Avoiding Cameras While Training the Lens on Food


New York – How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Pete Wells, The Times’s restaurant critic, discussed the tech he is using.

How has tech transformed the world of dining?

There are lots of incremental, behind-the-scenes changes that affect restaurants more than consumers, such as more sophisticated reservation systems and point-of-sale software, but I think the most powerful, sweeping change has come from digital photography hooked up to the internet. Photography is now the main way we communicate about restaurant cooking. As a word guy I hate to say this, but it’s true.

I wrote an essay about this a few years ago, when the outlines of the new world were just coming into view, and it’s much more clear now. At the time, restaurant designers were just starting to think about lighting the dining room so people could take better pictures for Instagram. Now they talk openly about it, and you see it everywhere. It’s the thing that killed off the last trend in lighting, those amber-colored dangling Edison bulbs.

Now everybody is installing pin spots in the ceiling pointing straight down at the table, which is why you see all these very sharp and high-contrast pictures of plates on Instagram. The restaurants are doing this because it’s largely free marketing. (Some Instagrammers are so popular that restaurants will invite them in for a comped meal, so it’s not entirely free.) I was told that one major restaurant publicity firm in New York has a full-time employee who does nothing but help restaurants with Instagram.

This solves one of the main problems that restaurants used to have in the days when “old” media was the only game in town: How do you keep people talking about your place after the initial buzz dies down?

Besides the marketing, there are creative implications. For one thing, chefs are much more focused now on sending out food that photographs well. So I end up eating a lot of flowers and leaves that don’t really taste like much but make the plate more colorful, because most cooked food is brown. Ditto all the boards and slates and rocks that are being asked to stand in for plates.

It has also sped up the rate at which ideas about food travel from one place to another. Chefs don’t just use photography for marketing. They are also documenting their work for their peers; you see this in the way René Redzepi in Copenhagen uses Instagram. It’s one reason his style has spread around the world in the span of just a few years.

And how has it changed the way you do your job? What are the pros and cons?

The best thing about having everybody take pictures of food is that I can do it without giving myself away. I used to be really self-conscious when I took out my phone; I’d run to the restroom and take surreptitious notes in the stall. Now I just snap away all night long, and I look like everybody else. And photography is the first stage of my note-taking now. After I get home I reconstruct my impressions of the meal, starting with my pictures of my food and the menu. When I started this job, a former critic advised me to steal menus when I could get away with it, and that’s completely unnecessary now.

What’s your opinion on Yelp, where everyone is a wannabe food critic?

I probably look at Yelp more than some other critics because I’m convinced there’s valuable information in there. The hard part is extracting it from all the useless stuff, which is what most people in food media see when they look at Yelp.

The basic problem is that Yelp was built to reward frequent posting rather than knowledge or insight or expertise. And yet there are people on Yelp who know a lot about food and eat around and have a pretty solid basis for comparison. I find that Yelp is most useful with Korean, Chinese and Japanese food, because, for a number of reasons, there tend to be a lot of Yelpers who know those cuisines pretty well.

How do you feel about delivery apps like Instacart, Caviar or UberEats? Do you use them much?

I don’t. I almost never eat at home, and when I do, I want to cook. I did use Caviar in the context of a restaurant review a few weeks ago and was pretty happy with how well it worked.

Sites like Yelp give people plenty of information about restaurants. Yet many restaurants still have their own websites. Is this necessary?

The most valuable thing a restaurant can do on its website is post the current menu and drinks lists, with prices. All the other data you might want, and there’s not really very much, can be served up much more efficiently by Google, although I still think website designers who don’t put the restaurant’s address and phone number and hours right on the home page should be sued for malpractice.

As our food critic, you have to stay unrecognized when you try new restaurants. How do you do that in an era that demands us to sacrifice privacy on the internet?

This isn’t a major issue. People are always surprised when I say that, but it’s one of the things that has been least affected by technology.

Before we had digital photographs, restaurants would get their hands on some old head shot of the critic from a book jacket or something — Ruth Reichl, William Grimes and Frank Bruni had all written books before they were restaurant critics — and then photocopy it and share it with all their friends in the business. I remember, in the 1990s, a friend who worked as a waiter showing me a picture of Ruth, who was the critic at the time. It was probably a 15th-generation photocopy, but you could still recognize her.

Now the fidelity and resolution are higher, but the picture of me that most restaurants seem to have on their wall is about 10 years old. There are a few more recent shots, taken across a dining room while I was eating, that are in circulation, but they’re pretty terrible. My friends know they’re not supposed to put pictures of me on Facebook. I don’t take selfies, but I probably wouldn’t be a selfie guy even if I had another job.

Most of the time when I’m recognized it’s because somebody is working in that restaurant who waited on me in another place I’ve reviewed. I don’t get caught by technology; I get caught by human memory. It’s sort of reassuring, I guess.

The New York Times

Everton’s Lukaku-Shaped Hole Leaves Praise of Summer Buys Looking Hollow


London — An ancient cliche was conspicuous by its absence when Everton’s owner, Farhad Moshiri, gave Ronald Koeman a vote of confidence the other day. Older football followers in particular might have noted that in reporting it hardly anyone used the word “dreaded”.

Presumably it is safe to say votes of confidence are still dreaded, because no manager particularly wants one and they still tend to mean what they always meant, that the stay of execution will be terminated anyway if results cannot be quickly improved.

But the V of C itself does not seem to belong in the Premier League era; it is a throwback to the dim and distant past and the sort of relationship between chairman and manager encapsulated in The Damned United when Jim Broadbent spells out the facts of football life to Michael Sheen in the middle of the pitch at a deserted Baseball Ground. The facts of football life being that managers are easy to remove and easy to replace, and therefore occupy the lowest rung of importance on the payroll, way below the players.

Things have changed a little since, not least owing to Brian Clough proving some of his former employers wrong. Managers are held to be highly important these days, and paid on that basis, with contractual safeguards to deter all but the most trigger-happy of chairmen from dismissing them on a whim. But what is also new in the present era is the fortnight-long international break, an uncomfortable period for any club going into enforced inaction on the back of a poor result, and Moshiri probably acted wisely and fairly in stating the club’s position clearly at the outset to try to give Koeman and his staff some backing and breathing space.

Whether Koeman deserves it after a disappointing start to the season remains a matter of lively debate, though Everton’s unfortunate opening serves to highlight another aspect of modern football, namely that it is difficult to gauge a club’s development on the field from its perceived success in the transfer window. Each year before the summer trading finishes a notional league table is drawn up based on comparative spending and quality of acquisition. Some clubs are judged to have bought well, others to have bought badly, and still others will be accused of not buying at all. Then the actual season commences, and within weeks these projections based on expenditure will be shown to be useless.

Remember Manchester City being mocked for spending a fortune on full-backs? Now those very acquisitions are being credited with the success of Pep Guardiola’s gameplan at Stamford Bridge, albeit with Fabian Delph standing in for Benjamin Mendy. Chelsea themselves were deemed to have had an underwhelming summer of transfer business, yet apart from the first-day shambles against Burnley seemed to be putting some impressive results together until injury struck Álvaro Morata.

Everton remain the attention grabbers here though, for they appear to have fallen into the trap of enjoying spending the proceeds of Romelu Lukaku’s sale without remembering why Manchester United were willing to fork out £75m up front. They were widely considered to have had a productive summer, at least up to the point where they admitted they would not be getting hold of Olivier Giroud. Koeman was praised for acting early and decisively, and the captures of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane were greeted as signs of ambition and proof that the club was investing for the long-term.

Wayne Rooney’s return could not be dressed up in quite the same way, and the inactivity after missing out on Giroud must have been disappointing for a manager who continually stressed his desire for a goalscoring target man to replace Lukaku, but the window appeared to end happily when Everton parted with a record fee to sign the long-term attacking target Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Except when the season started it became clear that not only Rooney and Sigurdsson but also Davy Klaassen had been signed for the same position, while the gaping hole left by the departing big fella in front of them had not been filled. Not even Koeman, it transpires, can see Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Sandro Ramírez maturing in time, and Rooney, just as Manchester United watchers warned, simply looks over-mature.

Burnley, in contrast, received few accolades for activity or imagination in the market over the summer, even though they broke their transfer record by paying Leeds £15m for Chris Wood. The New Zealand striker seemed to be just a duplication or a slight upgrade on players the club already possessed – the same could also be said of Jack Cork, Jon Walters, Charlie Taylor and Phil Bardsley – but the key here seems to be that Burnley had a good balance and a strong work ethic and quite sensibly decided not to disrupt anything.

Burnley are now being hailed as a tight, well-disciplined unit who play as a team and fight for every minute of the 90. Nothing new there – that was pretty much their hallmark last season – yet suddenly they are finding points easier to come by and proving troublesome opponents for even the biggest clubs. All on a modest budget with no great dramas in the transfer window. Sometimes, in fact, the size of some clubs’ budgets gets in the way. Arsène Wenger said a couple of years ago that people would have laughed if he had nipped over to France and come back with Riyad Mahrez, because people expected Arsenal signings to cost at least £10m. Maybe Koeman felt the same when it came to replacing £75m Lukaku. He said he wanted a target man but didn’t get his wish, yet Burnley picked one up for £15m, while Spurs landed the admittedly 32-year-old Fernando Llorente for a little less.

That is not to suggest either would have solved Everton’s problems, or even that Wood’s goals have been behind Burnley’s rise to sixth place. Just to point out that options are always available. The manager who claimed he didn’t want to go down to option C or D after missing out on Giroud has been left with his option Z, otherwise known as Oumar Niasse. It is unclear what Moshiri thinks about that, though plain to see that, despite bringing in half a dozen new players over summer, Everton failed to address the most notable departure.

Collectively that is quite an embarrassment for a club that pinched Steve Walsh from Leicester to head up player recruitment. No one imagined it would be easy to replace Lukaku; there are not many players of similar size and ability around, and whoever Everton brought in might have found it difficult living up to his predecessor’s strike rate. But Lukaku was always going – whatever else Everton say they cannot pretend they were caught on the hop. And after only seven league games two of the most frequently asked questions around Goodison over the past few years – are Everton a one-man team, and however will they manage without Lukaku? – now have answers. They just happen to be unflattering ones, and there are three months to wait for the next transfer window.

The Guardian Sport

Anti-nuclear Campaign Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Nuclear disarmament group ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its decade-long campaign to rid the world of the atomic bomb.

The International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons “is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,” said Norwegian Nobel committee president Berit Reiss-Andersen in announcing the prize in Oslo.

“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” she told a news conference.

Founded in Vienna in 2007 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN has mobilised campaigners and celebrities alike in its cause.

It was a key player in the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed by 122 countries in July. However, the accord was largely symbolic as none of the nine known world nuclear powers signed up to it.

The coalition of hundreds of NGOs says its main objective is the adoption of an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, along the lines of earlier agreements forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.

“A global ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue,” the organisation says on its website.

ICAN leader Beatrice Fihn, was delighted with the news that the organisation had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Reiss-Andersen said.

“This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path,” ICAN said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now,” it added.

Food Trends and Your Heart

The Nutrition Facts label is seen on a box of Pop Tarts at a store in New York

Cambridge- The type and amount of fat, carbohydrate, sugar, and salt in our food supply has changed over the years — for better and for worse.

Remember when packaged foods emblazoned with the words “fat free” seemed to be everywhere? Then came labels boasting “zero grams of trans fat.” “Sugar free” and “low sodium” claims soon joined the chorus. These days, gluten-free foods are all the rage.

For the most part, these food industry trends echoed the nutritional mantras of the time and were designed to improve our health — especially cardiovascular health. Not only is heart disease the nation’s leading killer, there’s overwhelming evidence that better dietary choices could prevent many heart attacks and strokes. But just how successful have these efforts been?

“It’s a mixed picture, but over all, I think we’re going in a good direction,” says Dr. Walter Willett, professor in nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The biggest change — and greatest success story — is removal of trans fats from processed foods, he says.

The trouble with trans fats

The main source of these harmful fats is partially hydrogenated oil, a longtime food industry favorite because it’s cheap, it’s easy to use, and it has a long shelf life. For decades, deep-fried fast foods, baked goods, crackers, chips, and margarine were made with partially hydrogenated oils.

But in the 1990s, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere began sounding the alarm on the adverse health effects of trans fats. Trans fats raise undesirable LDL cholesterol, make blood more likely to clot, and ramp up inflammation in the body — all of which raise heart disease risk. In 2003, the FDA began requiring manufacturers to list trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label to boost consumer awareness. As a result, many companies chose to stop using trans fats in their products.

In 2007, New York City pioneered a ban on trans fat in foods sold in public eateries, and the health benefits were apparent within just a few years. One recent study found lower rates of heart attacks and strokes in the urban counties that implemented the trans fat ban compared with other urban counties in the state that did not ban trans fats.

This healthful trend should be spreading throughout the country, thanks to a long-awaited FDA ruling to ban trans fats entirely from our food supply by June 2018. “At this point, about 85% of the trans fat has been removed from our food supply,” says Dr. Willett. For the most part, healthier unsaturated fats (such as those found in olive, corn, canola, sunflower, and safflower oils) have replaced trans fats. Some products now contain small amounts of less-desirable saturated fat from coconut and palm oils. However, many reformulated products cut back on trans fat without increasing saturated fat, according to a survey of 83 major-brand grocery store products and restaurant dishes.

These changes jibe with the overall improvement in fat quality in the United States, Dr. Willett notes. This trend helps explain why people who eat higher-fat diets (especially those that include more unsaturated fats) are better off than those who eat low-fat diets, as a major study by Dr. Willett and colleagues found last year.

The carb calamity

The low-fat craze that took hold in the 1980s turned out to have unintended — and very unhealthy — consequences. Following the nutrition dogma of the day, food manufacturers cut fat from their products. But they often replaced it with refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and sugar. Americans also began eating more carbs (think pasta, white potatoes, white bread, and sugary desserts). Eating less fat, however, doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight. And diets high in refined carbohydrates may contribute to weight gain and promote type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Just as is true for fats, some carbohydrates are far healthier than others. The best choices include unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, such as whole-wheat or rye bread, brown rice, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, popcorn, and corn tortillas. Recent diet surveys suggest a slow but steady increase in whole grains in American diets. They’re great sources of heart-protecting nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Going against the grain?

But some grains — including wheat, barley, and rye — also contain gluten, a protein that’s been getting lots of attention in recent years. “Gluten-free diets have been a big trend lately, but there is no good evidence to support these diets for most people,” says Dr. Willett. Exceptions include people with celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population. In people with the disorder, gluten triggers the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine, leading to gut inflammation, pain and other debilitating symptoms. Another small group of people who report feeling better when they eliminate gluten may have “gluten sensitivity,” but this condition isn’t well documented.

According to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 63% of Americans believe that a gluten-free diet could improve their mental or physical health. And up to a third of are cutting back on it in the hope that it will improve their health or prevent disease.

In fact, the opposite might be true. A recent Harvard study found that people who avoid gluten may eat fewer whole-grain foods. Also, gluten-free packaged foods may have more sugar, fat, and salt than their gluten-containing counterparts. Gluten-free diets aren’t inherently bad, but the way they’ve been translated into the average diet isn’t necessarily healthy, says Dr. Willett. People who need or want to avoid wheat should be sure to eat gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa.

Sugar: Good news, bad news

The carbohydrates that pose the greatest threat to heart health are the simple, refined ones — especially sugar. High-sugar diets have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, even in people who aren’t overweight. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks contribute most of the added sugar in the average American’s diet. But recent data show that consumption of sugary drinks has dropped by about 25% in the United States over the past decade, thanks in part to education campaigns and bans on soda sales in schools. This encouraging trend also seems to be slowing the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to heart disease, says Dr. Willett.

Unfortunately, other sugar-awareness efforts are on hold. In 2016, the FDA approved a revamp of the Nutrition Facts label that would require food manufacturers to list added sugars in their products, among other changes. The rule was originally slated to take effect in July 2018, but the agency announced earlier this year that it will postpone its implementation indefinitely.

One anticipated benefit of the label change was that companies would scale back the sugar in their products, similar to what happened with trans fats. In fact, some yogurt and beverage companies have already done so. It’s too early to know if this strategy will prove successful, however. Some food companies that tried removing some sodium from certain products (such as soups and vegetable juices) have now reintroduced it, says Dr. Willett. “Their competitors didn’t make the change, and the low-sodium products tasted different. We really need to create a level playing field,” he says.

Salt: Still too high

In 2016, the FDA proposed voluntary guidelines for the food industry to slash the amount of sodium in our food supply. Excess sodium (which pairs with chloride to form salt) is linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke. The average American eats about 50% more sodium than nutrition experts recommend, and much of is already in their food before it reaches the table.

Time will tell if the FDA guidelines will make a difference. But a recent study suggests that we’ve been moving in the right direction: the average amount of sodium that households acquired from packaged foods and beverages decreased by 400 milligrams per capita between 2000 and 2014. In the meantime, see “Choosing the healthiest supermarket products” for tips on reading labels and ingredient lists while you shop.

Choosing the healthiest grocery products

When shopping for processed foods — anything bagged, packaged, canned, or bottled — check the Nutrition Facts label. Note that the Daily Value (DV) is the recommended level of a given nutrient for a person eating 2,000 calories per day.

For saturated fat, look for a % DV of 5% or less.

The same goes for sodium: % DV 5% or less.

For sugar, there is no % DV, but experts recommend that women consume no more than 24 grams daily; men should limit intake to 36 grams per day.

When selecting breads, cereals, and grain-based foods, check the list of ingredients. The first ingredient should be a whole grain, such as whole wheat (not enriched wheat). “Multigrain” just means the product includes more than one grain — and they’re not necessarily whole grains.

(Harvard Heart Letter)

Antonio Conte is Not Alone in Brushing Up His Football English


London — Antonio Conte was snapped on the beach this week basking in the Italian sun, taking time off during the international break. Cue a few jokes about budgie smugglers, whether Diego Costa was invited and why, after a year in England, Conte was caught reading a book called Football English: Soccer Vocabulary for Learners of English, by Tom Challenger.

The book is a practical guide to football-specific phrases and terminology. It is broken up into thematic chapters – there is one for coaches and one for training – and set at three levels of difficulty. It is not a phrasebook, though. It is written entirely in English, so one needs a basic understanding of the language before one can start. “There’s nothing special about football English,” says Challenger, presumably referring to the vernacular rather than the book. “Within that community of speakers, however, they use particular phrases more often than others and I tried to identify those in the book.”

Challenger teaches English as a foreign language in Vienna, where he lives with his wife and trilingual child (German, English and Hungarian). His book was the result not of a gap in any market but a desire to improve his CV as a teacher. Over two years he hand-built a database of articles, press releases and interview transcripts from which he worked out the most commonly used terms.

“The idea is to give you the most useful language,” Challenger says. “The first chapter, for example, deals with what wages are and the fact in the UK we quote the salary per week. I think they should know what a cone is, what a marker is, what the outside of the boot is, because we tend to say boot rather than the outside of the foot. They should know what the difference is between manager and coach. Though that’s not really well defined.”

Conte, after the transfer window he has just had, can probably identify with that final statement. For Challenger, who was not aware of his newfound tabloid infamy when the Guardian spoke to him, what started out as a résumé enhancer has become a nice little earner (with an emphasis on the little). He self-published online and copies of the book are printed on demand. He estimates that, given the hours worked and the copies sold, he has made at least minimum wage from his endeavours.

Sales have also been rising year on year and Challenger suspects word is getting round in an industry increasingly using English as a second language, whether in the UK or not. “There’s actually a lot of English teaching going on within Premier League academies,” he says. “I also noted the Man United soccer school franchise bought 150 copies at one point. But it’s useful, too, for players in Austria who might want to learn English before a possible move or for players in a new league who use English as they adapt to the domestic language.”

Given the exposure provided by Conte, Challenger may expect an extra boost in sales yet. And as for the Italian, there is no shame in brushing up further on his football English. The intricacies, after all, can often be subtle. “One phrase that’s difficult to explain is ‘being let go’,” he says. “In many languages they won’t have a different word for leaving your job because it was your fault or just because of bad luck. In German, in fact, they don’t have that word.” Wonder if that is also true in Italian?

The Guardian Sport

Football is Heading for Trouble Over Brain Injuries Caused by the Ball


London — In happier times, there was a story Eric Harrison used to tell his players at Manchester United, as the coach who helped bring through the Class of ’92, about a piece of advice he once received from the centre-half he regarded as the hardest man he had ever seen on a football pitch.

George Curtis will always be best remembered as John Sillett’s managerial partner on the day Coventry City won the 1987 FA Cup. Yet for Harrison’s generation in the 1950s and 1960s he was the kind of centre‑half who could trouble even the most granite-jawed opponent. Harrison played with him on their national service and was always fascinated how a man of 5ft 11in won so many headers against players who were well over 6ft. “No problem,” Curtis explained, “early in the game, when the first ball comes up the middle, I don’t head the ball. I head the back of the centre-forward’s head against the ball – and he doesn’t usually come back for more.”

Harrison liked what he heard so much he adopted the same tactic, as you might expect for a man whose nickname during 10 years as a wing‑half at Halifax Town was “Chopper”. Harrison, by his own admission, saw every header as a personal challenge, no matter what was in the way.

Yet it had its consequences. His wife, Shirley, told me a story recently about her first pregnancy and the arrival of their baby daughter, Kim. Harrison was in another part of the hospital that day, suffering one of his regular concussions, and missed the birth. That one wiped him out for three days.

He is 79 now and the most famous players from his list of successes Old Trafford are still in thrall of their old coach. Yet it hasn’t been easy for anyone when they have called in to see him this year. “Eric still talks about them – Giggsy, Beckham, Scholesy, the Nevilles – but he doesn’t recognise them now,” Shirley explains. “He recognises me and his daughters, but not even the grandchildren. The players have all been to visit but it wasn’t the Eric they knew. Scholesy, in particular, found it really hard. They all did. It was upsetting for all of them.” Beckham had turned up with a carrot cake he had baked with his children and a bottle of whisky. Afterwards, he sat in his car and wept.

By now, you have probably read about Harrison’s deteriorating health and the inevitable concerns that maybe he has suffered from what the coroner in Jeff Astle’s inquest described as “industrial disease”, namely dementia brought on by heading the ball.

Nobody can be sure if there is a connection but, as Shirley acknowledges, it is something she and her family have to consider when there are so many stories of other former pros from bygone eras – in particular, players who were renowned for their heading ability – who have suffered the same way. Astle’s family have led the campaign for greater research, first featured in this column in March 2014, and maybe we are finally getting somewhere now the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association are planning to commission a study to examine the risks and see what can be done.

Yet it has been a bewilderingly slow process, to say the least, bearing in mind it was actually 2002 when the two organisations announced there would be a joint 10-year research programme and I wonder how Kevin Doyle feels about that now football has a story of a modern player who has been forced to retire, on medical advice, because heading the ball was causing persistent headaches. Doyle’s announcement follows what he describes as “numerous” concussions, including two this season, as a player who was always renowned for his aerial ability, scoring a high percentage of his goals that way at Reading, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Colorado Rapids. He is 34 and says his doctors have advised him to end a career that also features 64 caps for the Republic of Ireland to “avoid the possibility of these symptoms becoming more serious and permanent”. The risks are simply too great.

At least he has got out now, rather than subjecting himself to any more punishment, and hopefully that will mean no further problems, whereas there once would have been a time when a footballer in that position would have been encouraged to carry on regardless. Yet it always comes as a jolt when a professional sportsman is advised to quit on medical grounds and particularly in Doyle’s case when many of us, I imagine, might presume there is not a great deal to worry about from heading the ball in today’s game.

It is an easy assumption to make and I must confess I was one of those who thought the dangers had largely been removed once football phased out those heavy, leather balls, often saturated in water, that have been blamed for the issues relating to previous generations. That, however, might be a common mistake because if you listen to some of the experts who have been studying these cases it is a complete red herring.

The balls might be lighter these days but that just means they travel much faster. The game is getting quicker all the time and that means more crosses are being made and more headers are necessary. There might not be the same kind of physicality compared to the days, to quote Harrison, when “trying to break opponents in half” was part of your average Saturday afternoon. But the greater speed also means there is a higher risk of players taking accidental bangs to the head.

Willie Stewart, the neuropathologist who examined Astle and likened what he found to the brain of an old boxer, calls it a “lazy characterisation” to think of it as merely a problem of the past. Many people still do, however, and maybe that explains why the authorities in England have chosen to look the other way for so long, never taking the trouble to confront the evidence properly.

It is certainly worth recounting what happened after the FA promised the Astle family in 2002 that it would treat the issue as a high-level priority. Instead the family received two letters and did not hear from the governing body for 12 years until Greg Dyke, the then chairman, had the decency to apologise on behalf of a previous regime. The first letter was from the FA’s solicitors to advise against legal action. The next could easily be described as a sweetener – a tactic the FA used many years later with various sexual-abuse victims – by offering free tickets for the next England friendly, albeit with the rider that it would be difficult to squeeze them all in. Two seats was the limit.

Thankfully, there are other countries where they have devoted time to these studies without leaving the impression they had to be pushed into seeking answers. One study in New York found that players in their 30s who headed the ball 885 to 1,550 times a year had significantly lower water movement in three areas of their brains and those who did so more than 1,800 times tended to do notably worse in memory tests. American sports have been much quicker to recognise the dangers of concussion and when it comes to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease caused by repeated blows, Boston University announced last week there had been a significant breakthrough diagnosing it in living humans rather than having to identify it posthumously, as was previously the case.

The United States feels so far ahead in terms of its research, its response (heading has been outlawed for under‑10s since 2015) and its understanding that the people playing sport have a right to know the risks. It might not change the way they play, or what their coaches demand, but at least they would be in possession of the facts. Doyle moved to Major League Soccer in 2015. It doesn’t reflect well on English football that he might still be going up for headers every Saturday, come what may, if he had stayed put.

Burden of proof on Ox to show worth

Who did Gareth Southgate mean when he admitted being dissatisfied with his latest England squad and volunteered the information that “one or two players” did not warrant their places judging by their club performances so far this season?

Southgate was too gentlemanly to say but nobody should be surprised if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain featured prominently in the thoughts of the England manager after a run of form that has merely confirmed the view here that Arsenal did extraordinarily well to coax a transfer fee of £40m out of Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is a curious player because he certainly does not lack admirers. Arsène Wenger wanted to keep him at Arsenal and, as well as Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, Antonio Conte had him on his wish-list for Chelsea. Roy Hodgson spoke highly of him during his time as England manager and Southgate keeps selecting him.

At the same time, it is not always easy to understand the attraction and the difficult truth, looking back over his Arsenal years, is that it is trickier even still to recall a key fixture when Oxlade-Chamberlain has played the leading role. He has started only one game for Liverpool, a Carabao Cup tie, and if there are hidden layers it is time he found a way to bring them out. Oxlade-Chamberlain is 24 now and at that age no footballer should want to be talked about for mere potential.

The Guardian Sport

Dogs in Germany are the Top Victims of Smartphones

Cologne, Germany — The German Federal Intelligence Service has revealed that the German citizen checks his smartphone 90 times a day, and the number reaches up to 200 times among smartphone addicts. Generally, those who spend all their time using their smartphones would not pay much attention to their kid, dog, or cat.

A daily walk in nature is very important for dogs, but today, dogs’ owners prefer to “turn off” their pets on turning off their smartphones to take care of their pet, according to Ariana Ulrich, a dog behavior expert, from the Kennel Association.

About 9 million dogs are reported to live in German homes. Ariana pointed out that, on daily basis, she monitors smartphone owners’ lack of interest to play with dogs in public gardens. The daily walk with dogs lacks today from interaction.

Brigitte Bottner from the Animal Welfare Society said the distraction caused by the smartphone doesn’t just threaten pedestrians and drivers but also threatens dogs.

She added that dogs immediately notice when their owner is absent, so they would seek to entertain themselves with other dogs and children.

A dog’s mood could also change gradually, so it would become confused, tense and possibly a dangerous animal.

Thomas Rebe, a veterinarian specialized in dog psychology, said dogs learn and rejoice when they get a longer walk, and preoccupation with smartphones makes them mentally ill.

He said he receives many people at his clinic, especially young people, who complain about their dogs’ behaviors and disobedience. He pointed out that this change in the pet’s behavior is driven by the preoccupation with modern devices.

Canadian Research: Gossip is a Vital, Social Skill


London, Asharq Al-Awsat — Canadian researchers suggests that gossiping, one of the detestable human traits in most societies, is one of the vital characteristics to develop relationships among people.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa said men talk about cues to resource holding like wealth, and the athleticism of their competitors, while women use gossip as tactics to badmouth a potential rival who is competing for a man’s attention. Women also gossip more about other women’s looks.

This new psychological study finds that gossip is a highly evolved social skill and an intersexual competition tactic that relates to women’s and men’s evolved preferences.

According to Adam Davis from the University of Ottawa in Canada, the lead author of the study, gossiping is essential for interpersonal relationships, and not a flaw of character.

The study published in the Evolutionary Psychological Science provides the first verifiable evidence for a positive link between intersexual competitiveness, the amount of gossip that people take part in, and whether they are OK with such talk or not.

Scholars agree that gossip has evolved as an efficient way to learn more about others and to enforce group norms.

It is also a method by which people can learn more about their rivals, and can call into question their reputation, especially when they are vying for the same romantically or sexually desirable mates.

Researchers examined 290 heterosexual Canadian students between the ages of 17 and 30 years old who completed three questionnaires. One measured how competitive the participants are towards members of the same sex as their own, especially in terms of access to the attention of potential mates.

The other questionnaires measured the tendency and likelihood of the participants to gossip about others, the perceived social value of gossip, and whether it is okay to talk about others behind their backs.

It was found that people who were competitive towards members of their own sex had a greater tendency to gossip.

They were also more comfortable with the practice than others. Women had a greater tendency to gossip than men, and they also enjoyed it more, and saw more value in participating in such conversations.

Men were more likely to gossip about the achievements of others. Such talk among women often targeted the physical appearance of another and was used to share social information.

Japan to Test Parcel Deliveries through Drones

Tokyo, London- The Environment Ministry will test parcel delivery services using drones in sparsely populated areas in fiscal 2018, which begins next April, The Jiji Press, Japan’s news agency, quoted officials as saying.

The ministry aims to encourage a shift from truck transportation in regions where fewer parcels are delivered, expecting carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced.

In less populated areas of the country, mainly mountainous regions, parcel delivery services are often inefficient. For example, a truck may be used for a single parcel.

Drones are expected to become an alternative means of delivery, as they are emissions-free and able to make tight turns, the officials said.

In its economic growth strategy adopted in June, the government said it planned to make parcel delivery services by drone available in mountain areas in calendar 2018 and city areas in the 2020s.

Tanzanian President Reveals his Modest Salary

Dar es Salaam, London – In a first-of-its-kind step, Tanzanian President John Magufuli has revealed he earns a salary of 9 million Tanzanian shillings ($4,000) per month, making him one of the lowest paid African leaders as he pursues a much-criticized policy of deep public spending cuts.

In a speech to local officials in the capital, he also said his government had slashed salaries of executives at state-owned companies at 15 million Tanzanian shillings ($6,700) a month, more than his own.

He added: “They can leave if they don’t want it.”

He also explained that abuse of public funds was “rampant” at state firms and that he had rejected requests from some local officials to more than double their allowances, saying he could not do so while many citizens lack access to water, health care and electricity.

Since taking office in November 2015, Magufuli — nicknamed “the Bulldozer” — has cut government spending by imposing measures such as restrictions on foreign travel for government officials.

Magufuli’s salary is a small fraction of that of other African leaders. By contrast Kenya’s president earns a monthly salary of around $14,000, and Jacob Zuma of South Africa is paid around $20,000 monthly.