Posts Tagged ‘News’
Wonga have been getting it in the neck over all manner of things recently. There’s been a clampdown on payday lending rules, as well as big payouts over sending threatening letters to customers from legal firms they’d made up.
Then, the company that did their pensioner-based adverts said that they didn’t want to work with Wonga anymore, because of “certain practices.”
And things aren’t getting any better as the payday lenders are, according to Faisal Islam, going to “halve its UK workforce” thanks to the “rapidly changing market for short term credit”.
Sky’s Emily Purser added: “Wonga announces around 325 jobs will be lost as part of restructuring programme.” The reason given is that; “Wonga can no longer sustain its high cost base”.
The company says: “Wonga can no longer sustain its high cost base which must be significantly reduced to reflect our evolving business and market. Regrettably, this means we’ve had to take tough but necessary decisions about the size of our workforce. We appreciate how difficult this period will be for all of our colleagues and we’ll support them throughout the consultation process.”
The company have also been shedding senior members of their team too, losing Justin Hubble who was general counsel and head of international regulation, who was barely in the job for a year. Wonga also lost Lucy Vernall, who worked alongside Hubble. Niall Wass quit his role as Wonga’s chief executive in 2014 after 6 months at the helm, followed by his successor, Tim Weller, six months later. Wonga also lost Errol Damelin who founded the company.
New rules, big job losses and people not wanting to work with them… looks like Wonga are heading for Deathwatch.
We’re just waiting for someone to open up a restaurant where you can go in your pyjamas and actually breastfeed while soiling yourself.
That’s getting ahead of ourselves though, so back to owls. In Soho, you’ll be able to drink cocktails while sitting in a bar that has some owls in it. You can sip your drink while a bird of prey vomits up a sack full of mouse bones. How lovely.
This one in London is going to be open from 8pm to 2am, because owls like to sleep in the day and, if you’re wanting to gawp at this place, it is called ‘Annie The Owl’, and named after a bird of the same name. Annie will be joined by six other owls as well, who will no doubt enjoy time spent around drunk humans trying to put cigarillos in their beaks.
The tickets, which are being issued by ballot, cost £20 and include two cocktails and you can find out more about it here. Profits from the tickets go toward the The Barn Owl Centre charity, which is kinda nice. The owls probably need some counselling after being thrown into such a hipster hell when all they want to do is eat the face off a small mammal and be left in peace.
HSBC are, as you’re more than aware, in the middle of a rather large tax avoidance scandal. Even though they said ‘sorry’, it hasn’t stopped a 17% fall in their annual profits.
Of course, the bank saw profits fall to £12.14bn, which is still a stupefying amount of money, but we can still laugh at them. They reckon that this drop reflects ”lower business disposal and reclassification gains and the negative effect, on both revenue and costs, of significant items including fines, settlements, UK customer redress and associated provisions”.
Did you catch all that? In English, what they’re saying is that a number of scandals is costing them money, including the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI). Basically, they’re sorting out their own mess as well as watching their share price falling by more than 5%.
And what’s even more ridiculous about all this? This news follows reports that HSBC’s chief executive Stuart Gulliver has himself enjoyed a Swiss bank account and the benefits that brings you. While he’s promising to reform the bank in the wake of all manner of allegations, this is rather embarrassing for him. It is worth pointing out, legally, that Gulliver denies doing anything wrong.
He said: “2014 was a challenging year in which we continued to work hard to improve business performance while managing the impact of a higher operating cost base. Profits disappointed, although a tough fourth quarter masked some of the progress made over the preceding three quarters.”
“Many of the challenging aspects of the fourth-quarter results were common to the industry as a whole.”
Do you eat meat? Then you’ll know that, regardless, something delicious died for you to chew. Those that eat meat will find it hard to ever fully justify eating animals, beyond the fact that, when it comes down to it, you morals aren’t as strong as your love as munching bits of pig, cow, chicken or whatever.
Some people are very concerned with the welfare of animals before someone kills them and hacks them to bits. They want sheep to gambol around the fields before a butcher drains them of their blood and turns them into chops. Most people aren’t bothered, because you can’t tell the difference between the flavours enough, once you’ve thrown minced up animal in your bolognese.
Fact is, it is a bit cruel culling animals just so we can turn them into pies, but sadly for the animals involved, they are incredibly pleasant to eat and nothing has ever sufficiently replaced the tastiness of flesh.
With that, Jewish and Muslim leaders are apparently tired of animal rights lobbyists who are getting ‘obsessed’ with the way they kill animals for food. These pressure groups aren’t at all happy with non-stun slaughtering and the Muslims and Jews are beginning to think that campaigners are so focused on their butchery that they’re doing it to the point of forgetting about almost all other animal welfare issues.
They say the practices that are most complained about only account for a tiny percentage of animals killed.
This all coincides with a House of Commons debate which is responding to an internet petition which is calling for a ban on non-stun animal slaughter. The petition drew in advance of 115,000 signatures, while an opposing petition got itself 72,000. The rest of the country, you’d assume, was too busy seeing how much bacon it could shove in its gob and dreaming about sausages to even slightly worry about dead creatures.
Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK, who campaign for Jewish religious slaughter, says: “Since January 2013 there has been a House of Lords Debate and a Westminster Hall Debate on the subject, with a third debate scheduled for Monday. Many other animal welfare concerns, such as game hunting and mechanical mis-stunning, have not been debated once in that time.”
“This continued focus on religious slaughter is dog-whistle politics of the worst sort and its effect is to undermine community relations. For animal welfare groups to keep pushing for a ban is wild-eyed and obsessive.”
Cohen reckons that Shechita, which sees an animals throat, windpipe and blood vessels getting cut, killing it instantly, amounts to less than 1% of all slaughter in the UK.
He added: “Two weeks ago a horrific film of extraordinary disregard for animal welfare at a non-mechanically stunned abattoir in Yorkshire came to light. Animal welfare campaigners called for an end of religious slaughter. Four days later a similar video was released at a conventional slaughter house and I didn’t hear one call to end conventional slaughter.”
“If there is a genuine interest in improving animal welfare standards at time of slaughter, we need to look at many areas like abattoir practices, CCTV and mis-stunning. This fixation with religious slaughter beggars belief. At the moment the Muslim community is being tarred by the horrors of terrorism and these calls for a ban on religious slaughter feed into that mood music.”
Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, added: “Muslim and Jewish slaughter practice is being singled out when animal welfare abuses in non-religious slaughter houses are being ignored. Proper ritual slaughter is not incompatible with animal welfare.”
We’d argue that ‘proper ritual slaughter’ is rather incompatible with animal welfare, what with the result being a corpse. A delicious corpse we can’t wait to get our teeth into, granted. The fact is that, slaughtering animals for us to eat isn’t ever in the animal’s interest. Ever. Unless of course, cows dream about becoming steak bakes.
Even if you cuddled a sheep to death or kissed a cow until it passed out of bliss in a sunny field, the point remains is that, at some point, the creature isn’t going to wake up and you’re going to end up crapping it out. Unless you’re doing it for the flavour, no-one can say that slaughtering an animal has anything to do with its well-being.
Maybe Bitterwallet should start a campaign called: ‘Eating Meat: Not An Ideal Set-Up, But What Are You Gonna Do Eh?’
Remember how bad the response was, when drinking on the London Underground was banned? Well, steel yourself, because the bosses of the railways are being asked to consider a ban on drinking on all trains.
So, that’d mean old dears not being able to have a G&T while going on a day trip or someone making a long commute more bearable with a can.
Of course, you can still get on a train absolutely bladdered, which means any notion of this being a thing to stop anti-social behaviour is out of the window. It also goes without saying that you don’t have to be hammered on booze to be anti-social, either.
What’s the big idea then?
Well, this is being floated by the Rail Safety and Standards Board because they want to do something about the number of people killed on the railways because they’re drunk. In the last 5 years, 18 people were killed and 250 were seriously injured after they fell from platforms.
So you’ll assume that the rail safety lot will be banning slippery shoes and people checking their phones when they should be looking where they’re going, too? Not to mention banning passengers from frequenting any nearby pubs, especially the ones that are actually inside the train stations themselves.
This is only in consultation at the moment and you can imagine the Rail Safety and Standards lot won’t be able to justify alcohol bans because, if they do and accidents keep happening, they might have to start spending some money on making train platforms safer, rather than blaming it on alcohol.
Even though Samsung aren’t ready to actually unveil the new Galaxy S6, an image of it has appeared on the internet. With this not being an Apple phone, the level of salivating is greatly reduced as Android users tend to be a bit more lowkey about new handsets.
The new device is going to be officially announced next week, but T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, tweeted a link to the S6. When you get to the page, you’re greeted with this image.
So what does all this mean?
Well, it does look like the handset will be a curved affair, as seen with a previous Samsung release – the Note Edge. The difference this time is that it is thought the curve will be on both sides of the thing.
One good thing is that Samsung appear to have edged away from the fake leather and horrible plastic, with a rear made out of metal.
Gathering up the online rumours and confirmed reports, the Galaxy S6 will have an improved processing chip which will be faster and use less battery, which is useful. There’s also news that there’s going to be some wireless charging going on, as well as something that Samsung describe as a new “amazing” camera feature.
Samsung’s DongHoon Jang has vowed that this is “the future of cameras”, which is a rather bold claim, adding that the S6 “will be intelligent and do all the thinking for users, allowing them to take amazing pictures under any conditions, without having to worry about anything more than just pressing the shutter button.”
Hmmmm. Either way, this new phone has got to be better than the S5 which was met with a thorough ‘meh’ from the world.
The regulator is coming under fire from the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee and, even though there’s been falls in bill prices and new price caps, MPs aren’t impressed.
The trouble is that new rules from the regulator aren’t tough enough and that those that manage the pipes and wires that dole out gas and electricity are still raking it in and not passing enough savings on to the customers.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo says: “Ofgem’s chief executive told us that we would have to wait eight years to see whether value for money was being delivered for bill payers. This is too long for hard-pressed consumers to wait. Ofgem must get its act together and scrutinise these near monopolies more effectively. Simpler charging methodologies are needed to strengthen the market’s ability to scrutinise costs and increase the pressure for greater cost-saving efficiencies.”
“Barriers preventing smaller players from entering the market must be removed to drive down costs for consumers.”
Energy companies pay network costs to use the aforementioned pipes and wires for distribution and transmission purposes and they are applied to bills. These costs amount to, roughly, 23% of a gas and electricity dual fuel bill. To sort this out, Ofgem introduced the RIIO system, designed to control network costs.
However, the committee have said that there’s ‘clear evidence’ that the network companies were coining it in far more than expected. The committee said that “this suggests that the targets and incentives set by Ofgem are too low, barriers to market entry are high and that Ofgem needs to monitor RIIO more effectively and to equip RIIO with stronger, corrective measures.”
“While we recognise that the new RIIO framework is an improvement on its predecessor, Ofgem has not yet created the conditions for the market to thrive and provide consumers with best value for money.”
So what’s the solution? Well, MPs would like to see a thorough study into replacing this system that is simpler and national, as the current one has a variety of regional charges and codes which make it more difficult to compare prices across networks. The committee would like Ofgem, and the Government, to start taking this seriously.
Of course, only last week, the Competition and Markets Authority said that they think we’re all being overcharged to the tune of £234 a year for our gas and electricity.
Now we know that you can hide dirty films on YouTube, Google are launching a version of their video service that is designed for kids, which basically means it’ll be full of controls (that they’ll be able to bypass within seconds of looking at it) and child-appropriate content.
It’ll be a free app called, imaginatively, ‘YouTube Kids’ and is available from the relevant sources from next week.
Google aren’t making any comments about whether or not they’ll be displaying commercials and pop-up ads to children, but you can safely assume that they will be. What would be the point in them doing it otherwise?
“The big motivator inside the company is everyone is having kids, so there’s a push to change our products to be fun and safe for children,” said Pavni Diwanji, vice president for engineering at Google.
Basically, one of the motivating factors is that Google tend to make their products with adults in mind, so they’re rejigging some stuff so they’ll cater to children better. And of course, there’s huge amounts of money to be made from kids nagging their parents.
However, one sticking point that is sure to become a loud argument over the next few months, is Google mining the information of children. They’ll inevitably have to get a system in place where they get parents to verify consent. Naturally, there’s a whole host of websites and games that kids use, so it won’t be difficult for Google to figure it all out. The app itself will filter certain words out as well, but seeing as children will be able to use the normal YouTube app and type things into search engines, it doesn’t really matter too much.
One interesting thing is that parents will be able to set time limits on how long their offspring will be able to use the app for, as well as being able to switch the sound off and stop the search function being available.
Starbucks, the company that divides the world into two categories – those that moan about it and those that don’t shop there – is launching a new thing where you can go there in the evening and get yourself some hot food and, while you’re at it, get drunk.
According to the press-release, you can get things like chorizo and prawn skewers with chilli ketchup as well as truffle mac & cheese and braised British beef. You’ll be able to buy wine and beer too. Or, if you prefer, you could eat a packet of crisps on the way to the pub while tutting about people doing something which doesn’t in any way impinge on your life. Both are viable options.
This new service will kick off at the Starbucks in Stansted Airport, where you’re almost certain to see very tired men in suits sitting along, nursing a beer after they’ve burned their tongue on something. It will then roll out to other locations.
‘Starbucks Evenings’ has been a success in The States and over here, you’ll be able to see what the fuss is about at the participating stores from 4pm, where you’ll be able to check out the extended menu.
“We are delighted to launch the first Evenings Programme in the UK. Providing a welcoming coffeehouse environment has always been our focus and now we can offer something new for the evening too,” says Ian Cranna, VP marketing and category for Starbucks EMEA. “I think our customers will love the new range of terrific food and carefully selected wines and beers which will provide even more choice and reasons to visit us later in the day.”
While you’re thinking about going to the pub or an actual restaurant, this’ll be a godsend for teenagers wanting to go on dates, who are getting sick of Nando’s and want to spend their pocket money on that person they fancy. Nice to know that there’s going to be places that are open a bit later where you can nip in, buy nothing and use their toilets, if there’s no McDonald’s nearby.
You heard about Lenovo installing something that was annoying at best and intrusive at worst, with a thing called Superfish. One of our readers impishly pointed out it should’ve been called ‘SuperPhish’, arf!
Well, the company got in touch and wanted to clear some things up, so you can stop chewing your nails in worry.
They say that Superfish was “previously included on some consumer notebook products shipped in a short window between September and December to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping. However, user feedback was not positive, and we responded quickly and decisively.”
And so, this is where we’re at, according to Lenovo:
“1) Superfish has completely disabled server side interactions (since January) on all Lenovo products so that the product is no longer active. This disables Superfish for all products in market.
2) Lenovo stopped preloading the software in January.
3) We will not preload this software in the future.”
So there. The company assure customers that there’s no need to fret about the security of your computer.
They continue: “We have thoroughly investigated this technology and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns. But we know that users reacted to this issue with concern, and so we have taken direct action to stop shipping any products with this software. We will continue to review what we do and how we do it in order to ensure we put our user needs, experience and priorities first.”
“To be clear, Superfish technology is purely based on contextual/image and not behavioural. It does not profile nor monitor user behaviour. It does not record user information. It does not know who the user is. Users are not tracked nor re-targeted. Every session is independent. Users are given a choice whether or not to use the product. The relationship with Superfish is not financially significant; our goal was to enhance the experience for users. We recognize that the software did not meet that goal and have acted quickly and decisively.”
American and British intelligence agencies have been up to no good. They’ve been hacking, illegally, into SIM cards to steal codes so they can try to listen in on people’s calls, according to reports.
This, like all scary spy and surveillance news, has trickled out from the infamous former American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden.
Spies hacked the SIMs of a company called Gemalto who, as you can imagine, are pretty furious about all this as they operate in 85 different countries and they’d rather not be thought of as complicit in all of this.
The Intercept are calling this “the great Sim heist” and that surveillance agencies were given “the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data”. Some of the mobile networks that are clients of Gemalto include T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and “some 450 wireless network providers around the world”.
The source also claims that this hack was organised by Britain’s GCHQ and America’s NSA and that, the hack resulted in the ability to unscramble calls, texts and emails from the decode data that is flung through the air between phones and cell towers. It has also been claimed that Gemalto employees were cyber-stalked and their emails were tapped into so agencies could steal encryption keys.
A Gemalto spokeswoman said: “We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such highly sophisticated techniques to try to obtain Sim card data.”
It isn’t Wonga’s decision though, as Albion – the company that came up with loan laden nana – have decided to split from the company.
A spokesperson for Albion said that, while they think they created “memorable work”, there have been “certain practices that we now know went on… during the tenure of our relationship that we were unaware of and that we categorically do not agree with.”
Interesting. Creative agencies are morally dubious at the best of times, so if they can’t work with a payday loan company, that’s either particularly damning or they’re just trying to look good in front of future businesses they’ll be pitching at.
Albion are obviously referencing that fact that Wonga was fined £2.6m by the Financial Conduct Authority for using thousands of fake legal letters to harass their own customers. In addition to that, payday loan companies have had to cut their fees after a crackdown by authorities.
A Wonga spokesperson said: “We’re committed to building a responsible, sustainable business and to communicating with the right customers in the right way.”
Hot on the heels of everyone saying the prefer half a dozen supermarkets to them, Asda have decided that they’re going to invest £600 million pounds in new shops and doing up some old ones as they vie to get back into the public’s hearts.
The Wal-Mart owned supermarket is also responding to a drop in fourth-quarter sales, as everyone is shopping elsewhere.
Chief Executive Andy Clarke noted that the market is still “in one of its most challenging and changeable periods in history”, which means ‘we’re hoping that people will go off the idea of shopping at Aldi and is there still a recession on? We can’t remember anymore.’ Possibly.
While Asda has been relatively stable over the last few years, recent data shows that they were the worst performing of the big chains over the 12 weeks to February 1st.
As such, Asda will be spending their millions on improving existing stores, building 17 new supermarkets and ushering in over 150 remote click and collect sites through 2015.
Don’t start tearing your clothes off and screaming in celebration just yet though. As ever, with these things, BK are trialling it in certain areas first. So, if you live in Hornchurch, Gants Hill, Romford, Hayes, Northampton, Truro, Skegness and Hull, then you’re in luck.
As for the rest of the country – if this doesn’t get rolled out nationwide, you’ll know who to blame for not making the delivery service a rousing success. We’ll understand if we hear reports of angry mobs descending on Truro or Hull with pitchforks.
If this proves worthwhile for Burger King, then the other fast food chains might join-in, which will be huge competition for Just Eat and Hungry House.
A cursory glance at Twitter, and the reaction to the news is pretty good. Unless you live in an area that isn’t delivering yet. They’re taking it hilariously badly.
So, if you’re in the right bit of the country, you can visit Burger King Delivers and check your postcode to see if you can order a Whopper to your front door.
Would you believe it! Adobe’s Photoshop is now 25 years old! In all that time, it has changed the way we view things – some tasteful, some awful, some so funny you wish you could Photoshop the urine from your trousers from laughing at a model with three limbs.
Anyway, Photoshop isn’t cheap to those who want to play around with photo editing software now and again, rather than spend their time using it like a pro. Of course, there’s people who will swear by it, but if you’re looking for a free alternative, then there’s a number of programmes you can try.
Whether you’re looking de-wrinkling yourself or just cropping photos and making a collage of something, there’s a load of options you can get stuck into.
Naturally, if you know how to get cracked products from torrents, then this might not be the best list for you. Indeed, there are other round-ups of alternatives available online for paid-for products, but for the best free PS alternatives, these could be just the trick for you.
Seven Best Free Photoshop Alternatives
This open-source programme is a good all-rounder and available for OS X, Windows and Linux. It takes a little while to get your head around it, but once you do, you can manage all manner of things with it. Very good indeed and
A capable, solid image editor with resizing and touch-up tools for you to use. This one is liked because it is more straightforward than some others, so won’t batter your brains with impenetrable jargon.
Pixlr has a decent tool for everything you’re likely to want to do to an image unless you’re a graphic designer. However, some of Pixlr’s advanced apps ask you for an annual subscription.
PicMonkey is free, browser-based image editor with a solid feature set for simple photo touchups, adding text to images and adding frames. Images can be taken from a computer or various cloud services, including Dropbox and Flickr. A paid-for upgrade removes the ads and gives access to more fonts and effects.
tor is a free image editor that’s available on just about any platform either in app or web app from. It has a good selection of tools, each with an easy-to-use sliding scale of effect. Batch editing is a bonus, as are the filter tools.
Easy to use and great for simple cropping and photo manipulation. You can’t do gigantic amounts with it, but if you want something simple to sort out some pictures, this freebie is the job for you.
A browser equivalent of Photoshop is a decent photo editor. Again, some of the more advanced features will cost you, but if you want to resize something, crop it or another basic edit, then this is worth checking out.