News & Current Affairs

July 6, 2009

Scores killed in China protests

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:23 pm

Scores killed in China protests

Violence in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang has left at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say.

Several hundred people were arrested after a protest, in the city of Urumqi on Sunday, turned violent.

Beijing says Uighurs went on the rampage but one exiled Uighur leader says police fired on students.

The protest was reportedly prompted by a deadly fight between Uighurs and Han Chinese in southern China last month.

Our correspondent  in Shanghai says this is one of the most serious clashes between the authorities and demonstrators in China since Tiananmen Square in 1989.

‘Dark day’

Eyewitnesses said the violence started on Sunday in Urumqi after a protest of a few hundred people grew to more than 1,000.

Xinhua says the protesters carried knives, bricks and batons, smashed cars and stores, and fought with security forces.

Wu Nong, news director for the Xinjiang government, said more than 260 vehicles were attacked and more than 200 shops and houses damaged.

Most of the violence is reported to have taken place in the city centre, around Renmin (People’s) Square, Jiefang and Xinhua South Roads and the Bazaar.

The police presence was reported to be heavy on Monday.

Adam Grode, an American studying in Urumqi, told Associated Press: “There are soldiers everywhere, police are at all the corners. Traffic has completely stopped.”

UIGHURS AND XINJIANG
Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
They make up about 45% of the region’s population. 40% are Han Chinese
China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
Since then, large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
Uighurs fear erosion of traditional culture
Sporadic violence since 1991
Attack on 4 Aug 2008 near Kashgar kills 16 Chinese policemen

A witness in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar told AP there was a protest there on Monday of about 300 people but there were no clashes with police.

It is still unclear who died in Urumqi and why so many were killed.

The Xinjiang government blamed separatist Uighurs based abroad for orchestrating attacks on ethnic Han Chinese.

But Uighur groups insisted their protest was peaceful and had fallen victim to state violence, with police firing indiscriminately on protesters in Urumqi.

Dolkun Isa, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in Munich, disputed the official figures, saying the protest was 10,000 strong and that 600 people were killed.

He rejected reports on Xinhua that it had instigated the protests.

Xinhua had quoted the Xinjiang government as blaming WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer for “masterminding” the violence.

But Mr Isa said the WUC had called on Friday only for protests at Chinese embassies around the world.

Pedestrians pass a burned out car in Urumqi, 6 July

More than 260 vehicles were destroyed in Urumqi, officials said

Alim Seytoff, the vice-president of another Uighur group – the US-based Uighur American Association – condemned the “heavy-handed” actions of the security forces.

“We ask the international community to condemn China’s killing of innocent Uighurs. This is a very dark day in the history of the Uighur people,” he said.

When asked about the rioting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that all governments must protect freedom of speech and “the life and safety of civilian populations”.

A spokesman for UK PM Gordon Brown said Britain was urging “restraint on all sides”.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said he had raised the issue of human rights with visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao in Rome.

Internet blocks

The Uighurs in Urumqi were reportedly angry over an ethnic clash last month in the city of Shaoguan in southern Guangdong province.

A man there was said to have posted a message on a local website claiming six boys from Xinjiang had “raped two innocent girls”.

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July 3, 2009

Jackson tickets via internet draw

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 6:37 pm

Jackson tickets via internet draw

Fan outside Staples Center 3.7.09

The Staples Center was where Michael Jackson’s rehearsals were held

Tickets for a public memorial service for Michael Jackson in Los Angeles on Tuesday will be available via the internet, organisers have revealed.

Details were announced by AEG Live, the star’s promoter, which owns the Staples Center where the service will be held.

Eleven thousand free tickets are to be issued for the service. Only US residents can apply.

‘It’s about the fans’

Another 6,500 tickets will be issued for a simulcast of the service at the nearby Nokia theatre. It means a total of 17,500 fans will be able to see the events free.

Officials said 8,750 pairs of tickets would be allotted to the successful entrants after 1800 Saturday (0100 GMT Sunday) and notifications would go out later on Sunday.

If you do not have a ticket… not only will you not be allowed at these venues, you will not be allowed in this area
LA police chief Earl Paysinger

Those selected will be able to get their tickets via Ticketmaster on Monday, officials said.

No other details of the service itself were revealed.

Officials appealed to other fans to watch the memorial service from their own homes, amid fears that thousands of people without tickets could flood the area.

“If you do not have a ticket, if you are not credentialed, not only will you not be allowed at these venues, you will not be allowed in this area,” said Los Angeles police chief Earl Paysinger.

Michael Jackson had been rehearsing for his London concerts at the Staples Center.

In a press conference, family representative Ken Sunshine said they wanted to accommodate as many fans as possible.

“It is all about the fans,” he said.

Officials said that no funeral procession would take place and the memorial service would not be shown on screens outside the venues.

June 26, 2009

Web slows after Jackson’s death

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 11:35 am

Web slows after Jackson’s death

Google error page

The sheer number of queries concerned Google

The internet suffered a number of slowdowns as people the world over rushed to verify accounts of Michael Jackson’s death.

Search giant Google confirmed to the BBC that when the news first broke it feared it was under attack.

Millions of people who Googled the star’s name were greeted with an error page rather than a list of results.

It warned users “your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application”.

“It’s true that between approximately 2.40PM Pacific and 3.15PM Pacific, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson and saw the error page,” said Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker.

It was around this time that the singer was officially pronounced dead.

Google’s trends page showed that searches for Michael Jackson had reached such a volume that in its so called “hotness” gauge the topic was rated “volcanic”.

Fail

Google was not the only company overwhelmed by the public’s clamour for information.

The microblogging service Twitter crashed with the sheer volume of people using the service.

Google user graph

Searches for topics related to Michael Jackson peaked at 3PM Pacific

Queries about the star soon rocketed to the top of its updates and searches. But the amount of traffic meant it suffered one of its well-known outages.

Before the company’s servers crashed, TweetVolume noted that “Michael Jackson” appeared in more than 66,500 Twitter updates.

According to initial data from Trendrr, a Web service that tracks activity on social media sites, the number of Twitter posts Thursday afternoon containing “Michael Jackson” totaled more than 100,000 per hour.

That put news of Jackson’s death at least on par with the Iran protests, as Twitter posts about Iran topped 100,000 per hour on June 16 and eventually climbed to 220,000 per hour.

Early reports of Mr Jackson’s death and the confusion surrounding it caused a rash of changes and corrections to be made on his Wikipedia page as editors tried to keep up with events and the number of people trying to update the page.

TMZ, the popular celebrity gossip site that broke the story following a tip-off that a paramedic had visited the singers home also crashed.

There was a domino effect as users then fled to other sites. Hollywood gossip writer Perez Hilton’s site was among those to flame out.

Keynote Systems reported that its monitoring showed performance problems for the web sites of AOL, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Yahoo.

Beginning at 2.30PM Pacific “the average speed for downloading news sites doubled from less than four seconds to almost nine seconds,” said Shawn White, Keynote’s director of external operations.

He told Data Center Knowledge that “during the same period, the average availability of sites on the index dropped from almost 100% to 86%”.

September 6, 2008

When sex becomes an addiction

When sex becomes an addiction

(Expressyoureself) — “Californication” star David Duchovny made headlines for voluntarily entering rehab last week. But it wasn’t for drugs or alcohol. It was for another dependency, one that affects millions of Americans but is seldom discussed: sex addiction.

While sex can be healthy for a relationship, some people develop an addiction to porn, affairs, and other behaviors.

While sex can be healthy for a relationship, some people develop an addiction to porn, affairs, and other behaviors.

Sex addiction, also called compulsive sexual behavior, is like a gambling compulsion or alcoholism: It’s about devoting your free time to a behavior that you cannot stop, even if you damage relationships or prompt other negative consequences. That could mean extensively using pornography, having affairs, sleeping with prostitutes, and masturbating excessively, to the point where such behaviors get out of control.

If you think it’s just about primal desire, think again. For many addicts, sex becomes a way to numb out painful feelings, kill time or stop feeling lonely, says Kelly McDaniel, licensed professional counselor in San Antonio, Texas, and author of “Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction.”

“Most people I talk to get to the point where they don’t even like sex,” said McDaniel, who has no connection to David Duchovny and did not speculate about his specific situation.

Who are sex addicts?

Sex addiction is estimated to affect 3 to 6 percent of adults in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic, but the American Psychiatric Association has not classified the condition in its diagnostic handbook. Sexhelp.com, run by psychologist Patrick Carnes, provides an online test to help people determine if they have a problem.

The Internet, providing endless opportunities for porn-watching and cybersex, has fueled a surge in cases of sex addiction, experts say.

“We’re seeing it with epidemic proportions now, particularly with regards to cybersex,” said Mark Schwartz, psychologist and former director of the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. “There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t get two calls” about sex addiction.

Don’t Miss

  • David Duchovny in rehab for sex addiction
  • Sexhelp.com: Sexual addiction screening test

Therapists have recently seen more women with the condition in connection with Internet porn, which has become a “gender-neutral” addiction, McDaniel said. Before, female sex addicts generally tended to have affairs or become sex workers, she said.

Experts acknowledge that people who have affairs or use pornography are not necessarily sex addicts. Such pastimes form an addiction when they generate negative consequences for a person’s relationships, take over free time and become impossible to quit.

Where does it come from?

About 80 percent of sex addiction cases have sexual abuse or emotional trauma in their backgrounds, said Doug Weiss, therapist and executive director of the Heart to Heart Counseling Center. Schwartz also noted that huge numbers of people coming forward as sex addicts have been abused, assaulted or raped.

“When you have abuse in your background, you’re less likely to trust people, [and] you’re more likely to turn to something like sex addiction as a manifestation,” Schwartz said.

Feelings of neglect as a child — whether from divorced parents or parents who both worked and didn’t spend a lot of time with their kids — may also lead to sex addiction, Schwartz said.

Research into the neuroscience of sex addiction has not been conclusive, the Mayo Clinic said. Naturally occurring chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin do contribute to sexual functioning, but it’s not clear how they are related to sex addiction. McDaniel said these two chemicals are lower in the brains of children who have suffered abuse, which may explain why some of them use their own bodies — or, in other cases, food — to increase dopamine and serotonin levels.

A lot of teenagers develop their sexuality with pornography, and then find that relational sex isn’t as satisfying, Weiss said. Porn gives them a “very strong chemical hit,” and alters ways of thinking about sex, somewhat like the classic “ring the bell, feed the dog” stimulus-response mechanism. Addicts thus learn to become sexually attached to objects, and have trouble getting the same kind of satisfaction from sex in a relationship, he said.

For many people, especially women, sex addiction occurs in tandem with another problem such as an eating disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, McDaniel said.

How does treatment work?

A good treatment center will review the reasons why the addiction has come about, along with the brain chemistry of it, McDaniel said. A premier rehabilitation facility would have a combination of individual and group therapy, 12-step support, and possibly psychiatric medications such as antidepressant medications if necessary.

Health Library

  • MayoClinic.com: Compulsive sexual behavior

The 12-step programs, which have components that parallel Alcoholics Anonymous, are the most widely used form of treatment, said Sam Alibrando, therapist and consultant in Pasadena, California. They involve having a sponsor and being available for others in the group at any time. Anecdotally, however, they work less well than AA because sex is harder to give up, said Alibrando, author of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst.”

“Treatment is long-term, and it’s not easy,” McDaniel said. “I really recommend that a woman or a man find someone who’s trained and understands that sex addiction is a brain disease and does not further the shame that comes with this disease.”

Unlike drugs or alcohol, the goal of sex addiction therapy is usually not abstinence, but rather learning to have sex in a relationship, experts say. Similarly, someone who recovers from an overeating disorder does not stop eating entirely but learns how to manage diet. Marriage counseling often becomes part of the treatment, Weiss says.

The goals of recovery vary for different people, says Alibrando. He’s currently treating a couple in which the wife cannot tolerate her husband even looking at other women. On the other end of the spectrum, he has treated couples in which a woman will buy her boyfriend pornography.

“The spectrum is so wide in terms of where people draw the line,” says Alibrando.

Some recovering addicts join support groups requiring that members only have sex with their partners, even prohibiting masturbation.

What’s after recovery?

Weiss considers himself a former sex addict, having recognized his problem in his early 20s. Women weren’t making him happy; he was using pornography and felt “in conflict” about it.

Now, he runs a resource Web site for recovery at sexaddict.com, along with three-day intensive workshops to jump-start recovery for sex addicts.

Weiss said he’s proud of Duchovny for voluntarily seeking help, apparently without prodding from press reports or lawsuits.

“This kind of person who decides to get recovery for themselves without getting exposed” is “likely to get better,” he said. “People who voluntarily get better have a much better chance of staying well.”

August 26, 2008

Bank customer data sold on eBay

Bank customer data sold on eBay

EBay sign

eBay was first launched as Auction Web in 1995

An investigation is under way into how a computer containing bank customers’ personal data was sold on an internet auction site.

The PC, which was reportedly sold for £35 on eBay, had sensitive information on the hard drive.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and its subsidiary, Natwest, have confirmed their customers’ details were involved.

RBS says an archiving firm told it the PC had apparently been “inappropriately sold on via a third party”.

It said historical information relating to credit card applications for their bank and others had been on the machine.

The information is said to include account details and in some cases customers’ signatures, mobile phone numbers and mothers’ maiden names.

RBS and Natwest – two of the three businesses involved – said they are taking the issue very seriously and are working to resolve it “as a matter of urgency”.

A spokeswoman for data processing company Mail Source, which is part of the archiving firm Graphic Data, said it was investigating how the computer equipment had been removed from a secure location.

“The IT equipment that appeared on eBay was neither planned nor instructed by the company to be disposed.”

Clearly such details should never have been included in the hard drive of the computer offered for sale on eBay
eBay spokesman

When financial data goes missing

She said the incident was extremely regrettable and the firm was “taking every possible step” to retrieve the data and ensure it was an isolated incident.

It is thought the problem came to light when Andrew Chapman, an IT manager from Oxford, bought the computer, noticed the data and raised the alarm.

The Daily Mail said the computer, containing a million bank customers’ personal data, had been sold for £35.

A spokesman for eBay said they were currently looking into what had happened.

“Clearly such details should never have been included in the hard drive of the computer offered for sale on eBay. We fully expect Mr Chapman to hand it back to Graphic Data as soon as possible. We will of course work with Graphic Data to establish how it came to be available for sale on our site.”

Banks have an obligation under the Data Protection Act to keep all personal information secure.

Last year the Financial Services Authority fined the Nationwide Building Society £980,000 for a security breach, after a laptop containing customer data was stolen from an employee’s home.

August 25, 2008

No leads on Thailand disappearance

No leads on Thailand disappearance

Courtesy BBC News

Danny Hall on The Weakest Link

Danny Hall is a former winner of TV quiz show The Weakest Link

How can someone disappear without trace on a small island?

That is the question nagging the family and friends of Danny Hall, a British backpacker who went missing in the southern Thai resort of Koh Pha Ngan six months ago.

The disappearance of the 36-year-old – last seen on 25 February – has baffled investigators and loved ones alike.

A roadie and former winner of TV quiz show The Weakest Link, Mr Hall had been on his third trip to Thailand when he was last seen after the island’s world-famous Full Moon Party.

Every month, it is estimated up to 25,000 revellers descend on Koh Pha Ngan for the all-night beach rave.

For most of the party-goers their worst experience is likely to be waking up with a hangover.

But the British foreign office website warns that incidents of date rape have been reported at the event.

Danny Hall
I’ve kind of accepted I’m never going to see him again. But someone must have seen something, someone must know something
Roy Twemlow
Danny Hall’s friend

The Bangkok Post reported in April that a Koh Pha Ngan police chief had recently been transferred amid a rising crime rate and complaints about visitors’ safety.

Meanwhile, a number of accounts of tourists being attacked on the island can be found on internet travel chatrooms.

Mr Hall’s friend, Roy Twemlow, was one of the last people to speak to him when he rang Mr Twemlow from a bar, in the afternoon following the Full Moon Party.

The pair became friends at Birmingham University, where Mr Hall, from Norwich, England, graduated with an honours degree in history.

The 36-year-old said: “It was about 2pm when [Danny] rang me and he sounded fine, he didn’t sound panicked. It’s just not like him to vanish without trace.

“I’ve kind of accepted I’m never going to see him again. But someone must have seen something, someone must know something.

Full Moon Party reveller

“Danny’s very sociable, makes friends easily and is highly intelligent. He’s also very non-confrontational.”

On arriving in Thailand at the end of January, Mr Hall, who had worked as a roadie for The Rolling Stones and at England’s Glastonbury music festival, spent a week in Bangkok at Mr Twemlow’s home.

“He wasn’t moping around or depressed,” recalls his friend. “It was just the same old Danny.”

Mr Twemlow, a teacher who has lived in Thailand for a decade, travelled down to Koh Pha Ngan to investigate after Mr Hall had been reported missing.

He expected to find police on the island in the midst of a full investigation when he arrived at the end of April.

‘Disgrace’

But he says: “When I got to Koh Pha Ngan, the police knew very little about the case, they hadn’t even searched the area where Danny was last seen. It’s a bit of a disgrace really.”

Danny Hall

Mr Hall (right) on the day he was last seen in the Backyard Bar

Mr Twemlow found his friend’s possessions – a backpack and an acoustic Yamaha guitar – left in his accommodation, a hut at the island’s secluded Hat Yao beach. But Mr Hall’s passport and money belt have not been found.

American backpacker Chris Chester, who met Mr Hall on Koh Pha Ngan a week before his disappearance, but did not attend the Full Moon Party, raised the alarm within three of four days of the Briton vanishing.

The 39-year-old said he and his German girlfriend had met up with Mr Hall almost daily, going to the beach, relaxing with a massage and shopping.

“He had been in regular contact with us the whole time, so when we didn’t hear from him for a couple of days I thought it was pretty strange. I started trying to find him and asking around,” he said.

Mr Chester checked hospitals and clinics on Koh Pha Ngan and neighbouring Koh Samui in his search for the missing tourist, but to no avail.

“There was nothing to suggest he was depressed. I really can’t fathom what happened to him,” he said.

‘Totally bizarre’

Mr Hall is known to have joined dozens of party-goers at the Backyard Bar for an “after-party”, on the morning after the Full Moon rave.

Danny Hall

Thai police say Mr Hall’s bank account remains dormant

Niki Kursakul, 45, from Sydney, Australia, who is married to the Thai owner of the bar, described Mr Hall’s disappearance as “totally bizarre”.

The mother-of-two, who has lived in Thailand for 16 years, said: “It’s very, very strange. The bar isn’t near a beach but I suppose it’s possible he could have wandered down to the sea, gone swimming and got into difficulty.

“But a body would usually get washed up if someone drowned. If he’d fallen or had an accident near the bar he would have been found by now.

“There can be the occasional fight [in the Backyard Bar] but no-one saw any argument taking place that day as far as I know.”

Bangkok’s ministry of foreign affairs said the Thai authorities were working closely with Mr Hall’s family and friends and the British embassy to investigate his disappearance.

Danny Hall

Mr Hall’s friends have launched an appeal to help find him on Facebook

Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said: “The safety of tourists in Thailand is a matter of great concern to the Royal Thai Government.”

He said the number of visitors to Thailand was on the rise and that the country’s popularity was “due, among other things, to the hospitality and safety tourists can expect when visiting Thailand”.

Thai Police Colonel Chataree Pandum said Mr Hall’s bank account remains dormant since he disappeared and investigators believe the Briton did not leave the island.

Norfolk Constabulary in England said they were treating Mr Hall as a missing person – as is the UK foreign office – but that officers currently had no plans to travel to Thailand.

In the meantime, the agony for Mr Hall’s loved ones continues.


Have you ever been to Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party? What was your experience? Tell us

August 23, 2008

Obama hits McCain on homes gaffe

Obama hits McCain on homes gaffe

John McCain

Mr McCain accused Mr Obama getting a felon to help him buy his home

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has hit out at opponent John McCain for being unable to tell an interviewer how many homes he owns.

Mr McCain’s staff later said that the Republican contender owned “at least four” houses, although Mr Obama claimed that Mr McCain actually owned seven.

The row started when a video was posted on the internet accusing Mr McCain of enjoying a lavish lifestyle.

The McCain camp said a convicted felon had helped Mr Obama to buy his home.

The BBC’s Katty Kay followed the makers of the video as it was being produced.

‘Lost track’

During an interview with reporters from the Politico website, Mr McCain was asked how many houses he owned:

“I think – I’ll have my staff get to you,” he said.

“It’s condominiums where – I’ll have them get to you.”

Seizing on Mr McCain’s remarks, Mr Obama’s campaign released an attack advert saying that if “Mr McCain has lost track of how many houses he owns… here’s one house America can’t afford to let John McCain into” over footage of the White House.

In a reference to recent positive remarks by Mr McCain about economic conditions, Mr Obama said in a speech to supporters: “If you don’t know how many houses you have, then it’s not surprising that you might think the economy is fundamentally strong.”

Mr McCain’s camp responded to the Obama campaign’s criticisms by releasing its own advert, accusing Mr Obama of “getting help” from convicted felon Tony Rezko to buy his million-dollar mansion in Chicago.

The independent internet video that triggered the row was produced by Robert Greenwald, an Obama supporter who has put together a number of web videos in support of the Democratic hopeful.

BBC correspondent Katty Kay spoke to Mr Greenwald as he was making the video, before the furore erupted.

He told the BBC that he spotted early on the potential of the internet as a means of getting across a political message.

“We said: ‘Let’s see if we can use the new technology, not where it had been primarily used – which was naked women falling down in showers and other high cultural events like that – but we could use it for political storytelling’. And we’ve just passed 23 million views on our videos.”

August 19, 2008

Gary Glitter leaves Vietnam jail

Gary Glitter leaves Vietnam jail

Gary Glitter March 2006

Gary Glitter has reportedly said he wants to return to the UK

Disgraced ex-pop star Gary Glitter has been released from a prison in Vietnam, the authorities there say.

He had served most of a three-year sentence for abusing girls.

Glitter, 64, real name Paul Francis Gadd, is due to be deported after being jailed in March 2006 for molesting two girls aged 11 and 12.

Le Thanh Kinh, his lawyer, had said the authorities intended to deport him to the UK, but that he could use his British passport to travel anywhere.

He said that Glitter was released at about 1130 local time (0530 BST).

Tran Huu Thong, director of the Z30D Thu Duc prison in southern Binh Thuan province, told the AFP news agency: “He left our prison early this morning and he is now already far from here.”

And he told AP that guards were in the process of transporting Glitter to the Ho Chi Minh City airport, about three to four hours away from the prison in Binh Thuan province.

The former star had been expected to be driven under police escort to Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

He was thought to have a ticket to London – but there are no direct flights to the UK, which allows him the option of buying another ticket when he changes planes.

His lawyer said: “He has served his sentence and the authorities in Vietnam will deport him. He does not have any sentence to serve in London. If he wants to stop wherever he wants to he can do that.

If he wants to stop wherever he wants to he can do that
Le Thanh Kinh
Lawyer

“If he wants to he can change flights.”

He added: “The only problem is the countries he wants to go to, because he has to get a visa.”

However, the lawyer said his client told him he wanted to return to the UK, had a ticket to London and was eagerly anticipating his release.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was “a matter for Mr Gadd and the Vietnamese authorities” where Glitter went after he was deported.

If he does fly back to the UK, the disgraced star will be met at the airport by police and required to sign the register of sex offenders.

He will then be subject to monitoring and will have to tell the police where he plans to live and if he plans to go abroad.

And he could also face an order prohibiting him from going near children or using the internet.

August 14, 2008

Murdered couple in ‘scam’ probe

Murdered couple in ‘scam’ probe

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang studied at Newcastle University

A Chinese couple murdered in Newcastle may have been involved in a range of internet scams, including betting and providing false visas, police said.

Zhen Xing Yang and girlfriend Xi Zhou died after a “frenzied” knife attack at a flat in Newcastle’s West End.

Detectives revealed information on a seized computer and three mobile phones showed the pair may also have arranged forged professional qualifications.

The 25-year-old Newcastle University graduates, were found dead on 9 August.

Det Supt Steve Wade, leading the murder investigation, said: “A possible motive for the killings is beginning to emerge concerning the lifestyle of Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang.

“Community intelligence supported by the examination of computer equipment and mobile call data has shown that both of the victims have been involved in fraudulent activity which has angered and upset a number of people.

Televised matches

“We are currently investigating this as a possible motive for the killings.”

One line of inquiry involves claims Mr Zhen recruited spectators online to send live updates from UK football matches.

It is claimed syndicates in China, where matches are televised a minute behind, could take advantage of this.

Information passed to Northumbria Police includes details of adverts placed on UK-based Mandarin-language websites, recruiting people to watch football matches around the world.

One reads: “It is a very simple job, any student who is interested, please contact Zhen Xing Yang.”

An ad posted under the name CICI-UK, his girlfriend’s nickname, on the powerapple website last October, reads: “Work: Watch football games and send live information to people.

“Requirement: Basic understanding of football rules, no professional background needed, advantage if you have a car.

“Location: Sheffield, London, Blackpool, Portsmouth, York, Hull and many other places.”

Similar adverts requested live information from the Mexican League.

CCTV of Xi Zhou in street

Xi Zhou was caught on CCTV travelling home from work

The couple were found dead in separate bedrooms at the downstairs flat by friends on the afternoon on 9 August.

Police said Mr Zhen was “assaulted for more than an hour” before being stabbed. They believe passers-by may have heard his screams.

A post-mortem examination revealed he suffered extensive bruising to his arms before he died.

Examinations also showed Miss Xi may have been asphyxiated as well as stabbed during the attack.

The body of a cat, which had been drowned and hidden in a washing bowl underneath the bathroom sink, was probably killed by the couple’s murderer, said police.

An offender profiler has been brought in to help establish a motive for the killings.

Police have also released CCTV images taken as Miss Xi traveled home from work at the Wagamama restaurant in Newcastle last Thursday afternoon.

Police have not been able to find any occupation for Mr Zhen since he completed his degree in September 2006.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “We continue to look into the lifestyle of both victims and internet websites form part of this investigation.

“We cannot comment further at this stage.”

Spending on communications falls

Spending on communications falls

Person using mobile phone, PA

Mobile use has doubled in five years, Ofcom says

Britons are spending more time using communications services but paying less for them, says an Ofcom report.

Every day in 2007, the average consumer spent 7 hours and 9 minutes watching TV, on the phone, using the internet or using other services, it says.

Since 2002, mobile use has doubled and PC and laptop use has grown fourfold, says the watchdog’s annual review.

But the average UK household spend on communications in 2007 was £93.63 a month – a fall of £1.53 on 2006.

TV remains the most popular pastime, with the average person watching for 3 hours and 38 minutes a day last year.

In 2007 the average person in the UK spent 24 minutes per day on their computer and 10 minutes using their mobile.

Graph showing household spend on communications services between 2002and 2007

Ofcom’s annual communications market review notes that monthly spend on communications has fallen for three years in a row.

Ofcom says consumers are getting increasingly canny about the way they buy services, switching providers or paying one fee for a bundle of services.

COMMUNICATIONS FACTS
Communications industry revenue topped £51.2bn in 2007
Average households spend £93.63 per month on communications services
87.2% have digital television
80% of new TV sales are high-definition sets
40% buy communications services in a bundled package
44% of adults use text messaging every day
36% of adults use the net every day
Source: Ofcom market review

Lower prices for broadband are one factor, with the average household spending £9.45 for an internet connection in 2007 compared with £9.87 in 2006.

Fierce competition between broadband providers is causing some concern that it may be difficult for the industry to raise the investment needed for faster networks.

But the report shows that broadband take-up is continuing to grow both at home and on the move.

By the end of 2007, Ofcom found, 58% of homes had broadband, compared with 52% a year earlier.

Dongle surge

The real surge, though, came in the use of mobile broadband after a big marketing push by mobile phone companies selling so-called “dongles”.

Between February and June this year, monthly sales of these devices, which give internet access to laptop users, rose from 69,000 to 133,000 a month.

According to Ofcom figures, two million people say they have used mobile broadband via a dongle or similar device and three-quarters of them say they use it at home as well as on the move – evidence that the mobile operators are beginning to compete with fixed-line businesses for broadband customers.

Children watching TV, BBC

TV retains its popularity despite booming net, mobile and computer use

British consumers are also spending more time on the phone than ever before, with a 21% increase in minutes spent on mobile calls.

Even fixed-line calls are holding up with Ofcom seeing just a 2% fall in minutes spent calling.

The Ofcom report paints a picture of a country where consumers are making more and more use of modern media services – from YouTube to personal video recorders – while still retaining an interest in the traditional services.

Digital television is now in use in 87% of British homes, with many having hundreds of channels to choose from. Despite the variety, 57% of viewing in these multi-channel homes is of the five main channels.

Ofcom also noted that while the amount of TV viewing is up on 2006, the longer term trend shows a slight decline in viewing.

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