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Blackberry to cut 4,500 jobs amid earnings plunge

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Blackberry has announced it is planning to cut 4,500 jobs, or 40% of its worldwide workforce, in an attempt to staunch huge losses.

The smartphone maker said it anticipated a loss of as much as $995m (£621m) when it reports its second-quarter earnings next week.

Shares in the firm closed down 17% after briefly being halted following the announcement.

In August, the Canadian company said it was evaluating a possible sale.

In a statement on Friday, Blackberry’s chief executive Thorstein Heins said: “We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability.”

“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user.”

‘Off a cliff’The company said the losses were primarily attributable to disappointing sales of its new Z10 model smartphone.

Released in January to much fanfare after many delays, the phone has failed to enthuse consumers.

In June, Mr Heins said that the company had shipped only 2.7 million Z10 phones out of 6.8 million total. Many Blackberry users had instead opted to stick with earlier models.

Over the summer, word trickled out the company had hired a series of advisors to help it explore options.

In August, board member Timothy Dattels was appointed to a committee that would consider different business models, including a potential sale.

“We believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives,” said Mr Dattels at the time.

Analysts have long indicated that Blackberry’s trove of patents could be attractive to potential buyers, but none of the large technology companies have publicly indicated interest.

“The company has sailed off a cliff,” BGC technology analyst Colin Gillis told the BBC.

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“This is the quarter where Blackberry as you used to know it is no longer.”

Mr Gillis said the job cuts and losses today could dampen the enthusiasm of potential buyers and might indicate the company could not find any interested parties.

This week, the company released a new version of its handset, the Z30, which was praised by observers but was nonetheless overshadowed by Apple’s launch of its new smartphone products.

“It’s not a bad phone,” said Mr Gillis.

“I’m sure they’ll sell at least one.”

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Yoga guru Swami Ramdevji allowed to stay in UK

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A spiritual leader who was detained at Heathrow airport for eight hours after arriving from India has been allowed to stay in the country.

Swami Ramdevji, 47, also known as Baba Ramdev, was stopped by officials at Heathrow Airport on Friday.

He arrived ahead of a 1,500-strong yoga class he was due to lead in Glasgow on Monday.

Ramdevji was given a 24-hour visa and instructed to return to Terminal Five on Saturday afternoon.

His supporters feared he would be told to leave but immigration officials ruled he could stay.

He arrived at the airport on Saturday with Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, and was mobbed by more than 150 supporters.

In the melee Ramdevji, who was dressed in sandals and an orange robe, nearly lost his clothing.

No Indian citizen with a valid visa entering the UK for lawful purposes should be held in this way”

Keith VazLeicester East MP

He added: “However, it is still a matter of concern to his many supporters and thousands of people who couldn’t be here today that he should have been treated in the way he was treated when he arrived at Heathrow.

“No Indian citizen with a valid visa entering the UK for lawful purposes should be held in this way.

“This is a very serious situation that occurred.”

Mr Vaz said he would pursue a fuller explanation later.

Ramdevji, who is only in the UK until Tuesday, said he had no problem with the UK government and added he would like to come back for up to three months.

Supporters have claimed he could have been targeted by the Indian authorities for speaking out about corruption back home.

The organisers of his visit said they had contacted Hindu temples throughout the UK asking for people to protest at the airport against the move.

Swami Ramdevji holding up his passport, which has been stamped to show he has been granted a UK visa
Swami Ramdevji has been told he can stay in the UK

Ramdevji reportedly has an 85 million-strong worldwide following and his own television channel in India.

He has run prominent campaigns in India, including hunger strikes, protesting against corruption in government.

A trust run by Ramdevji bought the island of Little Cumbrae just off the coast of Largs in south west Scotland and established it as a yoga centre two years ago.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We would not comment on individual cases.”

Media reports in India said Ramdevji was detained because he arrived at Heathrow on a visitor’s visa instead of a business visa.

His spokesman SK Tejarawala was reported as saying: “It was not clear why the yoga guru was detained for over six hours at Heathrow. He was not carrying anything with him except a small bag of personal effects.

“It is for the British authorities to explain why he was detained.”

 

Orlando Bloom makes his Broadway debut as Romeo

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Lord of the Rings star Orlando Bloom has been praised for “a first-rate Broadway debut” in Romeo and Juliet, but the production itself has received mixed reviews.

The modern take on Shakespeare’s play “packs Hollywood star power but lacks emotional fireworks” according to New York Daily News.

Broadway World‘s Michael Dale called the staging “soggy” and “gimmicky”.

Bloom stars opposite “gifted” rising Broadway star Condola Rashad as Juliet.

The pair are “sweet together” according to Tom Wicker writing in The Daily Telegraph, who continued: “But their relationship lacks the spark that would make the tragedy of their situation really blaze”.

He said director David Leveaux’s production “has its flaws” but was still an “enjoyable, energetic romp through Shakespeare”.

Many critics commented that Bloom, 36, should be “too old” to play Romeo, however most admitted he had pulled it off.

“His boyish prettiness serves the role well, and his early classical training is evident in the ease and conviction he brings to the language,” wrote David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter.

He likened the poster shot for the production to a perfume advertisement, but continued: “The dreamy intoxication that such a heady fragrance might transmit is largely missing from David Leveaux’s snoozy modern-dress production, along with poetry and heat.”

He added: “When the lovers die, it’s sad, not shattering.”

Ben Brantley in The New York Times was not the only critic to pick up on Bloom’s “cumbersome and embarrassing” entrance, “Leader-of-the-pack style, on a motorcycle, his jeans fashionably torn at the knees”.

However he praised Bloom and felt Rashad exuded “a too-fine-for-this-world purity that makes their characters’ love feel sacred”.

The amount of chemistry between the two leads divided critics.

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Robert Kahn from NBC New York wrote that they offered “plenty of heat”.

“There is chemistry here, though for me it seemed to peak early on, when Bloom seduces Rashad with a kiss that lasted long enough for one nearby audience member to invoke Austin Powers: ‘Yeaahhhhh, baby.'”

Writing in Time Out NY, however, David Cote disagreed: “Chemistry is what you look for in the title pairing, and that’s noticeably lacking here.”

But he was impressed with Bloom’s “hipster” take on Romeo, writing: “It’s safe to say that Bloom’s swaggering, matinee-idol Romeo will be the most engaging you’ll see in years. But this is also the least erotically charged or sexually frank Romeo and Juliet I’ve ever attended.”

Many criticised the modern touches from five-time Tony Award nominee Leveaux, as well as the cuts he made to cut the production down to two-and-a-half hours.

“Real damage is done, though, in the balcony scenes,” wrote Marilyn Stasio in Variety.

“The traditional Juliet balcony is replaced by a rough wooden platform that resembles a gangplank. To their great credit, Bloom and Rashad stay focused and manage to convince us that the young lovers only have eyes for each other.”

Stasio continued: “The ones who really suffer from this strange resistance to Shakespeare’s lyricism are Bloom and Rashad, who do good work when they’re not hanging from a scaffold or scaling a wall, and deserve a better chance.”

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iPhone shortages frustrate networks on launch day

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US lawmakers have narrowly voted to cut food stamp benefits from next year despite a veto threat from the White House and opposition from lobby groups.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the bill by 217-200. But it has little chance in the Democratic-held Senate.

The bill would save $39bn (£24bn) over a decade, but affect four million people on the programme.

It comes a day after census data showed 15% of Americans live in poverty.

An estimated one in seven Americans – most of them children, elderly or disabled – receive food stamps.

The bill aims to cut $4bn a year, representing about 5% of the current programme.

‘Let them starve’ bill

The budget savings would be achieved by allowing states to use work requirements for recipients and test applicants for drugs. It would also end waivers to allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

According to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap), the food programme bill has tripled since 2004 and cost about $78bn last year.

The White House said in a statement the bill would damage “one of our nation’s strongest defences against hunger and poverty”.

The Congressional Budget Office says that if the bill were enacted, up to 3.8 million people could lose their benefits next year.

But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who led the legislative push, said it was “wrong for working, middle-class people to pay” for abuse of the programme.

Every Democrat voting on Thursday opposed the bill. Fifteen Republicans voted against the measure.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it a “full assault on the health and economic security of millions of families”.

Another Democratic congressman, Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett, called it the “let them starve” bill.

The measure is likely to go nowhere in the Senate – Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow labelled it “a monumental waste of time”.

A bill passed in the Senate in June cut food stamps by $400m a year, one tenth of the House cuts.

The two chambers will have to negotiate the differences between the plans before any cuts come into effect.

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Singapore Air, Tata plan to set up new Indian carrier

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Indian conglomerate Tata Group and Singapore Airlines plan to set up a new full-service airline in India, nearly 15 years after their last attempt failed.

The two companies plan to initially invest $100m (£62m) in the new airline. Tata will own 51% and Singapore Airlines will own the rest.

However, the move comes just nine months after Tata agreed to a similar venture with Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia.

India’s aviation industry, which has suffered major losses, was opened to foreign investment last year.

The government now allows foreign firms to own up to 49% of a local airline, which has spurred a spate of deal-making in the sector.

India’s government forecasts the domestic air travel will nearly triple this decade as airlines connect its smaller cities.

However, India’s airlines industry, while competitive, has been mired in losses because of high fuel costs and intense price competition.

Only one of India’s six main carriers – IndiGo – made a profit last year.

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Former Nokia boss Stephen Elop to receive $25m pay-off

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Former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop, will receive a $25.4m (£16m) pay-off when Microsoft’s deal to buy Nokia’s handset business goes through.

Under the deal, Mr Elop will receive 18 months of his salary and money from incentive and share schemes.

Mr Elop moved from Microsoft to run Nokia in September 2010 and will return to his former employer when the deal is completed.

Microsoft will fund 70% of his pay-off, which has sparked anger in Finland.

The nation’s economy minister, Jan Vapaavuori, reportedly said: “I find it difficult to understand the merits of this bonus.”

Earlier this month Microsoft agreed a deal to buy Nokia’s mobile phone business for $7.2bn.

The purchase is set to be completed in early 2014, when about 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft.

Nokia shareholders are due to vote on the deal on 19 November.

In information provided for shareholders ahead of that meeting, Nokia explained in detail Mr Elop’s compensation.

When the deal with Microsoft was signed on 3 September, Mr Elop agreed to step down as Nokia chief executive and take a new job at Microsoft when the deal is completed.

Due to that change Nokia says that he is entitled to 18 months of his salary and what Nokia describes as a “management short term cash incentive” which combined are worth $5.7m.

He is also entitled to share awards worth $19.7m.

Strategy change

When Mr Elop took charge at Nokia in September 2010 he became the first non-Finn to run the company.

In February 2011, he sent a warning memo to staff describing Nokia as a company standing on a “burning platform” surrounded by innovative competitors who were taking its market share.

Mr Elop decided that the company should abandon its own operating software for smartphones and instead use Microsoft’s technology.

The first phones were launched in September 2012, but have failed to reclaim market share from Apple and smartphones running Android software.

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Mexico storms: Death toll up to 97 as Manuel loses force

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The BBC’s Will Grant: “The village of La Pintada has almost been wiped off the map”

Mexican authorities say 97 people have been killed by storms that hit the country earlier in the week.

In the village of La Pintada, near the Pacific coast, a landslide partially engulfed the town.

At least 15 bodies have been recovered and almost 70 residents are missing, the authorities said.

A helicopter involved in the rescue effort in the area has disappeared with three crew on board, according to Mexican media.

Officials are hoping that the helicopter had to land amid bad weather conditions and that the crew have been unable to update their base on their location.

Police and navy teams are to begin looking for the helicopter early on Friday when visibility improves, the Excelsior newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, President Enrique Pena Nieto has announced in a statement that he is cancelling a planned trip to the UN in New York next week to focus on relief efforts.

Thousands affected

Tropical Storm Manuel, which on Thursday briefly became a hurricane, has now moved north, forcing hundreds from their homes in Sinaloa state.

As it hit land, Manuel brought torrential rain and winds of up to 120km/h (75mph) and caused flash floods in Sinaloa.

Schools in the region have been closed and a fishing village of Yameto was evacuated as Manuel approached.

More than 100,000 were affected by the hurricane, the State governor, Mario Lopez Valdez told reporters.

It then gradually began losing strength, according to the United States National Hurricane Center, going back to being a tropical storm.

Manuel is now expected to dissipate before the weekend.

However, weather conditions are expected to remain poor over the coming days as a third storm is forecast.

With the Gulf Coast having been hit by Hurricane Ingrid, this week was the first time since the 1950s that Mexico has had to deal with two storms simultaneously, the BBC’s Will Grant in Mexico City says.

The resort town of Acapulco and its surrounding areas were worst hit by Manuel earlier in the week.

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“We were eating when it thundered, and when the mountain collapsed the homes were swept away and the thundering noise became louder,” Erika Guadalupe Garcia told AFP news agency.

Ana Clara Catalan, 17, described the noise as “ugly, worse than a bomb”.

“More than half of La Pintada was demolished, few homes were left,” Maria del Carmen Catalan said.

Most of the residents have been now been evacuated by helicopter.

Ingrid made landfall on Monday in the town of La Pesca on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. It mainly affected the state of Tamaulipas, where thousands of people were moved from low-lying areas to higher ground.

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