Nick Kyrgios blames stomach bug for Shanghai Masters retirement

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Nick Kyrgios said a stomach bug and a shoulder problem had forced him to retire after losing the first set in his Shanghai Masters first-round match against American Steve Johnson on Tuesday.

The mercurial Australian, who lost to Rafa Nadal in the China Open final on Sunday, took a 4-2 lead in the tiebreak before Johnson fired a series of winners to take the set 7-6(5).

Kyrgios then ran up to his opponent, shook his hand and walked off court to boos from the crowd, leaving Johnson and chair umpire Fergus Murphy confused.

Local media reported that Kyrgios received two code violations during the set and was docked a point in the tiebreak.

Reports also said he told officials he would quit if he lost the set, but Kyrgios took to Twitter to apologise to his fans.

“I’ve been battling a stomach bug for the past 24 hours and I tried to be ready but I was really struggling on the court today which I think was pretty evident from the first point,” Kyrgios said.

“My shoulder started to hurt in the practice which didn’t help either and once I lost the first set I was just not strong enough to continue because I’ve not eaten much in the past 24 hours,” he added.

“I’m hoping to be okay for the doubles and will make a decision tomorrow morning, hopefully off of a good night’s sleep which I didn’t get last night. “I’m gutted to be honest to be honest as I was keen to keep the good momentum that I built in Beijing going and finish the year strong. I’ll do what I can to make sure I do.”

Kyrgios was fined $16,500 by the ATP last year for deliberately throwing a game away during his second-round defeat by Mischa Zverev in Shanghai.

Argentine Juan Martin del Potro overpowered Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4 in the second round.

American Sam Querrey powered past Yuichi Sugita 6-3 6-2 and Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov beat Viktor Troicki 6-7(3) 6-3 6-0 in first-round matches.

World Cup Qualifiers: USA fail to qualify for first time since 1986 with 1-2 defeat to Trinidad

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The United States has been eliminated from World Cup contention, a shocking loss at Trinidad ending the Americans’ streak of seven straight appearances at soccer’s showcase. Twenty-eight years after a stunning victory at Trinidad put the Americans back in the World Cup after a four-decade absence, their chances for next year’s tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

Trinidad and Tobago scored a pair of first-half goals, and the United States was eliminated with a 2-1 defeat Tuesday night — the first time missing the World Cup since 1986. The USA entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres’ 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

France need to learn to hurt opponents, says coach Didier Deschamps

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France achieved their first goal of qualifying automatically for next year’s World Cup by beating Belarus 2-1 on Tuesday but they need to be more controlling if they are to win a second world title in Russia, according to coach Didier Deschamps.

Les Bleus won thanks to goals by Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud in the first half but endured a nervy finish after Belarus, who reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time, came close twice to equalising from counter attacks.

“We did some things very well, but there are things we did not really control,” Deschamps told a news conference.

“We don’t manage to control the situation throughout a game, and we didn’t manage to control throughout the qualifying campaign.”

France will therefore not be among the top favourites in Russia next year, said Deschamps, who captained Les Bleus to their only world title on home soil in 1998.

“We have a lot of ambition but if we look at the other nations, there are two in Europe (Portugal, Germany) who are ahead of us, and one in South America (Brazil),” he said.

The 48-year-old added that he expected an improvement from his squad, who ended the qualifying campaign top of Group A with 24 points from a possible 30.

“We did not really hurt our opponents. It’s important that we learn to do that,” he said.

Deschamps has experimented with various attacking line-ups and gave no indication on his intentions eight months from the finals as Kylian Mbappe, Griezmann, Giroud, Alexandre Lacazette and others are vying for a spot in the starting eleven.

“It takes time to find the right balance in that department,” he said.

S. Korean lawmaker says North Korea hacked war plans

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A South Korean lawmaker says North Korean hackers stole highly classified military documents that include U.S.-South Korean wartime “decapitation strike” plans against the North Korean leadership.

The United States, meanwhile, staged another show of force meant to deter any North Korean aggression by flying two B-1B supersonic bombers Tuesday night from an air base in the U.S. territory of Guam to the South for drills with South Korean jets. Such flights by the powerful aircraft based in Guam incense the North, which claims they are preparation for war; Pyongyang has threatened to send missiles into the waters around Guam.

If confirmed, the reported hacking attack by the North would be a major blow for South Korea at a time when its relations with rival North Korea are at a low point. The South has taken an increasingly aggressive stance toward the North’s belligerence amid back-and-forth threats of war between North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump. North Korea’s possession of secret war plans would require a major overhaul of how South Korea and its ally Washington would respond if there’s another war on the Korean Peninsula.

An unusually aggressive approach to the North by Trump, which has included rhetoric hinting at U.S. strikes and threatening the destruction of North Korea’s leadership, has some South Koreans fearful that war is closer than at any time since the Korean War ended in 1953 in a shaky ceasefire, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.

Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic Party who sits on the National Defense Committee, said defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the classified U.S.-South Korean war plans, including parts of Operational Plan 5015, which includes procedures for a decapitation strike on the North’s leadership if a crisis breaks out or appears imminent.

classified military documents, “decapitation strike”, “decapitation strike” classified military documents, classified military documents stolen, classified military documents north korean stole, classified military documents US, indian express newsIn June 20, 2017 file photo provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, top, and second from top, and South Korean fighter jets F-15K fly over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea. A South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, that North Korean hackers may have stolen highly classified military documents that include U.S.-South Korean wartime “decapitation strike” plans against the North, according to South Korean media reports. (South Korean Defense Ministry via AP, File)

The Defense Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised. Defense officials refused to comment Wednesday.

Lee, who didn’t specify his sources, said the plans allegedly stolen by the North include operations for tracking the movement of the North’s leadership, isolating their hideouts, executing air assaults and follow-up actions for securing and eliminating targets, which would obviously include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There is an urgent need for the military to change and update parts that were stolen by North Korea,” Lee said.

A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it’s widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

Outside governments and international human rights organizations say Kim rules as a tyrant over a largely malnourished and abused population while enjoying a luxurious lifestyle backed up by a weapons program nearly advanced enough to viably target the U.S. mainland with nuclear-tipped missiles. But Kim, the third generation of his family to rule, is officially revered in the North, and any suggestion of removing him from power is taken extremely seriously in Pyongyang.

Lee said that 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken, but the military has yet to identify 80 percent of the documents that were compromised. Other stolen data included contingency plans for South Korean special forces and information on military facilities and power plants, he said.

Seoul says North Korea has repeatedly staged cyberattacks on South Korean business and government websites. North Korea routinely denies responsibility.

Not long after the news of the alleged cyberattacks broke, two B-1B bombers few from Guam to conduct drills with two South Korean fighter jets Tuesday night, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

The U.S. bombers staged simulated air-to-ground missile striking drills off the peninsula’s east coast before flying across the country accompanied by the two South Korean jets. The aircraft then conducted similar simulated air to ground striking drills off the peninsula’s west coast, the official said.

North Korea has yet to comment on either the bombing drills or the hacking claims.

Indonesian village gives owls their jobs back

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The owls of Tlogoweru have their jobs back. Six years ago farmers in this small Indonesian village were fighting a losing battle against rats and other pests ravaging their crops. They tried smoking out the pests, but it failed. Hunting them was also impractical. The villagers also wanted to avoid using pesticides for fear of damaging their crops.

Pujo Arto had an idea. Bring back a natural predator — the barn owl. Since then, the farmer-turned-breeder has raised nearly 2,000 owls through his Natural Predator Programme and released them into the wild to combat pests. “We fostered awareness within our community by building homes for these owls, while government officials helped in implementing laws,” said Arto, 50. Common barn owls, due to their size and diet, were most suited for the job, Arto said.

In the wild, a barn owl will lay between three and 12 eggs, but not many nestlings survive. Arto brings the eggs back to the facility to increase the survival rate, releasing the birds back into the wild when they are four months old. So far, Arto has set up 140 nesting boxes in the village for the owls to lay their eggs, the houses standing tall on posts amidst the green fields of corn. Deforested land used for agriculture reduces locations for nesting, so the boxes provide the birds with an incentive to stay and thrive.

The local government has supported Arto’s programme by putting into place a law that bans shooting or disturbing birds in the area. Thanks to Arto’s initiative, Tlogoweru village has now become a popular destination for people looking to learn about the importance of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in nature.

China’s Xi looks set to keep right-hand man on despite age

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to retain his right-hand man, the graft-buster Wang Qishan, in a senior position at a key Communist Party Congress this month even though he has reached retirement age, according to a majority of people with ties to the leadership interviewed by Reuters.

The fate of the 69-year-old Wang, who keeps a low public profile but is often described as China’s second most powerful politician, has been a source of intense speculation ahead of the Congress, which opens on October 18.

Twelve of the 16 people with ties to China’s leadership, including former officials as well as relatives, aides and close friends of current and former senior officials, said Wang was likely to retain a leadership role. They said it was unclear what Wang’s title would be and whether he would remain on the powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. The other four said he would probably step down.

Under one scenario, Wang would become one of two vice chairmen of the National Security Commission, set up in 2013 to increase coordination among the branches of China’s security bureaucracy and headed by Xi, three of the sources said.

Alternatively, he could become vice chairman of the Communist Party itself, if Xi resurrects the party chairmanship position, they said.

Under other scenarios, Wang could become premier – replacing Li Keqiang, a role that traditionally includes management of the economy, or head of parliament. “He will most likely stay on in some form, maintaining a position of power. He’s important to Xi,” said Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator and historian.

“Xi has shown he is willing to break with precedent before and he’ll probably do it again with the ‘seven up, eight down’ rule for Wang,” he added, referring to the unwritten rule that officials cannot be promoted when they reach the age of 68.

The party signalled last year that the rule was not binding. However, deferring retirement would raise questions about whether Xi, 64, would himself use that as precedent to retain his roles as party and military chief beyond completion of the traditional two five-year terms. Regardless of title, Wang’s next role may include a remit that extends to management of China’s economy, whose growth is imperilled by heavy debt and inefficient state enterprises.

“Wang Qishan has a very strong economic policy voice. I could entirely see a circumstance under which he’s given another role that brought that out more,” said Duncan Innes-Ker, regional director for Asia for the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Wang was previously a vice governor of the central bank, and as a vice premier with an economic portfolio helped oversee China’s recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

Another possible scenario is that the retirement age for Chinese officials would be extended to 70, the sources said. Wang could therefore retain his Standing Committee seat and head the National Supervisory Commission, a super-ministry that would absorb the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) he now heads.

UK reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal in call with Donald Trump : Theresa May’s office

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Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to a 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of a key U.S. decision on whether Tehran has stuck to the terms of the pact. Trump has cast doubt on the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which sought to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in return for lifting most Western economic sanctions.

A senior U.S. administration official said last week that Trump – who has criticised the pact as an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated,” – was expected to decertify Iran’s compliance ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline. “The (prime minister) reaffirmed the UK’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security,” an emailed statement from May’s office said.

“(The prime minister) stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced.” Earlier, the White House said Trump would make an announcement later this week on an “overall Iran strategy,” including whether to decertify the nuclear deal. May’s office said she agreed with Trump that their teams should remain in contact ahead of the decision on recertification.

Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow join flood of allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein

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A flood of allegations poured in Tuesday against Harvey Weinstein in on-the-record reports that detailed claims of sexual abuse and included testimonies from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, further intensifying the already explosive collapse of the disgraced movie mogul.

Three women accused Weinstein of raping them in a story published online by The New Yorker, including the Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento and a woman who was an aspiring actress in college when she caught Weinstein’s eye. A representative for the mogul vehemently denied the allegations in a statement to the magazine.

In a follow-up to its earlier expose, The New York Times also reported Tuesday that many other actresses have in recent days added to the chorus of accusations surrounding Weinstein. Paltrow described Weinstein’s attempt to lure her, then 22, into giving him a massage in a hotel room. The incident prompted her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt to angrily confront Weinstein at a film premiere.

Both reports significantly ratcheted up the unfolding scandal surrounding Weinstein, who was fired Sunday from the Weinstein Co. By the end of Tuesday, former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, an array of movie stars and Weinstein’s own wife, Georgina Chapman, had issued statements condemning Weinstein’s alleged conduct. Chapman told People magazine she was leaving her husband after 10 years of marriage, citing Weinstein’s “unforgivable actions.”

The published stories thoroughly document the systematic harassment, abuse and intimidation of women – almost always young actresses trying to succeed in movies.

Lucia Evans, then a senior at Middlebury College, said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 at the Miramax offices in Tribeca. She had been brought in for a casting meeting with Weinstein. Argento said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. A third woman spoke anonymously.

“I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento told The New Yorker. “That’s why this story – in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older – has never come out.”

angelina jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Molestation, Casting Couch, sexual harrasment, Hollywood, Bollywood, Entertainment news, Indian Express, Brad PittGwyneth Paltrow.

Attorneys for Weinstein, 65, did not immediately return messages Tuesday. The New Yorker quoted Weinstein representative Sallie Hofmeister responding that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”

“Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” said Hofmeister. “Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”

The New Yorker story, written and researched by the NBC correspondent Ronan Farrow, claimed that thirteen women have said Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them between 1990 and 2015. The incidents described range from unwanted groping to forced sex. Some of those incidents overlap with the eight allegations of sexual harassment previously reported by The New York Times, all of which resulted in financial settlements.

But they also go much further. In the article, Rosanna Arquette and Mira Sorvino are among those who claim Weinstein sexually harassed them. Arquette described a 1990s incident at a Beverly Hills hotel in which Weinstein tried to make her give him a massage and then attempted to lead her hand to his penis. Afterward, the actress told the magazine, “He made things very difficult for me for years.”

“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie said in an email to the Times. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

Representatives for the actresses involved in both reports did not return messages seeking comment.

The Italian news agency ANSA said it contacted Argento about the story, and said she responded with a text message that read: “It’s all true, everything is written in the New Yorker. Now leave me in peace.”

Actress Louisette Geiss (‘Two and a Half Men’) also came forward Tuesday, announcing in a press conference at Gloria Allred’s Los Angeles office that in a 2008 meeting at the Sundance Film Festival, Weinstein appeared nude in an open bathrobe and asked several times that she watch him masturbate.

angelina jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Molestation, Casting Couch, sexual harrasment, Hollywood, Bollywood, Entertainment news, Indian Express, Brad PittThe New Yorker also reported that 16 former and current executives and assistants at The Weinstein Co. and Miramax either witnessed or knew of Weinstein’s unwanted sexual advances.

The New Yorker also reported that 16 former and current executives and assistants at The Weinstein Co. and Miramax either witnessed or knew of Weinstein’s unwanted sexual advances. “All sixteen said the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company.”

The Weinstein Co. board of directors, which includes Weinstein’s brother Bob, issued a statement late Tuesday, denying any culpability.

“These alleged actions are antithetical to human decency. These allegations come as an utter surprise to the board. Any suggestion that the board had knowledge of this conduct is false,” the four-member board said in a statement. “We are committed to assisting with our full energies in all criminal or other investigations of these alleged acts, while pursuing justice for the victims and a full and independent investigation of our own.”

Disney, which purchased Miramax in 1993, also responded Tuesday. The Weinsteins departed in 2005 to found The Weinstein Co.

“Fired (the) Weinsteins because they were irresponsible, and Harvey was an incorrigible bully,” said former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner on Twitter on Tuesday. “Had no idea he was capable of these horrible actions.”

“Harvey Weinstein’s reported behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable, and it has no place in our society,” said Disney chief Bob Iger.

The New Yorker also revealed an audio recording made by the New York Police Department in 2015 in which Weinstein says he groped a model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. At the time, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced that an investigation didn’t support criminal charges.

“If we could have prosecuted Harvey Weinstein for the conduct that occurred in 2015, we would have,” Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, chief assistant district attorney, said Tuesday.

“While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent,” she added. “Subsequent investigative steps undertaken in order to establish intent were not successful. This, coupled with other proof issues, meant that there was no choice but to conclude the investigation without criminal charges.”

Weinstein was fired Sunday by the Weinstein Co., the studio he co-founded, three days after a bombshell New York Times expose alleged decades of crude sexual behavior on his part toward female employees and actresses, including Ashley Judd.

Weinstein responded to the report in a lengthy, rambling statement in which he pleaded for a second chance and apologized for the pain he had caused.

Since his firing, much of Hollywood has reacted with disgust and outraged, including Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney. Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, have given charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from Weinstein.

In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, Clinton said she was “shocked and appalled” by the revelations about Weinstein. She praised the women coming forward, “Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior.”

Obama and his wife, Michelle, released a joint statement Tuesday evening expressing disgust with Weinstein.

“Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories,” the statement said.

“I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades,” Ben Affleck wrote in a statement Tuesday. “The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick. This is completely unacceptable, and I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others.”

Matt Damon, who collaborated frequently with Weinstein, and won a co-writing Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” with Affleck, said he didn’t know about Weinstein’s behavior.

“This morning, I just feel absolutely sick to my stomach,” Damon told the trade website Deadline Tuesday. “This kind of stuff can’t happen.”

Weinstein has not publicly commented since Thursday.

Catalonia baulks at formal independence declaration to allow talks

Catalonia’s leader balked at making a formal declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday, calling for talks with Madrid over the region’s future in a gesture that eased fears of immediate unrest in the heart of the euro zone. In a much-anticipated speech to the Catalan parliament, ringed by thousands of protesters and hundreds of armed police, Carles Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end.

His remarks disappointed many of his supporters who had gathered outside, waving Catalan flags in the expectation that he would move a formal independence motion to the assembly. But the speech pleased financial markets, boosting the euro on hopes that his gesture would mark a de-escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.

Tensions have been climbing in Catalonia since it went ahead on Oct. 1 with an independence referendum that Madrid had deemed unconstitutional. Despite a violent police crackdown, Catalan officials say the result was an overwhelming “yes” vote. But instead of moving a motion in regional parliament on Tuesday, as Spanish unionists had feared, Puigdemont and other regional politicians signed a proclamation of “full sovereignty” for Catalonia. Its legal value was unclear.

Pro-independence supporters take part in a rally in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Catalonia’s leader on Tuesday said he had a mandate to declare independence from Spain but stopped short of actually doing so, suspending secession for “a few weeks” to pursue negotiations with the Spanish government.(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

“I am disappointed. I hoped for a declaration of independence and it didn’t happen,” said 18-year-old student Julia Lluch, among a crowd of independence supporters who were rolling up their flags and drifting away from the assembly. In Brussels, though, there was a sense of relief that the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy now had at least bought some time to deal with a crisis that was still far from over. One EU official said Puigdemont “seems to have listened to advice not to do something irreversible”.

However, the prospects for political talks still appeared remote on Tuesday despite Puigdemont’s gesture, with Madrid insisting on talks to be held “within the law”, a phrase that is widely interpreted as ruling out independence as an option. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria also rejected the Catalan leader’s proposal for talks to be conducted by an international mediator. “Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim … to impose mediation,” she said. The Spanish government will meet on Wednesday to decide on its response to Puigdemont’s declaration.

STOCKS, EURO RISE

Both Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government and European Council President Donald Tusk had urged Puigdemont not to proclaim independence. And French President Emmanuel Macron rejected Puigdemont’s call for European Union mediation, saying he was confident Madrid could handle the situation. The Catalan government said 90 percent of those who voted backed independence but turnout was only 43 percent as many opponents of independence stayed at home. Puigdemont told the Barcelona regional parliament that the result provided a popular mandate for independence and he called for talks and reduced tensions.

“We aren’t criminals, nor crazy, nor coup plotters, nor abducted,” he said. “We are normal people who ask to be allowed to vote and who have been ready for all the dialogue necessary to achieve it in an agreed way.

“I assume … the mandate that Catalonia become an independent state in the form of a republic,” he said to prolonged applause. “I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.”

After Puigdemont’s speech, stocks around the world rose as Wall Street eked out record highs ahead of earnings season, while U.S. Treasury prices pared gains. Some analysts, however, said Puigdemont’s stance would prolong the uncertainty and risk from the Catalan impasse. It could also rock his Catalan government, with one far-left party inside his coalition, the pro-independence CUP, saying he may have missed an historic opportunity and giving him one month to find a negotiated solution the CUP doubts will ever come. “You say we are suspending the effects because we are going to negotiation and mediation. Negotiation and mediation with whom? With a Spanish state that continues to harass and persecute us?” CUP leader Anna Gabriel said.

The Catalan crisis has deeply divided the northeastern region as well as the Spanish nation. Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of around 40 percent of residents in Catalonia backed independence. The stakes are high – losing Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, would deprive Spain of a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of exports. Some of Catalonia’s largest companies have moved their head offices out of the region this week and others were set to follow if he had declared independence.

Independence supporters watched Puigdemont’s speech on large screens outside the 18th-century parliament building. Initially, people chanted “independence”, cheered and kissed each other, but as it became clear there would be no formal declaration of independence, some people whistled and shook their heads. Pensioner Marisol Rioja, 65, said: “We would have liked more. But he (Puigdemont) couldn’t do it.” Eric Martinez, a 27-year-old manager, also wept as he watched the speech with his girlfriend. “There is no solution through mediation with Spain. Mediation with Spain is useless,” he said.

Data is not the new oil

Unlike oil, which is finite, data is a super-abundant resource in a post-industrial economy

How do you know when a pithy phrase or seductive idea has become fashionable in policy circles? When The Economist devotes a briefing to it.

In a briefing and accompanying editorial earlier this summer, that distinguished newspaper (it’s a magazine, but still calls itself a newspaper, and I’m happy to indulge such eccentricity) argued that data is today what oil was a century ago.

As The Economist put it, “A new commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting anti-trust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow.” Never mind that data isn’t particularly new (though the volume may be) – this argument does, at first glance, have much to recommend it.

Just as a century ago those who got to the oil in the ground were able to amass vast wealth, establish near monopolies, and build the future economy on their own precious resource, so data companies like Facebook and Google are able to do similar now. With oil in the 20th century, a consensus eventually grew that it would be up to regulators to intervene and break up the oligopolies – or oiliogopolies – that threatened an excessive concentration of power.

Many impressive thinkers have detected similarities between data today and oil in yesteryear. John Thornhill, the Financial Times’s Innovation Editor, has used the example of Alaska to argue that data companies should pay a universal basic income, another idea that has become highly fashionable in policy circles.

A drilling crew poses for a photograph at Spindletop Hill in Beaumont, Texas where the first Texas oil gusher was discovered in 1901.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionA drilling crew poses for a photograph at Spindletop Hill in Beaumont, Texas where the first Texas oil gusher was discovered in 1901.

At first I was taken by the parallels between data and oil. But now I’m not so sure. As I argued in a series of tweets last week, there are such important differences between data today and oil a century ago that the comparison, while catchy, risks spreading a misunderstanding of how these new technology super-firms operate – and what to do about their power.

The first big difference is one of supply. There is a finite amount of oil in the ground, albeit that is still plenty, and we probably haven’t found all of it. But data is virtually infinite. Its supply is super-abundant. In terms of basic supply, data is more like sunlight than oil: there is so much of it that our principal concern should be more what to do with it than where to find more, or how to share that which we’ve already found.

Data can also be re-used, and the same data can be used by different people for different reasons. Say I invented a new email address. I might use that to register for a music service, where I left a footprint of my taste in music; a social media platform on which I upload photos of my baby son; and a search engine, where I indulge my fascination with reggae.

If, through that email address, a data company were able to access information about me or my friends, the music service, the social network and the search engine might all benefit from that one email address and all that is connected to it. This is different from oil. If a major oil company get to an oil field in, say, Texas, they alone will have control of the oil there – and once they’ve used it up, it’s gone.

Legitimate fears

This points to another key difference: who controls the commodity. There are very legitimate fears about the use and abuse of personal data online – for instance, by foreign powers trying to influence elections. And very few people have a really clear idea about the digital footprint they have left online. If they did know, they might become obsessed with security. I know a few data fanatics who own several phones and indulge data-savvy habits, such as avoiding all text messages in favour of WhatsApp, which is encrypted.

But data is something which – in theory if not in practice – the user can control, and which ideally – though again the practice falls well short – spreads by consent. Going back to that oil company, it’s largely up to them how they deploy the oil in the ground beneath Texas: how many barrels they take out every day, what price they sell it for, who they sell it to.

With my email address, it’s up to me whether to give it to that music service, social network, or search engine. If I don’t want people to know that I have an unhealthy obsession with bands such as The Wailers, The Pioneers and The Ethiopians, I can keep digitally schtum.

Now, I realise that in practice, very few people feel they have control over their personal data online; and retrieving your data isn’t exactly easy. If I tried to reclaim, or wipe from the face of the earth, all the personal data that I’ve handed over to data companies, it’d be a full time job for the rest of my life and I’d never actually achieve it. That said, it is largely as a result of my choices that these firms have so much of my personal data.

Servers for data storage in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, which is trying to make a name for itself in the business of data centres - warehouses that consume enormous amounts of energy to store the information of 3.2 billion internet users.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionServers for data storage in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, which is trying to make a name for itself in the business of data centres – warehouses that consume enormous amounts of energy to store the information of 3.2 billion internet users.

The final key difference is that the data industry is much faster to evolve than the oil industry was. Innovation is in the very DNA of big data companies, some of whose lifespans are pitifully short. As a result, regulation is much harder. That briefing in The Economist actually makes the point well that a previous model of regulation may not necessarily work for these new companies, who are forever adapting. That is not to say they should not be regulated; rather, that regulating them is something we haven’t yet worked out how to do.

It is because the debate over regulation of these companies is so live that I think we need to interrogate superficially attractive ideas such as ‘data is the new oil’. In fact, whereas finite but plentiful oil supplied a raw material for the industrial economy, data is a super-abundant resource in a post-industrial economy. Data companies increasingly control, and redefine, the nature of our public domain, rather than power our transport, or heat our homes.

Data today has something important in common with oil a century ago. But the tech titans are more media moguls than oil barons.