whether the UK is actually going to follow through. Indeed miracles can happen. An election could be called and a party promising to reverse the decision could be elected! The Lib Dems have already promised such a move, although the odds of them winning would be slim.

Even with Article 50 implemented there can be up to two years of negotiations before Britain is actually outside the EU. And currently there is a stalemate with the EU which states there will be no cherry picking and that Britain will have to accept free movement if it wants to remain in the single market. There may even be difficulties should Britain try to secure the so-called Norway or Switzerland options as even they are currently borderless and within the Schengen zone, something which Britain has previously rejected [Independent]. There are five proposed models Britain could follow, although pro-Remain campaigners would argue that none are as good as what Britain already had [BBC].

Few choices

To quote an oft used American phrase, Britain is now caught between a rock and a hard place with few options on the table.

The government could turn around and make excuses to the electorate and say without remaining a part of the EU the economy is sunk, but promise to keep fighting for further reforms. There is some commentary suggesting a Brexit may never happen [France 24].

However following this route does rather lead to Britain forever being remembered as someone who said "I'm so sorry I made a mistake".

But perhaps that's better than flushing the country down the toilet.

The futility of it all

Today, 1st July, marks 100 years since the Battle of the Somme began and saw more than a million men were wounded or killed in the 141-day battle, the most devastating encounter of World War One.

And 100 years on Britain is now set to tear apart a union of nations which came together to end such battles and wars.

One might end with this line in which one soldier talks of the first day of battle. "At noon I went to Brigade to report the futility of it all." One hundred years on many might be feeling the Brexit battle was just as futile. Indeed what has it achieved other than create divisions, uncertainty in Britain's economy, precipitated the murder of MP Jo Cox [BBC] and encouraged racist attacks.

Brexit may not lead to war, but it may lead to deep depression and a prolonged recession which will be just as futile and unnecessary.

tvnewswatch, London

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Britain heads into uncharted territory

After months of debates, accusations of racism and vitriolic attacks, voters are finally going to the polls to decide whether Britain remains a part of the European Union.

Every vote counts and turnout is all the more important. But at the eleventh hour, despite persuasive arguments from both sides of the campaign, torrential rain sweeping across Britain was feared to impact on the historic vote.

Polls failed to show any clear lead for either side. Indeed even if rain doesn't keep voters away from the polling station the result is expected to be extremely close.

The focus of the campaigns have hinged on several issues. Democracy has featured strongly amongst those promoting the Leave argument, claiming that 'unelected bureaucrats' in Brussels take away Britain's rights and impose unjust laws upon the country. Immigration has also been a major issue and become extremely divisive. There have been accusations of some parts of the Leave campaign exploiting people's fears over immigration to the point of racism. The vitriol boiled over when a pro-Remain MP, Jo Cox, was murdered by an individual, who while obviously mentally disturbed, had likely been influenced by some of the almost racist rhetoric coming from some parts of the Brexit camp.

The Remain side has not been entirely squeaky clean. Indeed many on the opposite side have dubbed their campaign as 'Project Fear' after countless claims that a Brexit will bring about recession, economic collapse and years of uncertainty.

The papers have varied in their support. Some have shamelessly supported the Brexit campaign amongst them the Sun, Daily Mail and Telegraph.

The Times, Guardian and Daily Mirror have tended to lean towards Remain with the Independent mainly sitting on the fence. The Financial Times has not been as vocal although their warning about the financial risks following a Brexit could be interpreted as its having a pro-Remain position.

The broadcasters have not sided with one camp or the other, although it could be argued that some campaigns and certain campaigners have been given more oxygen of publicity that they deserved.

And there has been endless TV, Radio and online debates. Perhaps the most enthralling was the Big Debate held in Wembley and broadcast by the BBC. Channel 4's The Last Debate hosted by the veteran broadcaster Jeremy Paxman was also engaging. CNN's UK Decides debate hosted by Christiane Amanpour had been pulled from its intended broadcast slot one week before the referendum after the murder of Jo Cox MP. However when it finally went to air a week later it was rather a disappointment.

But today the voters in the UK will decide. But whichever way the vote goes it will be a leap into the unknown as neither side can predict exactly what might happen.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Turning an old PC into Chromebook

A Chromebook isn't for everyone. Indeed there are many drawbacks. Whilst printing is usually not an issue, scanning a document is no easy task. Ripping music from a CD is of course impossible since Chromebooks don't come with CD or DVD drives. And for those who edit photos and video, tools are relatively simple compared to what one might use on a regular PC.

Advantages

However as a second machine a Chromebook can almost be a distinct advantage over a conventional PC or Mac. One of the biggest advantages is boot time which can be as little as 10 or 15 seconds. In practical terms it may in fact be about 30 to 40 seconds, but this is a distinct advantage over a laptop that may take several minutes to boot up especially if it's a few years old.

So within a minute you can be checking your Gmail, reading the news, watching Sky News online, editing a document or sending a tweet. Indeed for most people the work carried out on a PC is online, and for all such tasks using a Chromebook is a distinct advantage.

Internet connection required

Of course you need an Internet connection, but how many people use a PC that's not connected to a network? Occasionally perhaps such as when taking a trip by plane. But even here Chromebooks can still be used for some limited tasks such as composing or checking Gmail or writing and editing Google docs if offline apps or settings have been applied.

Disadvantages

It is only for heavy duty tasks that a Chromebook falls flat. If you take a lot of photographs on anything other than your phone and want to run them through Photoshop then a Chromebook can prove to be somewhat limited. And when it comes to downloading music or films there are also similar issues since there is generally very little storage on most Chromebooks. For such tasks it is perhaps best to have a PC. And as already mentioned one cannot rip music or play DVDs since CD/DVD drives aren't installed in Chromebooks.

But for general browsing and other work that can be done online a Chromebook is fast and  convenient. In fact it can prove to be far more efficient and smoother to work on, with few if none of those hangs and freezes that can be so commonplace on a conventional PC or even Mac.

Cost

But there is a financial cost. And even with the cheapest Chromebook selling at  around £200, one might not wish to take the plunge only to find it doesn't come up to all expectations.

So why not turn an old redundant laptop into a Chromebook? Given the life of some laptops, many people have a spare one sitting in the back of a cupboard, discarded after it became too slow and unresponsive or simply out of date as Microsoft ended support for old operating systems like XP and Vista.

Turning a PC into a Chromebook

With a little time and a very small amount of technical knowledge one can turn that otherwise useless laptop into a swift Chromebook thanks to a US company called Neverware.

Neverware have made available a downloadable package which. given everything goes swimmingly, can turn that old machine into a Chromebook within an hour.

Of course not everything goes according to plan. And one has to be a little patient. There are instructions on the Neverware site itself, though they are a little confusing. Indeed the best instructions we found were on [CNET].

We turned an old Dell Inspiron 1525 32-bit laptop running Vista into a Chromebook however there were a few problems along the way. Downloading the zip file from Neverware was not an issue, nor was the installation of the Chromebook Recovery Utility into the Chrome browser which is required to create the bootable USB. However when attempting to unpack and write the image to the USB stick we constantly received an "unknown error utility process crashed" message which as it turns out is an issue relating to Chrome 50 and Windows which prevents one from writing to a USB due to User Access Controls, Window's security settings [Neverware]. Disabling UAC and running Chrome as administrator made no difference.

This wasted a good couple of hours as we searched out information to resolve the problem. Finally a Google search provided an alternative solution published on the Neverware site which suggested downloading Win32DiskImager software, unzip the package and writing the resulting .bin file to the USB thumbdrive [Alternate Instructions - Neverware PDF]

Even then it was only on the second attempt that we were able to write the image to the USB stick.

After setting the old PC to boot from USB - by hitting F2 and changing boot options - we finally got Chromium to install.

After a few weeks of use there have been no major problems. Surfing is extremely fast. The browser is quick and responsive and not crashed once. Apps works well and we can identify only one slightly annoying bug in that thus far in that webpages won't translate or auto-translate as they normally would in the Chrome browser. Indeed this appears to be a known issue which Neverware are attempting to resolve [Neverware].

Of course this is perhaps to be expected given the version of Chromium offered by Neverware is NOT an official Google release. But it is perhaps the best one is going to get without spending out on a new Chromebook with an official Google release of Chromium.

In summary the computer doesn't technically become a "Chromebook," as that's a trademarked name for official Chrome OS products released with Google's direct involvement, but it's extremely similar in both form and function.

And should you take the plunge you will at least have a working laptop rather than a black box taking up space in that cupboard. Though of course if you do mess things up with the installation you could end up bricking it. Indeed we had extreme difficulty getting the software to install on a much newer Acer machine.

Finally there are some things to consider before you turn that old PC into a 'Chromebook'. As one article in Computer World highlights, not all the functionality seen in an official Chromebook exists, and indeed there are some bugs - as mentioned above regards the translate feature - but given it's free and may breathe new  life into an otherwise redundant machine it may be worth exploring. It may even prompt you to buy a real Chromebook! In fact Chromebooks for many are fast becoming the PC of choice with sales in the US overtaking those of Macs [Daily MailThe Verge / ZDNet].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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].

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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


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