Daily Archives: February 21, 2015

Ireland says second major tobacco firm threatens legal action

(Reuters) – Ireland said a second major cigarette manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco Group, has threatened legal action against the government over plans for a law requiring them to sell cigarettes in plain packets.

Ireland said in 2013 it wanted to become the first country in the European Union to ban branding on cigarette packages and reiterated its plans this week after the legislation prompted a threat of legal action from Japan Tobacco International.

The minister who has designed the legislation, James Reilly, said Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco had written to his department and that one of the firms demanded he tell them in writing by this week that Dublin would not proceed with the law.

“This week I received letters from two of the largest tobacco companies in the world threatening legal action against this state,” Reilly said in a speech at his Fine Gael party’s annual conference.

“I want to be crystal clear. We will put the health of our children ahead of the profits of Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International every time,” Reilly said to applause from supporters.

No one at Imperial Tobacco, whose cigarette brands include Davidoff, Gauloises and John Player in Ireland, was immediately available for comment.

In a response last year to Britain’s health department over its plans to introduce a similar law by May, Imperial Tobacco said plain packaging would infringe international law, could threaten future foreign direct investment into Britain and set a dangerous precedent for other sectors.

Australia introduced a ban a few years ago as a way to reduce smoking and is facing challenges at the World Trade Organization over complaints the laws create illegal obstacles to commerce.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Louise Ireland)


Source: Newsjyoti Health

U.S., allies discuss new sanctions, Obama weighs next steps on Ukraine: Kerry

Britain's Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) deliver a statement at a press conference in London, February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall


(Reuters) – The United States and its European allies are in talks about harsher sanctions against Moscow, while U.S. President Barack Obama will evaluate next steps in dealing with the conflict in eastern Ukraine in coming days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.

Kerry was speaking after meetings with his British counterpart Philip Hammond in London. He said among options being considered by Obama was whether to arm Ukrainian forces and to impose deeper sanctions against the Kremlin for breaches of a Feb. 12 European-brokered truce.

“In the next few days I anticipate that President Obama will evaluate the choices that are in front of him and will make his decision as to what the next step will be,” Kerry told a news conference after meetings with Hammond.

“There are serious discussions taking place between us and our European allies as to what those next sanctions steps ought to be and when they ought to be implemented,” Kerry said.

“I am confident some additional steps will be taken in response to the breaches of the ceasefire.”

The Kiev military on Friday accused Russia of sending more tanks and troops towards the rebel-held town of Novoazovsk, further east along the Sea of Azov coast from Mariupol, expanding their presence on what it fears could be the next battlefront.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to the allegation but has always denied accusations that its forces are fighting in Ukraine.

Kerry said the most “egregious violation” of the ceasefire was the assault on the city of Debaltseve and military supplies sent by Moscow to separatists.

“We know to a certainty what Russia has been providing and no amount of propaganda is capable of hiding these actions,” Kerry said. “For anyone wanting to make gray areas out of black, let’s get very real, the Minsk agreement is not open to interpretation, it is not vague, it is not optional.”

He said Russia and the rebels were only complying with the ceasefire accords in a few areas.

“If this failure continues, make no mistake, there will be further consequences, including consequences that will put added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said, “We are not going to sit back and allow this kind of cynical, craven behavior to continue at the expensive of the sovereignty of another nation.”

POSSIBLE ATTACK

Pro-Russian separatists are building up forces and weapons in Ukraine’s southeast and the Ukrainian military said on Saturday it was braced for a possible rebel attack on the port city of Mariupol.

An attack on Mariupol, a city of half a million people and potentially a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed last March, would almost certainly kill off the ceasefire that aimed to end the 10-month-old conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo Moskvy radio station that Russia was focused on supporting the ceasefire deal, according to TASS news agency.

“An obsessive idea to force someone to pay the cost … is not conducive to the resolution of the situation in southeast Ukraine,” Peskov was quoted as saying, in response to Kerry’s remarks on the possibility of further sanctions against Russia.

The ceasefire has already been shaken by the rebel capture on Wednesday of Debaltseve, a railway junction in eastern Ukraine, forcing a retreat by thousands of Ukrainian troops in which at least 20 Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

Hammond said the ceasefire had been “systematically breached” and he would discuss with Kerry how Europe and the United States could remain united in tackling the challenge in Ukraine.

The Secretary of State travels to Geneva on Sunday for two days of talks with senior Iranian officials on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, as the sides try to resolve differences before a March 31 deadline for a basic framework agreement.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will also attend the talks, the first time he has participated in the Iran negotiations, a U.S. official said.

Kerry said because of the nature of the nuclear talks it was deemed necessary and appropriate to have technical experts, including Moniz, present.

“I would not read into it any indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided as a result of that,” he said, “There are still significant gaps, there is still a distance to travel.”

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by David Holmes)


Source: Newsjyoti Top Trending

Cuba frees Canadian businessman Tokmakjian after three years in jail

(Reuters) – Cuba has freed Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian after more than three years in jail, his company said on Saturday, resolving a case that had strained Cuban-Canadian relations and alarmed foreign investors.

Tokmakjian, founder of the Ontario-based company, was convicted of bribery and other charges and sentenced to 15 years in September in what the transportation company had called a “show trial” and a “travesty of justice.”

Cuban prosecutors had outlined a pattern in which Tokmakjian wooed Cuban officials and their families with a series of gifts, helping the Tokmakjian Group do business estimated at $80 million annually with Cuba until the company was shuttered and its founder arrested in September 2011.

Tokmakjian “was welcomed home by his family, friends, and thousands of employees,” said the company statement, which also thanked the Canadian government.

The statement made no mention of two Canadian aides from the Tokmakjian Group, Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche, who were also convicted and sentenced to 12 and 8 years. They had been under house arrest pending trial and while their convictions were being appealed.

Fourteen Cubans including the former deputy sugar minister and the former director of the state nickel company were also convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from 6 to 20 years.

Foreign companies and diplomats had raised concerns that Tokmakjian’s case could scare off investors while Cuba was actively seeking foreign capital. It also annoyed Canada, a major trading partner.

Cuba seized about $100 million worth of company assets including bank accounts, inventory and office supplies, a ruling the company was challenging in international arbitration. No immediate reason was given for the sudden release of Tokmakjian, whom Cuba had previously hailed as a model business partner over 20 years for supplying crucial transportation equipment during a severe economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He even received a business award from former president Fidel Castro.

Then the company was suddenly caught up in an investigation of Cuba’s international trading sector as part of a crackdown on corruption by current President Raul Castro.

Throughout the time Tokmakjian was tried in June and sentenced in September, the Canadian government was helping the United States and Cuba by serving as host to secret talks on restoring diplomatic ties.

It was unknown whether Canada’s role, which remained secret until the United States and Cuba announced on Dec. 17 they would seek to normalize relations, had any influence on Tokmakjian’s release.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)


Source: Newsjyoti Top Trending

Tsipras declares victory as Greece dodges financial ruin

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends a cabinet meeting at the parliament building in Athens, February 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Kostas Tsironis


(Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared victory on Saturday after agreeing a conditional financial rescue deal with Europe and despite making big concessions to avert a banking collapse within days.

With his left-wing leadership pilloried by German conservatives, Tsipras insisted that Friday night’s last-minute agreement canceled austerity commitments and dispensed with the “troika” – European and IMF inspectors loathed by many Greeks.

“Yesterday we took a decisive step, leaving austerity, the bailouts and the troika behind,” he said in a televised statement to the Greek nation. “We won a battle, not the war. The difficulties, the real difficulties … are ahead of us.”

After often ill-tempered negotiations in Brussels, Greece secured a four-month extension to euro zone funding, which will avert bankruptcy and a euro exit, provided it comes up with promises of economic reforms by Monday.

Had no deal been reached, some officials had feared panic when Greek banks reopened on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. But Athens said agreement at the meeting of euro zone finance ministers should calm Greek savers who thought capital controls might be imposed as a prelude to leaving the euro.

A source at the European Central Bank also ruled out restrictions on savers’ right to withdraw their deposits, aiming to dismiss expectations that – as euro zone member Ireland put it – the Greek banking system might have gone “belly up”.

Tsipras and his Syriza party won power last month on promises to end Greece’s EU/IMF bailout program and cooperation with the troika – European Commission, ECB and IMF officials who have monitored Greece’s compliance with its austerity and reform commitments.

However, Athens has been forced to accept a conditional extension of the bailout at the insistence of Eurogroup members led by Germany. It must also still deal with the troika, albeit renamed in the Brussels agreement as “the three institutions”.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he expected Greece’s EU and IMF partners would accept the reform promises. “We have discussed this with our partners,” he said after briefing the cabinet. “I am confident the list of reforms will be approved.”

A government official said the pledges were on issues such as tackling tax evasion and corruption.

In Berlin, a senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel was confident the German parliament could ratify the extension. “Greece has finally realized that it cannot turn a blind eye to reality,” Volker Kauder, leader of Merkel’s conservatives in the Bundestag, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

GOING “BELLY UP”

Ireland, which had to make deep budget cuts under its own EU/IMF bailout program, spelt out the uncomfortable truth that the euro zone had yielded nothing to the Greeks, for all the brave talk from Tsipras.

“Their political problem is that this a reversal of their election position. There is absolutely nothing on the table that could be considered a concession,” Irish finance minister Michael Noonan said.

“They’re now compromising and compromising quite significantly,” he told national broadcaster RTE, but made clear Athens had little choice. “The biggest threat to Greece was that their banking system would go belly up next Wednesday.”

Tsipras has won wide support at home for what Greeks see as their leaders finally getting tough instead of going to Brussels cap in hand and taking orders from Berlin. But he was also under intense pressure at home, with emergency funding controlled by the ECB for the banks due to hit a ceiling mid-week.

About a billion euros ($1 billion) flooded out of Greek bank accounts on Friday, a senior banker told Reuters, due to savers’ fears that the talks would fail and Athens might have to halt such withdrawals or prepare to reintroduce its own currency.

This added to an estimated 20 billion euros that Greeks have withdrawn since December, when it became clear that Syriza was likely to win last month’s elections.

While Ireland has already exited its bailout and is one of Europe’s fastest growing economies, Noonan said Greece now faces another bailout on top of the two totaling 240 billion euros that it has taken since 2010.

Friday’s deal had been “the first set of discussions to ensure Greece doesn’t collapse next week”, said Noonan. “Once you get them into the safe space for the next four months, there’ll be another set of discussions which will effectively involve the negotiation of a third program for Greece.”

Varoufakis assured savers the country did not face ruin. “Greeks were being told that if we were elected and we stayed in power for more than just a few days the ATMs will cease functioning,” he told reporters on Friday. “Today’s decision puts an end to this fear, to the scaremongering.”

The deal did open the possibility of lowering a target for Greece’s primary budget surplus, which excludes debt repayments, freeing funds to ease what Tsipras calls a “humanitarian crisis”. Athens must now negotiate a long-term deal with the euro zone before the extension runs out in the early summer.

Some Greeks wondered what the government had achieved. “We went through two months of agony, emptied the banks, to realize we are still a debt colony,” 54-year-old electrician Dimitris Kanakis told Reuters. “The paymasters call the shots.”

(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin, Alastair Macdonald, Renee Maltezou and Jan Stupczewski; Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Louise Ireland)


Source: Newsjyoti Top Trending

UPDATE 1-Tentative deal reached for U.S. West Coast ports; relief for trans-Pacific trade

(Adds details about companies affected by strike)

By Steve Gorman

Feb 21 (Reuters) – A group of shipping
companies and a powerful dockworkers union reached a tentative
labor deal after nine months of negotiations, settling a dispute
that disrupted the flow of cargo through 29 U.S. West Coast
ports and snarled trans-Pacific maritime trade with Asia.

The agreement, confirmed late Friday in a joint statement by
the two sides, was reached three days after U.S. Labor Secretary
Thomas Perez arrived in San Francisco to broker a deal with the
help of a federal mediator who had joined the talks six weeks
earlier.

The White House called the deal “a huge relief” for the
economy, businesses and workers. President Barack Obama urged
“the parties to work together to clear out the backlogs and
congestion in the West Coast ports as they finalize their
agreement,” the White House said in a statement.

The 20,000 dockworkers covered by the tentative five-year
labor accord have been without a contract since July.

The dispute had reverberated throughout the U.S. economy,
extending to agriculture, manufacturing, retail and
transportation. Supply chain disruptions have hit from
automakers to consumers of french-fried potatoes at McDonald’s
Corp restaurants in Japan.

Automakers had turned to more expensive air freight to get
parts to North American assembly lines. Japan’s Honda Motor Co
said its Ohio plant would resume full production on
Tuesday but facilities in Canada and Indiana would be at lower
production levels through March 2. The backup on the docks will
cost Honda about 25,000 vehicles in lost production, a company
spokesman said.

Toyota Motor Corp said it had reduced overtime at
some factories and Nissan Motor Co Ltd said it had been
somewhat affected.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retailer,
said on Thursday the dispute had caused delays of “pockets of
merchandise” and that the potential cost had been included in
the company’s earnings forecasts this week.

Groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers and
the U.S. Meat Export Federation welcomed the deal.

U.S. meat exporters have had to put millions of pounds of
beef and pork into cold storage, ship by air or use Canadian or
Mexican ports. Tyson Foods Inc and Cargill Inc
are among the leading U.S. pork and beef producers.

Tensions arising from the talks have played out since last
fall in chronic cargo backups that increasingly slowed freight
traffic at the ports. According to the American Association of
Port Authorities, some $3.8 billion worth of goods move in and
out of U.S. seaports each day.

The West Coast ports handle nearly half of all U.S. maritime
trade and more than 70 percent of the country’s Asian imports.

Shipping companies have sharply curtailed operations at the
marine terminals, suspending loading and unloading of cargo
vessels for night shifts, holidays and weekends at the five
busiest ports.

Perez said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union
and the shippers’ bargaining agent, the Pacific Maritime
Association, agreed to fully restore all port operations
starting Saturday evening.

The deal is subject to ratification by the union
rank-and-file and the individual shipping lines and terminal
operators that make up the PMA. No details of the terms were
immediately revealed.

Perez was sent to California on Tuesday as an emissary for
Obama, who had come under mounting political pressure to
intervene in a labor conflict that by some estimates could have
ended up costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

‘TOO MANY … ARE SUFFERING’

The principal sticking point when he first joined the talks,
Perez told reporters after the agreement, was the arbitration
system for resolving workplace disputes under the contract. He
did not disclose how that was resolved but said the parties
agreed to changes that would improve the system while “ensuring
fairness to both sides.

Each side blamed the other for disruptions at the ports as
pressure tactics. Cargo loads faced lag times of two weeks or
more as dozens of inbound freighters stacked up at anchor along
the coast, waiting for berths to open.

California farmers were especially hard hit, with port
disruptions threatening perishable goods headed overseas and
export losses estimated to be running at hundreds of millions of
dollars a week.

Singapore-listed Neptune Orient Lines’ container
shipping unit partly blamed the congestion for an 8 percent
decline in its fourth quarter.

Port officials have said it would take six to eight weeks to
clear the immediate backlog of cargo containers and several
months for freight traffic to return to a normal rhythm.

The West Coast waterfront still faces a range of systemic
problems cited by port authorities as factors in the backups.

Still, the settlement averted a worst-case scenario of the
labor dispute devolving into a full-scale, extended shutdown of
the ports, which the retail and manufacturing industries have
projected could cost the U.S. economy some $2 billion a day.

(Additional reporting by Ann Saphir and Sarah McBride in San
Francisco and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa
Shumaker, Ken Wills, Bill Trott, Frances Kerry and Chizu
Nomiyama)


Source: Newsjyoti

U.S. West Coast port dispute costing Honda 25,000 vehicles

Feb 21 (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co on
Saturday praised an agreement to end a labor dispute at U.S.
West Coast ports but said shipping delays will cost the company
about 25,000 vehicles this month.

Shipping companies and the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union reached a tentative deal on Friday after nine
months of negotiations. Union ratification of the agreement will
end a dispute that has affected trade between Asia and 29 U.S.
West Coast ports.

Honda had been using air shipments from Japan to get some
parts to its North American assembly lines and company spokesman
Mark Morrison said it would continue doing so while port
operations are ramped back up.

“We are pleased to hear the news that a tentative agreement
has been reached and are hopeful the ports will resume normal
operations soon,” Morrison said. “Next week our auto operations
in Ohio will be back to full production beginning Tuesday.”

Honda factories in Indiana and Canada will be operating at
lower production levels through March 2, he said.

The company had estimated its five North American plants had
lost production of 20,000 vehicles between Feb. 16 and 23 and
expected to lose another 5,000.

Honda said many workers at the plants affected by the parts
shortages kept busy working on maintenance or other projects.
Depending on how long the disruptions continue, Honda workers
could choose between reporting to work for full pay, taking paid
vacation time, or taking time off without pay, the company said.

Honda noted that about 80 percent of the parts used in its
North American-made vehicles are produced in the region.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by David Holmes)


Source: Newsjyoti

Spacewalking astronauts rigging station for new U.S. space taxis

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:16pm IST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) – A pair of U.S. astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Saturday to begin rigging parking spots for two commercial space taxis.

Station commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, 52, and flight engineer Terry Virts, 47, left the station’s Quest airlock shortly before 8 a.m. EST/1300 GMT to begin a planned 6-1/2-hour spacewalk, the first of three outings over the next eight days.

The work will prepare docking ports for upcoming flights by Boeing Co and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which are developing capsules to ferry crew to and from the station, which flies about 260 miles (418 km) above the Earth.

The United States has been dependent on Russia for station crew transportation since the space shuttle were retired in 2011.

The first test flight of a new U.S. crew craft isn’t expected until late 2016, but the station, a $100 billion laboratory owned by 15 nations, needs to undergo a significant transformation to prepare for the new vehicles, NASA said.

That work began on Saturday with Wilmore and Virts expected to install six cables to a docking port on the station’s Harmony module, the same site where space shuttles used to berth.

“This will be the most complicated cable-routing task that we have performed (by spacewalkers) to date,” Karina Eversly, lead spacewalk official, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

After two more spacewalks scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 25, and Sunday, March 1, the station will be outfitted with a total of 764 feet (233 m) of new cabling, as well as a communications system to support Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon capsules. The work sets the stage for the launch and installation of two international docking systems, built by Boeing and scheduled for launch aboard SpaceX Dragon cargo ships later this year.

To make room for a second berthing port on Harmony and two docking slips for cargo ships, NASA also plans to relocate another module using the station’s robot arm.

“We’re doing a lot of reconfiguration this year,” Kenneth Todd, station operations manager, said at the news conference. “We are really trying to take the station into this next phase.”

(Editing by David Holmes)

Source: Newsjyoti India Technology

Tentative deal reached for U.S. West Coast ports; relief for trans-Pacific trade

Feb 21 (Reuters) – A group of shipping
companies and a powerful dockworkers union reached a tentative
labor deal late on Friday after nine months of negotiations,
settling a dispute that disrupted the flow of cargo through 29
U.S. West Coast ports and snarled trans-Pacific maritime trade
with Asia.

The agreement, confirmed in a joint statement by the two
sides, was reached three days after U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas
Perez arrived in San Francisco to broker a deal with the help of
a federal mediator who had joined the talks six weeks earlier.

The White House called the deal “a huge relief” for the
economy, businesses and workers. President Barack Obama urged
“the parties to work together to clear out the backlogs and
congestion in the West Coast ports as they finalize their
agreement,” the White House said in a statement.

The 20,000 dockworkers covered by the tentative five-year
labor accord have been without a contract since July.

The dispute had reverberated throughout the U.S. economy,
extending to agriculture, manufacturing, retail and
transportation. Supply chain disruptions have hit from
automakers to consumers of french-fried potatoes at McDonald’s
Corp restaurants in Japan.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retailer,
said on Thursday the dispute had caused delays of “pockets of
merchandise” and that the potential cost had been included in
the company’s earnings forecasts this week.

The deal was welcomed by groups such as the National
Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Meat Export
Federation.

U.S. meat exporters have had to put millions of pounds of
beef and pork into cold storage, ship by air or use Canadian or
Mexican ports, rather than send it out through West Coast ports.
Tyson Foods Inc and Cargill Inc are among the
leading U.S. pork and beef producers.

Tensions arising from the talks have played out since last
fall in chronic cargo backups that have increasingly slowed
freight traffic at the ports. According to the American
Association of Port Authorities, some $3.8 billion worth of
goods move in and out of U.S. seaports each day.

The West Coast ports handle nearly half of all U.S. maritime
trade and more than 70 percent of the country’s Asian imports.

Shipping companies have sharply curtailed operations at the
marine terminals, suspending loading and unloading of cargo
vessels for night shifts, holidays and weekends at the five
busiest ports.

Perez said that as part of Friday’s accord, the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the shippers’
bargaining agent, the Pacific Maritime Association, agreed to
fully restore all port operations starting Saturday evening.

The deal is subject to ratification by the union
rank-and-file and the individual shipping lines and terminal
operators that make up the PMA. No details of the terms were
immediately revealed.

Perez was sent to California on Tuesday as an emissary for
Obama, who had come under mounting political pressure to
intervene in a labor conflict that by some estimates could have
ended up costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

‘TOO MANY…ARE SUFFERING’

Perez said he told the union and management negotiators:
“You have an obligation to resolve this matter quickly because
too many people and businesses are suffering.”

The principal sticking point when he first joined the talks,
Perez told reporters after the agreement, was the arbitration
system for resolving workplace disputes under the contract. He
did not disclose how that impasse was overcome but said the
parties agreed to changes that would improve the system while
“ensuring fairness to both sides.

Perez, who had been joined at times during the week by U.S.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Los Angeles Mayor Eric
Garcetti, exited the talks Friday morning after one last meeting
with both sides. Announcement of an agreement came hours later.

Disruptions at the ports have been blamed by each side on
the other as pressure tactics. Cargo loads have faced lag times
of two weeks or more as dozens of inbound freighters stacked up
at anchor along the coast, waiting for berths to open.

California farmers were especially hard hit, with port
disruptions threatening perishable goods headed to overseas
markets and export losses estimated to be running at hundreds of
millions of dollars a week.

Japan’s Honda Motor Co said earlier this week it
would slow production at some of its North American plants due
to delays in parts shipments from Asia while Toyota Motor
Corp said it had reduced overtime at some factories.

Nissan Motor Co Ltd said it had been somewhat
affected. Honda and other car manufacturers said they were
switching to higher-cost air freight to minimize delivery
slowdowns.

Singapore-listed Neptune Orient Lines’ container
shipping unit partly blamed the congestion for an 8 percent
decline in its fourth quarter.

Port officials have said it would take six to eight weeks to
clear the immediate backlog of cargo containers piled up on the
docks and several months for freight traffic to return to a
normal rhythm once the dispute was settled.

Besides work slowdowns the companies accused the union of
staging to gain bargaining leverage and the curtailed operations
the union said were designed to squeeze its members, the West
Coast waterfront still faces a range of systemic problems cited
by port authorities as factors in the backups.

Still, the settlement averted a worst-case scenario of the
labor dispute devolving into a full-scale, extended shutdown of
the ports, which the retail and manufacturing industries have
projected could cost the U.S. economy some $2 billion a day.

(Additional reporting by Ann Saphir and Sarah McBride in San
Francisco and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa
Shumaker, Ken Wills, Bill Trott and Frances Kerry)


Source: Newsjyoti

Beauty-in-a-box service Glossybox says moves into profit

Feb 21 (Reuters) – Glossybox, a beauty products
sampling service, said on Saturday it turned profitable last
year and is growing solidly again after a previous rapid
expansion nearly killed the start-up.

The Berlin-based company, backed by Germany’s Rocket
Internet and inspired by rival New York-based
cosmetics-in-a-box firm Birchbox, said its customer base grew 25
percent in 2014, despite cutting marketing costs by 33 percent.

Glossybox counts 200,000 mostly female customers who pay
around 10 euros ($11) a month to have a box of sample cosmetics
mailed to them. Working with 600 skincare, perfume and beauty
brands, it has delivered 6 million boxes to date.

Birchbox, which reportedly counts 800,000 subscribers,
sparked the curated product-in-box craze, inspiring copycats for
everything from chocolate to record albums, sex toys, dog treats
and even munchies for pot smokers.

Founded in 2011, Glossybox rapidly entered more than 20
markets including Asia, an over-expansion that led it to cut its
workforce to 130 from a peak of 350 in 2013.

It now focuses on 10 markets including Germany, France,
Britain and the United States and has begun hiring again after
making progress in reducing customer turnover.

“We needed to admit that what we had done would not work, at
least at this stage,” Founder and Chief Executive Charles von
Abercron, 30, said in an interview.

Von Abercron said the company operated profitably in every
month last year and turned a “seven-digit” euro profit.

Glossybox has raised 55 million euros from Rocket Internet
and regular investment partners AB Kinnevik,
Holtzbrinck Ventures and Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries.
Rocket holds a majority stake in the company.

Beauty products retailing has proved relatively immune to
e-commerce as customers prefer to try products before
purchasing. Pharmacy retailers such as Boots, DM and Walgreens
vie in the sector with cosmetic specialists such as Sephora,
Shisedo and Douglass.

Product-discovery sites look to change that by asking users
their age, skin type and hair colour to create tailored
profiles. Glossybox is also expanding into fashion content,
supplying customers with beauty tips and trends.

Eventually, Glossybox may look to create an online shop, as
Birchbox has done, allowing subscribers to buy full-size
versions of samples they like.

“I am not doing a shop today or tomorrow, but maybe in the
future,” von Abercron said. “Today, what you see, is not what
you are going to see in six months.”
($1 = 0.8789 euros)

(Editing by David Holmes)


Source: Newsjyoti

Rebellious Mexican filmmakers follow in Inarritu's wake

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu poses for a portrait while promoting his upcoming movie ''Birdman'' in Los Angeles, California in this  December 16, 2014 file picture.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu poses for a portrait while promoting his upcoming movie ”Birdman” in Los Angeles, California in this December 16, 2014 file picture.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/Files


(Reuters) – A new wave of Mexican filmmakers is following in the wake of the success of Alejandro G. Inarritu, bent on breaking Hollywood convention and making daring movies with high-profile actors.

Inarritu’s “Birdman” garnered nine Academy Awards nominations including best picture, best director and best actor, and follows fellow Mexican Alfonso Cuaron’s best director win last year with space thriller “Gravity,” a first for a Latin American filmmaker.

Inarritu, Cuaron and fellow “Three Amigos” director Guillermo del Toro began their careers in the 1990s when the domestic film industry was practically dead and they left Mexico to make the climb to global fame.

“We were very lucky to have the possibility to be fed by European filmmakers, by some American filmmakers … cinema of the world,” Inarritu said. “Mexico is still an incredible fountain of culture, but cinematically speaking … 20 years ago, it was horrible.”

The trio managed to maintain control over their iconoclastic film projects within the Hollywood system, raising Mexico’s profile as they made both big blockbusters such as Cuaron’s “Gravity” or del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” and more personal, lower-budget projects such as Inarritu’s “Birdman.”

Mexican film production has surged from 28 films in 2000 to 130 last year, according to industry group Canacine. But top new talents are not looking to make it in Hollywood.

This year will see new films from Gerardo Naranjo and Michel Franco, two of the most notable rebels among Mexico’s growing ranks of directors who have cast aside studio formulas.

This new generation grew up in a rapidly globalizing Mexico following the opening of the country’s closed economy in the 1990s and the end of authoritarian one-party rule in 2000.

Naranjo’s early films, “Miss Bala”, about a beauty queen sucked into the violent world of drug traffickers, and “I’m Gonna Explode”, a tale of teen love and rebellion, nabbed the attention of 20th Century Fox.

He spent almost four years working on developing two major Fox films, including a remake of “Death Wish” with Bruce Willis, but quit in frustration with the studio system.

“It is important to recognize the mastery of the older generation,” Naranjo said. “Cuaron, Inarritu, they found a way to protect their projects and that is the hardest thing to do in the United States. The industry finds ways to limit creativity over and over.”

HOLLYWOOD BLUES

But Naranjo’s defiant exit from Hollywood grabbed attention and he drew in a group of young actors led by Dakota Fanning to star in his new independent film “Viena and Fantomes.”

After struggling for years in the studio system with little to show, he wrote, directed and shot the film himself in a matter of months, and is now editing.

“I feel I had something to offer that was lacking in the industry,” he said. “I am giving American actors the chance to do what they should be doing but don’t get the chance to do.”

“Viena” stars Fanning as a young groupie in the thrall of a punk band. “It is her trip to understand that celebrity does not come out of talent in America,” Naranjo said.

Mexico’s directors have developed sophisticated styles of filmmaking that have pushed the traditional boundaries of fiction and documentaries, winning the top honors at the world’s biggest festivals.

They are limited by ultra-low budgets, around $2 million, but by holding to their personal visions, Mexican filmmakers are attracting big Hollywood actors starved for meatier roles.

Michel Franco, whose bullying-themed “After Lucia” won a top prize at Cannes in 2012, is now editing his first English-language film, “Chronic”, starring Tim Roth.

Roth, who sat on the jury that feted Franco in Cannes, was excited to work with the young director and convinced him to re-write a script that Franco was working on with a male lead.

“Chronic” was inspired by the woman who cared for Franco’s dying grandmother, now Roth who plays a nurse attending terminally ill patients as he struggles to reconnect with the family he abandoned.

“My films are not trying to be easy on the public, but rather are developing a story that is not very common and does not fit into a genre,” he said.

Roth is also in one of the lead roles in “600 miles” the debut film from Gabriel Ripstein, who also co-produced “Chronic” with Franco.

“600 Miles” won the coveted best first feature award at Berlin in February for Ripstein, the son of Mexican film auteur Arturo Ripstein, who worked as an executive for Hollywood studios for a decade.

“It is a question of finding actors who want to work with interesting filmmakers,” Ripstein said. “But we are keeping control over the projects and don’t have to make concessions.”

Loosely inspired by the botched Fast and Furious program where U.S. agents lost thousands of high-powered guns in Mexico, “600 Miles” tracks a young Mexican on his first run as a gun smuggler and stars Roth as a U.S. agent hunting him.

With Hollywood balance sheets dependent on blockbuster franchises, directors are confident they will be able to keep attracting disaffected talent to their independent projects.

“Its not the same Hollywood that Inarritu and Cuaron went to,” said Gaz Alazraki, who is directing Netflix’s first Spanish-language series “Club de Cuervos.”

“But there are a whole lot of great actors who want to make personal films, so if you can team up with them, it’s great.”

(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles; Editing by Simon Gardner and Ken Wills)


Source: Newsjyoti Entertainment