Live Blog

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko
August 28, 2014, 1:51pm

Investors piled into "safe haven" assets this morning, pushing the German 10-year bond yields to a record low after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko cancelled a trip to Turkey citing "Russian troop deployments".

In a televised statement, Poroshenko said his "place is in Ukraine", adding that he was calling a meeting of the security council "due to a sharp aggravation of the situation in Donetsk region... as Russian troops were actually brought into Ukraine".

Although Andrey Kelin, the country's ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, denied the claims - and the Kremlin has repeatedly insisted it has not sent troops into Ukraine - markets reacted strongly, sending equities down.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.43 per cent in early afternoon trading, while Germany's Dax fell 1.36 per cent and France's Cac fell 0.76 per cent. Moscow's Micex fell 2.2 per cent. Meanwhile, the ruble fell 1.6 percent to $36.76, its lowest level since the beginning of March, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine's Crimea region.

Investors retreated to assets traditionally regarded as safe, such as German bunds, whose 10-year yields fell to a record low of 0.89 per cent, while the spot gold price rose to $1,295.44 per troy ounce and the Japanese yen rose 0.2 per cent to ¥103.64 to the dollar.

Callum Chambers
August 28, 2014, 1:41pm

Roy Hodgson has named four uncapped players, including Arsenal’s Callum Chambers, in a youthful England squad for the forthcoming fixtures against Norway and Switzerland.

 
Alongside Chambers, Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, Newcastle United’s Jack Colback and Tottenham’s Danny Rose have been called up to the national side for the first time.
 
England face Norway in a friendly at Wembley next Wednesday, before travelling to Basel to play Switzerland in their Euro 2016 qualifying opener on Monday 8 September.
 
Following the international retirements of veterans Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the average age of the England squad has dropped from 26.3 at the World Cup to 25. No country at the tournament in Brazil had a squad with an average age of 25 or younger.
 
 
Unsurprisingly, the average number of caps in the squad has also fallen from 30.4 caps 17.9. The total number of international appearances within the squad has plummeted from 626 at the beginning of the World Cup to 393.
 
Hodgson referred to Colback, who joined Newcastle on a free transfer from Sunderland earlier this summer, as “the ginger Pirlo”.
 
The England manager said:
 
I spoke to someone who knows him well and he called him the ginger Pirlo and it would be nice if he turned out like that.
 
I was impressed with him last year and he has an awful lot to offer. He is a very talented player. Suddenly we have lost Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick. Jack plays in a position where vacancies can quickly arise and we will see how he gets on.
 
Arsenal's 19-year-old defender Callum Chambers has impressed since his £16m switch from Southampton, having featured in all four of their competitive fixtures so far this season.
 
The youngster has 19 England U-19 caps, but has never featured for the U-21 team, with Hodgson admitting that a defensive injury crisis has fast-tracked his progression.
 
Hodgson said:
 
Chambers jumps over the Under-21s but with 10 injuries and six of them in the defensive part of the field I didn't have the luxury of saying he could start in the Under-21s.
 
With four players in their former manager's squad, Liverpool are the best represented Premier League side in the England squad. Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton each have three players present.
 
 
 
The England squad in full:
 
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City).
 
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), John Stones (Everton).
 
Midfielders: Jack Colback (Newcastle United), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
 
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).

 

GSK
August 28, 2014, 1:36pm
An international consortium is fast-tracking an Ebola vaccine under development by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and GlaxoSmithKline, with human trials set to begin in the UK as early as September.
 
The move follows a declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a public health emergency of international concern. The UN's health agency reported 844 deaths from the disease as of 20 August. 
 
A £2.8 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will allow the vaccine to be tested on 60 healthy people at Oxford University once regulatory and ethical approvals are granted.
 
If the volunteers show a positive response with no adverse side effects, the trials will be extended to Mali and The Gambia. Similar trials of the vaccine are taking place in the US
 
The vaccine works by attacking the Zaire species of Ebola, which is responsible for the current outbreak. It uses a single protein from the Ebola virus to set off an immune response. It is considered to be safe because it does not contain any infectious viral material, and so cannot cause a person who is vaccinated to become infected with Ebola.
 
Professor Adrian Hill, who will be leading the study at Oxford, said: “The tragic events unfolding in Africa demand an urgent response. In recent years, similar investigational vaccines have safely immunised infants and adults against a range of diseases including malaria, HIV and Hepatitis C. We, and all our partners on this project, are optimistic that this candidate vaccine may prove useful against Ebola.”
 
There is currently no confirmed treatment for the virus, but a number of companies are trying to develop a cure. Find out more about the treatments being developed here.
Douglas Carswell
August 28, 2014, 11:53am

Douglas Carswell, a senior Tory backbencher and the MP for Clacton, has become the first Conservative MP to defect to Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party ahead of next year's General Election, criticising David Cameron and senior leaders in the party.

Carswell said he will resign from parliament and stand for UKIP in the resulting by-election, which could see the party's first MP elected to parliament.

The Eurosceptic MP accused the government of not being serious about reforms, including immigration, Europe and social services at a surprise press conference in which he announced his resignation.

Carswell was elected as a member of parliament for the Essex constituency in 2005.

The Conservative Party called his resignation "regrettable" and  "counterproductive" arguing the only way to get an EU referendum was with a majority Conservative parliament winning at the General Election. 

"The Conservative party will contest the forthcoming by-election vigorously to make sure the people in Clacton have a strong conservative voice in this parliament and the next," the Party said.

Labour grabbed the opportunity to label the departure a "hammer blow to David Cameron," with leader Ed Miliband also tweeting.

Carswell is the first MP to have changed allegiance to UKIP since Bob Spink in 2008. Spink's defection did not trigger a by-election and he later lost his seat at the 2010 general election standing as a UKIP candidate.

Between March 2013 and the same time this year, 15 of London's Conservative councillors and four Labour councillors joined UKIP.

In 2012, Tory MEP Roger Helmer defected to the party later standing as the UKIP parliamentary candidate in June's hotly contested Newark by-election, in which he was defeated by the Conservative party candidate Robert Jenrick.

The prospect of Carswell winning a seat for UKIP and becoming its first elected MP is more favourable, however.

Paddy Power said Carswell is odds on favourite 1/3 to win the seat in Clacton for UKIP, despite the party not fielding a candidate in the previous General Election.

As a Conservative he picked up 53 per cent of the vote in 2010, well ahead of Labour with 25 per cent.

Political commentators have also entertained the possibility of Carswell winning for UKIP and the Party gaining its first seat in Westminster.

Counterstrike gamer
August 28, 2014, 11:47am
The stranger side of Amazon's recent acquisition, Twitch: a professional gamer’s live streaming session was crashed by a SWAT team, a surreal event captured in a remarkable YouTube video.
 
Jordan Mathewson, who games under the alias “Kootra”, found himself the unfortunate victim of a prank known in the gaming community as “swatting”.
 
According to local reports, the police had received a phone call about an active shooter in the offices of The Creatures LLC, the gaming group to which Mathewson belongs. 
 
The call was later revealed to be false, but not before nearby schools and businesses had been evacuated.
 
 
The video shows Mathewson live streaming a game of Counterstrike through the Twitch video service, when he notices the sound of police in the building.
 
“Uh-oh. This isn’t good,” he murmurs; "they're clearing rooms…what in the world?...I think we’re getting swatted.”
 
Police storm into the room, point their guns towards a bewildered (and probably terrified) Mathewson and scream at him to keep his hands in the air and get on the ground.
 
The Urban Dictionary describes Swatting as:
 
A goal achieved by hacking where the hacker tricks 911 systems into deploying SWAT to an unsuspecting victim’s home under false pretenses.
 
After he was released, Mathewson tweeted this message to his followers:
 
 
Watch the video below:

Twitch, the video streaming site being employed at the time of the SWAT raid, was bought by Amazon for $970m (£585m) earlier this week. 

Amazon chief executive and founder Jeff Bezos said of the deal: “Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month.”

While Twitch can undoubtedly bring people together, the prank played on Mathewson reveals it can also be used for more sinister means.

UK border
August 28, 2014, 11:26am
Net migration to the UK soared by 243,000 in the past year, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
 
Between 2013 and 2014, immigration rose from 492,000 to 560,000, while emigration remained stable at 316,000. The result was net migration of 243,000 for the twelve months to March 2014, up from 175,000 during the previous twelve months.
 
However, while net migration has increased from a low of 154,000 in the year ending September 2012, it remains below its 320,000 peak in the year ending June 2005.
 
The graph below shows how immigration into the UK has been greater than emigration from the UK every year since 1993, and that the difference between the two is growing.

Who is migrating to the UK?
 
Recent increases in net migration have been driven by a rise in net migration of citizens from the rest of the European Union (EU).
 
During the twelve months to March 2014, 131,000 EU citizens moved to the UK, compared with 95,000 during the previous year. 
 
This means EU citizens made up almost half of all migrants to the UK in 2014, with only a slightly higher number of non-EU citizens coming in. In previous years, the difference between the two has been more significant, indicating a gradual narrowing of the gap.

When broken down by country, by far the largest group of adult migrants came from Poland during the twelve months to June 2014. Over 91,000 Polish nationals registered new national insurance numbers in the UK during that time (a good measure of migration), which constitutes almost a sixth of the total 560,000 migrants.

According to the ONS, immigration for study was a major cause of the overall increase in net migration, reflecting the higher level of university sponsored applications. The number of study visas granted rose by a seven per cent in the year ending June 2014.

Deutsche Bank logo
August 28, 2014, 11:16am

Another day, another fine. This time it's Deutsche Bank which has received a slap on the wrist, to the tune of £4.7m, for incorrectly reporting transactions.

The Financial Conduct Authority handed out the penalty just a day after handing RBS a £15m fine over mortgage mis-selling.

Deutsche Bank failed to properly report nearly 30 million equity swap CFD transactions between 2007 and 2013, the financial watchdog said.

“There is simply no excuse for Deutsche's failure to get this right,” it said in a strongly worded statement, after previously warning the bank about similar failures.

The FCA’s Tracey McDermott said:

Effective market surveillance is critical to maintain the integrity of our markets, and depends on accurate and timely reporting of transactions. Deutsche is a major market participant responsible for reporting millions of transactions every year.

We have repeatedly highlighted the importance of accurate transaction reporting and taken enforcement action against a number of firms... Other firms should be in no doubt about our continued focus on this issue.

Deutsche Bank escaped a heftier fine of nearly £7m, as RBS did, by settling the matter at an early stage in the FCA’s investigation.

The regulator said it was concerned about the matter after providing extensive guidance on correct reporting and already having taken action against 10 other banks.

Drugs
August 28, 2014, 10:52am
NHS England will today announce plans to change the cost approval system for cancer drugs, potentially making pioneering drugs available even if the NHS's cost watchdog says they don't represent value for money.
 
The plans involve increasing funding for the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), a government body set up by David Cameron in 2010, by as much as 40 per cent to £300m a year. The body aims to offer cancer patients access to drugs considered too expensive under the normal cost evaluation process by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
 
Over the last financial year, the CDF accumulated a £32m overspend and it is now breaching its budget limit, which is set to be expanded from £200m to £280m each year. 
 
Civil servants have warned reforms are needed to make the CDF sustainable - but critics of the fund said its existence allows pharmaceutical companies to keep their prices high, since if their products are turned down by Nice they have an alternative route for approval.
 
The new proposals mean cancer drugs offered by the CDF will be subjected to more rigorous cost-benefit analyses, although these will still not be as strict as the process for conventional drugs. 
 
Under the plans, the government will stop buying some of the most expensive drugs unless the companies selling them cut their prices. This will put pressure on the companies to lower their cancer drug prices to be more in line with the prices of other types of drugs. 
 
Roche is one of the large manufacturers set to be affected by the proposals. The company was recently criticised for not cutting the price of a course of its breast cancer drug Kadcyla from £90,000; this was regarded by Nice as too high for what the drug could offer. 
Bank of England
August 28, 2014, 10:49am

Net lending to small businesses under the Funding for Lending scheme, the government's attempt to persuade banks to lend to businesses cheaply, fell £435m in the three months to the end of June, figures from the Bank of England have shown.

Although the net lending figure does not show a total - instead, it shows payments made to small firms less the repayments they made on loans under the scheme during the quarter - figures published by the Bank of England in June suggested banks lent a total of £4.8bn to small firms. 

The government launched the Funding for Lending scheme two years ago as a way to encourage lending to small businesses, but it has been widely regarded as a failure. Although it was popular as a way for banks to lend to mortgage customers, in November 2013 the Bank of England scrapped that part of the scheme to focus on small businesses.

So far, though, that has proved unpopular among banks, with total net lending falling by £3.9bn.

In January, the scheme was extended for another year, although today's data showed only nine of the 36 participants in the extension drew funds from the scheme during the second quarter.

Lloyds Banking Group, which is still part-owned by the government, was the biggest borrower under the scheme, drawing £2bn worth of cash during the quarter, and a total of £14bn since it was launched, while Virgin Money borrowed £600m, bringing its total to £1.8bn.

James Meekings, co-founder of peer-to-peer lending site Funding Circle, said:

Funding for Lending is failing to help the thousands of British businesses that need finance but can't access it. It is time to accept that these types of support facilities, using banks as the primary distribution channel, are no longer the answer.

 
Horse jumping
August 28, 2014, 10:44am

Paddy Power’s payouts to customers were “costlier than John Cleese's divorce payments”, it revealed in its half year results- but that’s not all.

The stunt-loving bookie has a way with words that makes for a more interesting read than the usual corporate earnings.

Here are the best bits:

That John Cleese reference

Football punters, and particularly accumulator bettors, had dream weekends in January and March when 16, and then 17, out of the 21 most backed teams won their matches (including nine from 10 favourites in the Premier League).

This proved costlier than John Cleese's divorce payments, particularly for online (excluding Australia), given it has the highest proportion of football within its business mix of all our channels.

Paddy Power on the World Cup

With the start of the World Cup came a dreadful sense of deja-vu as the favourites sailed through their opening fixtures.

From there on in though, results got progressively better, culminating in us hitting the jackpot in the final (draw over 90 minutes, decided in extra time, with the initially un-fancied Germany emerging victorious).

While England's performances disappointed, fans betting on them with Paddy Power will at least have got some refunds as our blockbuster Money-Back Specials clicked in all three of their group matches.

The importance of beer drinking squirrel Barry O’Rio

Our combined Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers leaped again in June to 2.4 million (growing 17 per cent during the period), and engagements and interactions with our content on Twitter and Facebook was three times the level of our six nearest competitors combined.

We also grew strongly on new social platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat and Vine (where our beer drinking toy squirrel, Barry O'Rio, developed a cult following).

Paddy Power liked David Moyes

And finally, we never forget it is all about entertainment. Unlike Man United fans, we got immense enjoyment from David Moyes' tenure as manager.

We put an 'In case of emergency break glass' encased Alex Ferguson wax model outside Old Trafford, positioned a 'grim reaper' in the crowd behind Moyes at Goodison Park (for what proved indeed to be his last match in charge), and erected a giant bronze statue of Moyes for services rendered - outside Anfield before the Liverpool versus Chelsea showdown.

How important is Australia?

Our Australian business continues to perform as spectacularly as a Tim Cahill volley, growing its net revenue by 32 per cent and its operating profit by 57 per cent, notwithstanding increased competitive intensity. 

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