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Business | The Guardian

Latest US financial, market & economic news and analysis.

Published: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 21:29:20 GMT2018-04-22T21:29:20Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018

Will Sean Hannity's ties to Michael Cohen be his undoing?

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 05:00:14 GMT2018-04-22T05:00:14Z

The Fox News host is under fire for failing to disclose his relationship to Donald Trump’s lawyer – but he remains one of the network’s biggest stars

Judge Kimba Wood had run out of patience. Lawyers for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s consigliere and legal fixer, had tried every trick in the book to avoid disclosing the name of a mystery Cohen client, who they said was desperate to remain anonymous.

“I’m directing you to disclose the name – now,” said Wood, a veteran jurist whose CV includes an improbable spell as a trainee bunny at London’s Playboy Club to subsidise her graduate studies at the London School of Economics in the 1960s.

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Union leader faces members' protest over sexual misconduct claims

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 10:00:19 GMT2018-04-22T10:00:19Z

The UFCW’s inaction over Mickey Kasparian, who settled lawsuits using union money, is hitting efforts to organize low-wage Latina workers, members of the San Diego local say

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) plan to protest at their union’s convention in Las Vegas this weekend, accusing the union of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct by one of its top leaders.

Mickey Kasparian, president of the 14,000-member UFCW Local 135 based in San Diego, has settled four different lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct in the last year. Three were apparently settled with union money.

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Aviation agencies order engine checks after Southwest blast

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 07:54:00 GMT2018-04-21T07:54:00Z

US and European regulators order inspections within 20 days after passenger killed by blowout

US and European airline regulators have ordered emergency inspections within 20 days of nearly 700 aircraft engines similar to the one involved in a fatal Southwest Airlines blowout earlier this week, citing risks of a similar mishap.

The directives from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency indicated rising concerns since a similar failure in 2016 of the same type of engine – a CFM56-7B engine, made by CFM International.

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Wells Fargo to pay $1bn in largest fine levied against a bank under Trump

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 14:17:20 GMT2018-04-20T14:17:20Z

Fine had been widely anticipated and comes after Donald Trump warned that administration planned to hold the bank to account

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $1bn to settle claims tied to its auto insurance, mortgage and other financial products in what is the largest fine levied against a major bank so far in the Trump administration.

The penalty is part of a settlement between the bank and two regulators, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, that derives from a series of consumer-practice crises at the bank.

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How firms you have never interacted with can target your Facebook

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 06:00:06 GMT2018-04-21T06:00:06Z

Advertisers are seemingly able to access accounts with no input from the user

On one of Facebook’s myriad setting screens, a place where few dare tread, is a list of places you’ve probably never heard of, all of whom insist that they know you. It’s emblematic of the data protection issues Facebook is struggling to address in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, of the fact that these problems spread far beyond Facebook, and of the easy solutions the company could take if only it had the courage.

This list is the collection of “advertisers you’ve interacted with”. You can find it halfway down your ad preferences screen, below a list of algorithmically suggested topics that Facebook thinks you’re interested in (if you’re a heavy user, these may be scarily accurate; if you’re not, they’ll likely be hilariously off).

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American Apparel returns – with a focus on empowerment and diversity

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:48:26 GMT2018-04-20T11:48:26Z

US company, which declared bankruptcy in 2016, says it has learned from its mistakes but will remain a ‘sexy’ brand

American Apparel is back. The brand that spawned myriad copies of its hooded tops with contrasting pull cords in the 00s before exiting the high street after much fanfare and a high-profile bankruptcy in 2016, became available again online in the UK this week.

The US retailer has weathered a well publicised storm over the past three years, which included the departure of founder and CEO, Dov Charney, and mass redundancies, followed by large-scale protests by its former workers. Now, after a reboot by its new owners, Gildan Activewear Inc, the Canadian-American manufacturers that bought the company for $88m (£62.5m) in 2017, the company is aiming to reclaim its title as the go-to retailer for the best basics, says brand marketing director Sabina Weber.

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Facebook moves 1.5bn users out of reach of new European privacy law

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:03:26 GMT2018-04-19T11:03:26Z

Company moves responsibility for users from Ireland to the US where privacy laws are less strict

Facebook has moved more than 1.5 billion users out of reach of European privacy law, despite a promise from Mark Zuckerberg to apply the “spirit” of the legislation globally.

In a tweak to its terms and conditions, Facebook is shifting the responsibility for all users outside the US, Canada and the EU from its international HQ in Ireland to its main offices in California. It means that those users will now be on a site governed by US law rather than Irish law.

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Black men arrested at Philadelphia Starbucks feared for their lives

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:41:51 GMT2018-04-19T12:41:51Z

  • Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson shocked that incident escalated
  • Pair were waiting for business meeting before 12 April incident

Two black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks said they were just waiting for a business meeting – and a week later still wonder how that could have escalated into a police encounter that left them fearing for their lives.

Related: Starbucks to close 8,000 US stores for racial-bias training

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'It's about expanding Earth': could we build cities in space?

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 07:00:07 GMT2018-04-21T07:00:07Z

Meet the startup hoping to colonise the final frontier, one zero-gravity 3D printer at a time

During the early weeks of his 167-day stint aboard the International Space Station in 2014, astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore noticed that a torque wrench was missing. “It’s not uncommon for things to disappear in space,” he tells me over the phone from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “You just don’t have gravity keeping stuff in place.” Wilmore mentioned the missing tool to Nasa’s mission control as he was tending to a 3D printer, a microwave-sized box that extrudes heated plastic to build up objects layer by layer, which was being tested on the space station.

About a week later, Wilmore opened the door to the 3D printer to find a perfect replica of his missing wrench. He was thrilled, a moment captured in a photo that was shared with the world’s media at the time. Until that point, the machine had produced only very simple objects. “This was a printed, all-inclusive wrench, with a ratchet mechanism, that worked,” Wilmore says.

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Dave Stewart: ‘I was an alienated, Harold and Maude kind of child’

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 13:00:05 GMT2018-04-21T13:00:05Z

The musician, 65, on meeting Annie Lennox, how he broke his ribs and why he used to dress up in S&M gear for a laugh

People wouldn’t believe how we recorded Sweet Dreams. A bank manager lent us £5,000 to buy equipment, which is amazing in hindsight, but we forgot that we also needed to pay rent on the flat, so we got kicked out of the place halfway through. Some of it we made in a vestry in Crouch End, no bigger than a bathroom.

I’m nuts about balmy, tropical places, away from Babylon, for making music in. Even in my first interview, in the Sunderland Echo, they asked me what I would do if I made it and I said I’d move to the Caribbean. Now I have a place in the Bahamas and a house up in the hills in Jamaica. Toots and the Maytals played in the living room.

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Joseph Stiglitz: 2018 Sydney Peace prize winner on tax cuts and Trump

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 14:01:25 GMT2018-04-20T14:01:25Z

Nobel prize-winning economist says the argument in favour of cutting company tax to increase wages is a spurious one

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Ask Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz for his thoughts on the Turnbull government’s arguments that cutting the company tax will lead to strong investment and higher wages, and he doesn’t mince words: “I don’t think there’s any validity in it.

“Firms locate in countries because of the quality of the infrastructure, the quality of the educated labour force, a whole set of aspects of the society and economy, and the tax rate is well down the list of concerns.”

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Fake it till you make it: meet the wolves of Instagram

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 05:00:07 GMT2018-04-19T05:00:07Z

Their hero is Jordan Belfort, their social media feeds display super-rich lifestyles. But what are these self-styled traders really selling? By Symeon Brown

The original Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, was a rogue trader convicted of fraudulently selling worthless penny stocks to naive investors. His biopic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the ostentatious, money-obsessed huckster, was a box-office hit in 2013. Although it may have been intended as a cautionary tale, to thousands of young millennials from humble backgrounds, Belfort’s story became a blueprint for how to escape an unremarkable life on low pay.

Within months of the Wolf of Wall Street’s UK premiere in January 2014, a stocky 21-year-old named Elijah Oyefeso from a south London housing estate, began broadcasting on social media how much money he was making as a stock-market whizzkid. His thousands of young followers were desperate to do the same. As Oyefeso’s online fame grew, he caught the attention of TV producers. In January 2016, Oyefeso was featured in the Channel 4 show Rich Kids Go Shopping, in which he bought expensive jumpers to give to homeless people and showed viewers how easy it was to make stock trades online.

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Will Democrats be bold and pledge to break up tech monopolies? | Ross Barkan

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:22:44 GMT2018-04-19T11:22:44Z

Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple have accrued so much power, it has damaged American democracy

For those Democrats who dream of being president, it’s no longer safe to play it safe. We live in a dangerous, unstable time in a democracy that is far from healthy. Many of the forces corroding it precede Donald Trump, despite progressives who would tell you otherwise – this entire century, so far, has been a misery for many Americans.

Related: The web can be weaponised – and we can't count on big tech to stop it | Tim Berners-Lee

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Nissan to cut hundreds of jobs at Sunderland plant

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:39:50 GMT2018-04-20T16:39:50Z

Plummeting diesel sales deal another employment blow to the UK automotive industry

Nissan is to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland plant, Britain’s biggest car factory, as plummeting diesel sales dealt another employment blow to the UK automotive industry.

The manufacturer would not confirm any job losses, although local reports suggested long-serving staff could be asked to take voluntary redundancy. The Unite union said it had been assured there would be no compulsory redundancies at the site, which employs 7,000 people. A source with knowledge of the situation said “hundreds” of jobs were likely to go at Sunderland, which makes Nissan’s Qashqai and Juke models, as well as the electric Leaf.

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Choc horror: four-fingered KitKat set to lose protected EU status

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:05:05 GMT2018-04-19T12:05:05Z

Chocolate bar not well enough known in all member states for shape to merit trademark status, European court of justice told

The shape of the four-finger KitKat bar is set to lose its EU-wide protected trademark status after the European court of justice was instructed that the chocolate was not well enough known in Belgium, Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

An appeal by Nestlé, the maker of KitKat, against an earlier ruling should now be thrown out, the court’s advocate general advised judges sitting in the Luxembourg court.

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A recent history of Australia's banking scandals

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 04:51:52 GMT2018-04-19T04:51:52Z

It was a long and chequered road to the banking royal commission and as public hearings continue the revelations just keep coming. Here, we’ve collated some of the more outrageous moments in the banking and financial sector in the nine years since the global financial crisis

• Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noon
• Readers respond: has your financial future been destroyed by a bank?

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Amazon buys exclusive UK rights to US Open tennis tournament

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:11:59 GMT2018-04-19T14:11:59Z

Five-year deal, thought worth $40m, gives Prime subscribers in UK access to grand slam event

Amazon has struck a deal said to be worth $40m (£30m) for the exclusive UK TV rights to the US Open tennis tournament, as the US firm looks to add to its 100 million Prime subscribers.

Amazon, which is in talks with the Premier League to potentially stream matches from 2019 to 2022, has struck a five-year deal starting with this summer’s tournament at Flushing Meadows in New York.

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UK millennials second worst-hit financially in developed world, says study

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:31:38 GMT2018-02-19T13:31:38Z

Resolution Foundation says young Britons have suffered biggest reversal in fortunes save for young Greeks

Britain’s millennial generation, born since 1981, have suffered a bigger reversal in financial fortunes than their counterparts in most other developed countries except Greece, according to a study.

The report by the Resolution Foundation paints a gloomy picture for all young adults across the developed world – apart from the Nordic countries. It highlights how incomes are depressed, jobs scarce and home ownership is slumping for the millennial generation compared with the baby boomers that preceded them.

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Watch live: Bernie Sanders hosts a town hall on inequality

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 22:45:22 GMT2018-03-19T22:45:22Z

Join Sanders from 7pm ET as he convenes a discussion on inequality with Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore and more guests

Watch live as Senator Bernie Sanders hosts a town hall on inequality in America. Sanders has said: “The issue of oligarchy and wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time, yet it gets very little coverage from the corporate media.” To discuss inequality, he has convened a town hall in Washington DC with Senator Elizabeth Warren, film-maker Michael Moore, economist Darrick Hamilton and other experts.

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Glossies so white: the data that reveals the problem with British magazine covers

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 05:00:18 GMT2018-04-10T05:00:18Z

A Guardian investigation shows there were whole months last year when not a single BAME person featured on the cover of our biggest-selling magazines. And when it comes to children’s magazines, the problem is even worse

Women’s magazine editors have always understood the importance of a good cover. An illustration of Queen Victoria’s bust, surrounded by stylish women behaving as domestic role models, was credited with propelling Mrs Beeton’s The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine to bestseller status in 1857, earning it “more patrons than any other magazine in the Empire”, one newspaper said. As a mixed-race girl growing up in Britain in the 1990s, I might have still been in the era of empire, as far as my relationship with popular magazines was concerned. Yes, I bought Just Seventeen, More, Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue, but the fact that I – and thousands of other women and girls of colour like me – spent our money on glossies did not mean they catered for us. Through ignorance and indifference, they frequently featured no one of black, Asian, mixed or any other ethnic minority heritage from cover to cover, while advice on makeup, skin care, hair styles and products was unfailingly irrelevant to us.

New research by the Guardian’s data team shows how little has changed. The covers of some the UK’s most popular monthlies remain overwhelmingly white.

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How can companies cut the UK's class pay gap?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 05:30:08 GMT2017-04-27T05:30:08Z

Professionals from poorer families earn almost £7,000 less per year than those from wealthier ones, despite businesses claiming to act on social mobility

It’s no surprise that social class can affect your life chances, but recently the education secretary highlighted the problem with a stark statistic.

Children who show signs of low academic ability at the age of five, but who come from high-income families, are 35% more likely to become high earners than those who show signs of high ability but come from poorer families, said Justine Greening.

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'Nice skirt, it would look better on my bedroom floor' – your sexual harassment stories

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 06:00:00 GMT2017-09-11T06:00:00Z

Readers share their stories of sexist comments and harassment in the workplace

When I was in my early twenties, I organised a meeting with three older male colleagues – two at senior management level and an external PR professional who was working with us on some projects.

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'Nut rage': Korean Air boss apologises as daughters resign

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 12:52:01 GMT2018-04-22T12:52:01Z

Cho Yang-ho sorry for ‘immature actions’ including disruption on flight in 2014 over a bag of nuts

The chair of Korean Air, Cho Yang-ho, has apologised for what he called the immature behaviour of his two daughters and said they would both immediately resign from their company posts following separate controversies.

Cho Hyun-min, the younger daughter, who is a marketing executive at the South Korean flag carrier, is under police investigation for assault after she was accused of throwing water in a man’s face at a business meeting.

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Could Donald Trump's lone ranger approach provide the silver bullet? | Larry Elliott

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 10:30:20 GMT2018-04-22T10:30:20Z

The president’s rejection of multilateralism is risky but our 70-year-old rule-based system is far from perfect

Donald Trump is playing with fire. That thought permeated last week’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.

The US president’s go-it-alone approach – especially in the field of trade – has certainly shaken things up. It is not just the threat of tariffs, nor that the US has brought the dispute settlement system at the World Trade Organisation to a standstill.

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Starbucks needs more than racial bias training after men's arrest, experts say

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 06:00:15 GMT2018-04-22T06:00:15Z

Company urged to see training plans as just a first step after Philadelphia incident: ‘You can’t train bias out of people’

Days after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia, the company announced a drastic response.

At the end of May, Starbucks stores across the US will close en masse and 175,000 employees will undergo racial bias training, a programme developed by progressive equality organizations.

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Bank of England 'dangerously ill-equipped' for next recession, says IPPR

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 16:00:26 GMT2018-04-22T16:00:26Z

Thinktank warns of a ‘car crash’ as low interest rates mean further cuts to stimulate demand would not be an option

The Bank of England is “dangerously ill-equipped” to avert the next recession and remains mired fighting the last downturn, according to a report calling for the introduction of radical new policy tools.

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the odds of a recession once every 10 to 15 years mean Threadneedle Street needs additional firepower for when the economy next begins to falter.

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City faces corruption crackdown as IMF investigates wealthy countries

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 13:00:22 GMT2018-04-22T13:00:22Z

G7 nations plus Austria and Czech Republic face tests to prevent money laundering

The City of London will come under the spotlight of the International Monetary Fund as part of a crackdown on corruption that will investigate whether Britain and other rich countries are taking tough enough action against bribery and money laundering.

In a hardening of its approach, the IMF said it needed to look at those giving bribes and financial centres that laundered dirty money as well as improving the existing clampdown on wrongdoing in poor countries.

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Dieselgate leaves UK’s car industry in crisis

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:00:07 GMT2018-04-21T15:00:07Z

Sales have slumped in the scandal’s wake and left manufacturers gasping for a breath of fresh air

Plummeting sales of diesel cars have driven Britain’s auto industry to the brink of a crisis, with the axe falling on thousands of manufacturing jobs, and dealerships threatened with savage restructuring.

Vauxhall, which was bought by Peugeot’s parent company PSA last year, last week revealed plans to slash UK dealerships from 326 to about 200 as part of the French owner’s drive to return the loss-making Vauxhall and Opel marques to profitability. Also this week, it emerged that Nissan is preparing to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland plant, the largest car factory in the UK, amid falling diesel demand.

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Southwest passenger dies after being partially sucked out of window

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 11:21:02 GMT2018-04-18T11:21:02Z

Plane makes emergency landing in Philadelphia after debris from exploded engine smashes window at 32,000 feet

A woman has died after she was partially sucked out of a window on a Southwest Airlines plane that was hit by debris from a blown engine at an altitude of 32,000ft.

Passengers scrambled to haul Jennifer Riordan back into the aircraft as the sudden decompression of the cabin pulled her partway through the opening, but she later died. Seven other people were injured.

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Legalising cannabis adds $3.6bn to Australian economy, budget office says

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 18:01:28 GMT2018-04-22T18:01:28Z

Parliamentary Budget Office rates fiscal benefits of Greens’ push to legalise, licence and tax marijuana
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Legalising cannabis would reap the Australian economy almost $2bn a year, the Parliamentary Budget Office has found.

The Greens plan to not only decriminalise cannabis but also legalise it for adult use is the latest case study of political differences, with both Labor and the Coalition looking into legalising it for medicinal use, but going no further.

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Labour to seek local support for £250bn 'regional renaissance'

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 13:19:29 GMT2018-04-22T13:19:29Z

Party to court regional mayors and councils over transport and infrastructure spending plans

Labour is to begin courting regional mayors and councils over its plans for £250bn of transport and infrastructure spending, promising to prioritise projects that boost productivity and help the rest of the country catch up with London.

Speaking to the Guardian, Peter Dowd, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the party would open a series of consultations with local leaders over the coming months on its proposals to help close the regional divide.

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Shakespeare’s sceptr’d isle has always been a part of Europe | William Keegan

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 06:00:15 GMT2018-04-22T06:00:15Z

The inspiration the bard drew from the continent emphasises, whatever Brexiters might say, the inseparability of our history

We know that the Brexiters want to recapture a lost Britain; and few Britons can rival William Shakespeare in the patriotism stakes.

It intrigued me, therefore, to hear the following from a Shakespearean scholar who recently delivered a Bardic talk in – where else? – Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford-upon-Avon is as near to Middle England as any Brexiter could wish.

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Richest 1% on target to own two-thirds of all wealth by 2030

Sat, 07 Apr 2018 12:08:56 GMT2018-04-07T12:08:56Z

World leaders urged to act as anger over inequality reaches a ‘tipping point’

The world’s richest 1% are on course to control as much as two-thirds of the world’s wealth by 2030, according to a shocking analysis that has lead to a cross-party call for action.

World leaders are being warned that the continued accumulation of wealth at the top will fuel growing distrust and anger over the coming decade unless action is taken to restore the balance.

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Head of EBRD hopes to expand into sub-Saharan Africa

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 15:29:48 GMT2018-04-22T15:29:48Z

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development keen to work with countries committed to market economics

A bank originally set up to help countries of the former Soviet bloc is poised to extend its operations into sub-Saharan Africa in order to speed up progress in meeting ambitious development goals set by the United Nations.

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the president of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said his organisation had the money and the expertise to stimulate the growth of strong private sectors in some of the world’s poorest countries.

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Global debt now worse than before financial crisis, says IMF

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:30:25 GMT2018-04-18T13:30:25Z

Fund warns all economies look vulnerable as low interest rates lead to debt worth 225% of GDP

The global economy is more deeply indebted than before the financial crisis and countries need to take immediate action to improve their finances before the next downturn, the International Monetary Fund has said.

The IMF said a prolonged period of low interest rates had stimulated a build-up of debt worth 225% of world GDP in 2016, 12 points above the previous record level reached in 2009.

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What happened this week is not a shock, it is capitalism as intended | Greg Jericho

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:00:35 GMT2018-04-20T22:00:35Z

One day perhaps this government will not treat voters like fools, but it seems we shall have to wait a bit longer

It has not been a good week for the government.

I don’t mean that in the standard, “poor optics” sense that often is used when commentators talk about who won or lost the week. Yes that too has been poor. After all this is a government led by a prime minister and treasurer who stridently criticised calls for a banking royal commission, and whose judgement on that matter has been shown to be utterly inept.

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WorldCom accounting scandal

Fri, 09 Aug 2002 12:26:45 GMT2002-08-09T12:26:45Z

WorldCom has revealed a further $3.3bn in accounting errors, doubling the size of the accounting scandal at America's second largest long distance phone company to more than $7bn. Mark Tran explains

What did WorldCom say?
The company said an internal audit had discovered that $3.3bn in profits were improperly recorded on its books from 1999 to the first quarter of 2002. That is on top of the $3.8bn in expenses the company said it had improperly reported as capital investments. WorldCom now says it must issue revised financial statements for 2000 and 1999 as well. The revision will reduce 2000 profits by more than $3.2bn, but this may not be the end of accounting horrors as the company warned it may find more problems.

Is there a new twist to the latest disclosures?
WorldCom said most of the $3.3bn irregularity involved the manipulation of reserves. Companies set aside reserves to cover estimated losses such as uncollected payments from customers and judgements in lawsuits and other expected costs.

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Banking Collapse of 2008: Three weeks that changed the world

Sun, 28 Dec 2008 00:01:00 GMT2008-12-28T00:01:00Z

It started in a mood of eerie calm, but then 2008 exploded into a global financial earthquake. Nick Mathiason and Heather Stewart look back at events that shook, and brought down, giants

It was the year the neo-liberal economic orthodoxy that ran the world for 30 years suffered a heart attack of epic proportions. Not since 1929 has the financial community witnessed 12 months like it. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch, AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bradford & Bingley, Fortis, Hypo and Alliance & Leicester all came within a whisker of doing so and had to be rescued.

Western leaders, who for years boasted about the self-evident benefits of light-touch regulation, had to sink trillions of dollars to prevent the world bank system collapsing.

Continue reading...Lehman Brothers employees leave Canary Wharf, September 2008. Photograph: Graeme RobertsonLehman Brothers employees leave Canary Wharf, September 2008. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

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Bitter fruit: The truth about supermarket pineapple

Fri, 01 Oct 2010 23:04:02 GMT2010-10-01T23:04:02Z

These days, sweet pineapple come with a sour aftertaste, with production marred by allegations of environmental damage, union-busting, chemical poisoning and poverty wages

Late morning, and the suffocating heat of Costa Rica's rainy season has turned the air over the plantation leaden. On the horizon, where the spikes of thousands of pineapple plants merge into a grey-green fog, sits a spraying machine. Settled and silent for now, like a giant stinging insect that has briefly come to land, its long stick arms are folded back above its head while the belly of the tank on the trailer behind it, marked with a skull and crossbones warning, is being refilled with its next toxic load. Then the whine starts up again, the arms unfold, the spray nozzles open and it sets off towards us.

Alongside me, Fernando Ramirez, leading agronomist at the National University's toxic substances institute, is explaining the agrochemical cycle required to produce perfect luxury fruit from a tropical monoculture. "Pineapples need very large amounts of pesticides, about 20kg of active ingredient per hectare per cycle. The soil is sterilised; biodiversity is eliminated. Fourteen to 16 different types of treatment are typically needed, and many have to be applied several times. They use chemicals that are dangerous for the environment and human health." The chemicals involved are legal in Costa Rica but include some of the most controversial in the world.

Continue reading...The main burden of the constant agrochemical assault on the Costa Rican pineapple crop falls not on affluent western consumers, but on those who work on the plantations. Photograph: Robert Yager for the GuardianThe main burden of the constant agrochemical assault on the Costa Rican pineapple crop falls not on affluent western consumers, but on those who work on the plantations. Photograph: Robert Yager for the Guardian

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