April 19, 2019

Switzerland backs China’s new Silk Road as Western allies twiddle their thumbs

The Swiss Finance Ministry announced that President Ueli Maurer is planning to sign a deal on cooperation with China under the new Silk Road project during his visit to Beijing later this month.

Maurer, who is also finance minister, will pay an eight-day visit to China on April 22 with the Swiss delegation expected to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that will take place in the Chinese capital.

Also on rt.com ‘Just jealous’: Italy responds to criticism for joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative

According to the Swiss Finance Ministry, the potential deal will strengthen trade and economic ties between the countries, promoting investment into minor infrastructure enterprises under the broader project led by China.

“The aim of the memorandum is for both parties to intensify cooperation on trade, investment and project financing in third markets along the routes of the BRI, based on a catalogue of basic principles for cooperation and in line with international standards and legislation in the countries concerned,” the body said, providing no details.

Also on rt.com Germany wants Europe to join China’s new Silk Road after criticizing Italy for doing the same

Switzerland is going to become the fourth Schengen-area state to sign up to the BRI. In March, Italy agreed to officially support cooperation with China in the framework of the multibillion-dollar project. Rome faced strong disapproval from France, Germany, and the US. Last year, Portugal and Greece signed a memorandum on cooperation with China under the Silk Road project.

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

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/456812-switzerland-china-new-silk-road/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Barbara Schultz, 92, Dies; Produced Serious Drama in a Sitcom Era

She leaves no immediate survivors.

Ms. Schultz started out wanting to be an actress and landed roles in several productions at Barnard. She even made it to Broadway, with a bit part in the 1952 production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Desire Under the Elms.”

But she felt she wasn’t cut out for acting and sought work behind the scenes. She became a story editor for the anthology series “Armstrong Circle Theater,” a vestige of the golden age, and for weekly series like “The Defenders,” a father-and-son courtroom drama starring E. G. Marshall, and “The Trials of O’Brien,” starring Peter Falk as a literary-minded detective.

Recruited to be executive story editor for “CBS Playhouse,” she was soon named executive producer. When “Playhouse” ended, she produced “You Are There,” an early 1970s reboot of an educational program that originally aired in the 1950s, hosted in each iteration by Walter Cronkite. She then became director of program development for CBS.

She also produced the “CBS Children’s Hour.” Its best-known production was “J. T.,” Jane Wagner’s Peabody Award-winning 1969 tale of a young black boy and a stray cat.

It was Ms. Schultz’s reputation for smart storytelling, her steely single-mindedness and her ability to spot talent that made her so sought after, Sandra Schulberg, the story editor for “Visions” and a longtime friend, said in a telephone interview.

After PBS scrapped “Visions,” Ms. Schultz turned briefly to directing, including episodes of sitcoms like “Family Ties” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” But, Ms. Schulberg said, “the industry was not very receptive to a woman director of her age.”

In a look back at Ms. Schultz’s work in 2017 at the Billy Wilder Theater at U.C.L.A, Mark Quigley of the U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive said her career, especially her work on “Visions,” “stands today as a testament to both her immense talent and the glorious, sadly mostly untapped possibilities of the medium.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/obituaries/barbara-schultz-dead.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

As Netflix Contends With More Rivals, Hulu Stands Out

Hulu, on the other hand, has three products that may better reflect what the future of streaming will look like. It has a live-TV service that replicates a small cable bundle at $45 a month; a video-on-demand service that sells for $12 a month without ads (this one acts most like Netflix); and a streaming service with advertising that costs $6 a month.

The last one is Hulu’s most lucrative business and points to future profits. Even though it charges $6, the service generates more than $15 in revenue per subscriber each month, because of the high-cost advertising sold against those customers, according to two people familiar with the business.

That would explain why Hulu lowered the price of the ads-based service by $2 this year — and it might also explain NBCUniversal’s interest in starting its own ad-based streaming network by 2020.

Roku, the maker of streaming boxes, is also experiencing fast growth from its advertising-driven Roku channel, a free streaming app. And in January, Viacom spent $340 million for PlutoTV, another ad-based streaming provider.

Last year, Hulu took in more than $1.5 billion in advertising, a 45 percent jump from the previous year. Randy Freer, its chief executive, expects the ad market for online television to grow to $50 billion within three years.

“This uniquely positions Hulu to benefit from elite brands into the digital video ad market,” Mr. Freer said at Disney’s investor presentation last week. “Hulu does this with a viewer-first ad experience that has less commercial interruption, with ad breaks that are shorter and ads that are more relevant.”

Netflix and Hulu aren’t necessarily either-or propositions for consumers. Many people pay for both.

Mr. Hastings doesn’t anticipate that new competition will cut into Netflix’s business, because consumer appetite for streaming content still outpaces what’s currently available, or what will be available.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/business/media/netflixs-main-rival-is-hulu.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Martha Stewart’s Right-Hand Man

When she was freelancing as a stylist for Weddings, Wendy Goodman, a writer who specializes in interior design, said Mr. Sharkey’s grand floral displays left her “breathless.” His talent, self-effacement and respect for colleagues are an “intoxicating combination,” she said. “You just want to be with him every day.”

Darcy Miller, the former editor of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, spoke of him as an office confidant and a candid colleague. “He can say things to her no one else can,” she said.

For decades, Ms. Stewart endured snarky profiles about her craft projects and sendups of her perfectionism on shows like “Saturday Night Live.” These days, as the spare, natural-lit and handmade style she championed has been widely imitated — by Kinfolk magazine, Pottery Barn and others — Ms. Stewart appears to have the last laugh. She even owns and monetizes her caricatures.

“Martha Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,” an Emmy-nominated cooking show on VH1 with the rapper Snoop Dogg that has Ms. Stewart downing tequila shots, was renewed for a third season. And her surprisingly blue roast of Justin Bieber for Comedy Central, where she joked about surviving the five months she spent in prison beginning in 2004 after being convicted of lying to investigators about a stock trade, was a hit. At 77, Ms. Stewart — still a competitive business woman of “protean competence,” as Joan Didion once wrote in The New Yorker — walks a little slower, albeit in five-inch Prada booties. But she’s still expanding her empire, and also, has probably plowed four miles of snow from her farm in Bedford, N.Y., before you’ve switched on the coffee maker.

In March, she announced she would advise a Canadian cannabis grower on hemp-based CBD for people and pets. And she has found other platforms for her merchandise: Last February, she missed her beloved chow chow Empress Qin compete (unsuccessfully) for “best in show” at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February because she was selling her trademark puffer jacket on QVC.

Amid it all, Ms. Stewart has not chosen a successor. Asked if she envisioned handing the reins to Mr. Sharkey, she smiled, arched a brow and said, “You never know.” She mused aloud about whether Coco Chanel retired or worked until her death — Ms. Chanel died in her 90s in the middle of designing a collection — and said, lightly, “maybe I’ll have to die.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/style/martha-stewart-kevin-sharkey.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

German investments in Russia highest in decade despite Western sanctions

“Despite Western sanctions along with Russia’s retaliatory measures the volume of investments by German corporations into the Russian economy last hit a record high in 2008,” the German trade lobby said in a statement.

The chairman of the chamber Matthias Schepp highlighted that apart from substantial investment in projects such as the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Russia’s market offers great opportunities for German small and medium-sized businesses.

Also on rt.com Putin opens new Mercedes-Benz assembly plant near Moscow

“Companies that are well aware of the Russian market are not in a hurry to be afraid of sanctions and political problems,” Schepp said.

According to the statement, the total volume of financial inflows from German investors in 2018 amounted to €3.2 billion, exceeding the forecasts by the Deutsche Bundesbank that expected the figure to reach a maximum level of €2.1 billion.

The peak of active German investments in Russia was seen from 2006 through the financial crisis of 2008, with the all-time record of €7.8 billion reached in 2007. Back then, the sharp increase in financial inflows was triggered by massive investments into the country’s energy sector thanks to a large-scale €4.6 billion deal clinched by Dusseldorf-based energy company Uniper.

Also on rt.com Germans go gaga for Russian food discounter Mere amid nostalgia for ‘Iron Curtain’ era

Earlier this year, the business lobby reported that bilateral trade between the countries in 2018 saw a year-on-year increase of 8.4 percent against the previous year, reaching nearly €62 billion. Trade turnover between Russia and Germany, the country’s second largest trade partner, kept growing despite Western sanctions against Moscow and threats from the US to penalize German companies involved in the Russia-led gas pipeline projects.

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

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/456725-german-investments-russia-record-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

French billionaires pledge big donations to rebuild fire-ravaged Notre Dame

French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault said Monday night he and his family (including his wife, actress Salma Hayek) will donate €100 million (US$113mn) to the cathedral’s reconstruction.

“This tragedy strikes all the French and beyond all those who are attached to the spiritual values,” he tweeted. “Faced with such a tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage.”

Pinault is chair and CEO of the international luxury group Kering, which includes Gucci and Saint Laurent. He is also president of holding company Groupe Artemis, which owns the fine arts auction house Christie’s.

“My father [François Pinault] and I have decided to release as of now from the funds of Artemis a sum of 100 million euros to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre Dame,” he said.

Pinault’s donation was doubled on Tuesday morning by Bernard Arnault, owner of luxury goods group LVMH, whose brands include Moët Chandon and Dior.

“In the wake of this national tragedy, the Arnault family and the LVMH Group pledge their support for #NotreDame. They will donate a total of 200 million euros to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is an integral part of the history of France,” a statement posted on the LVMH Twitter account read.

French President Emmanuel Macron said late Monday he plans to launch a national fundraising campaign to rebuild the 800-year-old cathedral.

Valerie Pecresse, the leader of France’s Ile-de-France region, said the region would release €10 million of “emergency aid to help the archbishop to make the first work” of reconstruction.

The French Heritage Society, an American non-profit dedicated to the “preservation, restoration and promotion” of French heritage in the US and France, has also launched a fund for Notre Dame’s restoration. Its executive director, Jennifer Herlein, told Reuters that “Notre Dame is obviously an architectural marvel and most certainly a monument that should be restored.”

Also on rt.com Heart-wrenching aftermath of Notre Dame fire in aerial 360 PANORAMA

A jewel of medieval Gothic architecture, the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the world’s best-known and most visited monuments.

It took more than 400 firefighters to tackle the blaze, which is believed to have started in the scaffolding, erected to perform repairs in the cathedral. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation.

Despite the extensive damage, the walls of Notre Dame, as well as many of the priceless religious relics inside, remain intact. Two police officers and one firefighter were injured while tackling the fire.

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

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/456723-notre-dame-fire-rebuilding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Italian banking major to pay hefty US fine for Iran sanctions-busting

UniCredit’s units in Germany, Austria and Italy admitted to illegally moving of hundreds millions of dollars via the US financial system on behalf of sanctioned entities, according to the US Treasury Department. The violations reportedly included sanctions programs against weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

Also on rt.com French bank pays huge US fine for doing business in Cuba, Iran

The resolution, which is among the largest ever related to US sanctions laws, followed last week’s $1.1 billion settlement reached by London-based banking multinational Standard Chartered with American and British authorities over similar misconduct.

The latest case revealed that UniCredit’s subsidiary in Germany processed more than 2,000 payments totaling over $500 million through US financial institutions. In addition, over two years through 2012 all the three of the bank’s units reportedly carried out transactions, withholding information on sanctioned persons or countries from the US authorities.

The US Treasury Department noted that the illegal cash proceedings were carried out to several states subject to US penalties, including Burma, Cuba, Libya, Sudan, and Syria.

Since 2004, some 15 European lenders paid about $18.5 billion to US authorities to resolve claims over violating Washington’s sanctions programs. A record $8.9 billion settlement was reached by French international banking group BNP Paribas in 2015.

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

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/456688-italy-unicredit-us-settlement-iran/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Thousand ton twist: Gold buying frenzy by global central banks to push bullion prices higher

“I think that we expect gold to continue to trade pretty much within that range for the coming months,” said Martin Huxley, global head of precious metals at financial services firm INTL FCStone. “But over the second half of the year we expect it then to grind higher, and potentially it could test 1,400 towards the end of the year,” he told CNBC, referring to gold’s price per ounce in relation to the dollar.

Also on rt.com In gold we trust: China boosts bullion reserves as part of Beijing’s anti-dollar push

The yellow metal was trading at about $1,283.57 an ounce as of 09:19am GMT on Tuesday.

According to Huxley, the Federal Reserve’s signal that there will be no more interest rate hikes this year has helped boost the outlook for gold and other metals.

“The view is that there won’t be any interest rate rises this year, which again will be supportive for the precious metals sector,” he said.

Metals expert Suki Cooper of Standard Chartered also said last month she expects bullion prices to move higher in 2019. “We expect gold to end the year on a strong note,” Cooper said, adding that it is “in the fourth quarter that we’ll see gold prices testing the highs that we saw in 2018 and 2017, and potentially matching the highs from five years ago.”

Central banks have been accumulating gold at levels not seen in 50 years, as part of a broader diversification of reserves away from currencies including the US dollar. Their reserves surged 651.5 tons, or 74 percent year on year, in 2018, according to data from the World Gold Council (WGC).

Also on rt.com World gold demand set to hit four-year high – experts

“And turn the clock back maybe 10 years, before the financial crisis, central banks were net sellers of gold and now there’s a dramatic twist, probably a thousand ton twist,” said INTL FCStone’s Huxley. He explained that it is not just countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan that are on a gold-buying spree but central banks in Poland, Hungary, the Philippines and China have also joined in.

“The fact that central banks and the official sector are diversifying their reserves, I think, is a very positive statement for the sector,” the expert said.

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

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/456683-gold-price-high-fed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

The 2008 Financial Crisis as Seen From the Top

So why didn’t people see it coming? Part of it was hubris: “Serious economists were arguing that financial innovations like derivatives … had made crises a thing of the past.” (How serious were these economists, actually?) And the reality was that financial innovation made things worse, not better: Most of “the leverage in U.S. finance” — debt that was vulnerable to panic — had moved to “shadow banks” that, unlike conventional banks, were largely unregulated and lacked a financial safety net.

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Also, as they say, “it’s hard to fix something before it breaks.” As long as the housing bubble was still inflating, defaults were few and everything seemed sound. A few Cassandras warned about the risks, but like the original Cassandra, they went unheeded. And BGP, to their credit, acknowledge their own failures to recognize the danger, including Bernanke’s notorious declaration that problems in subprime lending were “contained.”

Then it all fell apart. Most of the book is concerned with the increasingly desperate efforts of BGP and other officials to prop up financial dominoes before they could topple and collapse the whole system. It’s an intricate story, one whose details probably seem a lot more interesting to those who were involved than they will to a broader readership. And I don’t think there are any shocking new revelations.

There is, however, a unifying theme to all that complexity: Containing this crisis was so hard precisely because of all that financial innovation. Conventional banks are both overseen and guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which has the power “to wind down insolvent banks in an orderly fashion while standing behind their obligations.” But “the federal government had no orderly resolution regime for nonbanks.”

So BGP and company had to engage in frantic innovation. For example, the Fed funneled money through conventional banks into the hands of nonbanks, in effect lending to institutions they weren’t really supposed to support. This exposed the Fed to new risks; Paulson effectively indemnified the Fed against those risks, apparently without real legal authority to do so. At another point, when a run on money-market funds — which would have been a complete catastrophe — seemed imminent, Paulson guaranteed those funds using money legally earmarked for a completely different purpose, defending the dollar’s foreign exchange value.

Sometimes all these efforts fell short. In a section that will no doubt cause a lot of controversy, BGP argue that there was nothing they could legally have done to prevent the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the event that nearly broke the world. Was this true? I’m not enough of a lawyer to tell.

Still, by the late spring of 2009 the storm seemed to have passed. Recovery was slow, but at this point we are back to an economy with low unemployment and seemingly stable financial markets.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/books/review/ben-bernanke-timothy-geithner-henry-paulson-firefighting.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The New York Times Just Won 2 Pulitzers. Read the Winning Work.

Brent Staples, a member of the editorial board of The Times, received the prize for editorial writing for a series of essays showing how America continues to be tormented by its racist past. It is the first The Times has won an award in the category in 23 years.

Digging into such subjects as the suffrage movement’s betrayal of black women, racist tropes and monuments to white supremacy, Mr. Staples brought attention to lesser-known stories. In May, for example, he wrote about how Southern newspapers perpetuated racial violence.

“The real damage was done in terse, workaday stories that justified lynching by casting its victims as ‘fiends,’ ‘brutes,’ ‘born criminals’ or, that catchall favorite, ‘troublesome Negroes,’” he wrote. “The narrative that tied blackness inextricably to criminality — and to the death penalty — survived the lynching era and lives on to this day.”

Mr. Staples also wrote at length about the recently discovered remains of 95 African-Americans in Sugar Land, Tex., and the debate over what to do with them. The remains, he argued, should be memorialized where they were found because of what they revealed about efforts in the southern sugar industry to replace slave labor with an infamous convict-leasing system.

“Abolition crushed the industry, but the convict leasing system resurrected it in a form that can legitimately be seen as more pernicious than slavery: Slave masters had at least a nominal interest in keeping alive people whom they owned and in whom they held an economic stake,” he wrote.

Mr. Staples, a 34-year Times veteran, joined editorial board in 1990. Before that, he served as an editor on The New York Times Book Review and an assistant editor for metropolitan news.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/media/nyt-pulitzer-prize-winners.html?partner=rss&emc=rss