10 million Twitter fans for Rooney

Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney has cemented his place as the most popular British athlete on social media by going past the 10 million followers mark on Twitter.

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The social network released the figures on Monday to mark Rooney hitting the milestone, which also revealed that 74 per cent of his followers are based outside the UK.

The United and England number 10 is now the fifth most followed footballer globally, with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way with 30 million followers of his official account.

Rooney is the first Premier League player to reach 10 million followers.

Despite playing for Manchester United, London is the city with the highest volume of Rooney followers, and Twitter revealed that 29 per cent of those following Rooney’s official account also do the same with pop star Katy Perry.

The US singer remains the most popular account, with more than 58 million followers.

Rooney now sits ninth on the list of most followed British Twitter users, with One Direction’s Harry Styles top with just over 22 million followers.

Also in the top five are Adele and actress Emma Watson, as well as Styles’ One Direction bandmates Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson.

Rooney is around 500,000 followers behind X Factor boss Simon Cowell, with comedian Russell Brand completing the top 10, which also includes another member of One Direction in Zayn Malik, and fellow musician Ed Sheeran.

As of March this year Twitter had around 240 million monthly active users worldwide, 15 million of which are based in the UK.

The site is still working to keep pace with rival Facebook, which boasts more than one billion active users around the world.

Both sites are said turning their attention to mobile payments, with Twitter already trialling a Buy Now button, where users will be able to make purchases directly from tweets.

New screenshots also seem to suggest Facebook is preparing to introduce a peer-to-peer payment feature to the Messenger app, which would enable users to send money to friends.

Michael Phelps suspended from USA Swimming-sanctioned events for six months

The arrest last Tuesday marked the second time the 29-year-old Baltimore-area native had been arrested for drunken driving, the first being in 2004.

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In the first case, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while impaired in exchange for 18 months’ probation.

“Membership in USA Swimming, and particularly at the National Team level, includes a clear obligation to adhere to our Code of Conduct,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said in a statement.

“Should an infraction occur, it is our responsibility to take appropriate action based on the individual case. Michael’s conduct was serious and required significant consequences.”

Phelps was arrested last week after speeding and then crossing the double-lane lines inside a Baltimore tunnel, police said, adding he was clocked by radar travelling 84 miles per hour (135 kph) in a 45-mph (72-kph) zone.

Documents indicate that Phelps registered .14 percent on a Breathalyzer test after being pulled over in his 2014 Land Rover. The legal limit for intoxication in Maryland is .08.

Phelps apologised for the incident and said on Sunday he was checking himself into rehab for six weeks in order to “better understand myself.”

‘ACCEPTS SANCTIONS’

He can train with his member club during his suspension, but is ineligible to participate in USA Swimming-sanctioned competitions through March 6, 2015. Phelps, who has won 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold, will also forfeit a monthly stipend from USA Swimming during the six-month suspension.

“Michael accepts USA Swimming’s sanctions,” said a spokesman at Octagon, the group that represents Phelps. “He has apologised for his actions and, as he shared yesterday, is taking steps to address them.”

Although he has not indicated a desire to compete at the 2016 Olympics, many view Phelps’ recent return to the pool as a clear sign he wants to stage a comeback.

Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medallist, said she believed Phelps could still make the U.S. squad for Rio de Janeiro.

“I don’t think the suspension is going to affect him physically, because they’re not saying he can’t train. He just can’t compete,” Torres, a former teammate of Phelps, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“He can still stay in shape and he knows what to expect and how to compete. It’s not like he’s starting something new.”

Wielgus said: “Michael has publicly acknowledged the impact of his decisions, his accountability especially due to his stature in the sport and the steps necessary for self-improvement. We endorse and are here to fully support his personal development actions.”

(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Blatter must go, FIFA told

FIFA will lack credibility until Sepp Blatter leaves his role as president, a leading integrity expert says.

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Blatter has been accused of bribery and corruption and of being a dictator of world football’s governing body.

Michael Hershman, who served on FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee, said that Blatter’s presence was directly causing a lack of belief in the organisation.

“I don’t believe FIFA will ever have enough credibility unless there’s a change in leadership and that doesn’t appear to be happening,” he said.

Blatter recently announced his intention to run for a fifth term as president, having begun his reign in 1998.

Hershman, who is the founder of anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, said nothing will change unless those who hold the money are persuaded.

“There’s a great deal of cynicism about FIFA and frankly it’s well-deserved, but I’d rather see more anger than cynicism,” he said.

Blatter recently insisted that an internal investigative report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would remain private.

Hershman said that decision was another indication of FIFA and Blatter burying bad news.

“I would like to see FIFA release the report, with appropriate protection for people’s privacy, because some people may be innocent,” Hershman told a conference of the International Centre of Sport Security in London.

“Without a release of the report, FIFA will continue to be ridiculed in the press and by other stakeholders.

“I find it very odd that a few executives called for the release of the report, then they had a meeting of the executive board, and president Blatter said there had been no calls for the report to be released.

“That gives you the idea of internal pressures that people face within FIFA to toe the line.”

2015 Giro to run from San Remo to Milan

Giro d’Italia officials have unveiled a balanced route for next year’s race, which they believe will allow cyclists to compete in the Tour de France as well as the Italian classic.

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The 2015 Giro will take the riders from San Remo to Milan, via central Italy, the Dolomites and the Alps over a total of 3481.8 kilometres from May 9-31.

Organisers on Monday revealed the 21-stage route, which includes five days in the high mountains and seven medium mountain stages.

There are also seven legs for sprinters, an individual time trial and a team one.

There are two rest days and relatively short transfer distances, which organisers hope will convince many of the big-name Grand Tour contenders to join Alberto Contador in riding both the Giro and Tour in 2015.

“Looking at the recovery time, I think it’s possible to do the double,” race director Mauro Vegni said.

“It’s a hard Giro but it’s a very balanced one. The climbs are spread out and there are very few transfers. It’s the lowest amount of transfers we’ve had in 20 years, down to 800 kilometres or so.

“The ideal would be to race both the Giro and the Tour as similar to a two-legged football match and then the Vuelta as a one-off.”

Contador announced last month that he would compete in both the Giro and the Tour next year, as he aims to become the first rider to win both races in the same year since Marco Pantani achieved that feat in 1998.

The Spaniard was at the unveiling of the route at Milan’s Palazzo del Ghiaccio.

“I like this course, it’s suited to my characteristics as an aggressive rider,” he said.

“This Giro is very tough, with a lot of climbs, but the factor that makes it different to the Tour or the Vuelta is the weather, often it can be cold or snowy in Italy at that time of year.”

How genes can influence children’s exam results

By Eva Krapohl, King’s College London and Kaili Rimfeld, King’s College London

Put simply, all this means is that children differ in how easy and enjoyable they find learning and that these differences are to a large extent explained by differences in their genes, rather than differences between schools or teachers.

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We know from previous research that educational achievement in primary, middle school years and at the end of compulsory education is highly heritable. Heritability is a population statistic – it doesn’t tell us anything about a single individual. It describes the extent to which differences between children can be put down to DNA differences, on average, in a particular population at a particular time.

Twins’ exam results

Our new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on the UK-wide standardised exam results at age 16, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). We obtained exam grades from over 13,000 identical and non-identical twins from the Twins Early Development Study who were also assessed on nine broad psychological domains, including intelligence, educational self-belief, personality, behaviour problems, and well-being.

Identical twins share 100% of their genes, whereas non-identical twins, just like any siblings, share on average only half of the genes that vary between people. If overall, identical twins are more alike than non-identical twins on a particular trait, then this implies there is a genetic influence.

Our study showed that the mean results in the GCSE core subjects of English, mathematics and science is more heritable (62%) than the nine other psychological domains (35–58%) we looked at.

This means that differences in how well children perform at exams are to a large extent explained by the difference in their DNA. Importantly, it does not mean that genetics explain 62% of a single child’s school achievement.

Not just intelligence

When we analysed different traits, we found that educational achievement is correlated with many characteristics of children, not just intelligence. Our results indicate that these correlations are largely mediated by genetic factors. To the extent that children’s traits predict educational achievement, they do so largely for genetic reasons.

Although intelligence accounts for more of the heritability of GCSE results than any other single domain, the joint contribution of children’s self-belief, behaviour problems, personality, well-being, and their perceptions of school environment, collectively account for about as much GCSE heritability as intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE performance.

Indicator of equality

The children in this study were all taught the national curriculum, so to some extent received a similar education. As children’s learning experiences become more similar, they begin to explain the similarities between them rather than the differences between them. As a result of these diminished environmental differences, the relative genetic influences increase. So in a way, high heritability is an indicator of equality.

For example, despite high heritability, with sufficient educational effort, nearly all children could reach minimal levels of literacy and numeracy. This is an explicit goal of education in Finland. Success in achieving that goal would reduce differences in children’s educational achievement, which could change heritability. Hypothetically, if all environmental effects on individual differences (such as educational inequality) were to be minimalised, then the heritability estimate for educational achievement would be 100%.

Personalised learning

So what to make of this? Genes are important, not just in educational achievement or intelligence, but in a whole raft of other traits which contribute to how easy and enjoyable children find learning. Education is more than what happens passively to a child. Children are active participants in selecting, modifying, and creating experiences that are matched to their genetic predispositions. In genetics, this is known as “gene-environment correlation”.

At the practical level, our findings add support for the trend in education toward personalised learning rather than a one-size fits all model. None of this means that schools, parents or teachers aren’t important. Of course they are – and each has an important role in helping children achieve the best of their potential.


Next read: Better at reading than maths? Don’t blame it all on your genes

Eva Krapohl receives funding from the Medical Research Council Studentship.

Kaili Rimfeld receives funding from the Medical Research Council Studentship.