Saturday, November 29, 2014

Up to 13,000 slaves working in the UK - read on - prepare to be shocked...

Slavery levels in UK 'higher than thought'

Woman victim (posed by model)

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There could be between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK, higher than previous figures, analysis for the Home Office suggests.
Modern slavery victims are said to include women forced into prostitution, "imprisoned" domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats.
The figure for 2013 is the first time the government has made an official estimate of the scale of the problem.
The Home Office has launched a strategy to help tackle slavery.
It said the victims included people trafficked from more than 100 countries - the most prevalent being Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania - as well as British-born adults and children.
Data from the National Crime Agency's Human Trafficking Centre last year put the number of slavery victims in the UK at 2,744.
The assessment was collated from sources including police, the UK Border Force, charities and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
The Home Office said it used established statistical methodology and models from other public policy contexts to estimate a "dark figure" that may not have come to the NCA's attention.
It said the "tentative conclusions" of its analysis is that the number of victims is higher than thought.
Concerted action
The Modern Slavery Bill going through Parliament aims provide courts in England and Wales with new powers to protect people who are trafficked into the countries and held against their will. Scotland and Northern Ireland are planning similar measures.
Modern Slavery Minister Karen Bradley: "This is very much a hidden crime and we need to get it out in the open"
But outlining the strategy for government departments, its agencies and partners, Home Secretary Theresa May said legislation was "only part of the answer".
The "grim reality" is that slavery still exists in towns, cities and the countryside across the world, including the UK, she said.
"The time has come for concerted, co-ordinated action. Working with a wide-range of partners, we must step up the fight against modern slavery in this country, and internationally, to put an end to the misery suffered by innocent people around the world."
The Home Office said the UK Border Force would roll out specialist trafficking teams at major ports and airports to spot potential victims, and the legal framework would be strengthened for confiscating the proceeds of crime.
The modern slavery strategy will also see:
  • The government identify "priority countries" to work with, as well as other organisations including churches
  • British embassies and high commissions and NCA liaison officers develop local initiatives abroad
  • Work to strengthen the response by local authorities to child abuse, including trafficking
  • Work to raise awareness among homeless shelter staff of the signs of modern slavery
Modern slavery minister Karen Bradley told the BBC she was not surprised by the figures.
She said: "This is very much a hidden crime and the important thing is that we get it out in the open. If we compare where we were 200 years ago, the anti-slavery campaigners there had to make people acknowledge that slavery was wrong.
"What we have to do today is not make people acknowledge it's wrong - everybody knows it's wrong - but we have to find it.
Anti-Slavery International's Aidan McQade on the numbers of people trafficked in the UK
"It's a hidden crime, it's going on in streets, in towns, in villages across Britain and we need to help people find the signs of it so we can find those victims and importantly then find the perpetrators."
Aidan McQuade, director of charity Anti-Slavery International, said the Home Office's figures "sounded about right" but questioned whether the government's strategy went far enough.
He told the BBC : "If you leave an employment relationship, even if you're suffering from any sort of exploitation up to and including forced labour, even if you're suffering from all sorts of physical and sexual violence, you'll be deported.
"So that gives an enormous power in the hands of unscrupulous employers. And frankly the protections which the government has put in place are not worth the paper they're written on in order to prevent this sort of exploitation once they've given employers that sort of power."
Darrell Simester was a victim of modern slavery for 13 years

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer released

(YouTube/Star Wars)
(YouTube/Star Wars)
The teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just been released. What does it reveal about the movie that is the biggest mystery in Hollywood?

It’s the trailer that has perhaps seen more speculation than any other in movie history. The teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just been released, revealing details about a film that’s been kept under wraps to a remarkable degree.
While some facts have been made public – the original line-up is returning, with Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford appearing as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher reprising her role as Princess Leia, and the Millennium Falcon is getting a showing – crucial details were held back.
What are the iconic characters doing now? What roles are the new actors playing? What does Star Wars look like through the eyes of writer-director JJ Abrams? As online commentators have complained, everything was a mystery. Until now.
The level of secrecy and speculation has prompted fans to create and release their own fake versions of trailers (not the trailers you are looking for), many of which have had millions of views. So when the real one was finally released, it caused a great disturbance in the force… well, the internet. The 88-second trailer finally reveals director JJ Abrams’ hand, disclosing the briefest of hints about what takes place in the years after Darth Vader’s death and the presumed fall of the Empire.
The first of these suggests that the Empire has not disappeared. We see soaring shots of Tie fighters in battle with the Millennium Falcon. Ships full of heavily-armed Stormtroopers get ready for battle. X-wing fighters cruise across a lake and a faceless Sith advances through a forest before revealing a T-shaped lightsaber.
But beyond that broad narrative of good v evil, the trailer does not give too much away. Fans hoping for details of the story will be disappointed. Instead, Abrams – a master of teasing audiences (remember the Cloverfield trailers?) – leaves the viewer wanting more.
The trailer opens on what looks like the planet of Tatooine – although without the double sunset, it is difficult to be sure. We see a terrified looking character (John Boyega) dressed as a Stormtrooper but without his helmet. A voiceover declares: “There has been an awakening”. Fans will want to know what that means: Has there been an awakening in the Force? The title of the film would suggest so. But on which side? The shot suggests it may be on the Dark Side, but the trailer does not give enough to say one way or another.
The sequence then cuts to a fast-moving droid. In the background are parts of what look like an X-Wing fighter. Is this where Luke Skywalker has retired following the death of his father? Skywalker does not appear in the clip. Neither do the other two members of the original trio, Princess Leia or Han Solo.
It then cuts to classic fast-moving action sequences, where we see glimpses of familiar characters and craft interspersed with new faces, like a female character played by Daisy Ridley on a speeder and what we can only presume is one of the leaders of the Dark Side – a dark, faceless character that looks like the Phantom Menace’s Darth Maul complete with his shimmering, red saber. A soaring sequence showing a sleeker Millennium Falcon dog-fighting with swirling Tie fighters completes the trailer.

(YouTube/Star Wars)
(YouTube/Star Wars)

All of this is set to iconic and rousing John Williams scores – including the original Star Wars fanfare. But while the music may be the same, it already feels like a very different film. The tone of the trailer is dark, as many expected from a director that updated the Star Trek franchise in a similar way. They also appear to be more complex and serious than the prequels – perhaps a nod to the many fans who felt bitterly disappointed by George Lucas’ Phantom Menace. Those same fans will also be pleased to see there is no sign of an annoying – and for many unforgivable – Jar Jar Binks type character, who went on to define the superficial nature of the prequels.
The new trailer will delight fans, but will leave them with as many questions as it answers. And they will know from JJ Abrams’ previous work that all is not always what it seems.
With the film itself set for release in December 2015, will fans learn much more in the coming months? Abrams has called the process of keeping details secret “rather extreme”, describing how people in his office covered up his windows with black paper when he was working on the script; yet he believes in the power of the big reveal. “It feels to me like there’s a purity in not knowing every little thing.”
One thing is for sure: The Phantom Menace looks like it will be forgiven.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Messi Breaks Champions League Record - top scorer of all time - pics

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Apoel Nicosia
25 November 2014Last updated at 22:11 GMT
Barcelona's Lionel Messi became the Champions League's all-time top scorer with a hat-trick against Apoel Nicosia.
Messi went into the Group F game in Cyprus level on 71 goals with former Real Madrid forward Raul.
Luis Suarez had already opened the scoring with his first goal for the club when Messi diverted Rafinha's 38th-minute shot past the keeper.
Messi netted his second in the 58th-minute with a low right-foot finish before tapping home from close range.

Messi's records

Champions League top scorer:74
La Liga top scorer: 253
Barcelona's top goalscorer: 368
Most goals in a La Liga season: 50
Most goals in a season: 73
Most consecutive La Liga matches scored in: 21
Most Ballon d'Or titles: 4
Most goals in a single European Cup game: 5 (joint with Luiz Adriano)
Most European Cup top scorer awards: 4 (with Gerd Muller)
Most goals in Clasicos: 21
Most La Liga hat-tricks in a season: 8
Most goals in Club World Cup: 4 (held jointly with Denilson)
Most goals in a calendar year: 91
It is the 27-year-old's second major record in four days, having scored a landmark 253rd Spanish top-flight goal with a hat-trick against Sevilla on Saturday.
Both teams finished with 10 men on Tuesday, Rafinha sent off for two bookable offences 20 minutes from time before Apoel Nicosia's Joao Guilherme followed him 14 minutes later, also for a second booking.
It was Messi's 28th Barcelona hat-trick, and his fifth in the Champions League.
The Argentina international now has 74 Champions League goals in 91 appearances in the competition.

Group F

Paris St-Germain
Apoel Nicosia
Raul's 71 goals came in 142 games.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who is expected to line up at Basel on Wednesday in the competition, has 70 goals.
Barcelona had already qualified for the knockout stages before their visit to Cyprus.
Luis Enrique's side are second in Group F with one game to go.
But they will advance to the last 16 as group winners if they beat current group leaders Paris St-Germain at the Nou Camp on 10 December.
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez scored his first Champions League goal for four years
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi's previous hat-trick for Barcelona was against Real Madrid on 23 March
Apoel Nicosia v Barcelona
Kick-off between Apoel Nicosia and Barcelona was delayed slightly because of the smoke of a flare

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ariana Grande Teams Up With Major Lazer On Her ‘Hunger Games’ Track: Listen

Getty Images

Ariana Grande Teams Up With Major Lazer On Her ‘Hunger Games’ Track: Listen

Dance the dystopia away.
Ariana GrandeDiplo and Lorde walk into an arena… Nope, that’s not the beginning of a bad joke — Grande’s contribution to Lorde’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1″ soundtrack has hit the Web, and it features Diplo’s side project, Major Lazer.

The jam, titled “All My Love,” is definitely one of the dancier tracks we’ve heard thus far from the soundtrack, which also features LordeKanye WestChvrches and Charli XCX. “All my love, all my love/ All my love’s up on the mountain top,” Grande sings over the driving EDM beat, provided by Diplo.
Lorde, who curated the “Hunger Games” soundtrack in full, recently had a run-in with the producer on Twitter, questioning the size of his, um, manhood after Diplo created a Kickstarter to buy Taylor Swift, for lack of a better word, a butt. The two have frequently worked together in the past, though, with Diplo remixing Lorde’s “Tennis Court.”

New Hunger Games film is not for ‘real adults’ - opinion BBC article

Review: New Hunger Games film is not for ‘real adults’

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1(Lionsgate)
Jennifer Lawrence leads a revolution in the third Hunger Games movie. But can a YA novel yield a worthwhile film? Critic Owen Gleiberman delivers his verdict.
Early in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), nestled 50 storeys underground in a top-secret rebel command station, is summoned to a strategy meeting. Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the high-handed leader of the rebellion, and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the movement's jaunty minister of propaganda, explain that the proletarian revolt that Katniss ignited now has the chance to take wing. If she can find it within herself to become the icon of revolution known as ‘The Mockingjay’, then the oppressed districts of the dystopian nation Panem will rise up, join forces, and break the fascist grip of the Capitol. Faced with this offer, Katniss seems neither pleased nor particularly incendiary. Instead, with a look of glazed yearning, she wants to know just one thing: "What about Peeta? Is he alive?"
This moment has an unmistakably kitschy ring to it, and it speaks to the quintessence of young-adult fiction and why no real adult should take it seriously (though more than ever, they do). Civilisation hangs in the balance, but what's really at stake is Katniss' feelings for Peeta – the dewiest of junior love stories. Of course you could argue that Casablanca, minus the puppy-love factor, works in pretty much the same way, with the outcome of World War II hinged on the issue of whether Humphrey Bogart's Rick will remain with Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa. But if Katniss is the forceful prime mover in Mockingjay – Part I, Peeta, let's be clear, is no Ilsa. As played by Josh Hutcherson, he has all the charisma of the least interesting member of the Yale crew team. Katniss, for most of Mockingjay – Part I, is more interested in saving this preppy hand-puppet than she is in bringing about the overthrow of tyranny. By now, even much of the audience may not share Katniss' Peeta fixation. Three movies into the Hunger Games series, their bond comes off as more desperately theoretical than ever.
Lawrence, who had the implacability of an Olympian in the first two Hunger Games films, now plunges Katniss into a mood of Hamlet-esque doubt: having become the poster girl for revolution, she's not at all sure if she wants the role. She's wary and woeful, just like the Katniss who first volunteered for the Hunger Games to save her sister. Lawrence has a chance to show some more vulnerability, but Katniss' tearful ambivalence about whether she's committed to the cause, or merely to saving Peeta, plays out in a less than scintillating way. It's not the actor’s fault. This is what happens when you split the third installment of a YA series into two blockbuster movies: Part I is basically all dragging exposition.
Games, must we?
When Katniss shot an arrow  at the end of the previous film and shattered the forcefield covering the Capitol’s barbaric children-killing-children contest, she did more than bring down the Hunger Games. She effectively eliminated the premise of reality TV as a death match – and the critique of it – that had been the liveliest element in this series so far. The closest thing that Mockingjay – Part I comes up with to replace it is a televised war of propaganda. Plutarch, played by the late Hoffman with a sly-dog cynicism that makes you realise how much you'll miss him even in a franchise movie like this one, produces a series of propaganda videos, or 'propos'. They feature Katniss in her black-latex archer suit (so fetchingly colour-coordinated with her dark tresses) making revolutionary speeches to camera. At first, her words sound stilted and fake, but then Plutarch sends Katniss and a team of young cohorts to survey the smoking ruins of her home. Suddenly, her outrage is real. She's on fire again.
The Capitol’s wily President Snow (Donald Sutherland) comes up with a PR weapon of his own: it's the captured Peeta, interviewed, as if on some nightly chat show, by Stanley Tucci's unctuous, high-haired host. Peeta has been set up to preach to the Capitol’s subjects against Katniss, and that makes it obvious to us he's been drugged, or brainwashed, or something. His fate probably shouldn't amount to a hill of beans, but Katniss is fixated. And President Coin, who knows she needs Katniss to lead the revolution, agrees to her demand: that the rebels go in and rescue him.
Directed by Francis Lawrence (who made the franchise’s previous film, Catching Fire, as well as the upcoming Mockingjay sequel), Part 1 has gravity and sweep, with grandly sombre visual motifs lifted out of films from Metropolis to the original Star Wars. There are also some gripping scenes of impending battle. The destruction of a dam by rebel explosives gives a little rush of triumph: the revolution has begun! Yet for anyone who's not emotionally immersed in Suzanne Collins' book trilogy to begin with, your ultimate reaction may still be: why should I care? Sutherland continues to make President Snow a compelling despot with a Machiavellian twinkle in his eye, but in a funny way you like him more than you do the good guys.  Lawrence, as a director, hasn't figured out how to turn the ragtag masses of Panem into anything more than a sodden tableau of oppression. And why does Moore play the leader of the revolt like Eva Peron with a touch of Pol Pot? She doesn't exactly inspire sympathy for the cause. Of course, I sound like I'm missing the point: it's all about Peeta! I just wish that wasn't the point.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Riversimple - the world's first hydrogen powered electric car

(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A hydrogen-powered electric car under development in Wales is bringing more than just a C02-free powertrain to the table. Riversimple founder and chief engineer Hugo Spowers and his team are striving to upend the business model of making and selling – not to mention owning – cars.

“Disruptive technology can only work if it comes with a new business model,” says Spowers, who, in addition to being an entrepreneur, is a lifelong motorsport enthusiast, having fielded a private team in the 1980s. “When someone comes up with a radical new idea, the conversation always turns to why it can’t be done. And generally speaking, many of those reasons are true. But if you’re prepared to throw out the whole context and start again from scratch, all the reasons why something can’t be done just fall away.”



Spowers is no stranger to challenging the status quo, having worked on the hydrogen-powered LIFECar, a demonstration hydrogen-powered vehicle developed by a consortium that included Morgan Motor, the defence contractor QinetiQ, Cranfield University and Oxford University.

Like that project, Spowers’ little Welsh startup is perhaps best represented by its prototype, an as-yet-unnamed, two-seat wonder of Smart Fortwo stature whose toylike form conceals radical innards. “We’ve designed a car around hydrogen fuel cells rather than trying to put fuel cells into cars designed around the internal-combustion engine for the last 100 years,” Spowers says.

Compressed hydrogen travels from a pressurised tank mounted at the rear axle to hydrogen fuel cells tucked in the car’s nose. The cells convert the fuel into electricity, which in turn powers four direct-drive motors, one housed in each wheel. The direct-drive equipment obviates Riversimple from having to fit a gearbox; drivers just push buttons on the dash for forward, neutral or reverse.

“There are no moving parts, except for the wheels,” Spowers says. “There’s no metal-to-metal contact, no lubrication required and no mechanical wear.”

(Riversimple, via 40fires)

The carbon-fibre body shell of Riversimple's earlier prototype. (Riversimple, via 40fires)

Additional electricity is created via regenerative braking – whereby energy expended in slowing or stopping is recaptured rather than being lost as heat – and stored in a bank of supercapacitors that Spowers says will provide 80% of the car’s motive power down the road. “That means the fuel cells only need to supply 20% of the power during acceleration,” Spowers notes. Conventional friction brakes intercede for higher-speed emergency stops and braking below 8kph (5mph).

The prototype, which weighs about 520kg (1,147lbs) and measures 3.7 meters (roughly 12ft) long, scoots from zero to 50mph – its top crusing speed – in a respectable 8 seconds, Spowers claims, and has a driving range of about 300 miles before requiring refuelling.

While the final design is still being finalised, the demonstrator model reveals a sleek, light carbon-fibre body created by Chris Reitz, the company’s design chief. Reitz has put his stamp on many notable cars, including the Fiat 500, and has worked for Volkswagen, Audi, Nissan and Alfa Romeo.

But Riversimple also differentiates itself in another key respect. Just as the Beatles observed that money can’t buy love, it can’t buy a Riversimple car, either.

Rather, consumers will be charged a monthly fee that ostensibly serves as a lease payment, but also covers other car-related expenses such as insurance, fuel and routine maintenance. “Refuelling bills will come right to us for payment,” Spowers says.

The first prototype was presented at Somerset House in London. (Riversimple)

The first prototype was presented at Somerset House in London. (Riversimple)

This mobility-as-service approach is not new; the (now bankrupt) battery-swapping startup Better Place tried it, and Hyundai recently introduced a similar programme in the southwest US for its Tucson electric SUV, powered by hydrogen fuel cells. (A $499 monthly lease payment over three years covers all fuel and maintenance costs.) Spowers says that the monthly payment will also help subsidise the development of fuelling infrastructure.

While an exact fee remains undetermined, Spowers estimates it will total about £450 (roughly $720) – comparable to the monthly operating costs of a new, moderately priced car. Fees will vary according to how far consumers drive each month.

“We’re rethinking the provision of mobility from a clean sheet of paper, without the legacy barriers imposed by the existing industry,” Spowers says. ”We’ve designed a solution that’s not just a car, but a business model that suits the 21st Century.”

That consumers will eventually return their cars to Riversimple for “resale” motivates the company to design products that last, as opposed to the conventional planned-obsolescence mindset of the car industry at large.

“Designing a car for this business model requires us to sell performance, not just cars,” Spowers says. “This changes our design drivers from obsolescence and high running costs to longevity and lower running costs – completely opposite from what drives the current auto industry.”

The principle may be difficult for consumers to grasp initially, Spowers concedes, but Riversimple ultimately expects motorists to gravitate towards a clean, viable alternative to ownership or conventional leasing schemes. Beta testing of 20 vehicles is slated for late 2015, with production expected to start in mid-2017.

As for name recognition, all in good time.

Hugo Spowers

Hugo Spowers and the Riversimple car. (Riversimple)

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