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Gadgets Highlights International Review Singapore

New Apple Fitness Service Introduces Healthy Competition to the Fitness App Industry

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is reportedly working on launching a bundled fitness-oriented service by October for the higher end, to push its services business into the fitness and digital health industry. Apple’s fitness app is set to move into the digital-only subscription fitness space dominated by Peloton and Nike, that provides access to a library of virtual fitness classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership.

And while the details remain unclear, Apple’s fitness app sounds very much similar to Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON) offerings: a digital-only subscription offer that provides access to a content library of virtual fitness classes.

The question is: Will Apple be giving Peloton a run for its money?

Following the report of possible competition from Apple, shares of Peloton, the trendy at-home fitness service that streams classes to a spin bike or treadmill, fell more than 4% in premarket trading — but then quickly recovered — and closed at $65.65, up 2%. Though Wall Street analysts remain confident that the exercise-bike company can maintain its lead in the virtual fitness space.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an upsurge in interest for at-home fitness classes due to gym closures and a preference to reduce contact between individuals. During the pandemic period, guided workout app downloaded grew 220% year-on-year globally.

In broad strokes, the plan echoes products from Peloton and Nike, which offer streaming classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership — a trend that has recently gained popularity as people have been flocking to at-home fitness classes during the coronavirus pandemic that has forced temporary gym closures across the globe. As a result, Peloton shares have been up more than 120% this year thanks to a surge in sales for its bikes and treadmills, even garnering diehard fans that some would consider ‘cultish’.

Apple’s new fitness app will be available on the company’s devices, like the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, while Peloton’s offerings are tied to hardware devices such as bikes and treadmills. As compared to Apple, Peloton already offers thousands of on-demand classes in addition to live-streamed ones. Whilst the former has lots of groundwork to be done, given how its recent new video streaming platform does not have a particularly robust content catalogue. It is also unclear how much Apple’s fitness subscription service would cost. Though it might make sense to bundle it with the Apple Watch.

In Q3 2019, Peloton’s digital-only subscription revenue represented only 1% of total revenue, which means that the biggest value in digital subscribers for the company is their potential conversion to connected fitness subscribers.

“We think Apple’s new fitness app could compete vs. Peloton’s digital only subscription offer, but will have limited impact on Peloton’s connected fitness base that uses Peloton’s bike or a tread,” Bank of America Securities Analyst, Justin Post wrote. “Longer-term, it is unclear whether Apple would partner with other at-home fitness hardware companies, or create its own proprietary bike/tread, though we think former is more likely than the latter.”

One potential partnership could be ReflectFitness Asia, a one-stop portal filled with digital classes on demand or live-streamed, and supported with resources related to fitness, health, and exercise. Launching in October, ReflectFitness builds upon its community roots and creates a digital ecosystem that revolutionises the way people exercise and consume fitness related information. ReflectFitness aims to make exercising in the comfort of home, at the user’s own time, simple and convenient. Operating with paired accessories such as heart rate monitors to track output and progress after each workout, world-class Reflect instructors will provide live and on-demand one-on-one style workouts including Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Kickboxing, and Zumba, all within the ReflectFitness ecosystem. The portal also allows users to compete with friends through community challenges and leader boards, creating an exciting platform to engage friends and family on the user’s fitness journey.

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Exclusive International News Popular

David Blaine Defies Death With New High-Flying Balloon Stunt

47 year-old American illusionist David Blaine has once again pushed boundaries on 2 September 2020 by ascending nearly 7,600 metres with just about 52 helium balloons.

In his Youtube live-streamed stunt termed “Ascension”, Blaine took off from the Arizona desert (United States) and had to gradually drop small weights to speed his ascent. The entire feat took about an hour from lift-off to landing, where he free-falled for 30 seconds before activating a parachute to secure his landing.

Blaine is no stranger to triggering a series of high-profile and high-risk feats of endurance performance in the past. He was buried beneath a three-ton water tank for a week in 1999 and subsisted with only a few tablespoons of water daily. He also tried encasing himself in ice for 72 hours in 2000 but that attempt was unsuccessful.

“Ascension” is his most ambitious feat to date, where his original plan was to float across the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. But this was foiled due to unforeseen weather conditions. Nonetheless, Blaine said “this feels like a dream so vivid  (that) it had to be real.”

The event hit a record as the most-watched Youtube Originals live event that garnered over 770,000 viewers.

Catch his feat here:

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Asia Highlights International Japan News Popular

Japanese Prime Minister’s Resignation: A Walkthrough of Shinzo Abe’s Legacy

Japan’s longest serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced his departure from office last Friday, citing his health as the main problem. His abrupt resignation sent shock waves throughout the world, especially Japan as they ponder about the great strides Japan has taken since Abe’s presidency. Throughout the 8 years in power, this premier has rendered a paradigm shift in the Japanese society through its economic, political and social reforms.

Commentators have noted that his loss of popularity as a prime minister in recent months was also the prime reason he is deciding to leave after serving Japan for many years. Despite having steady support from its citizens for seven years, Abe saw a steady decrease in support for his cabinet in 2020.

When the pandemic swept in, Abe was criticised for the way he handled the whole situation.

Who is Shinzo Abe?

Abe, 65 was initially elected to Parliament in 1993 after the death of his father, who was a foreign minister. However, he only started serving as a prime minister in 2006, but stepped down the following year after a scandal broke out.

In 2012, Abe became the country’s leader once again where he made key promises such as fixing the besieged Japanese economy and also amending Japan’s pacifist constitution, which will allow for a full-fledged military.

Abe first exited the office in 2007, after nearly serving for eight years due to his ailing health — a relapse of a bowel disease.

Throughout his time at office, Abe’s presence has definitely left an indelible mark on Japan’s defence policies and economy. Not only that, he also managed to maintain high profile relationships with foreign allies from all over the world.

However, Abe has said that he will continue to serve as a prime minster until his successor is chosen.

Here is a walk-through of Shinzo Abe’s prominent legacy.

International Policy

Since coming into power for the second time, Abe has changed its international affairs approach. The highly contested Yasukuni Shrine which was dedicated towards war casualties ruffled the feathers of regional countries like China and South Korea. Although Abe visited the shrine in 2013, which created much public outcry, he has thoroughly refrained from visiting the shrine, knowing all too well that it will sour the relationship with South Korea — a huge departure from his predecessors. Similarly, Abe has radically changed the interpretation of Article 9 constitution, which originally renounced the right to go to war. Instead, the reinterpretation of Article 9 allowed Japanese forces to fight alongside overseas allies, drawing condemnation from China and South Korea while simultaneously receives blessings from U.S. This move has allowed U.S. to continue developing good relationships with Japan.

While regional countries like China continue to drive a wedge with the hegemon U.S., Japan under Abe has made great investments in forging closer relationship with President Donald Trump to benefit from economic investments such as trade. For example, Abe has hosted President Donald trump in high-profile summits in Japan. Their intimate relationship, as seen in their close interactions through 32 phone calls and 5 rounds of golf, has allowed Abe to pursue Japan’s interests such as keeping the Trans-Pacific Partnership alive even after America’s withdrawal.

Domestic Policy

Aside from international or political affairs, Abe has also managed to move Japan’s society towards an inclusive and diverse one with an open market that embraces migration into Japan. He has reformed unproductive corporate culture by creating a new form of corporate governance code and investor stewardship code that aims to increase shareholder control and profitability. Meanwhile, the power of the traditionalist managers weakens. Additionally, Abe has also sought to punish the toxic corporate culture where workers had to endure unproductive overtime hours. Of particular importance, while his party had long resisted Japan’s movement towards gender equality and immigration, Abe has nudged companies to hire more women and minimise gender inequality through the provision of funded daycare centers, encouraging more men to take paternity leave as well as provide companies incentives if they hire women.

Economic policy

Abe will leave behind his biggest legacy, Abenomics, which was aimed to curb the threats of deflation and an aging work force through fiscal spending, corporate deregulation, and cheap cash.

Abenomics delivered great results in the early years of Abe’s term which lifted Japan’s economy immensely and at the same time, lifting Abe’s profile as a prime minister. However, in 2019, the steady growth suffered due to the trade war between United States and China. It then took a further downfall when the pandemic hit Japan, causing its economy to hit a slump.

Who will take over Abe? 

Certainly, Abe has done pretty well in his political and public policy approach during his 8-year long term. However, Abe has not groomed a successor during this time, and this creates anxiety for Japan; some scholars have argued that with Abe stepping down, Abe’s rival, Shigeru Ishiba who is the most popular politician will take over. What lays ahead for Japan and its society? It would be tough for the next prime minister to match Abe’s legacy on economic, political, and social policies where he brought the country out of recession and diversified Japan’s labour force.

Ishiba will have a tough challenge ahead as it tries to win the support of its party members as well as Abe’s party who regards him as a political foe. With this tussle ahead of him, one wonders his plans for the future and if he is able to charismatically deliver policies despite the constant tension within the cabinet.

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International Japan News

Japan’s Revolutionary Transparent Toilets Reveal Deep-Seated Problems

Social and cultural issues drive the need for transparency.

On the ground, sentiments regarding Japan’s new transparent toilets have been a mix of privacy concerns and praises for safety; on Twitter, most Japanese netizens have felt that they were impractical due to fears of malfunction.

But what exactly are these transparent toilets?

THE TOKYO TOILET Project

These transparent toilets are part of a new project unveiled by The Nippon Foundation in early August. As part of this project, three conjoined transparent toilet cubicles were installed in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and three other in Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park.

The main aim of these installations is to address two main concerns surrounding public toilets, especially those located in parks: cleanliness and safety. They come amidst stereotypes among the Japanese public that public toilets are “dark, dirty, smelly, and scary”.

These stereotypes could be caused by mysophobia and sexual harassment.

Mysophobia

A cultural phenomenon in Japan, ‘keppekishō’, could be one possible cause of the nation’s fear of using public toilets. Roughly translated, the term means “fastidiousness” or “phobia of dirt”.

From antibacterial products to squat toilets, Japan’s obsession with cleanliness has always been fascinating.

Yet, it has also been a sign of a serious mental epidemic. According to an anonymous 52-year-old Japanese reporter, his fear of contamination by germs in toilets became so extreme that he would avoid public toilets in train stations altogether.

Of course, he isn’t the only one suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and there are many more like him.

Sexual harassment and perverts

The Japanese social phenomenon of ‘sekuhara’ could be another possible cause of the fear of using public toilets. The term is an abbreviation of ‘sexual harassment’. In a country where sexual harassment and public indecency are grossly under-reported and under-criminalised, public toilets are hotspots for sexual predators to lurk in.

In 2018, two men were arrested on the same night for willfully entering a Sapporo supermarket’s women’s toilet. One of them was caught secretly filming a female supermarket employee from a neighbouring stall while the other was wearing women’s clothing and occupying a stall. Both of them were middle-aged men.

Public harassment faced by Japanese women has been reported to be much more common than that faced by Japanese men. 47.9% of Japanese women surveyed in 2019 claimed that they had been touched inappropriately before, while 41.9% of them claimed that they had experienced close physical contact (presumably unwarranted).

Similar campaigns in other countries

In a bid to weed out voyeurism, Seoul’s government dispatched 8,000 workers in 2018 to inspect “more than 20,000 public restrooms, in subways, parks, community centres, public gyms and underground commercial arcades”.

In the West, the British Toilet Association (BTA) had implemented the “‘Use Our Loos’” campaign in the same year to have more toilets in businesses open to non-customers, following a 39% decrease in the number of public toilets. The aim of this campaign was to make public toilets more accessible to the general public.

Would Japan’s transparent toilets campaign work in Singapore?

Unfortunately, no. This is simply because the Singaporean government’s focus has always been on keeping local toilets clean and improving mass awareness of good toilet etiquette since 1982, when the first “Keep Public Toilets Clean” campaign was launched. Therefore, a campaign like THE TOKYO TOILET would be highly irrelevant to the imperative needs of our nation in its current stage of development and would not soothe Singaporeans’ fears of public toilets being dirty.

A step forward in the right direction

While these newly-sprung toilets continue to garner attention from both Japanese and international news media, unwelcome fundamental issues have also been brought to light. Thankfully, The Nippon Foundation has acknowledged the presence of said fundamental issues.

Still, the country lacks legislative safety nets for sexual abuse as well as public awareness of and treatment for mysophobia.

On the governmental level, women’s sexual rights protection is nonexistent. In fact, Japan is the only high-income country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) without a law prohibiting sexual harassment.

On the social level, sufferers of mysophobia (and OCD in general) normally delay seeking treatment until their conditions become severe. Moreover, the lack of trained therapists has prevented diagnosed patients from receiving the proper treatment they need.

The transparent toilets are a step forward in the right direction. Thereafter, the real work begins.

Categories
Entertainment International Review

Tenet (2020): Nolan’s Half-Empty Vessel With Barely Any Noise

Let’s get one thing straightened out — Christopher Nolan makes resplendent cinema.

Whether its chronologically mischievous narratives in 20th century breakthrough Memento, bouncing Joseph Gordon-Levitt off twisting corridors à la Inception, or the (literally) star-spangled intergalactic regurgitation of Interstellar, the mercurial filmmaker requires no introduction to his mastery of tapping into our childlike wonder whilst simultaneously turning our adult psyche into mush.

When it comes to commandeering tropes which are often deemed tried-tested-expired by even the most venturesome filmmakers, it’s Nolan who wraps his claws around stale waters, promising riches in waterfalls and Trevi fountains. Where many see difficulty it’s Nolan who sees opportunity.

Which makes writing this all the more gruesome. I wanted to love Tenet.

It encapsulated much of what pandemic fatigued movie-goers needed after being holed up indoors; a paradoxical, mind-melting plot device anchored by time; a Black ‘James Bond’ display of nitty gritty action sequences; a devilishly handsome cast; and another Nolan puzzle that would dominate dinner party conversations for months.

Tenet dons the classic ‘spy saves the world’ suit by introducing our Protagonist (which is also his only callsign throughout), played by John David Washington, embroiled in a mysterious global war he doesn’t yet seem to understand, spearheaded by equally talented counterparts in Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh for its pivotal characters.

For its score, longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer took a backseat for a more sentimental project, meaning Nolan relied on Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, The Mandalorian) to curate the grand synergy between visuals and sonics that’s trademarked as a Nolan signature in his blockbusters.

We’re steadfastly thrown into disarray as Tenet’s opening seconds follows Protagonist into an asset extraction mission that takes place in an Opera house. All seems to be going well (or not, we can barely tell because of intentionally murky character dialogue, a well-documented gripe audiences have with beloved Nolan) until, amidst the swarm of gunfire, we’re shown that a single bullet is un-fired from an object of which it has already hit, closing its initial entry point, ricocheting back to its firer’s direction, and the surface is spanking brand new again.

Our visibly perplexed Protagonist spots this anomaly, now etched into his mind, before scurrying on with his time-sensitive extraction mission. This is the film’s first tease and entrapment of what its sci-fi element entails, reminiscent of Inception’s opener/Di Caprio’s dream-state flurry, and in we go to the whirlpool of time travel.

Except it isn’t. It’s inversion, the reversal of an object’s entropy, allowing it to move backwards in motion while everything else around it tick-tocks forward as per normal. How it all works is briefly explained several scenes later, with Protagonist and an inversion scientist convincing him (and invariably us) that understanding it is futile — feel it, she says. To grasp inversion she advises him to first picture traditional movements in his mind’s eye, then to execute it backwards. And what follows is brilliant absurdity.

In the realms of Tenet, punches, or inversion punches, are sonically portrayed as vacuum-like suctions accompanied with the visual motion of arm moving backwards, yet still inflicting damage. Try picturing an inverted wrestling match with multiple participants.

Inversion car chases mean engines roar to strange screeches when being driven. Devastating explosions deconstruct from clouds of smoke into atom-less nothings, with surrounding damage reconstructing back into its original form. A Boeing 747 is un-blown to smithereens to form its whole again. Inversion fire? Sub-zero ice.

All of which makes for fantastic viewing, and when coupled with backwards sound design, Tenet is unlike anything any film has offered in such elaboration, unless you count putting on Transformers entirely on rewind.

But the grandiosity stops there.

The same intricacy and accuracy to sound, however, is alarmingly absent for the aforementioned character dialogue. A substantial amount of understanding the film hinged upon its explanations, and in all his inversion whimsy, Nolan seems to have forgotten that his audiences aren’t soppy sacks of toddlers that salivate at mere booms and swashbuckling action.

For all the cerebral lunacy which he wants us to feel when watching Tenet, the sheer inaudibility of speech meant viewers are left with more questions than answers, and not in a fun ‘solve the mystery’ notion.

If Inception was an unsolved Rubik’s cube, Tenet is that cube, but with its sides so disheveled and banged up to the point where you could no longer discern its colours. The cube becomes unplayable and  thus unsolvable, similar to how Tenet was at times unwatchable because a plethora of its key plot points and explanations was, to put it mildly, audible mumbling.

We’re left pondering over every minute detail in its major action sequence, which consisted of an impressive inversion ‘Pincer movement’ of soldiers in differing timelines, before we could indulge in all its glory. But by then, the pace of the movie had already swept its viewers into incongruent abyss. Purchase a second screening in attempts to re-hear what was said? Not in this economy.

Unlike in Dunkirk, where dialogue wasn’t pivotal, and Inception, where visual cues already contained precedence in meaning, it’s deplorable that Nolan’s post-pandemic endeavour suffers from something that could so easily be rectified.

All this, without even getting started on the casts’ poor character development, his tiresome, sexist caricature of Elizabeth Debicky’s character, and his continuous blindspot for female portrayals.

Under the guise of ‘the next Inception’, or even as a standalone, I wanted to love this film — but this was too far off the mark. If Tenet was intended as a pandemic reprieve, look (and listen) elsewhere.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Tenet/Cinemablend
Categories
International Sports Tennis

The US Open, Dogged with Withdrawals and Criticism, is Trotting Ahead

The annual tournament, one of the 4 major tennis Grand Slams, commences behind closed doors for the first time on 31 August 2020, albeit with vastly differing narratives from past years.

A Grand Slam without its glorious crowd

Like many other global spectacles in the sporting world, tennis sees its fair share of restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Tennis’ restart in mid-July was met with mixed reactions following its uncertain calendar, and complications now follow its major Slams.

For starters, the matches taking place in Flushing Meadows and its famed Arthur Ashe Stadium will be watched on by a spectator count of zero. The first time since its inception, the 140-year tournament will be fully televised in an effort to curb the pandemic’s reach.

Raj Tatavarthy/Pexels

Arthur Ashe Stadium will be donned with a scrim hiding empty audience seats, with several large LED screens strategically positioned to display scores and announcements.

This comes after 2 other Grand Slams, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships, both traditionally held before its US counterpart, were postponed and cancelled, respectively.

Often touted as the largest spectacle of the 4 slams, organisers of the New York-based tournament were initially skeptical of progressing, with prominent voices within the tennis sphere voicing disapproval of a tournament held without fans, if at all.

They’d made their concerns public on 7 July; a week later, the body reversed their sentiment, and announced its commencement of the tournament as planned.

Naturally the decision amassed significant backlash — most understandably with the host country battling a spike in infections — prompting condemnation from tennis notables and withdrawals from prominent players.

Who’s in and who’s out

As high-profile match-ups go, the tournament will be lacking its usual flair and splendor with the mounting list of withdrawals.

Of the players to have pulled out, marquee names like defending champion Rafael Nadal and women’s World No.1 Ashleigh Barty have been resolute in their non-participation of the tournament early on in July.

The Women’s 2019 Roland Garros winner felt there are “still significant risks involved due to COVID-19“.

“I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position. I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the U.S. next year.”

Quickly following Barty’s announcement was 2004’s winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, who also cited the logistics and safety of getting her team together, as well as the safety of those around her as the main reasons for her withdrawal.

“I feel very sad, because I have been (waiting) for these tournaments so much, but the pandemic changes all plans.”

Defending women’s champion Bianca Andreescu, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Kiki Bertens, and Belinda Bencic have also pulled out. That means as it stands, half of the women’s world top 10 will not be seen in New York.

Instead, it is likely that these players will participate in European tournaments like the French Open, which commences just a week after the US Open closes curtains.

US representative Serena Williams has said that this is an ‘asterisk year’ for tennis, citing that a sport’s tournaments and competitions will forever be tainted by special circumstances, such as wars or pandemics.

“I think this whole year deserves an asterisk, because it’s such a special year, a history we have never been through in this world.”

Rafael Nadal has meanwhile expressed on social media that the remaining fixtures for the rest of the season are ‘barbaric’, following his withdrawal announcement.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has been vocally critical about tennis’ irresponsibility since the pandemic, has withdrawn from the 2020 season altogether.

The Australian has, rightly so, publicly condemned influential players like Novak Djokovic and Borna Coric after they organised an exhibition tournament where several top players eventually tested positive, putting players and communities’ safety at risk.

“Dear Tennis, let us take a breath here and remember what is important, which is health and safety as a community,” Kyrgios said.

“Even with the [Black Lives Matter] movement and the whole protests and that type of stuff going on over there, I just don’t think at the moment it’s the correct time to go ahead with sport, in my opinion.”

Both Djokovic and Coric will be participating in New York. Roger Federer has announced his withdrawal citing injury, while Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev are confirmed, which means at the moment nearly half of the World’s Men’s top 10 will not be participating.

Kei Nishikori, who pulled out of the Western and Southern Open tournaments because of positive COVID tests, has also withdrawn his participation in the Grand Slam. This comes after he announced that he was finally clear of the virus on 27 August.

The Japanese has also been battling an elbow injury for the better half of a year.

“I am happy to announce that I tested negative for COVID,” he shared on his app.

“Having said that, I (together with my team) have decided to skip the US Open this year. After such a long break I feel that returning in a best of 5 long-match setting is not smart until I am fully ready to do so.”

The US Open runs from 31 August 2020 to 13 September 2020.

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Exclusive Football International Sports

Premiere League’s Alleged Corruption — Just What Is Going On With Newcastle’s Takeovers?

Over an entire decade, Newcastle United Football Club’s (NUFC) owner Mike Ashley has made his intentions of selling the Tyneside club clear.

Since his acquisition in 2007 for £135 million, the British billionaire has, on multiple occasions, reiterated his desire to let go of the reigns amidst incompetence in the Premiere League, most vocally by mounting pressure from fans.

Ashley, who owns multiple businesses like discount chain Sports Direct, boxing goods manufacturer Everlast, and a slew of other sporting good brands, has been cited as a lackluster investor and ‘void of ambition’ in trying to resurrect NUFC to a semblance of its glory days, prioritising cost-effectiveness over sporting success.

Yet it isn’t for a lack of suitors that the club has failed to acquire a new owner.

Since his ownership, a slew of potential buyers have partaken in long, drawn out sagas of discussions till the fallout of an eventual sale — a circus most recently fronted by Singaporean firm Bellagraph Nova Group (BNG). Just why exactly have these fallen through?

Reuters investigates Bellagraph Nova Group

BNG were the latest to throw their hat into the takeover ring on August 15 2020; in a press release, the newly registered Singapore company announced a turnover of $12 billion in 2019 from its headquarters in Paris, whilst stating that “negotiations are at an advanced stage” following a letter of intent (LOI) and proof of funds (POF) sent to Mike Ashley.

A statement made by the group also claimed that they were closely working with former England captain Alan Shearer and former NUFC player Michael Chopra for the takeover. BNG’S bid was $280 million.

The group, which was registered only in July 2020, then posted marketing collaterals of their co-founding members Terence Loh, Nelson Loh, and Evangeline Shen engaged in a photo-op with Barack Obama on multiple occasions.

However, when pressed on the legitimacy of their intentions and operations by Reuters, BNG’s existence is riddled with discrepancies.

According to government records, no company under the name of Bellagraph Nova Group is officially registered in France; the address of which they are said to have been operating out of — 10 Place Vendome — does not contain the company’s records either.

Alan Shearer’s management subsequently said he was not involved in the takeover efforts.

Then, when questioned on their publicity efforts, BNG’s head of investor relations released a separate statement stating that the company had knowingly edited photos of the ex-United States president as if he had attended one of their company’s meeting. They have since taken down said photos from their social channels.

BNG has also listed affiliations and claimed ownership of multiple companies and entities (Hydra X, NETX, BN Airlines), most of which have outrightly rubbished the purported relationship or do not exist altogether.

While it remains to be seen what transpires, Reuters reports that all three of the co-founders did not respond to their requests for comments. Mike Ashley has not yet responded publicly to the bid, as well as the controversy.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘almost’ takeover, and the League’s deafening silence

Before BNG, it was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), who proposed a $300 million purchase of NUFC in a consortium. The PIF, which invests in international projects, is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Out of all the bids in the past, the Prince’s takeover was the only one that had reached the closing stages of checks by the Premiere League’s owners’ and directors’ test, which assesses the suitability of an entity to parent a football club.

The takeover was stalled by the League for several months during these tests, of which many political and corruption issues saw the light of day.

In one of the many hindrances, human rights organisations condemned Saudi Arabia’s owners and practices concerning welfare. Amnesty International also advised that a regime that’s consistently embroiled in human rights abuses should be distanced from the Premiere League.

In 2018, the CIA concluded that Bin Salman ordered the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Premiere League CEO Richard Masters had been singled out for this, with Amnesty UK director Kate Allen having requested a ban of the takeover.

“I believe there are serious questions to address in determining whether the owners and directors of the company seeking to acquire NUFC are meeting standards that can protect the reputation and image of the game,” Allen said in a letter to Masters.

Further, prominent NUFC fanbase site, nufc.blog.co.uk, have taken it upon themselves to shed light on the ostensibly nefarious reasons as to why the Saudi takeover was stalled by the League, who has substantial ties with officials in Qatar and broadcasting rights with Qatar owned BeIN Sports.

As the Telegraph reports, “The league is desperate to hang on to keeping their process secret because they have Ashley’s lawyers circling in one corner and BeIN Sports in the other.”

At present, Newcastle United are several weeks into the transfer window without purchasing any players. Mike Ashley is still the owner, and are two weeks away from the start of the new season.

Categories
Exclusive Gadgets International

Skip These Phones: Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra

At this year’s Galaxy Unpacked event, Samsung released 2 new phones, The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and vanilla Note 20 priced at S$1398 and S$1898, respectively. Our take? There are many other phones in the market that are cheaper and can provide the same experience (other than the S-pen), so pick those instead.

Specs

Both phones come with the latest and greatest Chipsets from Qualcomm and Samsung, with US variants coming with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Chipset in the US and an Exynos 990 Chipsets in most other markets including Singapore.

The vanilla Note 20 comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 ram and 128GB of UFS 3.0 storage, while the Note 20 Ultra has 12GB of LPDDR5 ram paired with 128GB of an even faster UFS 3.1 storage. However, only the Note 20 Ultra has a dedicated microSD card slot for a maximum storage expansion of up to 1 TB.

Battery

Striaght out of the box, both phones come with a 25W fast charger which Samsung claims can top your phone up from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes, and fast Wireless Charging 2.0 that delivers up to 15W of power. Speaking of charging, the vanilla Note comes with a hefty 4200mAh battery and the Note 20 Ultra comes with an even larger 4500mAh battery that should last you throughout the day. The phones are also still equipped with Samsung’s exclusive PowerShare Feature that allows you to charge other devices wirelessly by simply placing them on the back of your phone.

Display

These batteries have to power the monolith 6.9-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X curved display on the Note 20 Ultra and a normal 6.7-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED flat display on the vanilla Note 20 with an Infinity – O hole punch for the selfie camera in the center. The most disappointing difference between the 2 models is the exclusivity of a high refresh rate 120Hz display on the Note 20 Ultra. At this price point, all phones should come with this feature — even Samsung’s own S20 released at the start of the year has a high refresh rate 120Hz display with a lower starting point. To make matters worse, many new budget phones like the One Plus Nord has a 90Hz FHD+ display and its price is just under half the price of the vanilla Note 20. Despite this, both displays have excellent color reproduction and are bright enough to use outdoors without any glare.

Build

These displays are both protected by different variants of Corning Gorilla Glass — Gorilla Glass 5 on the vanilla Note 20 and the new Gorilla Glass Victus on the Note 20 Ultra. Tests by Corning have shown Gorilla Glass Victus surviving drops onto hard, rough surfaces from up to 2 meters. These phones also have glass backs and have a build of anodised aluminum like many other flagship phones out there. The Vanilla Note 20 is available in eye popping Mystic Green, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic Gray, while the Note 20 Ultra comes in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White.

S-Pen

New improvements have also been made to the Notes Signature feature, the S-pen. This year, Samsung has managed to drastically reduce the latency of the S-pen from 42ms down to just 26ms for the vanilla Note 20 and  9ms for the Note 20 Ultra to match Apple pencil levels of responsiveness akin to writing on physical paper.

Camera

Both phones have the same 10MP, f/2.2 80-degree FOV front facing camera that supports 4K 60 fps recording. On the back, both phones have triple cameras. They also share the same Ultrawide 12-megapixel F2.2 120-degree FOV camera perfect for group shots and landscapes. The two phones have different main and zoom cameras. The main camera on the Vanilla Note 20 is a 12-megapixel F1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS 79-degree FOV sensor capable of 4K 60 fps recording. Things get interesting with the Note 20 Ultras 108-megapixel F1.8, OIS 79-degree FOV sensor. This camera, also found on the S20 ultra, was plagued with video auto-focus issues that made it almost impossible to use when shooting video despite its 8K capabilities. To combat this, the Note 20 Ultra comes with a hardware solution, a new red laser auto-focus module that has appeared to solve the auto-focus issues. On a separate note, both phones can shoot in 8k 30 fps video. The Note 20 Ultra can do so on its main camera, but the Vanilla Note 20 uses the zoom camera instead, so to shoot 8k videos you have to zoom in 3 times. The zoom lens on the Note 20 ultra is a 12MP, f/3.0, telephoto camera, 5x Optical zoom sensor, and the vanilla Note 20 has a 64MP, f/2.0, telephoto, 3x Hybrid Optic zoom sensor.

Bottom Line

Both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are phones with excellent performance and design but with extremely steep starting prices that are just too expensive for what you’re getting. The screen on the Note 20 is a deal breaker for me, so unless you really need an S-pen, don’t buy the new Notes. Phones like the S20 offer comparable performance with its 120Hz Display and since they have been around for a while now, they probably would be a lot cheaper than the Notes.