UK to build record-breaking solar planes

Illustration of the Zephyr S, a long, thin, lightweight droneImage copyright

A solar plane which can stay aloft for weeks at a time is to be manufactured by Airbus in the UK.

The unmanned craft flies high in the atmosphere to avoid commercial air traffic and adverse weather.

Known as the Zephyr, its remote-sensing potential has already seen the UK MoD invest, but Airbus also hope to develop the craft as a communications platform.

The Zephyr will now begin industrial production in Farnborough, after several years of testing.

Named for the Zephyr’s late inventor, the newly opened Kelleher facility has the capacity to produce up to 30 of the planes each year.

Its inauguration was announced at the 2018 Farnborough Air Show.

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Phil Adams/Airbus

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A completed Zephyr at the Kelleher facility

Powered by solar energy during the day, and solar-charged batteries by night, the Zephyr holds the absolute endurance record for un-refuelled aeroplanes – 336 hours, 22 minutes and eight seconds in the air.

The latest model, the Zephyr S, is currently aloft above the skies of Arizona in the US, where Airbus aims to fly it for 30 days, breaking the vehicle’s own 14-day record set in 2010.

The 120-day flight capacity promised by the craft’s lightweight battery technology has yet to be tested, but the company hopes to do so within the next year.

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Phil Adams/Airbus

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The craft itself weighs only 30kg, with an additional 30kg of battery

Various remote-sensing systems are currently being tested for use with the craft. As it can remain aloft at upwards of 70,000ft (21km) in one region for a continuous period of time, rather than orbiting the Earth like a traditional satellite, its potential for monitoring activity such as shipping traffic and wildfires is being explored.

The plane’s 5kg payload allowance does make accommodating a range of instruments a challenge. The whole craft weighs less than 75kg, much of which is devoted to its battery technology.

Plans for future models include a twin tail, which would accommodate a heavier payload.

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For a time, Facebook were also developing similar technology

Other companies have also expressed an interest in the technology’s communications capability.

Facebook, who recently retired a similar project known as Aquila, have been collaborating with Airbus.

According to Janna Rosenmann, head of unmanned aerial systems at Airbus, the two companies “have a joint goal to try to bring internet connectivity… to connect the unconnected”.

Kodak Bitcoin mining 'scam' evaporates

Kodak KashMiner

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The Kodak KashMiner appeared at CES in January

The company behind a Kodak-branded crypto-currency mining scheme has confirmed the plan has collapsed.

In January, a Bitcoin mining computer labelled Kodak KashMiner was on display on Kodak’s official stand at the CES technology show in Las Vegas.

But critics labelled it a “scam” and said the advertised profits were unachievable and misleading.

Now the company behind the scheme says it will not go ahead. Kodak told the BBC it was never officially licensed.

What was the plan?

Spotlite USA is one of many companies that licenses the Kodak brand to put on its own products.

It showed off a Bitcoin-mining computer labelled Kodak KashMiner in January and told the BBC that it planned to let people rent the machines.

To mine crypto-currency, computers are tasked with solving complicated mathematical problems in order to verify crypto-currency transactions. Successful miners are rewarded with bitcoins for their efforts.

Spotlite planned to let people pay an up-front fee of around $3,400 (£2,500) to rent a KashMiner, and would let customers keep a cut of any bitcoins generated.

Its chief executive Halston Mikail detailed plans to install hundreds of the devices at the Kodak headquarters in Rochester, New York, to take advantage of cheap electricity offered by an on-site power plant.

He said 80 devices were already in operation.

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Spotlite chief executive Halston Mikail

But Kodak told the BBC that the venture was never officially licensed and that no devices had ever been installed.

‘Unrealistic’ plans

In its promotional material, Spotlite said an up-front investment of $3,400 would generate earnings of $375 a month for two years by mining Bitcoin.

However, critics said the promised profits did not take into account that mining Bitcoin is becoming increasingly difficult.

Writer and sceptic David Gerard called it a “crypto-currency folly”, suggesting the scheme never went beyond its unfinished website.

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The Kodak HashPower website was unfinished

“There is no way your magical Kodak miner will make the same $375 every month,” wrote economist Saifedean Ammous, who pointed out that anybody taking the gamble would have made a loss on their investment.

In a phone call with the BBC, Spotlite’s Halston Mikail said the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had prevented the scheme from going ahead.

He said the company would instead run its mining operation privately with equipment installed in Iceland, instead of renting capacity to consumers.

A spokesman for Kodak told the BBC: “While you saw units at CES from our licensee Spotlite, the KashMiner is not a Kodak brand licensed product. Units were not installed at our headquarters.”

World Bodypainting Festival: Models transformed into amazing artworks

Austria has held its 21st World Bodypainting Festival in the city of Klagenfurt.

Artists painted the bodies of models, creating spectacular results. Here some of the most stunning photos.

Model Thiago, painted by make-up artists Jonathan Pavan and Alisson Rodrigues from BrazilImage copyright

The festival was founded in 1998 and has grown to host competitors from more than 50 nations.

There are special and amateur awards, covering 12 different categories such as airbrushing, special effects and face painting.

Make-up artist Jonathan Pavan from Brazil works on model Thiago during the World Bodypainting Festival 2018Image copyright

The festival’s location, Klagenfurt, is the capital city of the southern Austrian province of Carinthia and is surrounded by the Alps.

Carla Gouws from South Africa paints model CorinaImage copyright

An artist paints a model during the World Bodypainting Festival 2018Image copyright

In some categories, the artists are given two days to paint their models, with a different theme for each day.

The face painting award sees entrants telling a visual story by painting on their models’ face, neck and décolletage.

An artist paints a modelImage copyright

The creative make-up award includes costumes that fit with the model’s make-up.

A model posesImage copyright

Presentational white space

An artist paints a modelImage copyright

The festival also covers training programmes for bodypainting, make-up, photography, special effects and airbrush.

Model Thiago shows off art by make-up artists Jonathan Pavan and Alisson Rodrigues from BrazilImage copyright

A model, painted by bodypainting artist Hoyam Hajlaoui from Belgium, poses for a pictureImage copyright
Getty Images

A model, painted by artist Vilija from Sweden, poses for a pictureImage copyright
Getty Images

A model, painted by bodypainting artist Alex Hansen from Brasil, poses for a pictureImage copyright
Getty Images

A model poses for a picture at the 21st World Bodypainting Festival 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

Presentational white space

A model, painted by bodypainting artist Ton Nizet from the Netherlands, poses for a pictureImage copyright
Getty Images

Presentational white space

A model, painted by bodypainting artists Yvonne Zonnenberg-Hughes and Astric Hughes from South Africa, poses for a pictureImage copyright
Getty Images

Presentational white space

A model poses for a picture at the 21st World Bodypainting Festival 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

Presentational white space

A model poses for a picture at the 21st World Bodypainting Festival 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

Presentational white space


Top 10 highest earning celebrities of the year

Floyd “Money” Mayweather has lived up to his name after being listed by Forbes as the highest earning celebrity of the last year.

George Clooney, 57, who is recovering from a motorbike accident, came second, making $239m (£180m) in pre-tax earnings in the year beginning 1 June 2017 to 1 June 2018.

Part of the actor’s income came from the sale of the tequila company he co-founded – Casamigos – to Diageo.

Model Kylie Jenner is the youngest woman on this year’s Forbes magazine 60 richest self-made women in America.

The 20-year-old is number 27 on the annual list after amassing a fortune of $900m (£681m) in less than three years, according to the magazine, who described her as set to become “the youngest ever self-made billionaire”.

Briton Ed Sheeran has been named the highest earning solo musician in the world, having taken home more than £80m over the past year, jumping 62 places.

Who are the top 10 highest earning celebrities of the last year?

EU immigration to Britain falls to five-year low

The number of immigrants moving from the European Union to Britain fell by a quarter to a five-year low last year.

ONS data shows figures for 2017 – the first full calendar year since the Brexit vote.

An estimated 101,000 more people arrived in the UK from the bloc than left during the year.

It is the lowest for any 12-month period since the year to March 2013, when it stood at 95,000.

Overall net long-term migration, including arrivals and departures of non-EU nationals, was about 282,000 in 2017.

The figure was up by 33,000 on the year before, but statisticians attributed the rise to an “unusual pattern” in estimates of non-EU student immigration for 2016 which research suggests was an “anomaly”.

Net migration from eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 – Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia and Latvia – has fallen from 42,000 in the year prior to the referendum to 6,000 in 2017.

Net migration from 14 more established member states, such as Germany, Italy, Spain and France, has almost halved since the vote, falling from 84,000 in the 12 months to June 2016 to 46,000 last year.

It is estimated that 40,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians migrated to the UK than left last year, the joint lowest net migration figure for the two countries since the year to September 2014.

Non-EU net migration was estimated to be 227,000 last year, which is more than twice the figure for the EU.

Nicola White, of the ONS’s migration statistics division, said: “With around 280,000 more people coming to the UK than leaving in 2017, these latest figures show that migration has continued to add to the UK population.

“Net migration fell following record levels in 2015 and early 2016 and has been broadly stable since. This is similar to the level recorded in the year ending September 2014.

“Underlying this, immigration has remained broadly stable at around 630,000 and emigration has shown a gradual increase since 2015 and is currently at around 350,000.”

Oxford Street, London
Immigration to the UK is stable at about 630,000 – with about 350,000 emigrating

The government said last week in a paper setting out its Brexit negotiating aims that it wanted to control the number of EU immigrants after Brexit to address the public’s concerns about pressures on public services and wages for low earners.

But the Institute of Directors said businesses were struggling to find people with the skills they needed and urged Prime Minister Theresa May to keep the door open on immigration.

The institute’s chief economist, Tej Parikh, said: “The government’s aim for an ambitious post-Brexit labour mobility scheme is welcome, but we also need to see the government creating a positive overall migration policy later on this year.”

The latest figures triggered new calls for the government to ditch its target to bring net migration below six figures.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Like the ‘hostile environment’, it’s clear to almost everyone except Theresa May that the net migration target should go.”

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the figures showed that “more of the people who are coming to the UK are coming for the reasons we would want – to take up a definite job or to study”.

She said: “More EU nationals continue to arrive than leave and as the ONS have made clear, net migration has been broadly stable since late 2016.

“But while it is not unusual to see quarterly ups and downs, we know more needs to be done if we are to bring net migration down to sustainable levels.”

Asia and Australia Edition: Vladimir Putin, China Economy, Indonesia: Your Tuesday Briefing

Asia and Australia Edition

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning. We’ll begin with a tight focus on the presidential talks in Finland. Here’s what you need to know:

CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

• The scene in Helsinki.

There were delays (the Russian plane was late), but President Trump and President Vladimir Putin held their one-on-one talks in Helsinki.

We don’t know everything the two men spoke about — only translators were present — but their 45-minute news conference afterward was a remarkable spectacle. They raised the possibility that their intelligence agencies might work together, and both pushed back at the notion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, directly contradicting the conclusion of U.S. investigations.

CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

• When Israel raided Iran’s nuclear secrets.

In a daring, clandestine operation in January, spies for Israel infiltrated a warehouse in Tehran and seized roughly 50,000 pages of documents and records related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the information to help persuade President Trump to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.

CreditBrendan Esposito/European Pressphoto Agency
CreditAnn Wang/Reuters
CreditLorraine Sorlet
CreditPaul Fitzgerald/The Story Factory, via Associated Press

Russian charged with infiltrating US political groups

A Russian woman has been charged with infiltrating US political organisations at the direction of a senior Kremlin official.

Maria Butina, 29, a Russian citizen who lives in Washington DC, has appeared in court after being arrested in the US capital on 15 July.

The US Department of Justice said in a statement: “According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.

“This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.

“The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organisations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

The statement says Butina allegedly entered and resided in the United States on a student visa without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.

“The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement continues.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years.

One of the agencies Butina is accused of infiltrating is the National Rifle Association (NRA).

It comes just hours after US President Donald Trump backed his Russian counterpart’s denial that there was any involvement or meddling in the American elections.

After Mr Trump made his comments, Director of national intelligence Dan Coats said: “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

On Friday it was announced a dozen Russians have been charged with hacking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 US presidential election.

Moments after the news of Butina’s arrest broke, Mr Trump tweeted from aboard the Air Force One en route back to America following his Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin.

“As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he wrote.

More follows…

'Delays' hit third new Govia Thameslink rail timetable

Crowded trainImage copyright
Emily Perry

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Passengers have described the rail company as “completely incompetent”

A troubled rail operator has been hit by more disruption after introducing its third new timetable in two months.

Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern passengers have faced delays and cancellations since a new timetable began on 20 May.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said the latest timetable would provide a “more robust and reliable service”.

But on Monday, the first working day of the new timetable, passengers reported “huge crowds and delays to trains”.

While some morning services ran fairly smoothly, problems appear to have hit some evening rush hour trains.

One delayed commuter, Richie Lee Simon, tweeted to say “sorry doesn’t cut it”.

He added: “GTR were paid £7bn and had two years to plan. They were then given an additional two months and still cocked it up. It’s just poor planning. It’s that simple.”

Another commuter, John Smith, tweeted: “Well done #thameslink. You run a handful of services to #Leagrave and then decide to cancel them to run fast to Bedford. Thieves.”

After facing another day of disruption, Conor Brown branded Thameslink “completely incompetent”.

While commuter Karl Wilding joked that the new “stable” timetable must be using “the Donald Trump interpretation of the word”.

GTR said it was “too early to say” if the new timetable was causing problems.

Earlier on Monday, it said: “Our focus is on the evening peak and rest of the week as we introduce the new interim timetable.”

GTR, which oversees Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern routes, changed the time of every train on its timetable on 20 May, which saw some services withdrawn and further cancellations without any warning.

In a half-page newspaper advert, initially placed in the Metro newspaper and since replicated in local papers, it apologised and acknowledged it “failed to launch new services as planned” which has resulted in “significant delays, cancellations and disruption”.

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A letter published in newspapers said the company apologised “sincerely and unreservedly”

An interim timetable introduced on 4 June to improve performance saw about 6% of daily services removed, but reliability has continued to struggle.

The operator said the changes would mean a 13% increase in services across the GTR network, 400 extra trains a day and new direct services from 80 stations into central London, creating space for 50,000 extra passengers at peak times.

Its website said the timetable would continue to evolve over time.

“Once this interim timetable is bedded in, we will look to introduce more services to complete the intended May 2018 timetable,” it said.

Govia Thameslink’s ongoing problems

  • A series of failures have been blamed for causing the chaos, including Network Rail’s late approval of the new timetables and delayed electrification projects
  • Poor planning by train operators has also been blamed, and the decision by transport ministers to phase in the introduction of new GTR services
  • The damaging impact of the new train timetable was demonstrated in punctuality figures published by Network Rail on Monday
  • GTR chief executive Charles Horton resigned last month

Last week in the House of Commons, the government warned improvements to GTR services were “simply not happening quickly enough” and the train operator risks losing its franchise.

Standing in for Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Cabinet Office minister and Aylesbury MP David Lidington said: “We have launched a review of Govia Thameslink which will report in the next few weeks, and if those findings show that Govia is at fault we won’t hesitate to take action whether that’s fines, restricting access to future franchises or stripping them of the franchise.

“Passengers deserve far better than they’re getting at the moment in terms of service and we will hold those operators to account.”

Lens: Picturing Iraq in a Bygone Era


When his career began in the 1950s, Latif Al Ani captured scenes of Iraqi life in a more innocent time.

Women shopping in Baghdad in 1964.CreditLatif Al Ani

On some Fridays, Latif Al Ani walks around Mutanabbi Street, the heart of Baghdad’s intellectual life, with its bookshops and cafes. When he does go, he nurtures a faint hope that he will, amid the rows of stalls selling books, maps and photographs, stumble across an old possession: his pictures.

Mr. Ani, 86, is regarded as the founder of Iraqi photography, and many prints he had stored with the Ministry of Culture went missing when government buildings were looted after the 2003 invasion. Luckily, though, for Mr. Ani and those concerned with Iraq’s history, not all of his life’s work was lost.

When his career began in the 1950s, during what he calls Iraq’s “heyday,” Mr. Ani captured scenes of Iraqi life in a more innocent time. In the lulls between the revolutions, coups and wars that shaped modern Iraq, he captured family picnics, well-dressed Western tourists standing near ancient ruins and everyday moments. Image after image, in black and white — he loves the shadows and the feelings they convey — is informed by the collisions of old traditions with modernity.

Eid festivities in Baghdad, 1959.CreditLatif Al Ani
A jeweller in Baghdad, 1960.CreditLatif Al Ani
The ancient city of Babylon, 1970.CreditLatif Al Ani

Paging through the book, we look down Rasheed Street, once the city’s grandest boulevard (“It was the heart of Baghdad,” Mr. Ani said. “You felt the past.”), and see American cars and men in suits. We see women gathered around a jewelry counter at an upscale shop. It could be Manhattan, but it is Baghdad. And we see pictures of modernist homes built in the 1960s, with clean lines and odd geometry, that have a Southern California vibe.

A European tourist with a shepherd on the road to the south of Baghdad, 1962.CreditLatif Al Ani
On the way to Damascus, 1955.CreditLatif Al Ani
A police van in Cairo, 1964 or 1965.CreditLatif Al Ani

“Life was easy,” said Mr. Ani. “There was no war, no problems.”

To live in Baghdad as a foreigner, as I did for many years as The Times’s bureau chief, was to always wonder what the city used to be like, before the blast walls and checkpoints circumscribed the urban geography, and before so much violence altered the city’s character, and changed the relationship between citizens and their public spaces. Often, I depended on older men, like Mr. Ani — who unlike so many other middle-class Iraqis never left for the safety of foreign shores — as my guides.

At his age, he easily slips into memory.

The 1940s, when his brother, a shopkeeper on Mutanabbi Street, gave him his first camera, and a Jewish man taught him how to use it.

The 1950s, crisscrossing the country as the photographer for the in-house magazine of the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company.

The 1960s and 1970s, covering news, and traveling to Paris with the country’s young vice president, Saddam Hussein.

One of his favorite pictures is a simple scene, of his own family at a roadside picnic, in 1970 in Salahuddin Province — his mother, his young wife, his brother-in-law lounging on the ground, his gleaming late-1950s Pontiac in the background. “Nobody asked us what we were doing there,” he said. “No one asked, are you Sunni or Shia? That was life back then.”

Another favorite is a picture of a naked woman, stretching in the morning. The story of that photo, of a time when an Iraqi man and a European woman could find romance without fear, is a distillation, he said, of all that has been lost in Iraq. Her name was Anna and she was from Spain, and they met dancing in a Baghdad nightclub. The photo was taken at a lakeside resort in Anbar Province, then a place for a vacation, now famous for extreme Islamist politics and terrorism.

An American couple at Taq Kasra, Al Mada’in, Salman Pak, near Baghdad, 1965.CreditLatif Al Ani
Yarmouk, in Baghdad, 1962.CreditLatif Al Ani

And back then, America and Iraq were rubbing up against one another in softer ways.

The book’s cover shows an American couple from Colorado at the ruins of Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, in 1965. At the time, Mr. Ani said, the United States in the minds of Iraqis meant movies, ideals and cars. On a tour of the United States in the 1960s he stayed with the Colorado couple, and the only color photographs in his book are from San Francisco.

“At that time America cared about freedom,” he said. “It was our dream to see America. Now what America means is to control and rule the world.”

On many days Mr. Ani spends his time at the courtyard cafe and art gallery of an old friend Qassim Sabti, himself a guardian of Baghdad’s memory who often entertains foreigners at his home over al fresco dinners of masgoof, an Iraqi river fish.