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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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On press freedom day, remember the dead – and the need for common sense

Category : Business

Thirty-two journalists have already died on duty this year. In Britain, meanwhile, it’s charter vs charter, and Cameron needs to get a move on

The latest chink of commonsense emerged on World Press Freedom day on Friday, appropriately enough. Journalists around the globe were remembering the 32 of their number who have died on duty already this year. The World Association of Newspapers, assessing threats to open reporting, singled out Britain, post-Leveson, as a cause for concern. And David Cameron, with Ukip to worry about, did the pragmatic thing. He dropped 15

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Letters: Media plurality must be addressed

Category : Business

David Puttnam makes an important link between the concept of “a duty of care” and the media and democracy (A win for democracy, 23 March). I, like him, hope that the issue of effective press regulation, independent from newspaper owners and politicians, will soon be settled. That will be a positive outcome from the Leveson report. But the report made no recommendations on one remit of the original inquiry, which was to recommend ways to enhance media plurality.

The present level of media concentration is one of the reasons the phone-hacking scandal erupted because the politicians were scared of News International and, as the evidence around phone hacking and Leveson revealed, News International was scared of nobody.

Puttnam points out that News Corporation’s ambition for full control of BSkyB has not been squashed. BSkyB’s market dominance and revenue continue to grow and it is now the second largest supplier of broadband in the UK.

At the European level the “duty of care” for the media is also problematic. One has only to consider the way a discredited Italian politician was able to use his wealth and media dominance to come a close second in the February general election. In Hungary the right-wing nationalist party Fidesz exerts increasing control over the media.

Last Thursday saw the UK launch in the House of Lords of a citizens’ initiative on media pluralism aimed at addressing these issues. It is an ambitious project involving, so far, more than 100 organisations across nine member states including the UK, Italy and Hungary (details at
Granville Williams
UK co-ordinator, European Initiative for Media Pluralism

• David Puttnam is wrong to declare that careful thought on “the notion of ‘a duty of care’ – as it relates to a number of aspects of civil society” – is a recent development. This notion has been a central feature of negligence law since the 19th century and has been gaining prominence in the law of defamation for decades: eg in the negligence-based defences of unintentional defamation and innocent dissemination, and, more recently, in judicial guidelines on responsible journalistic practice. In his assumption that we can move from particular duties of care (eg those borne by journalists conducting an investigation) to the duty to foster and maintain “a healthy democracy”, Puttnam reveals a utopian belief that politicians can usher such a democracy into existence through the deployment of royal charters and other such makeshift devices.
Professor Richard Mullender
Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle

• The problem with press freedom is that it is considered important because politicians and capitalist oligarchs are too often accountable only to the press. In a democratic society, accountability and redress of the misuse of power would be exercised in many different forms, and accountability to the press and the media would be only one of

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Politicians and press regulation: a good deal on paper … | Editorial

Category : Business

The three main party leaders have reached a compromise but will the practicalities play out? There is still no guarantee

A minor politician pops out for Sunday lunch, and discovers on returning to her car that her bag and phone have been stolen. So far, so unremarkable. But there was to be a twist in Siobhain McDonagh’s tale of everyday frustration, for in June 2012 – 20 months after the theft – she was rung by the police and told that the Sun had been accessing her texts since soon after her phone disappeared. She is far from the most vulnerable victim of the hacking affair, but the newspaper’s apology in the high court on Monday provided a timely reminder of how, in the early years of this century, parts of the newspaper industry were – by any reasonable standard – running out of control.

That reality is the first of two things that need to be borne in mind in making sense of the small-hours manoeuvring over baffling intricacies that led to the cross-party agreement on press regulation the prime minister set out in the Commons on Monday. The other, which any newspaper worth its salt is obliged to point out, is that no society can hope to be free without sweeping freedom to publish the truth. The twin needs to keep the press free while also holding it to far higher standards were both unarguable objectives for the Leveson process, and yet it is unarguable also that there is inevitable tension between the two. There may be no perfectly clean way to reconcile them. The Levesonian mantra of “independent self-regulation” is undoubtedly something of an oxymoron, but it is a slogan for reform that no one has bettered without disregarding either freedom of speech on the one hand, or – on the other – the privacy of blameless victims and the high corruption which long concealed their plight.

Much of Fleet Street has ploughed on as if there were really nothing to balance, only one supreme freedom at stake here: its freedom to carry on as heretofore. As the Sun paraded 21-year-old Poppy supposedly quoting Thomas Jefferson in her pants on page 3 on Monday, several other papers attempted to summon a defining distinction of principle between the prime minister’s scheme for underpinning the new system of self-regulation through a royal decree, and the Labour/Lib Dem preference for writing a backstop provision for regulating the regulator into law. In truth, there was much less to choose between these alternatives: both were convoluted solutions to the convoluted problem at hand. And it is surely welcome that Britain’s partisan divide is not so deep that its politicians were ultimately incapable of grasping this. No doubt it helped that Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband had a shared sense that the downside of breaking with consensus, and standing against either popular victims or still-powerful newspapers, was greater than any likely gain.

Rival claims about whether a dab of legislation exclusively concerned with a royal charter that it doesn’t mention amounts to “statutory underpinning” are not edifying, but do no harm. The reality of political compromise is that all must have prizes. Mr Cameron emerges having stood up for the press without being its puppet, Mr Miliband avoids taking on the tabloids alone, and Nick Clegg proves his party can work with Labour.

The politics, then, have played out, but will the practicalities? There is still no guarantee. Monday night’s noncommittal statement by the Newspaper Society suggests that many powerful players are still calculating whether to play ball. The deal done should unblock the government’s legislative programme, and secure early passage of a defamation bill, a potentially momentous advance for free speech. But doubts continue to linger, not only about powerful titles setting up secessionist self-regulators but also about fears of ruinously punitive damages for publications prospectively outside the system, such as Private Eye. After doing a deal among themselves, the politicians will breathe a sigh of relief and hope they can move on. But as the industry alights on grievances, both real and hyperbolic, the political class as a whole could discover that the brokering has only just begun.

High Street fund ‘barely touched’

Category : Business

A £10m government fund set up a year ago to help bring empty shops back into use has barely been touched, according to Freedom of Information requests seen by the BBC.

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High Street fund ‘barely touched’

Category : Business

A £10m government fund set up a year ago to help bring empty shops back into use has barely been touched, according to Freedom of Information requests seen by the BBC.

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Leveson asked: who guards the guardians? It seems to be Oliver Letwin

Category : Business

The appearance of independence in the new press regulatory body will be impressive. But look who’s appointing the grandees that make the decisions

The peril of political ructions over the aftermath of Lord Justice Leveson’s report begins to fade a little. Hacked Off wanted a “present or former civil service commissioner” and/or “a present high judicial officer” plonked on top of the appointments body who’ll choose the successor regulatory board to the Press Complaints Commission – and lo! their demands would seem to be met in full.

The government has asked Sir David Normington, current commissioner for the civil service – and public appointments as well – to move in and approve the appointments system that emerges. He’ll need privy council assent to extend his official brief. Expect this to follow in a few days. And meanwhile Lord Phillips, former president of our supreme court and thus just about the highest former judicial officer extant, has agreed to advise on the construction and running of that selfsame appointments apparatus.

Save for adding Rowan Williams and the Archangel Gabriel, independence on the British model doesn’t come much more walloping than this. By the time Oliver Letwin at the cabinet office has thrown in his royal charter notions and the actual leader of the new press pack has strode out of the mists of selection and verification, the greatness and goodness of the entire shooting match, with or without a sliver of statute, will surely be manifest and of huge reassurance to the public. If they can understand any of it, that is.

Yet never underestimate the potential thickets, once unsullied independence is the order of the day. David Cameron wouldn’t let Ofcom do the backstop verification work because he appointed its bosses and they couldn’t be beyond political question. “Who guards the guardians?”, as Leveson asked but rather unhelpfully failed to answer. So who appoints the public appointments commissioner? The Queen – it’s a crown appointment, his office explains. But on the recommendation of the prime minister, after a duly pristine process supervised by the minister for the cabinet office.

All roads lead to Letwin then, Sir Humphrey? Yes indeed, minister. I was afraid you were going to ask me that.

■ You couldn’t make it up. Robert Jay QC, chief counsel to the Leveson inquiry, travels to Singapore to tell the Law Academy there that Britain’s “unruly and irreverent” press has nothing to fear from statutory control, and to think so is “scaremongering”. Jay certainly knows how to pick his audience. Singapore currently stands at 150th in Freedom House’s world press freedom league: an obsessive wonder of manicured, ruly repression.

Hacked Off says government can’t be trusted to implement Leveson plan

Category : Business

Campaign group publishes draft bill which would enshrine press freedom in law and specify standards for self-regulation

The Hacked Off campaign, which represents victims of press intrusion, is to publish a draft bill on Monday that closely follows the recommendations set out in the Leveson report on press regulation last month. The proposed bill is a response to the “closed doors” debate at Westminster on how to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.

Writing in the Guardian, Brian Cathcart, director of Hacked Off, says it is “impossible to have confidence” in the process of the back-room negotiations between the parties over the Leveson bill.

“What is happening is a subversion of Leveson and an insult to the idea of an open society,” he writes. “[The government] can’t be trusted, and the more they meddle privately with Leveson’s recommendations, the more they are certain to contaminate them. Day by day, they are burning up public trust.”

Hacked Off’s bill is the third such draft bill to be published, but arguably most closely follows the recommendations of the Leveson report, and will now be subject to a one-month consultation among interested members.

The government has also drafted a bill, but has refused to publish it and has been trying to convince Labour and the Liberal Democrats that the ancient device of a royal charter can be used to set up a body to oversee a press-led body responsible for regulation.

Conservative members of the government believe a royal charter would ensure the system of verification was not set up by parliamentary statute, something the press is determined to avoid.

Hacked Off says its proposed bill, drafted largely by Hugh Tomlinson QC and parliamentary counsel Daniel Greenberg, would:

• Enshrine the freedom of the press in statute for the first time, making attempted ministerial or other state interference in the media explicitly illegal.

• Specify the standards that the voluntary independent press self-regulator will have to meet to satisfy public demand for a system that is effective and independent of government, parliament and the newspaper industry.

• Set out a transparent, democratic system to appoint a recognition commission to verify on behalf of the public that the press self-regulator is doing its job properly. The draft bill details how an appointments commission with all-party support and mainly involving the judiciary could appoint a recognition body that in turn oversees the body established by the press to regulate itself.

• Give legal effect to Leveson’s “carrots and sticks”, incentivising publishers to join the self-regulator through access, under specified circumstances, to reduced costs in court proceedings and protection from exemplary damages.

The authors claim the bill uses Leveson’s own wording as much as possible. However, Hacked Off in its consultation document sets out how the government should react if the press fails to develop a workable system, something Leveson did not suggest.

Hacked Off’s consultation document states: “In the event of the failure of the industry or significant players within it to make the new system work within a reasonable period, the recognition body will need to report that to the government, who then need to decide what action to take. The public would expect the politicians to be able to say now what they would do in those circumstances.”

Private intensive cross-party talks on how to set up a recognition body reconvened last Thursday and more meetings are due this week.

The press is also due to meet on Thursday to discuss what form of self-regulation it is willing to endorse to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

Peers will also debate press regulation on Friday, while the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has said he will stage a debate and vote in the Commons this month to demonstrate the support for some form of press regulation underpinned by statute.

Hacked Off insisted on Sunday night that its one-month consultation on its draft bill did not cut across the idea of a vote this month in the Commons on the need for some form of statutory underpinning of press regulation.

Check your pension fund’s investments – they may include firearms companies | Brett Scott

Category : Business

Cerberus has disinvested from the maker of the gun used in the Newtown school killings after pressure from a teachers’ fund

On Tuesday the private equity firm Cerberus announced that it would divest from Freedom Group, the company that manufactures the gun used in the Newtown school killings. Cerberus was behind the meteoric rise of Freedom Group – which owns such gun brands as Bushmaster and Remington – providing the capital to build it into a firearms powerhouse.

Cerberus’s decision to divest, though, was driven by the Californian teachers’ pension fund CalSTRS, which uses Cerberus as a conduit to get into the lucrative business of buying and selling companies. Private equity firms rely on investment from such institutional investors, and the story provides a rare glimpse into the deeper power structure behind arms manufacturing. We’re used to the narrative of how weapons companies support lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association, but we’re seldom encouraged to think about who funds the weapons companies themselves.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Cerberus – named after the mythical three-headed hound of Hades – would make investments into industries that lead people to the underworld, but they portray such investments as rational, value-free decisions made on behalf of “the pension plans of firemen, teachers, policemen and other municipal workers and unions”. They claim that, “as a firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policymakers … It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate”.

Cerberus’s portrayal of its investment as apolitical is open to question on at least two accounts. First, according to the database, Cerberus’s founder, Stephen Feinberg, has made donations to two Republican politicians – Orrin Hatch and Ben Quayle – who oppose gun control and who tried to introduce the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act in 2011, a piece of legislation aimed at easing restrictions on gun sales across state borders. Ben’s father, the former Republican vice-president Dan Quayle, is also chairman of Cerberus’s global investment group,.

Second, an investment decision is always a political decision backing a particular vision of our future society. There is nothing remotely value-free about funding weapons empires, but the illusion is perpetuated by neoclassical portfolio theory models that posit that an investment is prudent if its financial risk is commensurate with financial return. Cerberus’s analysts present a sanitised version of the profits from violence in the form of financial reports that do not include the social damage as part of the investment equation. We’re easily distracted by the battles between politicians in Washington, but behind every bullet shot there is the political weight of funds, banks, and individual investors extracting returns via euphemistically named investment vehicles such as Freedom Group and Colt Defense.

In this case, a perfect storm has unnerved investors, forcing them to reveal themselves. Not only is CalSTRS worried about the potential reputational damage from being associated with Cerberus, but in a strange twist of fate, it turns out that Stephen Feinberg’s father lives in Newtown, in the very community torn apart by the shooting tragedy. Perhaps it would make for awkward family dinners if Feinberg’s firm were to stay invested in Freedom Group.

As Cerberus passes the investment baton on to another group of investors, though, students, pensioners and justice campaigners need to exert intense pressure on their university endowments, pension funds and banks to disinvest from these activities. It’s one, frequently overlooked, key to breaking the power of the arms industry.

US investment firm exits gunmaker

Category : Business

US private equity firm Cerberus is to sell its stake in Freedom Group, owner of gunmaker Bushmaster, following the Newtown school shootings.

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UN net regulation talks kick off

Category : World News

A UN agency, hosting a meeting of 193 government regulators in Dubai, tries to calm fears that they could threaten the freedom of the internet.

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