Top 10 Stories of the Week! 15/02/16

1. UK EU REFERENDUM

David Cameron says a deal struck with EU leaders will give the UK “special status” and he will campaign with his “heart and soul” to stay in the union.

The agreement, reached late on Friday after two days of talks in Brussels, gives the UK power to limit some EU migrants’ benefits. It also includes a treaty change so the UK is not bound to “ever closer union” with other EU member states, he said.

EU exit campaigners said the “hollow” deal offered only “very minor changes”. Click here for a short video explaining the deal. (BBC News)

A referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union is to be held on Thursday, 23 June, David Cameron has confirmed.

Click here for all the key arguments for and against a Brexit. (BBC News)

2. SAUDI ARABIA AGREES OIL PRODUCTION FREEZE

Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to freeze oil output at near-record levels, the first coordinated move by the world’s two largest producers to counter a slump that has pummelled economies, markets and companies.

While the deal is preliminary and doesn’t include Iran, it’s the first significant cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers in 15 years and Saudi Arabia said it’s open to further action. Oil pared gains after the accord was announced, signalling traders see no immediate end to the global supply glut. (Bloomberg)

3. JOINT ENTERPRISE LAW

The supreme court declared on Thursday that a key test imposed by judges in assessing guilt in joint enterprise cases – where the accused acts in conjunction with the killer but does not strike the blow that causes death – had been incorrectly applied.

The five supreme court justices said that, for decades, courts had been in “error” in treating the fact that a secondary, co-accused had foresight that the principal attacker might carry out a killing as sufficient proof of guilt in assisting or encouraging them.

The effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is that a member of a group cannot be found guilty of an offence unless there is proof that he or she positively intended that it should be committed. Mere foresight of what someone else might do is not enough.”

The judges’ unanimous decision is likely to trigger a rush of applications to the court of appeal by those convicted under a specific category of evidential rules, where defendants have “foresight” of what would happen before the murder was committed. (The Guardian)

4. INFLATION & UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES

UK inflation edged up to a 12 month high in January, as a fall in petrol prices eased. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose by 0.3%. It was helped by smaller falls in food and fuel prices than a year ago. Annual inflation has been below the Bank of England’s 2% target for two years, and last year it was zero. (BBC News)

Unemployment in the UK fell by 60,000 between October and December to 1.69 million, according to the Office for National Statistics. The rate of unemployment was unchanged from a month ago at 5.1%, maintaining a decade-low rate. More than 31.4 million people are in work, the highest figure since records began in 1971. (BBC News)

5. APPLE

Apple will appeal a California judge’s order to help prosecutors unlock an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, with CEO Tim Cook saying the move would compromise customer security.

On Tuesday at the US District Court in Los Angeles, US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym issued a 40-page statement requiring Apple to give “reasonable technical assistance” to the FBI. Prosecutors are seeking special software needed to bypass encryption and a self-destruct feature built into an iPhone owned by San Bernardino County and used as a work phone by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the December 2 San Bernardino mass shooting.

The judge gave Apple five days to show that the order is “unreasonably burdensome” – a new stipulation in the dispute between national security and digital privacy advocates. (RT)

This news comes in the same week as Apple announced that they intend to sell up to $12bn worth of corporate bonds. The bonds are expected to do well because many investors currently have cash amid general market turmoil. (BBC News)

6. UBER CHINA LOSSES

App-based car-hire service Uber is losing more than $1bn (£699m) a year in China, as it struggles against what it called a “fierce competitor”.

US-based Uber launched in China in 2014 and competes against the country’s largest taxi app Didi Kuaidi. Didi Kuaidi, which is backed by Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba, has now also partnered with Uber’s rival US ride-sharing service Lyft.

Uber is available in more than 40 cities in China. It announced last year that it would expand into 100 Chinese cities over the next 12 months. (BBC News)

7. VODAFONE-LIBERTY GLOBAL DUTCH DEAL

Vodafone has agreed a deal with US cable giant Liberty Global to merge their Dutch operations, continuing the rapid pace of merger-making in European telecoms markets.

Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media, resumed talks with Vodafone over a swap of assets a fortnight ago, but despite speculation that the companies were considering a full-blown merger, talks were limited to the pair’s respective businesses in Holland.

Combining Liberty’s loss-making Ziggo broadband network with Vodafone’s mobile operations in the Netherlands will create a company with more than 15m “revenue generating units” – set-top boxes, internet access, and landline and mobile connections.

Vodafone will pay €1bn (£77m) in cash to Liberty Global for an equal share in the joint venture. (Telegraph)

8. ARGOS ACQUISITION BID

Home Retail Group has received a £1.4bn rival bid for Argos after supermarket Sainsbury’s offered £1.3bn for the company. The second takeover offer has come from South African retailer Steinhoff, which offered 175p per share.

Sainsbury’s has until 23 February to make a firm offer for Argos.

Home Retail Group said the board was reviewing the Steinhoff proposal and it would make a further announcement soon. A spokesperson added: “Home Retail Group shareholders are advised to take no action at this time.” (BBC News)

9. CHRISTINE LAGARDE RE-ELECTED

The International Monetary Fund has appointed Christine Lagarde for a second term as managing director after she rebuilt the Washington-based organisation’s reputation following the sex scandal that engulfed her predecessor.

Lagarde, 60, who was the only candidate, was backed by the UK, Germany, China, and her home country, France, to stay on for another five years.

She has led the IMF since 2011 and proved a strong contrast to her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was forced to resign after he was accused of attempted rape in a New York hotel. The allegation was later dismissed. (The Guardian)

10. LORD COE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST NESTLE

Lord Coe last night accused Nestle of hypocrisy and vowed to fight the decision of the Swiss-based food and drinks giant to terminate its sponsorship of crisis-hit athletics world governing body the IAAF.

Nestle argued that it feared its sponsorship of the governing body’s Kids’ Athletics programme would damage its reputation after leading IAAF officials were banned for extorting bribes from athletes in exchange for covering up doping.

But Coe, who was elected IAAF president in August 2015 after eight years as vice-president, pointed to Nestle’s continued association with the Tour de France despite cycling’s problems with doping. (City A.M)

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