Saturday, January 21, 2017

Can the iPad Air replace the MacBook Air?

Lauren Dezenski compares the Apple’s slimline
tablet with its streamlined laptop

With all the upgrades Apple keeps rolling
out for its tablets, we wanted to know if
you could really ditch your laptop for the
iPad. There was only one way to fi nd out: replacing a
MacBook Air with the iPad Air for a day.
So we’ve got two obvious points of comparison
between these two products: hardware and
software. We wanted to compare the two most
alike products in Apple’s lineup (by name and by
look), and hardware-wise, the two actually aren’t too
di erent when looking at pure tech specs.
Tech specs
The iPad Air model measures 169.5x240x7.5mm, and
weighs 478g; while the Macbook Air weighs 1.08kg
and is 300x192x170mm when the laptop is closed.
Although the MacBook Air is nearly double the
weight of the iPad Air, both live up to their names
as being light as, well, you know. You obviously
don’t fl ip open the iPad beyond peeling o its Smart
Cover, so the user experience is blatantly di erent.
Then again, you can choose which colour iPad Air
you’d like, while the MacBook is relegated to that
same silver that can only be altered by accessories.
Using the iPad to do anything for extended
periods of time also depends on your accessories,
and arm strength. The iPad Air’s inability to stand on
its own accord is like a baby that can’t do much else
but lay on its belly. Thank goodness for mum and
dad’s help propping him up.
Software
Not to point out the obvious, but the two di erent
products o er di erent user experiences, most
notably in the operating systems.
Sure, there are loads of apps out there to allow
you to do many of the same things on the iPad as
the MacBook, but don’t expect to do the same things
in the same ways.
Case-in-point: word processing. The iOS version
of the Pages app, for example, is powerful and
there’s really not much you feel you’re missing when
tapping out a quick story. But copy-pasting things
like quotes or numbers or anything really from the
web browser to the document is time-consuming
and requires more gestures than I’d like. Of course,
this all is made easier using a wireless keyboard,
but that’ll cost you.
Again, pointing out the obvious, but you can’t
have multiple windows open on the same screen,
so if the aim is to multitask, you’ll be switching back
and forth between apps. This is easier on iOS 7, but
still more of a hassle if you’re trying to work between
multiple documents.
Let’s not forget about price, either. The cheapest
11in Macbook Air will set you back £849, compared
to the 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad Air’s £399 price tag.
Buying advice
As you’ve caught on by now, trying to compare the
iPad Air with the Macbook Air is comparing apples or
oranges. Sure, you get some of the same things from
both products, but ultimately they’re two di erent
products o ering di erent experiences. And it’s up
to you, the buyer, to decide which is best for you - or
whether you’ll just get both.

Guide to buying tech from the US


How to choose the right headphone type for you

Ashleigh Allsopp explores the di erence between in-ear,
over-ear, wired and wireless headphones

Looking for better sound from your iPhone,
iPad, iPod or Mac? New headphones are
likely to do wonders, especially if you’re still
using Apple’s standard Earpods. But there are so
many headphones out there, varying in price, style
and type, so it can be di cult to decide what type
of headphones are right for you. It’s also tricky to
know what to look for in a new pair of headphones,
particularly as there’s little opportunity to try them
out for more than a few minutes before purchasing
them. Here, we bring you buying advice to help you
choose which headphones are right for you.

What to look for
When looking at potential headphone purchases,
you’ll notice that the main di erences between them
are usually type, comfort and sound quality.
Choose a headphone type
You’ll fi rst need to decide whether you want
earbuds, in-ear, on-ear or over-ear headphones.
In-ear headphones sit inside your ear canal, so
they’re small and very portable. While the quality
of in-ear sound is typically not as good as on-ear or
over-ear headphones, they’re normally considerably
better than earbud, which rest outside of the
ear canal. However, the fi t of in-ear headphones
depends on the shape of your ear (although many
in-ear headphones come with various tip sizes so
you can customise them to fi t better).
On-ear headphones are usually
smaller than over-ear headphones,
as they rest on the ear, whereas
over-ear headphones cover the
entire ear.Both of these types
of headphones tend to have
better sound quality than similarly
pricedin-ear and earbuds, but
they’re often not as ideal when it
comes to portability.
Wired or wireless
headphones?
On-ear and over-ear headphones are
also sometimes available as wireless
models, so they’ll normally connect

to your iPad,
iPhone, iPod
or Mac using
Bluetooth.
It’s worth
noting, though,
that Bluetooth can
mean that your music
undergoes some compression
that may make the sound quality less
satisfactory than wired headphones.
Specs and sound quality
Manufacturers will list the specs of their
headphones, but much of that information –
particularly the frequency-response numbers
– don’t actually mean a lot. That’s because
there’snostandard testing methodology for
headphone frequency response.
This means that the best way to decide whether
you’ll be happy with the sound quality is to try them
out. Headphones with the best quality will have a
good balance between treble (upper), midrange and
bass (lower) frequencies. They should have rich, full
sound without sacrifi cing detail.
Smaller headphones can have di culty delivering
a good bass response because of the especially
small drivers (speakers). This means that, even if you
can hear the low frequencies, you probably won’t be
able to feel that punch. A vendor trick, though, is to
emphasise certain bass and upper-bass frequencies.
However, while this might impress you the fi rst
time you try them out in-store, they can be tiring to

listen to for long periods of time, and can mean
inaccurate audio reproduction.
Other handy features
In addition to the all-important type and sound
quality decisions, there are other things to consider
when purchasing a new pair of headphones.
Most headphones now come with a remote
control and microphone on the cable (assuming
they’re wired, that is). We fi nd this feature
immensely useful, as it means you don’t need to
take your phone out of your pocket when a song
you’re not so keen on starts playing, for example. It
also means you can answer calls from your device
for hands-free use.
Perhaps, if you’re planning on using the
headphones with your iPad or Mac, the in-line
remote and mic won’t be as useful for you, but for
iPod and iPhone users it’s a worthwhile feature.
Best place to buy
headphones
In an ideal scenario, you’ll
want to have a listen to
the headphones before
you cough up your cash.
Retail stores usually have
headphones on display
for you to try. If you’re
ordering online, though, it
doesn’t mean you have to buy
without knowing whether the
headphones will be any good.

See more How to Choose Techno item TECHNO ITEM


iPad mini or Nexus 7: which should you buy?

Lauren Dezenski explores how the Retina iPad mini
measures up against the similarly sized Google Nexus 7

The latest and greatest iPad mini has burst
onto the market with as much fanfare as a
hyped keynote speech can deliver. Welcome
to the world, iPad mini with Retina display, aka
the iPad mini 2. Sure, the latest little tablet will
look evenbetter thanks to a long-awaited Retina
display, but is it worth the punch it’ll pack against
your wallet,especially compared to rival Google’s
impressive Nexus 7 2013?
Price and models
One of the biggest di erences between the Nexus
7 and the iPad mini 2 is easily the price. Even the
cheapest mini model, 16 GB Wi-Fi-only, will set you
back £319. Compare
that to the identical
Nexus 7 model – also
16GB and Wi-Fi only –
which £199 meaning
the iPad mini 2 is
more than one and a
half times the price.
It’s hard to argue
with Google’s 32GB
Cellular + Wi-Fi
enabled Nexus, which will only set you back £299.
That’s quite a bit less than the comparable mini
model (£419). You can also get more memory with
a 32GB Wi-Fi-only model for £239. All three Nexus
models are only available in black.
Of course, those willing to pay for it will get more.
The Wi-Fi retina iPad mini is also available in 32GB
at £399, 64GB at £479, and 128GB at £559. Cellular
+ Wi-Fi models are £100 more than their solely Wi-Fi
counterparts. You can also choose between silver/
white and space grey/black, colour-wise. It’s worth
noting neither company’s tablets have expandable
memory, though, both operating systems have cloud
storage functions.
Display
The ‘7’ in Nexus 7 refers to the tablet’s screen size,
which, by something less than a crazy, random
happenstance – is seven inches. The Google tablet
boasts a 1920x1200 display screen with a pixel
density of 323ppi. It’s a high-quality screen for such
a small device, especially given the price.
Don’t let the iPad mini’s name deceive you.
Though it’s smaller than its full-size namesake, it’s
slightly larger than the Nexus 7 with a 7.9 in display.
You also get a better picture if you opt for the
mini’s slightly larger screen thanks to 2048x1536
resolution, though the ppi di erence is pretty
negligible at 326ppi.
Size
Not only does the Nexus 7 cost less, it also weighs
less. The Wi-Fi-only model weighs 290g while the
32GB + mobile data is an additional 9g. Perhaps
themini’s larger price screen lends to its weight.
The Wi-Fi model comes in at 331g while the Wi-Fi +
cellular model is 341g.
The Nexus 7 manages to out-mini the iPad mini
dimensionally, measuring 120x199mm tall if holding
the device in portrait format. Apple’s pint-sized
tablet, on the other hand, measures 135x200mm.
However, the mini is just a bit thinner, at 7.5mm thick
compared to Nexus 7’s 8.65mm.
Cameras
Camera technology is extremely similar between
these two tablets. The mini’s specs haven’t really
changed from the previous model to the Retina
model: you’ve still got the 5Mp iSight camera on the
back with 1080p HD video recording. Now, you’ve
got 3x video zoom, too.
The front HD camera takes 1.2Mp photos and
records 720p HD video. Both front and back
cameras also have face detection and backside
illumination, too. The Nexus 7 manages to hold its
own against the mini camera-wise, though the 1.2Mp
front facing and 5Mp rear-facing cameras lack some
of the bells and whistles such a video zoom.
Operating system
and processor
Unsurprisingly, the
mini’s got the best
processor of the two.
Built with the same A7
chip as the new iPad
Air, the mini’s got
64-bit architecture
and an M7 motion
co-processor.

The Nexus 7 is
nice and speedy, too,
thanks to the quadcore
Qualcomm
Snapdragon S4 Pro
processor and 2GB
of RAM standard on
all models. Plus, the
high-performance
rendering gives
you nice and
smooth 3D
graphics.
Obviously the two tablets have di erent operating
systems – being built by Google and Apple and all.
This ultimately comes down to personal preference
between iOS and Android.
Battery life
In our battery test, the Nexus 7 lasted eight hours,
47 minutes on a single charge while looping a locally
stored, HD video. It also has the handy feature of
built-in Qi wireless charging. We haven’t had our
hands on the Retina iPad mini long enough to test
battery life, but Apple claims up to 10 hours of
surfi ng the web, watching video or listening to music.
Buying advice
They’re both good tablets but it depends on what
you’re looking for. If you want a high-quality and
comparatively low-cost tablet, the 7’s your best bet.
But Apple doesn’t disappoint with the mini and if you
can pony up the cash, you do get more.

See More Tech Tips TECHNO ITEM


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How to: Get US Netflix

It’s easy for Brits to watch the US Netflix. Here’s how

If you’re a fan of Netflix (the popular TV streaming
service), you’re probably aware just how much
better Netflix is in the US than here in the UK.
Across the pond our American friends pay less for
Netflix (the equivalent of £5.09 instead of £5.99);
gallingly, for that lower cost US Netflix users get
more movies and TV shows, and get the latest films
and programmes long before they arrive in Blighty.
No wonder British Netflix users are so keen to
get the same service as the Americans. But don’t
worry: it’s possible to access the US Netflix service
in the UK. In this feature we show you how to watch
American Netflix shows and other content in the UK
using a range of Apple devices: Mac, iPad, iPhone
and Apple TV. But in each case the principle is
the same: you’ll be using a VPN, or virtual private
network. Don’t worry: we’ll explain what that is,
and how to use one.
Is it legal to watch US
Netflix content in the UK?
All you need to do to watch US Netflix content is
trick Netflix into thinking you are currently in the US.
This is, as it turns out, remarkably easy to do. But at
this point we should point out that this goes against
the terms and conditions you signed up to when you
signed up with Netflix.
The Netflix terms and conditions explicitly state:
“You may view a movie or TV show through the
Netflix service primarily within the country in which
you have established your account and only in
geographic locations where we offer our service
and have licensed such movie or TV show.”
So be warned that this is against the rules. To
our knowledge Netflix doesn’t check for people
using this trick and hasn’t blocked any users from
accessing US Netflix in the UK. (A Quora user claims
to have been told by a member of Netflix customer
support, “we don’t encourage nor recommend the
use of [VPNs], but if you haven’t had any issues
while streaming, it won’t affect anything on your
account as we don’t have an official stand about it”.
Take from that what you will.) But the company does
have the right to suspend your service.
Whether it’s legal or not to use a VPN is more of
a grey area, and varies depending on local laws,
but it’s hard to imagine anyone pursuing a case for
copyright infringement. Indeed, many observers
would argue that Netflix is technically broadcasting
to the US, for which territory it obviously owns the
broadcasting rights.
How to use a VPN
Netflix provides a different service based upon
where you’re currently located. So if you access
Netflix in the US you get American Netflix, while if
you log on to Netflix from the UK you get the British
edition. Netflix monitors your IP (Internet Protocol)
address to determine where you are.
As we mentioned, Netflix has to strike different
deals with the TV companies for each location, and
generally the US edition of Netflix has a far better
selection of movies and TV shows.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to watch
US Netflix from the UK, because your account is
international. If you ever visit the US you can watch
US Netflix using your UK account. So you just have
to trick Netflix into thinking you’re in the US when
you are actually in the UK.
If you’ve ever been to the US you can sign in to
Netflix using your UK account details, and you’ll
notice that all the new content is available to you.
This is because you in essence have an international
license to use Netflix, but it delivers the content
based on your actual location.
Netflix knows where you are by checking your IP
(Internet Protocol) Address. This is a unique number
that is assigned to your computer when it goes
onto the Internet. The IP address is how the Internet
knows to route which web pages (and other data)
to which computer. You can find your IP address
by opening Safari and typing IP Address into the
Smart Search Field (Google will display your own IP
address above the Google search results).
The trick is to change your IP address so that
Netflix thinks you’re in America. You do this by
signing up with a VPN.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, works like a
second internet sitting between you and the larger
internet, your computer connects to the VPN, which
then connects to the internet. You ask it for the
website, it sends the website to you. The VPN itself
can be based anywhere, but you want one that’s
based in the USA. The VPN talks to Netflix, and
Netflix thinks it’s talking to a computer inside the
USA, and the VPN passes the show on to you.
Can you trust VPN companies?
One last thing to bear in mind: the company
running the VPN service theoretically has the
power to intercept your web traffic, so be cautious
about the company you sign up with (as usual
when trust is involved, it’s best to go for a big
name that has something to lose if it gets caught
misbehaving), and remember to switch off the
VPN when you stop using Netflix. You won’t need
it when logging on to your online banking, for
example, and you could suffer badly if the VPN
company turns out to be untrustworthy.
That, then, is how you use a VPN. Sounds
complex? It isn’t really, because there are some
great free services out there that make it easy.
Two in particular come recommended: Hola and
TunnelBear. Let’s look at how these services work.
iPad and iPhone
Use a VPN (Hola) for iPad or iPhone
Hola is one of the main services that people turn
to when wanting to watch US television or access
other US-only services while based in the UK.
When you’re using Mac OS X, Hola is a plug-in for
the Chrome or Firefox web browsers (but not for
Safari, unfortunately). The good news is that Hola is
available for the iPad (and iPhone) in the form of an
app. Here’s how to install Hola on the iPad:
• Download the Hola app from the App Store
• If you already have a Hola account, log in with your
email and password. Alternatively, enter a new
email and password and click Create Account
• The Hola app now walks you through installing the
VPN settings on your iPad (or iPhone). Click OK,
Let’s Do It
• The app switches to Safari, which loads some
settings, then switches automatically to Settings in
the Install Profile section
• Tap Install
• If your iPad has a passcode lock, enter the
four-digit code
• Tap Next, Install, Install and Next
• Tap Done
You have now set up Hola to act as a VPN (virtual
private network) on your iOS device. It will be ready
to steam shows from America to your Netflix app on
the iPhone or iPad.
Use a VPN (TunnelBear) for iPad or iPhone
TunnelBear is another option for watching US
Netflix in the UK. On the Mac, TunnelBear is a
separate app that makes it easy to divert all your
internet traffic through the TunnelBear server. On
the iPad and iPhone, TunnelBear is also an app that
you download from the App Store.
TunnelBear on the Mac works very differently to
Hola on a Mac, but on iOS both services work in a
largely similar manner.
Get watching
Once you’ve got Hola or TunnelBear set up on your
iPhone or iPad you should be able to watch Netflix
using the Netflix app.
You do this in iOS by turning on the VPN service
in settings. Follow these steps to turn on the VPN:
• Tap Settings and VPN
• Scroll down and check that Hola United States
has a tick next to it. If you do not see Hola
United States you may need to follow the Hola
installation again
• Tap the switch next to Not Connected to set it
to On
• Wait for the switch to change from Connecting
to Connected
Now open the Netflix app. If you’ve done every
right, it should be displaying the content from the
American version of Netflix. Lou Hattersley

See more useful tech tip TECH TIPS

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trump and the carmakers

The president-elect’s critical tweets are causing havoc in the US auto industry, but who will suffer most?

“It must seem to Donald Trump that
reversing globalisation is easy-peasy,”
said The Economist. Before he has even
been inaugurated, “contrite firms are
queuing up to invest in America”.
Following months of barbs from the
president-elect, Ford last week cancelled
a $1.6bn new plant for small cars in
Mexico and instead pledged to create
700 new jobs in Michigan – padding the
announcement with praise for Trump
for “improving the business climate in
America”. Next in the line of fire is the
US’s largest carmaker, General Motors,
which plans to invest $5bn in Mexico
over six years. “Make in USA or pay big
border tax!” tweeted Trump. CEO Mary
Barra is holding firm. But for how much
longer? All it has taken to change the climate “is some harsh
words, the odd tax handout and a few casual threats”.
If Trump goes ahead with his threat to retool the North American
Free Trade Agreement and slap a punitive 35% tariff on imports
to the US, it will be Mexico that suffers most, said the FT. The
country’s blossoming car industry is “heavily reliant” on access to
US and Canadian markets, which account for 82% of its exports.
Yet America’s carmakers are also in a bind, said The New York
Times. Most have sizeable manufacturing operations in Mexico
that are an integral part of their global operations. In some ways,
the advent of Trump has been good for
business. Shares in Fiat Chrysler – the
Italian-American firm run by Sergio
Marchionne – have “sped ahead by
almost 50% since the day before the US
election”, said Antony Currie on Reuters
Breakingviews.com. Other carmakers
have notched up 20% gains. The rally is
being stoked by hopes that Trump will
cut corporate taxes and drive a boom,
spurring sales of the “chunky” vehicles
that appeal to US motorists when fuel
prices are relatively low.
Ford’s capitulation is a sign that “the
last thing any CEO wants is a slanging
match” with the president-elect, said
Philip Delves Broughton in the FT. But
the problem for US firms is figuring out “which Donald Trump to
believe”. Is it the taunting champion of the “grizzled Michigan
panel beater”, or the man who has stuffed his Strategic and Policy
forum with CEOs from blue-chip companies that have all thrived
on free trade? Ford boss Mark Fields and others are playing a
long game. They think that “if they give a little now and let the
president-elect trumpet his victories over the demon ‘big
business’”, they can extract favourable concessions down the line.
For the moment, Trump has America’s CEOs exactly where he
wants them: “wide-eyed at the rewards to come and terrified that
the next 140 characters will be about them”.

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a cruise through the Northwest Passage

For centuries, a navigable route linking the Atlantic and Pacific through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was a holy grail for explorers. Roald Amundsen finally conquered the Northwest Passage in 1906, but since then only 254 transits have been made – of which just 53 were by ships carrying passengers. So this is a voyage on which the ordinary traveller can still feel like a pioneer, says Peter Hughes in the FT. It has become more straightforward over the years, owing to the dwindling of Arctic sea ice – but that is another reason it remains “at the top of bucket lists”: once the ice has gone, it won’t be much of an adventure.

The easiest way to reach the Northwest Passage is on an “expedition cruise” on a  strengthened ship such as the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a polar-class icebreaker built in 1981. Carrying up to 90 guests, she has “compact” and “functional” interiors, but the atmosphere on board is “sociable”, the food is “homely and copious”, and there are lectures on everything from Inuit culture to Arctic birds. With a rounded hull and no stabilisers, the ship rolls “like a bathtub toy” in stormy weather (take plenty of seasickness pills), and shudders and bangs dramatically as she smashes through pack ice up to three metres thick. Border formalities can also create long delays, so scheduled landings (in Zodiac inflatables, or on one of the ship’s helicopters) are far from guaranteed.

However, you may get a chance to visit Beechey Island, where you can see the lonely graves of three of explorer Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated crew. There are also trips to indigenous settlements, and in search of the wonderful local wildlife, including whales, polar bears and the walruses that gather in their hundreds on the island of Big Diomede. But the spectacular sea and landscape, as the ship smashes its way across the top of the world, is often distraction enough.

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Chickens are clever – and cunning

It’s well known that many birds are far
from bird-brained; and to that list, we can
now add the chicken. According to a US
research paper – issued by an animal rights
group – chickens are in many respects as
clever as primates. Behavioural scientists
conducted a meta-study of previous
research, and concluded that despite
having brains the size of walnuts, the birds
are highly sophisticated. For instance, they
communicate using a wide repertoire of
visual displays and at least 24 distinct
vocalisations; they are self-aware enough
to assess their position in a pecking order;
they can display self-control (they’ll refrain
from feeding if they think there will be a
better food reward later); and they have
a grasp of basic arithmetic – even newly
hatched chicks can discriminate between
quantities. Moreover, they are masters of
deception – males lure females by making
food calls when no food is present – and
have rich emotional lives: in their paper, in
the journal Animal Cognition, the
researchers say chickens appear to feel
fear, anticipation and empathy.

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Insulin pill hope for diabetics

Scientists at Birmingham University are
working on a “smart capsule” that
promises to end the misery of daily insulin
injections for type 1 diabetics, reports The
Daily Telegraph. At present, those with the
disease must monitor their blood sugar
with frequent finger prick tests, and inject
themselves with insulin when it gets too
high. But under the new system, sufferers
would take insulin-loaded capsules with
outer casings that dissolve in the presence
of glucose – enabling the body, in effect, to
dose itself. The system has the potential to
transform the lives of the 400,000 people
in the UK with type 1 diabetes. However,
clinical trials are still years away, and rival
systems could become established in the
meantime. For example, a “smart patch”
that monitors glucose levels and delivers
insulin automatically, has already been
successfully tested on mice in the US.

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Diet drinks “don’t aid weight loss”

Diet drinks are sugar-free and contain
almost no calories – but that doesn’t mean
they’ll stop you getting fat, or help you
lose weight. According to a new study,
there is little reliable evidence to support
the notion that diet drinks are healthier
than their sugary equivalents (though the
Government seems to think they are: diet
drinks are excluded from the forthcoming
sugar tax). “A common perception… is
that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar,
they must be healthier and aid weight loss
when used as a substitute for full-sugar
versions,” said Professor Christopher
Millett of Imperial College London. “We
found no solid evidence to support this.”
Millett and his colleagues, in a paper in the
journal PLOS ONE, say that the results
from randomised controlled trials are
generally inconclusive – and that many of
those that do find evidence that diet drinks
help combat obesity, or type 2 diabetes,
were funded by the drinks industry. Other
studies have suggested that diet drinks
make people crave sweet foods, and
confuse the metabolism. The team argues
that as the drinks also have “negative
consequences for the environment” – it
takes up to 300 litres of water to make a
500ml plastic bottle of fizzy soft drink –
consumers should be encouraged to forego
them altogether, and drink water instead.

10 INCREDIBLE HUMAN RECORDS

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5 MOBILE WALLETS THAT DO MORE THAN BILL PAYMENTS

10 INFAMOUS CRIMINALS

20 GAMES TO PLAY

10 TV SHOWS TO SEE

20 FILMS TO CATCH

31 INSTANT HEALTH FIXES

 

Traffic linked to dementia

People who live near busy roads are more
likely to develop dementia, new research
has found. For the cohort study, scientists
in Canada examined health data on some
6.6 million adults in the province of
Ontario over 12 years, and, by looking at
their postcodes, divided them into groups
according to how far they lived from “a
major thoroughfare with medium to large
traffic capacity”. Once they had adjusted
the figures for various factors, including
preexisting illnesses, and whether the
subjects lived in urban or rural areas, they
found those whose homes were within
50 metres of a busy road were 7% more
likely to be diagnosed with dementia than
those who lived at least 300 metres away.
Traffic pollution contains a number of
damaging toxins, including nitrogen oxide.
However, the study has proved no
causative link and has clear limitations: for
instance, it was based on where people
lived at a point in time before the study
began; we know nothing about their
subsequent exposure to pollution.

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Russia’s cyberwarriors

Russian attempts to “hack” the US election have caused widespread concern. What exactly did they do, and what are the implications?

Has the US been hacked before?
Many times. In 2014, Russian hackers
targeted the State Department and the
White House – even hacking into
President Obama’s unclassified emails.
But the first big attack – traced back to
somewhere in the former Soviet Union
– was detected in 1998, when it emerged
that computer systems at the Pentagon,
Nasa and various private labs and
universities had been compromised for
more than two years. Vast numbers of
files had been acquired – including details
of troop configurations and military
hardware designs. Chinese hackers also
made audacious attacks, stealing the
designs for the F-35 fighter jet, along
with billions of dollars’ worth of
corporate secrets and the blueprints for
US gas pipelines. Another breach, in
which as many as four million US government personnel records
were stolen, has also been traced to China.
So why such a fuss about last year’s attacks?
All major powers are involved in digital espionage, but publishing
sensitive information in order to disrupt a major foreign election
is a new development. This time hackers broke into the computers
of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the email
accounts of Hillary Clinton’s top aides. The documents were
embarrassing if not especially revelatory: they uncovered details of
backbiting among staffers, and of Clinton’s close links to Wall
Street; they showed that the Democratic Party top brass favoured
Clinton over her opponent Bernie Sanders. These titbits were
leaked to the media in the last months of the election campaign,
say US intelligence agencies, specifically to “denigrate” Clinton.
How did the hackers get in?
Initially by “spear phishing”. Clinton and DNC staff received
emails that appeared to come from their email providers, stating
that someone had tried to break into their account, asking them
to change their password, and directing them to a fake website
that resembled their email provider’s. Once they entered their
passwords, the hackers gained access to their accounts. John
Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chief, had been sent a warning by an
aide about the phishing email, but the
aide had in error described it as
“legitimate” rather than, as intended,
“illegitimate”. So the Russians got
hold of some 60,000 emails in
Podesta’s private Gmail account. The
hackers also exploited vulnerabilities
in the software to get inside the
DNC’s computer networks, planting
bugs that spread through the system,
harvesting data and sending it home.
Was it definitely the Russians?
Having analysed the intruders’ digital
tradecraft, all US intelligence agencies
and top cybersecurity firms believe it
was. CrowdStrike, which investigated
the DNC’s network, detected “two
separate Russian intelligence-affiliated
adversaries” – neither of them, it
seemed, aware of the other’s
involvement – which it dubbed Fancy
Bear and Cozy Bear (Fancy and Cozy
being references to types of code).

Fancy Bear is also known as APT 28 (an
Advanced Persistent Threat, being a
sophisticated, state-sponsored hacking
group). Probably directed by the GRU
(Russian military intelligence), it has also
attacked Nato, Ukraine’s government,
the World Anti-Doping Agency and the
Dutch Safety Board investigating the
downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.
Cozy Bear, aka APT 29, has been linked
to the FSB, a successor to Russia’s KGB.
What else have they done?
In 2007, Russian hackers launched a
crippling cyberattack on Estonia, after it
removed a Soviet war memorial in the
capital, Tallinn – disabling the websites
of its parliament, ministries, banks and
media organisations. During the
Ukrainian conflict, hackers brought
down parts of Ukraine’s power grid. In 2014, a six-month-long
attack on the German parliament was blamed on Fancy Bear, as
was a 2015 attack on the French TV network TV5Monde, when
all 11 channels were taken off air and Isis propaganda broadcast
in their stead. (Isis clearly lacked the skills to do this.) According to
The Sunday Times, Fancy Bear also planned to attack the BBC
and government websites during the 2015 election. However,
GCHQ seems to have learned of the attack and prevented it.
And who are the people actually doing the hacking?
Partly as a result of the demanding maths curriculum in its better
schools, Russia has a huge pool of able programmers, and the
world’s largest cybercrime underworld. The Kremlin taps both for
its hacking units – in 2013, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told
university rectors in Moscow he was on a “head hunt” for coders.
Students wanting to avoid the worst of conscription can join
“science squadrons”; professional programmers are approached
by military contractors with offers it might be unwise to refuse;
convicted cybercriminals are offered jobs instead of prison terms.
Beyond expelling spies, how could America respond?
The US is assumed to have the world’s greatest cyber capability
and could unleash powerful cyberweapons (see box). A hacking
unit linked to the National Security Agency, the Equation Group,
has been described by cybersecurity
firm Kaspersky Lab as “the most
advanced… we have seen”. And US
officials have reportedly been
planning an “unprecedented cyber
covert action against Russia”, which
could involve leaking unsavoury
details about Vladimir Putin and his
vast fortune. But even low-level cyberwarfare
carries a big risk: the US, and
its allies such as Britain, South Korea
and Estonia, are the most heavily
networked nations in the world, and
thus the most vulnerable to chaos.
Moreover, the US is said to be wary
of cyber counterattacks as they reveal
the extent of its own cyber
penetration to the adversary. In the
end, negotiation is probably the
preferred route. The US negotiated
with China (as well as indicting five
Chinese military hackers) after the
attacks in 2014. Since then, Chinese
hacking has dropped off significantly.

Stuxnet: waging cyberwar
In 2010, top cybersecurity experts were alarmed by the
discovery of a worm – a self-replicating computer virus
– more sophisticated than any they’d seen before. It was
working its way stealthily through computers across
the world, and thence into PLCs made by Siemens –
small computers which regulate the movement of
machinery in everything from power plants and traffic
lights to funfair rides. The worm, named Stuxnet, was
found to be a “marksman’s job” aimed at a very
specific target: the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in
Iran, where it had caused the PLCs to destroy a large
number of centrifuges used for enriching uranium.
The general consensus now is that Stuxnet was a
coproduction between two major cyber powers, the
US and Israel – though this has never been officially
confirmed. It did the job in the short term, but its
cost-benefit ratio, says Wired magazine, is “still in
question”. Though cleverly targeted, Stuxnet spread
far beyond its mark, and was soon available on
hacking sites for anyone with malicious intent to
download and tweak. In the wrong hands, such a
weapon could be devastating, disrupting, say, train
control or water treatment systems across the world.

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10 THINGS WE KNOW ABOUT METAL GEAR SOLID V

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7 SECRETS OF SEAFOOD

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50 SECRETS YOUR GROCER WON'T TELL YOU

20 BEST (AND WORST) DRUGS A MAN CAN TAKE

67 POISONOUS PLANTS

10 PRETTY IN PINK EASY BORDER PLANTS

40 VIDEO GAMES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

 

Is childhood obesity new norm?

The vast majority of parents of overweight
children do not acknowledge the problem,
according to the Health Survey for
England 2015. Nine in ten mothers and
eight in ten fathers of overweight children
said they thought their child was about the
right weight, as did almost half of mothers
(48%) and 43% of fathers of children who
were classed as obese. “It is possible that
consistently high levels of childhood
obesity in recent years have normalised an
unhealthy weight,” said Gillian Prior, head
of health at the National Centre for Social
Research. The survey found that, overall,
14% of children were overweight in 2015,
and a further 14% were obese; in 2014,
31% were either obese or overweight.

3 WAYS TO KEEP TABS ON YOUR WEIGHT

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Psychosis linked to antibodies

Could schizophrenia be a treatable
physical illness? That was the intriguing
possibility raised by a study published in
December, which tested 228 patients
admitted to hospital from psychotic
disorders, and found evidence that almost
one in ten (9%) had an autoimmune
disorder that may have caused antibodies
in their blood to attack their brains. The
researchers theorise that the antibodies
stick to cell receptors in the brain, causing
the hallucinations, delusions and paranoia
that go hand in hand with psychosis. This
raises the hope that it might be possible in
some cases to “cure” psychotic disorders
with drugs that suppress the immune
system. However, the findings were by no
means conclusive: notably, researchers also
found that 4% of healthy volunteers in a
control group had the same antibodies;
and their study did not establish that it
was the immune disorder that caused the
psychosis. Even so, the team, from the
University of Oxford, recommend that
patients who present with symptoms of
psychosis be tested for the antibodies, as
part of their overall diagnosis.

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OSTEOARTHRITIS SOS  

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A MAJOR ANTIBIOTIC BREAKTHROUGH

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HOLOCAUST TRAUMA "IN A GENES"

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YOUR BODY ON A DETOX

HERBS FOR EYE HEALTH

HAY FEVER FIGHTERS

THE HERB FOR HIGH BLOOD SUGAR

I LOVE GREEN TEA

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DANGEROUS CHILD DOSAGES


Men may suffer more than women

Men often seem to be hit harder by
illnesses – and that could be because
certain viruses may have evolved to be
more virulent in men than in women.
Viruses are “programmed” to want to
spread, and to do this, they must multiply
in the host’s body. This is what makes
people ill, but causing illness is not the
virus’s intention: indeed, to incapacitate or
kill their host may be counterproductive –
especially in the case of women, as they
can easily pass viruses on to their children
during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
Professor Vincent Jansen and Dr Francisco
Úbeda, of Royal Holloway, University of
London, thus suggest that certain viruses
have evolved to go easier on women.
Many viruses cause more severe illness in
men: for instance, men with tuberculosis
are 1.5 times more likely to die than
women; and men infected with human
papillomavirus are five times more likely to
develop cancer than women. These
discrepancies are usually put down to
differences in men and women’s immune
systems. But Jansen and Úbeda propose
that it could also be because some viruses
can detect their host’s gender, and alter
their virulence accordingly. Alas, the
scientists don’t think their theory can
explain the severity of “man flu”,
however, as mother-child transmission isn’t
important for cold viruses. “To me, man
flu sounds like an excuse for men not to go
to work,” Jansen told New Scientist.

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FARM FRESH PHARMACY!

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Cancer drug “wrongly abandoned”

Women with breast cancer may be giving
up on an effective drug because they
mistakenly believe that it is causing them
horrible side effects. A hormonal therapy,
tamoxifen is prescribed to many women
who have had breast cancer, and to those
with a genetic predisposition to it. The
drug is believed to cut the risk of the
disease recurring by more than 30%, if
taken for long enough. However, research
by Cancer Research UK suggests that one
in three patients do not continue taking it
for the recommended five years, most likely
because of its association with nausea and
vomiting, hot flushes, sweats and low
libido. But in the new study, researchers
found that the nausea and vomiting also
occurred in many patients who took a
placebo drug – suggesting these symptoms
may have a separate, as yet unknown,
cause. “Our findings have implications for
how doctors talk to patients about the
benefits and side effects of preventive
therapies such as tamoxifen,” said Dr
Samuel Smith of Cancer Research UK.

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Will Congo’s ruthless president finally step aside?

In the 1990s, the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) was the scene of
unspeakable horrors, a conflagration –
“Africa’s World War”, some call it – in
which more than five million died. Are
we about to see the same thing happen
all over again, asked Le Monde (Paris).
Throughout 2016, President Joseph
Kabila made it clear that he would not
step down when his second term of
office (the constitution forbids a third)
expired on 20 December. In May he
even got the constitutional court to
declare he could stay in office without
being re-elected. And when the
opposition staged demonstrations in
protest, 100 demonstrators were killed in the streets of the
capital, Kinshasa. Another 40 were slaughtered the week before
Christmas. But then, one has to wonder, can anyone bring
stable government to this vast country – almost two-thirds the
size of Western Europe – of around 80 million people?
Kabila himself came to power in a “strange monarchical
succession”, said Marie-France Cros in La Libre (Brussels). He
was sworn in ten days after his father, president Laurent Kabila,
was assassinated in 2001. Ministers thought they could control
the taciturn young man, but “with the patience of an angler”,
he picked them off one by one. He won a credible election in
2006, but the next, in 2011, was “massively” fraudulent. Since
2012 he has devoted his energies to staying in power, bribing
some opponents and jailing others. His
people have gained nothing from his
rule, said Laurent Larcher in La Croix
(Paris): nine out of ten live on the
equivalent of $1.25 a day; only half
have access to pure drinking water; and
the current life expectancy is just 59.
DRC has huge reserves of copper,
diamonds and other minerals, but while
this brings fabulous wealth to local big
shots (not least Kabila’s own family),
and foreign investors, most of the
population remain in deep poverty.
The worry is that political unrest could
be a signal for the return of marauding
foreign militias, said New Vision (Kampala). A flash point is the
North Kivu province where, on Christmas Day, 22 people were
hacked to death with machetes – just the latest to die at the
hands of Ugandan rebels trying to take over the region. But now
hopes have been raised by an apparent breakthrough in negotiations,
with Kabila agreeing to stand down after elections at
the end of 2017 and to appoint an opposition member as PM in
the interim. Let’s hope that deal sticks, said Robbie Gramer in
Foreign Policy (Washington). Until now, it looked as if Kabila
and his cronies were intent on staying in power no matter what
– an impasse that could have reignited the civil war. So it’s vital
that the international community punish any backsliding with
sanctions that hit him in the pocket, turning the screw until he
realises it’s in his own interest to take Congo back from the edge.

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Ceasefire in Syria or Sykes-Putin?

“If one patiently reads what Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested for reaching a
ceasefire, one gradually sees through Russia’s strategic plan for a new Russian Middle East. The
features of the Russian foreign policy represent what I call ‘Sykes-Putin’ – rearranging the Middle
East and its coalitions in a way that serves Russian dominance in our region. What caught my
attention more than the ceasefire itself was its timing, the parties invited, and the location to
discuss putting an end to the Syrian crisis,” writes Ma’moun Fandi. “Undoubtedly, Russia could
succeed in reaching a solution as regards Syria. Russian boots are on the ground and they are
achieving success, the other parties have war fatigue, and for the first time a cooperation between
a global force (Russia) and a regional one (Turkey) is taking place.” Fandi sees the ceasefire
conference as a strategic ploy to separate the moderate opposition from the radical terrorists –
such as An-Nusra Front and Jund Ash-sham – in order to eliminate them. Who will object to the
annihilation of radical terrorists? However, this means the regime will have the upper hand in
future negotiations. “Calling opposite parties to redraw the map of regional coalitions is a
quantum leap in Middle Eastern diplomacy. All this indicates that a new Russian Middle East
lies ahead. But would America allow a Sykes-Putin at the expense of the old Sykes-Picot?”

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Is violence restricted to political Islam?

Sameh Mahareeq
Al-Quds Al-Arabi

“The tendency towards violence and
oppression seems to be more of a social
phenomenon than a political or religious
one. Looking at the discourse of any group
or force that falls within the Eastern Culture
category, one detects the propensity to
silence ‘others’ to different degrees. Also,
there’s no lack of a wide range of implied
and expressed mockery directed at different
opinions and beliefs,” said Sameh
Mahareeq. The writer believes that the
ideological conflict that has arisen over
renewing the religious discourse and school curricula in the Arab world overlooks the fact
that a high percentage of those inclined to violence are unemployed and marginalised in
society. That is the case in most of the countries plagued by violence, terrorism, and
organised crime. Invoking Islam is merely a pretext and psychological excuse for murderers
as it provides them with an implied absolution. “Giving priority to the unemployed, socially
alienated and marginalised people is a necessity. However, this does not absolve clerics who
adopt positions that feed the people with violence. Yet the only real link with religion is the
distortion of Islam. However, the belief that reforming religious speech, promoting
secularism and intellectual openness will put an end to terrorism in societies polarised
between rich and poor is illogical,” added Mahareeq.

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The big investment questions for 2017

Markets shrugged off political ructions to thrive in 2016. Will investors be so fortunate again?

Will the Trump rally continue?
Who at the start of last year,
when stock markets globally were
panicking, would have bet that
all three major US indices would
achieve record highs in 2016?
Many fund managers expect
more of the same this year. The
US was selected as the country
likely to deliver “the strongest
gains” in a survey conducted by
the Association of Investment
Managers. US profits “seem
certain to rebound” if
President-elect Donald Trump’s
administration “pushes through
corporate tax cuts”, said The
Economist. But “a lot of good
news is priced in”. Robert J. Shiller
of Yale reckons that the cyclically
adjusted price-earnings ratio is currently 70% above its long-term
average. Meanwhile, the three interest rate rises pencilled in by
the US Fed “will reduce the dollar value of foreign profits for
American multinationals”. There are also fears that Trump’s
promised fiscal boom may be derailed by hawks in Congress.
“Wall Street tends to get ahead of itself at times, and this appears
to be one of those times,” said Jenny Jones of Schroders in the FT.
Markets are at risk of a big “Trump disappointment”.
Is the pound set for a rebound?
Much depends on Brexit negotiations. Talk of a “hard Brexit” –
in which the UK forgoes single-market access – has kept the
pound down after the initial referendum shock: it is still some
20% down on its value a year ago. That may well boost the
number of foreign acquisitions of British companies this year; it
may also have an adverse effect on UK growth if household
incomes are squeezed by higher inflation. An FT poll of 122
economists found that most expect growth to slow sharply from
around 2.1% in 2016 to no more than 1.5% in 2017. Still, some
believe the gloom surrounding the pound is overdone. “Sterling is
at an extreme pricing, it is vulnerable to positive surprises” –
particularly to a softer Brexit, says Steven Saywell at BNP Paribas.
Saxo Bank goes even further, predicting the euro could fall to 73p
on the basis that the EU will be forced by migration pressures in
Europe to cede ground to Britain.
Does the commodities recovery
have legs?
Given the FTSE 100’s heavy exposure
to mining stocks and oil companies,
much rides on this question for UK
investors. “A substantial proportion of
the surge in the FTSE 100 in 2016 was
driven by the outperformance of just
two stocks – the oil giants BP and
Shell,” said Jeremy Warner in The
Sunday Telegraph. The recovery in
mining stocks made the index “largely
immune to worries about the impact
of Brexit on the UK economy”. I’m
bullish about commodities, said John
Stepek in MoneyWeek. After an “epic”
five-year bear market, “it would be
surprising for things to turn bad again
so rapidly”. The consensus among oil
pundits is that the black stuff will stay
above $50 a barrel, owing to Opec’s
deal to cut production.

How will Europe fare?
With France, Holland, Italy and
Germany all holding elections in
2017, the risk of another populist
shock is high. In the “quite
unlikely but absolutely possible”
event that Marine Le Pen wins in
France, “it would probably mean
the end of the eurozone and the
EU”, said the FT. And Angela
Merkel is not assured of keeping
her job either. “Without her, a
financial conflagration – a bank
bailout, say – becomes harder to
manage.” Nonetheless, investors
are taking an optimistic view,
said Philip Aldrick in The Times.
A rebound in manufacturing at
the end of last year suggests that
recovery in the bloc has “gathered
momentum”. Investors have duly shrugged off political anxieties
to push the Euro Stoxx index to its highest level since late 2015.
In another show of confidence, government bond yields in the
eurozone’s troubled peripheral states have also fallen sharply.
The biggest worry of fund managers polled by Bank of America
Merrill Lynch is that of EU disintegration, said The Economist.
But Europe might well be “a dog that doesn’t bark”.
Is the 30-year bull run in bonds finally at an end?
Trump’s election and the US Fed’s decision to raise interest rates
“has been hailed by some as the start of a new era for central
bank policy”, said Citywire – with important knock-on
considerations for the bond market. Since Trump’s election, US
Treasury bond prices have tumbled as investors anticipate faster
rate rises. Yields, which move inversely to prices, have shot up
in both the US and Britain; barring a big shock to the global
economy, BlackRock’s strategists reckon “the only way is up” this
year. Luca Paolini of Pictet Asset Management agrees, seeing the
scenario for bonds and dividend-paying stocks as “pretty grim”.
Yet some reckon government bond prices may surprise on the
upside. Much depends on what politicians do next, said John
Stepek. “Will they really start spending? Or will we see another
deflationary scare before too long?”
How about emerging markets?
After the carnage of early 2016,
emerging market stocks broadly
outperformed expectations. But
Trump’s election and the prospect
of a stronger dollar this year may
bode ill for many territories, said the
FT. With capital flowing out of
China, despite efforts to stem it, and
markets expecting further US rate
rises, the largest investors in
emerging markets are focusing on
“differentiation” and “managing
risk”. Russia remains widely tipped,
thanks to the “discernible warmth
between Donald Trump and
Vladimir Putin”. But the big question
is how a Trump administration
would deal with issues of trade and
protectionism, said Jeremy Warner.
Were the Donald to “go through
with threats to tear up the global
trade system”, there’s potential for
“catastrophic damage”.

Buzzwords for 2017
Compiled by Patrick Hosking in The Times
Convexity. The phenomenon of bond prices being
more sensitive to movements in interest rates when
yields are low or negative. Sounds dull and dweeby;
could be explosive if rates rise faster than expected.
Data lake. Bigger, sexier and deeper than a
mere database.
French. Difficult, awkward, hostile. Brexit
negotiators fear that their opposite numbers in
Brussels will be “very French” – in every sense.
Gener-vacation. Holiday taken by parents and
grown-up children together, paid for by the former.
Low latency. Quick. Used in the world of highfrequency
trading, but spreading. It can’t be long
before pizza delivery is described as low latency.
Midult. New demographic identified by marketeers:
women aged 35-55 with the tastes of 20-year-olds.
OOO. Out of the office. As in: “Yah, I’m triple-O till
3 January.”
Shrinkflation. Cutting product sizes to avoid price
increases (e.g. the “wider valleys” in Toblerone bars).

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