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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Sep 2018


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A primary school in a deprived part of Bradford has gone from failing school to success story. The transformation, it says, is down to a decision to rebuild its curriculum around music.

Adyan, who is nearly five, can barely stand still in the school's music room. His mother, Rabia, is growing impatient.

"Come on: one, two, three, start," she says. "Please, sing."

But Adyan doesn't. He's scampered off to another part of the room, shouting.

He's meant to be showing me that he can recite the alphabet while playing a simple tune on the piano - a big achievement for a child who could barely speak English when he first arrived at school.

"Adyan is a hyperactive child and he has traces of autism," explains Rabia. "Sometimes it can be really hard to understand him. Being a mummy I always said, 'Yes, I can do it'. But I don't understand it. The music is unlocking some of that communication."

At last, with no warning, Adyan rushes to the piano and launches into his alphabetical journey. Each cautious press of the piano key seems to give him the confidence to sing the next letter.

There's a wobble around "m, n, o, p…", when he begins to shout the letters in a distracted way. But then the soft piano sounds seem to lull him back into a state of concentration.

At "z" a beaming Rabia bursts into applause, with Jimmy Rotheram, the school's music coordinator, joining in.

"He gave him courage," says Rabia, pointing at Rotheram, who is standing by her side. "He didn't let him go.

"Give Mr. Rotheram a high-five, Adyan."

Jimmy Rotheram is Feversham Primary's first music coordinator

Jimmy Rotheram is a man full of nervous energy, who exudes a passion for music.

When not teaching, he plays funk and soul on Yorkshire's live music scene.

In his late 20s and 30s he taught music in secondary schools and colleges. But he left the profession feeling overworked and underpaid, hoping instead to be a full-time musician.

When he couldn't make ends meet, he began supply teaching again, but this time at primary schools, including this one, Feversham Primary Academy. He found the younger children's natural enthusiasm fully ignited his passion for teaching music.

"I always use the analogy of swimming," he says. "If you drop a young baby into the water they will just swim naturally. If you leave it too long they forget how to swim."

He arrived at Feversham Primary at just the right time. In 2013 a new headmaster was looking to make radical changes.

Government inspectors had put Feversham Primary in special measures. This means they thought the school was offering an unacceptable standard of education and needed new leadership. In November 2012 it had become an Academy, run by a trust.

Headmaster Naveed Idrees was keen to bring a new ethos to the failing school

"The children were disengaged," explains current headmaster Naveed Idrees. "The curriculum was unstimulating, behaviour was a massive issue, parents were completely switched off. We deserved to be where we were."

Meeting government examination targets would be a challenge for any school in Feversham Primary's position. More than 98% of its pupils, including Adyan, speak English as an additional language, the vast majority being from a Pakistani background.

It's also in a catchment area that, despite a nice suburban veneer, is dealing with high levels of poverty and crime.

But six years on, the school inspectors rate the school very differently. According to performance tables, it is in the top 10% of schools in England when it comes to progressing children's learning in core subjects like maths and English. For the eldest pupils at the school who have come through the system, their progress in reading and maths places them in the top 2% and 1% respectively in England.

So how did it achieve this remarkable turnaround?

The vast majority of pupils at Feversham Primary Academy speak English as an "additional language"

It is a myth that English, maths and science are the most important subjects, according to Idrees.

"What we discovered is that children need to be engaged not just at the level of the mind and body, but also the level of the soul."

The school took a gamble by focusing its resources on music, creating a full-time job for Rotheram in a brand new role, that of music coordinator. It was partly able to fund this through pupil premium funding, the extra money schools are given to support their children from the poorest backgrounds.

It also appointed new specialists in drama, science and design technology, but government inspectors and the school's own headmaster highlight music as the catalyst that changed the school.

"When I first started supply teaching, music would often not be taught here at all," recalls Rotheram.

"I don't blame teachers for this, because it's very hard if you've not been trained to do something."

In his experience, music often falls to the bottom of the pile in schools. It is not a core subject in England's education system, unlike maths, English or science. There's no minimum amount of time that schools are obliged to devote to it - there are just a few general targets for musical competence.

"It's just a tick-box exercise. It might be just putting a CD on and writing about Beethoven's trip to the countryside," says Rotheram.

 The lessons are designed so children actively engage with music

Pupils at Feversham now have three hours of music timetabled into their school week. In fact many pupils are doing up to eight hours a week, explains Rotheram, by choosing to do things like choirs and clubs. This is a much bigger commitment to music than you would get in most state schools.

The music classes built into the school timetable are all highly practical and active - a far cry from children passively listening to a CD.

"My number one rule is that it should always be a joy, never a torture," says Rotheram.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Sep 2018

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About four million people have been charged for mobile phones they already own, spending £500m extra on contracts, according to Citizens Advice.

Three of Britain's biggest mobile networks, EE, Three and Vodafone, continue to charge for handsets even after the cost has been paid off.

Many customers have no idea they are being charged for phones after their contracts have ended.

The practice is "unacceptable", said Citizens Advice boss Gillian Guy.

"We need action," she said. "Other companies have already stopped doing this so we're looking for these three major providers to follow suit."

Mobile users only need to continue paying for calls, texts and data, or "airtime", when contracts end - but millions get stung with unnecessary extra charges.

Citizens Advice's research found that on average customers are overcharged £22 a month. The figure could be as high as £38 for high-end devices such as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.

Vulnerable people are most at risk of being overcharged. Older people are twice as likely to be charged for a phone they already own longer than 12 months, which could cost them an average of £264.

"Consumers should check their phone bills to see if they can save money with a SIM-only contract or upgrade to a new phone," advised Ms Guy.

Are you paying extra?

Vodafone, EE and Three customers after end of handset-inclusive two-year fixed term deal


average monthly cost if customers do not buy a new contract



  • 36% of customers failed to change after their deal

  • 23% of over-65s stayed on after their deal

  • £38 average extra monthly cost of contracts with handsets like the Galaxy S8 or the iPhone 8

  • £46 potential monthly over-charge for customers with a 256GB iPhone 8

Source: Citizens Advice

Getty Images

Who's affected and what can you do?

  • Anyone who bought a contract from Three, Vodafone or EE that included a handset is being overcharged when their contract ends
  • Users can ask their network to switch them to a cheaper SIM-only deal, or end the contract and move to another provider
  • No-one is automatically entitled to compensation - consumers can only make a claim if it was not made clear in their contract that the deal would continue at the same price

Source: Citizens Advice

What do the phone companies say?

Regulator Ofcom is consulting on how to address the problem and has proposed sending a single notification to customers before their contract ends.

Citizens Advice said that does not go far enough and that phone companies should separate the cost of mobile service and the phone. O2 has split the cost of its airtime and handset since 2013.

Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer for O2, said: "Charging for phones that have already been paid off does nothing but damage customer trust and the reputation of the industry."

EE said the splitting idea is "overly simplistic and doesn't give the customers either the transparency or best deal that they deserve".

"We agree that customers shouldn't overpay, but we believe that this is best achieved through clear communications with consumers about their options," it said. EE sends alerts before the end of customers' contracts that explain their options.

Three said: "We make the length of any contract very clear to new customers and make this information available through our customer service channels at all times."

It said it was working closely on the issue of handset financing with the government and regulators.

Vodafone said: "We already contact all of our customers when they are approaching the end of their minimum term to let them know their options. These include upgrading their handset or moving to a SIM-only contract so they are not paying anything for a handset."

It added that from next month, it will give extra data to people who do not opt for either option but stay on their contract after the end of their minimum term.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 19th Sep 2018

Almost half of internet users in the UK have suffered "harm" online, suggests research.

The harms include bullying and harassment as well as attacks by malware or cyber-thieves.

The study by regulator Ofcom sought to quantify the type and severity of harm that going online could do to people.

Interactions via social networks and email were deemed to be the most likely to cause harm.

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Closer look

The study questioned almost 2,000 Britons and found that 45% reported they had suffered some form of harm online.

Ofcom looked at harm in four areas:

  • online content that people see, hear or watch
  • interactions with other users
  • data and privacy
  • cyber-security and hacking

Bad experiences included unwelcome attention via social media, trolling and bullying as well as theft of data or personal information.

Across all these categories, roughly 20% of people reported that their experience had been "very harmful".

About 20% of those questioned said they reported offensive or harmful content when they encountered it. Hate speech, harassment and illegal sexual content were most likely to be reported.

In addition, many of those questioned were concerned about the effect on children of easy access to the net and potentially harmful content or interaction.

The research has been released shortly before Ofcom boss Sharon White gives a speech at the Royal Television Society conference in which she is expected to say the harms have arisen because of a lack of regulation.

"While the regulation of online content has evolved in recent years, there are significant disparities in whether and how it is regulated," she said in a statement released alongside the research.

Ms White suggested that some of the principles underlying what the UK's broadcasters can show could help shape regulation for social media and other online platforms.

Social networks should remove hateful content within an hour, said Mr Juncker

The final form of regulation should be up to government and Parliament, said Ms White in the Ofcom statement. But she said looking at the way broadcasters handle freedom of expression, transparency and how the enforcement of regulations is handled could guide debate.

If fines are chosen as a punishment, online firms should also be subject to "meaningful financial penalties" if they flout rules or fail to protect users, said Ms White.

The call was echoed by Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow digital minister, who said net firms should "step up to their responsibilities".

The study comes as social media firms face increasing scrutiny over how they handle potentially harmful or inappropriate content.

Earlier this month, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said Google, Facebook and Twitter must remove extremist content within an hour or face hefty fines.

In his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, he said an hour was a "decisive time window".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2018

drone surveying company california wildfire copy of dji 0207

Flight Evolved

Last year saw the most devastating wildfire season on record in California. Over the course of the year, more than 9,000 separate fires burned through 1.3 million acres of land in the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Upward of 10,000 buildings were destroyed in the wildfires, which also claimed the lives of 47 people. In the aftermath, a large number of people are understandably looking for a proactive solution to help avert future blazes. Could drones help?


One company, Flight Evolved, is doing its part to help. Having long used drones to create 3D maps for utility companies, Flight Evolved has been called in by some of the Golden State’s largest utilities to find ways of avoiding another destructive season. The innovative startup uses multicopter drones equipped with lidar remote sensing for its work.

“If you’ve been following the automotive industry, you’ll know that lidar is the hot-ticket item right now,” David Ilgenfritz, owner and chief operating officer of Flight Evolved, told Digital Trends. “It shoots out laser pulses and measures distances to objects in a way that allows it to make maps in 3D space. We use similar scanners, designed for surveying, to map out utility assets for companies — in this case as part of a fire mitigation program. We’re working with engineering companies and vegetation management companies to provide them with data to assist in the assessment of potential fire threat zones.”

Ilgenfritz said that utility companies have long created maps showing the layout of power lines and electrical equipment, and their proximity to trees and other forms of vegetation — which could result in fire hazards. However, before Lidar-equipped drones came along, this was either achieved using ground surveys or, at best, snapping a few photos from a helicopter.

“Our drones shoot out a million laser pulses, compared to a surveyor who is shooting one image at a time,” Ilgenfritz said. “The efficiency gain is therefore pretty significant.”

Using state-of-the-art RIEGL VUX-1 lidar detectors, the team creates detailed maps of the scenery and then uses forecasting and modeling techniques to predict how wildfires are likely to spread. As a result, they can gather deep data insights which could help prevent fires by, for instance, removing vegetation that would let it spread — or, in the case of a fire, potentially offer other actionable data.

While it’s still relatively early days, the hope is that projects such as this one could help save billions of dollars — and people’s lives, too.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2018

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  • If you're considering buying any of the fancy new iPhones that Apple announced on Wednesday and are already an iPhone user, wait until iOS 12 is released before deciding.
  • Apple will release iOS 12 on Monday.
  • iOS 12 brings a ton of changes to the iPhone, including faster performance on older devices. After you've tried it, you may not feel like upgrading.

Apple just announced three new iPhones this week: the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR.

The iPhone XS and XS Max will be available to preorder starting Friday before going on sale a week later, on September 21. The iPhone XR won't be available until October 26, with preorders opening up one week before that.

Still, if you're considering any of the fancy new iPhones from Apple but already own an iPhone, you should wait until iOS 12 becomes available, on Monday, before making a final decision.

iOS 12 brings a ton of improvements to the iPhone, but the biggest changes will come in the form of speed and performance — even on older devices. Apple says apps will launch up to 40% faster on the iPhone 6S, for instance, and you'll be able to open the camera up to 70% faster. App developers and early adopters already running the beta version of iOS 12 have reported great improvements on older devices.

Holding onto your device is a good thing, generally speaking. Of course, owning the new, shiny gadget is always fun and exciting, but getting more mileage from your current iOS device means you're saving yourself money and helping the environment. As Apple's Lisa Jackson said of iPhones at Wednesday's event, "because they last longer, you can keep using them — and keeping using them is the best thing for the planet."

So perhaps don't rush into the new iPhones right away. Try iOS 12 first, and see if you feel the same way afterward.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2018


Meal replacement drink Soylent will launch in the UK on Thursday with a different formula to its US equivalent.

The firm has replaced seven ingredients and adjusted the mineral and vitamin content to comply with British regulations.

Soylent was withdrawn from Canada in 2017 after the Food Inspection Agency found it did not meet their standards for "meal replacement".

The firm said it was working with Canadian authorities to reinstate it.

A food bar version was also recalled in the country in 2016 following reports that it made some people ill.

The Silicon Valley start-up became the largest crowd-funded food project when it launched in the US in 2013.

It was marketed at busy professionals and the company originally suggested the product could replace meals regularly.

It is named after a fictional artificial food called soylent that was featured in the 1966 sci-fi novel "Make Room! Make Room!".

In the 1973 movie version - Soylent Green - it was revealed that soylent was made from dead people.

'Food void'

However the firm has now rebranded it as a more occasional meal, to replace what it calls "food voids" - times when a conventional meal is not possible because of time, logistics or money.

CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper recently revealed that he was trying to replace all of his meals with Soylent drinks.

Soylent chief executive Bryan Crowley said he had faced criticism from nutritionists about the product.

"Nutritionists have a tough job, their usual response is we would rather they eat fruit and veg," he told the BBC.

"But we've been saying that for years and it isn't working.

"We're not trying to replace the meals you have with family and friends, weekend brunch - we're not trying to compete in that area. What we're saying is, we cant change how busy you are but we can provide you something nutritious to consume when you are that busy."

What does it taste like?

If you like your drinks to taste slightly chalky with a hint of porridge then this could well be a lunch option for you.

The main ingredient - after water - is genetically modified soya protein, so the drink unsurprisingly tastes like a protein shake from the gym.

Of the three launch flavours - original, cacao and cafe mocha - cacao is probably the most recognisable as it's a bit like a chocolate milkshake... if you try not to think about it too much.

Does it fill you up? It did for a bit. At 400 calories per drink, it's a bit heavy to be classed as a snack, but my liquid lunch companion was running for the nearest sandwich bar after two hours and while I've resisted that temptation, I'm not sure I could face another one for dinner.


It is Soylent's first foray into Europe but it already faces competition from others such as Huel, a UK-based product that launched in 2015.

Kris Ringer replaces two meals per day with Huel and said he felt the balance of his diet had improved.

"I don't think I could go to a full replacement though - by the end of the day I'm longing for real food that I can actually chew," he said.

"I'm quite happy with Huel so don't think I'd make a switch [to Soylent] unless it turned out to be as effective and cost less."

Soylent will be sold in ready-to-drink form via Amazon, retailing at £39.99 ($52) for 12 bottles.

The minimum order of Huel powder is sold online for £50 and provides 28 meals.

Bryan Crowley said that having competition was healthy.

"People ask me about competition - we have the advantage that we are the original," he said.

"This was founded five years ago on the crazy concept of a life food hack. It started to create a movement, and to build any new behaviour you need a lot of brands coming on board and raising awareness."

'Food is key'

Dietician Priya Tew said meal replacements can be useful but should not be relied upon.

"Eating whole food is always better when possible as there is an element to the chewing and digestion process that is important to our systems and psychologically food is key for us too," she told the BBC.

"Food is a package of nutrients many of which we are not even aware of. Things like antioxidants and phytochemicals will not all be in the meal replacements, so eating a range of colourful food is the best way to nourish our bodies long term."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 18th Sep 2018

Image result for birds riding bikes

Google wants pictures of bicycles and birds that can defeat image-recognition algorithms, as part of a contest launched to improve the technology.

While it is easy for humans to tell the difference between birds and bikes, computer systems can struggle to do so.

Prize money will be awarded for pictures that can fool image-recognition algorithms, or for new code that cannot be easily fooled.

But pictures of birds riding bicycles will not be allowed in the contest.

Google said it hoped the competition would lead to systems that make fewer errors.

How will the contest work?

People entering the contest as an "attacker", attempting to fool the system, must create an image of a bird that image-recognition algorithms think is a bicycle - or they can create an image of a bike that is misidentified as a bird.

The image can be digital art, a 3D rendering or a photograph. But the image must be easily identified by a human as either a bird or a bike.

Ambiguous images, such as a bird riding a bike, are not allowed.

People can also enter the contest as a "defender" by writing code that does not fall for any of the attackers' images.

If the algorithm misidentifies any of the images submitted by attackers, it is deemed "broken" and eliminated from the competition.

The first algorithm to remain unbroken for 90 days wins a quarter of the total prize fund - although Google says it has not yet decided how much that will be.

How can you fool image-recognition software?

Image-recognition software can be tricked by "adversarial noise" that tricks the computer into seeing something that is not there.

In January, Google revealed a psychedelic pattern that could be printed out and placed in any scene to make a computer think it was looking at a toaster.

Hiding a complex pattern in a bird's plumage is one method that might fool an image-recognition system into thinking it was looking at a bike.

"The objective of this contest is for defenders to build models that will never make confident mistakes," Google said in its announcement.

It said the contest would continue for several months until the prize money was claimed, rather than having a fixed end date.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Sep 2018

The BBC's weekly The Boss series profiles business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Jamie Beaton and Sharndre Kushor, founders of online tutoring company Crimson Education.

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When Jamie Beaton and Sharndre Kushor were seeking investors for their business, the fact that they were teenagers caused some confusion.

"We'd sit down in these boardrooms, and everyone would be triple our age, lots of white hair and beige," says Jamie, now 23.

"We'd turn up and they'd think we were the assistants or the interns."

Thankfully for all concerned, boyfriend and girlfriend Jamie and Sharndre were not there on work experience, or to pour the coffees.

The New Zealand couple are instead the founders and bosses of Crimson Education, which they launched when they were both 18.

Aimed at high school students around the world, it links them with tutors and mentors to help them get into the best universities in the US and the UK.

Crimson aims to help students around the world get into top UK and US universities, such as Oxford, pictured

When the couple started the business in Auckland in 2013 they were finishing their final year at school.

With no money to advertise, they instead reached out to friends and teachers, and put up notices on Facebook, to secure their first students and tutors. A year later Crimson gained its first $1m (£770,000) in funding, and it started to grow steadily.

Fast forward to today, and the company has reportedly secured a total of $37m in investment, which values it at $160m. And it claims that more than 20,000 students around the world now use its network of 2,400 academics and career advisers.

Jamie and Sharndre started dating when they were two of 18 Kiwi students chosen to attend a Model United Nations event in The Hague, Netherlands. Model UN is a global scheme in which children and young adults learn about diplomacy and international relations by role playing as delegates to the United Nations.

"Our first date was at a Starbucks in a train station in Germany, while on the trip," says Sharndre, also now 23. She says she was impressed by Jamie's "do-or-die focus".

Most of Crimson's students come from New Zealand, Australia and across Asia, including Seyoon Ragavan from Sydney, who got into Princeton University

At the time Jamie had been accepted by Harvard University in the US to study applied mathematics. Given his academic achievements it is not hard to see why - in his final year at school in Auckland he sat and got top marks in 10 British A-levels (students usually sit only three or four).

He had actually applied to 25 of the world's highest-ranked universities, and all had said yes.

Sharndre, a youth ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund, was also a high achiever. But she hadn't thought to apply to top-tier universities outside New Zealand.

So chatting about their futures, the new couple came up with the idea for Crimson.

"New Zealand universities are wonderful," says Jamie. "But generally, ranking-wise, the US and UK do a lot better in many areas.

"By the end of the trip [to Europe] we started to conceive some sort of coaching service."

The couple have a relationship that is often very long distance

Launching the business, they soon had to juggle running it with keeping up with their university studies - and the fact that they were in different countries. While Jamie was at Harvard, Sharndre did a degree in population health at the University of Auckland.

Today Sharndre spends half the year in Auckland at Crimson's head office, and the other six months visiting its offices in 23 other cities around the world. Meanwhile, Jamie divides his time between Auckland and California, where he is doing a masters in education at Stanford University.

Crimson's mentors and tutors range from teachers and lecturers to former university admissions staff who can advise on the best ways to fill out application forms and how to conduct yourself in interviews.

The company says that students are not randomly connected to a mentor, and instead it uses a compatibility algorithm devised by J Galen Buckwalter, former chief scientist at dating website eHarmonMost Crimson students currently come from New Zealand, Australia and countries in Asia - Singapore, China, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

The company now plans to break into the US market, where there is plenty of competition from longer-established tutoring rivals such as Kaplan and Princeton Review.

Peter Zamborsky, a business lecturer at the University of Auckland, cautions that these larger businesses have flexed their muscles to take on Crimson in the online sphere.

"If these bigger firms see the market that Crimson is trying to tap as profitable, they can - and already did - step up their digital efforts," he says.

Princeton Review, better known for its in-person tutoring, is increasingly moving into the online sphere to compete with the likes of Crimson

While Crimson won't reveal an exact annual turnover figure, it says it is now "in the large eight figures".

Jamie, who is chief executive, and Sharndre, who is the chief operating officer, are reported to still own 45% of the business. This makes their stake worth $72m.

Sharndre says that while "the rule book" says you shouldn't be dating your business partner, for them it works well. "It's been the biggest blessing because you're working with someone every day that you really trust."

However, Jamie admits that the couple try to prevent perceptions that they might always agree by "overcompensating" in work meetings.

"Some of the boldest debates fly in the boardrooms between us two," he says.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Sep 2018

Amazon is investigating claims that its employees accepted bribes in exchange for leaking confidential sales data.

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Independent sellers were also allowed to delete negative reviews and restore banned accounts for payments of between $80 (£61; €69) and $2,000, according to allegations in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal said the practice was particularly "pronounced in China".

Amazon said it had "zero tolerance" for abuse of its systems and that it was conducting a "thorough investigation".

"We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties," an Amazon spokesperson said.

They added that the company would also take "swift action" against sellers on its site who had "engaged in this behaviour... including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action".

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon's investigation began in May when the firm was tipped off about the practice in China.

The Journal said independent brokers had used Chinese messaging service WeChat to connect independent sellers with Amazon staff.

Around half of the items sold on Amazon now come from third-party sellers, which means the online giant is able to offer a wider variety of items for sale.

Such sellers need to compete with Amazon's own products to get noticed and compete directly with the online giant to get their items higher on search results pages.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Sep 2018

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Amazon owner Jeff Bezos has been criticised by President Trump for paying "little or no taxes"

"Great fortunes," the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie is reported to have said, "are great blessings to a community."

No doubt the beneficiaries of multibillionaire Jeff Bezos's new philanthropic fund will agree.

The richest man in the world announced on Thursday that he would give $2bn (£1.5bn) of his fortune to finance a network of preschools and tackle homelessness in America.

But far from being universally applauded, the Amazon founder's pledge was met with fierce criticism.

James Bloodworth, a writer who went undercover to expose working conditions at the company's fulfilment centres, said there was "something slightly ironic" about Mr Bezos's plan.

"There have been credible reports of Amazon warehouse workers sleeping outside in tents because they can't afford to rent homes on the wages paid to them by the company," he told the BBC.

"Jeff Bezos can tout himself as a great philanthropist, yet it will not absolve him of responsibility if Amazon workers continue to be afraid to take toilet breaks and days off sick because they fear disciplinary action at work."

The treatment of Amazon's employees has been highlighted by several politicians, including Bernie Sanders

Accusations of hypocrisy flooded in on social media, with many pointing to Amazon's efforts to reduce its tax bill in the US and abroad.

Others highlighted Amazon's recent successful attempt to quash a law in Seattle - the home of the online retailer's headquarters - that was designed to raise millions of dollars to alleviate the city's homelessness crisis.

For his part, Mr Bezos, who is thought to be worth in excess of $150bn, did little to distance his philanthropic efforts from the business model of his company.

Skip Twitter post by @JeffBezos

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Jeff Bezos✔@JeffBezos


4:00 PM - Sep 13, 2018

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"We'll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon," he said in the statement announcing his fund.

"Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession.

"The child will be the customer."

The Carnegie legacy

Yet the idea that business titans should apply the principles of their boardrooms to the public realm is hardly new.

It was first presented by Andrew Carnegie in 1899, in an essay entitled The Gospel of Wealth.

Andrew Carnegie

Image captionAndrew Carnegie is estimated to have parted with 90% of his fortune

The magnate - himself once the world's richest man - outlined what he saw as the moral duty of the super rich: "To consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer."

Businessmen, Mr Carnegie argued, were best placed to do said administering.

"The man of wealth thus becoming the sole agent and trustee for his poorer brethren," he wrote, "bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer - doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves."

By the time he died in 1919, Mr Carnegie was estimated to have parted with 90% of his fortune, using it to fund scientific research, pay teachers, build schools and establish more than 2,000 public libraries.

The first Carnegie Library, in Dunfermline, Scotland

His doctrine became the model for donations by fellow tycoons, including John D Rockefeller, who saw no conflict between their approach to business - in which they built monopolies and crushed labour unions - and their philanthropic work.

It is a model that laid the path for the modern-day benefactions of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg - whose charitable causes are distinct from the way they run their companies.

At this year's annual meeting of his firm Berkshire Hathaway, Mr Buffett could not have been clearer.

"I do not believe in imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses," he told assembled shareholders, when quizzed on whether he would divest from gun manufacturers.

Warren Buffett has drawn a line between his business practices and his politics

'Don't put a Band-Aid on cancer'

But according to Anand Giridharadas, Mr Carnegie's approach helped give rise to mass inequality.

Mr Giridharadas, whose book Winners Take All tackles the so-called "charade" of modern philanthropy, characterises Carnegie's approach as "extreme taking followed by extreme giving".

The super rich, he argues, stop short of "transforming the system atop which they stand".

While Mr Bezos's donation is admirable, he says, it does not tackle the "deep and complex root causes" of homelessness and poverty in the US - which include Amazon itself, as the firm has been a beneficiary of the new world of precarious employment.

A good motto for the likes of Mr Bezos, he suggests, would be: "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what you have already done to your country."

Basketball star LeBron James recently announced he was setting up a school, and would pay graduates' college tuition

The approaches taken by the super rich, says Mr Giridharadas, are less bold than the companies they helped create.

"If you want to wade into public policy, you have a moral responsibility not to put a Band-Aid on cancer," he says, adding that Mr Bezos could work to influence policy instead.

One way in which he could do so is by fighting for a change in the law when it comes to companies' responsibilities to shareholders, and the bottom line - paving the way for corporate structures which sacrifice some profits in pursuit of social good.

Seattle, the home of Amazon's HQ, has seen a rise in homelessness

Matt Kilcoyne, of the free market think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, disagrees.

"Quite frankly Bezos's greatest act of philanthropy is Amazon itself," he argues.

"Lower prices, more choice and competition have delivered billions for Bezos and billions worth for the hundreds of millions of customers he serves."

What's more, Mr Kilcoyne dismisses any talk of the super rich's moral responsibility to give in a certain way.

"Jeff Bezos has a right to spend his own money as he pleases.

"Armchair commentators might like to say that they know better than Bezos what he should spend his money on, but they'd do better to try and convince him of their philanthropic cause than chastise him for his choice."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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