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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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The Frankfurt school, part 8: where do we go from here? | Peter Thompson

Category : Business

Our current state of economic dislocation and rise of the far right mirrors the school’s two periods. We must overcome with reason

The final question for this series is whether any of the issues brought up by the Frankfurt school still have any currency or importance. There are two distinct periods in the work of the Frankfurt school. On the one hand there is the attempt to explain and understand fascism as it was arising during the Weimar Republic. This was a period of social, economic and political dislocation that brought to the fore very real material concerns on the part of workers that could easily be channelled into a traditional search for scapegoats and simple explanations. During this period, however, there continued to exist a powerful workers’ movement in the form of social democracy and communism which, had it been able to overcome the timidity of the former and the strategic incompetence of the latter, could have functioned as a bulwark against the rise of the extreme right.

The second period is that of the postwar years, in which there was a social consensus that was formed under the umbrella of the cold war and rising prosperity (what the French call Les Trente Glorieuses) and in which it was declared that class and class struggle had come to an end. Frankfurt school theories about commodification, alienation, reification and false consciousness were revived by the 1968 movement as a way of explaining away the apparent passivity of the working class. Indeed, it was during this period that the working class began to be seen as part of the problem rather than the solution. The forward march of labour was halted, social democratic and communist parties accommodated to the new consensus and, as the philosopher André Gorz had it, it was “farewell to the working class”.

Since the mid-70s, however, we have again been living in a different world in which the automatic prosperity and growth of the postwar decades have disappeared. Real wages have fallen at the same time that productivity has risen, thereby transferring unimaginable wealth to the richest in society. Estimates of how much money is stashed in offshore accounts vary between $12 and $32tn – enough wealth to wipe out almost all the social problems of poverty in one fell swoop were it to be confiscated, socially invested and redistributed.

The problem now is that the two original periods that characterised the battleground for the Frankfurt school exist at one and the same time. We have the economic dislocation of the Weimar period with rates of unemployment in Europe rising constantly (Spain, for example, has reached over 50% youth unemployment), which is feeding into a rise of neo-fascist and rightwing parties from Golden Dawn to Ukip. At the same time there is a supine centre-left which is tied into the neoliberal agenda, while a fractured and fragmented “communist” movement (for want of a better word) has failed to put together a convincing alternative.

The great recession since 2008 has stripped away a lot of the illusions people have about the society they live in. When a government needs to proclaim that “we are all in this together”, then it is clear what the true subtext actually is.

But perhaps even more seriously, the planet itself can no longer afford the constant expansion required by capital. We have the technological and financial means to solve pretty well all of the basic problems of humanity. What we don’t have is the political will. But that is only missing because even our hopes for the future have become privatised and commodified. Our dreams have been bought up and sold back to us as glittery tat and royal weddings. It has often been said that it is easier now to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine a better one.

But this was true at the start of the Frankfurt school. Theodor Adorno wrote:

“The prospective fascist may long for the destruction of himself no less than for that of the adversaries, destruction being a substitute for his deepest and most inhibited desires … He realises that his solution is no solution, that in the long run it is doomed. Any keen observer could notice this feeling in Nazi Germany before the war broke out. Hopelessness seeks a desperate way out. Annihilation is the psychological substitute for the millennium – a day when the difference between the ego and the others, between poor and rich, between powerful and impotent, will be submerged in one great inarticulate unity. If no hope of true solidarity is held out to the masses, they may desperately stick to this negative substitute.”

That loss of hope and optimism about a better world is the most depressing outcome of the current crisis and it is no wonder that many seek refuge in the false nostalgia of an unspoiled world before the ravages of capitalism prompted “all that is solid to melt into air“.

But there is no way back, not least because the golden age never existed and the golden dawn will never come. The only way is to push forward using science, reason, intelligence and hope. Weak power may be good enough for now but at some point someone is going to have to flex muscle. Let’s make sure that it is the good guys and not the fascists again.

Japanese bra promises economic uplift

Category : Business

The ‘Branomics Bra’ is a playful take on prime minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘three-arrow’ economic revival plan

The Japanese division of lingerie maker Triumph International unveiled on Wednesday an “Abenomics” bra, a special edition it says offers a “growth strategy” and a potential lift towards Japan’s elusive inflation target.

Launches of Triumph’s concept bras in Tokyo have become a regular event over the past quarter of a century and are an important publicity tool for the 127-year-old, Swiss-headquartered company.

The latest “Branomics Bra” follows earlier solar-powered, recycled and “husband-hunting” models but, like its predecessors, will not go on sale.

The “Branomics Bra” is a playful take on prime minister Shinzo Abe’s “three-arrow” economic revival plan that combines monetary strategy aiming to reach 2% inflation in two years and pro-growth reforms.

It features a rising trendline and arrows as motifs and promises a 2% increase in volume with extra padding.

“We hope that, as the Japanese economy grows, we can also help bust sizes to get bigger,” said Triumph spokeswoman Keiko Masuda.

Its benefits for Japan’s policymakers were less clear.

VIDEO: New hope for Iraqi Kurd students

Category : Business, World News

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the opening up of the economy and the creation of numerous private universities have given a new generation hope of a bright future.

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Oil firms invest £330m in North Sea

Category : Business

Major oil companies announce plans which they hope will boost production from the UK’s biggest oilfield.

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Infrastructure spend boosted by £3bn

Category : Business, World News

The government says it will spend an extra £3bn a year to fund infrastructure projects in hope of boosting economic growth.

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Axminster rallies round famous carpet maker as the administrators hover

Category : Business

Historic Devon business on brink of failure with 400 jobs at risk

Few businesses make it to their 250th birthday and unless Axminster Carpets finds a buyer quickly it could fall short by two years.

The plush tufts produced by the family-run firm have adorned famous British locations from Downing Street to the Brighton Pavilion, and even a royal coronation, but it is in danger of becoming a historical footnote as it stands on the brink of administration with 400 jobs at risk.

Any job losses will have a disproportionate impact, given the 5,000-strong population of the Devon town from which it takes its name. Axminster’s mayor, Andrew Mouldings, who has lived in the town all his life, explained: “I remember as a schoolboy being shown round the factory. It is the fabric of the community. If it was to go it wouldn’t just be the jobs that would be lost, the whole town would be affected.

“Everybody here knows someone who knows someone who works there and every business would be affected. There probably aren’t many businesses that have such a tie to its town.”

Its client list stretches from Windsor to Wetherspoon, but the firm’s workers hope their most important customer – at 10 Downing Street – is listening to their cries for help. Nonetheless, debts of £12m and a pension deficit of £7m, allied to weak demand for its high-quality products, threaten to sever the link between Axminster and the business that has brought the area modest fame.

Axminster Carpets has been woven into the area’s history, with visitors to the town greeted by signs hailing the “home of fine carpets”.

The company is one of the area’s biggest landlords, owning several residential and commercial buildings. It has already given over land to the local football team, bowling club and community centre.

However, its future has been in doubt for some time. The editor of Axminster Today newspaper, Philip Evans, said: “It was common knowledge in Axminster and its surrounds that the town’s most famous manufacturer was struggling to pay its bills. The news shocked all and sundry – but surprised no one.”

Shock was evident on the town’s streets. David Moore, 33, a truck driver, has worked for the company since he was 16. His parents worked for the business, and his grandfather before them. He said: “Living round here it was expected you would sign up and join the company. We would all head to the factory when we left school and be told what jobs were available.”

Founded in 1755, the business died out in 1835 and endured a 100-year hiatus. The following century a Glasgow-born carpet maker, Harry Dutfield, met a local vicar on a train who told him about the town’s rich heritage. He rekindled the business and by 1937 Axminster Carpets was creating the carpet for George VI’s coronation – the largest of its kind at the time.

Dutfield received an MBE in 1997, two years before he died, and the company has since been run by his son, Simon, and then his grandson, Joshua, who is negotiating with administrators and potential buyers.

Harry remains a legend among Axminster townsfolk for putting the area on the map. But they are less impressed with his successors, saying the product has remained exquisite but the management lacks the skills required to adapt to a world dominated by laminated and wooden flooring.

The Community union, which represents workers at the plant, has been urging the government to offer subsidies for the carpet industry. As UK manufacturing declines despite government efforts, it hopes ministers will follow other European countries and intervene in favour of homegrown talent.

Lorraine Gaskell, Community campaign manager, said: “We met Mark Prisk [MP and local government minister] last year to ask for help for the carpet industry and were told a cross-party committee would be set up, but we’re still waiting.”

A petition to save Axminster Carpets has been signed by nearly 1,800 people from as far afield as Australia and Canada. Derek Branker, 46, a carpet weaver and Community branch secretary, is hopeful that a solution can be found.

He said: “I’ve been humbled and left quite emotional by the support we’ve received. Since the announcement that the company was in trouble, we’ve had loads of inquiries and a huge boost in sales.”

A rally in the town last Saturday attracted 200 people, while on the high street this week hundreds of shoppers were signing a petition to save the business. Posters are dotted throughout the town in shops and coffee shops, including the River Cottage café owned by local celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Even the town’s Tesco has started preparing food parcels for workers should the worst happen.

The hope is a buyer can be found, with private equity group Carlyle reported to be interested. The US company bought rival Brintons Carpets in 2011 after the Kidderminster-based firm fell into difficulties.

Axminster filed a note for intention to appoint administrators last week and has until Tuesday to either extend this or file for administration, with Duff & Phelps poised to take over. Workers were paid in advance last week, but any future payments are on hold.

The management declined to comment, saying it was concerned any discussion would impact on negotiations. For the people of Axminster, the hope is the business remains an active part of the town’s history.

Bankers’ bonuses: Europe right, Britain wrong | Editorial

Category : Business

The prime minister is still confusing the interests of the City with those of the nation

It sounds like the stuff of satire. On Thursday, RBS, the bank that taxpayers were forced to buy, posted 2012 losses of more than £5bn. That was after paying out more than £600m in bonuses. On the very same day, an EU draft agreement to cap bank bonuses emerged – and the prime minister immediately signalled that Britain would resist.

There are of course questions about the detailed design of the bonus cap, although to the citizen on the street the first of these is why it needs to be set as high as 100% of salary, with exceptional provision for double that. Then there are deeper doubts about whether or not internationally footloose financiers can be forced to wear a cap made in Brussels. The most obvious danger is that the restriction on lavish top-ups would be answered by a dramatic increase in basic pay. Certainly, the experience of the bonus tax suggests that this would happen to some extent. To assume things would be different this time, is to assume that the City is becoming more sensitive to shame. That may sound like a naive hope, although with Antony Jenkins’s new regime at Barclays staking its reputation on respect and responsibility, and with so much banking in state hands, with political will there ought now to be scope to challenge the culture. And let’s be clear: for a bank to agree to boost the salary of someone like Bob Diamond several dozen times over – which is what would be required to compensate for the loss of the bonuses he got in his heyday – would not be a decision a publicity-conscious business could take lightly.

All things considered, attempting to do something – as the EU proposes – is surely better than sitting back and doing nothing. Even if the worst happens, and the bankers claw back all their bonuses in increased pay, the reform would at least succeed in pushing their avarice into the open. Whereas bonuses calculated by incomprehensible formulae allow the money men to hide behind the misty idea that they are being paid to perform on some intricate criterion which the rest of us cannot hope to understand, higher salaries would make plain that their vast rewards are in fact automatic with the job; this transparency could catalyse outrage and eventually further change, even if there was little immediate effect.

But it is being far too kind to David Cameron to imagine that his resistance flows from any fear that the measure wouldn’t have immediate effect. Shielded by a Labour party which continues to hug the City too close – “it shouldn’t take the EU to get a grip on bonuses”, the opposition disingenuously carped as it sought to evade revealing that it too was against – the PM is simply continuing with the great British tradition of confusing the interests of the City with those of the nation.

Self-driving car given UK test run

Category : Business

A system to enable a car to drive itself has been shown off at Oxford University, with a hope such technology could eventually cost just £100.

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State of the union: the president proposes | Editorial

Category : Business

Barack Obama laid out a plan to restore growth and rescue the middle class, adopting a tougher approach for his second term

The presidency of Barack Obama has been a lesson in American civics for the rest of the world and perhaps for many Americans themselves. We have learned that the most powerful man in the world is not that powerful. We have learned that he can be frustrated on an almost daily basis, and that even his most heartfelt appeals for help can be, and have been, routinely spurned.

We have grasped that even the most effective rhetoric, words that sway the nation, may not sway a stubborn opposition. We have seen the inheritor of Lincoln’s office, at the very moment when a new and commanding film is reminding Americans of the achievements of one of their greatest presidents, struggling to craft compromises with grudging and ungiving opponents, and often failing to do so.

President Obama’s speeches were at first accorded a special deference, not because he is a gifted orator, although he is, but because they were seen as having a predictive quality. They were, it seemed, about what he was going to do for America and for the rest of us. But as time passed their wishful character became more apparent. The president got a number of important things done in his first term, notably in pulling America back from the brink of economic collapse, but much of his agenda languished. Will it be the same story with the two speeches, the inaugural last month and the state of the union this week, in which he sets out his ambitions for his final term?

He laid out a plan to restore growth and rescue the American middle class, by investing in education and in energy and other infrastructural programmes, and backing innovations in modernising technology. But he did not confine himself to the middle-class plight, also proposing measures, like an increase in the minimum wage, to help the underpaid and unemployed. This is the modestly interventionist programme on which he campaigned and one which he said would not increase “our deficit by a single dime”. Yet it was instantly denounced by Republicans as meaning more “big government” and more spending. In the same vein of renewal and long overdue reform, Obama called on lawmakers to overcome their differences to establish fairer and more realistic rules about immigration, to create a better voting system, to adopt a more active approach to climate change, and to bring in real gun controls. Republicans are open to progress on the first and opposed or ambivalent on all the others.

Obama’s overall strategy is clear: he seeks to crush Republican obstructionism between the hammer of his own renewed resolve and the anvil of a public opinion that he believes is on his side and can be further won over to it in the coming months. His programme is not radical. From a European point of view it looks more like common sense than socialism, even in the diminished meaning of that word today. His hope must be that most Americans will continue to see it that way, and that their views will eventually erode the position of the Republican hardliners in Congress.

After all, something happens to even obdurate politicians when they grasp that citizens are not going to vote for them. After the farce of the Republican presidential selection and the missteps that marked Mitt Romney’s campaign, the more intelligent men and women in the party know they are out of touch with key constituencies such as Hispanics, women, gay people, and many of the young.

They can fix on the objective of wrecking Obama’s second term and then hoping to obfuscate the reasons for it, perhaps repeating their midterm success last time. Or they can trim, offering Obama some support and retaining some themselves. But the remaking of America’s conservative party, captured as it has been by delusional and extreme views, is going to be a long business, if indeed it can be done at all. Obama cannot wait for a better American conservative party to emerge. He tried the bipartisan approach the first time round. This time he is taking a tougher approach. Let us hope it works.

Obama inaugurates renewed energy on climate change | Sarah van Gelder

Category : Business

That the president put climate change so high on his second-term agenda surprised many. But action must follow words

President Barack Obama included a call to action on climate change in his inaugural speech on 21 January, surprising those who believed gun violence and immigration reform would take top billing. It’s not the first time he’s talked about the issue, by any means, but few thought he would return to it with such emphasis now.

During his 2008 campaign, he spoke of working for the moment when the rise of the oceans would begin to slow and our planet would begin to heal. During the 2012 election campaign, he was mocked for that statement.

But no one was laughing this fall when waves swept over lower Manhattan and towns up and down the eastern seaboard; nor this summer when much of the US midwest suffered from drought and brave firefighters battled unprecedented fires across the west. Obama spoke in Monday’s inaugural address of our responsibility to “preserve our planet”, recognizing that “the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations”.

So can we expect the president to take the sort of leadership on the climate that many have hoped for since his 2008 campaign? In particular, will he stand up to the pressure of the fossil fuel lobby?

Here are the top things he can do to turn those intentions into the actions that would be up to the scale of the problem. Many of them can happen without the consent of congressional Republicans.

First, President Obama proposed a national conversation on climate during his first post-2012 election press conference. He should launch that conversation with clear statements about the urgency of the climate science, an explanation of what is at stake, and a call to all Americans to be part of the change.

It’s important that he not dumb this down. We need to know what it means to have experienced record-breaking temperatures, floods, droughts, wild fires, melting ice caps, and extreme storms. When given a full account of a threat, the American people have risen to big challenges in the past. We did it during the second world war when millions enlisted in the military, grew “victory gardens”, recycled, and went to work in factories to aid the war effort. He should call on us to be the next “greatest generation”.

Second, he should drop the “all of the above” approach to energy development. As Bill McKibben of shows, 80% of the fossil fuel now in the ground must stay there if we are to stabilize an increasingly chaotic climate. That means instead of giving subsidies, tax breaks, and a regulatory pass to fossil fuel companies, these advantages should instead be given to businesses developing renewables and energy efficiency.

Third, he should propose a straightforward tax on carbon. This approach actually has the support of such Republicans as George Shultz, as well as former top aides to Mitt Romney and John McCain. Even ExxonMobile says it could support such a tax. A carbon tax would send the right market signal, nudging our economy toward one that is safe for the planet. The billions of dollars raised by such a tax could help pay down the deficit, pay for investments in the clean energy economy, or be rebated directly to every American.

Finally, Obama should use the regulatory authority he already has. He should put a permanent stop to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport some of the most carbon-intensive, polluting oil on the planet across the American heartland. He should instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to move ahead aggressively with regulation of existing power plants, which account for 40% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Stepping up to the climate challenge need not compete with the other goals he outlined in his inauguration speech. Building a clean energy economy will produce good jobs that lift more people into the middle class and build a sustainable and widely shared prosperity. Reducing fossil fuel pollutants will improve our health and reduce healthcare costs.

Less reliance on fossil fuels will bolster our security. And we could avoid spending untold sums cleaning up after massive storms and adapting to droughts and rising sea levels.

Obama’s speech shows he has the potential to be not just an historic president but a transformational one. Hopes have been raised and dashed before, though. If there was ever a moment for Barack Obama to take a stand and establish a legacy, this is it.

Eighty percent of Americans agree that inaction on climate change would have serious consequences. The fact that he need not run for re-election frees him from the need to placate the oil and coal lobby. And scientists agree we have only a few years to change directions if we are to avert a climate catastrophe that would dash the hopes of generations to come.

This project is far too big for any one person, even the president of the United States. Our best hope is an inside-outside strategy – one in which the Obama administration reaches out to those who are already on the front lines battling the climate crisis, as well as those who are just now coming to recognize the threat we face. And those on the outside must reciprocate.

Obama says we can lead the way together. People across the country and the globe have been doing so. Now is the time for the president to join them and take the bold actions that will serve generations to come.