Facebook takes down Trump ads over ‘organized hate’ policy

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Thursday it took down posts and ads run by the re-election campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump for violating its policy against organized hate. The ads showed a red inverted triangle with text asking Facebook users to sign a petition against antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist movement. In a tweet on Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said of the symbol: “The Nazis used red triangles to identify their political victims in concentration camps. Using it to attack political opponents is highly offensive.” The Facebook ads were run on pages belonging to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and also appeared in ads and organic posts on the “Team Trump” page. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” said a Facebook company spokesperson. “The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa, so it was included in an ad about Antifa,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said in an email. “We would note that Facebook still has an inverted red triangle emoji in use, which looks exactly the same, so it’s curious that they would target only this ad. The image is also not included in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of symbols of hate.” A spokesman for the ADL said its database was not one of historical Nazi symbols but of those “commonly used by modern extremists and white supremacists in the United States.” He also said that there have been some antifa who have used the red triangle, but that it was not a particularly common symbol used by the group.

Explainer: London faces up to former role insuring Atlantic slave trade

LONDON (Reuters) – London is facing up to its role in insuring the slave trade as part of a sweeping global reassessment of history and racism. This reappraisal was triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him. For centuries, London has maintained a pre-eminent role in financing global trade and on Thursday the Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologised for its “shameful” role in the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic slave trade. About 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalised trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions By the late 18th Century, Britain was the leading slaver nation, carrying about 40% of Africans transported between 1761 and the abolition of the trade in 1807. Other major traders were Portugal/Brazil, with about 32% of the market, and France, with about 17%. American and Dutch ships were also involved, with around 6% and 3% respectively. How important was slavery to British maritime insurance? There is a lack of documentary evidence from the time, but historians have estimated that the slave and West India trades combined accounted for 41% of British marine insurance in the 1790s. here “Between a third and 40 percent of London marine insurance in the 18th Century was accounted for by the slave trade and by the movement of slave grown produce across the Atlantic,” said Nick Draper, former director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership. “Those ships bringing sugar to Britain had a valuable cargo and the ships themselves were valuable and often coming through enemy waters because Britain was at war for long periods.” Who were the big players? There were three main marine insurers in the 18th Century: London Assurance, Royal Exchange and Lloyds of London. “Lloyd’s had the dominant insurance business – probably had 80-90 percent of the market,” said Draper. “By 1807 when the slave-trade was abolished it was relatively unimportant to marine insurance and by the 1830s when slavery was abolished the sugar economy in turn had become less important. We were shipping then huge amounts of raw slave-grown cotton, for example, back to the UK from the American south.” How did it work? Slaves were seen as cargo by the insurance market of the time and generally included in the general insurance rate. Often slaves were termed as a “parcel” whose value was determined by ethnicity, size, height, age, gender and health. Slaves were also classified by underwriters as “perishable goods”, alongside cattle. Underwriters and courts dealt with slave losses arising from revolt as the equivalent of damage and losses caused by livestock panicking during a tempest. “Most insurance policies for the slave trade excluded the death of enslaved people from disease or insurrection – they were insuring the ship against the perils of the sea,” said Draper. “But they were not insuring so that people were disembarked at the other end in a healthy condition.”

Pelosi says Trump ‘ethically unfit’ for presidency, will continue oversight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday revelations in a book by a former top White House aide show President Donald Trump is unfit and unprepared to be president and Democrats will continue oversight of the Republican president’s behavior. “President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the president of the United States. That doesn’t seem to matter to the republicans in the United States Senate,” Pelosi said at a news briefing. She said she is consulting with leading Democrats on whether to subpoena John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who wrote the book.

U.S. retail foot traffic rebounds, more staff at work, as lockdowns ease

(Reuters) – Retail foot traffic recovered to approach pre-lockdown levels last week and businesses appeared to bring more employees back to the job, according to data from firms that collect cellphone location information and manage employee time for companies. Broader macroeconomic measures pointed to some improvement as well, with a Goldman Sachs’ tracker of industrial activity moving higher and the Atlanta Fed’s running estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product also increasing from a deep low. (GRAPHIC – The U.S. reopening – inline: here) Cellphone data from Unacast showed foot traffic at retail locations as of last Saturday was just 10% below the level of a year earlier. Similar foot traffic estimates from Safegraph were over 90% of what they were on March 1, before a national state of emergency was declared and widespread lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Data from time management firms Homebase and Kronos both pointed to more employees at work last week from a week earlier. That’s consistent with a steady decline in weekly new unemployment claims, which fell to 1.5 million this week versus 1.56 the week before. Still, the decline in new filings – 58,000 – was the smallest since early April and far fewer than the 242,000 forecast of economists in a Reuters poll. Moreover, some 20.5 million continued to file weekly unemployment claims, a sign of slow progress in the recovery ofthe U.S. labor market. Measures meant to capture a more general picture of the U.S. economy also point to a patchy recovery. A Goldman Sachs’ tracker of industrial activity rose, and is now just 12% below the year-ago level, compared to 20% as of mid-April. By contrast a Goldman measure of consumer activities, weighted towards things like hotel stays and movie ticket sales that may be among the last to recover, remained stalled at -70%. Unacast here Homebase here Safegraph http://www.safegraph.com/dashboard, Kronos here NYFed here ATLFed here (GRAPHIC – Hitting bottom: here)

Lloyd’s of London to pay for ‘shameful’ Atlantic slave trade role

LONDON (Reuters) – The Lloyd’s of London insurance market has apologised for its “shameful” role in the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic slave trade and pledged to fund opportunities for black and ethnic minority groups. About 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalised trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions. “We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th Century slave trade – an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own,” Lloyd’s said in a statement on Thursday. “Recent events have shone a spotlight on the inequality that black people have experienced over many years as a result of systematic and structural racism that has existed in many aspects of society and unleashed difficult conversations that were long overdue,” it added. The world’s leading commercial insurance market, Lloyd’s – which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688 – is where complex insurance contracts ranging from catastrophe to events cancellation are agreed and underwritten. Lloyd’s grew to dominate the shipping insurance market, a key element of Europe’s global scramble for empire, treasure and slaves, who were usually in the 18th Century included in insurance policies in the general rate for ship cargo. Weapons and gunpowder from Europe were swapped for African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas. Those who survived endured a life of subjugation on plantations, while the ships returned to Europe laden with sugar, cotton and tobacco. Although Britain abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, full abolition did not follow for another generation. Lloyd’s said it would invest in programmes to attract black and minority ethnic talent, review its artefacts to ensure they were not racist and support charities and organisations promoting opportunity for black and minority ethnic people. ‘INEXCUSABLE’ A sweeping global reassessment of history and racism has been triggered by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him. An Oxford University college said on Wednesday it wanted to remove a statue of 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes that has been a target of anti-racism protests. And Greene King, which describes itself as Britain’s leading pub owner and brewer, apologised for the profit one of its original founders made from the slave trade. “It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s,” Green King’s chief executive Nick Mackenzie said. Green King would make investments to help the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and to support race diversity in its business, Mackenzie added. The history of several other British financial firms, including Barclays (BARC.L) is also under fresh scrutiny. The bank was named after David Barclay, a Quaker who campaigned actively against slavery in the late 18th century, but it later acquired institutions with links to the slave trade, including Colonial Bank in 1918 and Martins Bank in 1969. “We can’t change what’s gone before us, only how we go forward,” a Barclays spokesman said. “We are committed as a bank to do more to further foster our culture of inclusiveness, equality and diversity, for our colleagues, and the customers and clients we serve.” The City of London Corporation has launched the Tackling Racism Working Party, which it said will look to promote economic, educational and social inclusion in the City of London and assess the future of statues and monuments.

Germany wants to rescue talks with U.S. on digital services tax

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany wants to rescue talks with the United States on how to tax big digital firms such as Google (GOOG.O), Amazon (AMZN.O) and Facebook (FB.O), the finance ministry said on Thursday after Washington pulled out of the negotiations. “We continue to work hard for a solution that adequately addresses the tax challenges of digitalisation and leads to fair taxation,” the finance ministry said in a statement. “As in every negotiation process, there are points to be clarified together. That’s exactly what we’re working on. To this end, we continue to coordinate closely with our international partners,” the finance ministry added. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had decided to pull out of the negotiations with European Union officials after they failed to make any progress. France has called the U.S. decision a “provocation” and the European Union said it could impose taxes even if no deal was reached by year-end.

Shunning international tax talks could trigger trade war: OECD

PARIS (Reuters) – Failure to work towards an international deal on taxing big digital companies could trigger a dangerous trade war, the OECD said on Thursday, urging countries to remain engaged in talks after Washington announced it was pulling out of them for now. “Absent a multilateral solution, more countries will take unilateral measures and those that have them already may no longer continue to hold them back,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in a statement. “This, in turn, would trigger tax disputes and, inevitably, heightened trade tensions. A trade war, especially at this point in time, where the world economy is going through a historical downturn, would hurt the economy, jobs and confidence even further,” he added.

Italy wants a global agreement on digital tax by end of 2020: Economy Minister

ROME (Reuters) – Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Thursday Italy was still committed to a shared global deal on a tax on digital services, after the United States decided to quit global talks on how to tax sector giants. “Despite the COVID-19 emergency, we are determined to find a solution by 2020 working with France, Spain and the UK, as decided by the G20,” Gualtieri wrote on Twitter. On Wednesday, Washington said it was withdrawing from negotiations with European countries over new international tax rules on digital firms, saying talks had made no progress. EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni made it clear on Thursday the bloc was ready to take independent action on the issue, which involves tech giants including Google (GOOGL.O), Amazon (AMZN.O) and Facebook (FB.O).

Europe threatens digital taxes without global deal, after U.S. quits talks

PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France said a U.S. decision to quit global talks on how to tax big digital firms such as Google, Amazon and Facebook was a “provocation” and the European Union said it could impose taxes even if no deal was reached by year-end. The latest transatlantic trade row was ignited after the Washington said on Wednesday it was withdrawing from negotiations with European countries over new international tax rules on digital firms, saying talks had made no progress. Nearly 140 countries are involved in the talks organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the first major rewrite of global tax rules in a generation to bring them up to date for the digital era. The talks aim to reach a deal by the end of 2020, but that deadline is now slipping out of reach with Washington’s latest move and the U.S. presidential election in November. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France, Britain, Italy and Spain had jointly responded on Thursday to a letter from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announcing the pullout. “This letter is a provocation. It’s a provocation towards all the partners at the OECD when we were centimetres away from a deal on the taxation of digital giants,” Le Maire said on France Inter radio. A Spanish government spokeswoman said Madrid and other European countries would not accept “any type of threat from another country” over the digital tax dispute. European countries says tech firms pay too little tax in countries where they do business because they can shift profits around the globe with little physical infrastructure. Washington has resisted any new unilateral taxes on Silicon Valley companies in the absence of an OECD deal. CHAMPAGNE AND HANDBAGS “The European Commission wants a global solution to bring corporate taxation into the 21st century,” European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said. “But if that proves impossible this year, we have been clear that we will come forward with a new proposal at EU level,” he said, saying taxes could be introduced even without a global deal. France, one of several European countries which has enacted new taxes to collect more revenue from digital companies, had agreed to suspend collection of its levy while talks were under way on a global approach. Le Maire said France would impose its digital services tax this year, whether or not Washington returned to negotiations. “No one can accept that the digital giants can make profits from their 450 million European clients and not pay taxes where they are,” he said. The French tax applies a 3% levy on revenue from digital services earned in France by companies with revenues of more than 25 million euros ($28 million) in France and 750 million euros worldwide. Washington has threatened to impose trade tariffs on French Champagne, handbags and other goods in response. The United States opened trade investigations this month into digital taxes in Britain, Italy, Spain and other countries over concerns that they unfairly target U.S. companies. Related CoverageEU ready to go it alone on taxation of digital firmsSpain will not accept threats over digital tax – govt spokeswomanPresident Donald Trump threatened this month to impose tariffs on EU cars if the bloc did not drop its tariff on American lobsters. Efforts to reach even a limited U.S.-EU trade deal have foundered and sources on both sides see little chance of progress with a U.S. presidential election barely four months away. A finance ministry spokesperson in Britain, which is seeking trade deals with Brussels and Washington after it left the EU, said that London’s “preference is for a global solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation, and we’ll continue to work with our international partners to achieve that objective.”

Arrest of former Japanese minister could hasten PM Abe’s departure

TOKYO (Reuters) – The arrest of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s former justice minister could be a devastating blow for the Japanese leader whose support is near record lows, raising the possibility of his departure before the end of his term next year. Some in Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are speaking of an early exit and rivals have stepped up manoeuvring to succeed him, party sources said. While Abe has rebounded from low ratings before, Japan’s longest-ruling prime minister now appears to be losing more internal support. Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Abe, and Kawai’s wife, Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in a 2019 upper-house election. Tokyo prosecutors said in a statement that the couple paid 1.7 million yen ($15,904) to five people to get her elected. Separately, Katsuyuki Kawai gave a total of about 24 million yen to about 90 people. At the time, Anri Kawai’s campaign received 150 million yen ($1.4 million) in funds from LDP headquarters. The size of the contribution, although not illegal, raised questions about whether Abe approved it. Abe has declined to comment on the Kawais, but has said lawmakers had the responsibility to explain their actions. “Abe cannot last,” said an LDP lawmaker who, like other politicians interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity. “He probably cannot last until the year-end.” The scandal has further eroded the support of voters already frustrated by Abe’s handling of coronavirus stimulus, which has been seen as slow, and out-of-touch. He has also been hit by a backlash over his attempt to raise the retirement age of prosecutors, which was seen as undermining judicial independence. “Huge amounts of money circulated in the dark,” Noriko Saito, a 65-year-old Tokyo housewife, said about the latest scandal. “Mr Abe has a heavy responsibility.” Abe returned to the prime minister’s office in December 2012. His third term as LDP leader, and hence premier, ends in September 2021. ‘NUMBER ON HIS BACK’ Ousting a prime minister is tough and Abe, who quit in 2007 after a troubled first term, may want to avoid a similarly hasty exit this time. But jockeying by potential successors is heating up. “Abe has a number on his back and that number is September 2021,” said Jesper Koll, senior adviser at fund manager WisdomTree Investments. “Challengers within the LDP are on the on-ramp and ready to take off.” Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe loyalist plagued by weak public support, set up an intra-party group to create a “vision for a post-coronavirus world” this month, in an apparent effort to raise his profile. A former defence minister, Shigeru Ishiba, an Abe critic who polls well with voters but has weak support among LDP parliamentarians, has been cultivating ties with powerful LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai. There is also speculation that Defence Minister Taro Kono is angling for the top job. Even if Abe serves out his term, chances of a substantial rebound that would restore his control over the party appear slim, especially with the economy headed for its worst slump since World War Two. “Abe’s handling of the coronavirus might be not that bad but he has too many other problems,” said an LDP veteran lawmaker. “Besides, he’s been in power so long that people are fed up.” Japan has not suffered an explosive coronavirus surge but critics have pointed to a slow early response and delays in much-needed support payments. WILD CARD Abe had hoped for a far different year in 2020 – presiding over the Tokyo Olympics, leading his party to an election victory and perhaps even winning a rare fourth term as LDP leader. That scenario began to unravel in March when the coronavirus forced the postponement of the Games. His voter ratings fell below 30% in two opinion polls last month – often seen as a danger sign. A June 5-7 survey by the Nikkei business daily showed an 11 point drop to 38%. He has one wild card: he could call a snap general election to renew his mandate. Party insiders said that was unlikely but could not be ruled out. He has already led his party to victory in five elections. “The Abe government won’t last unless he threatens LDP politicians with a snap election,” said a senior LDP official. Abe’s other strength lies in his rivals’ weakness. “I’d like to see a change of administration,” said Chisato Tanaka, a 26-year-old translator. “But there’s no one in particular I’d like to see become premier.”