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Jumat, 24 Juli 2015


There are thousands of industrial chimneys in the Czech Republic, with many dating back to the late 19th Century - most are no longer used and a group of enthusiasts spend their weekends climbing the structures. Alastair Lawson joined them in Zelezny Brod, but soon regretted it.
I am 40m (130ft) up a 120-year-old chimney in the north-east of the Czech Republic and I am having a minor panic attack. My legs feel like lead weights as I look down on the tiny figures on the ground below me.
"Are you coming up or going down?" asks my guide, Martin Vystejn, as I cling for dear life on to the ladder.

The fear gripping me is so overpowering that my inclination is to do neither and remain suspended in mid-air about two-thirds of the way up the 52m (170ft) disused industrial chimney.

The other climbers seem unruffled by my agony and continue nonchalantly to make their ascent, neatly bypassing me on the ladder as I scuttle downwards.
So how did I end up in this predicament?
few weeks ago, I read a Czech media report about the activities of the Union of Czech Chimney Climbers, a club set up mostly to climb, but also to survey and lobby for the preservation of the country's 5,000 to 6,000 industrial chimneys.
They invited me to join them as they scaled two disused textile factory chimneys located alongside each other in Zelezny Brod, north-east of Prague.
Every weekend and bank holiday the climbers meet at the base of a different chimney. They are men and women from all walks of life, including graphic designers, shopkeepers, accountants and students. The one thing they have in common is a passion - verging on an obsession - for being high up above the ground.

The age range is equally diverse - from teenagers to a 76-year-old former track-and-field athlete who whizzed up the ladder at high speed, making me feel even more inadequate.

Kamis, 23 Juli 2015


Jenson Button has emerged as a potential target for Williams next season if they lose Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas, on whom Williams have a contractual hold, is Ferrari's number one option should they decide not to retain Kimi Raikkonen alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Sources close to the deal say Ferrari and Williams have discussed Bottas's transfer but have no agreement yet.
Williams view Button as a leading candidate should Bottas leave.
Should the 2009 world champion join Williams in 2016, it would bring his career full circle.
He made his F1 debut for Williams in 2000 before moving on to Benetton/Renault, BAR - which became Honda and then Brawn - and finally McLaren in a career in which he has won 15 grands prix.
McLaren have not yet decided who they will pick to drive alongside Fernando Alonso in 2016.
The team have a contractual option to retain Button, which means that the 2009 world champion cannot join another team unless McLaren decide not to keep him - or fail to decide until after whatever date is set in the contract as the team's deadline to do so.
Their other options are their Danish reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, who raced for McLaren alongside Button in 2014, and the Belgian rising star Stoffel Vandoorne, who is leading the GP2 championship. McLaren have contracts with both men.
Williams said they could not comment on driver contracts and Button said he had not yet considered his future.
"I've had a lot of questions thrown at me about what I am doing next year but I have not thought about anything, seriously," the 35-year-old said.
"I just have to get my head down and concentrate on improving the car and then in a couple of months we will sit down and talk about next year."
Bottas, on whom Williams have an option for the next two seasons, said he "did not know" whether he would be at Williams next season.
"Nothing is confirmed," the Finn said. "We have to wait and see. As a driver, you want to know as soon as possible but sometimes you have to wait."
Although Ferrari have pursued various options, sources close to the team say they have decided to put off a decision on Raikkonen's future until later in the summer.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne said last month that Raikkonen's "future is in his own hands" amid concerns at the team that he is not performing well enough compared to team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Rabu, 22 Juli 2015


At the World Aquatics Championships, which begin this weekend in Russia, men will be competing in synchronised swimming for the first time. Men were a part of the sport at its inception, but until now they have always been barred from competing at the highest level. Will the door to the Olympics open next?
There is nothing in the world that can prevent 25 July 2015 from being the best day in Bill May's life. "It's something that I have dreamed of my entire life," he says, "to step out on that deck with the world's best."
Many already count May as one of the world's great synchronised swimmers. Next weekend, 11 years after he retired, he will get his chance to prove it. Whether or not he ends up winning his event, the chance to compete in the US team at the World Championships in the Russian city of Kazan is the delayed culmination of a career that has brought triumph and frustration in equal measure.
May made his big splash in 1998, when he and his partner Kristina Lum won the duet event at the US National Championships, then took silver at the Goodwill Games. He was named USA Synchro's athlete of the year in 1998 and 1999, and he went on to win 14 national events as well as titles in France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
But he was prevented from performing at the World Championships or the Olympics because it was seen at the highest level as a sport for women. May's coach Chris Carver said: "Let me tell you this - he not only would have made the team, he would have been among the very top of the competitors on the US team."

Selasa, 21 Juli 2015


US President Barack Obama pines for the moment when he can leave the security bubble. After 24 hours inside it, I can see why.
Mr Obama and his daughter Sasha, 14, walk across a tarmac in New York on Friday. He taps her shoulder and points towards Manhattan, showing her the world, or at least his version of it.
What a place.
They fly on Air Force One to one of New York's airports - and minutes later arrive by helicopter in Manhattan.
Streets are blocked off, and their motorcade glides to the Upper East Side. They run red lights - at least 26 over the weekend. Along the way people cheer. At one point a woman in a flowery sundress holds up a handmade sign: "FREE HUGS".
It's a New York fantasy, one of the perks of Mr Obama's job. He travels in a security zone, a "bubble" as it's known - a tightly managed network of aircrafts, vehicles and communication that lets him move easily around the world.
The bubble provides safety, but it's confining. In a recent briefing he sounded wistful about an upcoming trip to Kenya, his father's homeland. He made it clear he'd rather go without security restrictions.
"I'll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as president," Mr Obama said. "Because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference centre."
He still has 18 months left in the bubble, though. For that reason it's worth looking at the experience - and considering what it means in terms of his worldview.
The presidential bubble is thick - and pricey. Mr Obama rides in the motorcade in a limousine known as the Beast, which is designed to withstand bullets and chemical attacks.
Mr Obama flies on a Boeing 747 jet that costs $180,000 (£116,000) per hour to operate - and can be refuelled in the middle of a flight. Electronic equipment on board is designed to withstand all kinds of duress, including force from an electromagnetic pulse, according to White House officials.
On the aircraft Mr Obama has a suite with its own bathroom, as well as an office and a conference room. He has access to classified material, and he can communicate with military officials if the US is under attack or is facing another kind of emergency.

Senin, 20 Juli 2015


Felipe Massa says drivers will race as hard as ever at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, despite the death of "great friend" Jules Bianchi.
The Frenchman, 25, died on Friday from severe head injuries suffered in last year's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
"I don't think anything changes. When you close your visor, you want to be the best," said the Williams driver.
"I had my accident and when I pass that place I don't remember it.
"I don't ever think 'I have a mother or father or son or wife'. You just think about your job."
Bianchi had been in a coma since crashing his Marussia into a recovery vehicle at last October's rain-hit race.
Massa, who says he expects to stay with Williams in 2016, is "not completely against" closed cockpits in Formula 1 "if it's best for everyone and doesn't change the aspect" of the sport.
The 34-year-old, who attended Bianchi's funeral in Nice on Tuesday, said he would "have Jules on my mind all the time" when he is not racing in Hungary.
He added: "It was so difficult to be there in church. It was so sad but I am sure he is in a good place now and looking here at all of us."

Minggu, 19 Juli 2015


Formula 1 is no stranger to tragedy, and the death of Jules Bianchi from injuries sustained in a crash in last October's Japanese Grand Prix is a reminder that danger is never far away, however distant it might appear.
Over the last two decades, F1 had become accustomed to seeing drivers walk away or emerge uninjured from very big accidents, such as Robert Kubica's barrel roll in Canada in 2007 or Mark Webber's somersault in Valencia in 2010.
That is testament to the work done to improve safety following the terrible events of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, at which Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed in two separate accidents and three other serious incidents provided a wake-up call for everyone involved.
The lessons of that weekend in Imola have never been lost on those in positions of influence in F1.
Any incident such as that inevitably leads to a period of introspection, and further changes have been made as a result of Bianchi's tragic loss.

Sabtu, 18 Juli 2015


The group that calls itself Islamic State (IS or Isis) has a special punishment for gay people - it kills them by throwing them off high buildings. Taim, a 24-year-old medical student, tells the story of how he only escaped this fate by fleeing from Iraq to Lebanon.
In our society, being gay means death. When Isis kills gays, most people are happy because they think we're sick.
I first realised I was gay when I was about 13 or 14. I too thought homosexuality was a sickness and I just wanted to feel normal. During my first year of college, I started having therapy for it. My therapist told me to tell friends that I was going through a "difficult phase" and to ask for their support.
I'm of Muslim background but my ex-boyfriend was from a Christian background and I had a bunch of Christian friends, whom I used to hang out with. In 2013 I got into a fight with a fellow student, Omar - who later joined Isis - about hanging out with Christians. A friend of mine told him to go easy on me because I was going through a hard time, having treatment for being gay. That's how people knew. I think my friend's intention was noble but what happened as a result ruined my life.

Jumat, 17 Juli 2015


Fernando Alonso scored his first point for McLaren-Honda at the British Grand Prix. That one sentence sums up just what a dire situation that team are in at the moment.
It has taken nine races for a man many regard as the best driver in the world, in a team that has the target of winning championships, powered by an engine produced by one of the world's leading car companies, to score a single point.
It became obvious at Silverstone that cracks are appearing in therelationship between McLaren and Honda - just seven months into a 10-year contract.
When the partnership was announced, McLaren chairman Ron Dennis talked of repeating the domination of the last McLaren-Honda era in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But this Honda is not the same as that Honda.
On and off track there is more competition now. Back in 1988, when McLaren-Honda won 15 of the 16 races, only Ferrari had a turbo engine, but it wasn't as good as Honda's and Ferrari's drivers were not as good as Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
In the road car marketplace, Honda has been overtaken by Nissan and is now the third-biggest Japanese manufacturer, not the second.
Back then, Honda used their racing programme to filter through engineers so they gained experience. It was very much an engineering-led company. Now, its ethos seems to have shifted.

If you look across motorsport, Honda is struggling everywhere except the British Touring Car Championship.  Honda does not seem to be the same company with the same racing spirit it had in the past.
Honda only started developing this F1 engine just over two years ago. Mercedes worked on its turbo hybrid F1 engine for four years before the rules changed in 2014. That lack of preparation by Honda is showing.
It is quite clear to everyone in F1 that the Honda engine is responsible for the vast majority of McLaren's performance shortfall to Mercedes.
I suspect Honda realise that, too - if they do not, they're blind - but there is not a lot of evidence so far that they know how to fix it.

Kamis, 16 Juli 2015


It's not the most beautiful dinner to look at and it has a very odd name... but in China the geoduck is an expensive delicacy, so on North America's Pacific coast the race is on to farm them and cash in.
The first thing people notice is the shape - it's not nicknamed the King Clam for nothing.
Its long, probing siphon bulges out of its shell and burrows through the sand - sucking in sea water, and squirting it out again (minus vital nutrients) from its tip.
Even its name sounds peculiar when pronounced correctly: "gooey-duck".
It is the largest burrowing clam in the world and can weigh up to 16lb (7.25kg), but it has another claim to fame.
It tastes delicious.

So delicious in fact that diners at high-end seafood restaurants in China will pay up to $300 (£200) for a fresh geoduck imported live from Canada or the US.
Its delicate texture and exotic looks are prized by connoisseurs - who consider the "elephant trunk clam", as it is known in China, to be an aphrodisiac.
"You really feel a mouthful of the Pacific... it's slippery, it's very tender, very sweet," said diners interviewed by the BBC in Beijing.

Geoduck - the vital statistics

  • The name "geoduck" is thought to come from the Nisqually (Native American) word "gweduc," meaning "dig deep"
  • The bivalve grows in the tidal flats of Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia and Alaska, on beaches with deep sandy substrate
  • It takes six years for a farmed geoduck to reach maturity but they can live up to 160 years- as measured by the rings on their shells
  • The siphon can grow to 1m (3ft) or more in length
  • The clams may be served sauteed, as chowder, sushi or sashimi, but are most often blanched in broth

Rabu, 15 Juli 2015


A sticker paying tribute to Bianchi will be made available to all F1 drivers in Hungary this weekend, courtesy of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.
World champion Lewis Hamilton has asked his Twitter followers to help  with ideas for his own sticker in memory of Bianchi.
Manor driver Will Stevens tweeted: Arrived in Hungary for what's going to be an emotional weekend, but we race on! That's what we do and what Jules would want! #JB17 #CiaoJules."
Other news
Kimi Raikkonen is as fast as four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel but the German "almost never makes mistakes", according to Ferrari's technical director James Allison.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner says he has "absolutely no doubt" the team "will get back to the front". (Daily Express)
Renault would receive a significant financial bonus by being declared an historic team should it decide to again become a works marque in Formula 1, according to the sport's boss Bernie Ecclestone. (Autosport)
Ecclestone will decide whether current suppliers Pirelli or Michelin will provide F1's tyres from 2017. (
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has posted his first message on Instagram.
Lotus's Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, posted an image from "beautiful Budapest".

Selasa, 14 Juli 2015


Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal says some actors are taking "dangerous risks" for their craft.
The star told the BBC another actor had once asked him for advice on whether they should take drugs for a role.
"Someone came to me and said, 'I'm going to play a drug addict - should I try the drug?' and I was like, 'no'," he said.
Gyllenhaal has dramatically lost weight for some of his roles, but said it was "with a watchful eye of an expert".
The actor shed most of his body fat for his current role in boxing movie Southpaw, out this week.
A gruelling training schedule saw him work out for six hours every day for six months to get down to 175lbs (79kg) - 15lbs (7kg) less than his normal weight.

For his Bafta-nominated role in last year's Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal dropped 30lbs (13.6kg) for the part of gaunt paparazzo Lou Bloom.
He previously admitted he lived on a diet of kale salad and chewing gum, while running 15 miles every night to get into character.

Senin, 13 Juli 2015


Turkey's government says it has bombed Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria.
A day earlier the two sides exchanged fire near the border, with one soldier killed and two more injured.
Turkey is to let the US carry out air strikes against the Islamic State group from a key military base near the Syrian border, US officials have said.
Turkish police also launched raids to arrest suspect IS militants on Friday morning in more than 100 locations in Istanbul.
The raids were carried out in 26 districts of the city and involved 5,000 officers. Members of the the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were also arrested.
A statement released by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office said that F-16 jets had hit three IS targets in Syria.
The decision to carry out the attacks was taken at a security meeting called after Thursday's border clashes.
Turkish state TV said that the jets had not violated Syrian air space as they attacked the border town of Havar.

'A game changer'

The US is expected to step up bombing raids against IS after reaching an agreement with Turkey to use the Incirlik airbase.
The agreement was finalised in a phone call between President Barack Obama and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. It was confirmed by US officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The use of the Incirlik airbase broadens the US military's ability to strike IS targets - one US official told the New York Times it was a "game changer".
Once used in raids against former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the base is near to Turkey's long border with Syria, and significantly narrows the distance to the IS stronghold of Raqqa.


Williams have re-established themselves as the next best team behind Mercedes as the Formula 1 season reaches its midpoint around the two races in July.
At last weekend's British Grand Prix they were clearly the second quickest car, decisively ahead of the Ferrari, until the rain came - and that puts them back where they were at the end of 2014.
They were leapfrogged over the winter by Ferrari, after the Italian team made a major improvement to their engine and a more subtle one to their car.
But a significant upgrade package introduced by Williams in Austria, the race before Silverstone, and then developed further for Silverstone, has put Williams back in the game.
Considering the resources they are working with - a budget of no more than half of that of Mercedes and Ferrari - that is a remarkable achievement.
And it gives them a strong foundation to head to the next race in Hungary on 24-26 July with every confidence that they can finish at least third in the championship again, if not potentially think about challenging Ferrari for second.
That will put them in a much more comfortable position financially going into 2015 and give them the chance to keep building on the revival they have been going through since the start of last season.

Team orders - the right call in the wrong way

That's the positive. The negative is that Williams will have come away from Silverstone a little bit disappointed about both their result and their handling of the race on the way to it.
They were running one-two for the first 19 laps but they ended upfinishing fourth and fifth, having been leapfrogged not only by the two Mercedes cars but also Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.

Minggu, 12 Juli 2015


A fourth instalment of cult TV movie phenomenon Sharknado has been confirmed, with fans getting to decide what happens next.
The announcement was made as Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! premiered on US TV on Wednesday on the Syfy channel.
It ended with a piece of space shuttle hurtling towards April, played by Tara Reid, and the caption: "You decide if #AprilLives or #AprilDies".
Sharknado 3 will premiere on Syfy in the UK on Thursday.
As the film reached its cliffhanger, a voice-over informed US fans they would find out the outcome of the Twitter vote and April's fate in a fourth instalment of the franchise.
"Now's your chance to be part of Sharknado history," it said, "You decide if April lives or April dies.
"Her fate will be revealed in Sharknado 4. Because we're not done yet!"


Reid confessed the twist came as a surprise to her too, telling the Hollywood Reporter: "That was a shocker! I didn't expect that!"
"I think that's going to be a big turning point for the franchise. It gives it some excitement, and it's giving the fans a chance to interact.
"No matter what happens, I'm proud to be a part of this phenomenon."
After the first two films saw a tornado of sharks hitting first LA and then New York, Sharknado 3 sees the action moving to Washington and Florida.
The made-for-television disaster film also stars Ian Ziering as Fin and David Hasselhoff as Fin's dad, as well as cameos from Jerry Springer, Bo Derek and former X Factor stars Jedward, who recorded the theme song.
The Sharknado franchise has taken social media by storm, with the first two films generating more than a billion tweets between them. Sharknado producer, Chris Regina, hopes this latest stunt will prove just as engaging.
"I'm hoping that we're going to break the internet this time with the "April lives, April dies" at the end," Regina told Hollywood Reporter.
"I think it's going to be precedent-setting. I can't think of an instance where another network has done something of that nature at the end of an event. Hopefully it's a TV first."
But despite fans' interest in the franchise, it has yet to win over the critics.
"Having now watched "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" I find myself in the position of having to write about it. And I am not sure which is worse, really, or even how to proceed," said Robert Lloyd, writing in the LA Times.