Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A soaring currency is complicating the battle against inflation.

Wild horses.

Apr 20th 2011.

INFLATION is at 6.3% and is supposed to break through the ceiling of the Central Bank’s target of 2.5-6.5% for the first time since it was adopted in 2006. That is despite the currency surging to 1.58 reais to the dollar, close to its peak since it was allowed to float in 1999—and much stronger than either the government or industry would like. All this means that monetary policy in Brazil is trying to tame two wild horses at the same time. The Central Bank has already raised its benchmark rate by three percentage points over the past year, to 11.75%, with another 0.25-0.50 points expected from its monetary-policy committee on April 20th. But as the bank admitted in its latest quarterly inflation report, it does not now expect to bring inflation back to its central 4.5% target by the end of 2011. The economic cost, it said, would be “too high”.

The difficulty for the Central Bank is that each rise in interest rates—already the highest of any big economy—makes Brazil more attractive to foreign capital. In the first three months of 2011 it saw net inflows of $35 billion, more than in the whole of 2010. That pushes up the currency, which is not directly the monetary-policy committee’s concern, and throws fuel on an overheated economy.

To try to tame inflation without boosting the real further, the bank is resorting to what central bankers call “macroprudential measures”, such as higher bank reserve-requirements. The finance ministry has done so by raising taxes on consumer credit, foreign bond issues, and on overseas loans and derivatives’ margins. Without such measures, says the finance minister, Guido Mantega, the real would be at 1.4 to the dollar.

Some think the government should welcome the inflows, let the real rise where it will and cut public spending to eliminate the expansionary fiscal deficit. FIESP, an industrialists’ trade body in São Paulo, says its members are already struggling: in 2010 the share of imported industrial goods in total consumption was at an all-time high. It wants the government to restrain speculative inflows by imposing far higher initial margin requirements on currency futures.

Dilma Rousseff, the president, has promised to do whatever it takes to control inflation.

Monday, 25 April 2011

CNN's Ayesha Durgahee looks at how British supermarkets deal with food waste.

Out-of-home advertising.

Billboard boom.

The future of out-of-home advertising is rosy, and digital .

Apr 20th 2011.

ROADSIDE billboards, posters on buses and subway escalators, ads in airport terminals—a type of publicity known as out-of-home advertising—used to be the end of the industry. No more. The falling price and improving quality of flat-screen displays mean that static posters printed on paper are being replaced by digital commercials with moving pictures, sound and sometimes interactive features. As some advertising media, especially newspapers see their audiences fade, streets, airports and other public spaces are becoming crowded with more potential viewers than ever, as people continue moving to cities and travel more.

MagnaGlobal, a media researcher, predicts that worldwide spending on out-of-home advertising will expand by 8.3% in 2011 to about $26.4 billion, faster growth than that seen for other non-internet forms of advertising (see chart).

Spending on digital billboards and posters is expected to double in the next five years, to $5.2 billion. William Eccleshare, who runs the international operations of Clear Channel, an American firm which is one of the largest out-of-home ad companies, thinks that in some countries more than 90% of its business will be digital by the decade’s end.

Clear Channel is so optimistic about digital posters because it believes they offer enormous potential for making advertisements more effective. Advertisers can tailor their choice to the time of day: McDonald’s can advertise its sausage and egg McMuffin at breakfast time, change to its regular Big Mac at lunch and follow that with ads for apple pie and ice cream during teatime. They can also react to events as they happen: when Spain won the football World Cup last year, digital billboards in Madrid, sponsored by Nike, showed the result within seconds.

Advertisers constantly talk about wanting to “engage” with consumers, so they are taking great interest in the potential for interactivity that digital technology will bring. JCDecaux, for example, is offering a free iPhone application called U snap: when a consumer sees a poster (paper or digital) for something that attracts his interest and takes a photo of it on his phone, the app recognises it, gives him product information and discount vouchers and directs him to the nearest retailer.

Then there is “gladvertising” and “sadvertising”, a rather sinister-sounding idea in which billboards with embedded cameras, linked to face-tracking software, detect the mood of each consumer who passes by, and change the advertising on display to suit it. The technology matches movements of the eyes and mouth to six expression patterns corresponding to happiness, anger, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust. An unhappy-looking person might be rewarded with ads for a sunny beach or a chocolate bar while those wearing an anxious frown might be reassured with an ad for insurance.

Such Big Brotherish software would no doubt detect a satisfied grin on the faces of out-of-home advertising bosses as they contemplate the next 18 months, in which a string of big events will boost their business: the Rugby World Cup, the American presidential election, the Euro 2012 football championship and the London Olympics. Wherever you go—the street, the subway, the airport or the bus station—there will be no escape from ads linked to these events.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cartoons to cheer up the weekend! It's twitter time!

Paul's video lessons.

Although and even though.





Paul's website:

Saturday, 9 April 2011



The fable, as it is told, involves a scorpion and a frog. The scorpion needs to cross a river, so he asks the frog to carry him on his back. The frog is skeptical; after all, scorpions kill.

The scorpion calms the frog, explaining that if he stung him on the swim across, they would both die. Therefore, the frog can be assured the scorpion will do no such thing. “Trust me,” says the scorpion. “We’re in this together.”

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog.

As the frog is hurt and they both begin to sink, the frog asks, “Why?”

“Sorry, I couldn't help it. I am a scorpion. It is my nature.”

Adly brings the power of celebrity endorsements to products through social media like Twitter.

And the Oscar for best city goes to .....

Liveability ranking.

Where the livin' is easiest.

Feb 21st 2011.

VANCOUVER remains the most liveable city in the world, according to the latest annual ranking compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Canadian city scored 98 out of a maximum 100, as it has done for the past two years.

The ranking scores 140 cities from 0-100 on 30 factors spread across five areas: stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. These numbers are then weighted and combined to produce an overall figure. The top ten cities occupy the same positions as last year, with the exception of Melbourne and Vienna, which have swapped places.

The report, which some companies use to determine advantages and disadvantages for relocating employees, explains what makes a high-ranked city:

Cities that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. This often produces a broad range of recreational availability without leading to high crime levels or poor infrastructure. Seven of the top ten scoring cities are in Australia and Canada.

At the other end of the ranking, Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, is in 140th place, thanks to particularly poor scores for its stability, health care and infrastructure. Somewhere between the extremes sit London and New York in 53rd and 56th places. They scored stability scores of 75 and 70, the result in turn of poor scores for the perceived threat of terror and the rates of petty and violent crime.

Canadians were surprised when they heard about the result of the survey. It turns out Vancouver is only the 29th-best place to live in Canada.

Their standards must be pretty high.

Addicted? Really?

The internet: Mental-health specialists disagree over whether to classify compulsive online behaviour as addiction—and how to treat it.

Mar 10th 2011.

CRAIG SMALLWOOD, a disabled American war veteran, spent more than 20,000 hours over five years playing an online role-playing game called “Lineage II”. When NCsoft, the South Korean firm behind the game, accused him of breaking the game’s rules and banned him, he was plunged into depression, severe paranoia and hallucinations. He spent three weeks in hospital. He sued NCsoft for fraud and negligence, demanding over $9m in damages and claiming that the company acted negligently by failing to warn him of the danger that he would become “addicted” to the game.

But does it make sense to talk of addiction to online activity? Mental-health specialists say three online behaviours can become problematic for many people: video games, pornography and messaging via e-mail and social networks. But there is far less agreement about whether any of this should be called “internet addiction”—or how to treat it.

Some mental-health specialists wanted “internet addiction” to be included in the fifth version of psychiatry’s bible, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, known as DSM-V, which is currently being updated. The American Medical Association endorsed the idea in 2007, only to backtrack days later. The American Journal of Psychiatry called internet addiction a “common disorder” and supported its recognition. Last year the DSM-V drafting group made its decision: internet addiction would not be included as a “behavioural addiction”—only gambling made the cut—but it said further study was needed.

Skeptics say there is nothing uniquely addictive about the internet. Back in 2000 Joseph Walther, a communications professor at Michigan State University, argued that other factors, such as depression, are the real problem. He stands by that view today. “No scientific evidence has emerged to suggest that internet use is a cause rather than a consequence of some other sort of issue,” he says. “Focusing on and treating people for internet addiction, rather than looking for deeper clinical issues, is unwise.”

Others disagree. “That would be wrong,” says Kimberly Young, a researcher and therapist who has worked on internet addiction since 1994. She insists that the internet, with its powerfully immersive environments, creates new problems that people must learn to navigate.

No one disputes that online habits can turn toxic. Take South Korea, where ubiquitous broadband means that the average high-school student plays video games for 23 hours each week. In 2007 the government estimated that around 210,000 children needed treatment for internet addiction. Last year newspapers around the globe carried the story of a South Korean couple who fed their infant daughter so little that she starved to death. Instead of caring for the child, the couple spent most nights at an internet café, sinking hours into a role-playing game in which they raised, fed and cared for a virtual daughter. And several South Korean men have died from exhaustion after marathon, multi-day gaming sessions.

But compulsive behaviour is not limited to gamers. E-mail or web-use behaviours can also show signs of addiction. Getting through a business lunch in which no one pulls out a phone to check their messages now counts as a minor miracle in many quarters. Pornography is hardly new, either, but the internet makes accessing it much easier than ever before. When something can be summoned in an instant via broadband, whether it is a game world, an e-mail inbox or pornographic material, it is harder to resist. New services lead to new complaints. When online auction sites first became popular, talk of “eBay addiction” soon followed. Dr Young says women complain to her now about addiction to Facebook—or even to “FarmVille”, a game playable only within Facebook.

Treatment centres have popped up around the world. In 2006 Amsterdam’s Smith & Jones facility billed itself as “the first and, currently, the only residential video-game treatment program in the world”. In America the reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program claims to treat internet addiction, gaming addiction, and even “texting addiction”. In China, meanwhile, military-style “boot camps” are the preferred way to treat internet problems.

Yet many people like feeling permanently connected. It’s as if it is not a pleasure but a necessity.

Bob LaRose, an internet specialist at Michigan State University wrote in his research on college students that he found that less than 1% has a pathological problem, he adds. For most people, internet use “is just a habit—and one that brings us pleasure.”

A large theft of company e-mail lists causes controversy.

E-commerce and data security.

The phishers' big catch.

A large theft of company e-mail lists causes controversy.

Apr 7th 2011

AN OUTRAGED consumer-advocacy group is calling it “the Fukushima of the e-mail industry”. Comparing mere data theft to Japan’s nuclear nightmare is perhaps a bit over the top. But the theft of data from Epsilon, a marketing-services company, has nonetheless caused widespread concern. On April 1st Epsilon revealed that an outsider had managed to get hold of the e-mail addresses and names of some individuals that it held on its system. Many millions of records are reportedly involved, although Epsilon, which is still investigating the cause of the leak, refuses to confirm the exact number.

This is hardly the first time that a big security breach has led to the mass theft of digital data. But the fallout from the Epsilon debacle will spread far and wide.

The company sends out more than 40 billion e-mails a year on behalf of many of America’s biggest companies, including Target, one of the country’s largest retailers, JPMorgan Chase, a bank, and the McKinsey Quarterly, a management journal. Marks & Spencer, a big British retailer, was also among those whose e-mail list was stolen.

Epsilon says that only 2% of its 2,500 clients have been affected by the leak, but given the size of some of those outfits, this is not much consolation. Many of the firms involved have been struggling this week to let their customers know—by e-mail, inevitably—that their personal data may have been compromised.

Some security experts argue that the fuss over the leak is overblown. They say that e-mail addresses are far less sensitive pieces of information than, say, medical or financial records. People often post their addresses on their Facebook pages, or print them on their business cards. Bruce Schneier, an internet-security expert, thinks it is a bit like worrying about spammers stealing a copy of the telephone directory. All it would do is make their task a bit easier.

Other observers are taking the leak more seriously because the thief stole, in effect, companies’ customer lists and this would allow anyone who buys the lists to aim carefully crafted e-mails at those customers that appear to come from trusted businesses, asking them to “update your account details” or otherwise reveal further sensitive information, a scam known as “spear-phishing”. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, recently lost almost $8m after falling for a fake e-mail purportedly from one of its printers, asking it to divert payments to a different bank account.

It will certainly damage the reputations of the firms that gave Epsilon their customers’ data. Many of them, including Marriott International, a hotel chain, have been quick to blame the marketing firm for the leak and to alert their customers to the risks. But this may not be enough to spare them from criticism.

Customers may ask themselves whether companies that cannot keep a simple e-mail list safe can be trusted with more sensitive things, like their credit-card details. They also have reason to worry that other, more serious, leaks are being hushed up.

“The Epsilon case is just the public tip of an iceberg,” says Jeff Hudson of Venafi, a data-security firm. Many instances of data loss, he says, are simply not reported.

Epsilon’s leak comes at a time when the authorities in America are taking a hard look at the way people’s electronic data are dealt with. On April 4th it emerged that federal prosecutors in New Jersey are examining how software applications for smartphones collect and share data, amid suspicions that privacy laws have been broken in some cases. Government officials are also formulating new online-privacy rules that will give people greater control over the way information is collected about them on the web.

The Epsilon episode will surely encourage them to take a strict line on all sorts of data-handling.

Fateful Choice on Day of Disaster.

When the tsunami in Japan crushed the town of Rikuzentakata, its mayor's wife went missing—forcing him to make a fateful decision between his city and his family.

A man gets a new kidney after his wife posts a plea on Facebook for a donor.

Summit 2 - Narrate a silent film.

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

A question to Mike - How have you changed in the last twelve months?

thanks to

Friday, 8 April 2011

Quiz: Past Simple or Present Perfect? - Intermediate Level

Face2Face Intermediate - Unit 3 - Present Perfect.

Turn Facebook, Twitter Time Into High-Paying Job.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help you keep in touch with friends and family, but they can also land you a high-paying job. More and more companies are hiring social media managers to tweet and make Facebook posts for them. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Speculators send Brazil’s real to new heights.

April 8 2011

Brazil’s currency has surged over the past two weeks, breaking one of the market’s most important resistance levels, as speculators have seized on an apparent shift in government policy.

The country has long been at the forefront of the so-called currency war, introducing a barrage of aggressive measures specifically designed to curb the appreciation of the overvalued real.

However, the government appears to have called a temporary truce, concentrating instead on Brazil’s ever more worrying inflation problem.

“We’ve sensed a shift in policy away from the exchange rate towards inflation and ultimately the real was the beneficiary of this,” said Flavia Cattan-Naslausky, a strategist at RBS Securities.

Late last year, the government concentrated on measures that would curb dollar inflows, such as tripling the tax it charges foreigners when they buy local bonds. However, since President Dilma Rousseff took office this year, the government has tried to tackle the economy’s problems in a more comprehensive way via so-called “macro-prudential measures”.

In the third such announcement in two weeks, the government said on Thursday that it would double the tax on consumer credit. The measure will help tame inflation, which has come dangerously close to the upper limit of the central bank’s target, but also help the country to bring down its benchmark interest rate, one of the highest in the world and the fundamental reason behind the currency’s strength.

Although the move has been welcomed by economists, traders have jumped on this policy shift as a green light to start pushing the real to even stronger levels.

“We’re seeing a big speculative attack on the real,” said Andre Ferreira, director of the Futura brokerage in São Paulo.

“Four or five of the big foreign banks have been amassing a huge position, crushing the market and seeing how far they can test the government’s patience,” he said.

The real hit a fresh two-year high on Friday, firming to around 1.57 to the dollar and consolidating its break of the key 1.60 level. That is over 5 per cent stronger than it was at the beginning of last week and almost 50 per cent stronger than it was at the beginning of 2009.

Traders said they saw the real strengthening further to settle in the 1.50-1.55 per dollar range.

“We still have real economy flows and a lot of IPOs (initial public offerings) lined up,” said RBS’s Flavia Cattan-Naslausky. “If the government will not put a line in the sand then the market will keep its position.”

About $35bn has already flowed into Brazil during the first three months of this year, more than came in during the whole of 2009 or 2010, according to central bank data.

However, analysts warned about dismissing the possibility of further aggressive measures if the currency breaks the 1.50 per dollar level.

Alfredo Barbutti, an economist at the BGC Liquidez brokerage in São Paulo, said the government is not relying on a stronger currency to solve its inflation problems. Instead, its short-term appreciation is simply an effect of the government’s decision to tackle the long-term causes of the problem.

“There are many components of the inflation index which wouldn’t be affected by having a stronger currency anyway,” he said.

As such, the market should be prepared for other measures such as quarantines on capital inflows, said Carlos Gandolfo, a partner at São Paulo’s Pioneer brokerage.

“The government has been trying to cure the problem one dose at a time but it still may have to resort to something bigger,” he said.

People are living longer so they need to retire later and save more.

Market Leader Intermediate Unit 5 - Quiz Describing trends

A school in Maine is buying iPads for students, but not everyone is happy.

Reading material.

Report reveals alcohol cancer link

One in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women across Western Europe are caused by drinking, says report.

Why a lack of empathy is the root of all evil

From casual violence to genocide, acts of cruelty can be traced back to how the perpetrator identifies with other people, argues psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen.

Why more and more women are using pornography

Increasing numbers of women admit to being hooked on internet porn. Why is this happening, and where are they finding help?

Spain's success abroad fails to create jobs at home

Fast growing Spanish businesses do not expect to add to their workforces as they expand into new markets

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Toyota and Microsoft partnership.

Viewers, listeners and readers are ageing fast. Oddly, media companies don’t regard that as a catastrophe.

Peggy Sue got old.

Viewers, listeners and readers are ageing fast. Oddly, media companies don’t regard that as a catastrophe.

Apr 7th 2011

A FEW years ago Universal Music Group spied a gap in the market. How about a CD for people who grew up in the 1950s and wanted to revisit the pop music of their youth? The label pulled together songs by British and American artists, some well-known (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison), others largely forgotten. “Dreamboats and Petticoats” was released in time for Christmas 2007.

That gap turned out to contain a seam of gold. “Dreamboats and Petticoats” has sold enough copies to be certified as double platinum. It has inspired a West End musical and three follow-up albums, with another due in November. In total the series has sold 2.3m copies, mostly in Britain—a country where fewer than 120m albums were shifted last year. And virtually everybody who bought the album forked over money for a compact disc. “They don’t download, and they don’t want to download,” says Brian Berg of Universal.

“They” are consumers in late middle-age or beyond, who increasingly drive the music market. In Britain people aged 60 or over spent more on pop-music albums in 2009 than did teenagers or people in their 20s, according to the BPI, a trade group. Sony Music’s biggest-selling album worldwide last year was “The Gift”, by Susan Boyle, a 50-year-old Scot whose appeal derives in part from her lack of youth. And what has happened to music has also happened to other forms of entertainment.

The noisy disruption of media business models by the internet in the past decade has obscured a profound demographic transformation. Whether they are buying music, listening to the radio, reading newspapers or watching television, media consumers are ageing even more quickly than the overall population. Rather than trying to reverse this trend by attracting younger people, many companies are attempting to profit from the greying of media.

In America the audiences of all four big English-language broadcast networks are looking middle-aged. Since 2003 the median age of a prime-time CBS viewer has increased by three years, according to Nielsen, a research firm. Viewers of ABC and NBC are five years older; Fox’s, seven and a half. In that time the median age in America has probably risen by a year and a bit. Some shows are greying faster than the networks that carry them, in part because they have fan bases that are ageing naturally.

Indeed, every network except Fox had a median age of 50 or over last year. That is significant because advertisers tend to be most interested in how a show rates among people aged between 18 and 49. As Alan Wurtzel, head of research at NBC, puts it, a growing proportion of viewers are becoming almost invisible to marketers—“forgotten but not gone”.

If broadcast television is growing old gracefully (helped by Botox injections), newspapers are racing towards senescence. Between 2002 and 2010 the proportion of American papers’ regular readers who were aged 55 or more rose from 37% to 46%. Fully 43% of readers of Britain’s Daily Telegraph and Daily Express are at least 65 years old, according to the National Readership Survey. Such papers are littered with advertisements for comfortable shoes, cruises and stairlifts.

The reason why newspaper readers are ageing so quickly is simple: the young are abandoning print faster than everyone else. They may pick up free papers to read on public transport, but when reception is good they tend to plump for mobile phones and the internet. The Pew Research Centre, an American think-tank, finds that 65% of 18- to 29-year-olds describe the internet as their primary or secondary source of news. Only 14% of people aged 65 or over say the same.

In music, too, the young have drifted to illegal file-sharing and, more recently, to free streaming services such as Spotify. By and large, the middle-aged and old have not. David Munns, who manages Bon Jovi, a rock band that was formed in the early 1980s and is still going strong, notes that older fans have more money and more scruples. They also regard illegal downloading as “too much work”, he says. Bon Jovi’s “Greatest Hits” was the 15th-biggest-selling album in the world last year.

As the young cut back on conventional media, their elders consume more of it. In Spain 54.2% of people aged 55 to 64 routinely listened to the radio last year—up from 46.6% in 2000. As a result, the Spanish radio audience has greyed even as overall listening has risen. Japanese baby-boomers carry on buying music at an age by which earlier generations had largely stopped. Singers, who appeal to the middle-aged and old, such as Hideaki Tokunaga and Junko Akimoto, rule the charts.

The same is true of television. British 55- to 64-year-olds spent an average of five hours and ten minutes a day watching television last year—50 minutes more than in 2001. The middle-aged and old now have free digital channels dedicated to their tastes, such as ITV3, home of wrinkly detective dramas, and the highbrow BBC Four. They have seized on easy-to-use gadgets like digital video recorders, which increase their enjoyment of television.

The young are not watching less TV. But some of their viewing is now done through computer screens.

Greying audiences are causing discomfort among media executives. But not as much discomfort as you might expect, given the industry’s long preoccupation with youth. The ageing of the large baby-boom generation means there are a lot of potential customers in their 50s and 60s. Furthermore, the executives argue, people of this age are worth much more than in the past.

The practice of measuring television audiences by the number of 18- to 49-year-olds they contain is simply an historical anachronism, argues Mr Wurtzel of NBC. David Poltrack, his counterpart at CBS, agrees. It used to be assumed, he says, that older people had already worked out which brands they liked and could not be persuaded to try new things. But the middle-aged have taken to toys such as e-readers and iPads.

It is not surprising that ageing television networks should argue that the old are becoming more valuable. But the West’s economic slump has given force to their claims by sapping the earning power of the young. In March the unemployment rate among Americans aged 20 to 24 was 15%. For 16- to 17-year-olds it was 29%.

Lack of work has combined with tighter lending standards to squeeze young people’s buying power. Between 2007 and 2009 average spending on new cars and trucks by Americans under 25 fell by half, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. It fell by 31% among people aged between 25 and 34. By contrast, expenditure by those over 65 was flat, and the over-75s actually spent more, on average. The young also spent less on audio-visual equipment and services—that is, television sets and cable TV—while the old shelled out more. This helps to explain why advertising money has flooded back to the ageing broadcast networks since the recession. Desperate, but not for younger viewers

Another reason why media companies are not too worried about the ageing of their audiences has to do with a change in business models. A firm that depends on advertising needs to attract valuable consumers. A firm that relies on subscriptions, by contrast, cares only whether its consumers pay their monthly bills. And perhaps the strongest trend in media in the past few years—stronger even than ageing—is the growing reliance on subscription as a means of paying for content.

BSkyB, Discovery Communications, ESPN, Netflix: many of the media industry’s best-performing companies and hottest stocks of recent years rely on subscriptions. The recession may have slashed advertising and discretionary spending. But most people carried on paying the bills for entertainment. As a result, subscription-based businesses were able to sustain spending on content. So clear are the advantages of these businesses that even firms that have habitually relied on advertising are moving to copy them.

As newspaper advertising has declined, publishers have raised the prices of subscriptions and single copies. Last year 41.3% of the New York Times’s newspaper revenues came from subscriptions—up from 28.8% in 2007. Similarly, broadcast networks are battling for “retransmission fees” (essentially a cut of subscriptions) from cable and satellite distributors. As the broadcasters become less dependent on advertising, sheer numbers will come to matter more than demography.

The clearest sign of this shift is the appearance of online paywalls. Last month paywalls went up around the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News. The websites of Britain’s Times and News of the World began to restrict access to subscribers last year. Hulu, an American website that carries broadcast TV programmes, and Spotify, a European music-streaming service, are both pushing subscriptions.

One good reason for media firms to erect paywalls is that new media are beginning to age, too. The proportion of people aged 65-plus who get most of their news from the internet may be only 14%—but in 2006 it was a mere 2%. Online video streaming began as a young person’s hobby but has increasingly become mainstream. “Often it’s the young who adopt a technology, but others follow them,” explains Patricia McDonough, a television analyst at Nielsen.

Current cover of The Economist.

People in rich countries are living longer. Without big reforms they will not be able to retire in comfort, says Philip Coggan

Cartoon of the day.

'Super Sherpa' on Everest cleaning climb.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A top Nepalese mountaineer who holds the record for the number of successful summits of Everest left for another attempt on Wednesday on a mission to clean garbage from the world's highest peak.

Apa Sherpa, 51, who has climbed the mountain a record 20 times, is leading the Eco Everest Expedition 2011, which aims to collect four tonnes of garbage under a "Cash for Trash" programme funded by a private trekking company.

A team of 58 people, including 23 foreigners, will take part, earning 100 rupees ($1.40) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of garbage brought to the basecamp. Empty oxygen bottles, ropes and tents are the most frequently discarded items.

"If my ascent would promote the cause and help protect the mountain, I am always ready to climb," the man nicknamed "Super Sherpa" told AFP before his flight to the Everest region.

Apa, who completed his first Everest summit in 1990, started his mountaineering career as a porter in his early teens.

He said the latest expedition would seek to set an example of how to climb in an eco-friendly manner.

"We will not use fossil fuel. We will cook using solar-enabled cookers and drink sterilised water instead of boiling it," he said.

Around 3,000 people have climbed the 8,848-metre (29,028-foot) Himalayan peak, which straddles Nepal and China, since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Japanese climber Ken Noguchi will also take part in the cleaning mission. He hopes to bring down another tonne of garbage, taking the total collection to five tonnes.

This climbing season, which runs from spring to the summer monsoon, will also see a diverse group of Nepalese civil servants scale the mountain in a bid to raise awareness about climate change.

Which countries are most in favour of the free market?

FAITH in the free market is at a low in the world's biggest free-market economy. In 2010, 59% of Americans asked by GlobeScan, a polling firm, agreed "strongly" or "somewhat" that the free market was the best system for the world's future. This has fallen sharply from 80% when the question was first asked in 2002. And among poorer Americans under $20,000, faith in capitalism fell from 76% to 44% in just one year. Of the 25 countries polled, support for the free market is now greatest in Germany, just ahead of Brazil and communist China, both of which have seen strong growth in recent years. Indians are less enthusiastic despite recent gains in growth. Italy shows a surprising fondness for markets for a place that is uncompetitive in many sectors. In France under a third of people believe that the free market is the best option, down from 42% in 2002.

CNN's Richard Quest talks to James Kouns, CEO of the Open Security Foundation, about the risks of outsourcing.

Presenting information using charts and graphs.

TAN: Now, I'd like to refer to the first graph - as you can see this is a bar graph measuring net sales over the first ten months of the year.

You'll notice that sales rose steadily in the first few months, then there was a marked increase in April. They peaked in May at around 3.2 million, and levelled off, then there was a dramatic drop in the following month, followed by a significant increase in August, and this trend has continued up until the present.

JOHN: What was the reason for the sudden drop in July?

TAN: This was mainly due to a drop off in air conditioner sales - so it's a seasonal effect.

DENISE: Could it be a consequence of the negative effect of the interest rate rise?

TAN: Possibly. Now, if I could draw your attention to this next diagram. This is a line graph of sales - the blue line represents air conditioner sales, the red line shows heaters. As you'll note, air conditioner sales dropped steadily from January to July, bottoming out then, while heater sales experienced a sharp increase from March to June, then dropped markedly from June to July, then declined through to September, with a pronounced drop in October.

JOHN: Does this explain the fluctuation in total sales?

TAN: Largely - if we look at this pie diagram, you can see that air conditioners and heaters together represent more than half of our total sales - but they vary seasonally, while other appliances are fairly steady through the year.

JOHN: Well, we can't sell air conditioners when it's cold. What's the solution?

TAN: Export to Europe and America!

DENISE: Easier said than done.

Today we're looking at presenting information using charts and graphs. We saw three types of diagram:

A bar or column graph

A line graph

And a pie chart.

Look at how Tan introduced his presentation.

Now, I'd like to refer to the first graph - as you can see this is a bar graph measuring net sales over the first nine months of the year.

Tan says 'I'd like to refer to the first graph.'

When referring to a diagram or graph, first direct your audience's attention to that diagram. Practise with Tan some phrases to use for this.

I'd like to refer to the first graph...
If we have a look at this graph...
If I could direct your attention to the graph.
Looking at the graph on the screen...

Let's look at the language Tan uses to describe what the graph shows.

You'll notice that sales rose steadily in the first few months, then there was a marked increase in April. They peaked in May at around 3.2 million, and levelled off, then there was a dramatic drop in the following month, followed by a significant increase n August, and this trend has continued up until the present.

Here's our graph.

Tan said the sales rose steadily at first, then there was a marked increase in April.
This levelled off, then there was a dramatic drop, and then a significant increase.

In describing trends, we use two words - one of those words is a noun or verb.

For example we may talk about an increase, or a decrease in numbers. Other words for an increase are rise, climb, improvement, upturn.

Most of these words can also be used as a verb: to increase; to rise; to climb; to improve.

Other words for a decrease are fall, decline, worsening, downturn.

These also have verbs from them: to decrease; to fall; to decline; to worsen.

So we say - there was an improvement in the figures for April, or the figures for April have improved.

There has been a decline in sales since June, or sales since June have declined.

But we often add more descriptive words -adjectives and adverbs. Remember adjectives go before nouns, and adverbs go after verbs.

These describe the change in figures - was it big or small, fast or slow?

Other words for a big change are significant, marked, massive, pronounced, substantial.

Other words for small are slight, insignificant, and their adverbs slightly, insignifanctly.

Other words for a fast or quick change are sharp, dramatic, sudden, and again we add 'ly' for the adverbs.
And for a slow or medium change, we can use steady or moderate, and the adverbs steadily and moderately

Now - try changing the phrases from noun phrases into verb phrases - for example - if Tan says 'There was a dramatic increase in sales' - you say 'Sales increased dramatically.'

Have a try.

There was a steady rise in sales.
Sales rose steadily.

There was a significant fall in sales.
Sales fell significantly.

There was a slight recovery in sales.
Sales recovered slightly.

Now let's look at how Tan handles a question about the graph.

What was the reason for this sudden drop in July?
This was mainly due to the drop off in air conditioner sales - so it's a seasonal effect.
Could it be a consequence of the negative effect of the interest rate rise?

Here are four useful phrases for describing causes:

Due to
The drop in sales is due to an interest rate rise.

A consequence of
The drop in sales is a consequence of an interest rate rise.

Because of
The drop in sales is because of an interest rate rise.

A result of
The drop in sales is a result of an interest rate rise.

How does Tan explain his next diagram?

This is a line graph of sales - the blue line represents air conditioner sales, the red line shows heaters. As you'll note, air conditioner sales dropped steadily from January to July, bottoming out then, while heater sales experienced a sharp increase from March to June, then dropped markedly from June to July, then declined through to September, with a pronounced drop in October.

He says air conditioner sales 'bottomed out' in July. This means they reached their lowest level.

Then he says they 'experienced a sharp increase'. And he says there was a 'pronounced' drop in heater sales in October. 'Pronounced' here means significant, or large. Finally, look at how Tan talks about his pie diagram.

...if we look at this pie diagram, you can see that air conditioners and heater sales together represent more than half of our total sales - but they vary seasonally, while other appliances are fairly steady through the year.

Tan says air conditioners and heaters 'represent' more than half of sales. This means they account for more than half of the sales. We could put this another way:

More than half of sales are represented by air conditioners and heaters.

We could say washing machines represent 15% of sales.

Washing machines account for 15% of sales.

Washing machines make up 15% of sales.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Scientists reveal how stress exacerbates memory loss.

Scientists claim to have discovered how stress can contribute to memory loss in old age.

University of Edinburgh researchers have shown how two receptors in older brains react to the stress hormone cortisol which has been linked to increasing forgetfulness as people age.

The study on older mice found that one receptor was activated by low levels of cortisol, which helped memory.

However, once levels of the hormone were too high they spilled over on to a second receptor, activating brain processes which contribute to memory loss.

When the receptor linked to poor memory was blocked, the memory recall problem was reversed.

Scientists say the discovery could lead to treatment for conditions such as early Alzheimer's.

Dr Joyce Yau, who led the study at the university's Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: "While we know that stress hormones affect memory, this research explains how the receptors they engage with can switch good memory to poorly functioning memory in old age.

The research helps explain why too much stress over a prolonged period interferes with the normal processes in storing everyday memories, despite the fact that a little bit of stress can help people better remember emotional memories.

They hope this could be used to develop a drug treatment to slow the normal decline in memory associated with ageing, or even improve memory in people who are very old.

Google to overhaul YouTube With 'Channels'.

Google Inc.'s YouTube video website is working on a major site overhaul to organize its content around "channels" as it positions itself for the rise of Internet-connected televisions that allow people to watch online video in their living rooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company is planning changes to the homepage that would highlight sets of channels around topics such as arts and sports. YouTube is looking to introduce 20 or so "premium channels" that would feature five to 10 hours of professionally-produced original programming a week, one of these people said. Additional channels would be assembled from content already on the site.

It is planning to spend as much as $100 million to commission the creation of original content for the premium channels, the people familiar with the matter said.

The efforts represent a new phase for YouTube, which for years built its site to drive traffic to individual videos and to help those clips go viral. Now, it is trying to get people to spend more time on the site by creating a network of ad-supported channels that users come to YouTube to tune in to.

Some of the channels may contain content that is hand-picked by certain "tastemakers" who could attract a following, some of the people familiar with the matter said. That approach would mirror websites such as,, and which collectively have thousands of specialized Internet-radio stations whose songs were picked by individual DJs.

iPad 2 Rated Best Tablet for the Buck.

Apple's iPad 2 has been rated the best tablet and the best tablet for the buck by Consumer Reports. The magazine's tech editor Jeff Fox joins us with details as well as which tablets you should think twice before buying.

Sir Richard Branson will pilot the Virgin Oceanic Submarine to the deepest points of the world's five oceans.

The latest Big Mac index suggests the euro and the real are still overvalued.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011


It can be described only in metaphor and allegory. Saint Anthony in the desert, asked how he could differentiate between angels and devils, said you could tell by how you felt after they had left.

from The Noonday Demon

An Atlas of Depression


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