Davos: Trump decries climate ‘prophets of doom’ with Thunberg in audience

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Media caption”We must reject the perennial prophets of doom” – Trump

US President Donald Trump has decried climate “prophets of doom” in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where sustainability is the main theme.

He called for a rejection of “predictions of the apocalypse” and said America would defend its economy.

Mr Trump did not directly name the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was in the audience.

Later, she excoriated political leaders, saying the world “in case you hadn’t noticed, is currently on fire”.

Environmental destruction is at the top of the agenda at the annual summit of the world’s decision-makers, which takes place at a Swiss ski resort.

In his keynote speech, Mr Trump said that it was a time for optimism, not pessimism, in a speech that touted his administration’s economic achievements and America’s energy boom.

Speaking of climate activists, he said: “These alarmists always demand the same thing – absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”

They were, he said, “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”.

He was speaking hours before his impeachment trial gets under way in the US Senate.

Soon after he spoke, Ms Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who has led a global movement of school strikes calling for urgent environmental action, opened a session on “Averting a Climate Apocalypse”.

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Ms Thunberg was in the audience for Mr Trump’s speech

She refrained from naming Mr Trump but issued this warning to the world’s leaders.

“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing… climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.”

She strongly criticised politicians and business leaders for what she said were continuous “empty words and promises”.

“You say: ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”

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Media captionWhen Greta Thunberg met Sir David Attenborough for the first time (via Skype)

Although the world’s nations, through the Paris climate deal, have committed to keeping temperatures well below 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and endeavoured to keep the rise to 1.5C, scientists say they are well off that target.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the Earth was heading instead for 3C and that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” would be needed to keep to the preferred target of 1.5C.

The renowned naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough recently told the BBC that “the moment of crisis has come” in efforts to tackle climate change, referencing the bushfires that have ravaged parts of south-eastern Australia.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate, criticised Mr Trump’s speech. According to Reuters news agency he said it was “astounding” and made “as if what we are seeing with our eyes are not there”.

Joint leader of Germany’s Green Party, Robert Habeck, was scathing.

“Only self-praise, ignorance, disregard for everyone, no perception of global problems. It was the worst speech I’ve ever heard in my life.”

The US is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, which Mr Trump has called a “bad deal.” The pull-out will take effect the day after the 2020 US presidential election – assuming that Mr Trump is re-elected.

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Media captionOur Planet Matters: Climate change explained


France agrees to delay new tax on tech giants

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France has agreed to delay collecting a new tax on multinational technology firms until the end of 2020, a French government official has told the BBC.

The digital services tax has provoked an angry response from Washington.

The US had threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on $2.4bn (£1.8bn) of French goods, including champagne and cheese, after the tax was passed in July 2019.

The US will not introduce extra import taxes this year, the official said.

The rapprochement was the result of a conversation between President Trump and President Macron on Monday.

Global tech giants including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon would have been due to make tax payments equivalent to 3% of their French revenues in April and then again in November.

US threatens tax on champagne and French cheese
France to go it alone on digital tax

France, along with several other European countries, pushed ahead with its own digital sales tax while it waited for a multilateral agreement about how such firms should be taxed to be drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

If the OECD reaches a deal by the end of 2020, then France’s unilateral tax will not be applied at all. If there is no multilateral agreement by then France will collect the two tranches of the tax.

Payments were already collected in November for 2019 on revenues from July. Those are still subject to final adjustments but will not be refunded under this agreement.

What is a digital sales tax?

France, along with several other European countries, wants to limit the tech giants’ ability to avoid taxes.

Many governments are concerned that US technology giants are avoiding taxes in the European Union. They argue taxes should be based on where the digital activity – browsing the page – takes place, not where firms have their headquarters.

The UK, Italy, Austria and Turkey are all considering imposing new levies themselves.

But trade officials in Washington say US firms are being unfairly targeted.


Network Rail probe over Northern and TransPennine routes

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Northern passengers faced rail chaos when new timetables were introduced in May 2018

Network Rail is being investigated over its poor service on routes used by troubled train operators Northern and TransPennine Express.

The government-owned firm has been put “on a warning” for routes in the North West and central region of England, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said.

The regulator said it was “not good enough” in those areas and was probing Network Rail’s contribution to delays.

Network Rail apologised for “very poor service” in the Midlands and the North.

ORR said its performance deteriorated in 2018 and “failed to substantially recover during 2019”.

Northern passengers have faced rail chaos since new timetables were introduced in May 2018, prompting the government to warn the firm it could lose its franchise over “unacceptable delays”.

In December, commuters using TransPennine Express and Northern trains faced more delays as the new winter timetables were launched.

TransPennine Express announced a number of cancellations on routes until the end of January – including cuts to services between Liverpool and Edinburgh that stop at cities including Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

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Recent poor performance by TransPennine Express was “largely the result of train operations”, says ORR

ORR chief executive John Larkinson, said: “The top priority for passengers is that their train arrives on time and that isn’t happening consistently enough across the country.

“ORR is responsible for looking at how Network Rail contributes to train delays, and while there are areas of very good performance such as in Wales and Western region, Network Rail’s performance in North West and Central region is not good enough.

“That is why we are putting the company on a warning to make sure its improvement plans deliver for passengers.”

The ORR is to investigate Network Rail’s recovery plan and whether the organisation is doing “all it reasonably can to improve service for passengers”.

The regulator added it had also analysed the recent poor performance by TransPennine Express and found it was “largely the result of train operations”.


BBC Transport correspondent, Tom Burridge

Performance on Northern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Railways has been repeatedly poor.

The government has threatened to strip northern of its franchise. But more than half of delays on the entire UK rail network are down to problems with the infrastructure – like signalling.

Now the Office of Rail and Road says it will investigate the work done by Network Rail to try to improve performance in the north of England last year, work which ultimately did not yield positive results.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, said: “For too many months, passengers – particularly in the Midlands and the North – have been coping with very poor train services.

“It simply isn’t good enough and, on behalf of the rail industry, I’d like to apologise.”

He said a cross-industry task force “has been pulled together to tackle the problems head-on” although he said there was “no quick fix”.

“It will need more reliable assets, a much more reliable train plan and more robust operator resource plans.”


Davos 2020: Being a teen activist is all consuming

environmental activist Melati Wisjen

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Environmental activist Melati Wisjen

“It is a lot of responsibility – if you would have told my 12-year-old self that it would be at this level of intensity, opportunity and possibility, I wouldn’t have believed you,” says 19-year-old environmental activist Melati Wisjen of her environmental campaign work.

“But it has just become this massive movement and a lot of a young people really look up to us.”

Ms Wisjen is not your average teenager. At the age of 12, she and her 10-year-old sister Isabel decided something had to be done about the plastic waste clogging up the oceans around the Indonesian island of Bali where they live.

So they launched a grassroots campaign on the island named Bye Bye Plastic Bags, which – after years of hard work – resulted in the local government banning single-use plastic bags, straws and styrofoam in 2019.

Melati has spent the last year telling her story, and in the process joined a growing crop of young environmental activists making headlines around the world – the best known of whom is the 17-year-old climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.

‘Ignorant’ politicians

Reflecting the current vogue for youth activism, Melati, Greta and several others have been invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this year – a conference not exactly lauded for its environmental record.

The media has highlighted the fact that the biggest name taking part in the elite business conference this year will be US President Donald Trump – a man who has dismissed the threat of global warming and attacked attempts to ban single-use plastics as a liberal conspiracy.

“Unfortunately, some politicians are ignorant and refuse to look face-to-face at the issues,” Ms Wisjen tells the BBC.

“For those trying to make changes, we see that the intentions are in the right place but the change is not happening fast enough.”

When I meet Melati at Davos it’s clear that her work as an activist is all-consuming. She has travelled for 26 hours from Indonesia to be in Davos and will be having 10 meetings a day at the conference.

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Melati Wisjen has been campaigning to tackle plastic waste

Back at home things are similarly full on. She has postponed university to work on Bye Bye Plastic Bag full time, and the NGO is now active in 29 countries. She also recently launched a second charity – called Youthtopia – aimed at inspiring other young change-makers to pursue their goals.

Does she have time to do normal 19-year-old things like hang out with friends or party? “This really is now everything to me but I’ve realised it is also important to take care of yourself. I am still learning about balance,” Melati says.

Her Indonesian father and Dutch mother – both of whom have a background as entrepreneurs – are very supportive, she says, which helps. Her mother has even given up her job to join Melati’s campaign group and her boyfriend – the activist film-maker Gary Bencheghib – has accompanied her to Davos this year.

It is this combination of vulnerability and steeliness that enables teen activists like Ms Wisjen and Ms Thunberg to grab our attention in a way that most adult campaigners cannot.

“People know kids are not politicians and they trust them,” explains Kaveh Madani, an environmental activist and professor at the Department of Political Science at Yale University.

“They mean what they say, so they affect your emotions and you listen. You might not care about the length of your shower or your electric bill, but when your kids come back from school and talk about climate change, even if you don’t care about climate change you won’t tell them to shut up.”

The Iranian professor says the work of people like Ms Wisjen represents the best of grassroots mobilisation. He also likes the fact that she has raised awareness in the developing world.

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired many young campaigners

But he warns there is a caveat to seeing youngsters active at this scale. “I would be concerned if we misuse or hide behind children when we have a political agenda. We’ve already seen adults attack Greta and come up with conspiracy theories.”

His big concern is that people in positions of power could “give them too much responsibility or put words in their mouth”, and the child or the movements themselves could be harmed.

Will this happen to the youth activists taking part in the World Economic Forum this year? Every year major emitters of greenhouse gases or producers of plastics attend the glitzy conference. And while many are have pledged to reform, almost none have said they will do so as fast as campaigners say is necessary.

Ms Wisjen understands why people think working with the “Davos crowd” is a risk, but she sees things differently.

“We need to get rid of this sense of divide because we need to collaborate on all levels, we need to understand both sides of the story.”

She says all of us – businesses and world leaders included – face a simple choice: change or risk creating an uninhabitable planet. She adds that young change-makers are more ready for the right than some might suggest.

“Davos has been going for 50 years, but in 50 years’ time what is this conference going to mean? This is a pivotal moment where we get to decide, and the fact that for the very first time young people are getting invited shows there is a shift and it’s a global shift.”


Supersize TVs help Dixons buck High Street gloom

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The popularity of supersize televisions boosted Dixons Carphone’s sales over the key Christmas trading season.

The retailer saw sales of 65-inch TVs rise by three-quarters over the 10-week period to 4 January.

Sales of bigger screens in the £37bn global TV industry are growing as more content is made for higher resolutions, making better use of the screen size.

The increase helped offset a sharp fall in Dixons Carphone’s struggling mobile phone business, where revenue fell 9%.

In the first half of 2018, TVs with screens of 50 inches or more accounted for half of the total sales value globally, according to data firm GfK.

“The supersizing trend in TVs shows no sign of running out of steam,” said Dixons Carphone chief executive Alex Baldock.

The fall in its mobile phone business is in line with expectations, and Dixons Carphone has said that it expects this to be a “trough” year for the mobile phone business.

Mobile sales have been under pressure because people are moving away from high-value monthly contracts and are upgrading their handsets less frequently.

But overall, Dixons Carphone said sales for the 10 weeks to 4 January rose by 2%.

Dixons Carphone’s sales rise is a rare bright spot for an otherwise gloomy High Street.

Recent data from the British Retail Consortium revealed that retail sales fell for the first time in a quarter of a century last year.

And John Lewis recently warned that its staff bonus may be in doubt after reporting Christmas sales at its department stores dropped by 2%.

“We’ve had a good peak in a weak UK market and we’re on track to deliver what we promised for this year, and with our longer-term transformation,” said Mr Baldock.

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“Dixons Carphone continues to bolster its credentials as a survivor,” said John Moore, senior investment manager at investment firm Brewin Dolphin.

“Its electricals and online businesses are delivering growth in a particularly weak UK retail environment,” he added.

Dixons Carphone’s figures were also lifted by the sales of smart speakers and other gadgets.

Mr Baldock also hailed its Gaming Battlegrounds computer game experiences, which he said was helping gather more customers.

However, he told City analysts that he was “not counting” on an improvement in the UK shopping market.


Rise in full-time female workers boosts employment

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A record number of women in full-time work has pushed the UK’s employment rate to a new high of 76.3%, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

In the three months to November, 126,000 more women worked full-time compared to the previous quarter.

The increase is in part because of the change in women’s retirement age.

The record figure may reduce the likelihood that the Bank of England will cut interest rates next week.


Facebook to create 1,000 jobs in London

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Facebook is to create 1,000 new jobs in London by the end of the year.

The new posts will take the tech giant’s total number of UK employees to more than 4,000.

More than half of them will be technology-focused, with roles in software engineering, product design and data science, the company is to announce at an event in London.

Facebook has more than 35,000 employees worldwide, with the capital its biggest engineering hub outside the US.

Facebook said many of the new jobs would be in its Community Integrity (CI) division, which builds the tools and technology the company uses to detect and remove harmful content from its platforms.

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Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will unveil the jobs boost in London later

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is due to unveil the jobs later on Tuesday at an event for small and medium-sized UK businesses.

She will say: “The UK is a world leader in both innovation and creativity.

“Many of these high-skilled jobs will help us address the challenges of an open internet and develop artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly.

“They will also help us build the tools that help small businesses grow, compete with larger companies and create new jobs.”

Ms Sandberg will also stress that Facebook is committed to investing in the UK for the long term.

Facebook’s new London employees will be deployed on tasks including the development of products such as Workplace and WhatsApp.

The company said its London CI teams are responsible for everything from fighting spam and abuse to addressing violence and personal safety.


New China virus: Drug makers soar on contagion fears

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A woman wears a mask while walking past the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been linked to cases of Coronavirus, in Wuhan

Shares in Chinese drug makers have risen sharply as concerns grow over a new virus spreading across the country.

Several pharmaceutical giants on the Shanghai and Shenzen stock exchanges have risen by their 10% daily limit.

The moves follow the confirmation that the new strain of coronavirus can pass from person to person.

The number of people infected tripled over the weekend, with the outbreak spreading from Wuhan to other major cities.

Millions of Chinese people are preparing to travel both within the country and abroad for the New Year holidays.

Jiangsu Sihuan Bioengineering, Shandong Lukang Pharmaceutical, and Hengrui Medicine were among the drug makers that gained 10%.

Meanwhile, face mask manufacturers Tianjin Teda and Shanghai Dragon also rose by 10%.

Stock prices are constrained in China by limits that allow them to move by a maximum of 10% higher or lower in a day.

These latest gains follow sharp rises in Chinese pharmaceutical companies’ shares yesterday.

On the other hand, Chinese airlines, tour and hotel companies have fallen.

Shares in state-owned Air China added to yesterday’s losses. BTG Hotels Group, which also fell yesterday, has lost more ground today.

In the “Golden Week” holiday in China stock markets will be closed for five working days from Friday 24 January to Thursday 30 January.

The new strain of coronavirus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person to person, China has confirmed.

What we know about the virus

2019-nCoV, as it’s been labelled, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people
Scientists believe an animal source is “the most likely primary source” but that some human-to-human transmission has occurred
Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
People are being advised to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

Source: World Health Organization

There are now more than 200 cases, mostly in Wuhan, though the respiratory illness has also been detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Experts in the UK told the BBC the number of people infected could still be far greater than official figures suggest, with estimates closer to 1,700.

The outbreak has revived memories of the Sars virus – also a coronavirus – that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia.

Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.


Uber sells its India food delivery business to Zomato

In this photograph taken on February 6, 2019, an Indian delivery man working with the Uber Eats food delivery app loads up food to bring to a customer in New Delhi.Image copyright
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Uber Eats launched in India in 2017

Uber has sold its food delivery service in India to local rival Zomato, the firms have announced.

Uber will get a 9.99% stake in the Indian start-up, helping it maintain its presence in the sector.

All Uber Eats customers in India will now be redirected to Zomato but it’s unclear if the acquisition will cause lay-offs.

The deal is likely to give Zomato an edge over its rival Swiggy in a fast-growing but fiercely-contested sector.

Zomato operates in more than 500 cities in India and the firm believes that the acquisition will further consolidates its presence.

“We are proud to have pioneered restaurant discovery and to have created a leading food delivery business across India. This acquisition significantly strengthens our position in the category,” Deepinder Goyal, Founder and CEO of Zomato, said.

Uber Eats launched in India in 2017 with a promise to revolutionise the sector. The San Francisco-based company has since been trying to increase its customer base, but faced a tough competition from Zomato and Swiggy.

Uber said India would continue to be its priority.

“India remains an exceptionally important market to Uber and we will continue to invest in growing our local rides business, which is already the clear category leader,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO, said.

Correspondents say the deal will further intensify the competition between Zomato and Swiggy.

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Media captionA BBC News team set up a fake takeaway restaurant on Uber Eats and started selling burgers