Minister accused in India’s growing #MeToo storm

M.J. Akbar, who was a well-known veteran editor, was accused of making sexual advances against women when they were starting out in the media. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Minister accused in India’s growing #MeToo storm

  • Many women in India have in recent days taken to social media to out sexual predators
  • The trigger appeared to be actress Tanushree Dutta

NED DELHI: India’s belated #MeToo movement snowballed Tuesday after a clutch of female journalists accused a minister in Narendra Modi’s government, a well-known veteran editor, of sexual harassment.
The women took to Twitter to allege how M.J. Akbar, now a junior foreign minister, conducted job interviews and meetings in fancy hotel rooms and made sexual advances when they were starting out in the media.
Priya Ramani, the first journalist to go public with the allegations, identified Akbar as the unnamed editor whose inappropriate behavior she had written about in an article last year.
Ramani said she was 23 when Akbar called her to a Mumbai hotel room for a job interview around 20 years ago.
Akbar was “an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer,” she said in the article which she reposted on Twitter on Monday.
“You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay.”
India’s foreign ministry was yet to respond to a request for comment from AFP and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj ignored reporters when asked whether she would investigate the claims.
Akbar — who has edited prominent Indian newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian and is a also a member of parliament — was yet to comment.
Another journalist, preferring to remain anonymous, said she declined a job offer after “the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink.”
Journalist Prerna Singh Bindra said Akbar “made life at work hell” when she refused his sexual overtures.
Many women in India have in recent days taken to social media to out sexual predators, emboldening others to come out with their experiences.
Bollywood figures, stand-up comedians and other top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly toward women.
The trigger appeared to be actress Tanushree Dutta, who has accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behavior on a film set 10 years ago.
On Monday, the political editor of the leading Hindustan Times daily quit amid swirling allegations of sexual misconduct.


UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

Updated 21 March 2019
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UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

  • May is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in attempt to get support for Brexit delay
  • The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent

LONDON: UK companies have ratcheted up their preparations for a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit as best they can over the past couple of months, the Bank of England said on Thursday.
With the prospect of a chaotic Brexit potentially eight days away, a survey by the central bank’s agents showed that around 80 percent of companies “judged themselves ready” for such a scenario, in which the country crashes out of the European Union with no deal and no transition to new trading arrangements with the bloc. That’s up from around 50 percent in an equivalent survey in January.
For decades, trading with the rest of the EU has been seamless. A disorderly Brexit could see the return of tariffs and other restrictions on trade with the EU, Britain’s main export destination.
To prepare, some firms have moved jobs and operations to the EU to continue to benefit from its seamless trade. Many have had to learn how to file customs declarations and adjust labels on goods. Exporters of animals are learning about health checks they will need to comply with.
According to the bank’s survey, however, many of those companies preparing for a “no-deal” Brexit said “there were limits to the degree of readiness that was feasible in the face of the range of possible outcomes in that scenario.”
There’s only so much companies can do, for example, to prepare for new tariffs and exchange rate movements.

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Britain appears headed for a “no-deal” Brexit on March 29 if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to win parliamentary support for her withdrawal agreement with the EU.
She is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in an attempt to get support for a delay to the country’s departure date to June 30. EU leaders have said a short extension would have to be conditional on her Brexit plan getting parliamentary backing and have indicated they would only be willing to back a delay to May 22, the day before elections to the European Parliament. After two heavy rejections in parliament, there are doubts as to whether she will be able to get parliamentary approval. What would happen next is uncertain.
European leaders, including those from France and Luxembourg, have said any extension will be granted dependent on May's deal passing a third parliamentary vote.
The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent within months, though Governor Mark Carney has indicated the recession will be less savage, partly because of heightened preparedness.
According to the minutes of the latest meeting of the bank’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, at which the main interest rate was kept at 0.75 percent, rate-setters warned “Brexit uncertainties would continue to affect economic activity looking ahead, most notably business investment.”
Brexit uncertainty has dogged the British economy for nearly three years. In 2018, the economy grew by 1.4 percent, its lowest rate since 2012, even during what was then a global upswing. Business investment was down 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter from the year before.
“Business investment had now fallen in each of the past four quarters as uncertainties relating to Brexit had intensified,” the rate-setters said.
The survey showed uncertainty was likely to remain for months, even years, as Britain works out its long-term relationship with the EU. It said around 60 percent of UK firms in February said Brexit was one of their top three uncertainties, compared with 40 percent just after the June 2016 Brexit referendum.
Around 40 percent of firms expect the uncertainty to be resolved only by the end of 2019 and 20 percent anticipate it persisting into 2021 or beyond.