UK firms’ finance bosses say uncertainty is ‘new normal’ – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

UK finance chiefs have become more optimistic about the future, even though uncertainty is now the “new normal” for businesses.

A survey by Deloitte found that 27% of 119 finance directors whom the accountancy firm questioned in the fourth quarter were more optimistic, helped by better GDP growth.

That compares to 16% in the third quarter.

However, two-thirds of them are still worried about the impact of Brexit.

“Ahead of the referendum Brexit was seen by chief financial officers [CFOs] as the most significant risk facing their business,” said the report by Deloitte.

“In the wake of the vote, in late June, optimism dropped to the lowest level since the global financial crisis. CFOs battened down the hatches, pulling back on investment and spending. Since then the UK has proved more resilient than expected and talk of the UK falling into recession has abated”.

Despite the rebound in business confidence, most finance bosses expect more economic and financial uncertainty following Brexit.

Nearly half of those surveyed plan to cut spending and take defensive measures to protect their balance sheets and build up cash over the next year.

About 48% also expect hiring and mergers and acquisition activity to slow down.

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Burger King to cut use of antibiotics in its chicken as part of superbug fight

Only chickens raised without antibiotics critical to human medicine will be used, says owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons

Restaurant chains Burger King and Tim Hortons plan to switch to chickens that are raised without antibiotics considered critically important to human medicine, their owner said on Wednesday.

Restaurant Brands International Inc, which owns both chains, said it aimed to make the change in US stores in 2017 and in Canada in 2018.

An estimated 70% of antibiotics that are important in fighting human infections and ensuring the safety of invasive procedures such as surgeries are sold for use in meat and dairy production.

Concern has been growing among scientists, public health experts, consumers and shareholders that the overuse of such drugs is contributing to rising numbers of life-threatening human infections from antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Restaurant Brands said: We believe that it is important to reduce the use of antibiotics important for human medicine in order to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics in both veterinary and human medicine.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year at least 2 million people in the US are infected with drug-resistant bacteria and that 23,000 die as a direct result.

Officials with health advocacy group As You Sow said they had been working with Restaurant Brands on its antibiotics policy for more than a year. In February, the group withdrew a shareholder proposal calling on the company to develop a stricter policy after Restaurant Brands agreed to address the issue before the end of 2016.

Austin Wilson, environmental health program manager for As You Sow, said the companys new plan represented progress. Still, he said it was disappointing, since it is weaker than the standards set in the last year or two by Tyson, McDonalds and Wendys.

McDonalds has already removed all antibiotics important to human medicine from its US chicken supply chain, and Wendys said in August it would quit using chickens raised with antibiotics important to human health by 2017.

Tyson Foods, the biggest US chicken processor, has said it intends to stop using all antibiotics important to human medicine to raise its chickens in 2017.

Restaurant Brands is eliminating only those drugs that are the most critical in human medicine from its supply, Wilson said.

Yum Brands KFC stands out as the last major chicken chain yet to make a move on curbing antibiotic use. KFC has far more restaurants than any other fast-food chicken chain and is second in sales behind Chick-fil-A, which has committed to finishing its switch to chicken raised without any antibiotics by the end of 2019.

As You Sow has filed a shareholder proposal requesting that Yum phase out harmful antibiotics from its meat supply in a bid to prompt changes at KFC.

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This country’s biggest bank and largest mobile wallet are not getting along

Image: EPA

What happens when the country’s biggest bank, state-owned, and its largest mobile wallet firm, privately-owned and backed by Chinese investors, cannot co-exist?

India knows the answer.

Over the last one week, customers using the State Bank of India’s (SBI) internet banking system have been disallowed from transferring money to their Paytm wallets.

Instead, SBI has been recommending them to use its own e-wallet State Bank Buddy. At the time of writing this, the app had notched up 5 million downloads on Google Play Store.


Surprisingly, there was no public announcement of this decision. It was revealed matter-of-factly when a Twitter user complained of not being able to refill his Paytm wallet via an SBI account.

The bank’s official handle responded thus.

And some other users confirmed.

This comes at a time when the mobile wallet landscape in India has heated up following the central government’s ban on high-value currency notes that sucked out more than three-fourths of the cash in circulation almost overnight.

As a result, adoption of services like Paytm (backed by Chinese investor Alibaba), Mobikwik, Freecharge and others has grown by leaps and bounds.

SBI, the old incumbent of Indian banking, is feeling the heat from Paytm, especially because it has the millions of points-of-sale (PoS) in the country and is also on its way to becoming a payments bank.

Also, SBI sees demonetization as an opportunity to push its own app, which some users have complained is not up to the mark.

Indians have already started criticizing this move by the country’s largest lender and are apprehensive that this could set a precedent for other banks as well.

Some have even called for the intervention of the RBI, India’s federal bank.

We’ll have to wait and watch what happens next.

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Google takes a tiny bit of action against Holocaust deniers

Google is taking action a little against Holocaust denying-websites.
Image: justin sullivan/Getty Images

Google is punishing websites that peddle Holocaust denials at least a little.

The search engine reportedly tweaked its algorithm so that the alt-right site Stormfront’s post “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen” showed up at the bottom of the first page of search results for the query “Did the Holocaust happen?”

Stormfront’s Holocaust-denying post was the first search result for that question earlier this month.

Digital Trends reported that the search result would disappear from Google entirely. A Google spokesperson told the site that the search engine would take action against “non-authoritative information” in its results.

But the Stormfront result was still on Google as of Tuesday.

Tech companies have been under pressure to take more responsibility for the information that shows up on their platforms. Facebook finally took steps this month to monitor the spread of propagandistic fake news on its platform. Google faced similar outcry when Stormfront topped its search results.

When Mashable searched “did the Holocaust happen” on Google, the Stormfront result appeared as the eighth option, at the bottom of the first page of results. Directly above the Stormfront result was the Wikipedia page for “Holocaust denial.”

Stormfront’s first-page Google result.

Image: screenshot/google

Another Holocaust denial appeared on Google’s fourth page of search results, from the similar Daily Stormer.

The Daily Stormer’s fourth-page Google result.

Image: screenshot/google

Google was built on providing people with high-quality and authoritative results for their search queries, a Google spokesperson told Digital Trends. We strive to give users a breadth of diverse content from variety of sources and were committed to the principle of a free and open web. Judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and we dont always get it right.

These changes are better than a Holocaust denial in the very first Google result, to be sure, but the bottom of the first page is hardly banning or punishing sites that traffic in white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

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The 9 biggest questions for the tech world in 2017

Tech is facing a lot of variables in 2017.
Image: alex wong/Getty Images

In 2017, tech companies will have to adapt to a new reality. President Trump and his cabinet of billionaires will shape government regulation for companies across the tech industry.

And while pre-election, many thought markets would collapse with a Trump win, and post-election, many questioned their navet that business wouldn’t respond well to a Trump presidency, it’s actually a mix of both for the tech world.

“If you’re a company whose product is enmeshed in a core Democratic philosophy like cannabis or ed tech, this could be more challenging for you,” Bradley Tusk, a consultant who works with Uber and other tech companies on their regulatory strategies, told Mashable. “If you’re a company who just wants to go about your business without being over-regulated, you’re probably going to do pretty well.”

While a Republican administration probably won’t try to increase regulation on most business interests, tech giants like Apple and Amazon might have more to fear from a Trump presidency than your everyday Silicon Valley startup. Trump could, for example, say he wants Apple to produce more iPhones within the United States.

“Big public companies have more risk here,” Tusk said. “Startups see less regulatory obligations.”

Tusk outlined his predictions for the other big fights the tech world should expect in 2017.

1. Contractors vs. employees

The issue that has slowed down Uber, Postmates, Instacart and every buzzy tech startup that depends on a fleet of ad hoc workers will be the top regulatory battle of 2017, Tusk said.

Are drivers and delivery couriers employees of the tech platforms that connect them with customers? Or can companies continue to classify these workers as contractors and avoid providing benefits or employee protections to their ever-growing workforces?

So far, rulings on this issue have come from California and New York. Tusk expects this battle to continue to play out on the state and local, rather than federal, level.

2. The rules surrounding self-driving cars and trucks

Regulators still aren’t really sure how to handle self-driving cars. Uber’s fleet hit the road with the cooperation of Pittsburgh’s officials, then drew the ire of California regulations in San Francisco.

Plus, there’s the question of autonomous trucking, where self-driving vehicles cross state lines and have to deal with trade regulations.

How exactly to regulate cars without drivers is still unclear, and more legislation answering these questions will pop up in cities and states dealing with the autonomous future a little early.

3. Whatever happens to the Affordable Care Act

Healthcare is one of the most uncertain areas of policy heading into 2017. How exactly will Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, will they leave some of it intact, and what might replace it? For the growing field of health tech, that leaves a lot of questions. But the lack of regulation that might eventually replace the ACA provides some opportunities for health tech companies in particular, telemedicine and insurance startups.

“People in the tech sector feel that federal or local rules that restrain them could be overturned this creates the opportunity to do that,” Tusk said.

4. Food tech and GOP agri-business

Companies working in food tech face a few challenges. With the GOP in power, traditional agriculture will have significant influence on lawmakers. At the same time, enforcement by the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture could decline.

“If you’re a food tech company competing with Big Meat, Dairy, Milk or Eggs, you may find yourself with more scrutiny than you might have from the USDA under Obama,” Tusk said. “This is one area where startups could face more scrutiny, not less, because of the relationships between the industry and Republican members of Congress.”

5. Marijuana legalization

For the startups trying to map the future of legal marijuana, November’s election results threw a wrench in their plans. The state-level fight for legalization will continue, but with any federal progress likely on hold, investments and other state campaigns could wane.

6. Getting government support for renewable energy

“If you don’t believe in climate change, you might not see a reason to give tax incentives,” Tusk said of GOP lawmakers’ approach to renewable energy startups. “Companies depend on those tax credits.”

Without a hospitable federal government, companies linked to fighting climate change will instead have to turn to state and local funding. That will change the approach of energy startups.

7. The future of ed tech

With an education secretary who is in favor of privatizing public education, there are more pressing questions for education advocates than ed tech.

With attention elsewhere and without the influence of teachers’ unions on Democrats ed tech startups have an opportunity.

“The focus in education will shift to a debate over charters, vouchers and the end of common core. This will make it even harder to push an efficiency argument for ed tech,” Tusk said. “Ed tech companies need to expand their markets beyond traditional k-12 public schools.”

8. The Airbnb debate

Airbnb faces some of the most antagonistic regulators of any company. As cities around the globe watch each other and come up with strategies to fight the home-rental giant, Airbnb will still be playing defense in 2017.

9. H1B visa reform

With comprehensive immigration reform pretty much dead, reform of H1B visas for skilled workers will actually start to move forward.

“Democrats for the last eight years said, ‘no, you can’t give them a win or they have no reason to support broader comprehensive reform.’ Now Republicans could pass H1B reform without having comprehensive reform,” Tusk said. “Regardless of your overall views on immigration, the tech sector wants to see H1B reform. That’s what the tech sector cares about.”

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Google’s Sundar Pichai is in India, will host media event on Jan. 4

Image: AP

Googles Sundar Pichai will kick off the new year with some major announcements for small businesses in India.

The company will hold a media event in New Delhi on Jan where Pichai will be present, Google said in a media invite. The event will also be attended by India’s IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad.

According to local reports, India-born Pichai landed in the country with his family last week.

At the event, Google will unveil new cloud and enterprise focused features aimed at Indian businesses. “At Google, we are excited about partnering with businesses to help them unlock exponential growth through the power of digital,” the invite reads.

The company could also share some updates on several of its consumer-centric services, an insider told Mashable India. This will be Pichai’s second appearance at a media event in India since he became CEO of Google last year.

In December last year, Pichai visited India to share developments on the company’s free Wi-FI project for railway stations and also talked about his journey to Google. Last week, Google said 100 railway stations in India now have its free Wi-Fi.

Last year, Google said it hopes to help 20 million small and medium enterprises in India get online by 2017. It had also announced an app called Google My Business, a tool aimed at helping businesses create and manage their business information across Google products for free in English as well as local languages.

India is specially an important market for Google. Much like how the company is helping bring much of the population in the country online, it also sees an opportunity of getting businesses on the web.

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Pet Widget is a dog tag with a QR code that carries your pet’s social identity

Dawn models the Pet Widget.
Image: pet widget

Pet owners who’ve had to go through the trauma of having a dog run away will understand: its microchip alone may not be enough to help you trace your dog.

The Pet Widget is a $29 collar tag that’s just hit the market, supported by a social network for pets and their humans. Its creator, Ivan Loh, told Mashable that many runaway pets who are picked up are untraceable despite being microchipped, because their owners may have neglected to renew their annual licence.

And typically, only vets and animal shelters have microchip scanners, so people who find a dog won’t be able to locate its owner without wrestling it to one of those facilities, he added.

His two labrador retrievers were lost a few years ago in Singapore when someone left the front gate open. After two weeks of combing the neighbourhood, his mum chanced by a poster from a pet groomer advertising that they were there.

“They’re microchipped, but the groomer couldn’t find me. I’m really glad he held onto them,” said Loh.

So when he created Pet Widget, he wanted a souped up version of the typical dog tag that often carries little more than the owner’s mobile number.

Image: victoria ho/mashable

Pet Widget has an NFC chip in it, and a QR code that can be scanned, which will open up the dog’s profile on the Pet Widget site. That profile carries data like the dog’s allergy information, and will trigger a notification to pop up on the owner’s phone when it’s scanned.

The NFC chip works if you have an Android phone. Otherwise, you can punch in the code in

Loh said he had considered putting in a GPS tracker or Bluetooth technology when creating the collar tag, but they added too much bulk that would be difficult for smaller dogs and cats to wear.

GPS trackers also require SIM cards and frequent battery changes, while Bluetooth only works over a short range, before it loses connection with your phone, he said.

Ivan Loh with his labrador retriever, Dawn.

Image: victoria ho/mashable

Find nearby owners to hang out with

Pet Widget isn’t the only service in Singapore that offers a registry and QR code tag for pets. The Singapore Animal Registry has been active for several years now, and offers a similar product to help owners trace a lost pet.

But Loh hopes that Pet Widget will be more than a lost pet registry, by offering a social network to back it up.

With the app, owners can post on a timeline, and chat with other owners in forums.

Image: pet widget

Image: pet widget

Its “nearby” function also carries business listings in the vicinity such as vets and groomers.

And if you’re feeling social, “nearby” will show other owners so you can chat with them and arrange for playdates. You can toggle privacy to only show your location to people you’re already friends with.

The Pet Widget comes in six designs, and the startup is working on producing more varieties in the new year.

Image: pet widget

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15 Of The Corniest Dad Jokes That Still Manage To Make You Laugh

Being funny isn’t always as easy as it looks, but dads seem to think that they’ve got it nailed down.

There’s no real explanation to the phenomenon of the “dad joke,” but it’s very real, and dads and grandpas everywhere are dishing out the cheesy, punny jokes whenever they get the chance.

The best part about these jokes is that they almost always get a laugh, because what else are you to do? If nothing else, you find yourself laughing at how silly these jokes are, rather than at the integrity of the punchlinesthemselves.

These 15 “dad jokes” shared by Reddit users are all so perfectly weird that they’re sure to get a giggle from you as soon as you read them.

Do you know anyone who’s an expert at delivering a “dad joke”? You don’t necessarily have to be a fatherto be a master of this silly form of humor!

Please SHARE with those who could use a laugh, or with the dads in your life who love to dish out this specific brand of fun.

[H/T: Reddit]

Thumbnail Source: Flickr

1. “I Couldn’t Get A Reservation At The Library…”


“They were fully booked.” klave7

2. “Well…”


“That’s a deep subject.” yougetahighfive

3. “You’re Gonna Go Study Abroad?”


“What’s her name?” cmath89

4. “Did You Hear The Story About The Cheese That Saved The World?”


“It was legend dairy.” Reddit User

5. “Did You Watch The New Comic Book Movie?”


“It was very graphic!” TheRtHonLaqueesha

6. “I Might Stop Using Straws…”


“This is the final straw.” FelixDeCat1969

7. “Why Did The Bike Refuse To Move?”


“It was two tired.” StumptheTrump1

8. “What Did The Traffic Light Say To The Crosswalk?”


“Don’t look now, I’m changing!” Carcharodon_literati

9. “How Do You Take Your Eggs?”


“Over here.” Reddit User

10. “I Started A New Business Making Yachts In My Attic This Year…”


“The sails are going through the roof.” akjohnston87

11. “I Got Hit In the Head By A Soda Can, But It Didn’t Hurt That Much…”


“It was a soft drink.” TurtleofAwesomeness

12. “I Can’t Tell If I Like This Blender…”


“It keeps giving me mixed results.” drawsprocket

13. “I Don’t Really Like To Handle Raw Fish…”


“I’m afraid I’ll get salmonella.” Brenzek

14. “I’ve Always Hated Elevators…”


“So I’ve been taking steps to avoid them.” TurtleofAwesomeness

15. “I Can’t Believe That Penguins Are Always Denied Bail…”


“They’re not even flight risks.” headexpl0dy

Does your dad or someone else you know make jokes like these? Please SHARE to see if they can top this list!

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Work-life balance: What does it mean for men? – BBC News

Every Christmas, Today on BBC Radio 4 invites people from different walks of life to “guest edit” the programme, choosing the topics and interviewees they want in it. Here Helena Morrissey, non-executive chair of Newton Investment Management and a campaigner for greater gender diversity in the boardroom, gives her take on a subject close to her heart.

At some point during almost every interview I have ever given, the question has come up about how (or whether) I achieve “work-life balance”.

To be honest, I don’t mind being asked, ever hopeful that my experiences as a mother of nine children with a pretty intensive City career might encourage other women to go for both – though I always mention that it’s not compulsory to have nine!

Career and motherhood should not, surely, be incompatible in the 21st Century.

It’s a big part of my own story that my husband Richard, a former financial journalist, volunteered to go freelance when we had our fourth child, so he could spend more time at home – and have a freer existence, which was important to him.

Image copyright Helena Morrissey
Image caption Career and motherhood should not be incompatible, says Helena Morrissey, though it’s not compulsory to have nine children!

As we had more children, the opportunity (the time) for him to take on paid work shrank. Richard became a full-time, stay-at-home dad. Along the way he became an ordained Buddhist priest and meditation teacher. Between us, we have balance.

All this happened quite some time ago. Our fourth child, Millie, is now 17, and over that time I have been able to build my career, secure in the belief that our children were benefiting from the situation. Richard is still one of very few fathers at the school gates or watching the girls’ netball matches and certainly the only dad who’s a “class rep”.

He says he enjoys his life and suggests that a natural extension of all the efforts to improve opportunities for women in the workplace should be to help men have more choices too.

But society – and the media – treats mothers and fathers quite differently on the subject of combining family and career. As part of my guest edit of the Today programme, we asked men, as well as women, how they managed to “do it all”. They were all “high-powered”, whether in business, politics or the arts.

The men looked surprised by the question and conceded they’d never been asked that in an interview before, although they all had children, in one case four, all aged under 11.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Lewis and his family in 2015 at the premiere of The Big Short, the film of his book

Their answers were wide ranging. My favourite response was from Michael Lewis, the best-selling author, who conceded that travel was the big demand away from home for him, but on this particular trip he had dealt with that by “bringing my wife and youngest child with me”.

John McFarlane, chairman of Barclays, has three daughters and spent a large proportion of his career in Australia and Hong Kong while they were growing up. John gave flawless advice that life comes first, that it’s important to know what’s important to you and to fit work into that.

Matt Brittin, president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Google and father of two sons, said balance was possible because he loved his job.

The one answer that no-one gave was “my wife, who stays at home, is the key to it all”. That would presumably seem old-fashioned, as though they were not playing their part – yet in effect it’s the answer I give, with the roles reversed.

Image caption “Know what’s important to you,” says Barclays chairman John McFarlane

When I cite Richard as the cornerstone of the Morrissey household, everyone seems delighted. He is praised (as he should be) as a thoroughly modern man. I should add that it’s not just the children that Richard supports – he is generous, and spot-on, with his advice to me after long hard days in the office.

Of course our roles are not as sharply delineated (albeit the opposite way around) as the traditional husband-and-wife set up – we are partners, in every sense. So while Richard does all the cooking, food shopping and the (many) school runs, I do a lot with the children too. I am the chief laundry lady, story-reader, times-table-tester, cake-maker, present-buyer, holiday and party organiser.

And Richard is widely read and highly knowledgeable – and opinionated – about current affairs and much of our family dinner conversation echoes this.

A classic comment from one of the smaller children this summer as we sat down to supper: “I just don’t want to hear those two letters E and U!”

Image copyright Helena Morrissey
Image caption The Morrisseys’ division of labour evolved when they had to manage two careers and a growing family

And this “arrangement” works really well, even though it evolved without either Richard or I thinking it all through – we just knew we were struggling with two careers and a growing family.

I am guessing that for many of the men we interviewed for the programme, their wives have a less intensive career than they do and take the “lead parent” role, but the whole business of working and bringing up a family is shared. Those men probably wanted to say, “it’s all made possible by my wonderful wife,” but felt they couldn’t.

This surely isn’t real progress.

Our aspiration has to be a society where we’re all just treated as people, where we can focus together on how to lead great lives, bring up families, develop interests and careers. Where men and women can take a different path to traditional roles – or not – and where they can praise and thank their partners without fear of criticism or challenge. Where we live and work and love as partners for the benefit of our families, society, each other – and ourselves.

Helena Morrissey guest edits the Today programme on Wednesday, 28 December.

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