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‘Encouraged’ by Narendra Modi’s remarks on ties: Pakistan envoy

BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narandra Modi being garlanded during an election rally in Himmatnagar, Gujarat.

New Delhi: Pakistan today said it was “encouraged” after BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s remarks regarding ties with foreign countries and asserted that it was looking forward to a stable government here to engage “quickly, comprehensively and meaningfully”.

Making a strong pitch for resumption of dialogue process, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said talks were the only way to resolve outstanding issues and no one nation does any “favour” by talking, indicating that stopping of talks by India was not good for bilateral ties.

Interacting with women journalists, Mr Basit also said his government was committed to change the bilateral narrative of conflict into one by cooperation and mutual trust.

Asked about BJP’s view that all those who do not support Mr Modi should go to Pakistan, the High Commissioner said, “I have seen all the statements and remarks (by his party and him) but the best statement came last night from the Prime Ministerial candidate and I feel much more encouraged.

“His (Modi’s) response when a question was asked about Pakistan was very positive and that gives us hope that positive things will come… I am indeed encouraged.” (Full Coverage: India Votes 2014)

In an interview yesterday, Mr Modi had asserted that he would take forward former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s principles on foreign policy and said, “I believe mutual respect for one another and cooperation should be the basis for relationships with foreign nations.”

Mr Basit also downplayed BJP leader Giriraj Singh’s remarks that all those who don’t respect Mr Modi should go to Pakistan, saying these were “rhetorics” used during electioneering. (India Votes: Candidates | Schedule)

The Pakistani envoy also said that his government was “keenly looking forward to a government with which Pakistan (can engage) quickly, comprehensively and meaningfully… and move from conflicting relations.”

Strongly favouring the resumption of dialogue, Mr Basit said Pakistan hopes that there would be resumption of talks to resolve outstanding issues. “We should also preserve and build on past agreements and treaties,” he added, citing examples of Indus water treaty and some understanding on demilitarisation of Siachen.

Asked about a perception that ‘Pakistan was most dangerous country’, Mr Basit said, “Pakistan was not most dangerous country but most misunderstood country”.

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Arvind Kejriwal, wife declare assets worth over Rs 2 crore

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal.

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal today declared movable and immovable assets worth Rs 2.14 crore belonging to him and his wife.

In his affidavit filed along with nomination papers for the Lok Sabha election from this constituency, the AAP supremo also mentioned about six cases that are pending against him in various courts.

The AAP leader in the affidavit said he has two flats – one at Indirapuram, Ghaziabad and another at Shivani in Haryana. The value of the flat at Indirapuram has been put at Rs 55 lakh while the flat at Shivani is worth Rs 37 lakh.

Kejriwal’s wife Sunita has a 2,244 sq feet flat in Gurgaon worth Rs 1 crore.

Kejriwal is locked in fierce battle in this temple town against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who will file his nomination tomorrow.

The former Chief Minister declared movable assets at Rs 4,25,085 while his wife has a total of Rs 17,41,583, including 300 gm of gold worth Rs 9 lakh.

In the affidavit, he has mentioned cash Rs 15,000 in hand and while his wife has Rs 10,000 in cash.

The AAP leader, who had mentioned about an unpaid liability of Rs 23,550 as electricity bills while filing nomination for Delhi Assembly polls in November last year, has declared ‘nil’ liability in the affidavit filed today.

His wife has a total liability of Rs 41 lakh which includes Rs 30 lakh home loan from State Bank of India and Rs 11 lakh loan from relatives.

Kejriwal has declared a total income in 2012-13 at Rs 2,05,600 while his wife’s income in that period was Rs 9,84,570.

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2G case: CBI’s questionnaire for former Telecom Minister A Raja

New Delhi:  A Delhi court has fixed May 5 for the commencement of recording of statements of former Telecom Minister A Raja and 16 others facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case. NDTV has accessed the 800-page questionnaire prepped for Mr Raja by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating the alleged scam, priced at Rs 1.76 lakh crore by the national auditor.

Here is the questionnaire:


Narendra Modi more popular than Vajpayee, Advani: Sushil Kumar Modi

Jhanjharpur, Bihar: Bihar’s Sushil Modi, seen as one of the staunchest supporters of the man he shares a surname with, reckons that Narendra Modi is more popular than BJP stalwarts Atal Bihari Vajpayee or LK Advani.

That is a startling statement to make for a member of the BJP, a party in which Vajpayee remains the gold standard of leadership.

But Sushil Modi has been an unabashed Narendra Modi fan for many months now. As he campaigns in northern Bihar, the BJP’s top leader in the state also claims that there is a massive “Modi wave” that will see his party’s prime ministerial candidate take the country’s top post after results are counted in the general elections on May 16.
Sushil Modi tod NDTV that his party, expected to do well in Bihar, will not engineer the fall of the Janata Dal United government after the general elections, but said he expects it to cave in due to “internal problems.” 

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar runs a minority government in Bihar and his party has been hit by a series of desertions of late. Any more crossovers will tilt the balance.  Three MLAs were suspended recently.

Sushil Modi was Bihar’s deputy chief minister when he and 10 other ministers were unceremoniously dumped from the government by Mr Kumar last June as he announced a split with the BJP, ending a 17-year alliance.

Opinion polls have said Mr Kumar’s decision is likely to boomerang; he dismissed such surveys today as “public relations exercises” and said he did not regret divorcing the BJP for naming Narendra Modi as the face of its campaign for the 2014 general elections. 

But Mr Kumar admitted that the outcome of the general election will impact the state government.

Assembly elections are due in Bihar only late next year.

 In 2009, the JD(U) had bagged 20 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in partnership with the BJP, which had won 12. An NDTV opinion poll conducted earlier this month said it was likely to win only four this time, placing third after the BJP’s alliance and Lalu Yadav’s alliance with the Congress. 

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Scientists monitoring iceberg six times the size of Manhattan

In this November 13, 2013, NASA Earth Observatory handout image, the B-31 Iceberg is seen after separating from a rift in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier.

Washington:  Scientists are monitoring an iceberg roughly six times the size of Manhattan – one of the largest now in existence – that broke off from an Antarctic glacier and is heading into the open ocean.

NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt said on Wednesday the iceberg covers about 255 square miles (660 square km) and is up to a third of a mile (500 meters) thick. Known as B31, the iceberg separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier last November, Brunt added.

“It’s one that’s large enough that it warrants monitoring,” Brunt said in a telephone interview, noting that U.S. government organizations including the National Ice Center keep an eye on dozens of icebergs at any given time.

The iceberg’s present location is not in an area heavily navigated by ships.

“There’s not a lot of shipping traffic down there. We’re not particularly concerned about shipping lanes. We know where all the big ones are,” she said.

Scientists are especially interested in this iceberg not only because of its size but because it originated in an unexpected location, said Brunt.

“It’s like a large sheet cake floating through the Southern Ocean,” she added.

The glacial crack that created the iceberg was first detected in 2011, according to Brunt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Morgan State University in Maryland.

Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past two decades because it has been thinning and draining rapidly and may be an important contributor to sea level rise, scientists say.

They say the iceberg has floated across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea, and will likely be swept up soon in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean.

“We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly. It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow,” iceberg researcher Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield in England said in a statement from NASA Earth Observatory.

“There were a couple of occasions early on when there might have been partial grounding or collisions with the sea floor, as B31 bounced from one side of the bay to the other,” Bigg said.

© Thomson Reuters 2014


United States astronauts step out on spacewalk for repairs

This April 23, 2014 NASA TV image shows International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Rick Mastracchio during spacewalk to install a backup computer that failed earlier this month

Washington:  Two US astronauts stepped out on a brief spacewalk Wednesday to install a backup computer at the International Space Station after one failed earlier this month.

Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson climbed out of the space station starting at 9:56 am (1356 GMT). Although they were about a half hour behind schedule in getting outside the space station, the spacewalk was completed without incident in just an hour and 36 minutes, well ahead of the expected 2.5 hour timeline.

The two astronauts worked together to quickly loosen the bolts that held the broken computer to the space station and then to re-attach the replacement within less than an hour. Shortly afterward, NASA command control in Houston declared the replacement mission “successful.” “We have a good MDM. In diagnostic mode as expected,” one of the engineers on the ground told the astronauts, as the mission streamed live on NASA TV.

The computer is known as a multiplexer/demultiplexer (MDM), one of 45 aboard the orbiting laboratory. The 10-year-old backup MDM failed after a routine restart operation on April 11 — the primary computer continued to work without issues, however.

NASA said it provides commands to certain space station systems, including the external cooling system, solar alpha rotary joints and mobile transporter rail car.

The replacement had been stored at the space station in the Destiny lab since 2001, when it was delivered aboard the ‘Endeavour’ space shuttle. The broken model was brought back into the space station, where tests would be conducted to find out what went wrong.

Swanson also performed an unrelated “get-ahead” task to cut off two wire ties from the doors of a secondary power distribution assembly — a wiring hub — to allow the space station’s robotic arm to open and close the module’s doors if needed in the future.

The astronaut initially ran into trouble as he tried to open one of the doors to test the force necessary and was initially unable to get it fully open, but ultimately was able to maneuver the hatch.

The spacewalk was the 179th in support of the orbiting space station, a global collaboration that includes Europe, Canada, Japan, the United States and Russia.

Just prior to the spacewalk, a Russian cargo capsule undocked from the space station for a two-day test of a new system to automatically reattach itself, NASA said.

The Progress 53 resupply ship separated from the space station at 4:58 am (0858 GMT), and was to retreat a distance of 311 miles (500kilometers). “It will return back to the Zvezda docking port Friday morning after Russian flight controllers have tested its new Kurs automated rendezvous system,” the US space agency said.

A similar operation was done in July 2012 when another Progress cargo freighter pulled away from the station and re-docked, also for a trial run of its automated return system.


Death of Barack Obama’s aunt highlights complicated family ties

Amid politics, a gulf between Barack Obama and kin

(Evan McGlinn/The New York Times)

Malik Obama, a half-brother of President Barack Obama, outside of the Solimine Funeral Home for the wake of Zeituni Onyango, the Kenyan-born aunt of the president, in Lynn, Massachusetts on April 19, 2014.

Boston:  After Zeituni Onyango, the woman President Barack Obama once called Auntie, died in a Boston nursing home this month, her closest relatives gathered her belongings at her nearby apartment. There, framed photographs of her with the president covered the wall.

Weeping before a polished wood coffin at her wake this past Saturday, they described Onyango, the half-sister of the president’s father, as “the spirit of the Obama family” and talked about raising money to send her body back to Kenya. Obama helped pay funeral expenses and sent a condolence note, Onyango’s family members said, but the president did not attend, as he was golfing.

Every complicated family is complicated in its own way. The Obamas, in that sense, are ordinary. But the natural drift that has occurred within the family – already separated by oceans and languages – is exacerbated by politics.

“He leads his life and I lead my life,” said Obama’s half-brother, Malik Obama, who flew in for the wake and spoke emotionally about Onyango, his aunt, who was 61. He said he “wouldn’t say” he and the president had stayed close. “Because even my other brothers and sisters, they are all over the place,” Malik Obama added. “Right now, I would say that things have changed.”

As president, Obama has kept his distance from, and even failed to acknowledge, members of this eclectic clan. In the time-honored tradition of eccentric presidential relatives, the assorted Obamas have faced deportation and drunken-driving charges, started Obama-branded foundations and written memoirs.

But they also made for a powerful element of the president’s Kansas-meets-Kenya narrative as a candidate who could connect different worlds. A delegation of African relatives flew in for Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and received royal treatment. An aunt beamed when the first couple admired her traditional dress on the platform, brothers and uncles partied at special balls, and the whole family proudly posed with the new president after he led them on a tour of the White House.

Now, as the president has embraced the family more culturally near to him – the half-sister on his mother’s side with whom he remained close, the Ivy League-educated brother-in-law he bonds with over basketball, the mother-in-law who lives upstairs – the Obamas are often relegated to the farther branches of his family tree.

In the White House, officials who have seen the president’s reaction to his African relatives say that he is unfairly expected to answer for people with whom he has little relationship. “This is the president’s personal family, so we are not going to have any comment,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

Today, many are doing their own thing, although often that has something to do with their connection to Obama. Malik Obama, the president’s half-brother and best man at his wedding, now splits his time between Nairobi and Maryland and runs the Barack H. Obama Foundation.

“What can I say? It’s not doing as well as I would like for it to do,” said Malik Obama, 54, who has raised money for the charity from friends in Yemen and Libya, where he was supportive of Moammar Gadhafi. “I’m committed to it, and the reason for setting it up was the memory of my old man.”

For years, Malik Obama has been promoting his book, “Barack Obama Sr.: The Rise and Life of a True African Scholar.” But he is hardly the only Obama relative with a book to sell.

A younger half-brother of the president, George, published “Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival.” A half-sister, Auma, the African relative closest to the president, wrote a memoir, “And Then Life Happens,” and was featured in the documentary “The Education of Auma Obama.” (She declined to comment through her publicist.) Her former husband, Ian Manners, who is white and met the president several times, is finishing a book about corruption in Kenya with the working title, “Our Brother, Mr. President.” A resident of Britain, he also unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in an Obama-inspired campaign.

Onyango also published a memoir, “Tears of Abuse.” She first met Obama in 1988, during his first trip to Kenya, and warned him about losing track of their African family.

In 2000, Onyango moved to the United States on a valid visa and in 2001, when Obama was an Illinois state senator, she helped take care of his newborn daughter, Sasha, and did household chores for the family in Chicago, according to Obama family members. But she stayed illegally after unsuccessfully seeking asylum. When reporters found her in Boston public housing during the 2008 election, Obama’s aides said he did not know she was in the United States illegally and returned her $265 in campaign contributions.

In 2010, she received asylum and celebrated by telling an interviewer: “President Obama, I’m his aunt. If he does a wrong thing, I’m the only person on earth allowed to pinch his ears and smack him.”

Back in 1988, connecting to his African family was critical to Obama’s path to self-discovery and ultimately to his political ambitions.

In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” he meditated on Auntie Zeituni’s use of the term “getting lost” to describe a family member who had lost touch. The family’s principal example at the time was the president’s uncle, Onyango Obama, known as Omar, who moved as a young man to Boston and went on to live there illegally for decades. In 2011, he was arrested in nearby Framingham on drunken-driving charges and told the booking officer, “I think I will call the White House.”

With an election on the horizon, the White House seemed to want nothing to do with the uncle, who also had an outstanding deportation order. White House officials said they had no record of any meeting between the president and his uncle, but in court last December, Omar Obama said his nephew had stayed with him for weeks in Cambridge before starting Harvard Law School in 1988.

“It’s a good thing to let your nephew stay with you,” he said after the hearing, adding that in his family, “your brother’s kids are your kids as well.”

Schultz acknowledged awkwardly at the time that the president did live with his uncle in the late 1980s and “after that, they saw each other once every few months, but after law school they fell out of touch.” He added, “The president has not seen him in 20 years, has not spoken with him in 10.”

It was Omar Obama, a taciturn man who now works in a Framingham liquor store, who helped take care of Onyango in her last weeks. He arranged her wake and held a fundraiser afterward to collect more money to send her body to Kenya. On a recent afternoon, as he disposed of a stray bottle in the liquor store parking lot, he declined to comment about his contact with the president, saying only “you don’t know more about my family than I do.”

Another of the president’s uncles, Said Obama, said in an interview from Kenya that he did not resent the president for staying away. “He can choose to get along with those people who he feels comfortable with,” he said.

The people the president feels at home with include Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is the daughter of his mother and her second husband, an Indonesian man. He is considerably less close to another half-sibling with a foot in that part of the world.

Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo took a path that most parallels the president’s own. Ndesandjo, another Ivy League-educated son of a white American woman, is a China-based pianist, writer and businessman who has an Obama-branded cultural foundation and is publicizing a memoir, “Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery,” which unflatteringly depicts his late father and explores a rocky relationship with the president.

Visiting Nairobi at Christmas, Ndesandjo said by phone that he and the other African Obamas had not heard from the president for some time. “Barack is almost trying to leave behind the family that he so passionately engaged in those early years as he moves through the presidency,” Ndesandjo said.

Afterward, Ndesandjo followed up with an email: “Just a small point, but when I said it would be nice for Barack to call Kenya once in a while, I was specifically referring to Granny Sarah. He hasn’t done so for a number of years now and she is the oldest member of our family and may leave us any day. Perhaps your article can note that.”

Granny Sarah, or Sarah Ogwel Onyango, is the president’s step-grandmother, and is considered the matriarch of the Obama family. On a recent morning in Kenya, she sat in a bright orange dress and blue head scarf on the veranda of the Obama homestead. Recovering from a bout of malaria and rubbing the left knee that she blamed for keeping her from attending Obama’s second inauguration, she said in the Luo dialect that language barriers impeded communication between her and the president.

But at the end of March, she said, Auma Obama, the president’s half-sister, called with a birthday wish from Obama. The president and his step-grandmother also spoke through a translator this year when he called to wish her a happy New Year. She then gestured around the homestead and attributed the electricity, paved roads and running drinking water to Obama.

“He is still very central to my life today,” she said.

© 2014, The New York Times News Service


South Korean prosecutors raid family home of ill-fated ferry’s owner

Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry “Sewol” which sank at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014

Seoul:  Prosecutors investigating the fatal sinking of a South Korean ferry have raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the ship.

Kim Hoe-Jong, a prosecutor on the case, said Wednesday’s raid was part of a probe into “overall corruption in management”.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board the Sewol, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing to the holiday island of Jeju. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.

The confirmed death toll on Wednesday was 150.

South Korean prosecutors and agencies tend to adopt a blanket approach in raids, rather than targeting specific lines of inquiry.
They raided the home of one of Yoo’s sons on Wednesday, but found that he was away and the door was locked and they could not enter the house. They also raided an office in the premises of a branch of a church that Yoo founded.

Financial regulators are also investigating whether the wider conglomerate group illegally used overseas borrowings.

No one from the family or the businesses they own was available for comment.

The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight after the ferry disaster, which has shocked South Korea. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.

There is no suggestion that the past financial difficulties in any way contributed to the ferry sinking. Yoo’s conviction for fraud in 1992 showed that funds from members of the church he founded, the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea, were used in his businesses.

Around 1976, Yoo acquired a financially troubled trading company called Samwo Trading in a bid to create jobs for church members and increase their wealth, the transcript of the court case finding said.

The company became deeply integrated with the church. Many of its church members were equity stakeholders of the company and some were even hired by the company, while church assets including its main building were offered as collateral to secure Samwo’s finance, it said.

In 1982, when Samwo’s cash requirement was at its height, a colluding employee of Yoo even urged its church members to borrow from their acquaintances to finance Yoo’s business, the court findings said.

Yoo is not known to have a stake in Chonghaejin or to have any direct management control of the company.

Yoo’s two sons, Yoo Dae-kyun and Yoo Hyuck-ki, have direct or indirect stakes in nine business affiliates that include the Sewol operator Chonghaejin, shipbuilder Chonhaiji and cosmetics firm Dapanda Co, through an investment vehicle I-One-I, according to data from South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service.

© Thomson Reuters 2014

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Portuguese bond yield falls to 3.58%

A trader works behind a computer screen in Lisbon during the auction of Portuguese Treasury Bills.The yield on Portuguese 10-year bonds fell to 3.58% following strong investor demand

Portugal’s chances of exiting its three-year bailout programme rose after the sale of 10-year government debt fell sharply to a record low 3.57%.

Investor interest in the 750m euro (£617m) bond auction was such that it was three times over-subscribed despite the lower yield.

Portugal last sold 10-year bonds in February at a yield of 5.1%.

It suggests the country would enjoy investor support when it exits the European Union (EU) rescue programme.

The auction was widely seen as a test of the financial markets given its relatively small size and comes two weeks after a similar sale by Greece of 3bn euros of 5-year bonds.

Portugal was the third European country to ask for help, after Greece and Ireland, when its banks became engulfed in the eurozone debt crisis in March 2011.


It was forced to ask for a 78bn euro bailout after investors became reluctant to lend it money, pushing the country to the brink of brankruptcy.

As part of the bailout terms agreed with the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – the so-called troika – Portugal instigated a series of unpopular austerity measures.

The effect has been its debt has come down from 10.1% of annual GDP in 2010 to 4.9% last year.

With Portugal’s bailout programme due to end on 17 May, the bond sale will be seen as a key test of the country’s ability to raise money on the financial markets on its own.

Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho said the auction “gives us a lot of confidence for the future.”


The government will decide on 5 May if it will ask its European partners for a precautionary line of credit. But most analysts believe Portugal will follow Ireland in exiting the bailout programme without need of further assistance.

Filipe Silva, debt manager of Portuguese financial group Banco Carregosa said: “The risk perception with Portugal keeps going down. It is now proven that Portugal can finance itself in the tough and rough normal market without support from banks.”

Lefteris Farmakis, a rates strategist at investment bank Nomura, added: “The more money they can raise at very lower interest rates, the more it gives them an incentive to go for a clean exit.”

Ireland held its first post bailout auction last month with a yield of 2.96%. Portugal’s debt yields are at about the same level as Irish bond yields were in November, a month before Ireland exited the bailout programme.

Analysts also suggested the yield on Portuguese sovereign debt would fall further in expectation that credit agencies begin lifting Portugal’s credit rating later this year.


Amazon and HBO sign streaming deal

James Gandolfini (l) with fellow Sopranos cast members Steven Van Zandt and Tony SiricoThe late James Gandolfini (l) played mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s The Sopranos

Customers of streaming service Amazon Prime in the US will be able to watch TV shows including The Sopranos and The Wire as part of a licensing agreement with subscription channel HBO.

Previous seasons of current shows like Girls and Veep will also be available around three years after first airing.

It is the first time HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service.

The first batch of shows will be made available from 21 May.

Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under are among other titles that will be offered, alongside miniseries Band of Brothers, The Pacific and Parade’s End.

Yet there is no mention in Amazon’s official press release of fantasy series Game of Thrones, its current ratings smash.

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer in True BloodVampire drama True Blood is another show included in the deal

“HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking, beloved and award-winning shows in television history,” said Brad Beale, Amazon’s director of content acquisition.

“Now Prime members can enjoy a collection of great HBO shows on an unlimited basis.”

“We are excited to have our programming made available to [Amazon's] vast customer base,” said Charles Schreger, HBO’s president of programming sales.

Glenn Whitehead, executive vice president of business and legal affairs, added: “We couldn’t think of a better partner to entrust with this valuable collection.”

A spokesman for Amazon said the new deal was only available to US customers of Prime Instant Video, the subscription-based part of Amazon’s streaming and download service.

Before this deal HBO did not allow Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or other US streaming services access to its programmes, restricting them instead to its own HBO Go streaming service.

Go is likely to be offered by the end of 2014 on Amazon’s Fire TV, an internet-connected system allowing consumers to stream content directly to their TVs.


Bank raises UK growth forecast

WelderHealthy industrial production and strong household spending figures were behind the MPC upgrade.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has increased its UK economic growth forecast for the first quarter of the year, from 0.9% to 1%.

Minutes from the latest MPC meeting showed the revised estimate.

There was further good news for the economy from a survey by the CBI, which indicated strong growth in orders for UK manufacturers.

The business lobby group said orders had been growing at the fastest pace since 1995.

‘Building momentum’

As well as revising up the estimate for the first quarter of the year, the MPC minutes said that growth in the second quarter was “expected to be only a little weaker”.

Healthy industrial production and strong household spending figures were behind the upgrade.

The minutes noted that: “The domestic recovery was building momentum, with some signs of a modest rebalancing toward investment.”

However, there was some debate among the MPC members as to whether the increase in self-employment – which has been behind the recent fall in jobless figures – indicated a rise in under-employment.

The minutes showed that the MPC voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold at 0.5%.

‘Confidence rising’

The CBI survey of 405 manufacturers found that export orders were up strongly and plans for investment “remained particularly robust”.

“Confidence is rapidly rising among British manufacturers,” said CBI chief policy director Katja Hall.

“There are still bumps in the road ahead, with only a tepid recovery likely in the eurozone, the pound creeping higher and a rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine.

“However, expectations for growth in the coming three months are positive and manufacturers plan to significantly ramp up investment in the year ahead.”

The survey found that 38% of businesses reported an increase in total orders during the three months to April, with 17% seeing a decrease.

The positive balance of 21% was the highest since April 1995, although the monthly figures showed that orders had seen a slight drop in April compared with March.


FA hit by drop in broadcast money

Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard of England Revenues were hit as there was no major tournament for England in 2013

The Football Association was hit by a £34m drop in broadcasting rights income last season compared with 2011-12.

The drop was connected to a collapsed Setanta TV deal signed back in 2009.

According to the annual report from English football’s governing body, overall income dropped from £327m in 2011-12 to £299m in the 2012-13 period.

However, it still made an operating profit of £28m and increased the amount it puts back into football by £11m to £108m.

Following the collapse of the UK arm of broadcaster Setanta, the FA agreed a short-term deal with ITV for England matches and the FA Cup.

That deal ends in July this year and has led to the £34m reduction in broadcast income.

New TV deals

But the report says such revenues are set to increase in coming seasons.

“This reduction is partly offset by the additional international broadcasting revenues generated by the rights granted to nine broadcasters over the six-year period to July 2018,” it said.

“The domestic broadcasting rights for the four seasons from August 2014 to July 2018 were acquired by ITV for England friendly matches and by BBC and BT Sport for the FA Cup coverage.

“All of the group’s broadcasting rights are sold to July 2018 and domestic broadcasting revenues will increase from the 2014-15 season.”

‘Radical solution’

England’s lack of involvement in any major international tournament last year also contributed a £10m cut in overall revenues.

But there was extra income from the new national football centre at St George’s Park, which contributed £15m, as well as an extra £7m from Wembley Stadium events.

These included the 2013 Champions League final and the London 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile, FA chairman Greg Dyke has said “possible radical solutions” may be needed to improve the chances of young English players making the top grade in the game.

His commission looking at the issue is due to publish its results in May. In the FA report, Mr Dyke also said there was “responsibility across the game to do all we can in this regard”.

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Hospice boss cleared of misconduct

Jayne SaundersThe allegations against Jayne Saunders dated back to 2008

The director of care at a children’s hospice has been cleared of professional misconduct over the way she dealt with a dying teenager.

Jayne Saunders, of Ty Hafan at Sully, in the Vale of Glamorgan, had denied the four allegations against her.

They included a claim she told the 14-year-old girl, who had leukaemia, she must have regular examinations if she was to stay at the hospice.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council panel found all allegations not proven.

The hearing in Cardiff was told the allegations related to a period when the girl was being cared for at the hospice in 2008.

It was alleged Ms Saunders failed to ensure only a qualified nurse examined the girl, and she did not appropriately deal with a request from the teenager regarding a sleepover.

The panel was also told Ms Saunders gave insufficient consideration to the feelings and views of the girl’s parents.

But Ms Saunders denied giving the girl an ultimatum and said the hospice would face closure if staff were not able to gain access to the girl’s room for assessments.

‘Valued member’

She told the hearing that communication with the teenager’s parents “was very difficult” and the girl’s father, who did most of the communicating, “found it difficult to listen or let someone finish a sentence”.

A Ty Hafan spokeswoman said the charity was pleased with the hearing outcome.

“Mrs Saunders is a long standing employee who has been key to the evolution of our care services and the development of sector best practice for the palliative care of life-limited children,” said the spokeswoman.

“She fulfils a vital role and is a highly valued member of the team. We can now look to the future and focus our collective energies to support our staff in providing for the needs of life-limited children and their families across Wales.”


Cancer teen reaches £1m target

Stephen SuttonStephen Sutton was diagnosed with cancer at 15 years old

A teenage blogger with terminal cancer has raised £1m for charity after posting his final message to followers.

Stephen Sutton, 19, from Burntwood, in Staffordshire, was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 15 and started raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

On Tuesday, he posted on Facebook: “It’s a final thumbs up from me! I think this is just one hurdle too far.”

Reacting to news that the total had passed £1m, Stephen tweeted “thank you all so much”.

“The whole situation is just breathtaking in many ways!!” he added.

Dozens of people responded with their congratulations, including one who described Stephen as a “true inspiration”, while another said he had “changed thousands of people’s lives”.

A day earlier he told his thousands of friends and followers on Facebook that it would be his last post and any further updates would be from family members.

He wrote: “It’s a shame the end has come so suddenly. There’s so many people I haven’t got round to properly thank or say goodbye to. Apologies for that.

“I will continue fighting for as long as I can, and whatever happens next I want you all to know I am currently in a good place mentally and at ease with the situation.”

Stephen SuttonStephen used a bucket list featuring things he wanted to accomplish before he died to help raise funds

Tuesday’s messages prompted people to pledge more than £250,000 overnight with a further £200,000 coming in on Wednesday morning.

The 19-year-old used a bucket list featuring things he wanted to accomplish before he died to help raise funds.

It included playing the drums in front of 90,000 people, hugging an elephant and getting a tattoo.



Violent crime ‘continues to fall’


Police talk to a man assaulted outside a nightclubWeekend violence remains the biggest problem, says the study

Violent crime is continuing a long-term fall in England and Wales, according to annual figures from NHS hospitals.

There was a 12% fall in injuries from violent incidents in 2013, according to data from almost a third of emergency departments examined by Cardiff University.

It found 235,000 people were treated following a violent attack in 2013 – 32,800 fewer than in the previous year.

The authors said the rising cost of alcohol might have played a role.

They also said the figures mirrored other crime data.

The 12% fall is the fifth consecutive year that NHS units have recorded a decrease in violent injuries.

Data from the Cardiff University study on violent crime, showing a drop in hospital visits

The figures mirror other research, adding to evidence that the long-term trend in violent crime is down.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, the report’s lead author, said: “The data shows another significant year-on-year fall. Apart from a 7% increase in 2008, levels of serious violence have fallen every year since 2001.

“Continuing, substantial decreases in serious violence are welcome for citizens, communities and in combating the fear of crime.

“They also decrease the costs of violence to health services and the criminal justice system and reduce pressures on hard-pressed Accident and Emergencies late at night at the weekend.”

Men between 18 and 30 years old remained the most at risk of being a victim – but the report also found that the greatest annual decreases occurred among youth and young adult victims.

Prof Shepherd said: “Violence is falling in many Western countries and we don’t know all the reasons why.

“Binge drinking has become less frequent, and the proportion of youth who don’t drink alcohol at all has risen sharply.

“Also, after decades in which alcohol has become more affordable, since 2008 it has become less affordable.

“For people most prone to involvement in violence, those aged 18-30, falls in disposable income are probably an important factor.”

The authors said that anti-violence strategies involving local public agencies working closely together could also be yielding results.

The Cardiff University study was based on treatment given to victims at 117 emergency departments, minor injury units and NHS walk-in centres.

The trend mirrors the findings published in the Crime Survey of England and Wales, a massive rolling project that interviews people about their experiences of crime, whether or not they have gone to the police.

Crimes recorded by the police also show long-term falls in violence, but the Office for National Statistics recently said that data from forces could not be considered reliable.

In a separate report published on Wednesday, a watchdog urged probation services to do more to tackle alcohol misuse by offenders.

Paul McDowell, Chief Inspector of Probation, said that good work in rehabilitating offenders was being “let down” by a lack of attention to alcohol, despite its known link to violence.


Clwyd hospital care claims rejected

Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon ValleyThe independent report rejected 21 out of 31 of Ms Clwyd’s serious allegations

Serious complaints made by a Labour MP over the hospital care given to her husband before his death have been rejected following an independent investigation.

Ann Clwyd strongly criticised Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, claiming Owen Roberts died “like a battery hen”.

But that and 20 other allegations out of 31 have not been upheld.

Ms Clwyd criticised the release and maintained she would be “vindicated”.

Parts of the report have been released under a Freedom of Information request.

Up until now, the results of the investigation – carried out a year ago – went unpublished.

The summary shows nine of her allegations were entirely upheld and one partially.

But 17 were not upheld, 11 were rejected due to insufficient evidence and two were rejected because of insufficient information.


Among the upheld allegations were responses to the following comments by Ms Clwyd:

  • “He (Mr Roberts) was very cold, because a patient in the next bed had a fan that was blowing cold air over him and Owen had only thin cotton blankets on his bed”
  • “His lips were very dry and I couldn’t understand why nobody was moistening them”
  • “Just at that moment (time of Owen’s death) a nurse came in with a trolley crying out: ‘Anyone for breakfast?’ It was only a four-bed ward, and she showed indifference bordering on callousness”

However, those allegations not accepted by the investigation included claims by Ms Clwyd:

  • Her husband “died like a battery hen”
  • He was “crushed against the bars of an NHS bed”
  • And that there was an “almost callous lack of care”

Other allegations not accepted included “almost every request I made was ignored or dismissed” and “I saw a nurse in the corridor and asked her why my husband wasn’t in intensive care. She just said, ‘There are lots worse than him’”.

Ms Clwyd has told BBC Wales the report summary should not have been released, especially while another investigation is under way.

“I think that when the other investigation is concluded then my views will be substantially vindicated,” she maintained.

She disputed that there was insufficient evidence for her claims, and said she had additional evidence.

The release of the report summary follows a dispute between Ms Clwyd and the Labour Welsh government.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has told Assembly Members the MP provided “unattributable” comments about the NHS that “can’t be investigated”.

But Ms Clwyd insisted she had provided Mr Jones with a comprehensive summary of complaints raised.

‘Private details’

Ms Clwyd led a UK government-commissioned inquiry on how NHS hospitals in England handle complaints and said she also received hundreds of letters from Welsh patients outlining poor experiences they had suffered.

She has also called for the chair and chief executive of Cardiff and Vale board to quit, claiming it released private details on the investigation into her husband’s death.

The health board has previously confirmed information about her husband’s case was released in response to a Freedom of Information request, but denied breaching confidentiality.

It has said the details released were statements already in the public domain and were part of the outcome of the investigation.

In response to the publication of the summary, a health board spokesman said: “We would like to make quite clear that the health board has not released the full report and it is not our intention to breach any confidentiality.

“The investigation into Ms Clywd’s concerns was overseen by an expert independent panel and completed in April 2013. Since then the health board has received a number of requests under Freedom of Information legislation to release that report. As part of that standard process Ms Clwyd’s permission was sought to release the full report but that was refused.”

Second review

The spokesman said it sought legal advice before releasing the summary.

“Based on that advice the health board believes it would be in breach of its statutory duty not to release the summary report,” he said.

The health board’s spokesman also added: “We continue to work with Ms Clwyd’s legal team in line with ‘Putting Things Right’ NHS Wales complaints processes, and are keen to agree external experts for a second independent review to robustly and independently examine the original investigation.

“We hope this will provide the answers and reassurance that Ms Clwyd is looking for regarding her husband’s care.

“We would welcome the findings of that review being made public.”

The Welsh government said it was a matter for Ms Clwyd and the health board.

Latest Sports News

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Ana Ivanovic beats Lisicki in first round

STUTTGART (Germany): Ana Ivanovic defeated Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-3 to send the Wimbledon finalist out in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix on Wednesday.

Ivanovic, the World No. 12 and former French Open winner, needed just one hour to beat the 24-year-old Berliner. It left three of the six home players out of the most important German women’s competition at the first hurdle.

Wild card Julia Goerges gave the supporters reason for cheer with a surprise 6-1, 7-5 win over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. The 94th-ranked German will next face Ivanovic on Thursday.

Italy’s Sara Errani booked her quarterfinal place by defeating Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 6-3.

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic was playing Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova later, with Germany’s Andrea Petkovic facing Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.


NBA’s most controversial award: What makes a player most improved?

Posted April 23, 2014

Goran Dragic; Paul George

Goran Dragic won 2014 Most Improved Player award after Paul George (left) claimed it last year. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The purpose of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award is to recognize a player who has made “a significant improvement from the previous season.” At least, that was the language used in Wednesday’s official press release announcing Suns guard Goran Dragic as the 2013-14 recipient.

Dragic won handily, just as Paul George did in 2012-13. The Pacers’ forward posted sizable increases in virtually every major statistical category last season while leading Indiana to 49 wins, the team’s most since 2003-04, and a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. George was such a convincing winner that he earned four times as many first-place votes as runner-up Greivis Vasquez.

The voting isn’t always as clear-cut, though. Sometimes there are a number of candidates with a viable claim to the honor. And further complicating matters is the lack of clear criteria to win the award.

What, exactly, constitutes “improvement,” anyway? More efficient and prolific statistics are part of the equation, sure. But what about team success? Should the award go to a role player who elevates his game? Should it go to an established player who blossoms into a star? What if a certain player used to be great, endured a rough season and bounced back? There are a bunch of factors to consider.

MAHONEY: Why your team will (or won’t) win the NBA title

Was Dragic the right choice this year? Perhaps a review of every winner (excluding Dragic) since the award’s inception in 1985-86 will provide some clarity.

Using data from, we computed the difference between each winner’s Player Efficiency Rating in his winning season and the year before. We also found the mean of the winners’ PERs in both seasons, as well as the mean difference between them.

The goal was to try to gain a better understanding of what types of players have won the award in its 29-year history and how much they improved over one season. While PER is not a perfect statistic, we determined it to be the best gauge of player value over time.


In the season before winning the Most Improved Player Award, players have posted PERs that are, on average, only slightly greater than the league average of 15.0. Players hovering close to that mark this season include Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (14.9) and Celtics power forward Brandon Bass (15.1).

SI’s NBA awards: Durant wins unanimous MVP, experts split on Most Improved

In the seasons players have won the award, the recipients boosted their PERs by about 3.62 points. Players this season with PERs near 18.64, the average mark for winners, include Heat center Chris Andersen (18.5) and Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (18.6).

But there are plenty of outliers. In 2005-06, for example, Boris Diaw’s PER jumped from 10.0 to 17.3. Zach Randolph’s PER actually declined 0.3 points in 2003-04.


*Figures rounded to the hundreths place

Another interesting figure to note is that more than half of the winners were second- or third-year players. People often talk about the “sophomore leap” and how rookies need at least a year to figure out how to adapt to the NBA game (and earn the minutes needed to produce award-worthy numbers). So it makes sense that several players made their biggest PER leaps in their second (seven winners) or third (nine) seasons.

There is no statistical prototype for the award. Last season, for instance, George was the runaway winner and his PER increased only 0.3 (16.5 to 16.8). This year’s winner, Dragic, improved his PER 3.9 points, from 17.5 to 21.4, in his sixth season. That’s a pretty healthy climb, but not even the biggest on his team. Phoenix swingman Gerald Green, who finished fourth in the voting, saw his PER skyrocket 6.6 points, to 16.5.

SI’s predictions for 2014 NBA playoffs: Series by series

Dragic’s PER jumped slightly above the historical average of MIP winners. But he also posted major statistical increases in points per game (14.7 to 20.3), effective field goal percentage (49.1 to 56.1) and Win Shares (5.7 to 10.3), while leading the Suns to an NBA-best 23-win improvement from last season.

The Suns’ star is plenty deserving of the award. But that’s not to say there isn’t room for debate, which makes arguing over the Most Improved Player Award such a fun (and/or infuriating) exercise.


Rafael Nadal struggles into third round

BARCELONA (Spain): Second-seeded David Ferrer was ousted from the Barcelona Open by a Russian opponent for the second straight year and defending champion Rafael Nadal labored to victory on Wednesday.

Ferrer was unable to find his rhythm in losing 6-4, 6-2 to Teymuraz Gabashvili in his opening match while Nadal struggled past fellow Spanish player Albert Ramos 7-6 (2), 6-4.

Nadal eventually overcame his 103rd-ranked opponent to reach the third round, rebounding from a surprise loss to Ferrer in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals.

“After losing in the Monte Carlo I wanted to raise my game here,” Nadal said. “It just took a while.”

Eight-time winner Nadal was made to work against the stubborn Ramos, who broke back in the 11th game to force the first-set tiebreaker. Nadal eventually came out on the winning end of a long rally of baseline shots for a 4-2 lead as he went on to take the set.

Nadal was steadier after that but still could not shake Ramos. He sealed it after a quick talk with the tournament doctor by breaking his fellow left-hander to win the match.

“I had to accept that I was going to be made to work today, that I was not playing at my best level,” Nadal said. “But I got through it.”

Nadal will face Ivan Dodig next after the Croatian dismissed Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-1, 6-4.

Ferrer, meanwhile, will not be facing Nadal in the final for a fifth time after the 55th-ranked Gabashvili dominated Ferrer on his favored clay to reach the last 16.

Gabashvili kept Ferrer running to the corners, and the fifth-ranked Spaniard was surprisingly unable to keep up with shots he normally returns, looking fatigued at times.

Ferrer netted to give his opponent a triple set-point opportunity to close out the first frame, which Gabashvili did by smashing a crosscourt forehand Ferrer couldn’t handle.

Gabashvili maintained his play from the start of the second set to race to 3-0 when Ferrer skied his return high and into the crowd. Ferrer, who lost at this same stage last season to Dmitry Tursunov, slapped a crosscourt forehand long for Gabashvili to clinch it.

“Three weeks ago I lost to Ferrer in Miami but I dominated that first set. Today, I wanted to maintain my energy and keep it going, which I did for (90) minutes, but any more and it might have been tougher to win,” Gabashvili said after winning for the first time on the third try against Ferrer.

Ferrer wasn’t the only significant player to exit early as third-seeded Fabio Fognini retired to injury while losing 6-0, 4-0 to Santiago Giraldo of Colombia. Eighth-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine was also ousted by Spanish player Albert Montanes 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Other second-round winners included sixth-seeded Nicolas Almagro and fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes.


While most NFL draft experts fawn over Sammy Watkins, this WR is most likely to succeed

Posted April 23, 2014

2014 NFL draft top 64, No. 8: Texas A&M WR Mike Evans

Mike Evans is uniquely built to win battles in close quarters. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

With the 2014 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to start getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. And to that end, Doug Farrar and Chris Burke have assembled their own definitive Big Board, consisting of the players they feel deserve to be selected in the first two rounds.

The SI 64 – which can be found in its entirety here – uses tape study to define the best prospects in this class and why they’re slotted as such. And as we continue through the top 10 names on our board, it’s time to reveal the player we think could be the most dominant receiver in this class.

MORE: 2014 NFL Mock Draft | Top QBs | Top WRs | SI64: Our definitive Big Board

Bio: Though there are many kinds of receivers who find success in the NFL, the war daddies at the position are the ones who have the size, strength and physical ability to win battles against cornerbacks at any level of the field — especially in the red zone and end zone. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans has proven, beyond a doubt, to be such a player. Though Johnny Manziel has been the face of the Aggies’ offense over the last two seasons, it could be argued that Evans became the heart.

A basketball player in high school, Evans accepted a scholarship offer from then-Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman in 2011 and got to work building his body and his stat lines. After a redshirt year, Evans exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. In 2013, he gained 1,394 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on just 69 catches, increasing his yards-per-catch average from 13.5 to 20.2. More than ever in 2013, Evans became Manziel’s primary target when the pocket broke down, the quarterback had to run around to extend the play and defenses started to split. Evans proved to be very gifted at exploiting variances in coverage, and a great team became even better as a result.

As has been true for tight ends for years, Evans uses his basketball background to win the day in closely-contested matchups — basically, everywhere on the field is the paint for him.

“It’s helped a lot,” he said at the scouting combine of his hardwood background. “I think a lot of other basketball players should play football. We have the qualities. If there’s a jump ball in the air, treat it like a rebound. It helps me get off the press, use my quickness like when I used to dribble. Everything just incorporates into football.”

Evans doesn’t always look like a Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson or Brandon Marshall — but you can see the raw ingredients, and NFL teams have, too. Of that, there is no doubt. In a league that looks for physical dominance as a primary trait, Evans is on the right track.

Strengths: Perhaps Evans’ greatest strength is his ability to get free in short spaces on a number of routes — he doesn’t just win vertical battles; he’s also very good at quick cuts for his size (6-foot-5, 231). And with his length, he’s able to expand his catch radius to bring in balls most receivers simply can’t. Catches with his hands — Evans doesn’t wait for the ball to hit him in the chest, which allows him to reach for catches when falling away. He’s also surprisingly fast on straight vertical routes — Evans gets a head of steam going quickly and has a clear extra gear in the open field. He’s not a big, lumbering player; he has outstanding stride length and he knows how to use it. Evans will be a great help to any mobile quarterback, because he’s learned from playing with Manziel that you always have to keep focused on the extended play. When Manziel was running around, Evans was moving with him and getting opening with his physicality.

Excellent blocker who gets his long arms extended and seems to enjoy mixing it up. In that same vein, he’s very comfortable breaking tackles and throwing stiff-arms. Tremendous threat on in-breaking routes (in-cuts, slants, posts) because it’s so hard to keep up with his speed and still deal with his height. Could be a dominant situational slot receiver; more NFL teams are taking their No. 1 targets and looking to create mismatches in this way.

Weaknesses: Focus is an issue at times — Evans drops balls he should catch, and he had to be talked back into the Chick-fil-A Bowl by Manziel after a couple of personal fouls. And like most bigger college receivers, Evans will need to expand his route tree in the NFL. His game, like Manziel’s, was based a great deal on improvisation, and his pro team might not like that prototype. Played against a lot of off-coverage designed to react to his quarterback; Evans will need to develop his foot fakes and hand moves against more aggressive press corners in the NFL.

Conclusion: Of all the receivers in this draft class, Evans has the most obvious potential to be the kind of touchdown machine and consistent gamebreaker that can define an offense. Sammy Watkins may be more explosive, and speed merchants like Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks can burn it up the slot, but players like Evans are more rare and valuable to NFL teams because of one simple truth: Size and speed beats everything else when the football skills are there. And Evans is well on his way to adding his name to the list of players who embody this theory.

NFL player comparison: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2nd round, 2005, Northern Colorado)

Science Topics

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Following a protein’s travel inside cells is key to improving patient monitoring, drug development

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A technique to detect subcellular location of a protein has been developed by scientists. In science, “simple and accessible detection methods that can rapidly screen a large cell population with the resolution of a single cell inside that population has been seriously lacking,” said one engineer involved in the study. Their work involved a simple and unique tweak to the conventional cell staining process allowed the researchers to accurately define the subcellular location of the protein by measuring the amount of the residual protein after release.


More Americans in their golden years are going hungry

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The seniors who are dealing with hunger are also facing negative health and nutrition consequences, American research indicates. In a country as wealthy as the United States, it may come as a surprise that one in 12 seniors do not have access to adequate food due to lack of money or other financial resources. They are food insecure.


Airport security-style technology could help doctors decide on stroke treatment

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A new computer program could help doctors predict which patients might suffer potentially fatal side-effects from a key stroke treatment. The program assesses brain scans using pattern recognition software similar to that used in airport security and passport control. Currently, stroke affects over 15 million people each year worldwide. Ischemic strokes are the most common and these occur when small clots interrupt the blood supply to the brain.


Surface area of the digestive tract much smaller than previously thought

The internal surface area of the gastro-intestinal tract has long been considered to be between 180 and 300 square meters. Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy have used refined microscopic techniques that indicate a much smaller area.

“Actually, the inner surface of the gastro-intestinal tract is only as large as a normal studio apartment,” says scientist Lars Fändriks.

The digestive tract, which passes from the mouth through the esophagus and onwards through the intestines, has a length of about 5 meters in a normal adult, and is built up with many folds and protrusions.

Previous calculations, which are reproduced in reference works and textbooks, state that the area of the inner surface of the digestive tract is between 180 and 300 square meters — as large as, or even larger than, a tennis court.

Wrong figures

A new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroentorology, shows that these figures are wrong.

Scientists Lars Fändriks and Herbert Helander have used quantitative microscopic techniques to determine that the surface area of the gastro-intestinal tract in healthy adults is “only” between 30 and 40 square meters.

By far the greatest part of this is the small intestine. The area of the large intestine is approximately 2 square meters, while the mouth, esophagus and stomach amount to less than 1 square meter.

Half of a badminton court

Lars Fändriks finds it surprising that the area of the gastro-intestinal tract is not that of a tennis court, rather half of a badminton court.

“It may appear to be simply a curious fact, but the dimensions of the inner surface of the gastro-intestinal tract are important for the uptake of nutrients and drugs, and the new information will help us understand how the mucous membrane protects the body from harmful factors in the intestinal contents,” he says.

Misleading measurements

The Gothenburg scientists explain how the previously erroneous results were arrived at:

“The gastro-intestinal tract is a dynamic system that is difficult to access in the abdominal cavity, and this makes it difficult to measure. Since the past measurements were carried out either during post mortems or during abdominal surgery, when the tissue is relaxed, it is easy to obtain misleading measurements,” says Herbert Helander.

Radiological investigations

The two scientists from Gothenburg have used data from radiological investigations, supplemented with studies of the microscopical structure of the gastro-intestinal tract, where they have used endoscopes to obtain samples of the mucous membrane of the intestines.

The scientists emphasize that the new dimensions are valid for a healthy “average” adult: the length and surface area of the digestive tract differs from person to person. In addition, the measurement for an individual is probably affected by diet and lifestyle.

“From an anatomical point of view, 30-40 square meters is more than enough for the uptake of nutrients. Furthermore, the smaller area is actually quite logical, since it means that the risk of effects from the intestinal contents is lower,” says Herbert Helander.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Tech Topics

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Instagram Diverges From Vine By Personalizing Explore Tab

Rather than just sunsets from foreign countries and selfies by fashion models, Instagram’s Explore page is now also personalized with top photos and videos Liked by people you follow. Personalization highlights Instagram’s focus on your own social graph and a subjective vision of beauty, to contrast with Vine, which centers around re-sharing and globally popular expert content creators.

Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger tipped me off to the change with a post on Facebook saying “If it’s been a while since you checked out the Instagram Explore page, give it a whirl; the team’s been working on incorporating personalized content in there now, too.”

photo 1 (1)Facebook confirmed the change saying “We’re always looking to update the types of posts you see in Explore to better tailor it to you. We’ll show you a variety of photos and videos that people you follow have liked, as well as content that is trending in the Instagram community.”

Instagram replaced the Popular tab with Explore in mid-2012, adding a search feature for finding users and looking at photos with a particular hashtag. But the main view of the Explore tab was still dominated by the photos and videos which accrued the most Likes quickly and it thereby favored celebrities and users who’d amassed large followings. The photos were usually very pretty, but often stuck to globally accessible themes like landscapes, food, and pets. Explore felt more like “What people like” than “What you’ll like”.

The new version of Explore changes that. It’s now a combination of what’s globally popular, and what’s hot with people you follow. If you track a bunch of painters, you’re more likely to see fine art on Explore. Follow athletes? You might see more sports photos and videos. And if you follow people that live nearby you, you might see your own city crop up on Explore. This makes me much more interested in the tab. It’s like listening to Pandora instead of the radio.

This revamp will change the dynamic of growing an audience on Instagram. Before, since the whole world saw similar content (a selection of around 12 photos or videos from the top 300 or so at the moment), breaking onto the Explore page was the easiest way to win followers. But now, the more subjective version spreads the spotlight around rather than illuminating just a few photographers.

In that sense, Instagram and Vine are diverging. While most anyone can make a decent photo look good with filters and lighting effects, shooting a compelling Vine is much, much tougher. You need a great idea and a deep sense of cinematography, humor, and timing that most people lack.

Vine Explore

My uninspired Vines are usually just me panning around some candid situation. They pale in comparison to the mini-movies on Vine’s Explore->Popular Now page, which is an objective feed of the top Vines of the day. If you don’t already, try browsing Vine’s Popular Now section. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of the Internet, full of hilarious skits, impressive physical feats, and video editing wizardry.

Vine’s Popular feed and Revine feature serve to promote professional and semi-professional creators, much the way YouTube does. Now, Instagram’s Explore tab makes room for more amateurs and people you might know. Even if it doesn’t gain global popularity, a photo or video that touches your community might end up on Instagram Explore.

The two apps are settling into their own niches: Vine as a broadcast entertainment medium, and Instagram as community beauty-sharing forum.


Former NSA Head To Become Columnist For Conservative Paper To Discuss Intelligence

Former General Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA, has a new gig writing for the conservative Washington Times. His column will be titled “Inside Intelligence,” ironically, as he no longer is.

Gen. Hayden is best known for his complete support of the NSA’s surveillance programs, including his admission that XKeyscore is real, and his infamous train episode in which he was caught slagging the current administration on background. The spy was spied on by a reporter with a Twitter account. Classy.

As Politico notes, the Times has been on a hiring kick lately:

The Times has been building up a stable of conservative columnists in recent months, including Christine O’Donnell, Tom DeLay, Steve Deace, Tammy Bruce, Thom Loverro and Ben Carson, all of whom have signed on with the conservative newspaper in the past year or so. Sen. Rand Paul also joined the paper last year, but was suspended in November after instances of plagiarism.

Here’s a question: What’s the chance that Gen. Hayden elucidates the public on the inner workings of our intelligence agencies, or that he doesn’t divulge a whit, and instead merely bloviates about how people irked by incursions into their privacy are wrong?




Glider, The TechStars And Disrupt Alum, Acquired By Sales Software Firm FPX

Glider, the Portland-based startup that makes a software-as-a-service product for streamlining and adding clarity to the process of negotiating and signing sales and business contracts, has been acquired by Dallas-based sales software company FPX.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but it appears that this is not simply an acqui-hire or “soft landing” situation — the Glider product will continue to live on and grow as part of FPX.

Glider’s co-founder and CEO Eli Rubel wrote in a blog post announcing the deal that Glider’s four-person team has joined FPX, and will continue to work out of the company’s Portland office, as well as in Australia. There are plans for FPX to hire more staffers to work on the Glider product in the months ahead.

Glider, which was founded in 2012 while part of TechStars’ Seattle accelerator, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding. According to TechStars founder David Cohen, this is the 35th TechStars company to be acquired to date.

The M&A deal comes almost exactly after Glider’s launch at the Disrupt NY 2013 Startup Battlefield in April 2013. At that time, TechCrunch’s Alex Williams wrote of Glider:

“The service is meant to replace the massive ‘reply all’ email thread and the Excel spreadsheets that have dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of rows listing the tasks necessary to complete a deal. With Glider, companies can manage sales contracts, non-disclosure agreements, partnerships and any contractual process used by the organizations.”


Codecademy Moves To Be A One-Stop-Shop For Programming Education

Since its launch two years ago Codecademy has become synonymous with online education for basic computer programming.

In that time, the company says it’s learned a few things itself and today launched a newly redesigned website with an enhanced framework for teaching more than just the nuts and bolts of programming.

In some ways it’s the company’s attempt to transform itself from the first step on the path to learning how to code and getting a job — a process that could include additional programming bootcamps or coursework through a site that charges for educational services — to a one-stop-shop for online continuing and professional education for programmers and developers.

The New York-based startup began as “the easiest way for anyone to get started programming” according to Zach Sims, the company’s co-founder. “We are now trying to teach more advanced concepts as opposed to just get you from zero to basic skills,” Sims says.

Over 24 million people took courses provided by Codecademy and the company is working on tracking those newly minted programmers and their skills and professional progress after receiving training through the site.

At its core, the new focus on more advanced skills will come through the redesigned training method that has users build their own iterations of the basic Airbnb site, Sims says.

codecademy learning environment 4

As Sims describes on the Codecademy blog, the first course in its new curriculum involves experimenting with blocks of code, visualizing how different parts of a page can change dynamically, and using the same terminology that professional developers use to create websites like Airbnb’s.

The company says using the new framework will ultimately connect users to social and career opportunities. It’s also the first step toward Codecademy’s broader vision that will bring in universities, business clients and employers and employment networks, to help Codecademy students move toward actual careers through the site. 

Codecademy is already working with educators around the world to integrate computer programming with basic education provided at secondary schools in the UK, Malaysia, and Singapore. In the UK, Codecademy has gotten middle school and high schools to integrate courses into their existing curricula, according to Sims.

The results are sites that are shareable and portfolios that jobseekers can point to as they move ahead with careers in web design and programming.