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By Tom Espiner

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Hackers 'could target electricity grid' via solar panel tech

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Hackers could target electricity grids through security flaws in solar panel equipment, a Dutch researcher has said.

Willem Westerhof found 17 vulnerabilities in inverters, which convert electricity produced by the panels so it can be used on the grid.

He said internet-connected inverters could be targeted by hackers.

One manufacturer said that only "a small fraction" of its devices were affected.

Read more here.

Google fires diversity memo author

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A Google employee who wrote a controversial memo about workplace diversity has been fired, the BBC can confirm.

The controversial memo broke the firm’s code of conduct, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai said on Monday in an email to employees.

The memo, shared widely at the weekend, suggested there were fewer women at Google due to biological differences.

Mr Pichai said the text crossed the line due to it "advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.

Read more here.

US military to shoot down consumer drones

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The Pentagon has given US military bases permission to shoot down or otherwise destroy consumer drones flying overhead and nearby.

A spokesman revealed that guidance was issued on 4 August.

He said the exact terms of the policy were classified.

The move comes days after the US Army ordered its own troops to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI because of alleged "cyber-vulnerabilities".

Read more here.

EU cost: Why £350m and £156m per week are both wrong

i Newspaper

The claim: The UK sends £156m a week to Brussels.

Reality Check verdict: The UK actually sent £252m a week to the EU in 2016 after the rebate had been deducted, some of which was spent on projects in the UK.

Read more here.

Belgian authorities accused of sitting on contaminated egg info

Adam Fleming

Belgian ministers are to appear in front of a committee in the country's parliament to explain their role in a scare involving contaminated eggs.

Regulators will also be questioned at the special session, after Belgium was accused of being too slow to reveal that traces of a banned pesticide had been found in eggs which then ended up in several other European countries.

The Belgian authorities have been accused of sitting on information that eggs had been contaminated with the pesticide Fipronil.

It led to farms being closed, and millions of eggs being removed from the shelves in the Netherlands and Germany.

A very small number reached the UK.

Sainsbury's gives 135,000 staff a 4.4% pay rise

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Around 135,000 workers at supermarket giant Sainsbury's are to receive a 4.4% pay rise, taking their basic wage rate to £8 an hour.

Workers have also shared a bonus of around £78m this year.

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's, said: "This is the third successive year that we have awarded eligible store colleagues a pay rise of 4% or more and recognises their hard work and dedication.

"We know what a difference this makes to our customers and we're committed to rewarding them well for the great service they provide."

GM tests self-driving ride-sharing app

Chevy Bolt
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The self-driving arm of General Motors, Cruise, has launched a private app for some employees to request free ride-sharing to anywhere in San Francisco, CNN Tech reports.

The firm's test fleet of electric Chevy Bolts, which run for 16 hours per day, is open to around 20 employees, CNN says.

Rand drops after Zuma vote outcome

The rand fell by 1% after the announcement that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma had survived a vote of no-confidence.

There were 177 votes for the motion and 198 votes against. Nine MPs abstained.

BreakingZuma survives no-confidence vote

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has survived a no-confidence vote, Reuters reports.

Mr Zuma has already survived seven no-confidence votes, called for amid repeated allegations of corruption.

Reuters: Uber considering sale of US car-leasing business

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Ride-hailing company Uber is looking into selling its US car-leasing business, including a sale of the unit, Reuters reports.

The Xchange Leasing business has about 40,000 vehicles and 14 showrooms in the US.

FT: Guy Hands 'seeks $3.4bn for buyout fund'

UK private equity investor Guy Hands is to raise his first buyout fund since 2007, the Financial Times reports. His firm Terra Firma is looking for $3.4bn.

Mr Hands, a private equity "big beast", almost went bust after Terra Firma bought EMI in 2007, just before the financial crisis, the article says.

Companies 'struggling to cope' with costs of meeting National Living Wage

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Shop worker

Two in five companies in the UK have put their prices up, and a fifth have reduced staff hours or hired fewer workers, in order to cope with the costs of paying the National Living Wage, according to new research.

The Federation of Small Businesses says not only are firms having to pay their staff more, but some employers face a bigger wage bill because of the knock on effect of having to pay other staff more in comparison.

But some campaigners say that does not go far enough, and are pushing for companies to pay the higher, so-called Real Living Wage (not the obligatory minimum wage).

Government seeks Ofcom advice on Fox Sky bid

Sky logo

The government is seeking further advice from Ofcom on Rupert Murdoch's £11.7bn bid for Sky after receiving "new evidence and comments".

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has written to the communications regulator asking for extra input before Culture Secretary Karen Bradley decides whether the proposed Fox and Sky tie-up should face an in-depth investigation.

Ms Bradley said last month that she was "still minded" to refer the takeover to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) following a report by Ofcom flagging "public interest concerns" surrounding media plurality.

The deal would let Rupert Murdoch control both 21st Century Fox and Sky while also owning The Times, the Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers.

FTSE closes short of record high

The FTSE 100 index if leading shares has closed short of its all time high level.

The index closed at 7,542.73, just under its record closing high of 7,547.63, which was reached on both 26 May and 2 June 2017.

Pimlico Plumbers to appeal self-employment ruling

Gary Smith
XP Plumbing and heating

Pimlico Plumbers says it's been granted permission to appeal a Court of Appeal decision that one of its pumbers, Gary Smith (pictured), was entitled to basic workers' rights, although he was technically self-employed.

Pimlico Plumbers chief executive Charlie Mullins said: “It’s wonderful that we have been granted permission to appeal our long-running and potentially ground breaking employment case to the Supreme Court.

"I have always maintained that Mr Smith was a self-employed contractor, and to my mind the evidence overwhelmingly supports our position."

Sterling hits 10-month low against euro

Sterling hit a 10-month low against the euro after consumer spending fell for a third month in a row in July.

"There is very little reason to be bullish about the British economy now and it is relatively cleaner to execute a short sterling trade against the euro against whom its economic fortunes have diverged completely," Jordan Rochester, an FX strategist at Nomura in London, said.

Sterling fell to 90.87 pence against the euro, its lowest since October 2016, before recovering partially.

Would you get on a pilotless plane?


How comfortable would you feel getting on a pilotless plane?

That is the question millions of people may have to ask themselves in the future if they want to jet off on holiday around the world.

As we move closer to a world of driverless cars, which have already been on the road in some US cities and have also been tested in London, remotely controlled planes may be the next automated mode of transport.

Plane manufacturer Boeing plans to test them in 2018.

Read more here.

War Loan in 1914 a 'spectacular failure'

Wild poppies grow on the verge of a Flanders field
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Bank of England employees have uncovered the extraordinary story behind the government's issuing of a War Bond in 1914.

According to them it was a "spectacular failure", with the Bank having to plug a huge shortfall after less than half the bonds meant to the public were sold to them.

VW discounts in the UK?

BBC reporter Theo Leggett quizzed VW about its generous discounts for people in Germany wanting to trade-in older diesels. Would the discounts be offered in the UK?

"The answer appears to be 'not yet'," he says.

VW to offer 10,000 euro trade-ins for diesels

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Volkswagen is to offer hefty amounts of cash to German buyers trading in older diesel cars, the giant car-maker has said.

Customers can get up to 10,000 euros (£9,000) for trade-ins. Buyers will also be offered up to 2,380 euros for electric, hybrid and natural gas-powered cars.

Wales' 'largest office deal' agreed

Artist's impression of new building in Cardiff's Central Square

About 4,000 public servants will move to a new hub at Cardiff's Central Square, it has been announced.

The UK government has taken a 25-year lease on 265,976 sq ft (24,710 sq m) of space from 2020 - with developers claiming it is the largest office deal ever signed in Wales.

Work on the former Cardiff bus station site began in 2014, with BBC Wales set to move there from 2019.

HM Revenue and Customs will move there from its current base in Llanishen.

As well as the hub becoming one of 13 regional tax office centres in the UK, other government departments such as the Office for the Secretary of State for Wales will move there.

UK property developer buys back some freeholds amid leasehold scandal

BBC Radio 5 live

House being built
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Could this be good news for leaseholders?

Leaseholds on properties has been a hot topic recently, with many homeowners complaining of being trapped in unfair agreements.

Now, Countryside Properties, which sold some of the freeholds on its houses to the ground rent company E&J Estates, has bought some of them back. Countryside has said it will release owners of those homes from the ground rent agreements.

Meanwhile, E&J Estates has said it is reviewing all of its leaseholds and is seeking to change them, adding that many of the agreements were "drawn up by developers".

The government announced in July that it wants to ban the sale of "unfair" and "unnecessary" new leasehold houses.

In April, the housebuilder Taylor Wimpey apologised over sharply rising leasehold fees and set aside £130m to deal with the problem.

No 15% US corporation tax

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Donald Trump is trying to push through a 15% rate of corporation tax in the US. Trump reckons slashing the tax rate from 35% will drive US economic growth and competitiveness.

But his plans are likely to be thwarted, according to a survey of 3,100 US tax, finance and business professionals.

In the Deloitte Tax research published today, 40% of those asked think the rate will end up at 25% because of the political and budgetary challenges facing tax reform.

KCOM fined over emergency calls failure

Members of the Army and rescue workers had to evacuate people from flooded streets in York city centre in December 2015
Members of the Army and rescue workers had to evacuate people from flooded streets in York city centre in December 2015

East Yorkshire based telecoms provider KCOM has been fined £900,000 for failings in emergency call provision during 2015 floods.

An investigation by regulator Ofcom found that the company broke an important rule, designed to ensure everyone can contact the emergency services at all times.

In the wake of Storm Eva, a telephone exchange in York, which was taking calls from customers in Hull, was flooded.

This resulted in 34 different numbers failing to connect to the emergency services over a four-hour period.

According to regulations, telephone companies should ensure that emergency calls can be connected at all times, even in challenging circumstances.

Favourite cuppa under threat

Pound slips again

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The pound has slipped to a new 10-month low against the euro.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell reported: "The pound dipped another 0.1% to sink to a fresh 10 month nadir."

It's been slipping since the Bank of England made clear it will keep interest rates at record lows for some months more, while the European Central Bankmoves toweards tightening.

The pound remained flat against the dollar but has "failed to recover the losses it suffered in the aftermath of the Bank of England/non-farm jobs report double whammy at the end of last week," Mr Campbell said.

Government increases its Cardiff "footprint"

Pilotless planes? No fear!

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The number of overseas holidaymakers could slump if they had to board pilotless planes, warns financial services firm UBS.

Its research showed that more than half the 8,000 people asked would be unlikely to take a pilotless flight, with only 17% saying they would board .

Boeing plans to test pilotless planes in 2018 and UBS says airlines could save more than $26bn (£20bn) in costs.

UBS added that plane travel would be safer, but safety experts disagreed.

Read our full report here

2,000 more McDonald's stores in China

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McDonald's plans to almost double its number of Chinese restaurants over the next half-decade.

The burger chain is concentrating on international markets to cope with slowing US sales. It plans an extra 2,000 branches in China to add to its current 2,500, it said in a statement.

"China will soon become our largest market outside of the United States," McDonald's president Steve Easterbrook said .

The expansion will involve a strategic partnership with Chinese conglomerate CITIC and US-based investment firm Carlyle Group.

How much does the UK send to the EU each week?

Golden age of retirement is over

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“Pensioners in the UK have never been better off financially than they are today," reckons Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon.

He was responding to the ONS figures published today which showed there's been a pensions jackpot for baby boomers.

"In the last 40 years, the average pensioner has catapulted out of the lowest income bands, and has even begun to close the gap on average incomes received by the working population," Mr Cameron pointed out.

But he warned that the golden age of retirement won't last for much longer.

"For younger generations the message is clear - get into the savings habit as early as possible in your career,” He warned.

Pension jackpot for baby boomers

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Older people's income has received a massive boost from private and workplace pensions in the last 40 years, according to official statistics .

In 1977, only 45% of retired households received income from a private pension, compared with 80% last year, the Office for National Statistics said.

As a result, the income gap between those only getting the state pension and others had grown.

Overall, incomes have grown faster for older people than for the young.

Read the full story

Female software engineers missing

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There's a lack of women in software engineering, according to a report in today's Times.

The paper says Britain must urgently redouble its efforts to encourage more girls to study computer science.

It urges companies, such as Google, to signal clearly to women, schoolgirls and students alike, that they will be given the opportunity to make the most of their talents.

Otherwise, The Times warns, bright young women will seek to make their careers elsewhere.

Private street? Not any longer for SF residents

Emergency breakdown lands KCOM with £900,000 fine

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Phone and broadband network operator KCOM has been fined £900,000 after flooding in the wake of Storm Eva led to the failure of 74 emergency calls.

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom said its investigators found a "serious weakness" in the company's emergency call service after a telephone exchange in York flooded in December 2015. It meant calls to the emergency service weren't getting through.

KCOM operates the main telephone and broadband network in Kingston upon Hull. It broke Ofcom rules by not being able to automatically divert emergency calls via back-up routes.

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom's enforcement and investigations director, said: "Any failure to connect 999 calls is extremely serious. Today's fine serves as a clear warning to the telecoms industry that it must prioritise access to the emergency services, no matter what the circumstances."

The £900,000 fine, which will go to HM Treasury, reflected the seriousness of this breach and its impact on public health and safety.

Elephant in room for Pets at Home

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Pets at Home has been the biggest winner on the stock market so far today.

The FTSE 250 member saw a 8% uplift in its share price after it reported that revenues climbed 5% to £256.5million in the first quarter.

However, all may not be rosy, warned George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"The elephant in the room is the threat from online retailers, particularly from that all-conquering giant Amazon," he warned.

"While cutting prices to defend market share feels sensible, especially given the potential for cross-selling once customers are in-store, this approach impacts profitability and few cross swords with Amazon and walk away victorious.

'Disappointing' trading at New Look

New Look store
New Look

Fashion chain New Look has reported falling sales and profits for the past few months amid a "difficult" market.

The retailer said revenues for the three months to 24 June fell 4.4% to £338.7m, with like-for-like sales in the UK down 7.5%. Operating profits for the quarter sank 60% to £12.1m.

"As expected, the UK market has remained difficult, which has resulted in a disappointing quarter of trading," said chief executive Anders Kristiansen.

"We remain committed to our long-term strategy of diversifying the business and reducing our dependence on the UK High Street, and are confident that we will see improvements, but expect these to take time.

"Looking ahead, we expect the consumer economy to remain fragile and challenging market conditions to persist into 2018."

Worldpay offer deadline pushed back

Worldpay terminal

The deadline for Vantiv to make a firm offer for UK payments company Worldpay has been pushed back to Friday.

Details of the £9bn takeover had been expected to be released today, but in a statement Worldpay said it had asked for more time for the two companies to come to a final agreement. It's the second time the deadline has been moved back.

Worldpay said the two had been engaged in "positive discussions".

Both Worldpay and Vantiv are now scheduled to release results on Wednesday.