Daily Archives: February 1, 2015

UPDATE 2-Labour election win would be "catastrophe" for UK, says Boots CEO

(Adds comment from Wallgreens Boots Alliance spokeswoman)
Feb 1 (Reuters) – Britain’s left-leaning Labour
Party’s policies are unhelpful for business and a Labour win at
the May election would be a “catastrophe”, Stefano Pessina, head
of Wallgreens Boots Alliance Inc., said on Sunday.The company later issued a statement saying the comments had
been taken out of context and were made by Pessina in a personal
capacity.Pessina, acting chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance
Inc. which operates Boots, Britain’s largest chain of
chemists, made the outspoken comments in an interview with the
Sunday Telegraph newspaper.Labour leader Ed Miliband, bidding to unseat Conservative
Prime Minister David Cameron, has announced a series of policies
taking aim at what he calls capitalist ‘predators’ across a
range of industries from energy suppliers to private landlords.”If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe,”
Pessina told the Sunday Telegraph.Pessina, an Italian national who resides in Monaco,
described Labour’s policies as “not helpful for business, not
helpful for the country and in the end it probably won’t be
helpful for them.”Wallgreens Boots Alliance issued a statement saying the
comments had been taken out of context.”Stefano Pessina is not campaigning against Ed Miliband or
Labour,” a company spokesman said. “Indeed, he previously held
good relationships with the Labour governments under (former
prime ministers) Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as the
current coalition party led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.”Labour hold a thin lead over the Conservatives in opinion
polls, but are ranked below their rivals on economic competence,
something which is consistently shown to be high on the list of
key issues for voters ahead of the ballot.”The British people and British businesses will draw their
own conclusions when those who don’t live here, don’t pay tax in
this country … purport to know what is in Britain’s best
interests,” Labour business spokesman Chuka Umunna said, also
citing criticism over the amount of tax Pessina’s firm pays in
Britain.Miliband has promised a more moderate approach to austerity
than the Conservatives, provoking criticism from business lobby
groups with his plans to offset the need for spending cuts by
raising taxes for high earners and owners of high-value homes.Pessina tempered his comments, saying that the real impact
of a Labour government would depend on the actual implementation
of their policies if they win the election.”The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing
is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to
be in charge and to manage the country day to day,” he said.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Alison Williams and
Stephen Powell)
Source: Newsjyoti Environment

The top films at the North American box office

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Following are the top 10 movies at North
American box offices for the three days starting Jan. 30, led by
"American Sniper"  according to studio estimates compiled by
Reuters.

1  (1)  American Sniper........................$31.9 million
2  (3)  Paddington.............................$ 8.5 million
3  (*)  Project Almanac........................$ 8.5 million
4  (*)  Black or White.........................$ 6.5 million
5  (2)  The Boy Next Door......................$ 6.1 million    
   
6  (4)  The Wedding Ringer.....................$ 5.7 million
7  (6)  The Imitation Game.....................$ 5.2 million
8  (5)  Taken 3................................$ 3.7 million
9  (7)  Strange Magic..........................$ 3.4 million
10 (*)  The Loft...............................$ 2.9 million


Last week's rank in parentheses. (*) = new release 

CUMULATIVE TOTALS

American Sniper...............................$248.9 million
Taken 3.......................................$ 81.4 million
The Imitation Game............................$ 68.0 million
Paddington....................................$ 50.5 million
The Wedding Ringer............................$ 48.1 million
The Boy Next Door.............................$ 24.7 million
Strange Magic.................................$  9.9 million
Project Almanac...............................$  8.5 million
Black or White................................$  6.5 million    
        
The Loft......................................$  2.9 million
      

"Taken 3" was distributed by Fox, a unit of Twenty-first Century
Fox.
"Project Almanac" was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit
of Viacom Inc. 
"American Sniper" was released by Warner Brothers, a unit of
Time Warner Inc. 
"The Wedding Ringer" was released by Sony Corp's movie
studio. 
"Strange Magic" was released by Walt Disney Co. 
Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures released "The Boy
Next Door." 
"The Imitation Game" and "Paddington" were released by The
Weinstein Company.
"Black or White" was released by independent studio Relativity
Open Road Films, a joint venture of Regal Entertainment and AMC
Entertainment, released "The Loft"      
 
 

 (Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Stephen Powell)


Source: Newsjyoti US Media

Exclusive: Some charities to refuse money from U.S. financier accused in sex case

Mount Sinai Hospital is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York August 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Mount Sinai Hospital is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York August 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri


(Reuters) – Some charities that have received money from U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein said they are reviewing their relationships with him or will decline to accept any future gifts from him in the wake of recent allegations he forced an underage girl to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew and other powerful men.

Epstein, 62, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring an underage girl for prostitution and served a year in a Florida jail, has long burnished his reputation as a philanthropist through a series of foundations that he says have given millions of dollars to institutions ranging from Harvard University to a New York junior tennis league.

The allegations involving Epstein became a tabloid sensation on both sides of the Atlantic after lawyers for one of Epstein’s accusers made them in a court filing just over a month ago. It prompted strong denials from Prince Andrew and from prominent U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who was also accused of having sex with the girl.

The filing has also renewed questions about Epstein’s once close links to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, though there are no allegations of any wrongdoing by Clinton.

In interviews with Reuters, three recipients of Epstein’s money said they would accept no more gifts, at least while the recent allegations are under review. They are a cancer researcher at New York City’s Mount Sinai hospital who with colleagues received $50,000 in seed funding; a mentoring program for young Swedish businesswomen that got $30,000; and Ballet Palm Beach in Florida, which declined to say how much Epstein gave.

“The further I can keep myself from anything like that the better,” Ballet Palm Beach founder Colleen Smith said in a phone interview.

Epstein did not respond to interview requests. In response to two pages of written questions from Reuters, a lawyer for Epstein said the financier’s philanthropy has been widespread for an extensive period of time.

“His efforts include making substantial contributions to scientific and medical progress and in helping children in providing them with the educational and technological tools necessary for their having a chance to succeed,” the lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said in an emailed statement. “It would be unfortunate if the recent media activity would in any way adversely impact Mr. Epstein’s efforts in any of these areas,” he added.

DIFFERENT WALKS OF LIFE

Well before Epstein went to jail, he saw philanthropy as a way to bring together people from different walks of life in settings ranging from his own mansions to academic conferences, friends said.

“His interest is in interesting people and interesting ideas,” said Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss, who directs a program on the origins of life that Epstein has supported. He said he would feel cowardly if he turned away from Epstein because of accusations Krauss knew nothing about.

Epstein has touted his philanthropy through regular press releases, such as one in November that referred to him as “an unusual Harvard investor and private financier.”

According to publicly available tax records, Epstein has given money through at least three foundations. One of the three dissolved in 2012, and a second disbursed only $107,000 in a recent 12-month period, according to its tax return.

For the third foundation, named the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation Inc but also doing business as Enhanced Education, the most recent tax return Reuters could locate was from 2002. Epstein’s primary residence is a private island off St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Epstein’s total donations are difficult to estimate because Reuters had access only to publicly available tax records for foundations where there was confirmation of a link to Epstein.

In two cases, Epstein boasted about donations he never made, a major university said. In a July 2014 press release, Epstein claimed he provided “critical funding” for scientists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to restore five Mark Rothko murals, and in a September 2014 press release, he said he gave money to the MIT Media Lab to teach toddlers computer programming.

The Rothko press release “was simply not correct, and was issued without our knowledge or agreement,” and the toddler press release was also “completely incorrect,” said MIT Media Lab spokeswoman Alexandra Kahn in an email. A press release issued by the Harvard Art Museums on the Rothko project credited eight funding sources, none of them Epstein. An MIT press release on the toddlers credited five sources, and Epstein was not among them.

Epstein did not respond to questions about the MIT programs. 

MILLIONS TO HARVARD

The recipient of one of the largest donations from Epstein has been Harvard, to which Epstein pledged $30 million in 2003, according to news reports at the time. By 2006, when charges against Epstein were made public in Florida, he had fulfilled at least $6.5 million of that pledge, the reports said. Harvard’s then president said he would not return the money because it was doing good for science.

Harvard declined to comment to Reuters, citing donor privacy.

Epstein’s philanthropy website, jeffreyepstein.org, had until recently listed about 20 charities he gave to last year. By last week, the page was no longer visible.

Little is known publicly about how Epstein made his money. He has said that, after working at investment bank Bear Stearns beginning in the 1970s, he managed assets for billionaires such as Leslie Wexner, founder of Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands Inc.

The latest allegations against Epstein emerged on Dec. 30 when lawyers said in a Florida federal court filing that Epstein trafficked a teenager for sexual purposes to prominent businessmen and public figures. The woman and other accusers are asking a judge to examine Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to see whether their rights as victims were violated.

NOT GIVING IT BACK

No group interviewed by Reuters said it would give back money. Doris Germain, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said she could not return the money because it was spent more than a year ago on breast cancer research.

“I don’t think I would accept money from him anymore, but then you sort of wonder,” Germain said. “We happen to know what he’s done, but what about all the other people who are giving money to foundations? We don’t know what they’re doing. Is it all clean? I don’t know.”

Epstein’s money has been refused before. In 2006, Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat then running to become governor of New York, returned about $50,000 in campaign contributions, news reports said. Spitzer did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2006, one of Epstein’s three foundations gave $25,000 to Bill Clinton’s foundation, according to tax records. Clinton’s foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

Epstein flew Clinton to Africa in 2002 to talk about anti-poverty and anti-AIDS programs. And according to flight records obtained by the website Gawker, the former U.S. president traveled on Epstein’s jet at least 10 other times between 2002 and 2003.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the flights. Clinton could not be reached for comment.

At least two grant recipients in academia are standing by Epstein, saying he remains a friend: Krauss and Robert Trivers, a Rutgers University biologist. Trivers said Epstein is a person of integrity who should be given credit for serving time in prison and for settling civil lawsuits brought by women who said they were abused.

“Did he get an easy deal? Did he buy himself a light sentence? Well, yes, probably, compared to what you or I would get, but he did get locked up,” Trivers said. He said he got about $40,000 from Epstein to study the relationship between knee symmetry and sprinting ability.

Trivers also said he believes girls mature earlier than in the past. “By the time they’re 14 or 15, they’re like grown women were 60 years ago, so I don’t see these acts as so heinous,” he said.

Another recipient of Epstein’s foundations, Ira Lamster, a former dean of the Columbia University dental school, said he has not asked Epstein for funding since getting $100,000 about three years ago to study the relationship between diabetes and oral health.

“Am I glad I didn’t go back for additional funding?” he said. “I guess I am, but in my interactions with him, he was always a gentleman.” 

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Amy Stevens, Noeleen Walder and Martin Howell)


Source: Newsjyoti

Irish PM wants 'cast iron' guarantees on Aer Lingus sale

Source: Newsjyoti deals

An Aer Lingus plane taxis before take off at Dublin airport January 27, 2015.
Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

(Reuters) – The owner of British Airways must provide some sort of “cast iron permanent guarantee” on flights to Ireland if the government is to even consider its bid for Aer Lingus (AERL.I), Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Sunday.
Aer Lingus’s board on Tuesday recommended a 1.36-billion-euro ($1.5 billion) offer from International Consolidated Airlines Group (ICAG.L) (IAG), subject to the agreement of its two largest shareholders — budget airline Ryanair (RYA.I) and the Irish state.Under pressure from the airline’s trade unions and opponents in parliament, resistance is building within government around parting with its 25 percent holding, weighing on the airline’s shares as IAG decides on a formal bid.”If IAG are going to come to the table in the next few days, then I need to see, in so far as this is possible, a cast iron permanent guarantee in respect of connectivity for Cork, for Shannon, Dublin and a lesser extent Knock,” Kenny told national broadcaster RTE, referring to regions the airline flies to.”I’m also cognizant of the voices of those far more experienced in business than I who say that this kind of guarantee might be difficult to get… We’re in a limited influential position here.”Kenny said such guarantees would only form part of the government’s decision but later wrote on his Twitter page that they would be needed “before gov can even consider selling its stake in Aer Lingus.”A successful takeover would give IAG more take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport, BA’s home base and a major European hub for international flights. Government MPs fear some slots would no longer be used to service Ireland.IAG intends to operate Aer Lingus as a separate business with its own brand and said it recognizes the importance of direct air services for investment and tourism in Ireland. Kenny said he needed to see flesh on those initial intentions. But he was also concerned about what may happen after Willie Walsh’s term as IAG boss ends. The Dublin-born executive began his career as an Aer Lingus pilot before eventually running the airline, and is also chairman of Ireland’s debt agency. “Long after Willie Walsh leaves IAG, what is the position? I’m worried and concerned about the future of the country… Many of the multinationals, exporters look for the future economy, we cannot afford to lose anything that we have,” Kenny said. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Irish PM wants "cast iron" guarantees on Aer Lingus sale

Source: Newsjyoti Hotstock

Feb 1 (Reuters) – The owner of British Airways must
provide some sort of “cast iron permanent guarantee” on flights
to Ireland if the government is to even consider its bid for Aer
Lingus, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Sunday.

Aer Lingus’s board on Tuesday recommended a
1.36-billion-euro ($1.5 billion) offer from International
Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), subject to the
agreement of its two largest shareholders — budget airline
Ryanair and the Irish state.

Under pressure from the airline’s trade unions and opponents
in parliament, resistance is building within government around
parting with its 25 percent holding, weighing on the airline’s
shares as IAG decides on a formal bid.

“If IAG are going to come to the table in the next few days,
then I need to see, in so far as this is possible, a cast iron
permanent guarantee in respect of connectivity for Cork, for
Shannon, Dublin and a lesser extent Knock,” Kenny told national
broadcaster RTE, referring to regions the airline flies to.

“I’m also cognisant of the voices of those far more
experienced in business than I who say that this kind of
guarantee might be difficult to get… We’re in a limited
influential position here.”

Kenny said such guarantees would only form part of the
government’s decision but later wrote on his Twitter page that
they would be needed “before gov can even consider selling its
stake in Aer Lingus.”

A successful takeover would give IAG more take-off and
landing slots at London Heathrow Airport, BA’s home base and a
major European hub for international flights. Government MPs
fear some slots would no longer be used to service Ireland.

IAG intends to operate Aer Lingus as a separate business
with its own brand and said it recognises the importance of
direct air services for investment and tourism in Ireland. Kenny
said he needed to see flesh on those initial intentions.

But he was also concerned about what may happen after Willie
Walsh’s term as IAG boss ends. The Dublin-born executive began
his career as an Aer Lingus pilot before eventually running the
airline, and is also chairman of Ireland’s debt agency.

“Long after Willie Walsh leaves IAG, what is the position?
I’m worried and concerned about the future of the country…
Many of the multinationals, exporters look for the future
economy, we cannot afford to lose anything that we have,” Kenny
said.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Stephen Powell)

UPDATE 1-China eyes food safety, modern farms in 2015 rural policy

(Adds details on agricultural policy, background)
Feb 1 (Reuters) – China has listed food safety and
modernising farms as among key priorities this year, its 2015
rural policy outline showed, as it tackles falling agricultural
productivity that has raised concerns about its future food
supply.The “number one document”, issued every January and released
by state news agency Xinhua on Sunday, showed China will also
protect farmland and lend more to farmers to narrow a wealth gap
between rural and urban areas.Attempts to clean up land that has been damaged by heavy
metal mining and processing will be widened this year, and
“permanent farmland” that is off-limit to industrial and urban
development will be created, the document said.Modern farms will be set up, and regulation of the quality
of food and other farm products will be enhanced, it said.On land reforms, aimed at allowing farmers to trade their
land to alleviate poverty and create bigger and more efficient
farms, the document said the focus is on expanding an experiment
that registers land usage rights to cover entire provinces.Chinese farmers typically hold long-term land use contracts
allocated by the government, which allow them to farm the land
but not sell it.China has been struggling to squeeze as much food out of its
dwindling, contaminated land as possible as demand increases
from ever-expanding urban regions.MORE LOANS TO FARMERSAbout a third of China’s population lives in rural areas,
according to a Reuters estimate. Many young people have migrated
to cities, reducing productivity on farms and raising concerns
about the country’s future food output.More infrastructure will be built in rural areas, including
laying water pipes, upgrading existing power grids, or
constructing networks for alternative energy such as hydro and
solar power.Private investment in farms will be encouraged, and
authorities will experiment with ways to provide cheaper
financing options to more farmers, the document said.China Development Bank, which makes large infrastructure
investment at home and abroad and lends at the behest of China’s
government to support its policies, will have to increase mid-
and long-term infrastructure loans to rural areas, it said.The Postal Savings Bank of China, which serves low-income
entrepreneurs, will be encouraged to expand in villages, the
document showed.Agricultural businesses that meet undisclosed criteria will
also be encouraged to sell bonds, and the leasing of big farm
equipment will be tested.Direct subsidies for farmers, currently being trialled by
cotton and soybean growers, will continue, the document said.
Officials have said that authorities need more time to assess
the efficacy of the subsidy before rolling it out to other
crops.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing, David Stanway and Dominique Patton;
Editing by Jason Neely and Stephen Powell)
Source: Newsjyoti Environment

International campaigners urge UK to allow 'three-parent' IVF babies

(Reuters) – Campaigners urged British lawmakers on Sunday to seize a chance to become the first in the world to allow three-way fertility treatments to families who want to avoid passing on incurable diseases to their children.

In an open letter ahead of a parliamentary vote scheduled for Tuesday, charities and advocacy groups said the opportunity “offers families the first glimmer of hope that they might be able to have a baby that will live without pain and suffering.”

The technique under debate is known as mitochondrial donation and is often referred to as three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) because the offspring would have genes from a mother, a father and from a female donor.

The process, still only at the research stage in Britain and the United States, involves intervening in the fertilization process to remove faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can cause inherited conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.

It is feared by critics who say it effectively allows “designer babies” because it would involve implanting genetically modified embryos into women.

Britain last February set out draft legislation that, if passed, would make it the first country to allow the technique.

In their letter, groups including the U.S.-based United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and groups from France, Germany, Britain and Spain, described mitochondrial disease as “unimaginably cruel”.

“It strips our children of the skills they have learned, inflicts pain that cannot be managed and tires their organs one by one until their little bodies cannot go on any more,” they wrote.

They said they were aware “that no novel medical procedure is without risk”, but had “absolute confidence” in scientific panels that have examined the technique.

The issue of mitochondrial donation has been scrutinized by several expert panels in Britain, including the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Many scientists and medics have welcomed the government’s decision to push ahead.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said it would “allow the law to catch up with public and scientific opinion”.

“Parents who know what it means to care for a sick and suffering child with mitochondrial disease are the people best placed to decide … whether mitochondrial donation is right for them,” he said. “It is time to allow them to make that choice.”

(Editing by Stephen Powell)


Source: Newsjyoti

Egypt's Global Telecom to sell Djezzy majority stake for $2.6 billion

Source: Newsjyoti deals

(Reuters) – Egypt’s Global Telecom (GTH) will sell a 51 percent stake in Djezzy for $2.6 billion while keeping operational control of the Algerian mobile operator, Global said in a statement on Sunday.
The sale to the Algerian National Investment Fund (FNI) is the result of a deal reached last April between GTH’s Russian parent firm Vimpelcom and Algeria to end a dispute over the country’s moves to nationalise Djezzy.Despite holding less than 51 percent of the company, GTH, formerly known as Orascom Telecom, will continue to exercise operational control over Djezzy through a shareholder agreement that creates a public-private partnership, the statement from GTH and Vimpelcom said.”The deal, on a group level, also releases significant cashamounts to GTH and Vimpelcom to pay down gross debt,” Jo Lunder, chief executive of Vimpelcom, said in the statement.Global Telecom’s shares were up 5.4 percent on the Egyptian stock exchange at 0840 GMT at 4.90 Egyptian pounds.Once known as Orascom Telecom Algeria, Djezzy was a prized asset which Vimpelcom bought in 2010 from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris as part of a more than $6 billion deal as it aimed to diversify outside of Russia.Algeria that year made moves to nationalise Djezzy, hitting the business with back tax claims and restrictions on imports and foreign exchange transactions, creating uncertainty that has weighed on Vimpelcom’s shares. (Reporting by Ehab Farouk and Shadi Bushra; editing by Jason Neely)

Lafarge SA, Holcim near deal to sell $7 billion in assets to CRH: WSJ

Source: Newsjyoti deals

(Reuters) – Cement companies Lafarge SA (LAFP.PA) and Holcim Ltd (HOLN.VX) are nearing a deal to sell at least $7 billion worth of assets to Ireland’s CRH PLC (CRH.I), the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The Journal noted that the sale of the assets in Europe, Canada and elsewhere was a precondition of winning antitrust approval for the roughly $40 billion pending merger between France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim.The newspaper said CRH was a finalist in an auction for the assets, competing in recent days with a private-equity consortium including Blackstone Group LP, Cinven and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The paper said that the deal was not yet complete but CRH was poised to win the auction. (Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Alan Crosby)