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- 05/18/15--06:23: _What it was like to...
- 05/19/15--17:28: _NFL player's wife s...
- 05/21/15--03:49: _Saudi Arabia wants ...
- 05/21/15--14:17: _Why falling in love...
- 05/22/15--04:05: _Europe faces a seco...
- 05/24/15--08:41: _Why I let my husban...
- 05/26/15--11:21: _Forbes declares Tay...
- 05/26/15--17:48: _GOLDMAN: 'There is ...
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- 05/28/15--05:14: _This insanely small...
- 05/29/15--04:12: _A look at the massi...
- 05/30/15--07:30: _ISIS is making the ...
- 06/01/15--07:23: _Libyan investment c...
- 06/01/15--09:16: _New 'Top Gear' to h...
- 06/02/15--05:31: _Germany's dominance...
- 06/03/15--11:02: _Sepp Blatter's daug...
- 06/04/15--04:47: _The UK is the drug ...
- 06/05/15--06:09: _China is using high...
- 06/06/15--17:20: _Apple is set to int...
- 05/18/15--06:23: What it was like to fight the Japanese Kamikaze
- 05/21/15--03:49: Saudi Arabia wants to build the world's largest hotel
- 05/21/15--14:17: Why falling in love is like being drunk
- 05/22/15--04:05: Europe faces a second revolt after Greece
- 05/24/15--08:41: Why I let my husband pay me a 'wife bonus'
- 05/26/15--11:21: Forbes declares Taylor Swift one of the world's most powerful women
- Angela Merkel, chancellor, Germany
- Hillary Rodham Clinton, presidential candidate; former secretary of state
- Melinda Gates, co-chairman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US
- Janet Yellen, US Federal Reserve Bank Chair, U.S.
- Mary Barra, General Motors chief executive, US
- Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund managing director, US
- Dilma Rousseff, Brazil president
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operation officer, US
- Susan Wojcicki, YouTube chief executive, US
- Michelle Obama, US first lady
- Park Geun-hye, South Korea president
- Oprah Winfrey, media mogul, US
- Virginia Rometty, IBM chief executive, US
- Meg Whitman, HP chief executive, US
- Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chief executive, US
- 05/26/15--17:48: GOLDMAN: 'There is too much debt'
- Liquidity crisis may spark the next financial crash
- Liquidity drought could spark market bloodbath, warns IIF
- 05/27/15--07:25: Qatar Airway's $200-billion dollar threat to European airports
- 05/28/15--05:14: This insanely small London home costs $756,768
- 05/29/15--04:12: A look at the massive sponsor contracts that FIFA could lose
- 05/30/15--07:30: ISIS is making the biggest threat to oil prices even worse
- 06/02/15--05:31: Germany's dominance is ending
- 06/04/15--04:47: The UK is the drug capital of Europe
- 06/06/15--17:20: Apple is set to introduce Apple Pay in Britain
Seventy years ago Britain rejoiced. War in Europe was over. The British Army and the RAF were still fighting against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma, but for other British forces, peace finally reigned across much of the world.
Except, not quite.
For few people knew then — or realise now — that 6,000 miles away deep in the Pacific Ocean, the biggest fleet ever assembled by the Royal Navy in World War Two was entrenched in a bitter battle against Japanese kamikaze suicide planes.
The British Pacific Fleet was largely political by design, with the British Chiefs of Staff and, after some initial reluctance, Winston Churchill, deciding in September 1944 that a British strike fleet fighting alongside the vast US Navy would be recognized after the conflict as a contribution to the defeat of Japan.
Despite US reluctance, a few months later the fleet was born, spearheaded by four aircraft carriers – with dozens of smaller ships as backup — from which the 'flyboys' formed the largest airborne strike force in British naval history. Over 250 aircraft were supported by more than 10,000 sailors and aircrew.
Many of these men were schoolboys when war broke out. They now found themselves in the war’s final act: the battle for Japan. 89 per cent of British airmen were volunteers and over half had trained in America. They developed transatlantic twangs in their accents and chewed gum.
Faced with a dearth of decent home-grown machines, the Royal Navy adopted American carrier aircraft such as the F4U Corsair, a reptilian looking 400mph fighter nick-named “whistling death” by the Japanese because of the eerie whining sound it made when diving.
The Supermarine Seafire — a nautical version of its more famous cousin the Spitfire — also featured, and although it struggled with the rough and tumble of carrier landings, it excelled in the air as a kamikaze hunter.
In early March 1945, the British Pacific Fleet sailed from its base in Sydney 4,000 miles north to join the American 5th fleet. It would be away from land for the longest period of time since Nelson’s day. A ‘fleet train’ of ships maintained supplies.
The crews began to realize the huge scale of the Pacific. Day upon day they saw nothing but other ships, ocean and sky. A canvas of blues and greys. There was an unsettling vastness to it all.
Finally, as the ship neared the front line, American Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher, a master of modern carrier fighting, sent a signal: ‘Fifth Fleet welcomes Task Force 57 (the code name for the British Pacific Fleet) and wishes you good hunting.’
The Americans were preparing to invade Okinawa, the strategically crucial island just 350 miles south of the Japanese home islands. From there, the Allies could plan the invasion of Japan itself, proposed for late 1945.
"What do you think of our bloody British flight decks now?"
HMS Formidable Captain, speaking to American liason officer
The British Pacific Fleet’s aircrews were expected to hunt down kamikazes in the air or on the ground.
Why did the Japanese resort to such extreme tactics? Because they knew their air force was no match for the Allies, in short. The Allies estimated that a Japanese pilot, using conventional tactics, might make just two sorties in his lifetime, with a three per cent chance of hitting a ship. In a suicide attack, however, the chance of hitting a ship rose to between 15 and 20 per cent.
On April 1st the Americans landed in force on Okinawa. At 0650, the radar of the British Fleet stationed 200 miles to the south-east picked up a formation of about twenty aircraft flying at 8,000 feet and closing fast at 210 knots. The Japanese First Air Fleet based in Formosa was about to launch its first kamikaze attack on the British Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Philip Vian, the British air commander, directed already airborne aircraft to intercept while others took off from the carriers to beef up defences. A well-practised drill clicked into place, with the fighter control officers in the plotting rooms of the carriers following the enemy contacts on the radar, directing fighters towards them.
"I didn’t want to admit how scared I was," said one crew member. "You have a large fleet of aeroplanes approaching, many of whom will probably be kamikazes. They don’t drop bombs that probably miss you, they hit you, and doing nothing, hanging around waiting, was petrifying.’
The fighter direction rooms in the carriers were tense, hushed and lit only by the bluish glow of the radar screens. The only sounds over the hum of the ventilation fans were the quiet voice of the fighter direction officer passing the airborne aircraft their courses to intercept the enemy and the loud intermittent fuzz over the radio as the pilots radioed back acknowledgements. In the thick of the action a few thousand feet above, the pilots’ voices were strained and tense.
The last line of defence was the fleet’s gunfire, which now opened up in a thunderous roar, peppering the surrounding skies with hundreds of explosions.
For the gunners on deck this was both terrifying and exhilarating. One, hunched in his seat and crouched like a jockey, sang at the top of his voice, ‘How we gonna keep ’em down on the farm?’ to the rhythm of his gun, watching the little yellow tennis balls of tracer bubble up from its muzzle.
Dogfights littered the sky, which was filled with thick smoke, making the panorama of the battlefield even more disorienting. The fleet’s fighters managed to shoot down some Japanese aircraft but others penetrated the fighter screen.
One Japanese fighter broke through the bursting flak, swooping low over British carrier Indomitable. Bullets crackled and popped along the entire length of the flight deck, ripping through a group of running sailors, killing one and wounding six.
Dickie Reynolds, a 22-year-old pilot nicknamed ‘Deadeye Dick’ because of his skill in shooting down enemy aircraft, engaged a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero, twisting and turning in his Seafire.
With some sharp shooting he managed to pepper a wing with cannon fire, but before he could get his aircraft into position to deliver the kill, the Zero rolled onto its back and smashed into the flight deck of British carrier Indefatigable, causing an enormous ball of flame which covered the ship from stem to stern.
Armed with a 550-pound bomb, the kamikaze hit the ship at the junction of the flight deck and the island, exploding on impact, killing three officers and five ratings instantly. The ship’s barber, who also acted as a messenger during action stations, said later "the smell of dead flesh stayed there and in that part of the island till the day I left the ship".
This was 360-degree warfare, directly affecting everyone, regardless of rank. "The kamikazes didn’t distinguish between the admiral or the boy sailor," one seaman said. "The skipper later joked with us it had been an Easter egg sent by Hirohito. But we felt we were all in it together."
For weeks afterwards some men reported seeing ghosts walking through flames on the flight deck.
In their squadron diary the pilots of 894 Seafire squadron in Indefatigable gave their own unique account. "APR 1 'ALL FOOLS DAY' and did we buy it! Early in the morning the Japs attacked with suicides – their first reaction . . . Diving from 2,000 ft, it hit the bottom of the island doing no mean rate of knots. SPLATTTTT!" Despite the carnage, aircraft were taking off and landing on the ship less than an hour later. Unlike the wooden flight decks of the American carriers, the British ships had four-inch armoured flight decks.
When the Royal Navy carrier Formidable survived a kamikaze attack on May 4th, filling in a hole caused by the attack with quick drying cement, its captain grasped the arm of an American liaison officer standing alongside and, shaking his fist, asked, "What do you think of our bloody British flight decks now?"
"Sir," came the reply, "they’re a honey."
Wally Stradwick in Miami in late 1943, soon after receiving his wings after learning to fly in America during the war
Wally Stradwick, a 22-year old pilot from Clapham, was flying his Corsair at 6,000ft above Formidable when he saw a kamikaze pilot crash into its flight deck. In his diary he recalled: "One of our carriers appeared to explode. I could only see the bows protruding from a colossal pall of black smoke in the centre of which was an ugly sheet of flame."
Formidable was attacked again on May 9th, 1945. "As a terror weapon, these kamikazes have a quality of their own," one officer in Formidable later wrote. "There is [still] something unearthly about an approaching aeroplane whose pilot is hell bent on diving himself right into the ship. 'Wherever you are, he seems to be aiming straight for you personally."
Another sailor, from Portsmouth, said: "I remember thinking, I’ve been through the Blitz; we’ve had bombs, we’ve had incendiaries, we’ve had landmines thrown at us, but it’s the first time I’ve had the bloody plane thrown at me as well. You feel that it’s aimed at you, especially when he looks around and you think: can he see me?"
For the pilots too, the enemy was unknown. "It’s a dirty war; all war is dirty, this one particularly so," wrote 22-year old Chris Cartledge, a Corsair pilot with 1842 squadron in a letter home on 16 May 1945. "Judging by the fanatical methods of defence used by the Japs they do not intend to give in however hard pressed…one cannot anticipate the reactions of a race so radically different from us. We can’t apply our logic to them."
Hunting down these fanatical flyers before they attacked the fleet became a game of cat and mouse. The tactics books used in the previous six years of war were ripped up. Often pilots were deployed by their ships without success.
Between April 1st and May 9th 1945 every single British aircraft carrier on the front line was hit by kamikazes, killing 44 men and wounding almost 100. Its pilots shot down more than 40 enemy aircraft, the majority of them suicide bombers.
The young wife of a British athletics star signed by one of the top American Football teams has claimed in a US federal lawsuit that she was subjected to sexist and racial taunts and forced to work in a real-life Wolf of Wall Street office.
Philippa Okoye, who is white, claimed that she was the target of ugly abuse and harassment for her relationship with Lawrence Okoye, the British Olympian and discuss record holder who is black.
Mrs Okoye, 27, who is also British, was allegedly exposed to a barrage of sexual and racist insults during her time working as the only woman with 20 male colleagues at the New York office of deVere Group, the financial consultancy firm.
She later moved to California where her then boyfriend has been signed by the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 after he was spotted by gridiron football scouts during a winter discuss training session in the US.
DeVere has “vigorously and categorically” denied the allegations after what is described as a “legitimate employment termination”. The company and the named executive said they would fight the “false allegations” in court.
Okoye, 23, born in south London to Nigerian parents, is one of the most physically distinctive figures in British sport, with a 6ft 6 inch and 23 stone frame. He was a childhood rugby star who later turned to the discus and represented his country in the 2012 London Olympics.
Okoye is also highly gifted academically and has deferred a place at Oxford University to study law until 2017 while he pursues his sporting career. He earlier won a scholarship to Whitgift School, an independent day and boarding school in Croydon founded in 1596 by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As a teenage rugby union winger, he played in the schools final at Twickenham and was a member of the academy teams of both London Irish and London Wasps.
But while Okoye was pursuing his dream of career at the top of American sport, his then fiancée claims that she was forced to endure a torrent of abuse and discrimination at work.
Her manager allegedly modelled the office on Boiler Room and The Wolf of Wall Street – two films detailing the culture of fraud and sexism in macho-powered brokerage firms.
Her boss used a crude expletive to assert that Okoye would be having sex with the team’s cheerleading squad, according to her damages lawsuit filed this week in Manhattan federal court.
One worker allegedly announced near her: “I think it’s disgusting when white women go out with black guys.”
Another colleague advised her not to take her Okoye’s surname if they married as “people will think you are black” which “is not good for business”, her boss then added, according to the lawsuit.
She said that when other women visited the office, they were graded sexually. And when she complained, her manager allegedly told her angrily: “This is why I didn’t want women in the office.”
According to the lawsuit, an executive “made it known that he wanted to model [their] office on the ‘Boiler Room’ and ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ films.
“In those films, employees of male-dominated investment firms used highly offensive language and engaged in extremely inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment and drug and alcohol use in the workplace.”
Mrs Okoye was hired a senior investment adviser in the firm’s Manhattan office in Oct 2013 while her then boyfriend pursued his dream of American sporting fame on the West Coast.
After Mrs Okoye complained and was demoted, her manager continued to mock her for her Christian faith, calling her a “Bible basher” and singing hymns when he walked by her desk, the court papers charged.
She is suing for damages for unfair dismissal to be determined at trial after she was fired for what her boss called performance reasons, according to court papers.
On his personal website, Okoye noted that his rise from modest roots as the son of immigrants in Croydon was the stuff of “a Hollywood movie”. But it was his future wife – they married last August – who claims that she was the victim of a professional nightmare with echoes of Hollywood.
This article was written by Philip Sherwell New York from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
The world’s largest hotel is being planned for Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a remarkable structure that will rise out of the desert and apparently contain 10,000 rooms for worshippers.
The hotel will be part of a mixed-use development at Abraj Kudai, a $3.5bn (£2.25bn) project intended to look like a desert fortress, that encompasses a ring of towers standing on top of a podium.
It is due to be completed in 2017 and is being situated in the Manafia area of Mecca’s central zone, just 2.2km south of the Masjid al-Haram (holy mosque).
DesignMENA reported that the hotel will have 10,000 rooms in 12 separate towers, which are 44 storeys high, that will also include 70 restaurants, rooftop helipads, royal floors and a full size convention centre.
Two of the towers will offer five-star facilities, according to the hotel’s architects Dar Al-Handasah. The other ten will provide four-star accommodation.
The interiors will be designed by the London-based studio Areen Hospitality and are expected to be in keeping with the opulent style found elsewhere in the region.
"Due to its unparalleled size, height as well as distinguished location, exposure and architectural style, the building appears as a striking landmark with a profoundly modern multifunctional identity relating to both the Saudi locality and the Islamic universality of its expected users, “ said architects Dar Al-Handasah on its website.
The site, which will also include residential facilities, a shopping mall and plenty of car parking for those visiting the mosque and black kaaba, has an approximate total site area of 60,000msq and a total built-up area of 1.4million msq.
The hotel at Abraj Kudai is not the only one planned at Mecca. Hilton, the worldwide brand, is developing the Conrad Makkah, due to open in 2016, which, once built, will "help to meet the demands for a wider variety of accommodation from the rising number of pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia every year."
It will be the first Conrad in the country. The Hilton Makkah Convention Hotel also opened recently, while the new Hyatt Regency Makkah is accepting reservations from July.
The world's largest hotels up until now have been in Las Vegas. The Venetian and The Palazzo, which operate as a single hotel, offers 7,117 rooms. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is close behind in terms of number of room keys, with 6,852 rooms available.
Poets, songwriters and authors have written of the intoxicating effect of falling in love.
But a new study suggests that the love hormone oxytocin has similar affects to being drunk, and not just the more pleasant aspects of inebriation.
Researchers found that not only can oxytocin make lovers feel relaxed, happy and more confident, it can also provoke aggression, jealousy and arrogance.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and plays a significant role in bonding, falling in love and making friendships.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham tested subjects to find out if the effects of drinking alcohol were similar to those of oxytocin, which was administered in a spray.
Dr Ian Mitchell, from the School of Psychology at Birmingham University, said: "We pooled existing research into the effects of both oxytocin and alcohol and were struck by the incredible similarities between the two compounds.
"They appear to target different receptors within the brain, but cause common actions.
"These neural circuits control how we perceive stress or anxiety, especially in social situations such as interviews, or perhaps even plucking up the courage to ask somebody on a date. Taking compounds such as oxytocin and alcohol can make these situations seem less daunting."
Oxytocin increases pro-social behaviours such as altruism, generosity and empathy while making us more willing to trust others. Those effects come about because the hormone appears to remove the brakes on social inhibitors such as fear, anxiety and stress in the same way that alcohol works.
The researchers say it may explain why first dates are often involve alcohol as prospective partners use 'Dutch courage' to mirror the feelings of love.
Dr Steven Gillespie said: "The idea of 'Dutch courage' - having a drink to overcome nerves - is used to battle those immediate obstacles of fear and anxiety.
"Oxytocin appears to mirror these effects in the lab."
However, the researchers warn against self-medicating with either the hormone or a swift drink to provide a little more confidence in difficult moments.
Alongside the health concerns that accompany frequent alcohol consumption, there are less desirable socio-cognitive effects that both alcohol and oxytocin can facilitate.
People can become more aggressive, more boastful, envious of those they consider to be their competitors, and favour their in-group at the expense of others.
The compounds can also affect our sense of fear which normally acts to protect us from getting into trouble and we often hear of people taking risks that they otherwise wouldn't.
A dose of either compound can further influence how we deal with others by enhancing our perception of trustworthiness, which would further increase the danger of taking unnecessary risks.
The findings were published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews.
Dr Gillespie added: "I don't think we'll see a time when oxytocin is used socially as an alternative to alcohol.
"But it is a fascinating neurochemical and, away from matters of the heart, has a possible use in treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions.”
This article was written by Sarah Knapton Science Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Europe faces the risk of a second revolt by Left-wing forces in the South after Portugal’s Socialist Party vowed to defy austerity demands from the country’s creditors and block any further sackings of public officials.
"We will carry out a reverse policy,” said Antonio Costa, the Socialist leader.
Mr Costa said a clear majority of his party wants to halt the “obsession with austerity”. Speaking to journalists in Lisbon as his country prepares for elections - expected in October - he insisted that Portugal must start rebuilding key parts of the public sector following the drastic cuts under the previous EU-IMF Troika regime.
The Socialists hold a narrow lead over the ruling conservative coalition in the opinion polls and may team up with far-Left parties, possibly even with the old Communist Party.
“There must be an alternative that allows us to turn the page on austerity, revive the economy, create jobs, and – while complying with euro area rules – restore hope to this county,” he said.
While the Socialist Party insists that it is a different animal from the radical Syriza movement in Greece, there is a striking similarity in some of the pre-electoral language and proposals. Syriza also pledged to stick to EMU rules, while at the same time campaigning for policies that were bound to provoke a head-on collision with creditors.
Mr Costa accused the Portuguese government of launching a blitz of privatisations in its dying days, signalling that the Socialists will either block or review the sale of the national airline TAP, as well as public transport hubs and water works.
His harshest language was reserved for the International Monetary Fund but this reflects the cultural milieu of the Portuguese Left. In reality the IMF was the junior partner in the Troika missions.
Mr Costa unveiled a package of 55 measures in March, led by a wave of spending on healthcare and education that amounts to a fiscal reflation package. The party would also roll back labour reforms and make it harder for companies to sack workers.
The plan would appear entirely incompatible with the EU’s Fiscal Compact, which requires Portugal to run massive primary surpluses to cut its public debt from 130pc to 60pc of GDP over 20 years under pain of sanctions.
The increasingly fierce attacks on austerity in Lisbon are likely to heighten fears in Berlin that fiscal and reform discipline will break down altogether in southern Europe if Greece’s rebels win concessions.
Worry about political "moral hazard" is vastly complicating the search for a solution in Greece.
“Greece is the testing ground and everybody is watching very carefully. That is why the Spanish and Portuguese prime ministers have been so hawkish,” said Vincenzo Scarpetta, from Open Europe.
No deal for Greece is yet in sight. Syriza continues to live from hand to mouth, narrowly putting off default week after week by raiding obscure funds. The country’s finance minster, Yanis Varoufakis, told Greek television on Monday night that “pensions and salaries are sacred” and will take priority if the money runs out. “I would prefer to default to the IMF rather than on salaries,” he said.
Sending out mixed messages, he also said that Greece had no plans for a rupture with Brussels or a “change of currency”.
Portugal is no longer under Troika control. It exited its €78bn bailout programme last year and returned to the markets. It is currently able to borrow money for 10 years at an interest rate of 2.35pc. “We no longer have any direct leverage,” said one EU official.
However, countries remain under “post-programme surveillance”, with two monitoring missions on the ground each year until they have repaid 75pc of the money. Portugal will not be in the clear for a long time.
The legal text stated that the council of EMU ministers can issue “recommendations for corrective actions if necessary and where appropriate”. The EU bail-out funds (ESM and EFSF) have their own “early warning mechanism” to ensure that debtors stay on the right track.
Portugal has weathered the austerity crisis in much better shape than Greece but it remains vulnerable, with higher aggregate debt levels and far lower levels of education than Greece.
Total combined public and private debt is more than 370pc of GDP, the highest in Europe. This leaves the country badly exposed to the effects of debt-deflation and stagnant nominal GDP.
William Buiter, Citigroup’s chief economist, said Portugal has many of the same economic "pathologies" as Greece, and is likely to be first in line for contagion if the sanctity of monetary union is violated by the ejection of Greece.
Citigroup calculates that Portugal’s debt ratios have already gone beyond the point of no return, warning that the country will ultimately need some form of debt-restructuring to wipe the slate clean. This lingering fear in the market leaves Portugal prone to a fresh debt crisis if the eurozone recovery runs out of steam.
The IMF said in its Article IV healthcheck this week that Portugal’s bailout has been a success but warned that the "country remains highly vulnerable".
The “export miracle” is narrowly based and does not yet reflect lasting gains in competitiveness. “A durable rebalancing of the economy has not taken place and the nontradable sector is still dominant,” it said.
While exports have jumped from 30pc to 40pc of GDP since 2010, the picture is far less rosy for "domestic-value added exports", the metric used by the IMF to measure meaningful gains.
The Fund said Portugal is currently benefitting from a “trifecta of record-low interest rates, a weakening euro, and low oil prices” but this cyclical tailwind will fade over time.
“Portugal faces an acute growth challenge. Productivity growth has been declining over the past half-century. Looking forward, Portugal’s working-age population is projected to fall, and the country’s capital stock is contracting because of under-investment,” it said.
This stagnation trap makes it extremely hard for the country to grow its way out of debt, or to overcome external liabilities of 215pc of GDP. “A systemic solution to the problem of excessive leverage is needed. Not only do the banks that keep too much bad credit on their books endanger financial stability, they are also unable to finance the economic recovery,” it said.
In this still fragile financial climate, some women might have chosen to hide the Chanel shopping bag from their budget-conscious better halves.
With mortgages to pay and family holidays to save up for, it’s still not quite the done thing to blow half your bonus on something as frivolous as a pair of shoes (in this case a seductively glistening pair of Chanel ballet pumps in a classic French navy that I’d coveted for months), even if the bonus is something you have worked your socks off for.
But, instead of surreptitiously stuffing the shoes in the back of the wardrobe, I proudly displayed the results of my splurge to my husband, safe in the knowledge he’d definitely approve. After all, he’s the one who decided how much my bonus should be, and he’s the one who paid it. This year, as for almost all of the five years we’ve been married, I’m the grateful recipient of a “wifely bonus” – and proud of it.
I’m part of a tribe of women uncovered by social researcher Wednesday Martin in her book “ Primates of Park Avenue” (about well-to-do mothers in Manhattan), and discussed by Celia Walden in the Telegraph earlier this week, who, while not going out to work in an office or for a company, still receive a bonus from their husband at the end of the financial year as a sign of appreciation for services rendered.
But while the Park Avenue Primates under discussion have been pilloried for supposedly receiving a cash reward based on how well they’ve have balanced the domestic books, enhanced their husbands’ careers by networking adeptly and aggressively, and kept them satisfied socially and sexually, I believe that receiving a bonus for being a good wife is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather than being a depressing step back for feminism, I’m proud that my husband appreciates that, at the age of 32, by staying at home with our 19-month-old daughter, I’m working just as hard as he is, and is prepared to put his money where his mouth is.
Like most women, I didn’t set out intending to take money off my husband. He earned a lot more than me working in the oil industry when we first met when I was 24. Still, I insisted that we split everything down the middle, including the rent when we moved in together. By the time we got married three years later, I had built up a successful career as a broker in the city and enjoyed having my own money and being able to spend it as I liked, particularly come bonus time which could run into thousands if it had been a good year.
But about a year after we were married, my husband was offered a promotion to take up a position in Australia. The opportunity was too good for him to turn down, so I gave up my job to go with him. Although some might argue that I could have still pursued my career, it didn’t make sense to insist on putting my career first on this occasion as we wanted to start a family. We immediately started trying and two years later our daughter was born.
It was during this time that I first heard about the concept of a “wifely bonus.” I met quite a few women who had given up their own careers so that their partners could take foreign assignments and when, on admiring the Mulberry handbag of one of my husband’s colleague’s, she admitted it was “a bonus present.” Surprised and intrigued, I asked her to tell me more and she went on to explain that most of her extensive Mulberry collection had only been possible because of the “wifely bonus” she received from her husband.
I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little shocked. The concept of a “gift” for being a good little wife seemed to assault all my feminist senses, implying a certain level of sinister financial control. My husband and I had always played a fair game when it came to splitting our finances, having a joint bank account which covered our family everyday needs.
Admittedly I had never felt entirely comfortable at withdrawing money out of the account for anything self-indulgent like I had done when I was earning my own money, but it hadn’t been something that had preoccupied me. But the more I heard about the “wifely bonus” the more, the more it seemed to make sense. As the supporting spouses to our husbands, often having to play second fiddle to their careers, putting our own aspirations on the backburner, why shouldn’t we share the spoils, especially come bonus time?
But, if I really wanted my husband to reward me for the support I’d given him and the sacrifice I’d made, I decided it should go beyond him handing me a small envelope with a patronising wink, telling me to buy myself something pretty. Instead, it should be a cash settlement, just as I would get if I were an actual employee. If anything, by insisting that my time is just as valuable as my husband’s and by paying me a bonus, my husband could demonstrate in a pecuniary fashion that staying at home with a child is just as important a role as going out to work and that running a home is a job in itself. Surely these are arguments that true feminists have been making for years?
While many men might have scoffed at such a suggestion, my husband was surprisingly amenable. He immediately acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to go out and do his job if I didn’t stay at home and do mine. I have taken the primary role in caring for our daughter, not to mention the domestic drudgery of cooking, cleaning and everything else that staying on top of things at home entails. He works long hours in a stressful environment and is often away. Obviously we could share the load, but having worked long hours in the city myself, I know the last thing you want to do when you get home late from work is laundry.
So, we sat down and negotiated an agreement. If the company that my husband works for has had a good year and compensated him accordingly, he would pass the benefit down to me. While the majority of his work bonus should be put aside for serious things like school fees or a future property, we also agreed that after tax, we each take 20% of his bonus, ensuring that we both have an equal opportunity to reward ourselves for a year of hard work. As you would expect, I prefer to keep the precise amount private but it is certainly enough to be able to treat myself.
As in most situations, there are always extremes. We don’t have a prenuptial agreement and there’s nothing in writing outlining a series of tasks that I have to perform. The closest I’ve come to not receiving a ‘wifely bonus’ was the time he told me once to manage my expectations because the company hadn’t had such a good year. Ultimately, we see ourselves as a joint venture and this is just an extension of that.
We have since moved from Australia to Copenhagen and although I’m far from ashamed of the financial arrangement we have, it’s not something I’ve chosen to share with people until now. I wouldn’t boast about a bonus I received at work and this is no different.
But now the idea of a “wifely bonus” has been discussed so widely, I thought it was important to show how it extends beyond the wives of Park Avenue. However, I’ve been disappointed by the condemnation I’ve received from other women who feel that I’m somehow betraying the feminist cause. Grown women asked me seriously, nodding and winking lewdly like naughty little schoolboys, if there was anything that I “had” to do to secure my bonus, the assumption being that, by accepting appreciation of the sacrifices that a stay at home mum makes on a daily basis as a monetary compensation is somehow on the level of prostitution.
To answer the more smutty-minded critics of the “wifely bonus” which, perhaps hereafter should be known as “partnership premium”, the bonus is in no way linked to how I’ve performed in the bedroom or anywhere else. To my mind, the role of a stay at home mum who has chosen to leave the workplace to care for her child is an entirely different debate, which merits its own discussion. By not working, I’m financially dependent on my husband, regardless of whether or not I accept a “wifely bonus”. If anything, by paying me a bonus, I am finally being recognised as my husband’s true equal.
This article was written by Polly Phillips from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
The Shake It Off singer, whose fans refer to themselves as Swifties has a massive cult following among millions, is ranked 64 and is also the youngest in the list.
Swift, 25, has sold millions of records and cemented herself as one of the world’s bestselling and most loved stars after her album, 1989, came out in October last year.
It was 2014’s first album to go platinum and between its release on October 27 and November 2, 1989 made up 22 per cent of all albums sold in the US.
Such is her power, Swift is one of the most followed celebrities on Twitter with 58 million followers, Forbes estimates her earnings last year were $64 million (£41 million) and there were rumours earlier this year that her legs were ensured for $40 million.
In the list of 100 women Forbes magazine produces annually, Angela Merkel topped the list for the fifth time in a row .
The German chancellor has featured in the list 10 times during its 11 years. The 100 women are chosen by the magazine’s editors, and women from across the political, economic and media industries feature in the list.
Hillary Clinton, who could become the world’s most powerful leader in 2016, moved from sixth place last year to second place this year. Last year’s second, US Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen comes in this year in fourth place.
The former US secretary of state and first lady who announced her campaign to run as a Democrat remains the favourite to come the party’s presidential candidate.
The Queen has dropped six places to 41 but there are more British women in the list than the previous year with new entrants Nemat Shafik, Bank of England deputy governor (number 66); the new Guardian editor-in-chief from July this year, Katharine Viner (number 80).
Ms Shafik was appointed in March 2014 as part of the Bank’s drive to get more women in senior roles.
She also became the World Bank’s youngest ever vice president more than a decade ago and prior to moving to the Bank, she was the deputy managing director of the IMF from April 2011 until March 2014.
Her Majesty is also the list’s oldest but has appeared in the list every year since inception.
Melinda Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband, remains in third place and another women who has always made the list.
The philanthropist has long focused on working in developing countries to fight against malaria and ensuring better global health and education.
Other new entrants include Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, Loretta Lynch, the first black US attorney general and Google’s chief finance officer, Ruth Porat.
Those no longer made the list include Amy Pascal, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures, who had to step down from her role earlier this year after hacked emails were released of embarrassing private conversations .
She was Hollywood’s most high profile female executive, but after emails leaked showed her jokes about President Barack Obama’s race and her criticism of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Adam Sandler, her position was no longer tenable.
Singer Lady Gaga also dropped out of the 100 as well as model Gisele Bundchen who recently announced her retirement from the catwalk.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition politician who has come under fierce criticism for her silence on the Rohingya migrant crisis in south-east Asia, has also dropped off.
This article was written by Raziye Akkoc from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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The world is sinking under too much debt and an ageing global population means countries' debt piles are in danger of growing out of control, the European chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management has warned.
Andrew Wilson, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said growing debt piles around the world posed one of the biggest threats to the global economy.
"There is too much debt and this represents a risk to economies. Consequently, there is a clear need to generate growth to work that debt off but, as demographics change, new ways of thinking at a policy level are required to do this," he said.
"The demographics in most major economies – including the US, in Europe and Japan - are a major issue – and present us with the question of how we are going to pay down the huge debt burden. With life expectancy increasing rapidly, we no longer have the young, working populations required to sustain a debt-driven economic model in the same way as we've managed to do in the past."
Mr Wilson used Japan, where gross government debt has climbed above 200pc of gross domestic product (GDP), as an example of where the ageing population could demographics were working against them. "[This] is evidently not sustainable over the long term," he said.
The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also sounded out a warning about Japan's growing debt pile. The Paris-based think-tank said gross government debt was on course to balloon to more than 400pc by 2040 if the government did not carry out reforms.
Angel Gurria, the OECD's secretary-general, said monetary stimulus and stronger growth alone would not be enough to haul the economy out of its two-decade malaise.
"Japan's future prospects depend on ensuring fiscal sustainability over the long term. With a budget deficit of around 8pc of GDP, the debt ratio is set to rise further into uncharted territory," he said.
Others have warned privately that Japan's debt mountain is unsustainable. "The crunch point is when it starts to run a current account deficit," said one senior banker. "When they stop running a current account surplus and they need our money to survive, we're not going to lend to them at 30 or 40 basis points."
Mr Wilson said there was hope for countries with high debt burdens. "The demographic shift means that we need to look to more creative policy, including immigration and workforce expansion in order to find ways to pay down debt.
This is happening in Japan in the form of [prime minister] Shinzo Abe's drive to increase female labour participation and via efforts to boost inflation."
The Goldman chief also said that warnings about liquidity shortages in the market were being "overplayed", especially with regards to the corporate bond market. He also said that bouts of volatility when the US Federal Reserve starts to raise interest rates were to be be expected.
High profile executives including Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, and Tim Adams, the head of the Institute of International Finance have warned that the raft of regulation introduced in the wake of the 2008 crisis could potentially cause huge volatility in the markets.
While Mr Wilson said the European Central Bank's €60bn a month bond-buying progamme meant it was hard to judge how liquid the market was, he added: "We should expect some growth in volatility - but I do not view that as a negative. In fact, I would view this as getting back to a more normal world. Moving out of an environment where there is a huge amount of government and central bank policy designed to provide certainty and liquidity and to dampen volatility is a healthy sign, not an unhealthy one."
Hardliner claiming to speak from the Supreme Leader heard calling Foreign Minister Zarif a 'traitor' for agreeing a deal with the West
Iranians have been captivated by a video circulating on social media that shows lawmakers arguing over the ongoing nuclear negotiations with world powers.
The video, which surfaced Monday, shows Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has led the nuclear talks, and hard-line lawmaker Mahdi Kouchakzadeh in a heated exchange, apparently during a closed session of parliament.
The hard-liner calls Zarif a "traitor," claiming he speaks for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which then prompts an angry reaction from the minister.
There are speculations that the poor-quality footage was filmed and leaked by one of the lawmakers present at the session. Several lawmakers have demanded that authorities uncover the person behind the leak and prosecute the individual.
Iranians rarely get to see an unrestrained and more personal side of their officials and leaders. Unlike open parliament sessions, closed sessions such as the one where the argument took place are not broadcast on state media.
Iran and the six world powers - including the United States, other permanent UN Security Council members and Germany - are negotiating a final deal over the country's controversial nuclear program. They face a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive deal to be struck, but it's unclear if that deadline can be met since much work remains to be done, according to negotiators.
The proposed deal would freeze Iran's nuclear program for a decade, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on Tehran. Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as power generation, cancer treatment and medical research. But many governments fear it harbors nuclear weapons ambitions.
Outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways tells Dutch to forget about deals in Doha after it's denied landing slots.
The chief executive of Qatar Airways has issued a barbed warning to international airports by demanding a greater number of landing slots in return for access to lucrative government contracts in the gas-rich Persian Gulf sheikhdom.
Speaking in the Netherlands after the Dutch government temporarily declined to provide Qatar Airways with more landing slots Akbar al-Baker warned that companies could face exclusion from billions of dollars worth of infrastructure developments.
Mr al-Baker said at a press conference: “If you don’t allow us to benefit in a small way by bringing us additional flights to the Netherlands, then you should not expect a lot of commercial contracts from our government.”
Although aimed solely at Dutch authorities his remarks will raise concerns among European and US airlines which are increasingly being squeezed by the rise of powerful commercial air operators such as Qatar Airways and Emirates, which have been accused of benefitting unfairly from government support.
Both airlines vigorously deny such claims but Mr al-Baker's threat to the Dutch will fuel worries over the power these airlines can now exert. Qatar Airways is also the biggest shareholder in British Airways owner AIG, which is part of a growing trend among Gulf operators to acquire stakes in rivals outside the Middle East.
Qatar plans to invest up to $200bn over the next decade building infrastructure and is one of the biggest markets for construction and engineering for UK and European companies, which face stiff competition for contracts from Asian rivals.
The sheikhdom, which is one of the world's largest suppliers of natural gas to the West, is also embroiled in the scandal surrounding FIFA's decision to hand it rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Officials from the small Persian Gulf country are alleged to have bribed officials in order to secure the event. Swiss officials have arrested a number of FIFA officials and launched criminal investigation into the award of the World Cup to Qatar and Russia.
Often outspoken, Mr al-Baker - who also sits on the board of Heathrow Airport - has been a fierce supporter of plans to build a third runway west of London. Last year he said that Britons were making an "excessive" fuss over noise pollution around airports and urged terminals in Europe to embrace 24 hour landing and take-off.
It’s unclear whether it really was built to replace a house damaged by a car veering off the road as its occupants had a row, but the man who created this tiny detached home in north London is taking no chances.
The property, which is on the market for $756,768 (£495,000) features downstairs windows that echo the chevrons nearby and light up at night.
There’s no garden and if you support Spurs you might want to give it a miss, as when Arsenal are playing at home you may be surrounded by their fans. But if you are looking for a freehold house in zone 2 for less than a top footballer earns in a month this one-bedroom home might just fit the bill.
Built 15 years ago and in the same hands ever since, this detached pad offers 422 square feet of living space over two floors. There’s a guest cloakroom and outside space in the form of a balcony.
The agent handling the sale, Daniel O’Brien, associate director of the Islington branch of Hamptons International, said it was the smallest freehold house he’d ever had on his books.
“We’ve had a steady stream of viewings,” he said. “People look at it and they either say that’s not for me, or they go ‘wow’ and want to see it.”
The Land Registry puts the average price in Islington at $1,022,198 (£668,825) O’Brien said this property had been priced at a 10% premium to flats in the area because it was freehold and detached.
“It would suit someone downsizing, first-time buyers who don’t want an apartment, or someone who wants a bolthole in London – the tube is nearby and you can be in the west end in 15 minutes,” he said.
If the thought of a leasehold flat drives you round the bend or you’re taking downsizing seriously, this could be one for you.
Details of Fifa's sponsorship arrangements are hidden from view. But estimates have been made about some of its deals with the world's biggest companies
Fifa has come under mounting pressure from its sponsors in the wake of the investigation of 18 people over alleged bribes totalling more than $149 million (£98m).
The strongest words yet have come from Visa, which - unlike other Fifa partners - threatened to pull out of its deal.
This is believed to be worth $129 million (£85 million) over six years. The company said "we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship" unless Fifa makes changes.
Every one of Fifa's major sponsors has criticized the governing body, with the notable exception of Gazprom. The Russian energy giant is a sponsor for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. A spokesman said the arrests “doesn’t influence” the Russian gas producer’s sponsorship agreement for the World Cup in 2018.
This is not the first time that Fifa's sponsors have called for reform or had to criticise the organisation - in 2011, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Adidas and Visa have all expressed concern when allegations of corruption emerged from within the organisation.
The governing body has had a rough 12 months: Fifa partners Sony and Emirates, the airline, both declined to renew their contract as sponsors in November 2014. Sony's contract was worth an estimated $280m (£183m) over eight years, and Emirates is believed to have paid £118.3m over eight years. Emirates decided not to renew its deal beyond 2014 because the terms on offer “did not meet expectations”.
Sponsors must weigh up whether being connected to Fifa's increasingly toxic brand is worth the profile that the relationship can provide.
Brand Finance, an intellectual property management company, argues that these big brands could lose up to $1bn (£653m) in value due to the reputational damage of being associated with Fifa.
Chief executive of Brand Finance David Haigh said: “Sponsors have partnered with Fifa in order to build their brands, not have their reputations tarnished. The kind of activities that are alleged to have been going on could destroy billions of dollars of brand value.
"A lot depends on what happens in the next few days but without knowing how quickly Fifa are going to clean out the Augean stables, my recommendation to the major sponsors would be to move towards the exit."
Nevertheless Fifa's revenues are healthier than ever: between 2011 and 2014, Fifa made total revenues of $5.7bn (£3.7bn); in 2014 alone - a World Cup year - the governing body made $2.1bn (£1.4bn).
Fifa makes $177m (£116m) a year from marketing deals with top-tier partner brands, which currently include Visa, Hyundai, Coca-Cola and Adidas.
The governing body does not disclose how much it is paid by sponsors, but the figures below provide a rough estimate.
Estimated deal with FIFA
Signed an eight year deal in 2006 worth £85m
Signed a eight year deal in 2005 for £186m
Signed an eight year deal in 2005 for £290m
Signed a 12 year deal in 2010 for £182m
Second-tier sponsors are believed to have paid between $10m to $25m (£6.5m to £25m) for four-year deals relating to the World Cup. These brands include McDonald's and Budweiser's parent group Anheuser Busch InBev, Brazilian telecommunications company Oi, Brazilian food processing company Seara, and Chinese solar energy company Yingli Solar.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is estimated to have paid between $80m and $100m (£52m to £65m) to become a Fifa partner for the 2018 World Cup.
Fifa makes most of its money by selling television rights to the World Cup. Other revenue streams come from selling hospitality rights, licensing the brand name, such as in Fifa's video games, ticketing and investments.
Fifa's balance sheet as of December 31, 2014
It is unclear exactly what Fifa spends all of this money on (although it did spend a reported £16m on the badly-reviewed film United Passions ).
John Whittingdale, the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, told the House of Commons: “A change of leadership of Fifa is very badly needed.
“This is merely the latest sorry episode that suggests that Fifa is a deeply flawed and corrupt organization.
“It’s important that other sponsors reflect on their links to Fifa and consider following Visa’s lead."
Matt Powell, an analyst at NPD Group, a market research company told Bloomberg: “Certainly this tarnishes the Fifa brand.
“I expect that sponsors will show restraint until the story plays out a bit more. Once they know that convictions are in and understand the extent of the crimes, then sponsors will act.”
Who has said what?
In a statement, Visa said:
Our disappointment and concern with Fifa in light of (Wednesday's) developments is profound. As a sponsor, we expect Fifa to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organisation. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.
Visa became a sponsor of Fifa because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football.
Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement - and it is important that Fifa makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should Fifa fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship."
South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai issued a strongly-worded statement which stopped short of threatening to end their deal:
As a company that places the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain Fifa executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely."
This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.
We expect Fifa to continue to address these issues thoroughly. Fifa has stated that it is responding to all requests for information and we are confident it will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities."
A spokesman for McDonald's, a second-tier sponsor, said:
McDonald's takes matters of ethics and corruption very seriously and the news from the US Department of Justice is extremely concerning. We are in contact with Fifa on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely."
Adidas said it was "fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance" and expects the same from its partners.
Dr Roger Barker, director of Corporate Governance of the Institute of Directors, said:
The large multinationals who pour hundreds of millions of pounds of sponsorship into Fifa’s coffers every year cannot turn a blind eye to the gross failures of corporate governance at the organisation.
These sponsors rightly make great efforts to ensure their own boards and reporting practices are up to scratch, and they have a responsibility to their shareholders to make certain that the company’s cash is not going towards sporting events mired in bribery and corruption allegations.
In turn, the shareholders of these sponsors must exert pressure on the boards to protect their company from the considerable reputational risk of being associated with this scandal-ridden organisation.
No business of Fifa’s size and vast revenues could possibly get away with allowing its executives to operate without meaningful accountability, and it is now time for Fifa's corporate backers to take a stand."
Thick black smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery could be seen as a dirty smudge on the horizon as far away as Baghdad after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) set fire to the enormous processing plant just over 100 miles north of the capital last week.
The decision to torch the refinery, which once produced around a third of Iraq's domestic fuel supplies, was made as the insurgents prepared to pull out of Baiji, which they captured last June in a victory that sent shock waves across world oil markets.
A year on from the start of the siege and a shaky alliance of the Middle East's major Arab powers, with the limited support of the reluctant US government, has failed to contain the expansion of Isil.
The problem for the US and the rest of the industrialised world is that the Middle East controls 60pc of proven oil reserves and with it the keys to the global economy. Should Isil capture a major oil field in Iraq, or overwhelming the government, the consequences for energy markets and the financial system would be potentially catastrophic.
Many of the countries most threatened by the onslaught of the extremist group, which has grown out of the chaos of Syria but was initially dismissed as a wider threat to regional stability, will gather at the end of this week in Vienna for the meetings of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) .
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iraq – which together account for two thirds of the cartel's production – are all now affected by the inexorable march of the Isil jihadists but appear powerless to prevent it due to the widening sectarian schism between the Sunni and Shia Muslims across the region in the wake of the Arab spring uprisings five years ago.
Oil ministers gathering to decide on production levels at Opec's secretariat building in Vienna will normally stay clear of wider geopolitical issues during their deliberations in the Austrian capital. However, the threat posed by Isil and its brutal brand of Islamist extremism is likely to force politics onto the agenda. It certainly can no longer be ignored.
According to Daniel Yergin, the energy expert and vice-chairman of IHS, the business information provider, the biggest threat to oil prices is the political chaos that threatens to engulf the Middle East, combined with the West's reluctance to intervene.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Yergin argued that the price of a barrel of oil could skyrocket to levels above $100 per barrel if Isil is allowed to press deeper into Iraq, the second-largest producer in the cartel after Saudi Arabia.
"Isil presents a whole new reality for the region, which just isn't reflected in the oil market at the moment," said Mr Yergin. "It's an increasingly grave situation for most of Opec and the Middle East. At some point the security issues will start to come back into the price of oil."
Up to this point, oil markets have shrugged off the risk of a major supply disruption caused by the worsening security situation. Traders have remained focused on the market fundamentals that almost 2m barrels per day (bpd) of excess oil capacity will be more than enough to absorb any supply-driven shock. A rally in the price of Brent crude – a global benchmark – which began in January and saw prices push close to $70 per barrel has lost momentum amid signs that higher prices could revive drilling in the US.
Just over six months ago when Opec's 12 oil ministers last met in Vienna the cartel decided to continue pumping oil at a level of around 30m bpd, which effectively fired the first shots in an oil price war against shale drillers in North America, and Russia.
After almost a decade of oil prices ticking along at above $100 per barrel during which the group ignored the shale revolution taking place in the US, Opec decided to act last November. Under massive pressure from its most powerful member Saudi Arabia, the cartel allowed market forces to drag down oil prices. Initially, the strategy worked.
Within a month, oil prices had fallen to multi-year lows below $50 per barrel, sharply lower than the $115 year-high achieved last June when concern over the civil war in Syria caused a spike in prices. The sudden downturn in prices immediately had the desired effect on oil producers outside the Opec cartel.
In the US, oil companies began to shut down drilling rigs at a record rate. According to Baker Hughes, rig numbers have fallen for 24 straight weeks to 659 rigs as of last week compared with a record 1,609 rigs operating last October. In high-cost production areas such as the North Sea the impact of Opec's decision to allow oil prices to fall naturally has shaken the industry to its core.
In his last budget of the Coalition government, George Osborne was forced to offer North Sea oil companies tax breaks to soften the blow of lower prices, while hundreds of jobs have been lost in Aberdeen.
"Opec has embarked on a strategy of leaving the oil price to the market and is willing it seems to allow the economics of supply and demand to take effect," said Mr Yergin. "What is so startling is that geopolitics has been stripped out of the oil price for now but sooner or later it will be factored back in."
Oil prices have gained roughly 30pc since the beginning of the year to trade at around $65 per barrel, with major banks and trading houses. However, traders have so far ignored the risks posed by Isil now to oil supplies, or the danger of a major terrorist attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Goldman Sachs has instead forecast that prices could again fall to $45 per barrel by October as US shale drilling picks up.
According to Mr Yergin this analysis ignores the dire political situation in the Middle East and the US government's reluctance to acknowledge the danger to the wider global economy. Many of these analysts have focused on the continuing glut of new oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Both nations appear to be fighting for greater market share by filling the gap that is opening up in the oil market as higher cost production is shut down.
Swing producer Saudi Arabia is now pumping more than 10.3m bpd of crude, a record for the kingdom which maintains the capacity to produce up to 12m bpd if required. Despite the encroachment of Isil, which now controls the country's largest province, Iraq has also dramatically increased its oil production over the past six months.
Iraq is poised to lift its exports by as much as 800,000 bpd to around 3.75m bpd next month as the government in Baghdad desperately tries to increase its revenues, which have been crippled by falling prices. In either case, a major terrorist attack on oil export facilities would shatter confidence and the notion that $100 oil is a thing of the past.
Although most of Iraq's major oil fields are located in the south of the country, which are Shia Muslim heartlands, the failure of the Iraqi army to deal with the threat of Isil is a sign of their vulnerability to isolated attacks. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is in a virtual state of lockdown after the bombing by Isil militants of a Shia mosque in the oil-rich Eastern Province. The brutal attack, which appeared designed to provoke sectarian unrest in the kingdom, killed 21 worshippers and injured 80 others.
Saudi authorities have stepped up security at the country's vast oil installations. The kingdom, which accounts for 12pc of global oil supply, is effectively under siege. To the north, jihadists threaten its borders from Iraq and Syria. In the south it launches air strikes against Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen but has so far failed to defeat the tribes, which have continued to make territorial gains.
To add to the problems facing Saudi Arabia's new ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, his kingdom is also facing insurgency from the so-called Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist group which is intent on destabilising the regime.
Against this cataclysmic backdrop of bombs falling in Sana'a and with Isil literally at the gates of the major Iraqi city of Ramadi, many US energy and security experts were shocked to hear President Barack Obama ignore the danger in a recent keynote speech in which he pinpointed global warming as an equally big risk for Americans.
"Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security," warned Mr Obama in a speech that many have criticised as symptomatic of the administration's desire to disengage from the region which still provides a significant share of its oil.
Despite the growing focus on climate change and the campaign to limit fossil fuel production, Isil will be a bigger concern for the majority of oil ministers around Opec's table next week.
The Obama administration's reluctance to intervene marks the end of a US policy to protect the region's oil which has remained in existence since President Franklin D Roosevelt first met with modern day Saudi Arabia's founder King Abdulaziz in 1945. It was this commitment that drew America into the first Gulf War in 1991 and again in 2003 when it decided to bring down the curtain on Saddam Hussein's regime.
However, Mr Obama's lack of a viable alternative foreign policy for the region has put world energy markets at risk.
"How US national and foreign policy will integrate itself again with the region is unclear," said Mr Yergin.
Washington's determination to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran has arguably destabilised the region by placing Riyadh and Tehran on a collision course . Saudis are dismayed that Iranian military advisers are aiding the assault to recapture Ramadi, a city in Iraq's Anbar Province which US forces fought so hard to secure 10 years ago.
Although Opec makes it a rule to stay away from politics, tensions between its 12 members are never far from the surface when they gather in Vienna. The organisation is one of the only remaining inter-governmental settings outside the United Nations where senior Saudi and Iranian officials can sit down together, which makes next week's gathering potential dynamite.
Iran opposed Saudi Arabia last November when the kingdom's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, insisted that the group should stand on the side lines and allow market forces to drive down the oil price in order to render high-cost oil such as US shale unprofitable. Years of sanctions have crippled Iran's economy and eroded its oil industry, which has added to pressure on the regime to agree to a nuclear deal with America under any terms. However, Iran needs oil prices above $100 per barrel in order to support its Shia Muslim allies, including the Houthis fighting Saudi Arabia in Yemen, in the wider Middle East.
Insiders say Saudi Arabia will get its way once again in Vienna and expect Opec to agree to "roll over" their production settings. With vast foreign currency reserves Riyadh and its Arab allies in the Persian Gulf can weather the storm better than Iran, while the continuation of lower oil prices will limit Tehran's ability to support Saudi's enemies in Yemen.
The danger is that Isil has other plans.
Interview: Hassan Bouhadi, the chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority, outlines his role in helping to rebuild the war-torn nation
Hassan Bouhadi, the chairman of Libya’s $67bn (£44bn) national wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, doesn’t want his job to be this interesting.
Ideally, he would be in Libya’s capital Tripoli, quietly stewarding the country’s wealth, smoothing out the public finances of an economy that is 97% dependent on volatile oil revenues.
Instead, he is sitting in a London hotel, in between missions to Washington and Tunis. After that, he will return to Malta, where the LIA has been forced to move due to the violence in Tripoli.
As well as trying to keep his own struggling government and the international community on side, Mr Bouhadi is facing a leadership challenge from the LIA’s former chair .
And last but not least, he is attempting to drive forward two multi-billion-dollar lawsuits against Goldman Sachs and Société Générale, two of the biggest banks in the world.
If Mr Bouhadi, who last October became the third chairman of the LIA in a matter of months, is finding the job stressful, it doesn’t show.
“After 40 years of dictatorship, we are trying to create a new Libya, where we can see that a democratic process is taking shape,” he says.
“It’s tough, but at the end of the day this is what we’ve been appointed for. It is a very, very challenging time for Libya as a whole, but we’ve decided to do the right thing.”
It wasn’t supposed to be so difficult. When the LIA was set up, in 2006, the country had recently been brought in from the international wilderness. Sanctions were lifted, allowing the country to diversify away from oil money, and bankers rushed in, looking for a piece of the action.
However, things started to go sour quickly. LIA officials invested billions in derivative trades that went awry in 2008, when the financial crisis shocked markets. Many individuals viewed the fund as a conduit to personal gain. And then, in 2011, revolution flared up.
Although Muammar Gaddafi was swiftly removed, much of the country was damaged. Weapons became an everyday sight, and the presence of militias has held back democracy since.
Now, the country is divided between Islamists based in Tripoli in the west and the internationally-recognised government, which has been forced to leave the capital for the port of Tobruk in the far east. Parts of the country are occupied by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isil, which has exported its terrorism to the Mediterranean’s shores.
In a way, it is a tribute to the determination of those at the LIA that the institution has carried on, albeit with something of a revolving door at its helm (several individuals have been ousted for links to the old regime, among other reasons).
Mr Bouhadi says the institution has done its utmost to remain non-partisan, which may explain its stability. “We are actually one of the few institutions in Libya where we still maintain one board and a governance structure that is Libyan, that is non-partisan, that looks at the Libyan institutions rather than Tripoli, Tobruk and so forth,” he says.
Mr Bouhadi, a graduate of University College London and Imperial College, is an engineer by trade. Before joining the LIA, he worked for American infrastructure giants GE and Bechtel. He says, though, that like many of his compatriots, he felt compelled to help rebuild Libya after the revolution.
“During [the Gaddafi era] we all longed to work in Libya, and unfortunately the political set-up at the time made it hard. It was limiting how much you could do under that atmosphere,” he says.
“There are a lot of Libyans like me who were privileged to have a western education, who worked in a governance structure, that knew about compliance and transparency, and we wanted to bring that. I saw myself living in comfort in Dubai, while my friends and family were in Libya, so for me it just did not match with our aspiration. So I took a decision to take my responsibility and try to make a change. We couldn’t wait for Libya to be handed to us on a golden plate.”
In the midst of the nation’s turmoil, the LIA has managed to lodge, and maintain, two enormous legal cases in London against Goldman and SocGen.
The cases, worth $1.2bn and $2.3bn respectively, have become something of a corporate thriller, involving allegations of exotic bribes, senior Goldman executives, and even Sophie Wellesley– the wife of singer James Blunt – who worked for the LIA before the uprising, as a witness.
The LIA accuses Goldman of pocketing huge advisory fees while hoodwinking officials into investing $1.2bn in complex derivative transactions in 2008, which became practically worthless when the crisis struck. SocGen, meanwhile, is alleged to have funnelled huge bribes to individuals, including people close to the Gaddafis, in order to push through trades that also went sour.
Both banks reject the allegations. Goldman has argued that the LIA officials were sophisticated, well-trained professionals, who could not possibly, as the fund contends, be unaware that they were getting into risky transactions. Mr Bouhadi, though, says no sovereign wealth fund would willingly get involved in them.
“Sovereign funds are very conservative – we go to the extent whereby we do investments just to beat inflation, that’s how conservative we are,” he says. “It would be ridiculous for such institutions to take such a large amount of money and end up with zero, when it’s something that belongs to the future generations of Libya.
“We’re very determined that someone is held accountable. For the wealth of the nation to be squandered and for the $1.2bn to end up as zero, I think someone has to answer.”
Mr Bouhadi is determined to win the case, but events have not gone as smoothly as he might have hoped. In March, despite a concerted effort from the LIA, the fund’s law firm, Enyo, walked away, after apparent frustrations in dealing with certain members of the fund.
Mr Bouhadi’s team, attempting to protect proceedings, appointed a new firm, Keystone Law, but its attempts to continue the cases were dealt a blow last month, when Abdulrahman Benyezza, LIA chairman before Mr Bouhadi, tried to seize power by appointing his own lawyers and claiming authority over the case.
Mr Benyezza has now relinquished his claim to lead the LIA in favour of Abdulmagid Breish, his predecessor as chair, but Mr Bouhadi’s team will still have to see off the legal challenge.
Mr Breish, who claims to have been reinstated as head of the LIA by Libya's Court of Appeal, said:"I am aware that, during my absence, other persons attempted to take control of the LIA, serving to challenge the independence and neutrality of the organisation.
"There are rogue directors who set up offices without permission. They use money that I assume they obtained illegally and we will be taking legal action against them."
Mr Bouhadi says the intervention is “unfortunate”, but dismisses Mr Breish’s claim as a Libyan anachronism, a hangover from the old regime when institutions were defined by individuals rather than their democratic mandate.
“Some individuals have the idea that they need to be in power no matter what,” he says, rejecting claims that the lawsuits are in a “state of chaos”, as a recent court hearing heard.
For all the efforts that have been made to keep the LIA stable, however, the country’s 6m people are unlikely to see any of the proceeds until there is a stable government, and a semblance of peace.
Almost a third of the fund’s $67bn of assets are international investments in bonds, equities and so forth, which are frozen at Libya’s behest, and will remain so until a political solution is agreed.
In the meantime, Mr Bouhadi says his job is to “protect and maintain” the wealth, and that the LIA is able to plan only a week or two in advance.
Should stability result, billions are expected to be invested in infrastructure and education, creating a private sector that simply did not exist under Gaddafi.
Until that happens, he certainly has plenty of work to do.
The BBC's flagship entertainment program could be set for a Have I Got News For You? style makeover, according to reports.
The broadcaster is believed to have offered the show's two remaining presenters — James May and Richard Hammond — £1million a year to keep Top Gear going after Jeremy Clarkson's departure.
The BBC's plan is to have a different guest hosting each episode of the show along the lines of its news quiz show Have I Got News For You?, a source told in the Independent.
"Who knows what will happen."
Yet despite their pronouncements of loyalty to Clarkson, the BBC remains hopeful that it can persuade the pair to continue on Top Gear.
Presenter Angela Rippon has also put herself forward to be the next Top Gear presenter - 38 years after she became the show's first presenter.
The former newsreader, who was the show's first presenter in 1977, says it would be "great" if the BBC invited her back to host the show following Jeremy Clarkson's departure.
Jeremy Clarkson's gaffes
July 2008: Drink-driving BBC bosses told Clarkson off for supping a gin and tonic while behind the wheel of a pick-up truck November 2008: Lorry drivers With reference to convicted killer Steve Wright, Clarkson joked on the show about how lorry drivers "murder prostitutes" February 2009: Gordon Brown The then prime minister was dismissed as a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" during a press conference in Australia.
October 2009: Black Muslim Lesbians Clarkson said that the BBC was obsessed with hiring black, Muslim lesbians to counter the number of white heterosexuals in its ranks. July 2010: Burkas and lingerie During a Top Gear discussion on distractions while driving: “Honestly, the burka doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red g-string and stockings.”
August 2010: Special needs Clarkson referred to a Ferrari as 'special needs' and a 'simpleton' as a way of giving it a bad review.
February 2011: Mexico Clarkson sparked a diplomatic incident, and was forced to apologize to the Mexican ambassador.
January 2012: India Viewers complained about Clarkson's provocative remarks concerning the country's clothing, trains, food and history.
May 2014: The 'N'-word Clarkson was forced into a apology after appearing to mumble the word as he sang a nursery rhyme on Top Gear. July 2014: Slope Ofcom said he had breached their guidelines, when he referred to an Asian person as a 'slope'.
October 2014: Falklands Jeremy Clarkson caused offense this time by driving through Argentina using a number plate apparently referring to the Falklands War.
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Germany’s birth rate has collapsed to the lowest level in the world and its workforce will start plunging at a faster rate than Japan's by the early 2020s, seriously threatening the long-term viability of Europe’s leading economy.
A study by the World Economy Institute in Hamburg (HWWI) found that the average number of births per 1,000 population dropped to 8.2 over the five years from 2008 to 2013, further compounding a demographic crisis already in the pipeline. Even Japan did slightly better at 8.4.
“No other industrial country is deteriorating at this speed despite the strong influx of young migrant workers. Germany cannot continue to be a dynamic business hub in the long-run without a strong jobs market,” warned the institute.
The crunch is aggravated by the double effect of a powerful post-war baby boom followed by a countervailing baby bust – the so-called “Pillenknick”. The picture in Portugal (nine) and Italy (9.2) is almost as bad.
The German government expects the population to shrink from 81m to 67m by 2060 as depressed pockets of the former East Germany go into “decline spirals” where shops, doctors’ practices, and public transport start to shut down, causing yet more people to leave in a vicious circle.
A number of small towns in Saxony, Brandenburg and Pomerania have begun to contemplate plans for gradual "run-off" and ultimate closure, a once unthinkable prospect.
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in a speech in Davos earlier this year that Germany will lose a net 6m workers over the next 15 years, shrinking gradually over the rest of this decade before going into free-fall.
The International Monetary Fund expects the decline in the 2020s to be more concentrated – and harder to handle – than the gentler paces of decline seen in Japan so far.
Britain and France are in far better shape, with an average of 12.5 births per 1,000 in from 2008-2013. The IMF expects both countries to overtake Germany in total GDP by the middle of century and possibly even by 2040, implying a radical shift in the European balance of power.
Germany’s leaders are themselves acutely conscious that their current hegemonic position in Europe is largely a mirage, certain to fade as more powerful historical currents come to the fore.
The HWWI said the numbers in the crucial 20-65 age group will drop from 61pc to 54pc by 2030, pushing the dependency ratio towards 1:1 and calling into question the solvency of the public pension system. Life expectancy for women is expected to continue rising to 88 and for men to 84 by the middle of the century, creating a massive social burden.
“We want people to face up to the enormity of the problem,” said Dr Andres Wolf, one of the authors of the report.
“It is a fiscal danger and it is a long-term danger to the ability of German companies to innovate and develop new products,” he added.
While ageing societies can enjoy a rise in per capita income for a while, they tend to do so by living off past creativity and intellectual capital. This reserve is exhausted over time. It becomes progressively harder for older countries to remain at the technology frontier.
The HWWI said Germany must open it doors to further immigration of trained workers but fears that it will be a hard sell to voters in the current stormy atmosphere.
The anti-euro Alternative fur Deutschland party (AFD) has broken into several regional parliaments with a hard-line stance against immigrants. There are already almost 10m foreign-born nationals in the country - 12pc of the total – with a further 400,000 migrants are expected this year.
Germany cannot easily turn around the demographic tanker. Academic studies show that fertility rates tend to be structural – caused by deeply-rooted cultural patterns and social systems – and change very slowly in peacetime.
The demographic crisis explains why Germany is so determined to run a budget surplus and drive down its public debt ratios, hoping to avoid a Japanese-style debt-trap before it is too late.
Whether this is best achieved by austerity is a contentious issue. Budget cuts have led to a negative rate of public investment over the past decade, even though parts of the German canal system, railways and national infrastructure are slowly falling apart.
The IMF says Germany would do itself and the rest of the eurozone a favour by spending more to prepare for its old age, not less.
Corinne Blatter Andenmatten says ex-Fifa president's resignation had "absolutely nothing to do with the accusations that are circulating"
Sepp Blatter's daughter has spoken out in his defence, claiming he resigned as president of Fifa to protect his family.
“My father is my father. He is a great man,” Corinne Blatter Andenmatten told Switzerland's Blick newspaper. “With this decision he wanted most of all to protect us, protect his family,” she said.
“His decision has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the accusations that are circulating.
“My father is an honest man who has dedicated his life to football.”
The 54-year-old Ms Blatter Andenmatten, who still lives in the remote Alpine town where Mr Blatter was born, said his resignation had come as “a relief so far”.
“I am sad and relieved at the same time,” she said. “The pressure that had built up from all sides will fall away now...This has hurt me a lot.”
Ms Blatter Andenmatten apparently sent her comments to the newspaper by SMS a few hours after her father announced he was stepping down.
"I hope peace is restored now for my father and for world football,” she said.
“Above all, I hope the international community finally recognizes what great things he has done in the last 40 years for football.” Mr Blatter's daughter, who runs a restaurant in the small town of Visp, has spoken out in his defence before.
A few days ago, she claimed the Fifa corruption scandal was a “conspiracy” to stop him being president.
She said he was “not without fault” but had not taken any money.
"Now he can focus fully on reforms, until the extraordinary congress and the appointment of his successor,” she told Blick.
“That will take all his energy. My father will hand Fifa over to his successor in the best possible condition.”
The UK is the drugs capital of Europe with reported use of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamine at its highest across the continent, the EU’s drug agency has revealed.
Seizures of heroin and MDMA were also higher in the UK than in any of its neighbours, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
And legal highs continued to flood in to the continent with 101 new substances reported last year, a rise of 25 per cent on the previous year, the agency said.
More than 450 legal highs are now being monitoring across Europe, according to the report, the EU’s annual review of the drugs problem.
Reported use of such substances also increased by more than half.
It comes after the Government in the UK pledged a new crackdown on legal highs with proposed new laws to ban the supply and importation of the substances.
Officials in China are taking extreme measures to prevent students from cheating in famously tough university entrance examinations – by using drones.
The high-tech method is being used by education authorities in Luoyang, central China, in a bid to curb students from cheating, according to Chinese media reports.
Silent-flying drones will be used to monitor students during university entrance exams known as “gaokao”, which are taken by more than nine million teenagers every year.
The devices, which can hover in the air for up to half an hour, will use 360 degree rotations to scan examination halls and pinpoint the exact location of suspicious radio signals.
From heights of up to 1,640 feet, the drones will be able to hone in radio signals created by students who are using hidden earpieces to obtain the answers to exam questions, according to the People’s Daily Online.
The two-day examinations are famously gruelling for students, with university admissions and subsequently their future careers paths almost entirely dependent on the results.
The high-level pressure is fuelled further by a shortfall of places, with only 6.5 million admissions accepted, resulting in one in three students unsuccessful in their bid to continue studying.
Students have reportedly cheated in the past by using a special pen that takes pictures of questions and transmits them to an outside accomplice who in turn provides answers via a secret earphone.
The use of drones is the latest weapon employed by the authorities in a long standing battle against cheating among not only students but also teachers and parents.
The tough examinations reportedly prompted officials at one secondary school in Hebei province to install cage-lie “anti-suicide” barriers earlier this year to prevent students jumping to their deaths.
Two years ago, education chiefs in Jilin province took the unusual step of banning bras with metal clips in a bid to deter students from using increasingly sophisticated cheating technology.
News of the drones came just days after the Education Ministry reportedly issued a statement announcing a nationwide crackdown on cheating, according to the WantChinaTimes.com.
Last year, the Education Ministry also announced that it was planning to change the structure of university admissions exams in a bid to reduce the intense pressure the exams place annually on students and their families.
Apple is poised to reveal that it is planning to launch Apple Pay, its contactless mobile payments service, in Britain this summer.
The Silicon Valley giant is expected to make the announcement on Monday in San Francisco at its annual jamboree for software developers, industry sources say. The service will be switched on in around two months, they said.
It will mark a major development for the payments industry.
Multiple attempts by mobile operators and banks to get contactless mobile payments up and running in Britain have failed amid industry infighting and consumer indifference.
Apple has been in talks with banks and retailers about its launch since last year, sources said, and has the clout to drive adoption by both industry and consumers.
The iPhone accounts for more than 40pc of smartphones sold here, and owners tend to be big-spending consumers.
Much of the infrastructure for needed for Apple Pay is already in place thanks to investment in contactless debit and credit payment technology. The iPhone contains a wireless microchip similar to those in contactless payment cards, allowing Apple Pay users to store their details and to wave the handset over a terminal to pay.
Transport for London is already taking Apple Pay payments for travel in the capital from American tourists. The service was introduced in the US in October.
Mike Cowan, a senior executive at MasterCard, said the company was “absolutely ready” to support Apple Pay in the UK.
“That’s one of the advantages of doing this on a global platform, it takes a couple of days.”
Even with Apple’s unrivalled power as a smartphone maker, mobile payments have yet to convince in the US. There, contactless payment terminals are rarer, and the company is facing calls to introduce support for retailer loyalty schemes in the Apple Pay app.
Thomas Husson, an industry analyst at Forrester, said: “What they announce next will help determine if Apple Pay moves from the nice-to-have bucket to the must-have bucket for both merchants and shoppers.”
Apple will have high hopes for the UK, however. Contactless spending trebled last year to £2.3bn.
This article was written by Christopher Williams and James Titcomb from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.