Queen’s Portrait By Bailey Released

queen elizabeth

A portrait of the Queen by the renowned British photographer David Bailey was released today to mark her 88th birthday tomorrow.

The photograph of the monarch, smiling, was taken at Buckingham Palace in March and commissioned on behalf of the Government’s GREAT Britain campaign.

The image will be used in activity to support the campaign, which aims to generate jobs and growth through highlighting Britain as a world-class destination for trade, tourism, investment and education.

The Queen is wearing pearls and a dress by Angela Kelly, who has served as personal assistant and senior dresser to her since 2002.

A Buckingham Palace source said: “Bailey’s name was suggested by Number 10 and the GREAT campaign and the Queen agreed. The Queen agreed to sit for it in recognition of the work of the GREAT campaign.”

Bailey said: “I’ve always been a huge fan of the Queen. She has very kind eyes with a mischievous glint. I’ve always liked strong women and she is a very strong woman.”

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The Government’s GREAT campaign is promoting Britain as a world-class destination for trade, tourism, investment and education.

“The portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by renowned photographer David Bailey CBE, celebrates her 88th birthday and supports the aims of the campaign, to showcase everything that is great about the UK to an international audience.”

It is hoped that the image will encourage overseas visitors to experience Britain’s royal heritage. Britain’s monarchy, including royal heritage and property, is one of the biggest drivers of tourism into the UK, generating an estimated £500 million per year from overseas tourism spend.

The Royal Family has given strong support to the campaign over the last two years and this photograph continues that support.

The campaign has delivered economic returns worth more than £500m to the economy with a further £600-£800m of returns forecast from activity in 2013-14.

It is the Government’s most ambitious international marketing campaign and showcases the best of what Britain has to offer in order to encourage the world to visit, study and do business with the UK.

The initiative was launched by the Prime Minister in September 2011 and is a global campaign, deployed by Britain’s diplomatic posts in 144 countries around the world.

Bailey, 76, has photographed an extraordinary range of subjects over more than half a century – actors, writers, musicians, film makers, designers, models, artists and people encountered on his travels.

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Mercedes AMG-GT To Take On The Porsche 911

mercedes

Merc’s high-performance sports car officially unveiled, along with a sneak peek of the interior.

Watch out, Porsche 911 ─ the Mercedes AMG-GT is official. Two photos of the interior have been released, giving us some idea of what to expect ahead of the GT sport car’s world premiere in the autumn of 2014.

The look of the car will remain a mystery until the Paris motor show in September. We can, however, glean some information from the interior, which borrows heavily from the new Mercedes S-Class. Luxury is very much order of the day, only the AMG-GT benefits from a few sporty enhancements such as AMG badges, carbon fibre on the gear surround and two-tone leather.

Four individual switches let the driver adjust the suspension, ESP, sports exhausts and gearbox from the comfort of sports seats. What appears to be an Alcantara steering wheel, trackpad for controlling the infotainment and a button labelled ‘Race’ complete the cockpit.

Reports say the AMG-GT, which is poised to go up against the 911, Lexus RC-F and Jaguar F-Type, will have a 475bhp 4.0-litre V8 and only the option of an automatic gearbox. Performance figures are currently unknown.

“The new Mercedes-AMG GT shows that we will be positioning AMG more vehemently and aggressively than to date as a dynamic sports car brand,” Mercedes-AMG chief executive Tobias Moers said.

” Following the global success of the SLS AMG, the new GT is the second sports car developed fully independently by Mercedes-AMG. An initial exclusive look at the design of the interior shows what is in store for our customers: a GT sports car in its purest form,” he added.

No doubt Mercedes-Benz will release further teaser details and photos as we lead up to its official debut in Paris ─ we’ll keep you posted. As for a price, expect it to be less than the £165,030 SLS AMG GT and £229,985 SLS AMG GT Black Edition.

Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT interior picture

Netherlands Lights The Way With Glow-in-the-dark Road Markings

smart highway

Street lamps replaced with special road markings that light up at night.

A 500-metre stretch of road in the Netherlands has replaced street lights with glow-in-the-dark road markings. The painted lines in the road use a clever photo-luminescent powder that stores up the energy from sunlight throughout the day to illuminate them at night.

The radioactive green road markings are being tested on a section of road on the N329 near the city of Oss to see how the technology stands up to real life conditions such as extreme weather and being run over by drivers.

The glowing road markings are the work of designer Daan Roosegaarde of design firm Studio Roosegaarde, who came up with the concept in 2012. Construction company Heijmans was tasked with developing the special paint.

A number of benefits arise from using “glowing lines” to indicate the path of a road – besides making roads look like something out of the movie Tron. Doing away with energy-consuming street lights would, for instance, save money and energy used to run streetlights. Light pollution would also be reduced.

Visibility is said to be 900 metres instead of 90. Early testing has reportedly seen accidents at night reduced by more than 70 per cent.

A few concerns have been raised. Exactly how well the lines will stand up to wear and tear is unknown. RolaHeijmans worker Roland de Waal also noted that people were turning off their headlights to see how “beautiful” the lines were. There’s also the eight hour glowing time, which is only half of the 16 hours of darkness the Netherlands experiences mid-winter.

Testing was meant to begin in 2013, it has been reported, but Roosegaarde said “government bureaucracy” got in the way.

The original concept also demonstrated markings on the road that reacted to temperature. A picture of a snow flake appearing when it gets cold, for instance. This aspect of the design is not currently being tested.

Roosegaarde is looking to secure contracts to secure the future of his glowing road markings. If all goes to plan we could one day see the technology in the UK.

Shanghai Disneyland To Feature Luxury Shopping Outlet

disneyland The first Disneyland theme park resort in mainland China is to set to get an adjacent luxury shopping compound. The Shanghai Shendi Group announced a venture with luxury outlet chain Value Retail this week, Want China Times reports. ‘Shanghai Village’ will be located next to Shanghai Disney Resort, which is set to open its doors at the end of 2015. Located in the city’s Pudong district, the outlet will benefit from the transport links connecting the metropolis to the resort, and will aim to attract luxury bargain hunters.

The 50,000 square meter site will stock a variety of luxury Asian and International lifestyle brands with collections selling at discounted prices. Value Retail’s existing ‘Chic Outlet Shopping’ concept villages in Europe include boutiques from designer labels such as Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Dior, Gucci and Prada, among others. The compound will be the second Chinese outlet for the chain, which is planning to open its inaugural Asian site, Suzhou Village, in May 2014. The Shanghai Disney Resort will feature a Magic Kingdom theme park and two themed hotels when it opens next year.

Obama: 8 Million Signed Up For Health Care

obama

Eight million people have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, President Barack Obama said Thursday, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead of the midterm elections.

Obama appeared in the White House briefing room to trumpet the new figures, which beat initial projections by 1 million people. Equally critical: About 35 percent of those who signed up are under the age of 35, Obama said. Enrolling substantial numbers of younger, healthier Americans is crucial for the law’s success.

“This thing is working,” Obama said of the Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement.

Obama and Democrats have been anxiously awaiting the age figures, especially those regarding young people — the most coveted demographic. Younger enrollees tend to be a healthier group overall, so their premiums can help offset higher cost of care for older enrollees. Too few young people in the mix, and the insurance pool could become lopsided and premiums could surge.

The demographic figures also give Democrats an opportunity to blunt the pessimism of Republicans, some of whom have accused the White House of “cooking the books” by announcing large overall enrollment numbers before releasing more detailed figures that provide a fuller picture.

Following the disastrous rollout of the exchanges in October, when HealthCare.gov was virtually unusable, Democrats have been hoping that higher-than-expected results could help their candidates reclaim the political high ground ahead of the midterm elections. Seven months out from Election Day, Democrats are seeking to turn the page on the law’s flawed debut — a strategy underscored last week when Obama announced that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who became the face of the rollout failure, was stepping down.

Polling shows the law remains unpopular in much of the country, but Democrats plan to use the high enrollment figures to argue that by trying to repeal the law, Republicans are actively working to take health care away from millions of Americans who now rely on the exchanges.

“The repeal debate is and should be over,” Obama said.

Other critical details for evaluating how well the law is working remain unknown. Officials haven’t released a tally of how many enrollees were previously uninsured — the key to determining how many people gained coverage that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Another unknown is how many enrollees sealed the deal by paying their first month’s premium to the insurance companies.

Gallup estimates that slightly more than half of those getting coverage through the federal and state markets were previously uninsured, drawing that conclusion from the polling company’s large survey tracking the health care overhaul.

Obama and top aides met earlier with leading insurance executives, including the CEOs of Wellpoint and Kaiser Permanente. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also gave an update Thursday to state insurance commissioners during a private meeting.

“I think that’s a pretty good number in terms of trying to make sure we have a healthy pool,” Montana’s insurance commissioner, Monica Lindeen, said of the surge in younger enrollees.

In another bout of positive news for Obama’s health care law, California’s state-run insurance exchange reported Thursday that nearly 1.4 million Californians had enrolled by the end of open enrollment, besting the Obama administration’s projections by almost 100,000 people. State officials said another 1.9 million people gained coverage through an expansion of California’s version of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

With the exchanges and the broader law looking increasingly viable, Obama and Democrats were hoping to move the political debate over “Obamacare” away from repeal and toward efforts to fix lingering issues with the law. Republicans have been reluctant to embrace fixes for fear of tacitly embracing the overall law. Obama said it’s “absolutely possible” to make improvements but that it would require a change of attitude from Republicans.

In a statement issued as Obama spoke, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “It is time for Republicans to seek treatment for their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and join Democrats to strengthen and improve its historic protections.”

Amazon Phone Boasts Glasses-free 3D

amazon phone

Amazon’s first smartphone leaks online, boasting face-tracking cameras to produce a glasses-free 3D effect.

Rumours of an Amazon smartphone have been strong lately, and today gained some serious weight with leaked photos and specs appearing online. The first mobile by the retail giant is said to feature four face-tracking cameras, which help produce a realistic 3D visual effect without the need for glasses.

The Amazon blower has been heavily disguised in the above shot with a covering frame, but plenty of details on the secret smartphone have also been leaked. Most interestingly, the Amazon phone sports four low-power infrared cameras – one in each corner of the 4.7-inch screen – which track the user’s eyeballs to produce a fake 3D effect.

Apparently several areas of the phone’s software use this 3D effect, including the custom desktops, which resemble those found on Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. Users can also tilt the phone to see objects on Amazon’s online store from different angles, and we’re hoping that the tech can also be used to view 3D movies purchased through the store.

Other specs of the Amazon phone include a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. Rumours also point to a 720p display instead of a Full HD screen, which would be surprising given Amazon will no doubt be pushing its online HD content.

Amazon’s smartphone will allegedly drop in June and hit US stores in Q3, hopefully travelling to the UK soon after. There’s no confirmation on price or name just yet. Amazon is also rumoured to be developing a second, cut-price phone which will likely ditch the 3D to ease back the cost.

BMW Prepares China-only 7-Series Horse Edition

bmw horse

The car, which will be exclusive to the brand’s Chinese customers, will be the centerpiece of BMW’s stand at the Beijing auto show.

Based on the long-wheelbase 7-Series luxury executive sedan, the Horse Edition offers a host of personalization options, including a number of individual paint finishes, and to help it stand out from the crowd, the exterior will also be augmented by elements from the company’s M division.

So, equipment and aerodynamic additions focused on increasing handling, performance and its sporty nature.

BMW promises a host of “high-class” interior details which will be open to personal interpretation but will include, as standard, specially embroidered leather seats featuring the Chinese character representing the Horse.

Now in its 13th year, the Beijing International Automotive exhibition officially opens its doors to the public on April 20.

BMW Horse Edition

Virgin Searches For Boy Who Inspired Virgin Galactic

virgin

Sir Richard Branson has launched a worldwide appeal to help him find the child who, 26 years ago, asked a question that inspired him to launch his commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic.

During a live appearance on a BBC TV show in 1988, Branson answered a viewer call from a young Shihan Musafer, who asked him “Have you ever thought about going into space?”

It was a harebrained idea at the time, to which Branson answered in the hypothetical: “I’d love to go into space, as I think pretty well everybody watching this show would love to go to space,” he replied.

“When you see those magnificent pictures in space and the incredible views, I think there could be nothing nicer. So if you’re building a spacecraft I’d love to come with you on it.”

Little did Branson know (or did he?) that little more than a quarter century later, he would be putting the finishing touches on what is poised to become a historic milestone in commercial and space travel.

“Now, Richard and the Virgin Galactic team are keen to track down Shihan to say a personal thank you for helping to inspire the idea with that phone call.”

Know Musafer? Tweet @richardbranson using the hashtag #shihanmusafer for his chance to take part in the historic flight as a VIP guest.