January 18, 2018

China’s strong economic growth blows away expectations

Russia-China trade volume exceeds expectations, hitting $84bn

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also said last week he expected growth to be at “around 6.9 percent.”

Official data showed economic growth in the October to December period was 6.8 percent, unchanged from the third quarter and above analyst expectations for 6.7 percent growth.

It was helped by a rebound in the industrial sector, a resilient property market and strong export growth.

“The risks that we worried about in 2017, for example overcapacity cuts having a negative impact on GDP, did not happen because new sectors are actually coming out to help production to grow,” Iris Pang, Greater China Economist, ING, told Reuters.

“China’s growth is very healthy,” she added.

According to the head of the National Statistics Bureau, Ning Jizhe, “The national economy has maintained the momentum of stable and sound development and exceeded the expectation with the economic vitality, impetus and potential released.”

He added, however, that the government should be “aware that there are still difficulties and challenges confronting the economy and the improvement of quality and efficiency remains a daunting task.”

Analysts say despite the better-than-expected economic data from China, which is a key driver of the global economy, there are still some worrying signs. They point to higher borrowing costs for firms and the government’s attempts to rein in credit.

Some economists believe the GDP numbers could be much weaker than the official figures suggest.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/416262-china-economy-beats-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Bitcoin crash sparks investor appetite for gold

Bitcoin investors will crawl back to gold when crypto-craze uncertainty creeps in

Bullion dealer Sharps Pixley said physical gold sales increased fivefold on Wednesday, as people were willing to sell digital gold and buy the real thing.

“Yesterday was a hell of a crazy day. Emails and phones did not stand still with customers asking how they could turn their crypto into gold,” Director Daniel Marburger told Bloomberg.

Investors having 1,000 bitcoins and more are willing to dump them and buy physical metal, a gold trader told the media.

“Bitcoin is a bit of a lobster pot – it’s easy to get in, but hard to get out. Gold also offers investors 4,000 years of history as a store of value, and that’s looking quite appealing right now,” he said.

While bitcoin and the US dollar fell, gold rallied 7.5 percent in December to a four-month high.

Bitcoin has appreciated 2 percent on Thursday, trading at above $11,000 per token. On the previous trading session, it dropped to as low as $9,400, marking more than a 50 percent loss in just a month.

With China preparing to expand the crackdown on cryptocurrencies, many investors are worried it could mean the end of the digital money rally or even worse.

Investors are saying bitcoin has similar advantages to gold, as it is also decentralized unlike fiat currencies. However, while you can hold gold in your hands, cryptocurrencies are held either on servers or hard drives.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/416257-bitcoin-crash-gold-investors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

China’s Economic Growth Looks Strong. Maybe Too Strong.

But that growth has come at a high price: rising borrowing that has triggered downgrades of China’s sovereign debt rating by credit rating agencies; severe pollution of China’s air, water and soil; and persistent social problems associated with the movement of tens of millions of workers to cities who had little choice but to leave their children in their hometowns. President Xi Jinping signaled at an important Communist Party meeting in October that he wanted to address some of these chronic problems and that the country should no longer emphasize maximizing economic growth at almost any cost.

A Strange Stability

China annual economic output results have grown increasingly smooth in recent years compared with those from the United States.

By The New York Times | Source: The Conference Board

China’s annual growth figures have long been quite steady. Other large countries have had somewhat steadier growth than usual in the last several years. But China’s quarterly growth figures are suspiciously smooth, unlike quarterly growth in many other countries.

Politics are a major reason. Local officials often face pressure to meet targets from the central government. At the first hint of economic weakness, they have tended to step up spending to stabilize economic output.

Increasingly, China is owning up to data shortcomings, particularly in provincial data. The region of Inner Mongolia revealed this month that two-fifths of the industrial production it reported for 2016 did not exist. A year ago, Liaoning Province in northeastern China revealed that local governments had padded their economic growth statistics from 2011 to 2014.

Tianjin, a sprawling metropolis, briefly posted on one of its official websites last week that previous data had been inflated. The post was quickly deleted.

Ning Jizhe, the director of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon in Beijing that there had long been discrepancies between provincial and national data, but that the gap had been narrowing. “Local data will not influence the reliability of national statistics data,” he said.

It can work the other way, too: Some economists cite evidence that China also understates its growth during booms to smooth its results.

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Slower Than Stated?

The Conference Board’s estimates for China’s economy show a more pronounced slowdown in growth than the official figures.

By The New York Times | Source: The Conference Board, CEIC Data

Economists who try to estimate actual growth tend to come up with lower numbers.

The Conference Board, a business group based in New York, takes Chinese data for agriculture, construction and easily counted services, like transportation, as accurate. It then adjusts the official data for irregularities in industrial production and in less easily counted services, like health care.

The result shows Chinese growth to be somewhat lower than reported, particularly in years with weak growth. At the same time, by understating the depth of the slowdown in 2015 and 2016, the official figures also appear to understate last year’s improvement.

The Conference Board’s results suggest the current uptick is real. But the board worries that much of the growth has come from recent lending, despite China’s already huge accumulation of debt in previous years.

“We think the recovery is real,” said Yuan Gao, the senior economist in the Beijing office of the Conference Board. “We’re just concerned that a lot of it is built on bad debt.”

Parsing the Numbers

A long-running effort to adjust official Chinese figures for year-over-year quarterly G.D.P. growth suggests the economy goes through booms and busts much more than reported.

By The New York Times | Source: Enodo Economics, CEIC Data

Diana Choyleva, an economist at Enodo Economics in London, also produces growth figures that are below the official results.

Many economists, including Ms. Choyleva, believe Chinese officials understate how much prices rise in China. That tends to overstate growth.

She adjusts official figures based on price data and seasonality. She then finds that the Chinese economy tends to track Beijing’s stimulus efforts, which produce booms, and its moves to curb unsustainable lending, which produce slowdowns.

China’s statistical issues go beyond mere government meddling. The country’s economy is vast and quickly changing. Officials still struggle to catch up with years of growth and to modernize data-gathering practices.

“It’s just simplistic to say they lie or they don’t lie,” said Pauline Loong, the founder and managing director of Asia-analytica, a Hong Kong consulting firm specializing in mainland China. “They define their data differently, and they keep changing their definitions.”

Follow Keith Bradsher on Twitter: @KeithBradsher.

Ailin Tang and Carolyn Zhang contributed research from Shanghai.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/business/china-gdp-economy-growth.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Apple, Capitalizing on New Tax Law, Plans to Bring Billions in Cash Back to U.S.

Apple estimated that its direct impact on the American economy would total more than $350 billion over the next five years, but how much that goes beyond what the company would have spent anyway is unclear. Apple’s current pace of spending in the United States is $55 billion for 2018, so it was already on track to spend $275 billion over the next five years. After the $38 billion tax payment is subtracted, that leaves its new investment at roughly $37 billion over the next five years.

A. M. Sacconaghi, a financial analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, said Apple had consistently spent tens of billions of dollars on areas like staffing and capital expenditures in recent years. Bringing back the overseas cash, he said, does little to aid its expansion. But it makes the company appear to answer Mr. Trump’s call for more jobs to be created in the United States.

“This is Apple putting its best foot forward consistent with objectives of the administration,” Mr. Sacconaghi said.

Apple is one of several multinational giants that have kept a total of roughly $3 trillion in global profits off their domestic books to sidestep the previous 35 percent federal corporate tax rate. Under the new tax law, companies that make a one-time repatriation of cash will be taxed at a rate of 15.5 percent on cash holdings and 8 percent on nonliquid assets. That is lower than the new 21 percent corporate rate. And under the new tax code, Apple would also have been taxed whether it brought the money back or not.

By shifting the money under the new terms, Apple has saved $43 billion in taxes, more than any other American company, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a research group in Washington.

Other tech giants are set to follow suit in the coming months. Companies like Microsoft, Alphabet and Cisco also shifted their profits into offshore shell companies, avoiding billions of dollars in taxes, and are now in a better position to bring the money back.

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Although Republican supporters of the tax law argued that the influx of international profits would create jobs and increase wages, many economists disagreed that a one-time repatriation would have any substantial impact on real investment.

Apple’s announcement, couched as a major investment in the United States instead of a massive financial windfall, followed years of criticism that the company did not do enough for the American economy because it makes most of its products in China and parked its profits abroad.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Apple was a frequent target of Mr. Trump, who pledged that as president he would force the company to start making iPhones and Macs in the United States. While that hasn’t happened and is unlikely to, Apple has since gone on a charm offensive to demonstrate its value to the American economy.

The company has highlighted the number of jobs created by the so-called app economy, an ecosystem of software and services that run on the iPhone and other Apple products. Last year, Apple also said it was creating a $1 billion fund to invest in advanced manufacturing in the United States. On Wednesday, Apple said it was increasing the size of that fund to $5 billion and noted that it was already backing projects from manufacturers in Kentucky and Texas.

Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., also took a page out of Amazon’s public relations strategy on Wednesday by saying it will open a new domestic campus in a location where it currently has no operations. Amazon garnered good will throughout the country last year when it announced plans to open a second corporate headquarters outside its home base of Seattle.

Apple currently has about 84,000 employees in the United States, so 20,000 new jobs would be a 24 percent increase. The company added that it would invest more than $30 billion in capital expenditures, or spending on parts and the equipment required to produce them, over the next five years in the United States.

For a comparison, Apple spent $14.9 billion in capital expenditures in the last fiscal year, though it did not specify how much it spends in the United States alone.

For Apple, repatriating the cash creates opportunities that could include acquisitions and higher dividends for shareholders. The company had previously chosen to borrow money to fund its stock buybacks and dividends, instead of bringing its cash back from abroad. Over the last five years, Apple has returned $233 billion in cash to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.

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Paying $38 billion in taxes now is unlikely to strain Apple’s checkbook because the company had already earmarked $36.4 billion in anticipation that it would eventually have to pay taxes on its foreign earnings.

“From a financial statement perspective, it’s going to be a nonevent,” said J. Richard Harvey, a Villanova University law professor and former Internal Revenue Service official. Other companies are not as prepared, he said, and would likely have to take a significant loss should they make a one-time cash repatriation.

Apple employees will see benefits as well. Mr. Cook said in an email to staff on Wednesday that Apple was increasing investment in its employees by rewarding them with bonuses of $2,500 in restricted stock units, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the plans were not public. Apple joins other companies, such as ATT, that have issued employee bonuses since the tax law was signed.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/technology/apple-tax-bill-repatriate-cash.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Fire and Fury’ May Be Coming to a Screen Near You


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Since its publication less than two weeks ago, “Fire and Fury” has raised questions about President Trump’s fitness for office and helped lead to the banishment of Stephen K. Bannon from the president’s inner circle. Credit Alastair Grant/Associated Press

“Fire and Fury” could be coming to the small screen. Or maybe even the big one.

Endeavor Content has acquired the rights to Michael Wolff’s No. 1 best-selling book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” and plans to develop it into a TV show or a feature film.

No TV network or film studio has been attached to the project.

A “Fire and Fury” adaptation could be the first major dramatic portrayal of the Trump White House. HBO had plans to develop a show from a book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about the final days of the 2016 campaign, but that project was canceled after Mr. Halperin was accused of sexual misconduct.

News about the rights to Mr. Wolff’s book being acquired was reported by The Hollywood Reporter, and was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Endeavor Content.

Mr. Wolff was expected to be the executive producer of the project, and would be joined by the British television executive Michael Jackson.

There is heated competition in television these days for major projects, and “Fire and Fury” will most likely attract a lot of interest. Since its publication less than two weeks ago, Mr. Wolff’s book has raised questions about Mr. Trump’s fitness for office, and helped lead to the banishment of the former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon from the president’s circle of advisers.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/business/media/michael-wolff-fire-and-fury-trump.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Fake News Awards? Don’t Roll Out the Red Carpet Just Yet

“It’ll be something later today,” she added. “I know you’re all waiting to see if you are big winners, I’m sure.”

From the beginning, the awards were the sort of Trumpian production that seemed easy to mock but difficult to ignore. Members of the news media joked about the speeches they would prepare, the tuxedos and gowns they would fetch. It would be an honor, they said, just to be nominated.

Here, it seemed, was the opéra bouffe climax of Mr. Trump’s campaign against the media, a bizarro-world spectacle that both encapsulated and parodied the president’s animus toward a major democratic institution.

Late-night comedy shows created satirical Emmys-style advertising campaigns to snag what some referred to as a coveted “Fakey.”

“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” bought a billboard in Times Square, nominating itself in categories like “Least Breitbarty” and “Corruptest Fakeness.” Jimmy Kimmel, who has emerged as a Trump bête noire, called it “the Stupid People’s Choice Awards.”

Politico reported that the awards could even pose an ethical issue for White House aides, with some experts arguing that the event would breach a ban on government officials using their office to explicitly promote or deride private organizations.

And press advocates cringed at the prospect of a gala dedicated to the phrase “fake news,” which has already helped corrode trust in journalism in the United States and around the world.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House secretary, on Wednesday, the date the president had given for the awards. “I know you’re all waiting to see if you are big winners, I’m sure,” Ms. Sanders told reporters. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Two Republicans from Arizona, Senator John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake, denounced Mr. Trump’s anti-press attacks, with Mr. Flake noting in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday that the president had borrowed a term from Stalin to describe the media: “enemy of the people.” (Ms. Sanders shot back at Mr. Flake on Wednesday, saying, “We welcome access to the media every day.”)

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Adding to the drama, White House aides remained silent on the details, unwilling even to confirm the fact that the awards would happen at all.

“Maybe the Fake News Awards are themselves fake news, and the WH is making a super-meta statement on the inherent paradox between the ‘real’ and the ‘perceived,’” wrote a Twitter user named @capitalzoo, one of many politicos who had been anticipating the event with glee or dread — or a mixture of both.

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By Tuesday, the entire venture seemed in doubt, with Ms. Sanders referring to it as a “potential event.”

It is not unusual for Mr. Trump, in his long and circuitous career in real estate, entertainment and politics, to announce plans to fight back against journalists whose work displeases him and then decline to follow through.

There was the libel lawsuit that he threatened this month against the author Michael Wolff over his slashing, if error-specked, book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”; Mr. Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt and Company, responded by moving up the release date. “Fire and Fury” is now a No. 1 New York Times best-seller, and Mr. Trump’s lawsuit has not materialized.

An earlier iteration of the Fake News Awards that the president proposed on Twitter in November — the “FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” — has yet to appear.

At the tail end of the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump said he would sue The New York Times for libel over an article that included two women who accused him of touching them inappropriately. The Times replied with a stern letter, and nothing further was heard of the suit.

On an occasion when he pursued a grievance in court, Mr. Trump met with poor results: The defamation suit he brought against a biographer, Timothy L. O’Brien, was dismissed by a New Jersey judge in 2009. Mr. Trump had claimed that Mr. O’Brien severely understated his net worth.

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Even if this week’s awards do not go forward, the buzz around them has contributed to a larger shift in American attitudes toward the press.

In a study released this week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, 66 percent of Americans who were surveyed said most news organizations blurred opinion and fact, up from 42 percent in 1984. “Fake news” was deemed a threat to democracy by a majority of respondents. And political affiliation is a major factor in perception of bias: 67 percent of Republicans said they saw “a great deal” of political bias in the news media, and 26 percent of Democrats said the same.

For a while, it seemed that Mr. Wolff might dominate the honors, making Mr. Trump briefly forget his disdain for “fake news” CNN and the “failing” New York Times.

Mr. Wolff is likely to stay a thorn in the president’s side. The Hollywood Reporter said on Wednesday that the author had signed a seven-figure deal to adapt “Fire and Fury” for a medium the president holds dear: television.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/business/media/fake-news-awards.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

He Leaked a Photo of Rick Perry Hugging a Coal Executive. Then He Lost His Job.

“It seemed like that was the right thing to do — exercising my First Amendment rights to get the information out there,” said Mr. Edelman, who had worked at the agency since 2015 and whose job included photographing events that the agency promoted in press releases, on the web and elsewhere.

The day after the photos were published by In These Times, a liberal magazine, the Energy Department put Mr. Edelman on administrative leave, seized his personal laptop and escorted him out of its headquarters in Washington, he said. He was later told, without explanation, that his employment agreement had not been renewed, internal agency emails show.

Mr. Edelman has now filed a complaint with the Energy Department’s inspector general and, according to his lawyer, is seeking protections provided to federal whistle-blowers. On its website, the Energy Department notes that it is illegal to retaliate against whistle-blowers, who are typically protected when they alert a supervisor or the inspector general to information that they reasonably believe to constitute an abuse of authority, or other misconduct.

In the complaint, Mr. Edelman accuses the agency of retaliation and asks for his job back or at least to recover his laptop and other personal belongings. In addition, Mr. Edelman accused a former colleague of encouraging him to delete the photos of Mr. Perry and Mr. Murray, which Mr. Edelman and his lawyer argue are public records.

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The cover sheet, left, of a confidential “action plan” that Mr. Murray brought to the meeting last March calling for policy and regulatory changes friendly to the coal industry; and right, details of the plan calling for replacement of members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Credit Simon Edelman/Department of Energy

The Energy Department declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding Mr. Edelman’s employment, the status of the photos, or the details of his complaint, but a spokeswoman characterized his accusations as “ridiculous.” Mr. Edelman supported his complaint with emails and other documents, but some claims were based on his statements alone.

“They are based on his own subjective opinions and personal agenda,” the spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, said in an email. “Industry and other stakeholders visit the Department of Energy on a daily basis. The secretary welcomes their input and feedback to strengthen the American energy sector. This meeting was no different.”

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A spokesman for Mr. Murray said the coal executive “does not have a recollection as to the exact statements allegedly made nearly a year ago.” The spokesman, Gary Broadbent, added that “Mr. Murray has frequently said that the Trump administration must advance reliable and low-cost electricity for all Americans and protect coal mining jobs.”

The confidential documents Mr. Murray brought to his meeting with Mr. Perry called for “rescinding anti-coal regulations of the Obama administration” and cutting the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency “in at least half,” according to portions visible in Mr. Edelman’s photographs.

Last week, The New York Times obtained a copy of a separate memo written by Mr. Murray, and reported that the Trump administration had completed or was on track to fulfill most of the 16 policy and regulatory requests contained in it. Mr. Murray told The Times the two memos essentially covered the same material.

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Murray Energy’s ‘Action Plan’ for the Trump Administration

Robert E. Murray’s wish list of environmental rollbacks reads like a playbook for the Trump administration.

Mr. Edelman, a Democrat, came to the Energy Department under President Barack Obama two years ago after producing videos at a consulting firm in Chicago and serving as creative director for the electoral campaign of former Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois. After Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Edelman said, he received greater responsibility, including photographing Mr. Perry’s meetings.

Mr. Edelman’s complaint offers a behind-the-scenes look at the meeting on March 29 between Mr. Perry and Mr. Murray, who have been friendly for many years. In addition to his company contributing $300,000 to the president’s inauguration — and personally holding a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump during the campaign — Mr. Murray has been a financial backer of Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas who has also run for president.

In a statement, Mr. Murray’s spokesman said the company had supported Republicans “who have been staunch defenders of the United States coal industry, and the jobs and family livelihoods that depend on it, and low-cost, reliable, fuel secure electricity for all Americans.”

The meeting started, the complaint said, with Mr. Perry giving Mr. Murray “a deep bear hug.” Once they got down to business, Mr. Murray presented the memo. “This needs to be done,” the complaint says Mr. Murray insisted.

Mr. Perry replied, “I think we can help you with this,” according to the complaint.

Rattled by the exchange, Mr. Edelman said he stayed for about 15 minutes to keep listening, until he drew the attention of an agency official. “How much does a photographer need of us just sitting around?” the complaint quotes the agency official as asking.

The photos sat for months without much attention.

Then, in September, Mr. Perry proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission adopt a rule that would increase financial returns for power plants capable of stockpiling at least 90 days’ worth of fuel on-site — a plan that would effectively subsidize struggling coal and nuclear power plants, particularly in areas where Mr. Murray operates.

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Without the change, Mr. Perry warned, the plants could shut down, which would threaten the “reliability and resiliency of our nation’s grid.”

That phrase rang a bell with Mr. Edelman. The cover page of Mr. Murray’s memo described a plan “to assist in the survival of our country’s coal industry, which is essential to power grid reliability.”

Mr. Edelman said he decided to share the photos with the news media — The Washington Post published the images after In These Times — hoping to derail Mr. Perry’s proposed rule. The rule faced opposition from a cross section of environmental groups, energy companies, free-market advocates and former regulators, and last week, the energy commission rejected it.

Mr. Murray has said that the meeting with Mr. Perry was primarily about the need to study the resilience of the power grid, not to ask for specific actions by the energy commission or other arms of the federal government. Mr. Broadbent, his spokesman, said that “a word-for-word comparison” of the proposed rule and Mr. Murray’s action plan “reveals that they have only two words in common.”

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Mr. Perry and Mr. Murray, third from right, with his hand in the air, on March 29, 2017, at the Department of Energy headquarters. Credit Simon Edelman/Department of Energy

On Dec. 7, the day after In These Times posted the photographs, and a day before they appeared online at The Washington Post, Mr. Edelman said he was summoned by his boss and told he was being placed on administrative leave with pay.

The agency later declined to extend his two-year employment agreement, which ended late last year, effectively dismissing him despite previously agreeing to extend him for two more years, Mr. Edelman said.

A security officer for the agency also refused to allow him to pack up certain personal belongings, Mr. Edelman said, including his laptop and camera equipment. The next day, a supervisor instructed Mr. Edelman in an email to provide the agency the administrative rights to the Google Drive folder where he stored the photos, according to a copy of the email reviewed by The Times.

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Separately, another colleague warned him over the phone that “we can come to your home and have someone watch you delete it,” Mr. Edelman said. Mr. Edelman did not record the call.

In a phone call a few days later, which was recorded, the colleague reiterated that Mr. Edelman needed to transfer ownership of the folder. “I would suggest that doing it sooner rather than later would probably be a good thing for you,” the colleague said, according to the recording, which was heard by The Times.

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Mr. Edelman, right, and his lawyer John Tye. Credit Lexey Swall for The New York Times

“You can get access to a computer,” the colleague added, “even if you need to go to a freaking library to do it.”

Mr. Edelman said the department had still not returned his laptop. Among the other items he said he left behind because of the hurried exit: a cake from his colleagues celebrating his 35th birthday.

Mr. Edelman hired a lawyer, John Tye, a former whistle-blower from the State Department who works at Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit firm. Mr. Tye defended Mr. Edelman’s decision to keep the photos, arguing that they were “in the public domain” and were not classified, and that they had been stored on Mr. Edelman’s private drive at the Energy Department’s instruction.

By filing his complaint with the inspector general, Mr. Tye said, Mr. Edelman was seeking protections provided to federal whistle-blowers, including prohibition from “adverse employment actions and dismissal.”

After Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, heard about the incident, his office contacted Mr. Edelman, who also shared the complaint with Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, who is a neighbor in Washington. It was Mr. Whitehouse who shared the separate memo by Murray Energy with The Times.

“Federal employees should not be fired for doing their jobs,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement. “The Department of Energy must investigate as to why Mr. Edelman was fired.”

Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/business/rick-perry-energy-photographer.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Weeks After Matt Lauer Is Ousted, ‘Today’ Changes Show’s Top Producer

“I am not surprised by the allegations,” Ms. Curry said, when asked if Mr. Lauer had abused his power.

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“I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed,” she said. “I think it would be surprising if someone said that they didn’t see that. So it was verbal sexual harassment.”

In a memo to staff members, Andrew Lack, the chairman of NBC News, praised Mr. Nash for helping stabilize “Today” and for being “one of the best live control room producers in the business.”

“We’ve offered him a number of roles within NBC News and NBCUniversal, and we hope he’ll stay in the family,” Mr. Lack wrote.

For his part, Mr. Nash said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“I will forever cherish the unbelievable experiences and incredible people I have had the privilege to work with,” wrote Mr. Nash in a memo to members of the “Today” staff. “It was so much fun. Dr. Seuss wrote, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ I’m so glad it happened.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/business/media/today-show-producer.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Carillion Collapse Could Lead to Thousands of Job Losses in U.K.

“We ensured that all but one of those contracts was a joint venture,” she added, meaning that “there is another company available to step in and take over the contract.”

The Insolvency Service, a government agency, said on Wednesday that it had halted bonus and severance payments to former Carillion executives.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that the government was closely monitoring Interserve, another big construction and services company that has struggled financially, prompting a sharp drop in its share price. But Interserve, business analysts and the government all said that concerns about the company were overstated; in a statement, the Cabinet Office said, “We do not believe that any of our strategic suppliers are in a comparable position to Carillion.”

Carillion, with about 20,000 employees in Britain, touched myriad sectors of British life, as well as operating overseas. It not only managed or co-managed major, unfinished construction projects for the government, like a high-speed rail link among English cities; a hospital near Birmingham; another hospital, in Liverpool; and a highway near Aberdeen, Scotland. Carillion also helped operate an array of government services, including running prisons, delivering school lunches, and maintaining schools and courthouses.

The government has vowed that all public-sector work by Carillion will continue and that the company’s workers on those contracts will be paid, adding that other contractors were being sought to take over those jobs. But the government has said that it could not ensure that thousands of the company’s employees working on private-sector projects would be paid past Wednesday.

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“That’s a scandal,” Tim Roache, the leader of GMB, a major trade union, told BBC Radio. He said that the government should ensure a longer period of pay for those workers, while other companies explored taking on Carillion contracts and Carillion employees.

The company had about $1.7 billion in debt and an $800 million pension deficit. By Monday, it had cash reserves of less than $40 million.

Carillion’s subcontractors, who complained that the company was behind on its bills, face being paid only a small fraction of what they were owed before the collapse.

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Flora-tec, a landscaping company, said it would lay off 10 workers because it could never recoup most of the $1.3 million it was owed by Carillion.

PwC, the firm handling the liquidation, has told the subcontractors, who employ tens of thousands in Britain, to continue working for now, pledging that “you will get paid for goods and services you supply” after Monday’s liquidation filing, but that those contracts could be terminated.

“Over the coming days, we will review supplier contracts and we’ll contact you concerning these soon,” it said.

But some subcontractors are leery of even the short-term assurances. Shaun Weeks, who runs a cleaning company, told the BBC that it had stopped sending one of its workers to a prison, under a contract with Carillion, until it knew more.

At the construction site of the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital — where activity slowed sharply on Monday and some workers reported finding the site locked — work resumed on Tuesday, but some subcontractors said they expected delays as Carillion’s obligations were reviewed.

Follow Richard Pérez-Peña on Twitter: @perezpena.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/world/europe/carillion-collapse-uk.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Meet Your Art Twin: A 400-Year-Old With an Oily Complexion

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Ross W. Duffin stumbled upon his art twin, a warrior from a 17th-century Jan van Bijlert painting. Many people intentionally set out in museums to find their doppelgängers.CreditBeverly Simmons

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Jan. 17, 2018

Ross W. Duffin was wandering through a museum in Pasadena, Calif., last summer when he paused before a 17th-century painting of a bearded warrior in armor.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that is really funny, he looks just like me,’” Dr. Duffin recalled. Then he moved on.

But his wife, Beverly Simmons, was stunned by the resemblance. “She came running after me and said, ‘You have to come back and look at this painting!” Dr. Duffin said.

Dr. Duffin had found his art twin. So the couple did what millions of people have discovered as a new way to interact with art — something that has exploded with new popularity in recent weeks thanks to a new feature in a Google museums app.

But Dr. Duffin and his wife were pioneers last summer, using old-fashioned serendipity. He stood next to the oil painting, a work by the Dutch artist Jan van Bijlert displayed at the Norton Simon Museum. He turned sideways, raised his chin and narrowed his eyes. His wife captured the moment with her iPhone.

Long before the Google Arts and Culture app, which became the most downloaded mobile app over the weekend, art aficionados, dabblers, narcissists and soul searchers pondering a cosmic connection to distant humans have been searching for their art twins, a long-gone, sometimes fictional or unknown doppelgänger encased in oil, sculpture or ceramics.

Some set out specifically to find their twin, in an engaging pastime that gives museum visits a new focus. Others, like the Duffins, have stumbled on theirs as they wander.

As anyone who regularly looks at a social media feed knows by now, millions more need never leave home or cross a border to find that uniquely familiar face on some obscure etching. They just upload a selfie and let technology do the sleuthing.

The app was available in 2015, but its arts matching feature was introduced in mid-December. Its popularity has quickly surged, and Instagram, Twitter and YouTube users have widely shared photos of both their art twins and those of celebrities, from William Shatner to Taylor Swift. Google estimates more than 20 million selfies have been uploaded using the new feature.

Dr. Duffin said he was amused by his moment with the unknown soldier, described by the museum as probably a more mythological than human figure. But the resemblance had an impact on his life after he posted the photograph on Twitter, where it was widely shared without identifying him by name.

“A month later, all of a sudden, it started to get a lot of play in the press,” Dr. Duffin, a professor of music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said in an interview. “I would get email messages from people I had not heard from in years who knew immediately it was me.”

With people seeking selfies that make a connection going back in time, museums are using the opportunity to engage with visitors.

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Wesley Rowell with a sculpture of an unidentified man from the third century B.C. “To think about the lives, the generations, between him and me in New York City, is kind of bizarre,” Mr. Rowell said.CreditFrançois Brunelle

Leslie C. Denk, a spokeswoman for the Norton Simon Museum, said the museum had noticed some visitors posting photographs of themselves posing like works of art, particularly alongside sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol.

“Art has the power to transport us through time, and so I think it’s a joy to recognize ourselves, a friend or even a pet, in an artwork from centuries ago,” she said.

Art-twinning happens so often in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that it hosts a fan favorite every week on Instagram. The most popular piece to pose with is “Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” a sculpture by Edgar Degas.

“In our galleries, visitors frequently seek out their museum doppelgänger or attempt to mimic works of art — usually as they search for the perfect Instagram shot,” said Katie Getchell, the deputy director and chief brand officer at the Boston museum.

At the Brooklyn Museum, selfies with artworks are also popular. “The success of Google’s project comes as no surprise to me, or probably to anyone else who works in a museum,” said Brooke Baldeschwiler, the museum’s senior manager of digital communications. “It’s really simple. People love to see themselves in art.”

If human beings are obsessed with selfies, then the Google Arts and Culture app is the addiction’s enabler for the art world. It does have its critics. Some people just find facial recognition software creepy, and the app is not available in Texas and Illinois, which have some of the country’s strictest laws about the collection of biometric data, including selfies. The app also has mixed results, particularly when it comes to race, gender and age.

“My grandmother got Ronald Reagan’s presidential portrait,” said Patrick Lenihan, a spokesman for Google.

Far from the virtual realm, Greco-Roman antiquities, Egyptian funerary portraits and the contemporary people who resemble them are being brought together in an exhibit in Canada called “My 2,000-Year-Old Double.”

The Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City has narrowed down thousands of selfies to a few dozen people who resemble the artworks, arranging for them to be photographed in Montreal by François Brunelle, whose previous projects include documenting people who look alike but are not twins.

Wesley Rowell, 57, who works in New York City, was one of them.

He will appear alongside his art twin, a sculpture of an unidentified man from the third century B.C.

“To think about the lives, the generations, between him and me in New York City, is kind of bizarre,” Mr. Rowell said. “I keep going back to that human need, to feel like I am connected to everything that was before me.”

Amanda Bullis, 29, an actor who lives in Jersey City, was chosen for her similarity to a face carved onto a vessel, dating between 300 and 201 B.C.

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Amanda Bullis with a vessel dated between 300 and 201 B.C. She found it interesting, she said, that “I am part of a larger humanity that has been evolving and changing, but largely the same, over thousands of years.”CreditLeft, Sterling Batson, Musee de la Civilisation

Ms. Bullis sat for hours for hair and makeup. “In that moment I was able to embody her,” she said, adding that it made her think about her ancestry. “I just found it interesting that I am part of a larger humanity that has been evolving and changing, but largely the same, over thousands of years.”

Dr. Duffin, the Ohio professor, said he did not think much more about his art twin after he posed with the painting in California. He is accustomed, he added, to being mistaken for another bearded fellow.

Strangers often ask him, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Santa Claus?” he said. “And my answer is, ‘Not since yesterday.’”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/arts/google-art-selfies-doppelgangers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss