July 22, 2017

Is This the Woman Who Will Save Uber?

“Everybody was like: ‘What’s happening? Is this your date? I don’t understand. Why is this guy here?’” Ms. Saint John said. “It was such a beautiful, human moment,” one that was chronicled on her Instagram account, @badassboz, where she has more than 40,000 followers.

“We’re all rushing in our lives, and I was so concerned with getting from here to there, and if not for the moment of humanity where we just started talking, that connection would not have happened,” she said. “What a miss that would have been. What a miss!”

This story was part of what convinced Arianna Huffington, a founder of The Huffington Post and a high-profile member of Uber’s board, that Ms. Saint John was the right person to shepherd Uber out of its recent thicket of legal and ethical scandals.

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From left, Andra Day, Lisa Vanderpump and Ms. Saint John at the Women of Influence Awards in 2016. Credit Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The two women first met at a dinner in Las Vegas last January hosted by Kristin Lemkau, the chief marketing officer of JPMorgan Chase. “We had an instant connection,” Ms. Huffington said. That night, she posted a photo of herself with her arm around a beaming Ms. Saint John on Instagram with the hashtag #thecoolkidsdinner.” The next month, Ms. Huffington attended Ms. Saint John’s 40th birthday party in Los Angeles. (Another Instagram opportunity: “Hard to imagine what she’ll do by 50!” she posted.)

“Sometimes it takes you months to get to know someone,” Ms. Huffington said. “With her, I felt like she has this incredible capacity for intimacy and for sharing her story and for sharing others’ stories.”

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And, Ms. Huffington said, “She’s great at social media.”

Indeed, while women have long feared that putting family pictures on their desks might impede their climb up the corporate ladder, Ms. Saint John has broken the glass frame: posing in a bikini with her “baddies” on a beach; snapping a selfie as her daughter, now 8, tags along on a business trip; and posting the last red-carpet photo she took with her husband, Peter Saint John, who died of Burkitt lymphoma in 2013.

Baddies on the beach. Part 2. #imeanseriously #mycrewbad #Anguilla #nosandtothebeach @justeenahoh @iamlylette @epnyc @amyduboisbarnett

A post shared by Bozoma Saint John (@badassboz) on Dec 30, 2014 at 2:00pm PST

“I’ve been told that I overshare,” she said. “Sometimes I get criticized for it, but how else would I be if not all of me?”

Ms. Saint John knows it might seem overly calculating of Uber, which has been accused of fostering a hostile work environment for women, to hire an African-American single mother to make over its public image. She doesn’t care. “To me, there’s no sense of tokenism because I know I can do the job — I’m qualified to do the job, I can do a great job,” she said. “Being present as a black woman — just present — is enough to help exact some of the change that is needed and some that we’re looking for.”

She amplifies this presence with statement-making ensembles like the ruffled, lilac Marni skirt and crop top, gold-encrusted Chanel purse and stiletto heels she wore on a recent morning at Uber’s San Francisco office. “That’s my own personal thing,” Ms. Saint John said of her interest in fashion, so distinct from the hoodie aesthetic around her.

She has stood out from the crowd since her family settled in Colorado Springs when she was 12, after an itinerant childhood spent in Connecticut, Washington D.C., Kenya and Ghana, where her father was a member of the Parliament from 1979 until the 1981 coup d’état there. Her mother designed and sold clothes and ensured that Ms. Saint John and her three younger sisters stayed connected to their culture, especially once they moved to the Southwest.

“The first few months were really hard,” Ms. Saint John said. “Having a name that people can’t pronounce” — it’s BOZE-mah — “having a mom that refused to serve pizza on Friday nights when friends came over. She was like, ‘No you’re going to have this pepper soup, I don’t care if you’re sweating.’” (She’s come to appreciate that steadfastness: Accepting an award at an arts fund-raiser hosted by Russell Simmons this month, Ms. Saint John thanked her mother for ingraining her love of African culture.)

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Arianna Huffington, second from left, and Ms. Saint John last month. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

Ms. Saint John became captain of the cheerleading squad and track team. In her sophomore year, she ran for student council under the tagline “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Boz Thing,” inspired by her anthem of the moment, Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.”

“I just thought it was so cool, but nobody got it,” she said. She lost, “but it was a great lesson — you need to connect on your audience’s level, not on your own.”

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Ms. Saint John attended Wesleyan University, ostensibly to prepare for becoming a doctor but managing to teach a class on Tupac Shakur, with a professor’s supervision, in her spare time. She got into medical school but lobbied her parents for a yearlong sabbatical. “They agreed, which was their mistake,” she said.

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She moved to New York, and through a temp agency got gigs as a catering server and a receptionist for an Upper East Side dog-washing salon. She also began going to nightclubs, where she made friends with influencers like Rene Mclean, who ran a D.J. boot camp. Her temp agency sent her to SpikeDDB, Spike Lee’s advertising firm. Mr. Lee had fired his assistant and wanted someone to answer phones while he looked for a new one.

“She walked in, she got the job,” he said. “It was evident that she was going to go places.”

Ms. Saint John went from making coffee runs to helping Mr. Lee brainstorm campaigns, like casting Beyoncé, who had just left Destiny’s Child, as Carmen in a Pepsi commercial.

“That became the turning point where, O.K., I can actually use my knowledge of pop culture, running around these streets with my friends, knowing the inside track on things, to help inform business decisions,” she said. She also met her husband-to-be, an advertising executive, in the company cafeteria.

After a stint selling smoking cessation products for GlaxoSmithKline, Ms. Saint John took a marketing job at Pepsi, coming up with projects like the “Pepsi DJ Division,” which included D.J. Khaled.

In 2013, she orchestrated the halftime show Pepsi sponsored at the Super Bowl featuring Beyoncé. Four months later, her husband’s illness was diagnosed. Their daughter had just turned 4.

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Ms. Saint John at the AdColor Awards in 2014.

“Towards the end of his life, as everything started to fail, he was very adamant that I not stop what I was doing,” Ms. Saint John said. “He was telling me to hold his hands because he couldn’t grasp anymore, saying, ‘Promise me, you’re going to keep going.’”

On the 13th anniversary of their first date, Ms. Saint John posted a status update on Facebook, saying in part, “we reflect over our years together as he has a chemo cocktail and I drink red wine in a paper cup.” Mr. Saint John died in December 2013. Ms. Saint John, true to her word, kept going. In February 2014, Jimmy Iovine, a founder of Interscope Records, found out she was in Los Angeles for a sister’s wedding and requested a meeting at his house in Malibu. He had just started Beats Music, a streaming service, with her teenage idol, Dr. Dre. Who was Mr. Iovine? How did streaming work? She wasn’t quite sure, but she drove to the beachside residence.

“We ended up talking for four hours,” Ms. Saint John said. “I was raw. I needed something to give me some hope for the future. I needed something that could help me see further. When he was talking about all this newfangled stuff, I said: ‘That sounds like the future! I’m going to the future!’”

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Ms. Saint John quit Pepsi and moved to Los Angeles as the head of global marketing for Beats. Her role expanded when Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion in 2014, and she came up with popular ad campaigns for Apple Music, like a 2015 commercial in which Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson bond over post-breakup songs in a light and palm-frond-filled mansion (“Siri, play ‘I Will Survive,’” Ms. Washington says). Last year, Ms. Saint John walked on stage at Apple’s developers’ conference — the first black woman to do so — blasting old-school rap and commanding the room of mostly white men to bounce to the beat. Wired wondered, “Who the hell is this badass woman, and how did Apple keep her secret for so long?”

After hearing Ms. Saint John’s story of her Austin ride, “I had a flash — ‘Wow, she’d be great at Uber,’” Ms. Huffington said. “I thought she would be a great person to tell these amazing stories of our drivers, to touch people’s hearts, to bring more humanity to the brand.”

In May, Ms. Saint John and Travis Kalanick, an Uber founder and then chief executive, spent eight hours at Ms. Huffington’s home in Los Angeles, discussing what she might do for the company, both grand and simple.

“I think I might need to wear a disguise, but I want to drive,” she said. “What happens when someone gets in the car and they’re upset? Is that a moment? Do you just stay quiet or do you talk?”

Mr. Kalanick would step down as chief executive a month later. The hunt is on for his successor. But whoever it is will have Ms. Saint John helping steer from the passenger seat, stilettos and speakers on.

“Why wouldn’t they want her?” Mr. Lee said. “She’s just what the doctor ordered, the stuff they were going through. She’s a godsend for Uber.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/style/uber-bozoma-saint-john.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Hero, Villain, TV Sensation: Spicer’s Fame Spread Beyond Washington

With Mr. Spicer in charge, the question of whether a briefing would be on camera or off — once an idiosyncratic concern of Washington insiders — turned into dinner table conversation around the country. On some days, soap operas were pre-empted to carry the White House news briefing live. Even the tabloid outlet TMZ got into the act, posting a grainy video of Mr. Spicer being ambushed by a critic at an Apple store.

Mr. Spicer’s relationship with reporters was often strained, starting with his first appearance at the lectern, when he laced into the press corps, falsely accusing it of underestimating the size of Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowd. Though he chafed when reporters challenged him, sometimes for the benefit of a president he knew was watching, he often welcomed them to his office for gossip and, on occasion, soft-serve ice cream.

Comedians could hardly believe their luck.

“There’s a fount of material; it’s insatiable,” said Matt Negrin, whose obsessive Twitter chronicling of Mr. Spicer helped him land a job at “The Daily Show,” where he produced videos that captured Mr. Spicer’s most memorable malapropisms and gaffes.

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All Joking Aside, Here’s How Sean Spicer Shook Up the White House Press Briefing

Mr. Spicer typically calls on media organizations outside the mainstream before getting to more traditional news outlets.

Mr. Negrin, who has a six-foot canvas poster of Mr. Spicer in his New York apartment (“it looks like he’s looking right into my eyes”), posted a video obituary on Friday titled, “Sean Spicer’s Daily On-Camera Press Briefings, 2017-2017.” It had been prepared ahead of time.

Mr. Spicer’s fame increased the profile of those around him.

Glenn Thrush of The New York Times, who broke the news of Mr. Spicer’s resignation on Friday, was the subject of a memorable impression by Bobby Moynihan on “Saturday Night Live.” Ms. Ryan, a 20-year veteran of covering the White House, signed a CNN contract and earned a guest spot on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” soon after Mr. Spicer chastised her during a televised briefing.

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“It went viral; it went global,” Ms. Ryan said of the exchange, in which the press secretary accused her of shaking her head, a comment widely perceived as condescending.

Ms. Ryan said that she was recognized more often on the street these days. But the notoriety had its downside, too, she said, including threats she received after the episode. “I don’t look at it as a badge of honor,” she said. “It happened. I had to deal with it.” Of Mr. Spicer, she added: “I wish him well.”

Mr. Spicer had his devotees — he was once mobbed by selfie-seeking fans at a rally for Mr. Trump in Nashville — and he seemed at times to relish the attention. When CNN, in a cheeky move, sent a courtroom sketch artist to illustrate one of Mr. Spicer’s briefings at which cameras had been banned, he requested a copy of the drawing, and then displayed it proudly in his West Wing office.

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In recent weeks, Mr. Spicer was spending less time at the lectern, often replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was promoted on Friday to succeed him.

News of Mr. Spicer’s exit prompted speculation that he would quickly find a new home on television, following in the tradition of former White House aides who get lucrative contracts from cable news networks. Some television agents spent Friday scrambling for his number.

One network, however, took pains to pre-emptively announce that it would not serve as Mr. Spicer’s future employer: CNN, which has clashed repeatedly with the press secretary and the Trump administration, said on Friday that it would not hire him.

The president, presumably, has no problem with that, and on Friday Mr. Trump offered Mr. Spicer one of the highest compliments available in his lexicon.

“I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, read aloud by Ms. Sanders. “Just look at his great television ratings.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/business/media/sean-spicer-show.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Wall Street Journal Editorial Writer Is Found Dead


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Joseph Rago of The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Rago won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. Credit Pulitzer Prize Board, via Associated Press

Joseph Rago, a 34-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal, was found dead at his home on Thursday evening. Police officers discovered Mr. Rago’s body at his apartment in Manhattan at around 8 p.m. after a request to check on him, a spokeswoman for the New York Police Department said.

“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the death of Joseph Rago, a splendid journalist and beloved friend,” Paul Gigot, the editor of The Journal’s editorial page, said in a statement. “Joe and his family are in our thoughts and prayers, and we will be celebrating his work in Saturday’s paper.”

Mr. Gigot had notified the newspaper’s security officials after Mr. Rago did not appear at work on Thursday, according to an article published on The Journal’s website on Friday. The officials then contacted the police.

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Foul play is not suspected, the police spokeswoman said.

Asked about Mr. Rago, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office said, “The cause and manner of death are pending further studies following today’s examination.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/business/media/wall-street-journal-editorial-writer-is-found-dead.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Scaramucci Has a Showman’s Knack for Self-Promotion Rivaling Trump’s

Mr. Scaramucci grew up on Long Island, in Port Washington, N.Y., where one of his first jobs was delivering Newsday. He has written two books, “Goodbye Gordon Gekko” and “The Little Book of Hedge Funds.” He started SkyBridge Capital in 2005 as an incubator for hedge fund managers after spending seven years at Goldman Sachs and helping to found a money-managament firm.

After the financial crisis, many hedge funds shifted tactics to attract new investors. SkyBridge bought Citigroup’s hedge fund unit and then reinvented itself, opening up to investors with as little as $25,000. Many top hedge funds, by contrast, required a $10 million investment. SkyBridge is a manager of a portfolio of hedge funds — a “fund of funds.”

“I’m a middle-class kid from Long Island, and neither of my parents went to college,” Mr. Scaramucci told The Times in 2013. “Why shouldn’t more people have access to this industry?”

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In 2011, he tried to join the rarefied club of major league sports owners as part of a group that considered buying a stake in the New York Mets. The deal never materialized.

Mr. Scaramucci is a longtime supporter of Republican candidates. Although he donated to Mr. Obama’s campaign in 2008, he supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, saying that America need “more practical, less partisan people.” He was one of Mr. Trump’s biggest critics during the presidential race before becoming one of the first on Wall Street to back him. He called Mr. Trump a “hack politician” and warned that his politics were divisive.

Strongly opposed to Hillary Clinton — “You can search and see the weather vane on top of her head,” he once said — Mr. Scaramucci had trouble settling on a Republican candidate. He initially backed Mr. Romney, then Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.

“I’m not looking for my political fingerprint to match the identity of my candidate,” Mr. Scaramucci said in acknowledging unease among wealthy donors over Mr. Walker’s shift to the right on social issues. He expressed alarm, however, about how, as a candidate, Mr. Trump spoke about hedge fund managers, calling him “misinformed” on Twitter.

Mr. Scaramucci changed his mind by the time Mr. Trump’s head campaign fund-raiser, Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund veteran, appeared at Mr. Scaramucci’s Las Vegas conference last year.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Scaramucci said, was “saying cuckoo-la-la things to insult the intelligentsia because what he’s discovered is that the average American, the red-meat-eating Middle American, loves the swipes at the know-it-alls, and I think Donald Trump is enjoying doing that.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/business/dealbook/trump-media-scaramucci-wall-street.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Critic’s Notebook: This Podcast Is a Love Story, for Your Ears Only

Judith is voiced by Jessie Shelton (“Hadestown”) and Jase by Jonathan Groff (“Frozen,” “Hamilton”). Jase’s pet duck is uncredited, and if that duck dies a tragic, Éponine-esque death in the third act, hey, confit for all. As directed by Mr. Littler and Ms. Winter, Act I — which has already racked up 28,000 downloads and topped the charts at Pocket Cast — is disarmingly conversational and musically shrewd. The dialogue geeks out at times — O.K., a lot of the time — but the songs are booby-trapped with hooks. And the people crooning them into your earbuds feel bracingly, embraceably real.

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The new podcast “36 Questions” sets a standard for the future of musical theater.

“36 Questions” was conceived by Skip Bronkie and Zack Akers of Two-Up Productions — a team whose previous podcast effort, the creepy, distinctly unmusical “Limetown,” was an adrenaline cascade disguised as docudrama. So a romantic chamber musical must have felt like an obvious next step.

What makes the “36 Questions” project that much more surprising is that it’s very likely the first (mostly) serious musical of the podcast era and a gauntlet thrown to any composer daunted by the hassle and cost of a live production.

Plenty of radio dramas draw on theatrical forms, and lots of podcasts have strong musical components, from stalwarts like “Prairie Home Companion” to newer ones like the “Welcome to Night Vale” spinoff “The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air)” or Jemaine Clement’s “The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie’s Botanarium.”

As if Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t have enough accolades already, you can credit him with helping pioneer the podcast musical genre with “21 Chump Street,” a 14-minute, crazily likable piece he wrote for an episode of “This American Life.” A few longer entries have followed, like the episodic sci-fi series “Songonauts”; the “Serial” parody “Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me”; and the manically incomprehensible “The Fall of the House of Sunshine,” with songs by the composer Matthew roi Berger.

But “36 Questions” is a full-length and more or less traditional book musical written expressly for the podcast form. Ms. Winter and Mr. Littler, who play in a nerdcore group called Chamber Band and cite Stephen Sondheim and Esperanza Spalding as among their influences, had to learn how to write a musical and how to make that musical intelligible to the headphone set.

After all, not every musical would work as a podcast. “A Little Night Music” or “The Secret Garden”? Probably. “Miss Saigon” or “Starlight Express”? Probably not. And this differs from an original cast recording, a newly popular genre, in that it’s not a record of another phenomenon. The podcast is the thing itself.

“There was a big learning curve,” Mr. Littler said in a phone interview.

Ms. Winter added, “It was a lot of balancing the writing with the sound effects we were hearing and imagining.”

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Early on, they dismissed the easy out of having an external narrator, a typical podcast trope, and decided to loop the two singers’ voices into multipart harmonies to avoid the need for a chorus. After settling on a quiet mix of live and electronic instrumentation, they structured each episode as a series of voice memos that Judith records on her phone.

The result? A show that sounds like eavesdropping on a talky pair who just happen to vault into a tangy soprano and a boyish lyric tenor whenever emotions run high. It’s like having a front-row seat — or sitting even closer than that.

“Every breath and sigh and inhale and exhale reads on the microphone,” Mr. Groff said by telephone. “Everything is like a close-up on the voice. The microphone picks up everything, every vocal gesture.”

That’s a kind of intimacy that maybe only a command performance can offer. But a podcast can reach a lot more people than even a Broadway long-runner, without the lotteries, the rushes, the scalpers, the hurried preshow meals and obstructed views. It is free, and it sounds as if it was recorded just for you.

Two episodes in, “36 Questions” is a charmer. (I’ve even forgiven it for the duck. Mostly.) It’s made me greedy for the finale and for Ms. Winter and Mr. Littler to write for an actual wood-and-plaster stage. But it’s most exciting in the challenge it sets other composers to turn their treble clefs to podcasting. “This format works,” Mr. Littler said.

I’d like to think that listening to “36 Questions” will have musical theater writers asking themselves about the form. Maybe they’ll even fall in love.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/theater/36-questions-podcast-is-a-love-story-for-your-ears-only.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Another bitcoin rival makes its mark in cryptocurrency world

The San Francisco firm fixed a record $30 million worth of transactions in the second quarter of 2017. The figure had reportedly tripled from the first quarter when it recorded $6.7 million in sales.

© Jens Kalaene / Global Look PressBitcoin rival ethereum gobbling up cryptocurrency market

The company says the $21 million in purchases came from institutional investors, actively using Ripple’s licensed money service business.

Ripple also managed to sell an additional $10.3 million XRP via sales of the asset to fund its operations.

XRP finished the second quarter priced at $0.263, an impressive quarter-to-quarter spike of 1,159 percent and a year-to-date growth of 3,977 percent.

The cryptocurrency is listed on 30 exchanges and is currently in third place by market capitalization after bitcoin and ether.

In May, Ripple announced plans to structure the sale of its currency. The move boosted interest to XRP in the second quarter according to Miguel Vias, Ripple’s head of XRP markets, as quoted by CNBC.

“With respect to XRP, we are incredibly focused on international payments. I think we are probably the only digital asset that has a clear use case with respect to what we are trying to do with the asset,” he told the channel.

“With respect to growth and outreach, we will continue to partner with digital asset exchanges for listings and most importantly… it is really all about payments and in this quarter, you will see some very interesting developments with respect to our partnership in payments, with respect to XRP in particular,” Vias added.

Despite analysts’ concerns over volatility in the cryptocurrency market and a potential split in bitcoin, Vias is optimistic about both Ripple and its rivals.

“What we have seen is an embracing of digital assets broadly by really established institutions. When you have folks like the Bank of England, which did a proof of concept with us, as well as the Bank of Japan coming out and saying, we are considering this as legal tender at some point – when you see those developments, you can’t help but feel that we are on the right path, that interest is going to continue to grow,” he said.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397106-ripple-cryptocurrency-rose-thousands-percent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

French tobacconists protest govt plan to raise cigarette prices

Claiming the measures will ruin their business and won’t even reduce smoking, they covered speed cameras with plastic bags in the southern city of Toulouse, the northern region of Picardy and Bearn near the Pyrenees, as well as other parts of France.

Some of them covered their faces with masks showing the face of French President Emmanuel Macron or Health Minister Agnes Buzyn.

In Toulouse protesters put up posters saying, “No to the €10 packet, clients deprived, cigarette sellers threatened,” and rolled out a banner saying “Getting rid of tobacco vendors will not cut down on smoking.”

“This product is dangerous, but every government fights against this scourge by raising prices – there aren’t enough preventative measures focused on young people,” the president of the federation of cigarette sellers in the area of Occitanie near the Spanish border, Gerard Vidal was cited as saying by Local France.

Vidal called for a real “plan of action in the fight against the black market cross-border sales and on the internet.”

READ MORE: No butts about it: Cigarettes account for over one-quarter of all cancer deaths

The French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn announced plans to raise the price of cigarettes earlier this month, saying her aim is “for the children born today to be France’s first generation of non-smokers.”

© Vladimir AstapkovichThe price of cigarettes in Russia may double in 2017

According to France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, with 80,000 tobacco-related deaths in France each year, “doing nothing is not an option.”

The price of a pack of cigarettes in France is among the highest in Europe, although Ireland and the UK have higher prices.

Statistics showed in March the French bought four million packets of cigarettes, over four percent more than during the same period last year.

The confederation of cigarette sellers met with Buzyn on Wednesday to announce the “rising worry” in the profession.

British American Tobacco France has already estimated its lost revenue will reach €2.7 billion by 2020.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397094-french-tobacconists-price-hike/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

US corporations lobby against anti-Russia sanctions

BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing and Citigroup, MasterCard and Visa are reportedly among the companies raising concerns the punitive measures will ultimately harm their businesses, rather than the Kremlin.

© imago stockpeople / Global Look PressUS oil sector warns Washington over ‘unintended consequences’ of new anti-Russian penalties

Ford, Dow Chemical, Procter Gamble, International Paper, Caterpillar, and Cummins have reportedly warned the measure could impact their businesses as well.

The new bill, aimed at punishing Russia for alleged meddling in the US presidential election, was approved last month. The measures target already sanctioned Russian banks and energy sector, limiting the financing period for them to 14 and 30 days respectively.

The legislation also introduces individual sanctions for investing more than $5 million a year or $1 million at a time in Russian pipeline projects or providing such enterprises with services, technology or information support.

Over a dozen of US corporations want changes to the bill and lobbyists and trade associations have been visiting Capitol Hill in recent days meeting members of Congress.

“It passed with such force and such a strong vote in the Senate, it seemed to be insurmountable initially. I don’t think they thought through the unintended consequences,” said a senior congressional aide who has worked on the billб as quoted by the media outlet.

The bill, which is still to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Trump administration has drawn a wave of criticism among European corporations as well.

Earlier this week, the heads of European energy companies warned the sanctions Washington wants to impose on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline might have an adverse impact on Europe.

Last month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said the new measures introduced by the US were only about “selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market.”

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397075-us-conglomerates-against-russia-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

UK enjoys tourist spending splurge thanks to cheap pound

According to the company, it has tracked credit card spending of £643 million by visitors in June and predicted a £2.4 billion bonanza for retailers if the trend continues over the summer.

In contrast, spending by British travelers abroad has fallen sharply.

The Office for National Statistics said a steady rise in UK tourism numbers has led to strong June results for the country’s retailers.

Companies like Burberry have reported a boost to trade in the UK as the cost of luxury goods for people from abroad has become more competitive.

Worldpay said luxury boutiques and department stores enjoyed a 63 percent rise in sales, aided mainly by US and Russian tourists.

© Paul HackettUK becomes sterling travel destination as pound plummets

“Sterling’s slump is continuing to attract visitors in their droves, safe in the knowledge that their holiday cash will stretch a little further,” said Worldpay chief UK marketing officer, James Frost.

“It tends to be London that grabs the headlines when it comes to tourist spending, but the reality is destinations right across the UK are benefiting from an influx of free-spending tourists,” he added.

According to Frost, businesses in Scotland and Wales have seen foreign spending surge by as much as 27 percent compared to last year, and that could increase further in July and August.

“By investing to make their businesses more attractive to global customers, retailers and tourist hotspots across the UK could make serious gains from the pound’s performance this summer,” he said.

The British currency plunged to a nine-month low against the euro on Friday, after the update from the European Central Bank and on fraught Brexit talks. It was trading at €1.117 against the single currency as of 10:08am GMT.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397074-pound-surges-tourist-spending/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

ExxonMobil challenges ‘fundamentally unfair’ $2mn fine deals with Russia’s Rosneft

The American oil giant maintains that at no point has its dealings with Rosneft violated the sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis three years ago.

In the legal challenge filed against the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), ExxonMobil insists that it followed guidance from the Obama administration which OFAC proceeded to retroactively change.

“OFAC seeks to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today,” ExxonMobil’s filing in the US District Court, said.

Just prior to filing its complaint, the company based in Irving, Texas was fined $2 million by the US Treasury for signing eight deals with Russian oil giant Rosneft, which allegedly violated Ukraine-related sanctions.

The deals, all signed in May 2014, have been sealed while current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the company’s CEO.

According to an OFAC statement, the restrictions were violated by ExxonMobil’s US subsidiaries “by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the President of Rosneft OAO, and an individual identified on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.”

The American oil giant, however, maintains that Rosneft was not subject to any sanctions at the time the documents were signed.

“Instead, the sole basis of OFAC’s July 20, 2017 penalty notice… is that the documents were signed on behalf of Rosneft by its President and Chairman, Igor Sechin, who at the time was subject to sanctions only in his individual capacity,” the legal complaint said.

Sechin was added on the US sanction list days before the deals were signed for allegedly demonstrating “utter loyalty” to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

AFP Photo / Karen BleierExxon business in Russia not disrupted by Ukraine crisis – CEO

ExxonMobil argues that Obama’s executive order and the White House’s guidance emphasized that only personal assets of the sanctioned individuals were subjected to sanctions.

“When Mr. Sechin was designated, the Treasury Department made clear that Rosneft was not designated and that Mr. Sechin was being designated as an ‘individual’,” the 21-page complaint reads.

Considering the circumstances, ExxonMobil called the Treasury’s ruling “fundamentally unfair”, and in violation of due process.

The company also said that it has been dealing with Rosneft since the late ‘80s and that the US government “has historically supported those activities.”

Thursday’s legal showdown is heavily influenced by the current political landscape. The deals between ExxonMobil subsidiaries and Rosneft were signed while Tillerson was the company’s CEO. Back then, Tillerson firmly opposed the anti-Russian sanctions.

After leaving ExxonMobil to take up his top government post, Tillerson has made a U-turn on his anti-Russian sanctions stance, and has now adopted the US establishment’s mainstream position.

READ MORE: ExxonMobil boosts Russian oil assets by 450% in 2014, despite sanctions

A Treasury spokesman said OFAC only engaged with ExxonMobil’s lawyers, and “did not discuss this case with Secretary Tillerson,” before ruling on the fine, Reuters reported.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397030-exxon-challenges-fine-rosneft/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS