Thursday, 31 January 2013

Twitter experiences yet another outage. Are we relying too much on tweets? - The Independent (blog)

twitter fail whale 300x225 Twitter experiences yet another outage. Are we relying too much on tweets?One of the biggest problems with relying on the Internet for communication is the fear that one day, out of the blue, everything might just stop working. Well, today is one of those days for Twitter.

As of writing the service is currently down for an undisclosed number of users. It could be a few countries, it could be the entire world. Twitter has published the following message to the public… via Tumblr:

"Some users may be experiencing issues accessing Twitter. Our engineers are currently working to resolve the issue."

Access has been intermittent during the outage, personally I've lost access several times as Twitter's servers blink furiously as they attempt to regain full operational status.

It might not seem like that much of a big deal to the everyday user, but as more and more companies adopt social media for direct connection to customers, users and audiences, all of a sudden entire commercial networks grind to a halt in the wake of a Twitter hiccup.

Twitter interaction has become almost synonymous with news reporting over the past couple of years, with some media outlets relying heavily on crowd sourced content to help provide real-time information, reaction and public opinion during breaking news stories. At times like this, relying on Twitter could prove catastrophic.

I can imagine the faces of horrified anchor men and women, staring blankly at Camera #1, jiggling their earpieces furiously and tapping iPad screens with reckless abandon as the Twitter ticker scrolls with nothing on it.

For present and future Twitter outage details, bookmark Twitter's Status official status page.

Should we really rely on Twitter as much as we do? Today's 'fail whale' return seems to suggest otherwise.

Tagged in:

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg insists site is not making a phone - BBC News

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has strongly denied the social network is planning to release its own phone.

In an effort to dispel long-running rumours, Mr Zuckerberg said releasing a Facebook phone was "not the right strategy".

"We need to make Facebook really good across all of the devices [that people use]," he added.

His comments came as his company announced a sharp drop in profits - but an increase in revenue.

The company made a profit of $64m (£41m) in the final three months of last year, compared with $302m a year earlier.

But it has seen an increase in revenue coming from mobile advertising - an area investors see as one of the company's biggest challenges.

The company said that 23% of its advertising revenue now came from mobile.

"More people are starting to understand that mobile is a great opportunity for us," Mr Zuckerberg said in a conference call to discuss earnings, as quoted by Seeking Alpha.

"It allows us to reach more people.

"Start Quote

Mark Zuckerberg probably believes that every phone is a Facebook phone"

End Quote Stuart Miles Pocket-lint

"We have more engagements from the people who we reach, and I think we'll also be able to make more money for each minute people spend with us on their mobile devices."

'Keep pushing'

However, Mr Zuckerberg went on to tell investors that a phone did not fit into Facebook's plans.

"People keep on asking if we're going to build a phone," he said.

"And we're not going to build a phone... it's not the right strategy for us.

"The big thing for us is we've one billion people using our products and we need to make Facebook really good across all of the devices that they use - and we're going to keep on pushing to get kind of more integrated with the system."

Stuart Miles, from UK gadget blog Pocket-lint, told the BBC that any Facebook phone would be unlikely to succeed.

"If a Facebook phone was launched tomorrow, would you buy it? You wouldn't," he said.

"I think there's a sense where Mark Zuckerberg probably believes that every phone is a Facebook phone.

"The mobile apps work - you don't get phones now that can't get Facebook, so they just don't need to make their own."

As London rents keep soaring what are the best housing crisis solutions? - The Guardian (blog)

Ariel view of London housing London terraces. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty Images

Guess what? We have more grim facts and stats about the cost of renting privately in London. Shelter's latest Rent Trap report brightens our day with news gleaned from Valuations Office Agency data that average annual private rents in a "typical rented home" in London rose by £741. That's an increase of 4.8% compared with one of 2.8% (or £297) across England as a whole in the same period.

Broken down by borough biggest average percentage hike in 2012 was in Merton (13.7%, equivalent to £1,805 over the year) followed by Wandsworth (11.4%; £1,845), Lambeth (9.8%; £1,477), Greenwich (8.9%; £1,029), Hammersmith and Fulham (8.7%; £1,717), Hackney (8.7%; £1,275), Sutton (7.8%; £784) and Haringey (7.6%; £969).

A Shelter-commissioned YouGov survey conducted in November and December found that nearly half of London renters have only £100 or less per month remaining after rent and essential bills (food, fuel, water and council tax) have been paid, and that two-thirds of them are able to save only £50 or less a month, which means that raising a deposit for a mortgage is extremely difficult. More sobering still, just over half the survey's respondents said they couldn't afford to save a penny towards anything at all.

Meanwhile, London Councils, the organisation representing the capital's 33 local authorities, has announced it's been in discussions with the government about moves to increase the number of landlords prepared to let to homeless people in temporary accommodation, including giving them tax relief.

So vast is the demand for rented homes in London from people with jobs that landlords have less need to house tenants claiming benefits and directed to them by boroughs having been declared homeless. London Councils says that nearly 900 homeless families in the capital have had to be put up in bed and breakfast establishments for more than the six week maximum the government recommends.

And all that's just a part of London's grinding, deepening and deeply damaging housing crisis. Solutions?

We need a complementary bunch, driven by central government and the mayor. Shelter's approach on private renting is set out here and its new Rent Trap report asks for bolder government leadership on making home ownership more accessible and renting a better option (see page 5). London Councils produced a report last December setting out a range of solutions, mostly targeted at fixing the mismatch between demand and supply. These include far more public investment and greater freedom for councils to borrow to build.

Your views and silver bullets welcome.

HMV Staff Use Twitter To Reveal Redundancies - Sky News

HMV staff have used the company's Twitter account to reveal workers at the head office and other non-shop employees are being fired.

The staff used the social media service to inform followers that 190 people were being made redundant.

One staff member tweeted: "We're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting!"

The worker, who was apparently using an iPhone, added: "There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.

"Sorry we've been quiet for so long. Under contract, we've been unable to say a word, or - more importantly - tell the truth."

The joint administrators from Deloitte later confirmed the 190 redundancies, most at HMV's office in Eastcastle Street, London, with others in its Marlow head office, a site in Solihull and distribution centres in Canning Town, London, and Birmingham.

Administrator Nick Edwards said: "Since our appointment as administrators over two weeks ago, we have been assessing the financial position of HMV.

"Following this review, a number of redundancies at the head office and distribution centres have been made.

"Although such decisions are always difficult, it is a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern."

HMV called in administrators in early January after suffering dismal Christmas sales, which put more than 4,000 jobs at risk at its 223 stores.

Music Retailer HMV Goes Into Administration
Around 4,000 people work at HMV

It was one of three well-known high street firms that called in administrators in the New Year as Britain's high streets struggled against online sales.

Shortly after taking charge the administrators said the chain would no longer honour gift vouchers and cards, but after a storm of protest from consumers, they said gift cards and vouchers could be redeemed in stores from Tuesday.

Retail restructuring group Hilco UK has acquired HMV's debt, effectively giving it control of the administrator-managed entertainment chain.

The debt purchase has been taken from the books of the struggling retail chain's lenders, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds.

HMV's net debt last October stood at £176m but it struggled to find a niche that would give it an advantage over online retail alternatives.

Administrator Mr Edwards added: "We have been very pleased with the level of interest in the business as a going concern, whilst the response from customers has demonstrated the demand to see HMV remain on the high street.

"Equally, the support received from suppliers has been very positive and has enabled us to continue trading during the administration.

"As a result of all of these factors, I remain hopeful we will be able to secure a future for a restructured business."

Lucas cheered by Liverpool's response against Arsenal - The Independent

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers recalled his first-team regulars for last night's clash at Emirates Stadium, having drawn much criticism for his team selection in the FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Oldham on Sunday, when even the late introduction of Steven Gerrard could not stop last season's beaten finalists crashing out against the npower League One side.

For an hour, everything was going to plan as Jordan Henderson added to Luis Suarez's early goal to give the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead.

However, the Gunners suddenly kicked into life to make up for their defensive shortcomings as two quick goals saw them level through Olivier Giroud and a blistering strike by England forward Theo Walcott.

Brazilian Lucas feels even if they could not see the game through, Liverpool can now head into Sunday's showdown with City at Etihad Stadium all set to produce another determined display.

"We were responding very well from the FA Cup tie. We showed a lot of attitude and the right mentality at Arsenal, we just have to keep going to get the points against Manchester City," the midfielder said.

"We didn't win at Arsenal, but we showed we are capable of fighting against and beating the top teams.

"For so long we did well but unfortunately in 10 minutes we conceded two goals. We have another opportunity to get a good result against a top team this weekend."

Liverpool have made steady progress under Rodgers, climbing up to seventh in the table.

However, Lucas knows if the Reds want to harbour hopes of forcing their way into the Champions League qualification shake-up, then they have to start producing big results.

"We were talking about things before the Arsenal game, and we know we have to win against the top teams if we want to be in a better league position at the end of the season," he said.

"We have to start winning against the top teams if we want to achieve a better position."

Lucas added: "City will be desperate to win the game as well after their draw at QPR.

"It will be an open game and we have dangerous players who can create chances."

Liverpool have already moved to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window, with midfielder Philippe Coutinho joining Daniel Sturridge at Anfield after completing an £8.5million move from Inter Milan.

Rodgers, though, last night conceded a move for Blackpool winger Tom Ince was unlikely to happen before this evening's 11pm deadline.

Goalkeeper Alexander Doni would appear to be surplus to requirements and set for a return to Brazil, with the club said to be ready to terminate his contract.

One player very much part of Liverpool's future is Suarez.

The Uruguay forward took his goal tally to 22 for the campaign with the opener in last night's 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

The often controversial Suarez has quickly become a cult hero on The Kop since his £22.8million move from Ajax on transfer deadline day two years ago.

The 26-year-old intends to continue to drive the Reds on as they look to develop into Champions League challengers once again.

"I hope [to be at Liverpool] for a very long time because it's a massive club that kids dream about playing for," Suarez told the club's official website,

"I have been very proud to be at a club like Liverpool and to have made the decision to come here.

"In two years I've lived through some spectacular and very special moments that I will never, ever forget.

"There have been a few difficult times as well, but with the support of my family, the club and the fans, things have gone well for me."


Why you *really* hate Twitter - (blog)

Twitter Fail Whale

You are completely entitled to hate this guy

• If you're not on Twitter, you don't really need to read this. Read this instead, about why Twitter matters even if you're not on it, or just leave a comment at the bottom of this one telling me that you're not on Twitter and therefore don't care.

Matt Lewis, a writer for The Daily Caller and The Week, has written a thoughtful piece about how Twitter "was once a vision. Now it's a prison". A lot of people who've been on it for a while might recognise some of the stuff he says. How it became vital to his job, for finding stories and for building relationships – and how non-Twitter colleagues and friends mocked him for "tweeting about what sandwich I was going to have for lunch that day", shortly before joining it themselves – is extremely familiar to me.

But, he says, the friendliness and the informal atmosphere changed. "The bottom fell out," he says. "It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment it happened — but at some point, Twitter became a dark place… Somewhere along the line, our optimism faded." It became like high school, full of bullies and idiots; it removed the filter between thoughts and words, so those angry letters we would write and never send, or the hurtful comments we'd think better of saying, all flood out in a rush of clicking keys.

Much of what he says is true. But it misses one thing. In fact, most of the people who write these "Twitter's not what it used to be" pieces – and they do come along every so often, although Lewis's is the best I've read so far – have one fundamental characteristic in common, which they rarely acknowledge. Twitter may have changed. But more obviously, their experience of it has.

Twitter is one thing for someone who has 50 followers but follows 500: it is, essentially, a news feed and a conversation with a small group of friends. It is a hugely different thing for someone with a million followers, for whom it is a combination of a medium-sized national radio station (dedicated entirely to them) and a giant message board (dedicated entirely to them). For the first person, most of their Twitter activity will be in their "timeline", the tweets of all the people they follow; their "interactions" column, which displays all the tweets directed to them or mentioning them, will be comparatively quiet. For the second person, their timeline will be busy or quiet depending on how many people they follow, of course, but their "interactions" column will be a constant buzz, hundreds of people a minute trying to get their attention for one reason or another. Human nature being what it is, a small but vocal subset of those people trying to get attention will be doing so to shock or offend.

In between the ordinary users and the Stephen Frys, there are the middlish sort (at least on a logarithmic scale), the people like Matt Lewis, who has about 31,000 followers, or like me, with my 10,000 or so. But while we feel like we're ordinary users of Twitter, we're not. I've had a look at a few graphs, and while I can't obviously vouch for any of them individually, they all agree that the large majority of Twitterers have fewer than 50 followers, and only a fraction of a percent have more than 10,000. Our experience of it will be very different to that of the overwhelming majority of users.

Click for original

So, when someone says "Twitter has gone bad", I take it with a pinch of salt, as I do when someone says "Kids today lack respect". Kids always lacked respect, but since you stopped being a kid, suddenly it's a problem. In general, it's much more likely that you have changed than an entire demographic has. In Matt Lewis's case, what changed is that he stopped having a little friendly group of a few hundred followers; I suspect that he feels he has become surrounded by anger and trolling and spite and viciousness not because those things became more prevalent on Twitter, but because when you take a larger sample of the population, you're going to get a larger subset of gits. And, sadly, gits are the ones you notice.

His wider point – that Twitter lets you engage typing-fingers before your brain can intervene; that it forces you to be constantly outraged about things you don't need to care about; that it makes us zip from topic to topic, with no time to consider each one – is, of course, still true; those things are simply the flip-side of what still makes Twitter good. But they've always been there. Twitter hasn't changed that much, I don't think. It's just that "Twitter has changed" pieces are always written by people whose experience of it has.

Legal bid to find who posted Facebook threats against Catholic - BBC News

Legal attempts will be made to find out who threatened a Catholic man on Facebook pages linked to union flag protests, the High Court has heard.

The man's lawyers are seeking to discover who posted comments on two pages: Loyalists against Short Strand and Loyalist Peaceful Protests Updater.

The pages were removed last week after the man was granted an emergency injunction against Facebook.

This was due to the perceived gravity of the threat.

The judge said he had granted the man's application because of "an imminent risk of serious injury".

In court on Monday, a lawyer for Facebook Ireland Ltd said that suspending the pages concerned has taken the urgency out of the case.

But he reserved his client's position on whether the final remedy should be shutting down the pages or just removing the offending content. He said Facebook took the view that primary responsibility rested with those who posted content and operated the pages.

Loyalist protests have been ongoing since Belfast City Council voted on 3 December to restrict the flying of the union flag to designated days only.

It is the second time that the social media operator has come before the High Court in the last three months.

In November a convicted child sex offender won a landmark case forcing Facebook to take down a page monitoring paedophiles in Northern Ireland.

He is now seeking damages in an action due to be heard in March. This latest case will now be transferred to the judge handling those proceedings.

Meanwhile, a man accused of shoving a wheelie bin at police during trouble in east Belfast linked to the flags protests has been refused bail in court on Monday.

Malcolm Stevenson, 46, of Templemore Street, Belfast, denies a charge of rioting in the Newtownards Road area on 7 January.

The High Court was told that loyalist rioters attacked police vehicles with hatchets, knives and sledgehammers and petrol bombs were thrown during the trouble.

Weather And Travel Updates: Snow-Covered UK - Sky News

Driving Tips For Winter Weather

Updated: 6:15am UK, Friday 18 January 2013

With more bad weather heading for the UK, motorists have been warned to take extra care.

Skidding on ice is the main concern for those driving in freezing conditions.

So what is the best advice when it comes to being safe on the roads?

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has issued some top tips for motorists:

Before setting off:

:: Plan your route according to the driving conditions.

:: Make sure your wipers are in good condition.

:: Clean your windows inside and out.

:: Top up the washer fluid with winter strength screen wash which has a freeze-resistant additive.

:: Check last year's scraper and de-icer are up to the job.

:: Check your tyres, especially the tread depth. For optimum safety opt for at least 3mm instead of the legal minimum of 1.6mm.

:: Check all lights.

:: Pack an emergency kit – high-viz jacket, food and water, boots, de-icer, scraper, torch, shovel and charged mobile phone with your breakdown emergency number.

:: If you are on regular medication, take enough with you in case you get delayed.

On the road:

:: Use the 'ice' setting if your car has one.

:: Slow down and accelerate smoothly and gradually.

:: Drive in the highest gear possible, starting off in second.

:: Make sure you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

:: Increase your following distance by ten times even if you have ABS.

:: Beware - light steering and reduced road noise could mean you are driving on ice.

:: Frost, ice and snow remain for longer under trees, on bridges, and in areas exposed to wind.

:: Make sure your wipers are in the off position when you stop – they can freeze to the window.

Arsenal to freeze ticket prices for 2013-14 season after fan backlash - The Guardian

Arsenal have announced that the club will not make any ticket price increases next season.

The north London club's ticket prices became a subject of controversy this month when Manchester City returned 912 unsold tickets for their game at the Emirates Stadium, with City fans unhappy at the £62 asking price.

"The price freeze applies to all match ticket prices including season tickets in both general admission and club level," the club said. "Club level season ticket renewals will begin on 12 February. The move follows a full review by the Arsenal board which included an assessment of the current economic environment and feedback from fans' groups."

City fans' complaints sparked a campaign to curb rising ticket prices but Arsène Wenger, the manager, defended Arsenal's pricing policy, arguing that the club needed the money to continue competing with their rivals at the top of the Premier League.

The club have some of the highest season ticket prices in the league but have not delivered the success to match in recent seasons, having failed to win a trophy since moving to the Emirates in 2006.

Arsenal Supporters' Trust (AST) welcomed the move and urged the board to further ease the burden on fans by diverting some of the increased revenues from next season back into reducing tickets costs further.

"AST welcomes Arsenal's decision to freeze prices and urges the club to continue to put downward pressure on ticket prices when other sources of revenue from TV deals and commercial deals are increasing. We are engaged in discussions with the club about the development of wider initiatives that offer cheaper tickets for young fans and make FA Cup games more affordable."

The AST also called for a reduction in the cost of tickets for travelling fans, particularly given the criticism their club received when City returned their tickets.

"One urgent issue that must be urgently addressed is the price away fans are charged," the Trust said. "Arsenal fans suffer from being charged very high prices wherever they go and the AST is pleased that fans from across the country are coming together to highlight this issue."

Brendan Rodgers 'let down by young Liverpool players' at Oldham and says club ... -

"But I can't rely on Steven for 70 games. He's been incredible, but he shouldn't be expected to have to come and win games on his own.

"You can't be comfortable at Liverpool. The youngsters are never allowed to be. This is a different type of football to the Premier League and you have to stand up and be counted."

Aside from failing to match the desire of the home team, Liverpool also lost the physical battle, with Oldham centre-forward Matt Smith – who ended the game with a dislocated shoulder – dominating the defensive pairing of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates.

"We didn't have enough physicality, especially considering we have got two big strong centre-halves." Rodgers said. "We have a 6ft 4in and a 6ft 3in centre-half.

"The big guy Smith did well, but it is not like we haven't played against that big type before.

"We were too much on the back foot early on, you have got to be aggressive. Across the board, we didn't press well enough from the front.

"This was a trophy that we put focus on to go far and now we are out of it. Oldham did well. If they play like that then they shouldn't be down where they are in the league. They had lost seven of their last eight league games."

Liverpool expect to complete the signing of Inter Milan's Brazilian attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho early this week for £8 million.

Matt Smith ... not your average footballer

Size: 6ft 6in

Background: The father of Matt Smith, who was Oldham's two-goal hero, combined playing for Scottish clubs and Birmingham City with studying medicine and working as a doctor. Matt's half-brother, Jean-Francois, was a professional basketball player in the French Pro A League.

Education: Smith studied at Pate's Grammar School in Cheltenham and in 2011 earned a 2:1 degree in international management with American business studies at Manchester University's business school.

American experience: Played football in America while spending a year of his degree at Arizona State University.

Posh friends: Jack Whitehall played up front with Smith at university. They were a "lethal partnership", the comedian said.

... And he's not a softie: Smith was forced off with a dislocated shoulder but, after having it popped back in, said he was completely fine.

Facebook revenues up 40% - The Guardian

Facebook beat Wall Street's expectations on Wednesday, announcing fourth-quarter earnings of $64m (£40.5m) on revenues up 40% to $1.59bn, and announced that mobile revenue had doubled and mobile users exceeded desktop ones. But its shares slid in after-hours trading.

The company famously founded in a Harvard dormitory room by Mark Zuckerberg said mobile revenue jumped, bringing in 23% of advertising revenue, compared with 14% in the third quarter.

The company could point to a transformation in the profile of its users, with the number accessing the social network from mobile devices each day for the first time exceeding those on desktop machines. Daily active users on mobiles during December hit 680m out of the 1.06bn monthly users, compared with 618m for PCs.

"In 2012, we connected over a billion people and became a mobile company," said chief executive Zuckerberg.

Even the shares' $31.40 closing price was well below the $42 at which the company floated in May. "Mobile revenue was expected to be a little higher," Aaron Kessler, an analyst with Raymond James, told Reuters. He was looking for mobile to account for 25% of total ad revenue. "Overall, solid quarter but maybe high expectations going into the quarter," he said.

Google and Facebook are in a race to make money from mobile as more people use smartphones and tablets to connect. Google has had the better of it, able to use its maps and location data from Android smartphones to target ads. But Facebook is expanding its efforts there. Zuckerberg said after the results came out that the shift to mobile "is challenging for us to navigate … We started off the year with apps that weren't as high-quality as we would have wanted. Today there's no argument. Facebook is a mobile company."

He also suggested that the new Graph Search feature – allowing Facebook users find things such as restaurants or airlines that their friends, or friends of friends, like – could "potentially turn into a meaningful business for us", hinting at a challenge to Google.

But Brian Wieser, of Pivotal Research Group, said higher mobile revenues brought their own problems: "Growth in mobile ad sales leads to rising expenses, given the inherent complexity and labour involved in managing these operations. It appears that Facebook's stellar fourth-quarter growth in mobile advertising may be proving this, as the company's solid revenue results were partially offset by a falling margin."

Benedict Evans, telecoms and technology analyst for Enders Analysis, said of the rapid increase in mobile revenue from quarter to quarter: "There's a pretty clear story there."

Arsenal 2 Liverpool 2: match report -

Liverpool will also take heart from the reaction to the Oldham humbling, the signs that Pepe Reina is returning to his best form, the signing of the creative Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan and also by the point itself. Champions League qualification may be a distant dream but they are still only seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and heading in the right direction under Rodgers. But as positively as Liverpool attacked in the build-up to their fifth-minute goal, they were indebted to Arsenal defending as grotesque as a row of gargoyles.

When Suárez moved down the left, his pass should still have been picked off but Bacary Sagna slipped. Johnson crossed from the left and this time it was Vermaelen erring, failing to cut out the ball which continued to Sturridge. Wojciech Szczesny did his job, saving the shot, but possession was immediately regained by Liverpool. Henderson simply laid the ball off to Suárez, whose shot deflected in off Mertesacker.

Liverpool threatened on every breakaway. Suárez delivered a majestic diagonal pass over Vermaelen and into the path of Sturridge, whose shot slipped wide. Yet Arsenal had their chances. Reina twice denied Walcott, who constantly tried to shake Arsenal out of their first-half stupor. Giroud shot over.

Agger was doing well at both ends. First he met a Steven Gerrard corner, eluding Szczesny with a determined leap and heading goalwards. Arsenal were fortunate that Lukas Podolski was well-placed on the line. Back down the other end, Agger nipped in front of Giroud to head clear.

Arsenal, for all their uncertainty, kept making chances but first Reina held Giroud's header, then Gerrard blocked a Cazorla shot. Yet Liverpool should have finished the half leading by two but Henderson decided to chip Szczesny and found only the roof of the net. He could have squared the ball to better-placed team-mates.

The second half contained a mix of poor and inspired defending and some superlative attacking. Lucas and Carragher threw themselves in the way of Podolski thunderbolts. Frustration briefly flared in the stands with two Arsenal fans being led out by stewards. The home support's mood darkened further when Henderson glided past Mertesacker and Santos, losing then regaining the ball before scoring with a low shot as Sagna slid in.

The Emirates was turning all querulous but suddenly the team clicked in to gear. Suddenly, they began performing closer to their potential. Wilshere lifted in a free-kick and Giroud exploited momentary hesitancy in the Liverpool defence to head past Reina. One quickly became two, in elegant fashion. Arsenal's equaliser was a gem, a reminder of their smooth-passing, one-touch class. The ball journeyed from Sagna to Cazorla and into Giroud, whose lay-off to Walcott was perfect. The finish was unstoppable from Walcott.

Occasional ugly moments broke up the flow. Gerrard launched himself towards Mertesacker, catching the German, and receiving a booking. Giroud was to the fore again, being denied by Reina, heading over and then diving when moving past Agger. Liverpool could have taken all the points at the death but Szczesny kept out Suárez's shot.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs (Santos 37); Ramsey, Wilshere; Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud.
Subs: Mannone (g), Koscielny, Jenkinson, Diaby, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Booked: Cazorla, Giroud, Mertesacker.
Goals: Giroud 64, Walcott 67.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Reina; Wisdom, Agger, Carragher, Johnson; Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard; Downing, Sturridge (Enrique 71), Suárez. Subs: Jones (g), Skrtel, Allen, Sterling, Shelvey, Borini.
Booked: Gerrard.
Goals: Suárez 5, Henderson 60.
Att: 60,089

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Facebook Emails Users Over Sponsored Stories - Sky News

Facebook may have to pay up to $10 to each of its users whose personal details were used without permission to sell advertising.

The social media giant has sent out legal notices about a class action brought against it in California after profile photos and names were used without consent in its Sponsored Stories feature.

Victims of the unauthorised use of material included children, adults, law institutes and charities.

If they had clicked 'Like' on a product the users' Facebook friends were likely to see adverts related to it on their own pages, along with a photo of the user.

Facebook didn't offer an opt-out to the service, and in April 2011 a group of Facebook users launched legal action against the company over the tactic.

The case has been designated Fraley vs. Facebook.

Last year Facebook sought a settlement by changing its usage terms to clarify the facility and it also said it would put $20m (£12.8m) into a settlement fund.

On the weekend Facebook sent an email to affected US users with the subject line "Re: LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION".

Those who did not delete the message as suspected spam now have until May 2 to file a claim, which may give them up to $10 (£6.40) each from the pool.

However if too many claims are made and the settlement per person drops below $5, the money will be shared between charities to educate children and adults on social media safety.

Legal fees and costs might take up to 40% of the settlement fund, leaving around $12m (£7.6m) to be shared by recipients.

There are an estimated 150 million Facebook accounts in the US, and the final approval hearing for the settlement is on June 28.

On Wednesday, Facebook is due to release its 2012 fourth quarter results, which are expected to show how the company has progressed in monetising the service since flotation.

The company went public last May and the stock price plunged by 53% from the IPO price of $38 (£24.20), but has since recovered slowly and on Monday closed at $32.46 (£20.66).

Twitter apologises over porn on new Vine app - The Guardian

Twitter has apologised over a "human error" that allowed hardcore pornography to be shown on the homepage of its new six-second video app, Vine.

The social network admitted that it mistakenly made the explicit video – which was tagged "porn" and "nsfwvine" – an "editor's pick" on Monday, meaning users could view the x-rated clip without leaving the homepage.

Vine has quickly become a new home for explicit material after it was launched last week as a way to share short clips with friends.

Twitter said in a statement: "A human error resulted in a video with adult content becoming one of the videos in editor's picks, and upon realising this mistake we removed the video immediately. We apologise to our users for the error."

The blunder heaped pressure on Twitter to explain how it will clean up the app, which is available free on Apple iPhones and has already been credited with inventing "microporn".

There is no age limit to prevent children using the app, which has passed Apple's strict guidelines on nudity and suggestive content. The video was removed from Vine at around 3pm UK time (10am EDT) after being on editor's picks for a matter of hours.

A Twitter spokeswoman earlier said: "Users can report videos as inappropriate within the product if they believe the content to be sensitive or inappropriate (eg nudity, violence, or medical procedures). Videos that have been reported as inappropriate have a warning message that a viewer must click through before viewing the video.

"Uploaded videos that are reported and determined to violate our guidelines will be removed from the site, and the user account that posted the video may be terminated. Please review the Vine rules for more information on these violations."

Vine videos that have been reported as inappropriate prompt users to "tap to view" them, unlike all other clips which play automatically. This, in theory, should help warn users about extreme content – although it is unlikely to satisfy parental groups on internet safety. It is not known whether the editor's pick section of the Vine app is an automated feed or selected by people.

London Irish 46 Worcester 24: match report -

Both sides fielded reasonably strong line-ups, although influential number eight Chris Hala'ufia was a late withdrawal for Irish with a back spasm.

Worcester made a bright start and took the lead after only three minutes when Danny Gray kicked an easy penalty.

However, Irish were level after nine minutes when Sailosi Tagicakibau powered past two defenders forcing the visitors to concede a penalty which Homer made no mistake with.

Against the run of play, Irish scored the first try of the game.

An aimless chip ahead by Shane Geraghty was not dealt with by the visitors defence as they stood and watched, allowing Yarde to collect the loose ball. The wing made ground into the opposition 22 and set up the ruck from which Aulika emerged to brush past a weak tackle from Ceri Jones to run unopposed to the posts for a try which Homer converted.

The Warriors continued to have the better of possession and territory but once again their elementary errors gifted Irish their second try.

From deep inside their own 22 they allowed Yarde to run 50 metres and then missed two further tackles on Matt Garvey before the lock was hauled down 10 metres from the line.

Irish maintained the pressure, though, and from a lineout five metres out Aulika drove over for his second try which Homer converted to give the hosts a healthy 17-3 advantage.

Those two tries seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Warriors and they allowed Irish to dominate the remainder of the half.

Further missed tackles enabled the home side to gain a platform in the opposition 22 from which another chip through from Geraghty saw Yarde win the race for the touchdown to secure a 22-3 interval lead.

Within minutes of the restart Homer extended the Irish lead with his second penalty but the Warriors responded with some fight.

Following a period of pressure Danny Gray darted over from close range for a try which he converted with Irish suffering a further blow with a yellow card for George Skivington.

However, back came the Irish to seal victory with their bonus-point try when Alex Gray was driven over from a lineout with Homer converting with a splendid kick from the touchline.

Worcester responded with a try from David Lemi, the wing impressing to squeeze his way over in the corner for the score which Andy Goode converted.

Yarde evaded two tackles to score his second try and then, after the Warriors had responded with a score from James Percival, he completed his hat-trick two minutes from time with a thrilling individual effort.

Arsenal transfer policy is helping club's rivals, says Alisher Usmanov - The Guardian

The Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has said he is concerned that the club's difficulties in hanging on to their best players has helped create great teams for their rivals. He also claimed that Thierry Henry has urged him to take over at the Emirates to stop the trophy drought.

Arsenal have not won anything since the FA Cup in 2005 and in recent years have sold the striker Robin van Persie, the midfielders Cesc Fábregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song, and the left-back Gaël Clichy. Manchester United signed Van Persie; Fábregas and Song went to Barcelona; and Nasri and Clichy won the Premier League with Manchester City last season.

In an interview with the sports daily L'Equipe, Usmanov said: "The greatest achievement of Arsène Wenger is to have created two teams: the one that now plays for our rivals and the one that is trying to be among the best in the Premier League.

"That's why I say it's not enough to merely flatter the coach, but to give him the possibility to buy the best players, superstars. But not just stars, but those chosen by Wenger."

He added: "For me, he's one of the best coaches in the world, but it's not easy for him. I think he deserves that players are brought in at Arsenal when they're needed.

"The best players, and not being satisfied with selling our best players to our rivals. If that happens, we can ask everything of him. But, today, he's sacrificed. Because of the policy and we're all to blame. Everything's in [the Arsenal majority shareholder] Mr Kroenke's hands and I hope he succeeds, even if he doesn't go along with my ideas.

"It's unthinkable that the shareholders get well-paid while, for small clauses in contracts, we lose key players, symbols like Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini or Patrick Vieira. We should have increased their salaries when they started to be courted, started to look elsewhere. I don't know why we didn't propose that to them."

Usmanov owns just under 30% of Arsenal, less than the American businessman Stan Kroenke. But Usmanov claimed Henry wants him to take control of the club.

"I like many footballers and I'm in contact with some of them. Perhaps my favourite of the last 10, 15 years is Thierry Henry. He's pushing me to buy all of Arsenal's shares, but I cannot predict the future," he said.

"When I had the chance to buy some shares and become one of the main shareholders in the club, I didn't hesitate for a second. I was even ready to take total control. That wasn't possible because certain people preferred to make a profit and create, using me, an outside enemy. I remain portrayed as a pirate, an enemy. They have won that game."

London Olympics builders see gagging order lifted - Observer

A gagging order preventing businesses which helped build London's Olympics venues from promoting their involvement in the 2012 games has been lifted after the government paid the British Olympic Association £2m.

The BOA estimates that thousands of companies, which had been frustrated by bans on associating their names with the summer Games, will now benefit from the "stardust" of an event rated one of the most successful in Olympics history.

The decision was announced on Sunday by the secretary of state for culture, Maria Miller, and chairman of the BOA, Lord Coe. It followed a campaign by companies involved in the Games for the right to include details of their involvement in marketing materials.

"I am very glad it is happening but it should have happened six months ago," said Peter Murray, a marketing and communications consultant in the building industry who led the campaign. "The attention of the world is now on Rio and not on London. It will be a benefit to many firms, but all of the jobs for Rio have been allocated now."

Companies which had not paid the International Olympic Committee or the London organising committee to sponsor the Games were prevented by law from using their involvement in marketing materials. It meant the architects of the highly visible Aquatics Centre and velodrome were among those who could not talk about their involvement.

Brendon Cross, managing director of STL Communications, which provided phones for the opening and closing ceremonies, was prevented from issuing anything other than a 150-word statement about his firm's involvement and complained to David Cameron about it.

"It has been incredibly frustrating not to be able to talk about this," he said. "There is still scope for us to take advantage. At long last good sense has prevailed."

Asked why it did not provide the marketing rights for free, a BOA spokesman said: "These rights have a value, and it is through the sale of Olympic marketing rights that we create revenues so we can provide high-performance support to our athletes during the Olympic games."

Lord Coe said: "Thousands of British businesses supplied goods and services that were essential to the successful staging of the games, and I am delighted that many of these companies will now have the opportunity to highlight and officially promote their involvement in the Games.

Miller said the removal of the restrictions would enable firms to maximise the economic benefit from the Games. "Now we have removed the barrier, companies can capitalise on the role they played at home and abroad by really selling their involvement in one of the biggest and most successful projects this country has ever put on," she added.

Harry Redknapp urges QPR chief Tony Fernandes to quit Twitter - BBC Sport

Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp has advised chairman Tony Fernandes to "get off Twitter".

Fernandes tweeted at the weekend that he had "many fans attacking me" and indicated he would be prepared to leave the club if he could not "fix" things.

Redknapp said it would be a "massive blow" if Fernandes left. "The only advice I'd give Tony is get off Twitter," he added.

24 hours of tweets from Tony Fernandes

27 January: "Many fans attacking me. Doing our best. As I said we won't stop trying. As I have said many times times I take all responsibility and will face the music."

27 January: "If I can't fix it I will be the first to go."

28 January: "Fantastic response from QPR fans. I'm a fighter so if fans want me to stay I stay whatever happens. End of subject."

28 January: "I can handle stick. Had it from prime ministers, politicians, government, airline customers. As chairman, bucks stops with me. But I will stay on and continue if fans want."

"If you don't want to know what people are saying, don't be on Twitter."

Redknapp is desperately seeking additions to his playing squad before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

QPR are bottom of the Premier League, five points from safety, and were knocked out of the FA Cup on Saturday, beaten 4-2 at home by League One MK Dons.

However, Redknapp says he is unsure whether he will be able to bring in his top targets after likening the transfer window to "gang warfare", with agents attempting to "scupper" one another.

"It's scary," he said. "If you have got a deal, another agent will try to scupper that deal if he's not involved in it. They're all fighting for big money."

QPR's exit from the FA Cup prompted criticism of Fernandes, 48, from some frustrated fans.

But the Malaysian appeared to commit his future to the club on Monday when he tweeted:  "Fantastic response from QPR fans. Good chat with Harry. I'm a fighter so if fans want me to stay I stay whatever happens. End of subject. Thank you all."

However, Redknapp is clearly no fan of Twitter and would rather his chairman came off it.

"If you want to spend your whole life looking at what people are saying about you, you'll end up paranoid," he said.

"We'll all end up worrying and not sleeping at night."

Amber weather warning as high winds batter north and west Scotland - BBC News

Severe gales and storm force winds have been battering north and west Scotland.

A gust of 84mph has been recorded on South Uist.

The gable end of a house in Leverburgh on Harris collapsed onto a neighbouring property in the high winds. No-one was thought to have been injured.

A number of roads and causeways in the Western Isles have been shut. Northern Constabulary said all roads on the islands were severely affected by heavy spray and debris.

Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue said the wall collapsed on the semi-detached house in Dunmore Crescent in Leverburgh shortly before 22:00.

Fire crews were making the scene safe and people were moved out from neighbouring properties.

The Met Office had warnings in place for much of the country overnight and into Wednesday morning. Some travel disruption was expected.

Necessary provisions

Forecasters said a deep area of low pressure could see winds reaching speeds of up to 85mph, with large waves likely along exposed western coasts.

"Start Quote

If travel is essential the public should avoid exposed or coastal areas where gusts could cause significant harm to individuals"

End Quote Insp Robbie MacDonald Northern Constabulary

The A82 between Glencoe and Tyndrum was closed for high-sided vehicles due to the high winds.

Amber "be prepared" weather warnings have been issued for Orkney, Shetland, the Highlands and Strathclyde, while the rest of the country is covered by yellow "be aware" warnings.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said evening bus services for Lewis, Harris and Uist were being cancelled.

The local authority said most services would stop at about 18:00. Lewis Sports Centre closed at 17:00.

Insp Robbie MacDonald of Northern Constabulary said: "With the impending spell of extreme weather we are due to experience this evening and into tomorrow, I would encourage members of the public not to travel unless it is necessary and have provisions in their homes for possible power cuts.

"If travel is essential the public should avoid exposed or coastal areas where gusts could cause significant harm to individuals.

"Those travelling on causeways or low lying roads should listen to local radio and keep informed as to whether there are any road closures."

He added: "Taking measures to secure items outside properties such as garden furniture and scaffolding, and checking in on elderly neighbours to ensure they have all the necessary provisions is also encouraged."

Liverpool poised to sign Philippe Coutinho as Brendan Rodgers attempts to ... -

"That hurts, and I'm glad it does, because that shows that they care. We'll enter the game with even greater motivation to win.

"We've seen over the last few weeks the quality in the group so we mustn't forget that as well, however disappointing Sunday was.

"We must really focus in on the game on Wednesday, it's an opportunity against a good opponent but an opponent that's around about us in terms of points so we have to go there with the confidence and focus that we've shown in the league of late.

"And if we do that we'll have a great chance of getting a good result."

Liverpool would join Arsenal on 37 points with victory at the Emirates, a ground where they picked up three points last season.

Rodgers, though, will be mindful that his side have yet to beat a team in the top half of then table this season and that Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield earlier this term.

Playmaker Santi Cazorla was particularly impressive that day, and Rodgers said: "They've got some wonderfully talented players, and Cazorla's come in and done terrifically well in his first season.

"The game at Anfield was probably as poor as we've been. There were a number of reasons behind that. Psychologically we weren't in a good moment, and rightly so we lost the game.

"But this is a chance to put it right. We'll need to make sure everyone's fighting, everyone's together, and I'm sure we will be. We need to do better against the teams that are in the top half, there's no denying that."

Liverpool will welcome back fit-again trio Jose Reina, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson for tomorrow's game.

Full-back Enrique has not played since suffering a hamstring tear against QPR a month ago while goalkeeper Reina has missed two games with nose and thigh injuries and full-back Johnson sat out the FA Cup defeat by Oldham because of a hamstring problem.

Rodgers is likely to revert to a more familiar line-up after heavily criticising his young players for their performance at Boundary Park, and the Liverpool boss hinted it may be quite a while before some of those players get another chance.

"You might not always be at your best, but you have to give your best, and maybe one or two of our players looked like they didn't want to be there, which is the worry," said Rodgers.

"But we'll put that right going forward. The only way you get to find out those things sometimes is by actually throwing players in so no one this season will be able to say they didn't have a chance.

"The Oldham game actually makes decisions going forward much easier for me. We've got some good young players, but they're not that good. I don't have a young player here like Steven Gerrard when he was 18 or 19, or Jamie Carragher."

Twitter refuses to hand member information to police -

Its robust approach has caused frustration among investigators, according to law enforcement sources. Identifying anonymous Twitter members can be very difficult, particularly without the technical log data that the firm holds. In September the tour operator Thomas Cook was forced to take out a High Court injunction to block abuse by what it believed was a rogue employee it could not identify.

Unlike Facebook, which has staff in Ireland dedicated to working with police, Twitter insists that British investigators use complicated international treaty arrangements to obtain information from its headquarters in Silicon Valley.

For police to obtain communications data such as details of when and where Twitter members logged into their account, they must use Britain's mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States and get a court order in California. The process can cost up to £10,000, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the arrangement.

Twitter also has a policy of informing members if they are the target of an inquiry, unless it is forbidden by law, to allow them to challenge it. Compared to other web firms, it also has a robust stance towards attempts to identify its members and has itself fought court battles to resist requests.

At a Parliamentary hearing in September, Twitter's global head of public policy Colin Crowell argued that it was not able to be as much help to police as other social networks.

"We probably get fewer requests for user data than some of the other services, only because the nature of Twitter is that most of what happens there is already public anyway," he told MPs scrutinising new laws to give authorities greater access to communications data.

"Law enforcement oftentimes simply has to go to the web on its own and can obtain the relevant Tweets that they were looking for.

"Twitter also tends to collect less user data than perhaps some of the other services. For example, we do not collect information from our users about gender, age, home street address or things of that nature."

Overall, the Transparency Report showed a growing demand from international authorities for information on twitter users, however. Requests were up 20 per cent compared to the previous six months.

As it released the data, Twitter said it hoped "to raise public awareness about these invasive requests".

"All of our actions are in the interest of an open and safe internet," said legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel.

Twitter is likely to come under official pressure to relax its procedures as its popularity continues to grow, experts said.

"This is a global problem," said Martin Hoskins, an independent data protection consultant who formally dealt with police requests at the mobile operator T-Mobile.

"Authorities everywhere are looking to speed up these requests and make the process simpler."

It is understood that officials have already held talks designed to "streamline" the bureaucratic process involved in obtaining communications data from the United States via the mutual legal assistance treaty, which would ease attempts by police to get information from Twitter and other technology firms in Silicon Valley.

Hell of a mess: Rodgers admits Liverpool only click when 'heaven-sent' Steven ... -

Even before Liverpool's FA Cup humiliation, Brendan Rodgers knew how far his team still have to travel... because Steven Gerrard remains irreplaceable.

Reds manager Rodgers restores his skipper to the starting line-up for Wednesday night's face-saving mission to Arsenal, having admitted he is no closer to finding a way his team can function in the England midfielder's absence.

Gerrard has played every minute of every Premier League game this season, and has been part of a quiet revolution at Anfield that has seen the team overcome early struggles with a new style to creep into top four contention.

When he has been rested in the cup games, it has been a different story.

Liverpool's Sunday shambles put the matter into stark perspective as the match against Oldham turned in the Reds' favour the minute substitute Gerrard stepped on to the pitch.

And Rodgers admits he still has a massive job on his hands, merely to get to the point where the club can cope without the man who has carried this team on his back for many years now.

"I'd love to say that we would be alright without him, but unfortunately at this stage I can't because I don't believe we would," the Liverpool manager explained.

"Steven Gerrard is a unique player. When he came on at Oldham it was like someone had dropped him from Heaven, because we went to a totally different level.

"With each day that goes on you see the real importance he still has to the club. At 32 years of age, he still looks so fit, strong and you can see his influence on the team. As a captain he's been phenomenal.

"We are under no illusions because the Oldham game made it clear in terms of the depth of the squad the problems we have when we have to change the team around.

"Oldham was a rude awakening, but we knew the situation with the squad."

Rodgers spoke passionately after the cup exit about the need for the young team he fielded at Boundary Park - with eight players under the age of 23 - to learn from the "enthusiasm and desire" of their captain to perform in every game.

Gerrard transformed the team when he came on with half an hour remaining, and almost pulled off a great escape when his last minute shot crashed off the underside of the bar.

For the Reds boss, he is simply indispensable and that is why Rodgers is pushing hard to ensure that, even with his 33rd birthday on the horizon, the midfielder will get a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the 2014 season.

"Steven and I have spoken a number of times (about a contract), but as yet I don't believe anything has been done. His feeling the last time we spoke was get through this season and see how that goes," the Reds boss added.

"His focus is on really helping the group to go forward. There's no doubt that between now and the end of this season the contract will be looked at."

There have been some fears expressed by fans that the club's American owners will stick rigidly to their policy of investing only in young players with sell-on potential, and that could see Gerrard face similar problems to Frank Lampard at Chelsea.

But Rodgers insisted principle owners John Henry and Tom Werner are fully aware of the captain's importance to the side, and only have to watch Wednesday's game at the Emirates to gauge his value going forward.

"The owners can see for themselves, they watch all the games from afar. They understand and I have regular dialogue with them," the manager added.

"I can only feedback in terms of his qualities both as a player and as a leader of the club, so it's not like they don't get to know about it. Between now and the end of the season we will have a clear look at that (a contract) for sure."

Thumbs up: Jose Enrique is among the first-teamers returning against Arsenal


Liverpool face a very different test in North London from the physical examination they failed miserably at Oldham, but the manager believes it is not physical strength that is lacking in his side, but merely the right mental approach.

And he has demanded they responding this evening, with a win that would put them level on points with Arsenal, just behind the top four.

"I don't think that as a team we are physically light or short in anyway. I think it's mental and that's something we need to improve - we have to be more consistent.

"These opening months have been fantastic in terms of learning about players. Certainly, come the summer time we'll be in a better position to know what we need in the group."

Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique will return from injury against Arsenal and, with Gerrard and Lucas restored, Rodgers is hoping for an immediate response from his side.

Could London's commuters turn to the motorbike? - The Independent (blog)

commuter 300x225 Could London's commuters turn to the motorbike?

Commuters at Waterloo station (Getty Images)

Have you ever shoe-horned yourself onto the 8.19am Denmark Hill to Blackfriars train? It's not pretty. If you haven't, and yet you live in this great megalopolis, then you've more than likely embedded your limbs into some other unwitting passenger's soft, memory-foam-like body, on one of the city's other overcrowded train or tube routes.

With all that pushing and apologising, one's thoughts do wander to alternative methods of getting into work. Seeing as walking is largely out of the question (and if cycling in sweaty Lycra really isn't your scene), just how feasible is commuting by motorbike or scooter? Will a large portion of Londoners ultimately proclaim "enough is enough," whilst disdainfully pulling an over-priced season ticket from a machine amidst the latest round of fare hikes?

Earlier this month the Motorcycle Industry Association reported an 8.5 per cent rise in new registrations for bikes between 51-125cc, during 2012. After completing Compulsory Basic Training (or 'CBT', colloquially), bikes with an engine size up to 125cc are incredibly cheap, not only just to buy but also to run. The MCI says that these increased sales figures can be traced back to the petrol price rises of early 2011.

In addition, the MCI noted that for the first time ever, the five best-selling bikes around the country were all 125cc or under. These included the Honda CBF 125 M; a smaller Honda NSC 110 WH; and the Yamaha YBR 125. Whether the top-selling five are indicative of a trend, we'll have to wait and see. But it's certainly not incomprehensible that during this age of cutbacks and above-inflation rises on everything but salaries, townspeople may be exploring their options and going for the cheapest-to-run one.

But is this the same for London? The figures provided by the MCI are national and cannot be broken down geographically. However, some London-based dealerships are noticing that things are looking noticeably bright: "During the recession in 2008, sales dropped off. However, we're now back to pre-2008 figures," says Reuben Anderson, director of London Scooters which is based in London Bridge. "Scooters are quite seasonal but even this time of year sales haven't really slowed off at all. We get a lot of customers who live on the border of the M25 and a few from Kent and Essex. I bike 12 miles in to work and it takes me 25-30 minutes. It costs me less than £10 a week to do that sort of commute."

commuter 2 300x225 Could London's commuters turn to the motorbike?

Commuters at rush hour near London Bridge (Getty Images)

Money talks. With National Rail pledging fare hikes for the next five years to pay for significant network improvements, it's the free parking for motorbikes in London (in all but Westminster City Council, who still charge just £1 per day) and the £16 per-year road tax for under 125cc's, which makes the two-wheeler a very attractive prospect. That is all aside from the no Congestion Charge fee and the freedom to ride in bus lanes.

According to South-West London based BMG Scooters, the price of a single journey from Fulham Broadway to Piccadilly Circus on the tube is 20 minutes long and £2.30 with an Oyster card, whilst they say a scooter journey is 25 minutes and, a tad optimistically, £0.35. However, for those in Greater London, it's often not the cost which attracts them but the cut to their average journey time. Sha Murni, who works in the city said: "Getting to work would take one hour 20 minutes on the train, as opposed to an average 42 minutes on bike."

It's not all hunky-dory, though, as many motorcyclists will tell you. Carrying around clunky all-weather coats and helmets can be a pain for the city workers used to only ever clutching a satchel. The dearth of parking spaces in some of the most popular spots, whilst often free, can cause irritation, and then there's the over-whelming exposure to danger.

The Department for Transport's latest annual report on road casualties reports a 10 per cent reduction in motorcycle fatalities in 2011 compared to 2010. This is also a 33 per cent drop from the 2005-09 statistics. Yet like most other road users, this does in no way guarantee relative safety and all due care needs to be taken. London's road network is an eco-system. Like a Congolese jungle, different species of transport either work together or put up a fight. For motorcyclists, their relationship with other road users can be a tempestuous one.

Motorcyclist, Sha, said: "Pushbikes are the downside. Over the years I've seen an increase in pushbike users and the fact that they are using the same lanes as the rest of the traffic doesn't make any sense to me. They create disturbance, delays and they increase the risk to themselves and others. Another thing, the traffic lights are not taking into account the timing of the traffic."

It must be stated that motorcyclists are no angels either. However, for one motorcycle sales and hire company, business has been booming. "We've had two record Januarys on the trot. Sales have gone up 400-500 per cent compared to three years ago and they're still maintaining that level – London dealers especially" said Greg Holland-Merton, director of Raceways Motorcycles. "For some of the ones out of town, the increases haven't been the same, which is to be expected, really. For London shops, the year before was the same and so will this one. I see a bright future, sales have gone bananas."

Tagged in: , ,

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

London Bridge station closes after four passengers are taken ill due to heat - The Guardian

Following the blast of Arctic weather that hit the UK last week, it may have been the very last ailment expected to put the average commuter in hospital.

But for travellers in the south-east, the sudden unseasonal upswing in temperatures on Tuesday was enough to shut down a major rail hub when four passengers were simultaneously taken unwell after overheating in their winter garments.

As London went from biting Scandinavian snow drifts that cancelled hundreds of flights at Heathrow to balmier weather blowing in from the Azores in less a week, the London ambulance service (LAS) confirmed that three rush-hour commuters were taken to hospital with what initially appeared to be a mystery illness.

LAS tweeted that it was treating people at London Bridge station following "an incident".

LAS confirmed that after a call at 8.39am it sent its hazardous area response team to the scene while witnesses reported that more than a dozen police cars and fire engines were in attendance.

The station, which serves tens of millions of underground and rail passengers each year, was closed and cordoned off as authorities enacted the Health Protection Agency's "step 1-2-3" guidance, which states that if three or more people are taken unwell at the same time and the cause is not known, those who are ill should not be approached and responders should "withdraw … and send for specialist help".

Lucinda Stump, 26, whose workplace overlooks London Bridge, said that scores of firefighters were in attendance and she believed they were dealing with a major incident.

The news began trending on social media, with stranded passengers and the public speculating that a chemical leak or even a terrorist attack could be the ultimate cause of the undiagnosed illness.

In the end the most probable cause turned out to be less deadly but just as unexpected: overheating in the middle of January.

After a sudden 10C rise in temperatures in just under a week, the passengers admitted to hospital – encased in one too many layers of clothing – were overcome by the traditionally unpredictable British weather.

Helen Chivers from the Met Office said it was no surprise that people were getting caught out.

Whereas last Tuesday's maximum daytime temperature was just 3C, a week later the morning temperature in the capital was 11C.

"To have a temperature very early in the day as high as 11C, well, I would think is pretty unusual in January," she said.

Although Tuesday's maximum temperature of 14C in the capital was some way off the 27 January 2003 record of 17.6C, Chivers said the "rise in temperatures has been pretty marked".

She added: "Where the previous system was coming from Scandinavia, what's happened over the last 24hrs is that … the air that we've got at the moment has got relatively tropical origins.

"It's come to us from the Azores and that's why there's such a big difference in the temperatures."

Twitter Vine porn: searches for explicit content banned on app - The Guardian

Twitter is taking action against hardcore pornography on its new six-second video app, Vine, banning searches for explicit content and deleting X-rated users.

The social network made efforts to clean up the porn-hit video app after apologising for a "human error" that showed a graphic sex clip on its homepage on Monday.

NSFWVine, the user behind the pornographic video, appeared to have been blocked from Vine on Tuesday morning – but not before they had uploaded more than 30 explicit videos to 500 followers. However, the person behind the account denied that it had been blocked.

An individual who responded when the Guardian messaged the NSFWVine Twitter account said they were not "really expecting" Vine to select the clip as an editor's pick on the homepage.

NSFWVine launched two websites asking users to submit pornographic videos to Vine less than 72 hours after Twitter launched the app, internet registration records show. "The plan is to have others submit their NSFW vine clips, so the site is a collection of NSFW vine clips. $ will be from ads," the person behind the account told the Guardian.

They claimed Twitter had not been in contact about the explicit material despite making a public apology over it.

The person behind the account defended uploading pornographic videos to the site, and said it was the responsibility of Twitter and Vine to make them difficult to find.

The individual said in an email: "Twitter/Vine should really take steps to make it possible to filter out and block such content, so it can be out of reach for children, but I believe there are a lot of adults who would like the opportunity to share and view such content, and I bet they have gotten a lot of app downloads because of the media attention regarding porn on there. Maybe a safe search filter or something could be a possibility. Like Google have, which works well in my opinion."

The San Francisco-based company moved to block searches for tags including "#porn", "nsfw" and "boobs" in a further effort to rid Vine of its porn problem. The app is still available for free for Apple iPhones and iPods, although it was quietly removed from the app store's editor's picks section late on Monday.

Vine's launch last week inspired several spin-off sites that display an unmoderated stream of the rolling videos, including Vinepeek, launched by the London-based startup PXi Ventures.

The director of Pxi Ventures, Peter MacRobert, said he was "disappointed" that porn had started appearing on Vine, but added that he was a fan of the service.

He told the Guardian: "Vinepeek simply re-broadcasts a feed from Vine, and at the moment the original content is not tagged in any way to indicate that it may contain adult themes.

"Ideally, we would like to work with Vine to get an indication of a clip's suitability (for example, a meta tag) – allowing our viewers to make a choice before viewing the content."

A Twitter spokesperson said: "We're in the process of changing how users find and view sensitive content. We're experimenting with a number of approaches and will continue to iterate."

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Arsenal don't need new players says Arsene Wenger - The Independent

The Arsenal manager also admitted today that the club have failed in their attempt to land Barcelona and Spain forward David Villa.

The Evening Standard reports preliminary talks were held last week with Barca's representatives over Villa's availability, with the Gunners hopeful of luring the 31-year-old to Emirates Stadium.

Villa has started only seven La Liga games this season as he struggles to regain a regular first-team place after missing the majority of last season with a broken leg.

But Barcelona are adamant Villa is not for sale, a stance Wenger confirmed this morning. "The speculation doesn't go away but Barcelona don't want to sell David Villa," he said. "They have made that very, very clear.

"You respect the desire. If I say that somebody is not for transfer I expect the other clubs not to try to buy him.

"In January, it's very difficult to find players who strengthen your team when you're in our position."

Asked if there was any room for negotiation with Barcelona over Villa, Wenger replied: "No."

Barca president Sandro Rossell insisted earlier this month that he could "completely rule out the transfer of Villa during the winter market" and it appears Wenger will now have to turn to other targets with time running out ahead of Thursday's 11pm deadline.

Although many Arsenal supporters are desperate to see additions to the squad, Wenger insisted it would not be a major issue were the club not to make any new signings.

"I don't see it as a problem," Wenger said. "When you speak about 'anyone' coming in, I could go out and buy someone just to give people hope. What is important is that you bring in players who can strengthen your team, or you do nothing and are strong enough to do nothing.

"That is what is important for us, to bring in a player who can strengthen the squad. 'Anyone' to me means exactly what the modern game has become. As numbers we have enough. We have plenty of quality strikers."

David Beckham began training with Arsenal this morning at the club's London Colney base with the 37-year-old looking for a new club following his departure from Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy.

Despite revealing Beckham phoned 2008 him personally to request the use of the club's facilities — as he did briefly in 2010 before a spell at Tottenham's training base early in 2011 — Wenger claimed there is no chance the former England captain will be offered a contract.

"He has asked to come here and to work on his fitness," he said. "He has not done anything for a long, long time. He comes here to try and be fit again.

"It is purely for fitness. There's no speculation about signing or anything. I believe that he's come here purely on fitness purposes."

Asked what Arsenal get out of Beckham's presence, Wenger replied: "Nothing. Questions in a press conference! And to help somebody who I think deserves it.

"We are open for people who behave well when they come here and who made a great service for English football — you always try to help."

Thomas Vermaelen is fit for the home clash with Liverpool tomorrow night after recovering from an ankle problem. Abou Diaby faces a late fitness test, with Wenger carefully managing his playing time to avoid injury, but Mikel Arteta (calf) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring) are both out of contention.

Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are poised to return to the starting line-up after dropping to the bench for the FA Cup win at Brighton.

Meanwhile, Arsenal confirmed today they will make a pre-season trip to Indonesia for the first time in 30 years.

They will play the Indonesian national team as part of a two-day visit on July 13-14. More fixtures are in the process of being finalised as the club plan their third successive summer tour to the region, aiming to boost commercial and marketing revenue.

January transfer window: The players to watch over the coming days  

Philippe Coutinho transfer a gamble for Liverpool - BBC Sport

When Rafael Benitez introduced new signing Philippe Coutinho to the Italian media in the summer of 2010, he declared the Brazilian "the future of Inter Milan".

Sadly, the playmaker has failed to develop his reputation since then.

The 20-year-old remains a player for the future, rather than a star of the present, and Liverpool have taken a calculated gamble by agreeing an £8.5m deal for him.

Marco Branca, who conducts all transfers for Inter Milan, told BBC Sport: "Coutinho is a very, very good player. He is still only 20 and has a big talent."

Yet the fact remains that Inter's sporting director was willing to sell a player who was peripheral at best at Inter, having failed to cement a starting place or even establish his best position.

Branca now hopes to use the money received from Liverpool to sign another Brazilian, the Corinthians midfielder Paulinho.

Andrea Ramazzotti,  who covers Inter for Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport and has watched all Coutinho's 28 games for the club, told BBC Sport: "He just didn't show his potential in Milan.

"Coutinho played very well when he was on loan at Espanyol last season and started well for Inter this season, but they were only brief spells really.

"For the rest of the time, he just showed flashes of his potential and I fear the way of playing in England, which can be very physical, will not suit him because he has a slight frame."

That this is a player of rare talent, though, seems beyond question. The diminutive Brazilian is an excellent dribbler, combining close control with pace and trickery.

He also has finishing ability and can take a mean free-kick.

Coutinho joined Inter from Vasco da Gama for 4m euros (£3.4m) in 2008, when he was 16 and one of the most coveted young players in world football. The Serie A side immediately loaned him back to Vasco, because foreigners are prohibited from playing professional football in Italy until they are 18.

He returned in the summer of 2010 and quickly established himself as a favourite of new manager Benitez, featuring in 14 league and Champions League games before Christmas, most often as a wide attacker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Coutinho and Benitez

Benitez is a big fan of Coutinho

Unfortunately for the player, Benitez was sacked in December and his successor, Leonardo, was not anywhere near as big a fan of the young Brazilian. He played only four more games that season, although he did finish on a high by winning the Fifa under-20 World Cup with Brazil in the summer.

New manager Claudio Ranieri sent Coutinho on loan to struggling Spanish side Espanyol for the second half of the following season. He impressed, scoring five goals in 16 appearances.

This was when Liverpool first showed an interest in the player. Benitez had told their director of football, Damian Comolli, that Coutinho was the best young player at Inter and capable of being a big success in the Premier League.

Inter had yet another new manager, Andrea Stramaccioni, by this time, though, their sixth during Coutinho's time at the club, and he wanted to keep the player, so Inter rebuffed Liverpool's offer.

Stramaccioni's faith looked like being repaid as Coutinho was player of the tournament in the pre-season Trofeo TIM tournament  , when Inter beat AC Milan and Juventus in an impressive start to the season.

Everything looked promising until the player suffered a stress fracture of the tibia  at the end of October. Fredy Guarin  took his place and has remained in the side ever since.

This all made Liverpool's offer too good to refuse, as Branca decided to cash in on Coutinho's largely unfulfilled promise.

It will be fascinating to see whether the player can now finally reach his potential with Liverpool, or simply remain a great hope.