Old-age homes boost Japan’s soft power in China

Old-age homes boost Japan’s soft power in China

AMID THE stress and sadness of choosing an old-age home for her husband, it took Li Wangke, a retired academic, a while to realise why one facility was so good at reawakening his playful, chatty side. She had visited other homes that had fine food and lavish amenities, reflecting the affluence of the couple’s southern Chinese home town, Guangzhou. But one newly opened home stood out for easing—at least somewhat—the symptoms of the disease ravaging his brain. Rather than pampering her 83-year-old husband, its staff assessed his rare neuro-degenerative illness, then with warmth and firmness pushed him to do as much for himself as possible. They cajoled him to talk, exercise and even play ping-pong. He seems a “different person”, says Ms Li.

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After several visits she discovered that the home’s methods had been imported from Japan, a former wartime foe that older Chinese are commonly thought to detest. Her husband, also a retired academic, moved in full-time in late October. “It’s from here that I learned that Japan takes really good care of its elderly,” she says.

The home is a joint venture between a Chinese state-owned investor and Medical Care Service (MCS), Japan’s largest operator of dementia-care homes. MCS opened its first Chinese facility in Nantong, a city near Shanghai, in 2014. A third opened in the northern port of Tianjin last month. It has plans for more in Beijing, Xi’an and even in Nanjing, the site of a Japanese wartime massacre, memories of which plague the relationship to this day.

China’s needs are vast. Degenerative brain diseases are too often confused with mental illness. Sufferers are shut away in family homes with unskilled helpers, typically migrant women from the countryside. Some families share guilty tales of sending relatives to psychiatric wards, where they are strapped to beds and fed pills. More than 10m Chinese are estimated to have some form of dementia. “That is a big, almost frightening number,” says Akira Wate, the general manager of MCS’s home in Guangzhou.

By 2030 China is projected to have 23m dementia sufferers—almost the population of Australia. During a visit to China last month by Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, the two governments named old-age care as an area for co-operation. China and Japan are trying to edge closer in these stormy, Trumpian times. One bond involves demographics. With almost one in nine citizens over 65, China is at the point on the ageing curve that Japan hit in 1987. It has a lot to learn from its Asian rival’s experience.

Chinese old folk and Japanese care-home operators have discovered revealing things about each other. MCS was full of confidence when it opened its 106-bed home in Nantong. Half a year later, just six beds were filled. For Asian neighbours that revere the old, China and Japan turn out to differ—a lot. Notably, China is an exceptionally low-trust society. But bonds of family duty are stronger than in Japan, say MCS’s bosses, noting the frequency of visits and the solicitude of residents’ children.

In orderly Japan, entering a home is straightforward, says Mr Wate. An older person shows signs of dementia, facilities are recommended, their child might visit one, admission follows. In China, suspicion is the starting-point, with the domestic news full of stories of fatal fires or bullying at nursing homes. Unprompted, Ms Li relates how her daughter, a banker, warned her against taking private firms’ promises at face value.

Chinese customers worry constantly about being ripped off. When it entered China, MCS set its prices high and built single-bed rooms to Japanese standards, offering the privacy and calm that pensioners in Japan demand. But Chinese clients wanted company and the lively din known as renao, relates Grace Wang, MCS’s boss in China. They questioned the emphasis on doing things for themselves, grumbling that, “I paid money, so you have to do everything for me,” Ms Wang says. Her firm changed its model, building shared rooms, lowering prices and offering day rates to demonstrate its methods. The home in Nantong is now profitable.

Historical distrust of Japan has not been a big problem. MCS neither boasts of nor hides its origins. As well as a Chinese scholar’s study and mahjong tables, its home in Guangzhou has a Japanese roof garden with benches, stone lanterns and an artfully trained pine. A few residents refuse to speak to visiting Japanese executives, admits Mr Wate, who is of mixed Chinese and Japanese ancestry. Most are pragmatic, associating Japan with good service.

Family dynamics cause more headaches than nationalism. In Japan, generous government insurance covers most care-home costs, giving old folk much autonomy. In China many in need of care must either sell property or ask children for help. Average monthly fees at MCS’s home in Guangzhou are 14,000 yuan ($2,224)—more than a typical pension. That makes entering a home a collective decision by as many as four or five family members. The elderly also need convincing. Many want to preserve their savings to help the young. Because trying to stay at home is the norm, the average age of MCS’s residents in China is 85, about a decade older than at its dementia-related facilities in Japan.

The best sort of technology transfer

Still, China is quicker to embrace change than outsiders might suppose. Ms Li recalls the traditional line: “Raise children to care for you when you get old.” But her children have demanding jobs, and she hates asking them to take too much time off. Nor are hired helpers the solution. When her husband loses control of his bowels, no hired helper will clean him, she says matter-of-factly. Such helpers are “very impatient”. The Chinese once believed that only bad children send their parents to care homes, she concedes. “We don’t think that way anymore.”

Rather few Chinese will ever be able to afford Japanese-style homes, it is true. That does not make their expertise irrelevant. If China’s old enemy can raise the profile of kindly, attentive dementia care, that alone would be a historic, neighbourly act.


Lessons from history 100 years after the Armistice

Lessons from history 100 years after the Armistice

SHORTLY AFTER 2am on November 11th 1918 a train came to a halt in a wood in Compiègne, near Paris. A second train pulled up on a nearby track. After four years of fighting, delegates of the German government sought an armistice from Ferdinand Foch, the commander of the French forces. Rare photos of the scene, hazy as a memory, show engine smoke twisting between the twiggy trees, makeshift boardwalks across the leaf-strewn ground and clusters of soldiers by the rails. At 5.15am the Germans signed the peace in the light of brass lamps in a teak-lined dining car. At 11am the guns fell silent along the 400km (250 mile) front, their thunder replaced by the pealing of church bells.

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This peace ended a collective nightmare of hitherto unrivalled intensity and volume. The first world war was not just a grand tragedy. For the 67m who fought, it was a sordid hellscape. Few of the 10m killed in combat died from a “bullet, straight to the heart”, as pro forma telegrams to relatives put it. Many more bled to death in no-man’s land, their wails lingering for days like “moist fingers being dragged down an enormous windowpane”, as a British lieutenant wrote of the Battle of the Somme. Traumatised survivors sometimes slept in open sewers, and begged for their mothers as superiors ordered them over the top.

They guarded what slivers of humanity and dignity they could. At Compiègne today visitors can view silver rings from the trenches bearing initials (LV, MJ, SH or G) or four-leaf clovers; pipes with marks worn where teeth once clenched; a tube of insect-bite cream; letter-openers fashioned from shell casings, the names of yearned-for correspondents etched into their blades (“Marguerite”, “Mlle Rose-Marie”). A certain stoic humour also played its part. “I was hit. I looked round and saw that my leg had shot out and hit the fellow behind me (who got rather annoyed about [it])” wrote Charlemagne’s great-grandfather in his diary in 1915, just outside Ypres.

The memorial at Compiègne focuses on the leaders, the “switchmen of history” as Geert Mak, a Dutch historian, calls them. A replica carriage is the star artefact, name cards marking where the German and French delegates sat. Outside, a statue of Foch keeps vigil over the clearing. On November 10th Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will visit the site. As they enter the room where the carriage stands they will pass under a quote by Winston Churchill: “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

Pondering the exhibits, that apophthegm seems at once true and yet hopelessly hubristic. The first world war happened because a generation of Victorian leaders took for granted the stable order that had prevailed in most of Europe for decades. They should have read their history books. Yet the war was also a tale of forces beyond the power of any leader, however well-read; of nations and continents not as trains on history’s railway lines, run by drivers and switchmen, but as rafts tossed about on history’s ocean, dipping at most an occasional oar into the waves. Fate was the real grand homme of the “Great War”. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 would not have happened had his driver not taken a wrong turning in Sarajevo. The German army’s initial advance was halted at Nieuwpoort by a Belgian lock-keeper who flooded the surrounding marshlands. Political twists in Berlin, not crushing defeat on the battlefield, pushed Germany to sue for peace in 1918.

The raftsmen also lacked maps. Across the continent, the armistice was greeted with relief. Newspapers announced it with a retrospectively stomach-churning sense of finality. “The war is over” cried Londoners as ceremonial gunfire broke the news. The nightmare seemed to have passed, but it had not. The armistice and the peace treaties that followed in 1919 and 1920 reshaped the maps of Europe and the Middle East, and imposed vengeance on the defeated, seeding future conflicts. Millions returned from the front angry, traumatised, wounded, resentful or all four. Gueules cassées (broken faces) the French called them. One such, an Austrian-born lance-corporal, would take Germany to war again two decades later, and in 1940 would have the French sign their own surrender in the same railway carriage at Compiègne.

The power of nightmares

Memories are everywhere. Two plaques in Compiègne’s station list the 23 locals killed in the first world war and the 20 killed in the second. Engraved brass cobblestones glint from German streets marking the addresses where Holocaust victims once lived. Recollections live on in diaries or passed through families orally. The past summer’s hot weather exposed shells and bullets in dried-up rivers. Other artefacts remain hidden: the original French version of the Treaty of Versailles went missing and probably rests, forgotten, in some German attic or cellar. “Europe is a continent in which one can easily travel back and forth through time,” writes Mr Mak. The EU, forged from the rubble of the two wars, knits the continent together in the spirit of lessons learned: peace, fraternity, unity in diversity. The pedagogical value of the past is to today’s European establishment what the uninhibited pursuit of freedom is to the American one, a foundational story, an essence.

Long may that learning continue. Yet modesty is also due, about forces greater than the wits and power of even historically aware societies are able to contain. National chauvinisms live on despite the Somme. Anti-Semitism lives on despite the Holocaust. Societies’ capacity to imagine collapse and barbarism in visceral terms fades with time. All Europeans can do is be vigilant and humble before these forces, dip their oars into the waves of history when possible, hold tight to their humanity and be grateful that their continent’s past and present are now broadly in harmony, the former educating and civilising the latter, for now at least. Like train lines running together in a wood.


Emmanuel Macron’s calls for a European army are misguided

Emmanuel Macron’s calls for a European army are misguided

NORWAY’S COUNTRYSIDE teemed with European soldiers in the past two weeks. A Montenegrin platoon drilled within a Slovenian company, which was wrapped in a Spanish battalion, which in turn was inside an Italian brigade. All were part of NATO’s biggest exercise since the cold war (see article). Yet this is not quite what President Emmanuel Macron had in mind when he called for a “true European army” on November 6th. Striking a Gaullist pose, Mr Macron urged Europe to free itself from military dependence on America.

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Mr Macron did not say precisely what he meant. Even so, his loose talk of a Euro-army is confused, quixotic—and reckless at a time of growing transatlantic uncertainty.

European federalists have long dreamed of defence integration, but they have had little to show for it beyond some joint equipment projects and anti-piracy operations. The most ambitious plan for a common army collapsed in the 1950s because of French opposition. Since then, however, France has pushed lesser schemes to develop autonomous European forces. These were mostly blocked by Britain, which feared splitting NATO (whose integrated military command France left in 1966 and then rejoined in 2009).

European defence has returned to the fore for three reasons: Brexit will remove its most dogged opponent within the European Union; Donald Trump has shaken European faith in the NATO alliance; and France and Germany have been desperate to find common cause. But European leaders cannot agree on its aims: should it be a symbol of ever-closer union, a roving gendarmerie to police the continent’s periphery or, as Mr Macron implied this week, a force that could beat off the very biggest powers, such as Russia and China?

Germany is keen on using EU defence schemes, like Permanent Structured Co-operation, a cluster of EU projects launched with fanfare last year, to bind big and small European countries closer together. Mr Macron, irked that this gives priority to politics over firepower, proposed a European Intervention Initiative: a smaller club of more ambitious powers, open to non-EU members, who would jointly plan future expeditionary campaigns. Germany saw this as an attempt to drag others into France’s African wars, but grudgingly signed up anyway.

For all these plans, Europeans would struggle to wage even medium-sized wars without extensive help from America, as they discovered during their air campaign in Libya in 2011. Though their defence spending is growing, there are still large gaps in their arsenals. In Norway, Europeans flaunted their armoured vehicles, air-refuelling tankers and transport aircraft. But data collected by the German Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, shows that their stock of equipment in all these areas has been shrinking. The EU will be weaker still when Britain leaves.

So what if some fantasise about Euro-forces? If that pushes them to equip their armies properly, and stop duplicating capabilities, so much the better. The merging of Dutch, Romanian and Czech units into the German army is promising. The danger is that little new fighting strength will be created, giving America yet more reasons to feel exasperated with its allies. European leaders rebuked America for pulling out of the INF treaty, a cold-war nuclear pact, but until recently kept silent about Russia’s brazen violation of the accord. Mr Macron was crass in talking of the need to “protect ourselves” from America, in effect comparing Europe’s awkward but indispensable ally to Russia and China.

Europeans must do more to defend themselves, but the only effective European “army”—or armies—are forces that plug firmly into NATO. Anything else would be good only for ceremonial parades, not real wars.


Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms may be working

Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms may be working

WHEN GERHARD SCHRöDER launched a series of German labour-market reforms in 2003, his country’s unemployment rate stood at just under 10%. This was also the rate inherited by Emmanuel Macron, who signed his own labour-market reform into law in September 2017. The French president’s version is more modest than the Schröder package, not least because the bits already enacted touch only the labour code and not yet the unemployment-benefit and vocational-training systems. But Mr Macron’s hopes to curb unemployment are no less ambitious. A year on, has the French reform had any effect?

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At first glance, not much. The number of jobseekers edged up again slightly in the third quarter, by 0.5%, after a tiny rise in the second quarter, according to Pôle Emploi, the unemployment agency. There has been a steep increase, of 8%, in the number of people out of work for between one and two years. France’s overall unemployment rate in the second quarter stood at 9.1%, still well above the 7% he has promised to achieve by 2022.

Part of this is unsurprising. Labour reforms obviously take time to feed through into durable job creation. It was not until 2008, five years after its reforms, that Germany’s unemployment rate fell to 7%, and a further four years before it reached 5%, thanks in part to the creation of low-wage “mini-jobs”, which the French government does not seek to copy. “France will not be a country of low-cost work,” declared Muriel Pénicaud, the labour minister, last year.

Moreover, the second element of Mr Macron’s three-part labour reform—a revamp of vocational-training schemes on which France spends €32bn ($37bn, or 1.4% of GDP) a year—has only just gone into effect. This is designed to improve results by handing choice to employees in the form of training credits they can choose how to spend. A further €15bn over five years is going into training for the unemployed. It will take much longer for such measures to improve skills and job prospects.

The third and final part—a reform of social protection—will be unveiled only next year. Whereas Mr Schröder began with benefit reform, Mr Macron has left this until last. During his campaign, he promised to extend unemployment benefit to all (currently it depends on accumulated insurance rights), in order to adapt the French welfare state to a world in which work is less regular and people change jobs more often. Such ambitions may now be scaled back, because of their cost. Plans to clamp down on those who refuse job offers remain on the table.

Nonetheless there are some indications that French employers are starting to respond to the labour reforms. One seems to be an improvement in the quality of jobs created. For example, in the third quarter of 2018 the number of firms reporting an intention to hire on permanent (rather than temporary) contracts was 10% higher than a year earlier, according to Acoss, the social-security agency. Figures also show a rise in the overall share of those aged 15-64 employed on permanent contracts over the past three quarters and a recent drop in those on short-term contracts (see chart).

Another measure is how many cases for unfair dismissal end up in the labour courts. French courts have until recently been free to award damages without limit, and these varied wildly. Mr Macron’s labour law capped such awards, thereby minimising the financial risk of lay-offs (and so of hiring) to firms. In 2017 the number of such cases going to court fell by 15% on the previous year. One director of a services firm, which employs 40 people in its call centre, says that he usually hires around five people each month, and used to put them all on short-term contracts. Now at least two of those will be permanent job offers. “It’s better to have motivated employees, but in the past it was a risk,” he says. “Now I feel it’s a gamble I can take.”

Such trends are new, and yet to be confirmed. Much will depend on the economic outlook beyond France. But, says Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Euler Hermes, a French credit insurer, “the trajectory is right, and we should see results by 2020.” Mr Macron has urged people to be patient. The trouble, of course, is that politicians who introduce reforms are often not those who benefit from them. Just as his last labour reforms came into force, in 2005, Mr Schröder lost his job, to Angela Merkel.


An Italian budget showdown underlines the need for euro-zone reform

An Italian budget showdown underlines the need for euro-zone reform

THE FATE of the euro was always going to depend on Italy. With annual GDP of more than €1.6trn ($1.9trn), about 15% of euro-area output and debt of nearly €2.3trn, it poses a challenge to the single currency that Europe seems unable to manage but cannot avoid. Matters are now coming to a head, as Italy’s new coalition government instigates a showdown over the European Union’s fiscal rules. The disagreement might well become disastrous. But it is also an opportunity for the euro zone to begin building a better, more durable approach to fiscal policy.

Trouble began earlier this year when the populist Five Star movement, led by Luigi Di Maio, formed a government with the right-wing Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini. Both promised budget goodies: Mr Salvini a hefty tax cut and Mr Di Maio a basic minimum income. Such largesse may test the deficit limit of 3% set by the EU’s stability and growth pact. And it seems certain to break other fiscal rules set by the bloc: the government’s initial budget plan is forecast to raise borrowing to 2.4% of GDP in 2019, above the 0.8% target to which Italy previously committed itself and enough to reverse recent, modest declines in its debt burden.

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The EU did not take the news well. On November 5th other countries’ finance ministers warned that failure to revise the budget would lead to an “excessive deficit procedure”, and possible sanctions. But Italians are unbowed. Mr Di Maio, now deputy prime minister, argued in comments to the Financial Times that Italy’s fiscal expansion will prove so successful that other European leaders will clamour to follow, citing, somewhat dubiously, faster growth in America after a budget-busting Republican tax cut.

Both sides have their points. Italians are frustrated. Real incomes in Italy have fallen since joining the euro area; inequality and poverty have risen. Economic growth briefly rose to almost 2% in mid-2017 but has since slipped back to close to zero. At 10.1%, the unemployment rate is well above the pre-crisis low of 5.8%. Economic weakness is re-emerging even as the European Central Bank reduces its stimulative asset purchases and prepares for eventual interest-rate rises. Recent indicators of service-sector and manufacturing activity suggest that the economy is at risk of falling back into contraction. A return to recession would prove disastrous for Italy’s politics and its long-run budget position. And a bit more spending now would probably not spark a bond-market panic, since the government’s debt has an average maturity of nearly seven years and most is held domestically. A little forbearance on the part of the EU might therefore enable a dangerous political moment to be defused at little economic cost.

Yet it is hard to fault the EU for its wariness. Italy’s slow growth reflects serious structural problems. The European Commission estimates that the country’s natural unemployment rate has risen from about 8% in 2007 to 10% now, suggesting that boosting employment is a matter more of reform than stimulus. The OECD estimates that Italy’s output gap, the shortfall between an economy’s actual and potential output, will have closed by next year. Potential output—ie, what an economy can sustain without inflation accelerating—is easy to underestimate. But some variables suggest that labour-market slack is disappearing. For example, after a long period of decline year-on-year wage growth roughly doubled over the summer, to 2%. Nor have Italians been deeply mired in austerity in recent years. Italy’s structural budget deficit has nearly doubled since 2015. Its pensions remain among the euro area’s most generous, a perversity given the disproportionate economic pain borne by young Italians over the past decade.

Tight budget rules were, moreover, the price of the extraordinary measures that saw the euro area through its crisis earlier this decade. A bail-out programme for Italy could well prove fatal to the currency bloc; a showdown might be worth provoking to keep Italy’s debt manageable and the euro area viable. Each side has its reasons for fighting all the way.

Ciao time

There is a path through this impasse. The euro zone shares a monetary policy but lacks a correspondingly coherent fiscal approach. The Italian dispute offers a timely opportunity to address that. Across the euro area as a whole, fiscal policy is arguably too tight. The ratio of debt to GDP is a relatively modest 86.3% and falling fast, by three percentage points in the past year alone. In countries with big budget surpluses, such as Germany and the Netherlands, higher spending on growth-boosting investments would slow the shrinking of debt burdens, but not stop it altogether. Some of the resulting fiscal boost would spill over into Italy through increased tourism and consumption of its exports, boosting demand without straining the Italian public purse. In exchange, the EU could ask Italy to moderate its fiscal plans.

Though it would be anathema to northern Europeans, a further sweetener, in the form of limited debt mutualisation, should also be considered. Italy’s debt is an old problem. It reached 100% of GDP almost three decades ago; but the country has run a primary surplus every year for the past quarter-century, except for the two years immediately after the financial crisis. Taking a hard line with Italy today does nothing to discipline the governments of the 1980s but adds to the bitterness felt by young people, who have fared worst under the euro and must accept towering budget surpluses in perpetuity or face ejection from the single currency. A plan to swap some national bonds for Eurobonds backed by all euro-area governments might be pie-in-the-sky, politically. Yet that policy would acknowledge that euro-area countries share a fiscal fate, relieve young Italians of doing penance for their forebears’ sins and make fiscal probity for Italy a less Sisyphean task—and, perhaps, more politically tolerable.

European integration is meant to build a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The euro area could wield its combined fiscal capacity to deal with the Italian threat while building a sense of shared fiscal responsibility. Instead, Europe and Italy are heading towards confrontation. The euro zone’s greatest weakness is not its spending, but its politics.


Teen girl in South Sudan auctioned off for marriage on Facebook

Teen girl in South Sudan auctioned off for marriage on Facebook
A sale of a bride on Facebook has elicited concerns of copycats.
A sale of a bride on Facebook has elicited concerns of copycats.

Image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

2016%2f09%2f16%2fe7%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymde1lzex.0f9e7By Johnny Lieu

A 16-year-old South Sudanese girl was sold for marriage via Facebook in a disturbing case that’s been described as “reminiscent of latter-day slave markets.”

The winning bid in the auction was for 500 cows, three cars and $10,000, and the girl was married off at a ceremony on Nov. 3 in the country’s Eastern Lakes State, according to Plan International, a humanitarian organisation focused on children’s rights.

SEE ALSO: Facebook’s board says Zuckerberg was too slow to spot Russian interference

“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,”  country director of Plan International South Sudan, George Otim, said in a statement. 

“While it is common for dowries to be used in marriages in South Sudanese culture, nothing can excuse the way this girl – who is still a child – has been treated as nothing more than an object, sold off to the bidder prepared to offer the most money and goods.”

Facebook told Mashable it removed the post as soon it became aware of it on Nov. 9, days after Plan International said she was married off on Nov. 3. Vice News reports that the post calling for bids was published on Oct. 25.

“Any form of human trafficking whether posts, pages, ads or groups that co-ordinate this activity are not allowed on Facebook. As soon as we were made aware of this post we worked quickly to remove the content and associated profile,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

By South Sudan law, women and girls have the right to consent to marriage, and a child under the age of 18 should not be subject to exploitation or abuse. 

Anti-child marriage organisation Girls Not Brides explained that “many South Sudanese communities see child marriage as a way to protect girls from pre-marital sex and unwanted pregnancies.”

UNICEF estimates more than half of girls in South Sudan are married off before their 18th birthday, with the ongoing conflict within the country pushing families towards forced marriages as a way to get money. Plan International wants the South Sudanese government to investigate the Facebook marriage auction.

Taban Abel, information minister in the state of Eastern Lakes, told Reuters that the girl had gone into hiding in the country’s capital, Juba.

This incident is another example of Facebook failing to resolve monitoring issues as its reach expands across the globe.

Great, now the App Store is down too?

Great, now the App Store is down too?
The App Store is down, folks.
The App Store is down, folks.

Image: mashable screenshot

2017%2f09%2f01%2fdc%2f1bw.3febfBy Shannon Connellan

UPDATE: Nov. 21, 2018, 1:05 p.m. AEDT Apple has updated its system status to mark both the App Store and Apple Music as a “resolved issue.” Both platforms seem to be back up and running, after having been experiencing an “issue” from 12:20 p.m. to 12.52 p.m.

Seems like the whole damn internet is down today.

Following outages on Facebook and Instagram earlier on Tuesday, Apple’s App Store is down.

SEE ALSO: Facebook and Instagram struggle with major outage

When trying to connect to the App Store, some users were met with a blank screen.

Cannot connect.

Cannot connect.

Image: mashable screenshot

Can't connect here either.

Can’t connect here either.

Image: mashable screenshot

Apple’s system status originally didn’t show any sign of an outage, but when contacted by Mashable, an Apple Support representative said they too could see a lack of connection to the App Store.

Finally, the system status report showed an “issue” with the App Store — and Apple Music.

Issues afoot.

Issues afoot.

Image: mashable screenshot

People began reporting Apple Music and Books as down too, with Apple Music highlighted as having an “issue” on Apple’s system status page.

Apple Music's Radio functionality appears to be down.

Apple Music’s Radio functionality appears to be down.

Image: Mashable screenshot

No music to be streamed in Apple Music today.

No music to be streamed in Apple Music today.

Image: Mashable Screenshot

Mashable has contacted Apple for further information.

Folks on Twitter reported outages too, commenting on a likely scheduled tweet from the App Store.

Officer, please let this patient and rather important cat into 10 Downing Street

Officer, please let this patient and rather important cat into 10 Downing Street
Let. Him. In.
Let. Him. In.


2017%2f09%2f01%2fdc%2f1bw.3febfBy Shannon Connellan

Reporting from the steps of 10 Downing Street, one expects to be upstaged by the sudden appearance of the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May.

But one news reporter found his broadcast instead overshadowed by a very patient cat waiting to be let inside the London premises by a police officer.

SEE ALSO: A firefighter rescued a cat from the Paradise fire and she won’t leave him alone

The moment, which the BBC called “the most British thing you’ll see today,” was caught on Tuesday during a news report from Sky News’ political correspondent Tom Rayner, discussing Brexit and May’s future outside her famous residence.

On such a characteristically rainy London day, this patient feline had every right to be let in. But folks, this is not just any cat. It’s Larry, the 12-year-old tabby and official chief mouser to the Cabinet Office, who has been in residence at 10 Downing Street since February 2011.

Larry, chief mouser to the Cabinet Office, and patient waiter outside doors.

Larry, chief mouser to the Cabinet Office, and patient waiter outside doors.

Image: UK GOvernment/wikicommons

Larry gained notoriety for being a general badass when reports of a beef with the Foreign Office’s chief mouser, Palmerston, emerged in 2016.

According to the UK government’s website, Larry’s official duties include “greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences, and testing antique furniture for napping quality. His day-to-day responsibilities also include contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house.”

So, let this rather important cat in, officer.

Sky News’ Rayner was fine with being upstaged, acknowledging the importance of the four-pawed attention-seeker.

I’m just glad you’re being treated with the respect you deserve

— Tom Rayner (@RaynerSkyNews) November 20, 2018

The moment was not lost on Twitter, which saw countless posts from people unpacking the complexities of Larry’s conundrum.

Everybody keeps finding this cute. What I see is a reminder of all the systems in Britain that don’t work because people won’t set aside antiquated traditions and adopt simple solutions like installing a cat door. https://t.co/zXHY5uuCj1

— Matt Steinglass (@mattsteinglass) November 20, 2018

Dick appointment makeup tutorials are the only good beauty guru niche left

Dick appointment makeup tutorials are the only good beauty guru niche left

Dick appointment makeup tutorials are the only good thing left from beauty YouTube.

As cuffing season picks up, people are bound to schedule a quick dick appointment. But how do you make sure your makeup stays flawless through the hook up, and be reminded to have safe, consensual sex? Beauty guru YouTube is here for you. 

SEE ALSO: The best dating and hookup apps for you

The term “dick appointment” is self-explanatory; Urban Dictionary defines it as “to set up an appointment to have sex with a man.” A second entry clarifies that “no feelings are involved” in the interaction. Unlike a drunk one night stand you bring home from a party or a late night “u up?” text, a dick appointment is often premeditated — which gives the appointee some time to actually prepare for it. 

Your every day makeup won’t stay in place during a good romp in bed. As vlogger Sophie Dolan joked in her video, “Do you really want to put on that foundation? No!” 

The incredibly helpful niche gained popularity with the general internet population when misogynist manbaby Roosh V complained that “YouTube is handing out strikes to right-wing creators like Halloween candy while ‘Dick appointment makeup tutorial’ closes in on 1 million views.”

Instead of sparking outrage, his tweet inspired support for dick appointment makeup tutorials. 

sounds like the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

— Anthony FanTHANOS (@theneedledrop) November 7, 2018

Primers or baking? Falsies or mascara? Lip gloss or lip tint? What do you even wear to a dick appointment? 

What do you even wear to a dick appointment? 

Despite Roosh’s attempt at undermining the beauty gurus behind the videos, dick appointment makeup tutorials are freaking helpful. Between eggplant jokes and sex positivity, the videos offer useful advice to cement a look that’ll survive any activity. 

It’s not like the straight men scheduling the appointment will even notice what you’re wearing — if anything, he’ll probably wash his face with bar soap, put on deodorant, and think he’s good to go. Whatever. As the YouTubers behind the tutorials concur, you’re not applying a a full face for him, you’re doing it for you

“Your man probably can’t even tell what look you’re doing,” guru Sarah Cheung said in an interview with Dazed Digital. “But he’ll be able to tell if you’re feeling yourself in the bedroom.”

They offer tips like what lipstick to wear — if you choose to wear lipstick at all. The YouTubers who do recommend lipstick agree on a liquid to matte color that’ll probably last longer than the fling itself. 

Like a friend offering backup lip gloss in a bar’s bathroom, YouTuber bongsandtattoos casually chats with her audience: “We need something that isn’t gonna come off during that makeout session, girl. It’s gonna last all night long through your fuckboi session.” 

Lezzy, another vlogger, has a more humorous reason you’d want to stick to liquid lipstick. 

“If you’re a side chick, you definitely have to wear a liquid lipstick that will not come off,” Lezzy says in her tutorial. “But you’re gonna wanna wear something that won’t come off because if you get that guy in trouble no more for you!”

Then she makes the classic hand motion for getting dicked. 

Crass jokes are all over dick appointment YouTube, but so are discussions about consent and safe sex. Casual hook ups and no-strings-attached flings aren’t treated as a taboo or novelty on dick appointment YouTube, but as a fact of life. While waiting for their foundation to finish baking or their hairspray to set, the vloggers nonchalantly deliberate the nuances of sex.  

“I really liked how she emphasized that she wasn’t a freak,” ShadeyBangs tells her viewers in a one-sided conversation about the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It. “Society sees people who have many sexual partners as promiscuous … But some people just don’t want titles. They just want sex. And they do so in a safe environment, and respect is still there.” 

She continues, telling her viewers that she wants to be “open” about sexuality, consent, and healthy relationships on her channel. While brushing on bronzer for a sun-kissed contoured glow, ShadeyBangs discusses the empowerment behind saying “no.” 

“I say it with confidence, I say it with penache!” she rants, unblended concealer still dotting her cheekbones. “A lot of my female friends, we’re coerced in certain situations to do things because we don’t want to offend anyone, but then you’re compromising on yourself! Say no! Say no, ho!” 

Deja Renee shares a similar sentiment in her dick appointment prep video, where she reminds her viewers of the importance of using protection.

“You wanna make sure you wear condoms because there’s people out here who will try to set you up on purpose,” Deja Renee says while skillfully filling in her brows. “They don’t wear one, and they know they have something, and they wanna give it to you.” 

One brow done, she emphasizes that birth control protects against pregnancy, but not against sexually transmitted diseases. 

“Make sure you know what no means,” she explains while filling in the other brow. “Especially if it’s a casual thing.” 

The dick appointment YouTube niche is more than just a platform for endorsing promiscuity through tutorials — it’s a genuine community for people to educate their viewers. And after the mess of Dramageddon tore the circle of makeup vloggers apart, it’s one of the last decent pillars of beauty guru YouTube left. 

In the dick appointment niche, you won’t find the shade and snark that pollutes many of the other beauty tutorials. Instead, you’ll learn how to apply eyeliner that will stay throughout the wildest hook up, while also getting the rundown on consent. 

Happy cuffing season, everyone. Now go schedule that dick appointment. 

Driving apps pulled from Google Play Store for installing malware

Driving apps pulled from Google Play Store for installing malware
Some of the apps secretly infecting users with malware.
Some of the apps secretly infecting users with malware.

Image: softonic / screengrab

2016%2f10%2f18%2f6f%2f2016101865slbw.6b8ca.6b5d9By Sasha Lekach

As many as 13 games available to download in the Google Play Store were actually Android malware and downloaded more than 560,000 times, a security researcher said this week.

SEE ALSO: Here’s how malicious Android apps are sneaking malware onto your phone

The apps, listed as car and truck simulators and racing games, are no longer on the store. TechCrunch reports that an Android security researcher found that the games were just a cover to download malware in the background.

Don’t install these apps from Google Play – it’s malware.


-13 apps

-all together 560,000+ installs

-after launch, hide itself icon

-downloads additional APK and makes user install it (unavailable now)

-2 apps are #Trending

-no legitimate functionality

-reported pic.twitter.com/1WDqrCPWFo

— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) November 19, 2018

A Google spokesperson confirmed the apps were removed from the store, “Providing a safe and secure experience for our users is our top priority. We appreciate the researcher’s report and their efforts to help make Google Play more secure. The apps violated our policies and have been removed from the Play Store.”

The apps all came from a developer named Luiz O Pinto. A page on app discovery portal Softonic lists all the apps the researcher says were infecting users and that Google has since removed. On that site, every app lists zero downloads.

If the 560,000 installs is an accurate number, this is one of the biggest breaches the Google Play Store has experienced.