Mining stocks rise but FTSE 100 dips

Trader watching monitorImage copyright AFP

Mining giant BHP Billiton was the FTSE 100's star performer as investors awaited the company's annual results due on Tuesday.

BHP added 1.4% in early Monday trading, heading a top five winners' list entirely made up of miners.

Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Glencore and Antofagasta also notched up share price gains.

However, the sector failed to lift the benchmark 100-share index[1], which fell 10.39 points or 0.14% to 7,313.59.

Banks RBS and Barclays were among the biggest losers, dropping 1.4% and 1.2% respectively.

On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.09% against the dollar at $1.2863, but up 0.06% against the euro at 1.0956 euros....

References

  1. ^ 100-share index (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Musk warns of 'killer robot' arms race

Elon MuskImage copyright Getty Images

Elon Musk and other technology leaders have issued a stark warning about so-called "killer robots", urging the United Nations to act to prevent a high-tech arms race.

In an open letter to the UN, they say lethal autonomous weapons threaten a "third revolution in warfare".

More than 100 robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) industry leaders signed the letter.

Mr Musk has long spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence.

Arms race

Fears about the rise of AI and the risk posed by machines have escalated in recent years as the technology's use in warfare develops.

The letter[1] to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons calls for solutions to "prevent an arms race" in lethal autonomous weapons.

These future weapons - dubbed "killer robots" - are machines programmed to hit people or targets, which operate autonomously on the battlefield.

"Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the letter states.

"These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways," it said.

"We do not have long to act.Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close," they added.

The letter was signed by 116 robotics and artificial intelligence leaders from around the world, including Mr Musk and Google's DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman.

A UN group examining autonomous weapons was due to meet on Monday and is now expected to meet in November.

The letter was released at an international AI conference in Melbourne on Monday.

A similar letter warning of the dangers of autonomous weapons[2], signed by a slew of tech experts including Stephen Hawking[3], Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mr Musk, was released in 2015.

Intelligence fears

Mr Musk has long been a vocal critic about the dangers of AI.

The billionaire founder of Space X has described artificial intelligence as humanity's "biggest existential threat".

He founded OpenAI, a non-profit company working for "safer artificial intelligence".

Musk recently clashed with another tech leader[4], Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is less fearful about the future of AI.

It comes after the Facebook boss said that the doomsday scenario put forward by Mr Musk was unhelpful.

Mr Musk tweeted:"I've talked to Mark about this.His understanding of the subject is limited." ...

References

  1. ^ The letter (futureoflife.org)
  2. ^ warning of the dangers of autonomous weapons (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ Stephen Hawking (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ Musk recently clashed with another tech leader (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Crawford Falconer takes up post as UK's top trade negotiator

Liam Fox and Crawford Falconer Image caption Crawford Falconer, right, will begin his new job this week

The man in charge of negotiating the UK's trade deals once Brexit is finalised, starts his job this week.

Crawford Falconer will take up the post of chief trade negotiation adviser at the Department for International Trade.

Leaving the single market would mean the UK would have to establish new bilateral trade agreements, but cannot formally do so until after Brexit.

However, one economist suggested Mr Falconer would already be "building bridges" with the European Commission.

The UK faces a huge challenge in resetting its trading relationship with the EU and other countries when Brexit takes effect.

Trade pacts that have been negotiated by the EU with the rest of the world will no longer apply to the UK, while Britain will also need to define new trading relationships with the EU itself.

Membership of the EU has meant the UK does not have a large bank of trade negotiators with recent experience.

A New Zealander, Mr Falconer has more than 25 years trade experience.He has represented New Zealand at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and held various posts in foreign and trade affairs in his home country.

Prof Alan Winters, from the University of Sussex's UK Trade Policy Observatory, said Mr Falconer's experience and contacts at the WTO would mean the groundwork for separating UK trade policy from Brussels would be made easier.

"He knows quite a lot of the main players at the WTO and can build bridges at the European Council, which is good as there is work to be done right now," he said.

"There is work he can do, such as discussions on whether the UK uses replicas or changes trade agreements that we have with nations by way of membership with the EU."

One suggestion has been that initially trade agreements could be adopted by the UK in their current form - replicating them - at the point of Brexit, to be altered subsequently as new deals are agreed.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said of the new appointee:"Crawford Falconer brings a wealth of international trade expertise to our international economic department, ensuring that as we leave the EU, the UK will be at the forefront of global free trade and driving the case for international openness."

Mr Falconer will lead trade policy and negotiation teams at the DIT.His appointment was first announced in June....

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Parents on low incomes 'can't afford basics'

Child on swingImage copyright Thinkstock

Higher inflation and a freeze on state benefits mean low-income parents cannot meet the basic costs of raising a child, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.

In its Cost of a Child in 2017[1] report, the charity says the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 for a two-parent family, excluding housing, childcare and council tax has risen to £75,436.

A couple earning the National Living Wage falls 13% short of that, it said.

Costs are up 4% compared with 2016.

The figures for 2017 reflect rising prices - especially of public and private transport - but it is cuts to some welfare benefits and the failure to up-rate others that is causing the pinch to be so severe for low income families, the report says.

"For the first time in post-war history, these cost increases are not being matched by increases in support given to families from the state," said report author Donald Hirsch, Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

He predicted the problem would become steadily worse.

'Years of austerity'

Two parents earning the National Living Wage of £7.50 an hour would fall 13% short of the income needed to provide a child with a "no-frills living standard", says the CPAG.

The total includes food, clothing, heating as well as buying birthday presents and a week's self-catering holiday in the UK the charity said.

A lone parent working full-time on the National Living Wage would fall short by 18%, according to the report.

"Families unable to cover their costs on benefits must either undergo serious hardship, fall back on the help of their families or go into debt," the report concludes.

Child benefit and child tax credit rates have not increased since 2015 and other cuts to welfare, including the benefit cap and the limiting of child tax credit entitlement to two children per family, are affecting the income of some families.

The CPAG provides an annual assessment of the cost of raising a child based on the "minimum income standard" or a very basic level of provision.This is determined through in-depth discussions with members of the public, asking them what it is essential for a child to have.

However the charity says that "years of austerity have reduced public expectations of what constitutes essential spending." ...

References

  1. ^ Cost of a Child in 2017 (www.cpag.org.uk)
  2. ^ Summer childcare costs at record level (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ Is the wages puzzle less puzzling? (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Company bosses 'lack cyber-attack training'

A sample of ransomware on a laptopImage copyright EPA Image caption The ransomware that attacked NHS computers is among the threats businesses face

More than two thirds of companies say their directors have no training in responding to cyber-attacks, according to a government survey.

Of 105 businesses in the FTSE 350 questioned, one in 10 revealed they have no plan to cope with hacking.

Digital Minister Matthew Hancock said May's NHS attack showed the "devastating effect" of breaches.

He urged companies to take advice and training from the National Cyber Security Centre.

The Cyber Governance Health Check - an annual survey - found that 54% of company boards said computer hacking was one of the main threats to their business.

But 68% of them had no specific training to deal with a hacking incident.

The survey found some progress, however, with 31% of boards receiving comprehensive information about computer security risks, compared to 21% in 2015-16.

Mr Hancock said:"We have a long way to go until all our organisations are adopting best practice."...

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