Apple: iPhone 7 helps US giant return to growth

iPhone 7 on sale in Apple store

Apple has reported its highest quarterly revenue, as the iPhone 7 helped it return to a growth in sales in the final three months of 2016.

In its first full quarter since the iPhone 7’s release, Apple reported net sales of $78.4bn (£62.3bn), up 3% on the same period a year ago.

Chief executive Tim Cook said Apple had sold “more iPhones than ever before”.

It had also set new records for revenues from its Mac, Apple Watch and services divisions, he said.

“We’re thrilled to report that our holiday quarter results generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way,” Mr Cook said.

Apple had suffered three quarters in a row of falling revenue as intensifying competition, particularly from Chinese rivals, hit sales of its flagship iPhone.

In April, the firm reported its first fall in quarterly revenue since 2003, hurt by slowing sales in China.

A continued slowdown in iPhone sales led to Apple then reporting a drop in annual revenue in October, the first such fall in 15 years.

Apple shares rose 3% in after-hours trading following signs of a recovery in the latest results.

The firm said it had sold 78.3m iPhones in the three months to 31 December, up from 74.8m a year before.

It reported revenue of $54.3bn from iPhone sales, plus $7.2bn from the Mac, $5.5bn from the iPad, $7.1bn from services and $4.0bn from other products, including the Apple Watch.

However, Apple warned that iPhone sales would miss analysts’ expectations in the current quarter.

It suggested that customers were holding back on phone upgrades in anticipation of the launch of the tenth anniversary iPhone later this year.

Trump: Pharmaceutical executives told to cut drug prices

President Donald Trump meets with pharmaceutical executives

US President Donald Trump has called on pharmaceutical bosses to cut “astronomical” drug prices.

During a White House meeting with senior pharmaceutical executives he told the firms to manufacture more of their drugs in the US.

However, he also vowed to help the firms by speeding the approval of new medicines and by cutting taxes.

His pledges helped to send shares in many of the biggest US drugmakers higher on Tuesday.

Drugmakers have faced intense criticism from US politicians – including Mr Trump – as well as insurance companies and patients’ groups over the high cost of new medicines and price hikes in some older generic drugs.

Among those attending the meeting were the bosses of Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Amgen and the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbying group.

“US drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country but the pricing has been astronomical for our country, we have to do better,” Mr Trump told them in the meeting.

“We have to get even better innovation, and I want you to move your companies back to the United States,” he said.

To help the firms, Mr Trump said his administration was “going to be lowering taxes big league”.

“We’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary – big league,” he added.

The president’s promise to speed up approvals by the Food and Drug Administration for new medicines sparked strong gains in pharmaceutical shares.

Shares in Merck and Amgen rose by about 1% while Novartis was up more than 2% on Wall Street.

The Nasdaq Biotech Index gained nearly 3% after the meeting and the S&P 500 health care index rose 1.4%.

Investors had sold off shares in drugmakers in recent weeks following heavy criticism from Mr Trump – supported by Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders – over drug pricing.

However, senior pharmaceutical executives welcomed Mr Trump’s proposals on Tuesday to cut taxes and loosen regulations.

“We believe if these policies are enacted, it will translate to up to 350,000 new jobs over the next 10 years as a result of growth in the biopharmaceutical industry,” said Stephen J. Ubl, chief executive of PhRMA.

Amgen chief executive, Robert Brad, said in the meeting that his firm would add 1,600 jobs in the US – a move welcomed by the president.

Merkel rejects Trump adviser euro claim

Angela Merkel

The German Chancellor has rejected comments made by a Trump adviser that Germany uses an undervalued euro to exploit trading partners.

Peter Navarro, the head of Mr Trump’s National Trade Council, that the euro is a German currency in disguise.

But Mrs Merkel said Germany “has always called for the European Central Bank to pursue an independent policy”.

She added that Germany “will not influence the behaviour of the ECB”.

Mr Navarro also told the Financial Times that talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US were dead.

“A big obstacle to viewing TTIP as a bilateral deal is Germany, which continues to exploit other countries in the EU as well as the US with an ‘implicit Deutsche Mark’ that is grossly undervalued,” he told the Financial Times.

He added that there was a “structural imbalance” in trade.

the euro is trading “well below its fair value” according to OECD measures.

Those who argue the euro is undervalued often blame the ECB’s monetary policy, including trillions of euros of asset purchases, aimed at stimulating inflation and growth in the eurozone, parts of which, notably Greece, are economically weak and need support.

The ECB, like the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve, is independent.

A low currency makes goods cheaper to sell abroad. The US regularly tells China its currency is too cheap and gives its products an advantage in world markets.

Germany – which is the biggest economy in the 19-country bloc – differs from much of the rest by selling far more goods abroad than it imports, giving it a large trade surplus.

According to , in November 2016 Germany exported goods worth 108.5bn euros and imported goods to the value of 85.8bn euros – the highest monthly figures ever calculated both for exports and imports.

Has Germany done well out of the euro? The case that it has is about trade.

The argument is that the euro has been weaker than the Deutsche Mark would have been, and that has supported German exports.

Germany now has very large surplus in its international trade; the current account surplus (which includes some financial flows as well as goods and services) is 8% of the size of the country’s economy.

It’s another question whether having a large surplus is a good thing or not.

In any event, there’s another side to Germany’s competitiveness.

Wages rose very slowly in the years after the launch of the euro.

(which allow for improvements in efficiency) actually fell in the euro’s first decade.

And Germany is paying something for keeping the eurozone whole. For sure, the bailouts are loans. But the interest rates are so low and the repayment terms have been extended so much (this is especially true of Greece) that there is a cost for the lenders, the largest of which is Germany.

In response to Mr Navarro’s comments, Mrs Merkel said: “Germany is a country that has always called for the European Central Bank to pursue an independent policy, just as the Bundesbank did that before the euro existed.”

“Because of that we will not influence the behaviour of the ECB. And as a result, I cannot and do not want to change the situation as it is,” she added.

Mr Trump has made trade one of the central planks of a proposed radical overhaul of the way the US interacts with the rest of the world.

He has outlined a number of protectionist trade policies with the stated intention of creating more US jobs, including threatening to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements.

He has suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization, and in his first week on the job .

China has also been singled out, and Mr Navarro has been a fierce critic of China.

Facebook brings its Slideshow movie-maker to Android

This past summer, Facebook introduced a new photo-sharing sharing tool called Slideshow that’s able to turn your photos and videos into mini-movies that also include themed music and transitions. The feature had originated in Facebook’s private photo-sharing app Moments before making its way over to the main social network.

The idea is to offer Facebook users an easier way to create more compelling, engaging posts as an alternative to simply posting a video or a bunch of static photos.

The Slideshow movie-maker had also arrived at a time when many tech companies, Apple and Google included, are trying to figure out new ways to help users do more with their now numerous photos and videos, while also helping to automate sharing. Apple last year announced its mini-movie maker called Memories in iOS 10, for example, and Google Photos has long since included several automated photo tools, including its own movie maker.

At launch, Facebook’s version would prompt users who were posting their status to create a Slideshow if they had snapped more than five photos or videos in the last 24 hours. A “Try It” button also appeared next to friends’ slideshows you were viewing.

Now, however, you’ll see the option appear when you click on the Status bar (“What’s on your mind?”) alongside the others, like Photo/Video, Go Live, Check In, Feeling/Activity, etc.

This is where it will be found on Android as well.


Image credit: Android Police

Slideshow’s Android launch was first spotted by the blog Android Police, which noted that the option is appearing in this same section, just above the “Tag Friends” option. Not everyone is yet seeing this feature, though.

Facebook confirmed to us that it has just started to test the feature on Android, and only a small percentage of users are seeing it appear for the time being.

It’s interesting that it’s still being characterized as a “test,” given that the feature has been live on iOS for over half a year. But since it’s not a full rollout yet, it’s possible that Facebook will make some tweaks ahead of its public launch.

The movie maker basically works the same on Android as on iOS for now. You’re prompted to select from a gallery of your own photos and videos, and then set your title and pick your music before publishing to Facebook. (Facebook provides the music choices as before – you can’t choose your own.)

Facebook didn’t say when Slideshows would roll out to all Android users, but given the feature’s maturity, that date is not likely to be too far away.

Cadbury Premier League child health link-up criticised

Cadbury chocolate

A partnership between the Premier League and Cadbury has been criticised by health campaigners, who called it “little more than a marketing ploy”.

The three-year sponsorship deal covers events such as the Golden Boot award and includes promoting healthy lifestyles to schoolchildren.

Cadbury said it would “help educate people” on nutrition, healthy eating and exercise.

But critics said chocolate should not be associated with healthy lifestyles.

Under the sponsorship deal, the Premier League plans to help scale up Cadbury’s existing Health for Life scheme, which works with 60,000 children to encourage them to be healthy.

The £3.1m scheme, based in south Birmingham, is funded by Cadbury’s owners Mondelez, but it is not branded. The Premier League says that approach will continue under the new arrangement.

New sessions will be added from the start of the 2017-18 season when Cadbury becomes a partner of the league.

National Obesity Forum spokesman, Tam Fry, said: “If the sponsorship meant that a host of kids would be encouraged to exercise and kick footballs to kingdom come, but didn’t come near a bar of chocolate, the forum might regard it as money well spent.

“But since the Premier League is rich enough to do this on its own anyway, and Cadbury could be looking at a downturn in the confectionery market, we regard this as little more than a marketing ploy.”

The pairing has also drawn criticism from Action on Sugar.

Nutritionist and campaign manager for the group Jennifer Rosborough said: “Whilst we fully support initiatives geared to promoting healthy lifestyles for children, chocolate, which is laden with sugar, should be an occasional treat and not associated with healthy living.

“Companies should choose their partnerships more responsibly.”

when it became one of the sponsors for the London 2012 Olympics.

The confectioner said the partnership with the league would “inspire school pupils about healthy lifestyles”.

A spokeswoman said: “We know we have a responsibility, along with the rest of the food industry, to help address public health concerns. That’s why we are planning significant community activity to help educate people on the role of nutrition, healthy eating and exercise.

“While we have already seen great success from the Health for Life scheme, we feel that through this partnership with the Premier League we will be able to make a bigger impact together.”

A spokesman for the Premier League told the BBC: “Our support for their Health for Life programme is one part of the partnership – Health for Life is an existing initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles to young people.

“We will work together to make sure this programme reaches more people than ever before, makes a bigger impact and inspires young people across the country.”

Patient payment proposals for extra GP care

GPs should be able to charge patients for some procedures such as vasectomies and mole removals, proposals by Dr Prit Buttar, of the Oxfordshire local medical council, suggest.

He says the plans would allow GPs to increase the overall money available to treat patients.

Health officials say there are strict rules in place to stop GPs charging their own patients.

Meanwhile, the doctors union say staff shortages are a more urgent issue.

Current NHS rules prevent GPs charging their patients, except in very limited circumstances.

But Dr Buttar says he wants this to change, particularly for procedures such as vasectomies that he feels are underfunded by NHS contracts.

Together with a small group of GPs, he is looking into the possibility of third parties charging patients and passing on the fees to surgeries.

And he says if his initial proposals are successful, they could be extended to offer out-of-hours appointments.

But an NHS England representative said: “All patients have a right to access high quality primary care services which are free at the point of delivery.

“Strict safeguards are in place to ensure that GPs cannot charge patients for NHS services.”

Meanwhile Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, said providing free care to every patient in GP surgeries was something the vast majority of doctors supported.

He added: “Irrespective of this scheme and its aims, the immediate priority is for the government addresses the incredible pressure on GP services, which is facing a severe shortage of several thousand doctors.”

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Campaign to adopt Wales’ organ donation law in England


A campaign for Wales’ organ donation laws to be adopted in England has been launched by a mother whose daughter needed a transplant.

Wales became the only nation in the UK to in December 2015.

Kerry Smith, from Abergele, Conwy county, but now living in Cheltenham, said it could save even more lives.

The Department of Health in England said it was waiting to see how changes in Welsh legislation impact donations.

Ms Smith’s daughter Megan Carson, 15, first became ill on a school trip last summer and medical tests revealed she had auto-immune hepatitis – a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the liver.

She needed a liver transplant and luckily a donor was found within a couple of months.

Ms Smith told the the experience made them realise the shortage of donor organs could be helped if England adopted the same system as across the border.

It means adults would be regarded as having consented to organ donation unless they have opted out.

The problem is particularly acute for children’s organs, as those aged under 20 make up only 4% of those on the donor register.

“The more organs that are available, the more lives that are saved,” Ms Smith said.

“My daughter Megan had to wait just less than two months, we were incredibly lucky to get a donor that quickly.”

She added it would also “ease the decision that upset relatives have to make at that time”.

Megan said: “There aren’t enough people who are donating in England.

“One person can donate several organs and I think presumed consent can help so much more than just opting-in because not enough do.”

Labour’s Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, has already called for change and has introduced a Private Members Bill that, if passed, would see presumed consent adopted across the UK.

“The system has proved to be a huge success and has saved a great many lives,” he said.

“Every day that goes by, those in the rest of the United Kingdom have to suffer the anxiety of waiting for an organ and in many cases it’s not available and they tragically die.”

In a statement, the Department of Health in England said it had “no plans to introduce an opt-out system but were waiting to see how changes in legislation in Wales impact on donations”.

It added that it would “continue to work closely with the Welsh Government to identify ways to build on the significant increase in organ donations already achieved since 2008”.

“Ongoing work as part of the implementation of the strategy aims to bring UK donor and transplant rates to a world class level, giving many more people the opportunity of a transplant,” the statement said.

“We encourage everyone to discuss their organ donation wishes with their family and friends.”

  • Find out more later on Wales Today, BBC One Wales, at 18:30 GMT.

Volunteers are cuddling vulnerable babies

Newborn baby in hospital

Vulnerable babies born addicted to painkillers or heroin are being soothed through their first difficult weeks by volunteers whose sole task is simply to cuddle them.

Programmes in hospitals and care facilities across the US have been inundated by people keen to offer physical comfort to the infants as they go through the withdrawal process.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of human physical contact, and medical staff have found that recruiting volunteers to hold and snuggle up to babies – perhaps singing or whispering to them – has a positive effect on the newborns.

Many babies spend weeks or months in hospital as they are gradually weaned off the drugs they have been exposed to in their mothers’ wombs. Sometimes they are not with their parents, or their mothers are spending many hours each day attending drug rehabilitation programmes.

“These babies need to feel love, human touch and a soft voice to comfort them when they’re in pain,” says Maryann Malloy, a nurse manager for the neonatal intensive care unit at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

“It makes the parents feel better knowing that even when they cannot be here there is someone to rock and hold their baby.”

“It is a helpless feeling when these babies become inconsolable.

“Our cuddlers help so the babies do not reach that point. They pick them up before the first whimper.”

The babies are suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as a result of their mothers using prescription painkillers and drugs like heroin or methadone.

Their symptoms will vary depending on what drugs the mother was taking but can include excessive crying, fever, irritability, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, trembling, vomiting and sweating.

Having volunteers available to cuddle babies also has reduces both the amount of medication babies need and their length of stay in baby units, doctors have noted.

Some babies have also shown other improvements, such as gaining weight more quickly.

Recruiting cuddlers to help look after vulnerable infants is now a widespread practice in the US. It has been used by some institutions dating back to the 1980s for premature babies and those born to crack-addicted mothers.

However, the problem of babies born with NAS in the US .

A 2013 report showed a greater number of women were using prescribed painkillers during pregnancy and also a general increase in prescription painkiller abuse.

According to the one baby every 25 minutes is born with NAS.

The that in its region alone the rate of newborn hospital stays for substance-abuse problems soared 250 percent from 2000 to 2015, when almost 20 out of every 1,000 newborns faced withdrawal issues.

Similar volunteer programmes are run across the US. The Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia, has a four-hour training course for its cuddlers. Once vetted and trained the volunteers put in three-hour supervised shifts.

The Boston Medical Center also has a program called CALM – Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress.

So many people have signed up to the Jefferson cuddling programme that their books are closed now to new volunteers until the middle of the year.

Those still keen to help are advised to look up local women and children’s shelters, which often provide services for mothers battling addiction.

By Annie Flury, UGC and Social News Team

Sex is painful for nearly one in 10 women, study finds

Woman in pain

Nearly one in 10 British women finds sex painful, according to a big study.

The survey of nearly 7,000 sexually active women aged 16 to 74, in , suggests this medical problem – called – is common and affects women of all ages.

Women in their late 50s and early 60s are most likely to be affected, followed by women aged 16-24.

Doctors say there are treatments that can help if women seek advice.

But many still find the subject embarrassing and taboo, the survey results show.

Painful sex was strongly linked to other sexual problems, including vaginal dryness, feeling anxious during sex, and lack of enjoyment of sex.

However, there can be lots of different physical, psychological and emotional factors causing painful sex, which can be complex to treat.

Some women said they avoided intercourse because they were so afraid of the pain.

Karen (not her real name) is 62 and from Greater London. She said her problems began around the age of 40.

“I felt that my sex drive dipped quite considerably, arousal seemed to take longer, and, despite an understanding husband, I started to dread him making approaches.

“It’s like any muscle group I guess, the less you use it the worse it gets.”

Karen tried using lubricant but still encountered problems.

“It became like a vicious cycle. You worry and get tense and that only makes it worse.”

Karen developed another complication called – involuntary tightening of the muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted.

“It wasn’t just in bed. It happened when I needed smear tests too. I would be crawling up the bed away from the nurse because it hurt so much.”

Karen spoke to her doctor who recommended she try oestrogen creams and pessaries for the dryness and dilators to help with the involuntary tightening.

“Women need to know that there is help out there for these kinds of problems, especially as we are all living longer.

“You shouldn’t have to be writing off your sex life in your 50s.

“Many women don’t like to talk about it. We share all the gore of childbirth, yet women of my generation don’t tend to talk openly about sex and the menopause. We should.”

The national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London and NatCen Social Research.

Of those who reported painful sex (7.5%), a quarter had experienced symptoms frequently or every time they had had intercourse in the last six months or more.

Around a third of these women said they were dissatisfied with their sex life, compared with one tenth of the women who didn’t report painful sex.

Lead researcher, Dr Kirstin Mitchell, from LSHTM and the University of Glasgow, the said there could be a whole range of reasons for dyspareunia.

“In younger women, it might be that they are starting out in their sexual lives and they are going along with things that their partner wants but they are not particularly aroused by.

“Or they might be feeling tense because they are new to sex and they are not feeling 100% comfortable with their partner.”

Painful sex might be caused by other health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, endometriosis and fibroids, which should be diagnosed and treated.

Women around the age of the menopause can find sex painful because of vaginal dryness.

Dr Mitchell says it’s not just older women who can feel embarrassed talking about painful sex, even though the condition is common.

Other research, involving about 200 university students in Canada, suggests up to half of young women find their first experience of intercourse painful.

Dr Mitchell says sex education should do more to better prepare young people.

“Often sex education is about STIs and pregnancy, but it should also prepare people to think about what makes sex enjoyable and how to communicate what they like and dislike in a trusting and respectful relationship.”

If you have pain during or after sex, you should get advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic.

If there is an emotional reason or anxiety that is causing problems, a counsellor or sex therapist may be able to help – and your GP or sexual health clinic can refer you to one.

Personality linked to ‘differences in brain structure’

brain scan - conceptual image

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Those with thicker and less wrinkled outer layers of the brain tended to have more neurotic tendencies, the study of scans of 500 people found.

Open-minded people were more likely to have thinner outer brain layers, it said.

Experts said the study, while worthy, was difficult to interpret.

Published in the journal , the study by scientists from the UK, US and Italy looked in detail at the brain scans of 500 young, healthy volunteers.

The volunteers also filled in questionnaires designed to assess five personality traits – neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness and conscientiousness.

They found the different traits were linked to differences in the thickness of the cortex (the outer layer of the brain), how folded the cortex was and the overall volume of the brain.

Researcher Dr Luca Passamonti from Cambridge University said the research could help them understand more about mental health over time.

He added: “Linking how brain structure is related to basic personality traits is a crucial step to improving our understanding of the link between the brain morphology and particular mood, cognitive or behavioural disorders.

“We also need to have a better understanding of the relation between brain structure and function in healthy people to figure out what is different in people with neuropsychiatric disorders.”

The scientists acknowledged more research was needed to firm up their conclusions.

Michael Anderson, an associate professor of psychology at Franklin and Marshall College, said the study was difficult to interpret, although it was “carefully done, using well-controlled methods.”

He said: “Most regions of the brain are associated with multiple cognitive and behavioural functions, so it can be difficult to say with any confidence which functions are relevant to these particular associations.”

He added: “Brain function is less a matter of the number of nerve cells being used or the amount of brain tissue being used and more about how nerves connect to each other – which is not investigated in this study.”