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North American Edition
28th July 2021
Black women’s group sues Johnson & Johnson over talc baby powder
A lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson marketed talcum-based baby powder to Black women amid concerns over the product and ovarian cancer risks was filed on Tuesday on behalf of the National Council of Negro Women. The group accused the company of “knowingly deceptive marketing to Black women” for decades — with free samples at beauty salons, radio campaigns and other efforts — despite internal concerns that the product might be harmful. The lawsuit laid out several examples of Johnson & Johnson’s targeted advertising, including a 1992 internal memo that noted the “high usage” of baby powder among Black women, the “opportunities to grow the franchise” among the demographic and “negative publicity from the health community on talc.” In a statement, Johnson & Johnson reiterated that its products were safe, did not contain asbestos and did not cause cancer. “The accusations being made against our company are false, and the idea that we would purposefully and systematically target a community with bad intentions is unreasonable and absurd,” the company said.
A 'real shooting war' could be the result of cyber-attacks, Biden says
President Joe Biden has said that a significant cyber-attack on the U.S. could precipitate a “real shooting war” with a “major power,” highlighting what Washington sees as growing threats posed by Russia and China. “I think it’s more than likely we’re going to end up, if we end up in a war - a real shooting war with a major power - it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence and it’s increasing exponentially, the capabilities,” Biden said during a half-hour speech while visiting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). His comments came in the wake of a string of high-profile attacks on organizations including network management company SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline company, meat processing company JBS and software firm Kaseya. Reuters notes that the attacks affected the U.S. far beyond their immediate targets, hitting fuel and food supplies in parts of the country.
Apple delivers record profits
Apple has reported that revenues increased 36% to $81.4bn, a best-ever for its fiscal third quarter, and higher than the $73bn consensus forecast. Meanwhile, net income nearly doubled to $21.7bn in the three months to the end of June, with sales of its iPhone 12 handsets increasing 50% to $39.6bn, some $5bn ahead of expectations. Sales in China also grew by 60% as consumers snapped up accessories such as the Apple Watch and earbuds to pair with their iPhones. “This quarter saw a growing sense of optimism from consumers in the United States and around the world, driving renewed hope for a better future and for all that innovation can make possible,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said. “But as the last 18 months have demonstrated many times before, progress made is not progress guaranteed.” As well as citing the risks posed by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, he warned silicon “supply constraints” will affect sales of the iPhone as well as the iPad. “The majority of constraints we’re seeing are of the variety that I think others are seeing, that I would classify as industry shortage [...] We do have some shortages in addition to that, that are where the demand has been so great and so beyond our own expectation that it’s difficult to get the entire set of parts within the lead times that we try to get those."
Credit Suisse appoints chief risk officer
Credit Suisse has appointed Goldman Sachs banker David Wildermuth as the lender's new chief risk officer. He will replace Lara Warner, who left in April. Credit Suisse has been tightening up on risk management in the wake of scandals linked to finance firm Greensill Capital and family office Archegos Capital. Joachim Oechslin, Credit Suisse’s chief risk officer until 2019, took over responsibility for risk management when Ms Warner left. He will return to his role as strategic adviser to chief executive Thomas Gottstein when Mr Wildermuth steps in as risk chief.
Accounting update aims to align risk management with hedging
The FASB's proposed update to its hedge accounting standard aims to help companies with their risk management. The organization issued the proposed accounting standards update in May to align a company’s hedge accounting more closely with its risk management strategies. They build on the hedging standard that FASB issued in 2017, increasing transparency around how the results of hedging activities are presented, on the face of the financial statements as well as in the footnotes, for investors and analysts when hedge accounting is applied. “I think some may use it, but I don’t think organizations will use it as widely as the FASB intended,” said Tim Kviz, national assurance managing partner in the SEC services practice at BDO USA. “You’re not going to see a lot of people scrambling to try to use this strategy. It’s a pretty sophisticated strategy, and it requires a pretty sophisticated hedging desk.”
Biden weighs a vaccine mandate for federal workers
The Biden administration plans to require all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to help arrest the spread of the delta variant, or else be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel. "More vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas most impacted by the delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020," Mr Biden said. Officials said there was no likelihood of simply firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated, but that the government could add additional protocols on those who do not get the protections in a bid to convince more people to get the shot in the first place. They said there is evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase vaccination rates, the New York Times reported.
CDC urges vaccinated people to continue wearing masks indoors
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the highly transmissible Delta variant, recommended Tuesday that vaccinated people resume masking indoors in certain parts of the country and that K-12 schools adopt universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The move marks a change from CDC guidance in May that said vaccinated people no longer needed to mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, and came on the same day that the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3m food and retail workers, called for a national mask mandate. The union added that "every retail CEO in the country must recognize that now is the time for all of us to mask up so we can keep our economy open and communities safe". Major retailers have not yet announced updated policies but that could quickly change, GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders commented. “The main issue with this will be one of compliance", he said. “There was already strong resistance to masks the first time around and this will likely be stronger as re-masking will be seen as a retrograde step".
Vaccine holdouts will be offered six months’ paid leave
A handful of employees at the Italian luxury fashion label Cucinelli who have refused to take a Covid vaccination are being offered six months’ paid leave so as to protect those workers who have taken their shots. Bruno Cucinelli said that less than 1% of his group's 1,200 workers had opted out of a company vaccination campaign organised a month ago. "Clearly within the company their identity became known straight away. Now, as it's only logic, the lads who used to work at the same table don't want to be near those who have chosen not to get vaccinated," Cucinelli said. "My proposal for them is to stay home with six months paid leave and then we'll see," he said. "I can't impose the vaccine, but I can't put at risk those who decided to get vaccinated either." Reuters notes that Cucinelli promotes what he describes as a "humanistic" approach to capitalism, based on respect for people and nature.
Amazon workers must be paid for security checks, court says
Amazon should have reimbursed warehouse workers for time spent in security checks after shifts, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court, in finding that state wage law is broader than the federal statute that does not require such pay, dismissed claims by the retailer and its lawyers that because time spent in such screenings did not amount to labor or toil, it should not be considered part of an employee’s “workweek” that is compensable under state law.
Pre-existing gaps in access to food made worse by pandemic
New research has concluded that changes in Americans' grocery shopping habits during the pandemic made pre-existing gaps in access to food even worse. The study found that while many wealthier people switched to online ordering and did more stocking up, most low-income people still had to shop in-person at local small grocers and dollar stores and do so regularly because they couldn't afford to stock up on groceries. "Most low-income people still had to shop for groceries in person during the COVID lockdowns and may not have had the economic ability to stock up on food," said lead study author Armita Kar, a doctoral student in geography at Ohio State University. "They took fewer trips to mid- and high-end grocery stores outside their neighborhood and continued to go regularly to the stores that were nearest to them, which were the dollar stores and local grocers," Kar said. According to study co-author Huyen Le, an assistant professor of geography at Ohio State, the problems faced by poor people during pandemic lockdowns aren't new. "COVID-19 exacerbated the existing problems of unequal access to food for low-income people," Le said. The findings highlight the need to provide better food shopping options for low-income people who live in so-called food deserts, according to Le.
Global minimum corporate tax creates new uncertainties for Southeast Asian nations
The global minimum corporate tax recently agreed upon by G20 finance ministers is set to re-chart international investment flows and precipitate new uncertainties for nations in the fast-developing Southeast Asian region that are keen to attract foreign capital and financial expertise, reports the South China Morning Post. Final agreement on the 15% minimum tax proposal is not expected until October and it could be years before it takes effect - but pandemic-hit Southeast Asian nations may be forced to rely more on their domestic consumer markets and their supply of cheap labour for future economic growth, according to analysts. Singapore, for example, may lose some of the tax advantages that helped its economy prosper in recent years. Some anlaysts say the G20 plan leaves Asean nations  ‘exposed’ and may encourage certain countries to forge closer economic ties with China to consolidate their positions in the global economic landscape.
Nigerian court convicts men under new anti-piracy law
A Nigerian court has convicted 10 men of piracy under a new law to fight maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. A federal judge in Lagos handed down 12-year prison sentences to the men, said Labaran Magaji, the prosecuting lawyer. The Nigerian navy captured the men in May 2020 after they boarded a Chinese fishing vessel off the Ivory Coast and kidnapped the crew. The penalties are “a major victory for Nigeria’s new anti-piracy law,” Commodore Suleman Dahun, a naval spokesman, said. They will send a “strong warning” that Nigeria “has zero tolerance for maritime criminals,” his statement said.

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