Bilic Mutes the Mutiny at the Last but West Ham’s Battlers Need a Plan


London — Midway through the first half, Slaven Bilic switched his wingers. Michail Antonio went left, André Ayew went right. It was a sure sign that Bilic’s tactics were malfunctioning.

In theory it made sense for West Ham United to start in a 4-4-2 system, which plays to the strengths of both Andy Carroll and Javier Hernández, for the first time this season. Yet a plan that looks good on paper will never work if players are confused by their instructions and in practice West Ham’s ponderous approach rarely stretched Swansea City. There was no flow, no rhythm, and the disgruntled atmosphere at the London Stadium grew to a mutinous pitch when Diafra Sakho replaced the ineffective Hernández in the 78th minute.

A dire game was drifting towards a goalless draw and for the first time there was a sense of the narrative shifting against Bilic, whose hold over a hitherto adoring public seemed to be slipping, belatedly allowing the board to contemplate sacking the Croat without having to worry about a supporter backlash. Hernández furiously shook his head on the bench and the crowd sympathised with the £16m striker’s incandescence at having made way instead of Carroll.

Yet a prominent theme during the past 12 months has been West Ham’s knack of grinding out an ugly win just when Bilic is thought to be on the brink. It happened on several occasions last season and the pattern continued when Sakho, who tried to engineer a move to Rennes in the summer, vindicated Bilic’s unpopular decision by converting a cross from his fellow substitute Arthur Masuaku in the 90th minute.

There was a similar vibe when West Ham responded to losing their first three games by earning an unconvincing victory against Huddersfield Town last month and there is a temptation to conclude that winning while playing poorly is proof that a decent team will break out once confidence comes flowing back. It is partly this sense of longing that has protected Bilic, an intelligent and charismatic man who speaks articulately and wears his heart on his sleeve.

He is hard to dislike, which explains the desire to see him do well. Other teams in West Ham’s position might have downed tools in an attempt to force their manager out, but Bilic’s players continue to fight for him, masking the lack of any discernible style of play by demonstrating their battling qualities.

“I see that they want to do it,” Bilic said. “After the first three games, when we were on zero points, I didn’t see no discipline in the camp. On the contrary, I felt that we wanted to do it all together. Are they doing it for the manager or themselves? At the end of the day, it’s not important.

“You can talk about the quality of our performance today but we won the game because we didn’t give up. We didn’t raise unbelievably the quality of our game in the second half, but if I am on the pitch and I don’t care, it was the perfect situation not to care. But we didn’t. We forced that goal.”

The problem is that the longer this persists, the more Bilic will come across as a motivational cheerleader rather than a tactical mastermind. That might be enough to keep West Ham out of the relegation zone but it is not a solid foundation for success.

Having risen to 15th after picking up seven points from four games, West Ham have an opportunity to build after the international break. “Now I’m expecting for us to do much better,” Bilic said.

He is safe for now, but ultimately this was the kind of uneven performance that shows why his long-term future is less certain. Unless Bilic can snap them out of the wearying cycle of constantly needing a scrappy win to ward off a major crisis, West Ham will have few compelling reasons to extend his contract at the end of the season.

The Guardian Sport

Glut of Goals, Fresh Talent, Unpredictability Fuel Serie a Revival

London — There was a time when Italians might have been insulted by the suggestion of theirs being the third-best football league in Europe. Serie A was always il campionato più bello del mondo – the most beautiful championship in the world. How else to describe a competition that produced 12 European Cup finalists between 1983 and 1998, a place where you could watch Diego Maradona take on Franco Baresi, or Zinedine Zidane battle Ronaldo for the Ballon d’Or?

Nobody is blind, though, to the power shift since. Between TV deals and billionaire owners, Premier League clubs became able to offer wages the Italians could not match. Barcelona and Real Madrid kept pace by using the Champions League to solidify their status as global brands. Serie A’s most marketable teams were too busy squabbling over the Calciopoli scandal.

Even the Bundesliga, rich with well-run clubs and domestic talent, moved ahead in the continental pecking order. By 2014, the columnist Gianni Mura was writing in the newspaper La Repubblica that he had “never seen a Serie A of such scarce technical quality”.

So when Italy climbed back up to third in Uefa’s country coefficient rankings last month, it was a cause for modest celebration. In practical terms it meant nothing, since the top four nations will each send four teams to the Champions League from 2018 in any case. But to move ahead of Germany for the first time in seven years was a salve to wounded national pride.

The hope is that it also provided confirmation of Italian football being back on a positive trajectory. At the time of Mura’s lament, the opposite seemed to be true. Juventus were ploughing towards a record points tally but had failed to reach the last 16 of the Champions League. The only Italian side who did, Milan, got thrashed 5-1 on aggregate by Atlético Madrid.

Domestically, the tactical trend was towards ever more defensive formations. “Catenaccio has returned in its most rudimentary form,” wrote Mura, painting a picture of “bad full-backs dressed up as wingers”, playing in “three-man defences that are, in fact, a back five”.

Since then, however, Juventus have been in two Champions League finals and Serie A has transformed into a Wild West of attacking football. The goals are flying in at a higher rate in the Italian top flight (2.88 per game) this season than in any of Europe’s other top five leagues. The same was true last season as well. Only one game out of 49 since the start of September has ended goalless.

After six straight titles, Juventus’s hegemony is finally under threat. Napoli have not only won their opening seven games but scored at least three times in each. Just as Milan were elevated in the late 1980s by a former shoe salesman, Arrigo Sacchi, so Napoli’s rise has been masterminded by a man who was working in a bank at the age of 43. Perhaps it is easier to take risks when you are doing, as Maurizio Sarri describes it, “the only job I would do for free”.

And perhaps that boldness is catching. Serie A has not traditionally been a welcoming place for teenage talent but these days it is awash with it. Pietro Pellegri, born in 2001, was already the youngest player to take part in a Serie A game, and became the youngest to score a brace when he struck twice against Lazio last month. The 19-year-old Federico Chiesa stirs memories of his father, Enrico, at Fiorentina, and Milan, after spending more than €200m on new signings, have started games with a homegrown teenager, Gianluigi Donnarumma, in goal and another, Patrick Cutrone, leading the attack.

It has been a challenging start to the season for the Rossoneri, beaten three times already, but the ambition shown by their new owners, as well as those of neighbours Internazionale, has restored enthusiasm in the stands.

Milan achieved the highest attendance for a Europa League qualifier when 65,673 fans came to see them crush Craiova. A few weeks later, 51,752 turned out to watch Inter beat Fiorentina in Serie A, the biggest crowd the Nerazzurri had achieved for an August fixture since their treble-winning campaign in 2009-10.

Average attendances in Serie A are up by more than 1,500 per game from last season. The Milan clubs have played a part but so too have sides such as Napoli and Atalanta, the latter continuing to defy gravity with a core of players developed through their academy system.

We are not quite back in the age of the Sette Sorelle – Seven Sisters – when Juventus, Milan, Inter, Fiorentina, Lazio, Roma and Parma were all considered legitimate title contenders. But Serie A’s pool of stars is spread more evenly than it has been in the recent past, allowing eight or nine teams to at least aspire to a place in the top four.

Dries Mertens has been the greatest revelation, with 24 goals and 11 assists in the league since the start of 2017. But even outside the most obvious clubs, Lazio can boast Ciro Immobile – whose 13 strikes this season are bettered only by Lionel Messi across Europe’s top five leagues – Torino have Andrea Belotti and Atalanta the irrepressible Papu Gómez.Not everything is positive. Although a handful of clubs have followed Juventus’ lead by either constructing stadiums or taking ownership of their existing ones, progress remains painfully slow. Figures published by KPMG show Serie A revenues grew at a slower rate between 2011-12 and 2015-16 than in any of Europe’s other top leagues.

The gap between the top and bottom of the division, furthermore, has rarely appeared wider. A survey conducted by Gazzetta dello Sport found 58% of readers in favour of reducing the number of teams in the division to 18 or even fewer.

Overall, though, there is more good than bad. The introduction of the VAR system for reviewing major refereeing decisions appears to be making a positive impact, despite some heated debate, with the number of fouls per game down across the board.

Serie A has a way to go before it can confidently call itself the most beautiful championship in the world again. But more goals, fewer fouls and fresh talent coming through feel like a good place to start.

The Guardian Sport

Lights! Camera! Culinary School Will Teach Instagram Skills

Food photography

HYDE PARK, NY — Check out the tray liners at Martina, Danny Meyer’s new pizzeria in the East Village, which were designed as branded Instagram bait. Each has what the executive chef, Nick Anderer, calls “a frenetic doodle” of contemporary Roman slang phrases, images of wineglasses and pizza, and at the bottom left, the restaurant’s name.

And if you wonder why your Instagram shots of Martina’s pies look so good, credit the lighting system, which allows the staff to adjust bulbs individually, with “a warmer hue in the dining room than in the kitchen,” Mr. Anderer said, “so it doesn’t cast too much shade against the pizza.”

Almost two miles and a degree of insecurity to the south, the chef Gerardo Gonzalez relies on Instagram to sustain his first restaurant, Lalito, which he opened 10 months ago in Chinatown. He said a lunch special sells out immediately if he posts an Instagram photo of the new dish.

Seven years after its founding, Instagram announced last week that it has 800 million monthly users, and the camera-ready restaurant dish has become a cultural commonplace. High-quality images are as essential to a chef’s success these days as knife skills.

The people who teach those knife skills know it — which is why the venerable Culinary Institute of America will introduce two new elective courses in May, one in food photography and the other in food styling, to help students develop sophisticated skills not only for the plate but also for the app.

The classes will teach students how to work with digital cameras and lighting, how to compose and edit a shot, and how to cook for the still camera, “with the same values as if you were eating it, evoking the feeling that it’s going to be luscious,” said Kersti Bowser, a food stylist and institute alumna who is working to develop the courses with Phil Mansfield, a staff photographer at the school.

They hope to replace the excess they see on social media, with photos that communicate flavor. Ms. Bowser thinks people are becoming “numb to the shock value” of much of what they see. “It seems so fabulous, much of it,” she said. “I want food to keep its integrity.”

Students may start out with the same raw ingredients they use in cooking class, but the rules are different in the photo class: They may want to undercook chicken or fish to keep the skin from looking tired, and vegetables may be burned on purpose to better convey texture.

The students see proof every day of how important visuals have become. Jason Potanovich, an assistant professor and the executive chef at the institute’s showcase Bocuse Restaurant, monitors diners’ reactions from his glass-walled kitchen, as do the students who work there. Bocuse serves steak tartare on a small plate over a moat of herb tea, fresh herbs and dry ice, and the swirling cloud that surrounds the dish inspires many customers to reach for their phones before they reach for their forks.

A photogenic dish, Mr. Potanovich said, is “absolutely” likelier to stay on the menu.

But there’s another reason for the new classes: The goal of becoming a restaurant chef and owner is increasingly elusive, thanks to competition for top jobs and a stagnant restaurant market. So schools like the culinary institute hope to prepare their students for a broader range of careers. In the current job market, an expanded skill set can make the difference between being employed and still looking.

“We see a small but steady increased interest in careers specifically in beverages and wine, food education, nutrition and wellness, food media,” said Denise Bauer, dean of the institute’s three-year-old School of Liberal Arts and Food Studies. Students “want to prepare for a food career that might not focus on food service alone,” she said, but could also involve the creation of photos for a variety of businesses, from restaurants to media outlets to cookbooks.

Mr. Mansfield stressed that the photo and styling classes would not be Instagram-for-credit; real food photography requires many more skills and thoughtful judgment calls. The photographer has to decide how to position a pot of ratatouille in a shot, what bowls and utensils to use and which napkin evokes a rustic feel.

In one recent class-development session in the school’s photography studio, Mr. Mansfield tried a test shot, checked his computer monitor, adjusted the lighting equipment, tried again and still wasn’t satisfied. Ms. Bowser moved in with tweezers to rearrange some of the vegetables — which she had cooked one ingredient at a time, rather than as a stew, to get them ready for their close-up.

The institute is not the only culinary school thinking visually. At Johnson & Wales University’s main campus in Providence, RI, about 70 culinary arts students belong to a faculty-advised food photography club, and many keep digital portfolios during their four years at school.

“Our students have coined the term ‘plate-y,’ as in, ‘I’m taking a plate-y,’” said Susan Marshall, interim dean of the university’s College of Culinary Arts. “They’re proud of their work and want to share it,” which they do on the school’s multiple Instagram and Facebook accounts. Students can take an elective food-photography course through three other colleges within the university.

The Institute of Culinary Education, in Lower Manhattan, offers food photography and styling electives, said Michael Laiskonis, the school’s creative director and a former pastry chef at Le Bernardin. He estimates that “maybe only half” of the students he encounters aspire to a career in restaurant kitchens, and he anticipates more curriculum changes in the next five to 10 years to reflect that.

But for the die-hards who intend to open restaurants, mastering images is imperative — even if the definition of mastery is a moving target.

Mr. Gonzalez admits to being tired of the Instagram photo feed because, he said, “just food can get boring.” He thinks that the key to his restaurant’s survival is the Instagram Story, either photo or video, that disappears after 24 hours and encourages people to take a look more often.

He uses the feed like a bulletin board, to announce daily specials and events, but he also relies on the stories to provide a “visual cue” about Lalito’s personality by showing the scene inside the restaurant.

“The stories are not ‘here’s how to plate a dish,’ but ‘the people here are amazing,’” he said. “I understand that photography drives traffic, but I’m interested in having people feel part of something. I want to build regulars.”

(The New York Times)

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is Limping towards Life on the Sidelines


London – Just before Daniel Sturridge was withdrawn from proceedings on a grey northeast afternoon, he could be seen sitting on the turf clutching his left boot and looking in distress. He soon rose to his feet and headed to the bench as Roberto Firmino came on for him as one of two 74th-minute Liverpool substitutions, the striker’s expression turning to glumness as he did so. For those who follow Sturridge’s career it was a poignant moment and for the most pessimistic, further evidence that a player who once shone so brightly so often is slipping further into the darkness of a career unfulfilled.

It feels almost like a trick of the mind to remember it was only three years ago, at the climax of the 2013-14 season, that Sturridge was being spoken of as being among the most deadly finishers in Europe. It was the days of Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suárez, a doomed but thrilling title charge and, for Sturridge, 25 goals in 33 appearances. He was at his peak, ready to kick on, ready to become an Anfield legend. And then came the painful demise, literally given Sturridge’s injury record. A long and varied list, taking in more than 640 days on the sidelines since he arrived from Chelsea in January 2013, and it would not come as a surprise if that moment of distress against Newcastle was the onset of another forced absence.

That is where we are with Sturridge, and to some extent it is unfair given the player’s attempts to get himself in shape to be a potent force for Liverpool once more. He underwent hip surgery in May 2015 and, the previous Christmas, flew to Boston in order to get fit. But the knocks have taken their toll and chipped away at the player’s talents.

There have been goals – 26 in 76 appearances since the 2013-14 season – and hence excitement and intrigue at the rare start he was handed against Newcastle by Jürgen Klopp as the German looked to shake up a side that has shown a severe lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. Firmino was dropped to the bench, not a major surprise given the Brazilian’s somewhat tired displays in recent weeks, and Sturridge took his place as the focal point of a three-man attack, with Sadio Mané to his left and Mohammed Salah to his right. With Philippe Coutinho also deployed in midfield it was all set up for Liverpool’s No15, who had scored seven times in seven previous outings against Newcastle, to take his chance, in more ways than one. But ultimately he failed to do so as Liverpool drew 1-1 for the second time inside a week.

Graeme Souness, the former Liverpool captain and manager turned Sky pundit, described Sturridge’s performance as “labored”, while the judgments on social media were even more damning. The post-match statistics also did Sturridge few favors – he had just one shot on target during the entirety of his time on the pitch. And it was a decent opportunity, too, with the player clean through on goal following Ciaran Clark’s horrible slice just outside Newcastle’s area on 50 minutes. The Sturridge of old would have buried it; this version hit a tame shot straight at Rob Elliot’s feet and watched on as Salah also failed to convert the rebound.

In fairness to Sturridge, he did try to impact proceedings, during the first half in particular. Facing a deep-lying and compact back four, he drifted back in order to pull defenders out of position as well as to initiate attacks. On 19 minutes he put Salah through with a well-weighted pass and shortly after it was possible to hear the traveling supporters chant his name. They clearly appreciated Sturridge’s efforts, which while lacking Firmino’s relentless pressing did involve the closing down of opponents, as seen after just two minutes when Sturridge forced Newcastle’s captain Jamaal Lascelles to clear the ball out for a throw. But Sturridge’s display deteriorated after the break and it felt symbolic that he should be replaced by Firmino – for that is what has happened to the England international on a broader level following Klopp’s arrival at Anfield two years ago. A one-time regular is now a regular back-up option.

“It’s time,” the manager said when asked before kick-off why he had decided to start Sturridge, and few could disagree with that given Liverpool went into Sunday’s encounter having scored just seven times from their previous 126 shots. A high-quality finisher was required at a time when many of Liverpool’s top-four rivals have one of their own – Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Agüero, Alvaro Morata, Harry Kane. There was a time when Sturridge could stand shoulder to shoulder with them all, but no longer. The sharpness is not there, either with his movement or his finishing, and who knows when he will start for Liverpool again? Given their next two Premier League games are against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – either side of an important Champions League trip to Maribor – it is unlikely to be for some time.

“He was so disappointing,” Souness said. It was, and is, hard to disagree.

The Guardian Sport

Premier League Clubs Missed their Chance to Keep Christmas Eve Special


London – The almost total lack of regard in which broadcasters hold football fans is no secret, so it should have come as no surprise to learn Sky Sports is proposing to reschedule Arsenal’s home match against Liverpool for Christmas Eve in what the Football Supporters’ Federation has described as “a new low point in putting the interests of football broadcasters over those of match-going fans”. And yet somehow it did come as a surprise. Even by the notoriously cut-throat standards of TV networks scrambling for subscriptions, this seems unnecessarily grasping.

With an already hectic festive grind looming, footballers would almost certainly rather not play on Christmas Eve. Fans, some with other commitments and others faced with the return journey to and from London from Liverpool on what is a chaotic day for transport, would almost certainly rather not travel on Christmas Eve.

Matchday staff earning not much more than minimum wage for their shifts would almost certainly rather not work on Christmas Eve. On a day that vast swaths of the British population set aside for last-minute trolley dashes, family reunions, festive roistering and all the domestic disquiet that entails, we could almost certainly do without the added distraction of Premier League football on television. Couldn’t we?

Apparently not, despite the fact almost everyone involved apart from the broadcasting company that paid £11m for British TV rights for the match appears to agree it is a ridiculous idea. Even before a final decision has been made, both football clubs involved have complained, as have their supporters.

But while Sky Sports has not yet publicly acknowledged any of these gripes, early indications suggest it is likely to respond to this almost unanimous groundswell of disapproval by – yes, you’ve guessed it – scheduling a second Premier League match for the same day and transforming Christmas Eve into a Super Sleigh Bell Sunday featuring two games instead of the more traditional and generally accepted none.

A spokeswoman for Sky said she was not in a position to comment given the fixtures for December have not been selected but that an announcement will be made in the next fortnight. “Twice in recent years [2011 and 2016] Christmas Eve has fallen on a Saturday,” says the FSF. “In both those years the Premier League has not scheduled any fixtures for that day, presumably in recognition of the significance of the date. For broadcasters now to move fixtures to Christmas Eve, and on a Sunday at that, flies in the face of that policy.”

On Monday, it emerged the second match being mooted for rescheduling to Christmas Eve is West Ham v Newcastle, which would almost certainly occupy the 1.30pm TV slot and mean a round trip of 560 miles for traveling Geordies, who, unlike Father Christmas, do not have the luxury of airborne sleighs drawn by reindeer to speed them home.

Expect more entirely justified disquiet from a set of supporters whose location means they are already treated particularly contemptuously by TV schedulers.

The clubs, despite their predictable carping, can have no complaints as they are lying in a cash-strewn bed of their own making. When Sky and BT Sport paid a combined £5.136bn for the UK TV rights of the Premier League in the famously lucrative carve-up of February 2015, it was the former network that paid the lion’s share of the money, £4.176bn, to win the vast majority of the TV slots available. Two of those are on Sunday afternoons, with kick-offs at 1.30pm and 4pm, windows dictated at the time by clubs mindful of potential viewing audiences and hoping to rinse the maximum revenue possible out of the bidders.

Much to their delight the money duly arrived but in the ensuing contract negotiations the clubs either did not bother, did not want to, or perhaps just never thought to insist on clauses precluding Sky or BT Sport from rescheduling matches that would quite clearly inconvenience fans traveling long distances at great expense.

Evidently they also failed to reckon on Christmas Eve 2017 falling on a Sunday and the potential problems that might cause. Sky has two slots to play with on Christmas Eve Sunday. One can be moved to the previous Friday night, but this would still leave one Sunday slot vacant.

Should Sky decide to keep match-going fans and the FSF happy by not broadcasting Arsenal v Liverpool or any other match on Christmas Eve, it would to all intents and purposes be throwing away the £11m it paid for the right to do so. Even at a time of goodwill to all men, this course of action is one it would be understandably reluctant to take.

This could easily have been avoided. As equal shareholders in the Premier League, along with the 18 other clubs who comprised English football’s top flight at the time the deal with Sky and BT was struck, there was nothing to stop Arsenal, Liverpool or the other shareholders preempting such a scenario and colluding to ensure it never came to pass. They did not and, as usual, it is their fans who will suffer the most.

“Spirit Of Shankly have been made aware that Liverpool’s away fixture against Arsenal, scheduled for 23 December, is being considered for a move to Christmas Eve,” said a Liverpool’s supporters’ group, which pointed out the impact such a switch would have. “SOS are contacting relevant personnel to put forward our case that it is completely unacceptable to expect fans to travel for a match at this time. The suggestion of such a change again shows zero regard for supporters – much like the corresponding fixture where Euston station was closed over bank holiday weekend.”

The FSF has declared it will continue to work in conjunction with supporters’ groups to engage with the Premier League and broadcasters “to register our discontent and to seek full involvement and consultation with supporters in determining future scheduling”.

Good luck to them but history suggests their hopes of being paid anything other than lip service would constitute a Christmas miracle.

The Guardian Sport

Masked Clowns Strike Fear in Israel


Jerusalem, London – Israeli police are on the lookout for teenagers in clown masks after a group of them struck fear among Israelis.

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told AFP: “Police operations are continuing in different areas to protect public places and prevent further incidents.”

He noted that many of them were already detained, revealing that about 12 youngsters, including two 14-year-olds, were arrested over the past few days.

A previous police statement said that “dozens of youngsters from all parts of the country were detained for questioning after putting masks on their faces in order to sow fear and panic among the public”.

Rosenfeld said that they sought only to frighten people, not to harm them. “There haven’t been any attacks. It’s just been people dressed up and walking around with fake axes and fake knives,” he added.

The spokesperson has, however, warned that such pranks could go horribly wrong.

“There is a concern that such pranks will be interpreted as a real threat and will cause harm to the youngsters,” he said. “It is absolutely forbidden for people to take the law into their own hands and harm wearers of masks.”

Local media said that a victim of an incident in the southern city of Beersheba last week stabbed his tormentor, causing moderate injuries. Police did not confirm the reports.

Media have suggested a link between the phenomenon and the recent film based on Stephen King’s novel, “It”, featuring an evil clown who preys on teenagers. The Israeli police advised members of the public confronted by a masked person to ignore them.

“In these situations, move away from the scene and report it to the police as soon as possible,” the official police Facebook page says.

British Shops Refuse to Give up on Old Pound

London- Thousands of shops are likely to ignore the Royal Mint’s deadline of Sunday to stop accepting old £1 coins.
A trade organization representing 170,000 businesses has advised its members to continue taking the coins, because the changeover period with the new coins has been so short.

From midnight on Sunday 15 October, the coins will lose their legal tender status. After this date, shops and restaurants should no longer accept them. According to the Guardian, with a week to go, about 500 million coins are still in circulation.

Poundland (the British version of one dollar shops) said more than 850 of its UK stores would continue accepting the coins until October 31.

According to AFP, the new coin has 12 sides, and is not disk-shaped like the old one. The ministry said it has security features to thwart criminals, noting that one in every 30 £1 coins in the market has been fake.

The current pound has accompanied the British consumers in their daily lives for more than 30 years, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

The new coin is thinner, slightly lighter, and a little bit larger than the newly approved one.

One of the new pound’s faces still feature the photo of Queen Elizabeth II, while the other face features the symbols of England (Rose), Scotland (thorns), Wales (Balls) and Northern Ireland (clover) emerging from the royal crown.

Abu Dhabi Organizes Interactive Reading Session between Robots, Students

Abu Dhabi, London- The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has organized a workshop called the “Intelligent Robotics Initiative” for a group of students from the Department of Education and Knowledge schools.

This initiative, organized by the IT and National Library departments at the department, aims at familiarizing students with methods of using innovative modern technologies in line with the government’s vision of transforming the UAE’s cities into smart environments introducing first-of-its-kind services.

For its part, The Department of Culture and Tourism has already conducted several trials using robots for library activities such as reading stories and interacting with visitors, in particular students.

The workshop held at Mazyad Mall included an overview of robotics and their importance, emphasizing that the field of robotics is one that is currently witnessing rapid, pioneering progress, especially in developed countries.

Robotics technology has become a burgeoning international industry with the level of progress now a standard for measuring the industrial strength of a country. The robots provided by the department also interactively read a story to children, as part of the department’s social responsibility towards promoting the Arabic language and to increase the interest in reading among children in the country.

Through its initiatives throughout the year, the department seeks to develop literary interest in children by offering them attractive, interactive reading experiences that not only promote reading, but also help them develop a true understanding of the Arabic language at an early age.

Apple Watch Series 3 Excels, Even if You Don’t Need Cellular


New York – To understand why you might want the new cellular Apple Watch, put yourself in the shoes of a wealthy person who drives a weekend car.

In this situation, your iPhone is like your everyday workhorse vehicle, with the muscle to speed through emails, calendar invitations and social media posts. But when it comes time to unwind, you can leave the house with just a cellular Apple Watch — the equivalent of the weekend car — and still have access to a lightweight phone that can handle calls and text messages.

In other words, wearing the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity, which Apple will release Friday, is like owning a leisure phone that is excessive but situationally useful. Apple’s first wearable to include cellular may come in handy when you are at the gym and want to leave your phone in the locker, or when you go out for a run and want to remain reachable.

After testing the cellular watch for a week, I found it to be an excellent smart watch that is a significant improvement over the first Apple Watch, which was slow, confusing to use and deeply flawed.

But the cellular version is a luxury that most people probably will not need. The price you pay for those brief moments of respite from your iPhone is steep: at least $399 for the hardware, plus $10 a month for access on your cellphone plan for some carriers.

An Overview

Like its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a computer worn around the wrist, with a miniature touch screen.

The device requires an iPhone to set up and work properly. Notifications like text messages or social media alerts that come to your iPhone appear on the watch first if you are not actively using the phone. The watch runs apps, including some built-in software for fitness tracking as well as third-party widgets you can download from the App Store.

The main difference with the cellular Apple Watch is that some important features, like placing calls, texting and streaming music, will work when you are not near your phone; the watch shares the same phone number and cellular plan with your iPhone.

To help determine whether the cellular watch is right for you, I abandoned my iPhone to test the watch in a number of common situations. Here’s how that went.

Date Night

Over the weekend, my partner and I made plans to go to dinner at a sushi restaurant. I used the Apple Watch to summon a Lyft car to pick us up at home.

At the sushi bar, I liked that I didn’t have a smartphone constantly buzzing in my pocket, though I got a text that I quickly responded to on the watch using an emoji. My partner and I enjoyed 90 minutes of intimate conversation over omakase with minimal distraction, though I was a bit envious that she could Instagram our gorgeous nigiri. (Alas, the watch does not have a miniature spy camera.)

Verdict: I could have had roughly the same experience with just an iPhone put on Do Not Disturb mode — and a bit of self-discipline.

Dog Walks

For several days, I wore just the watch while walking my dogs. Not having a phone freed up valuable space in my pockets for other items, like my keys, my wallet, dog treats and bags. I liked that the Apple Watch tracked my steps and walking distance to make dog walking feel more like exercise than a chore. I placed a call to my partner with the watch to tell her where to meet me at a park; she said the call sounded crystal clear.

It was also nice that with just the watch, I could still be reachable via phone or text by my colleagues during morning walks — but emails took several minutes to show up after they were sent. It turns out that while texts and calls are done directly on the cellular watch, emails still rely on the iPhone’s pushing emails to the cloud, which then transmits the message to your watch.

Verdict: The watch is good for staying reachable via phone or texts. But in those brief moments when you need to step away from a computer during work hours, a smartphone is still necessary if you rely heavily on email, as I do.

Gym Workouts

I wore the watch and took a pair of AirPods, Apple’s wireless earbuds, to a rock-climbing gym. Again, I left my iPhone behind.

At the gym, I opened the Workout app to track my heart rate and calories burned throughout the workout. During breaks, I used Siri to write a few quick texts to some friends to make plans for the week. I put on the AirPods in the hope of streaming songs on the watch from Apple Music, only to realize that this capability has not yet been released. Apple said music streaming for the cellular watch will come out next month.

Verdict: It was nice being able to stay in touch with people at the gym without a phone bulging in my pocket, but I’d be happy unplugging for a while and tracking my workout with a non-cellular Apple Watch. As for whether streaming music makes a cellular watch worth owning, I unfortunately can’t tell you yet.

Grocery Shopping

Here’s where leaving my phone behind and relying only on the watch did not make sense: during grocery shopping. The watch doesn’t have a web browser, let alone a big enough screen, for looking up recipes. But when it came time to check out, I hit the side button to activate Apple Pay and quickly paid for the groceries.

Verdict: A smartphone is a better shopping companion than a watch.

The Bottom Line

The value of the cellular capabilities on the Apple Watch is questionable considering the price you pay each month.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, for example, charge a network access fee of $10 a month to share your phone plan’s texts, minutes and data with an Apple Watch. That’s about the same as a Spotify subscription, but with the exception of avid joggers and gym rats, people may not use the cellular features frequently enough.

Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).

Important features like the stopwatch, calendar and Siri work quickly and reliably. And unlike its predecessors, the watch has impressive battery life — on average, I had more than 40 percent battery remaining after a full day of use.

So the final verdict? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first sign that wearable computers are maturing and may eventually become a staple in consumer electronics.

The New York Times

Jack Wilshere Keen to Stay at Arsenal after Return to First-Team Fold


London – Jack Wilshere looks like a player determined to grasp every moment of football he is offered this season, and his mini renaissance since returning to fitness and the fold at Arsenal has made him want to commit to the club for the long term. Wilshere’s contract expires at the end of this season and given his injury history he is doing everything in his power to ensure he prolongs a connection that dates back to boyhood.

“Do I see myself staying? Of course I do,” he said. “I have always been at Arsenal, I love this club. They have been good to me over the years, I have a great relationship with the boss. He has played me since I was 17. He has put his trust in me since then. We have a great understanding and of course I want to stay.”

Past experience ought to have taught Wilshere to be cautious about what the future holds but his desire to play and enjoy football is so strong he walked off the pitch after an impressive 90 minutes against Bate Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday and could not resist saying: “I definitely feel I’m back.”

Wilshere’s positive vibes outweigh any wariness about how much football and how many performances are needed to convince others that this latest comeback has staying power. There were moments – imaginative touches and brilliant passes – that were classy reminders of his capabilities. Of that Arsène Wenger has no doubt. The midfielder’s capacity to produce his best over a season is less clear.

“You are always playing for your future but at the moment I am happy to be back, to feel part of the squad. It has been a while,” added Wilshere. “Last year I was at Bournemouth, year before I was injured. It has been a while since I felt a proper Arsenal player but I am back, in training, back in the squad, playing these types of games. I am doing everything I can to stay fit, training well, we will see. I am not looking too far ahead. We have another game Sunday, more League Cup and Europa League, so I am happy.”

He acknowledged that football critics have short memories and that being written off comes with the territory. “That is part and parcel of football. Football is a game where people forget. Everyone says ‘you are never fit’ but last season I was fit for the whole season. It was only in April that I got an impact injury. That was unfortunate timing but throughout my rehab it went well.

“People say it’s a long road but it was four months and I have had longer than that before. I felt good coming back to Arsenal and into training and the boss has been good. He has been speaking to me, been patient and I feel good and enjoy working with these top players again.”

Wilshere confessed that the night before the game in Borisov he was in the hotel and could not remember when he had last played a European away game for Arsenal. In fact, the answer was at Anderlecht in the Champions League in October 2014. Fellow team-mates that day were Mikel Arteta, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini. It must feel like an age ago.

Wilshere has not yet worked his way into contention to start in the Premier League but if he keeps up his current progression that should not be too far away. Arsenal do not possess too many midfielders blessed with the vision he uses so instinctively.

“As a player you want to be in every game, especially when you have been injured, but at the same time I understand they have been winning and playing well,” he said. “Am I 100 percent back? Maybe not. I felt good in the first half and start of the second and then fitness-wise it started to go a bit towards the end. But that is normal. It will come and I am patient at the moment and we will see where I am in three or four weeks.”

Wilshere enjoyed the challenge of playing in a tweaked position in Belarus, pushed further forward as part of the attacking trio alongside Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

“I was playing a different position, coming off the line to link with Theo and Olivier and especially in the first half it worked really well. I wasn’t playing as an out and out 10, I was on the wing and the boss told me to come into the pocket and pick it up.”

The 25-year-old was instrumental in helping Arsenal beat Borisov 4-2 and hopes that he can go from strength to strength. There is a lot to pin hopes on – a new contract and the prospect of a World Cup at the end of the season – but for now he is taking baby steps. He has stopped even looking out for the England squad.

“I am getting back to full fitness and of course I want to be part of that. I have only played two 90s in four or five months. When I am fit and playing in the Premier League, we will see.”

The Guardian Sport