PSG to hold talks over 196m deal to capture Neymar from Barcelona

Paris Saint-Germain will hold discussions with Neymars father over a potential world-record 196m deal to buy the forward from Barcelona

Paris Saint-Germain are preparing to hold talks over a world-record 222m (196m) deal to buy Neymar from Barcelona. Although Bara are insisting the forward will stay, PSG are getting more optimistic they may be able to sign him.

PSG are not getting carried away, having thought they had secured a deal for Neymar last summer only for the Brazil striker to sign an improved contract to remain at the Camp Nou.

However, they intend to hold discussions with Neymars father and believe an agreement may be possible. They can easily meet the 222m release clause and the huge salary Neymar would demand.

Nasser al-Khelaifi, the PSG chairman, has reopened the door to the transfer and Antero Henrique, the sporting director, is in line to talk with Neymars father, who has stayed in touch with the club despite last summers events. PSG felt used then and vowed not to be duped again. There had also been flirtations the previous summer.

Neymar represents everything PSG need: a top signing who would propel them into a new dimension on and off the pitch. His marketing value combined with his talent would catapult them on to the global stage and take them closer to their aim of winning the Champions League.

The 25-year-old knows he can expect to continue playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi for several years at Barcelona as the Argentinian recently renewed his contract to 2021 A club statement described him as the best player in history.

PSG feel they are given hope by Neymars desire to be the main attraction and his knowledge that he will struggle to win personal accolades in the same team as Messi.

The Barcelona vice-president, Jordi Mestre, has said he is 200% certain Neymar will stay.

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Grenfell cladding ’14 times combustibility limit’ – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

Burning cladding on Grenfell Tower would have released 14 times more heat than a key government safety test allows, the BBC has learned.

Energy emitted from the cladding and insulation would have been equivalent to burning 51 tonnes of pinewood, University of Leeds research suggests.

The cladding’s plastic core would have burned “as quickly as petrol”, it said.

The contractors who fitted the cladding and insulation said they both passed all regulations.

‘Boards of wood’

According to data released by French authorities, and seen by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, the cladding would have released 43.2 MJ/kg of heat.

The European A2 standard for “limited combustibility” is three MJ/kg.

The foam insulation underneath the cladding was, separately, thought to emit around 26 MJ/kg of heat.

Figures from UK government tests have not yet been made publicly available.

Image caption The work to fit Grenfell Tower’s cladding was completed in 2016

An estimated 18 tonnes of insulation foam and eight tonnes of cladding panels were attached to the tower, analysis of planning documents by the University of Leeds suggests.

The energy released when all these combustible materials burned would have been equivalent to around 51 tonnes of pinewood wrapped around the building in two thin 12mm sheets, separated by a 50mm gap with holes cut out for windows, it says.

“If you set that on fire near the bottom you can imagine what would happen and how fast the fire will grow,” Dr Roth Phylaktou, a senior lecturer specialising in fire and explosion engineering at the university, told the BBC.

“This is not dissimilar to the wood cribs that we use in fire science to create fast-growing fires that reach a large size very quickly.”

Dr Phylaktou believes the configuration of the cladding and the foam – known as polyisocyanurate (PIR) – was “optimum for vertical fire spread”.

“This explains the speed of the fire propagation. The polyethylene in the cladding would have burnt as quickly as petrol,” he added.

He believes the air gap between the insulation and the external cladding panels on Grenfell Tower may have created a so-called “chimney effect”, increasing the speed of the fire spreading.

“The insulation formed another combustible layer underneath which would also give off toxic fumes,” he added.

Withdrawn from sale

The type of PIR foam used, Celotex RS5000, and the brand of cladding, Reynobond PE, have now been withdrawn from sale for use in buildings over 18m high.

Even if cladding or insulation do not meet the European A2 standard for limited combustibility, they can theoretically still be allowed on the outside of a tall building if combined with other components in a whole system which passes a different type of test, known as BR135.

An independent company, BRE, is now conducting tests for the government to see how different combinations of insulation and cladding perform in the event of a serious fire.

BRE also conducts fire tests for the private sector and a local government leader has called for the release of test data which is considered commercially confidential.

In its marketing Arconic, which manufactures Reynobond PE panels, has never claimed the product met the “limited combustibility” standard. It said it was only “one component” in the overall cladding system.

Saint-Gobain, which manufacturers the Celotex RS5000 PIR, said it could not comment while there was an investigation into the circumstances around the Grenfell Tower fire.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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The German Rapper Who Prostituted Her Fans

FRANKFURT, GermanyWhen a German mother learned that Schwesta Ewa, Germanys most famous female rapper, was buying her 17-year-old runaway daughter Celine S. lip injections, sending her out to work as a prostitute, and cashing in half the money for herself, she freaked out and called the police.

The cops then recorded Schwesta Ewa (which translates to Sister Ewa, but her real name is Ewa Malanda) yelling at a different sobbing girl who had forgotten one of her work phones at home: Why dont you cry because youre [so] stupid! What if a client was calling to book an appointment right now?

Whore, Malanda screamed, I will fuck your life.

At this point 31-year-old Malanda had already released her debut album to rave reviews, her musical abilities complemented by her long auburn hair, hazel eyes, and voluptuous figure. She was making plans for her next album but, still, she had doubts about whether her newfound celebrity status was worth giving up her previous job working in Frankfurts brothels. What does it do for me when I go outside and people take pictures of me, going 'Yeah, wow, Schwesta Ewa!' … Im used to money, right?" she mused in an interview.

But as we now know Malanda didnt ditch the red light at all. Last month, she was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, not because shed been pimping out her fans (managing prostitutes is legal in Germany, unless its exploitive)but because she beat them up and didnt pay taxes.

Malanda, sounding sad, announced to a courtroom filled mainly with curious teenagers that she was ashamed. Two nerdy boys in button-down shirts stood at the back. Impressed by the woman whod just spent the past eight months in custody and was looking tiny next to her three lawyers, with her long hair spilling over her large black coat, they murmured Wow, look at her, and hissed schwesta schwesta.


Ewa Malanda was born Ewa Mller, but changed her last name to Malanda, perhaps to protect her family from her reputation, or her from theirs. She was born in Poland, but she, her mother, and two siblings moved to Germany when she was very young, after her father was imprisoned for murdering five people.

Malanda recorded her first song, Schwtza, a disstrack that makes fun of the swaggering attitude of her past johns, in 2011. Her friend and record producer Xatar (whose real name is Giwar Hajabi) had egged her on, after pointing out that she would soon be too old to go on turning tricks.

The music video shows her strolling around Frankfurts red-light district, the Bahnhofviertel, which is crammed with smaller alternative-style brothels (as opposed to the mega-brothels that you find in Berlin and Cologne), junkies and, more recently, young entrepreneurs trying to feed off what they call the areas anti-bourgeois sentiment.

At first glance, the Schwtza video comes off as a sleazy marketing ploy (look, a real hooker!) aiming to seep some authenticity into the German hip hop industry. But a lot of Malandas storytelling was not cheaply provocative, it was really depressing. Her songs were about sex workers cooking crack, pimps who fake monogamous romantic relationships with prostitutes only to abuse them and rip them off, and going to work with an electro-shocker in your handbag.

These things, and Malanda has sworn all her stories are true, arent supposed to happen in Germany so much anymore. The government promised to reduce the misery of sex work by introducing employment contracts and health insurance when it voted to legalize prostitution in 2002. Too bad that pretty much the only thing that has changed since then is that sex trade is now a taxable $15 billion industry. Malanda, for one, didnt register for any social benefits when a john barged into her room and hit her over the head with her own weighing scale.

When I spoke to Xatar, Malandas recording boss, a week after the verdict, he was determined to stick up for Malanda. He said, The facts have shown that her friends were working as prostitutes and she was helping them out. Ewa comes from the streets. What kind of person would she be if she just turned her back on people?

Three weeks earlier, though, on the first day of the Schwesta Ewa trial, Xatar and two other artists from his record label walked into the courtroom, unsmiling. They were there to show solidarity, and they didnt want to talk to the press. But right before the testimonies started, Malanda nodded at them to leave. And when the tapes were being played she hid her face in her hands, occasionally shaking her head.

Celine, the 17-year-old who ran away from home after she messaged Malandas official page on Facebook to ask if she could come to Frankfurt and turn tricks for the rapper, told her you dont have to apologize for anything. Malanda had smacked her in the face so hard that her braces broke.

Talin, who was 19 years old when Malanda drove her from city to city to meet up with clients in hotel rooms ranging from cheap to fancy (Malanda would sometimes hide behind the sofa to ensure the girls werent giving up a paradise offer that the client hadnt paid for) had told the police that she suffered a laceration to her head after Malanda hit her with a heeled boot, causing her face to turn purple and leaving her unable to open her mouth for the next few days. But when the judges asked her to be more concrete about to what extent their relationship had been abusive, she shut down: She was my friend. I dont want to persecute her.

Another girl who was expected to testify against Malanda in court is a callgirl named Jana. She sat quietly while her lawyer, a lady who has worked on several high profile sexual abuse cases, referred to her as a simple person and attempted to argue that Malanda forced the blonde to meet with an 83-year-old man. When it was her turn to talk, the 21-year-old turned to her favorite rapper and said: We can still be friends.

Two years ago, Jana thought that Schwesta Ewa would be the one to understand her, she told the judges. Thats why she started going to Malandas bar, the Stoltze bar. Malandas friends (dealers, prostitutes and the occasional local celebrity) used to hang out there in neon-lit booths, where they were hosted by the Schwesta herself. Tourists from out of town would stand around and take photos. It was always full, there was always a party, Xatar tells the Daily Beast. He also runs several shops in his spare time. The taxes in Germany are so highbefore you spend all your money on taxes its better to invest it in gold or open a cafe.

Jana wanted to get Malandas attention in the Stoltze bar, Jana said. Once, she even drew marks on her neck and told the other regulars that shed been mugged. But when she asked Malanda to procure for her, Ewa was actually against it. She worried that Jana was too fragile. Still, the rapper agreed to help out and put the young woman on her payroll as a waitress.


Ewa is a very charismatic person young people admire her, Xatar said when I asked what he values most about Malanda as an artist.

The rapper and producer Xatar, grew up in Bonn, a city outside Cologne in the 1980s. His parents had fled to Germany from Iran in 1982. As a teenager, he attended a typical secondary school where the other children ignored him even though he spoke perfect German.

Now, the artist writes texts that omit conjunctions and turns around other grammar rules while mixing in all kinds of foreign words from the streets of Frankfurt (Kurdish, Italian, Arabic). He is credited as the pioneer of this new style in German hiphop. He says he couldnt care less that a new generation of leather satchel clutching grammar school kids, whose parents will buy them a Mercedes just for deigning to sit their Abitur exams, have started trying to talk a little bit more like him.

But people who fake around successfully are not signed to his label, he said.

Xatar and Ewa had been friends for years before he signed her to his label. When he was sitting in prison for hijacking a gold transporter and stealing bullion worth 1.8 million in Ludwigshafen back in 2009, she sent him packages with staples like tuna, tobacco, and pepperand a cell phone that he could use to record tracks on. (The gold is still missing.)

The German media ate the truck robbery story right up, not least because Xatar then proceeded to flee to Irak via Moscow before the German authorities managed to catch up with him. They started branding Xatar as a gangster rapper. In fact, they call him one of the first gangster rappers, but this in a country where the prisons you go to for robbing an armored truck are still relatively okay and the judges are happy to regard procurement as a normal business transaction.

Is Schwesta Ewa also one of the first German gangster rappers? One of the phrases she repeated in her first album was not a joke! But say it too often and it begins to sound defensive. Instead, in a later music video for her song Escortflow, Ewa Malanda appeared in a fur coat, with her hands placed on top the heads of two women kneeling in front of her, rapping, Every slut lying in the bordello is dreaming of my fame. She mocked any rapper who might dare to make similarly bold claims while working from their laptop in Starbucks or living with their parents.

I dont think you need to be more romantic about it than that, Xatar said. Its ridiculous when people claim things that are not true.

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Come friendly robots and take our dullest jobs | John Naughton

As the legal chatbot DoNoPay shows, automation may only affect the repetitive parts of white-collar work. The middle classes can breathe again

We are currently going through one of those periodic phases of automation anxiety when we become convinced that the robots are coming for our jobs. These fears are routinely pooh-poohed by historians and economists. The historians point out that machines have been taking away jobs since the days of Elizabeth I who refused to grant William Lee a patent on his stocking frame on the grounds that it would take work away from those who knitted by hand. And while the economists concede that machines do indeed destroy some jobs, they point out that the increased productivity that they enable has generally created more new jobs (and industries) than theydisplaced.

Faced with this professional scepticism, tech evangelists and doom-mongers fall back on the same generic responses: that historical scepticism is based on the complacent assumption that the past is a reliable guide to the future; and that this time is different. And whereas in the past it was lower-skilled work that was displaced, the jobs that will be lost in the coming wave of smart machines are ones that we traditionally regard as white-collar or middle-class. And that would be a very big deal, because if theres no middle class the prospects for the survival of democracy are poor.

Whats striking about this fruitless, ongoing debate is how few participants seem to be interested in the work that people actually do. Most jobs are in fact bundles of different but related tasks. Or, as David Autor of MIT, one of the worlds experts on this subject, puts it: Most work processes draw upon a multifaceted set of inputs: labour and capital; brains and brawn; creativity and rote repetition; technical mastery and intuitive judgment; perspiration and inspiration; adherence to rules and judicious application of discretion.

Typically, Autor argues, these inputs each play essential roles by which he means that improvements in one do not necessarily eliminate the need for the others. And if so, productivity improvements in one set of tasks brought about by automation often increase the economic value of the remaining tasks. This is why, when we consider the possible impact of automation, we should be thinking not of work but of tasks. Having some tasks done by machine might make us more productive in others and keep us in employment.

What brings this to mind is an intriguing website DoNotPay created by a young British student at Stanford University, Joshua Browder. Think of it as a legal chatbot an automated service that provides free legal advice on a number of routine issues. It started out by making it easy to write a letter contesting a parking ticket: you are asked a number of questions (number of the ticket, etc) after which it drafts a letter in the appropriate legal jargon. With parking tickets it claims to have a 55% success rate, so given that its free it looks like a reasonable bet, if you think you might have a case.

Since its launch, Browder has significantly expanded the cognitive and jurisdictional reach of his bot. It now claims to cover upwards of 1,000 different legal issues (from tackling disputes with a landlord to what to do if your credit card is stolen, how to deal with unwanted cold calls, contest insurance claims, extend maternity leave or deal with harassment at work) and suggests remedies that are applicable in all 50 US states as well as in the UK.

Browder calls his chatbot a robot lawyer, but thats not quite right. What it does is to automate some of the mundane, routine things that professional lawyers do writing a cut-and-paste cease-and-desist letter, for example but free of charge, rather than at a price that deters most people and therefore increases inequality. For me, its just drafted an impressive notice under the Data Protection Act 1998 not to use my personal information for direct marketing. Its not rocket science, but as a non-lawyer I might have got the legal terminology in the body of the letter wrong, and I certainly would not have known how to tell the offender that, if he does not comply, I can apply to the court for an order against you under section 11 of the Data Protection Act.

DoNotPay provides a terrific illustration of how technology can be used for socially useful and democratic purposes. More important, though, it also suggests a better way of thinking about robotics and work by making distinctions between tasks that can and should be automated, and those for which human experience, sensitivity and creativity are necessary. Much of what lawyers do is doubtless money for old rope in which case we should not be paying through the nose for those services. We still need lawyers for many other things, for which there is no routine solution and which do require original thinking. So they may wind up poorer; but theyll still have jobs, and perhaps be less bored. And well all be better off.

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Big tobacco still sees big business in America’s poor

The US is pegged as an exciting market, but this growth disproportionately affects the poor including the industrys growers and laborers

Wheeling his oxygen tank in behind him, Leslie E Adams shuffled into the lung doctors exam room, and let out a long string of rattling coughs. He tried to catch his breath, and coughed some more. He is 63, but looks a decade older.

I got stage three black lung. There aint no stage four. Im on my way out, said Adams. Now, I am slowly going down the mountain.

The American smoking rate has plummeted since the mid-20th century. Yet somehow the US remains a growth market. That is partly because the proportion of smokers has fallen, but the population is rising.

Add a nation bedeviled by inequality and those public health gains, while significant, have simply not reached every corner of the country.

With low taxes on cigarettes, intermittent regulations and tobacco-friendly politicians, many US states still mirror conditions around the developing world where tobacco companies see potential.

West Virginia arguablyhas the highest smoking rate in the nation. In places such as Logan County, where retired coal miner Adams is from, the smoking rate was 37% in 2015. The last time the national average matched that was 1974.

I smoked Winston, I smoked Viceroy. I dont know what I was smoking last, I couldnt tell you, said Adams, about brands that once belonged to Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). I just smoked anything. If it blowed smoke, I smoked it. Adams is disabled with stage three pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung.

Adams will tell you he quit, but the truth is, after seven days in the hospital on a ventilator, he still tried smoke three times. I smoked about a half a one, and it just I mean your lungs it just takes all the oxygen out of them.

Despite smoking bans, hundred-billion-dollar settlements and a smaller proportion of the American public smoking, Reynolds longtime ally BAT sees the US as an exciting opportunity for long-term growth.

Through the years, as the population rose, the proportion of Americans who smoke shrank, but their raw numbers stayed the same at around 45 million smokers. Further, since the 1990s, the threat of tobacco litigation diminished and regulations proved less costly than feared, leaving tobacco companies room to increase the price of a pack. In America, where cigarettes are still relatively cheap, BAT will only need to sell two packs of cigarettes to make the same profit as selling six in other markets.

America is highly attractive and the worlds largest tobacco profit pool outside of China, BAT chief executive Nicandro Durante said, as he described a $49bn deal to buy Reynolds American in January. The deal will make BAT the largest listed tobacco company in the world.

It also means revenue from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US will be pocketed by BAT and a rival group of companies Altria Group, a US Philip Morris company. Not since Theodore Roosevelts presidency in the first decade of the 20th century has tobacco been so consolidated.

Mergers and acquisitions have allowed tobacco companies to squeeze profits from customers and the supply chain. Companies charge more for cigarettes, while union organizers say poverty wages keep families on the ropes. Both are trends seen worldwide.

At the same time, the typical profile of smokers has changed radically. In 50 years, smoking moved from glamorous to common. Wealthy Americans have the lowest smoking rates, and the middle class has increasingly quit; instead smoking became a burden of the poor, less educated and marginalized.

The $49bn merger between BAT and Reynolds, expected within weeks, is the most recent act of faith by tobacco companies that selling cigarettes to Americans will remain profitable long into the future, even if the Americans who buy them cant afford it.

As a young man, Adams worked in mines so tight he laid on his belly to dig. He dug his own hole to piss in. When he learned mine owners handed out dust masks that didnt work, he sued.

Adams lives in the Appalachian mountains, in a valley between two green hills affectionately called a holler. He and his wife had two daughters and a son, and those children had eight of their own.

He started smoking at eight, sneaking beside the creek to puff corn silk. He smoked cigarettes for 40 years. Now, after one son died of a drug overdose, unable to chase after his grandkids and still craving cigarettes, Adams questioned whether cigarettes should be legal at all.

Leslie E Adams, 63, said he wishes cigarettes could be outlawed. Photograph: Billy Wolfe for the Guardian

They got so many drugs in there you couldnt quit if you wanted to. I still crave them. If I had one right now, and Id go to sleep, youd hold it, Id smoke it in my sleep, he said. Thats how bad you crave them.

Dr Tom Takubo sees more than 30 patients like Adams each day at his clinic in Charleston. His is the largest pulmonology office in West Virginia. Set in the capital of a rural state in a rural region, Takubo sees patients from as far away as northern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

Even if smoking dropped off today, I would probably be going for the rest of my career, said Takubo.

No one is allowed to smoke in his office, but even so, the air smells faintly of cigarettes. Takubos patients carry the scent of the smokes they prefer. Former miners, shop owners and factory workers waiting for their appointments named L&Ms (by Altria) or Salems (by Reynolds) as their go-to. One woman admitted she smoked whatever was cheapest, and called them floor sweepings.

Takubo estimates 80% of his patients see him for smoking-related diseases. Cancer, acute bronchitis, flare-ups of their asthma, he said, naming a few.

The national adult smoking rate dropped from 42.4% in 1965 to 16.8% in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But in West Virginia, the smoking rate in 2014 was still 26%, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One researcher with RWJF called the rate extraordinarily high.

When he is not seeing patients, Takubo has another role. He is also a Republican state senator in West Virginia, putting him in the unique position of treating the same people whose cigarette taxes he hopes to raise. He is occasionally told by a patient: Now doc, dont raise the price of my cigarettes.

Its really hard for me, because you hear people argue for financial reasons, for freedom of choice, Takubo said about his fellow legislators, shaking his head. This year, inspired by a patient, Takubo introduced a bill that would have fined adults for smoking in the car with a child.

I have a patient thats lost about half of her lung function. Shes never smoked a day in her life, he said. Instead, her father smoked in the car. If she complained about it, he would roll the window up to teach her a lesson. She remembers even getting in the floorboard of the car because she couldnt breath.

But the bill was not successful. Takubos fellow Republicans voted it down.

Dr Tom Takubo points to an X-ray of a patient suffering from a severe case of coal workers pneumoconiosis, also known as CWP or black lung. Photograph: Billy Wolfe for the Guardian

West Virginia is also the epicenter of Americas drug overdose epidemic, but lung and throat cancer have proven far deadlier than opioids.

Drug overdoses killed 41 people for every 100,000 in West Virginia in 2015. The same year, lung and throat cancer killed tripled that number in south-western counties, such as Calhoun. There, those two disease alone killed 123 people for every 100,000, according to the states health department.

The same year, 46% of adults in Calhoun smoked, RWJF found. The West Virginia department of health estimates that one in five deaths of people over 35 are due to smoking.

West Virginia scores badly on every imaginable indicator of poverty and inequality. Takubo has also argued increased tobacco taxes could bring the state significant financial relief. A $1 tax would have generated $100m in revenue for a state that had a $380m shortfall in 2016, and which spends $277m annually on smoking-related diseases. That too failed, although Takubo did help get a 65-cent tobacco tax passed.

Now, fearing Republicans in Washington will pass a healthcare reform bill that could severely cut Medicaid, a public health program for the poor, Takubo said simply: That would kill us.

State of the nation

In Washington DC, things have also changed in the halls of Congress. People who still smoke stand out, and perhaps for a good reason Congress is mostly well educated and wealthy. Every single US senator has a college degree, and just 5% of the House of Representatives lack one. Most members of Congress are millionaires.

Today, someone with a high school equivalency diploma is nine times more likely to smoke (34.1%) than someone with a graduate degree (3.6%). A poll found Americans who earn between $6,000 and $11,999 are more than twice as likely to smoke as someone who earns more than $90,000.

Even 10 years ago, the offensive and very strong odor of a cigar prompted an aide in Democrat Keith Ellisons office to call the Capitol police on a congressman. Last year, Republican House speaker Paul Ryan took pains to detoxify his predecessors office, a suite held by former speaker John Boehner. Boehner is a Camel smoker. He now sits on Reynolds board.

Tobacco companies dont spend as much money lobbying Congress as they once did. They spent $72m trying to persuade lawmakers to see their perspective in 1998, compared to $19m in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But they have not abandoned political spending. They have shifted strategies.

Last year, Altria and RJ Reynolds spent $71.3m in California trying beat back a cigarette tax hike referendum. They failed there, but succeeded elsewhere. In North Dakota, tobacco companies spent more than $5 for every man, woman and child in the state, $4m altogether, and convinced voters to reject the tax. They also succeeded in Colorado, where they spent $7m.

States were awarded billions in damages from tobacco companies in recognition of the public health consequences. Yet they largely fail to spend the money they were awarded to prevent smoking. States collected $26.6bn from tobacco settlements in 2016, but spent only 1.8% on smoking prevention, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Tobacco companies, by comparison, spend $9.1bn a year on marketing, or $1m an hour, according to an analysis of Federal Trade Commission data.

North Carolina, Americas dominant tobacco-producing state, receives $139m annually from such tobacco settlements. Initially, the state set up three trust funds to spend that money: one to prevent smoking, one to help rural communities hit by a decline in smoking and one to help tobacco farmers.

The fund to prevent smoking was dismantled in 2011; all of that money was sucked into the states general fund. However, lawmakers allowed the settlement to continue to fund tobacco growing efforts.

Between 2000 and 2004, another $41m of North Carolinas tobacco settlement went to retrofit tobacco curing barns, a move that researchers called arguably counterproductive to tobacco control, and which some farmers believed was at the behest of tobacco manufacturers.

From our very first day there was a constant struggle with the legislature, said Vandana Shah, the first person to head the tobacco use prevention fund in North Carolina. She now works for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Id be doing the rounds of begging and pleading that they dont take our money away, and explaining the value of the program.

Winston-Salem, AKA Camel City

Reynolds Americans hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has developed a relatively strict tobacco policy. Smoking an after-dinner cigarette in Camel City will need to be done outside, and finding a hotel room to smoke in will be a task.

The regulations are reflective of how cities have handled smoking in recent years. Even Reynolds employees who smoke must use smoking lounges away from their colleagues.

Tobacco companies, said Gayle Anderson, the head of the Winston-Salem chamber of commerce, really didnt fight these laws at all There just didnt seem to be that kind of pushback. She worked for Reynolds from 1976 to 1987.

Once North Carolinas largest city, Winston-Salem enjoyed a golden era on Reynolds wealth. The moneyed families that ran the factories and mills shared their wealth with the community, endowing it with high schools, auditoriums, hospitals, stadiums, parks and recreational facilities bearing their names, the local history From Tobacco to Technology said about the 1930s. Their executives chaired the charities and the capital campaigns to raise money needed to achieve the communitys objections, be it a new terminal at the airport, an arts council for the city or assistance in relocating a college to the city.

Reynolds still employs about 5,000 people in Winston-Salem, according to Anderson. For many years the notion was: If you could get in at Reynolds, you were set for life, she said.

Reynolds recently donated a 70,000 sq ft, immaculately maintained research facility to the town for redevelopment. Reynolds, Anderson said, is still probably the single largest philanthropic company.

I cant imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars thats worth, said Anderson. Theyre benevolent and care a lot about the community, but its more like a partnership. If Reynolds were to ever leave, it would be a real blow to our ego, for sure.

Tobacco grows on state highway 222/111 outside Dudley, North Carolina. Photograph: Justin Cook for the Guardian

Were down here getting sick, going hungry

If the company is seen by some as benevolent, that does not necessarily translate to automatic financial security for farmers and their workers. One twentysomething farmer stood by a running tractor as he described the start of each tobacco season in eastern North Carolina. It begins, he said, with a loan from the bank that you dont know if youre gonna pay back.

He started cutting tobacco in a friends field when he was about eight years old, the farmer said. As he smoked a Camel menthol, he acknowledged: I shouldnt, as much shit as I spray on it.

For farmers, the tobacco system has changed considerably since the 1990s. Auctions are obsolete. Now, farmers contract directly with cigarette manufacturers or leaf buyers. This farmers entire crop is contracted to Alliance One, one of two major leaf companies.

Labor disputes are common here. Farmers can face cash shortfalls mid-season, making it difficult to pay workers on time. Farm laborers have no collective bargaining rights in the US, and child labor is legal on farms. Children as young as 12 can start working unlimited hours outside of school, and children of any age can work on a family-owned tobacco farm.

With only a handful of companies left to sell to Philip Morris International, Altria, BAT, Japan Tobacco International and two leaf buyers who serve the same companies farmers feel at the behest of tobacco companies, those interviewed by the Guardian said. This year, some tobacco buyers didnt offer farmers formal contracts until spring, when tobacco was already growing in greenhouses.

Nevertheless, after a long fight with the Mount Olive Pickle Company, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc) secured a collective bargaining agreement with farmers in the North Carolina Growers Association. Several tobacco companies used farmers in the association, thus some tobacco workers were also covered. Last year alone, Floc handled around 500 total labor complaints, often for wage violations. But their influence is small: the union represents just 7% of North Carolinas 100,000 workers.

The group has asked BAT to recognize a right to organize for all farm workers worldwide, and blames low pay for frequent disputes.

I think they should pay more, said Sintia Castillo, a labor organizer for Floc, whose accent reflects her heritage. Some words come out North Carolina country, others with a snap of second-generation Spanish. Youre rolling in money at the top, and were down here getting sick, going hungry.

Castillo has six brothers and sisters, and started working in the fields with her family at age seven. She moved to tobacco around 13 and into packing houses at 18. Now shes 24, a woman whose work has acquainted her with the paradox of organizing people without rights.

Theres been times I fire people up, and then they get fired, she said.

Catherine Crowe, 23, and Sintia Castillo, 24, who work with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc). Photograph: Justin Cook for the Guardian

She tells a story about Brent Jackson, a state senator and tobacco farmer. Jackson was forced to repay several thousand dollars in back wages after he was sued in federal court by migrant workers. The union then alleged he blacklisted the seven farmworkers. Jackson pulled out of the growers association.

Last week, he sponsored a bill to make it illegal for farmers to deduct union dues from paychecks, or for growers to end a dispute with farmworkers by signing a union contract. The bill is currently on the governors desk. Campaign finance records show Jackson received $9,400 in donations from tobacco companies.

Child labor exists because of poverty wages. Theres no way that a family can live off of $7.25 per hour, said Catherine Crowe, an organizer with Floc. Forcing children not to work without increasing wages, the union contends, would only leave struggling families worse off.

Philip Morris International and Alliance One have said they do not buy tobacco from farms that employ children under 18 for most tasks and, in general, tobacco companies have said growers are not our employees. Nevertheless, tobacco company audits have identified many instances of child labor in the supply chain.

In the past, Crowe and Castillo said, BAT has shown more willingness to work with the organizing committee, promising to encourage Reynolds to listen to union demands. As for how the unified company will act in the future: That, said Crowe, is the question.

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Inside the murky world of Nairobi’s smoking zones

The Kenyan government has cracked down on cigarettes with a ban on advertising and smoking in public, driving the habit into the shadows

There is a wooden shed in the middle of Nairobi city centre, dark, full of fumes, crowded and deliberately built beside the public toilets. It feels like a place of shame.

Jairus Masumba, Nairobi countys deputy director of public health, calls it in jest the gazebo. Its the public smoking place, created by his department. It is claustrophobic and filled with smoke, some of which drifts out through slats, but most of which hangs heavily in the fugged air inside.

Those who enter have to be desperate and theyre usually men. A 27-year-old woman, who comes from the south of Kenya, is a rarity. She is heavily made-up and stands in the doorway. She smokes seven to 10 cigarettes a day. Its bad for you, no? she says several times, though she knows the answer.

The men inside, barely visible as you enter because of the darkness and the fug, are smoking hard, standing up like a football crowd, all facing the same way though there is nothing to look at except the wooden slats of the far side of the shed. Music blares but nobody is dancing. They are grim faced, doing what they have to do. A young man, high probably on khat and cigarette in hand, chases some of the butts and the ash out with a broom, seeking money from the other smokers for cleaning up. He says he has a diploma in business marketing and another diploma in substance abuse counselling.

A woman stands at a smoking zone in Nairobi, Kenya. Smoking openly on the street can incur a hefty fine. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

At the door are two cigarette sellers, doing a busy trade. Its rare for anyone to buy whole packets. Packs of cigarettes in Kenya are broken up and sold by vendors as single sticks. That makes them cheap for women, children and the poor, despite manufacturers being banned from producing packets of less than 10. One of the two sellers sitting passively inhaling smoke is a woman who taps a packet of 20 and shakes them deftly out, one at a time, exchanging them for small coins. Men buy one, sometimes a couple, sometimes three. They will not all be smoked here. The sellers sit at the large red wooden boxes, with open lids that become the display cabinet. Most popular and cheapest is Sportsman at 100 shillings a pack (75p, 97 cents) or 5 shillings (less than 4p, 5 cents) for a single. Smokers buy sweets too, to take away the smell of tobacco when the worker goes back to the office.

Tobacco: a deadly business

The shed is vile, but few dare smoke even on the pavement outside in the cleaner air in the knowledge that the plain clothed official public health enforcers will be circling, ready to impose fines on anyone they catch. Nairobi city has got tough on smoking. The Kenyan government has banned advertising and marketing and smoking in public places, but it is up to the individual counties to interpret and enforce that and they all do it differently. Nairobi county has cracked down hard. Lighting up on the open street in the city centre can result in a stiff fine of 50,000 shillings (374, $485) or even arrest. But its not so everywhere, or even outside of the city centre.


Yusef, 58 and from Kenyas second city Mombasa on the Indian Ocean coast, says people smoke openly in Mombasa. He has been smoking since the 1970s. His 28 year-old daughter died recently from colon cancer. That gives him a different perspective. Im more worried about GM foods, he says.

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Sponsors dragged into pay dispute as Australian players pursue rival deals

Cricket Australias corporate partners have joined the ranks of aggrieved parties as a result of the cricket pay dispute

Cricket Australias corporate partners have joined the ranks of aggrieved parties as a result of the cricket pay dispute. Key sponsors KFC and Toyota are among a number of commercial backers left exposed by the failure of administrators and players to come to a speedy resolution, while financial asset manager Magellan has baulked at signing on as naming rights sponsor for upcoming Test summers until a new pay deal is signed.

According to a Daily Telegraph report, Big Bash League naming rights sponsors KFC, who throw between $3m and $4m into Cricket Australias coffers each year, are among a number of top tier sponsors currently wary of the ability of uncontracted players to sign endorsement deals with corporate rivals. Had a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) been negotiated by the June 30 deadline, KFC and others would have been protected from such exposure to ambush marketing.

The dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association is unfortunate and one we hope will be resolved amicably as soon as possible for the benefit of the game, a KFC spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph.

In what could prove the first of many similar deals in weeks to come, Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc has signed a sponsorship contract with an Audi dealership in Western Sydney an agreement that will not please Cricket Australias automotive category sponsors Toyota. It is expected that several other players will sign third party commercial deals in the absence of Cricket Australia contracts.

Two weeks ago Magellan emerged as the surprise contender to take on the Test series naming rights sponsorship vacated by Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA), who decided to redirect their budget to backing womens cricket but the asset management company is considered unlikely to ink a deal until the pay dispute is resolved.

That leaves Cricket Australia without a sponsor for the upcoming Test and one-day international summers, after Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) ended its sponsorship deal for the latter. The Australian estimated that CBA had paid in the region of $50m for its four-year sponsorship of Test cricket, while longtime backer CUB kicked in approximately $65m over five years. The current market rate on the Test deal is estimated to fall in the region of $6-8m per season. No clear contenders have emerged to take on the one-day international and Twenty20 international deals.

According to an ESPNCricinfo report, prior to the 30 June expiry of the MoU Australian players were warned by CA team performance manager Pat Howard that they faced six-month bans for participating in unsanctioned matches, and that they were not to sign sponsorship deals that conflicted with CAs commercial partnerships. News of Starcs Audi deal indicates that key players are willing to defy CAs demands until a new pay deal is signed.

In addition to the scramble for major sponsors, CA is facing serious hurdles in its attempt to sign a lucrative TV rights deal. At times in the last 18 months they had hoped this sum would push the $1bn mark for a five-year agreement, but the financial troubles of Big Bash League broadcaster Ten and a flatlining commercial TV landscape have added unwelcome commercial pressure on CA.

Most pressing of all for Australian administrators is the looming spectre of a cancelled Ashes tour. Last week, the ECB confirmed in a statement to ESPNCricinfo that unless CA and the players association reached a new agreement, England would not travel to Australia for the marquee series. CA responded swiftly, saying they are 100% confident that the Ashes will go ahead.

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‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Makes Massive $117 Million Box Office Debut

LOS ANGELES, July 9 ( – Spider-Man is officially a box office overachiever.

As of Sunday morning, the latest cinematic depiction of the webbed-hero, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is looking at a $117 million opening from 4,348 locations. $10.6 million of the domestic total came from 392 Imax screens. Thats a huge win for Sony, Columbia Pictures, and Marvel Studios for the film, which cost roughly $175 million to produce. The anticipated opening weekend is higher than industry estimates, which were in the $90 million to $110 million range, while the studio cautiously pegged it at $80 million.

Everyone at Sony and Marvel are thrilled, said Josh Greenstein, Sonys marketing chief. Its safe to say its a triumphant return for Spider-Man.

Homecoming banked on the idea that the summer box office was craving a family-friendly superhero movie Tom Holland plays a high school version of Peter Parker who, at 15 years old, has to prove that he is worthy of being called an Avenger. And it seems that bet is paying off. The $117 million figure is the second largest in Sony Pictures history, behind Spider-Man 3.

Much attention has been paid to the flicks successful marketing campaign, which heavily featured Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who serves as Spider-Mans mentor in the film. Michael Keaton plays the big bad, Vulture, Jon Favreau plays Spideys guardian, Happy Hogan, and Zendaya stars as Michelle Jones (MJ), Parkers brainy classmate. The movie consistently dominated social media in the weeks leading up to its release.

Before Homecoming, Jon Watts directed two much lower-budget feature films the 2014 horror movie Clown and 2015s Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon. He also has a handful of writing and producing credits, and is one of six writers credited on the Homecoming script. Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal share production credit. While the former has proven essentially infallible in the biz, Homecoming serves as a redemption narrative for the latter. After the infamous 2014 Sony hack, Pascal was ousted from her post at the top of the studio, and began to focus on producing. This is her second major release following last summers Ghostbusters reboot, but she also has a hand in a long list of upcoming projects including Sonys Barbie movie, Steven Spielbergs A-list-studded The Papers, and future Spider-Man movies.

We have incredible partners, said Greenstein, who said that those relationships helped the film to be embraced in a big way. It really shows the strength for this beloved character.

Despite the reliability of superhero movies at the box office, Homecoming could have been seen as a big bet for all parties involved. For one, its the third iteration of the character in the past 15 years before Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire donned the Spidey suit. The makers had to trust that audiences would be ready to see the character yet again. On top of that, the summer box office has not been particularly kind to the sequels and reboots that have become the industrys summer signature. As audience fatigue has impacted previously reliable franchises like Transformers and even Despicable Me, the one thing that this summer has proved is that the domestic audience is not yet burnt out on superheroes.

This is yet another Marvel movie release that has managed to capture the approval of critics and audience members something the the DC Extended Universe could not claim until this summer with Wonder Woman. But Marvels been there since the beginning. Homecoming currently has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore.

Homecoming is the only major release this weekend, so the rest of the top five are made up to familiar faces. Starting with Despicable Me 3, which is headed for a $34 million second frame, or a 53% drop from last weekend. Baby Driver should sit comfortable in third, as positive word of a mouth is steering to a $12.8 million second weekend, or a 38% drop. Wonder Woman continues to hold on with $10.1 million in its sixth weekend, and Transformers: The Last Knight should round out the top five with $6.3 million.

Kumail Nanjianis The Big Sick is entering the top ten as it expands toward wide release, starting next Friday. From 326 North American theaters this weekend the movie should make $3.7 million. Sofia Coppolas The Beguiled should stay in the top ten as it, too, expands. This weekend its expected to make $2.1 million from 941 locations. Meanwhile, A24s A Ghost Story starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck should spook $105,000 from four locations during its opening frame.

Overall, the summer box office stands at about $2.3 billion, or 8% lower than last year. That leaves the year overall about dead even with 2016 after movies like Beauty and the Beast, Logan, Get Out and The Fate of the Furious laid a strong foundation for the summer during the early part of the calendar year.

Despite the strength of Spider-Man: Homecoming, yet another down weekend puts us dead even with last years box office pace as we remain down 8% for the summer, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. The silver lining is the expected continued strength of Spidey, plus War For The Planet of The Apes, Dunkirk, and Atomic Blonde all in rapid succession that could fuel a much-needed late summer renaissance at the multiplex.

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Roofing Companies Are Now Offering Free Guns With Your Purchase For Some Reason

Protect this house!

Roofing companies in at least two states have adopted a bizarre marketing campaign in which customers who buy a roof get a free semi-automatic weapon as a bonus.

Digital Roofing Innovations in Decatur, Alabama, is the latest to offer the special. The company released a campy, over-the-top ad on July 4 complete with short shorts, beers, and gunfire promising an AR-15 to anyone who orders a roofing job.

Co-owner Zach Blenkinsopp, the scantily-clad star of the ad, promises its not a gimmick.

Youre gonna get you a free AR-15 rifle after we complete the roof. Hows that sound? he says. Donald Trumpsays, make America great again, I say, make America gun again.

The company likely drew inspiration from a similar Denver-area campaign by Weatherproof Roofing & Exteriors in Colorado, which made headlines in May with its offer of an AR-15, a handgun, a self-defense shotgun or a $500 gift certificate to Cabelas.

Both companies offer a voucher for a gun after the customer passes a background check. Its all completely legal.

Blenkinsopp, a self-proclaimed Navy veteran, told local WHNT that he wasnt trying to make social commentary about the gun violence problem in America. Weatherproofs ad is a bit more political, however,stating on its website, Youre a true patriot who believes that gun ownership isnt just your right, its to protect citizens like you against the infringement on your God-given rights.

Weatherproof Roofing

Still, the issue is polarizing. As weve reported, lawmakers are still split on whether a more weaponized populace is the answer to gun violence, even after a gunman shot a member of Congress and four other peopleat baseball practicein the northern Virginia in June. HuffPosts Nick Wing argues that more guns are not the answer.

Regardless, its as easy as ever to get your hands on a semi-automatic gun. Shortly after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year, it took us just 38 minutes to buy our own AR-15 a process that was delayed only because people were flocking to buy them after the shooting, a phenomenon that always happens after mass shootings.

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‘His worst game ever’: Lonzo Ball underwhelms in Summer League debut

The No2 overall pick finishes with five points on 2-for-15 shooting in his NBA Summer League debut with the Los Angeles Lakers

It took Lonzo Ball 20 seconds to get a near-capacity crowd off its feet in his first summer league game.

Just like LaVar taught him.

Balls highly anticipated Los Angeles Lakers debut on Friday night started with a flourish on a perfectly timed lob pass to Brandon Ingram. But that was one of the few bright spots for a player Magic Johnson has dubbed as the new face of the Lakers in a 96-93 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The No2 overall pick scored just five points and missed 13 of his 15 shots, to the disappointment of a near-capacity crowd that came out to see him. Leave it to his father to sum up the night with some of his trademark straight talk.

He dont be discouraged because thats the worst he can do, LaVar Ball said. He cant go but up. And he still kept them in the game playing his worst game ever. Thats what I like about it.

Lonzo Ball was 1-for-11 from three-point range, including a bad miss from well beyond the line the kind of daring pull-up the Ball family is known for with 1:16 to play in regulation.

He was also a little slow to react on defense, including when Brice Johnson made a quick spin past him for a dunk. The Clippers posted the highlight on their Twitter account, calling it a pretty baller move.

Thats the kind of target that LaVars antics have painted on his sons back. And its much bigger than the purple No2 under his name.

Tough game. We didnt get the job done, Lonzo Ball said. I need to be better.

Lonzo Ball managed a scant five points on 2-for-15 shooting in his NBA Summer League debut.

Scouts do wonder how that unorthodox shooting stroke will translate to the NBA game. What is not up for debate is the Lakers return to must-see status with the pass-first point guard on the trigger and his carnival barker father on the mic.

While LaVar Ball has dropped hints that he could tone down the bombastic comments and unending marketing of his Big Baller Brand apparel that turned him into an internet villain of sorts during Lonzos lone season at UCLA, he was totally in character for his sons debut.

The Lakers fans are coming and my boy is gonna bring em out, LaVar Ball crowed at halftime. Because theres excitement for the game. Its entertainment. That boy is going to entertain. Hes been doing it all his life.

LaVar Ball entered the Thomas & Mack Center to a raucous ovation, flanked by more than a dozen family members. They watched the game from a raised stage behind one baseline, and as he ascended the stairs for the first time, he raised his hands and pumped his fist to the crowd.

Lonzo Ball got off the bus wearing a black Big Baller t-shirt, red shorts and black Big Baller ZO2 shoes yes, the ones with the $495 price tag and did two television interviews before he even changed into his Laker uniform. A bedazzled, patent leather backpack draped over his shoulders and established NBA players including DeMar DeRozan, DAngelo Russell and Isaiah Thomas were all in attendance for the game, while Johnson, the new Lakers president of basketball operations, sat courtside.

Lakers games have always been well-attended here in Vegas, just a four-hour drive from Los Angeles. But this one reached another level, with fans piling into the arena three hours before game time and sitting through a Bucks-Cavaliers game before finally getting to the main attraction. And when Lonzo found Ingram for the alley-oop on his first possession, it looked like things were going to come easy.

I always said get em out their chairs on the first play, LaVar Ball said. Thats how we used to play with his brothers. Either hit a long three-pointer from halfcourt or a dunk.

But it became clear very quickly that things wouldnt always go smoothly. The sophomore Ingram shined with 26 points in 31 minutes, playing with more assertiveness than his celebrated rookie teammate. Lonzo finished with five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Its got nothing to do with him, LaVar Ball said. Hes going to make this team come up and make everybody start passing the ball. And thats when that chemistry comes in and thats when that winning comes in. Thats when the winning comes in. Once you start winning, everybody starts feeling good.

In that way, LaVar is right on the money.

Lonzos clothes are flashy, and the first play was quite a highlight. But the rest of his game was decidedly understated, much like his personality. Magic may have dubbed him the new face of the NBAs marquee franchise and his father says the rookie is on the Lakers because he spoke it into existence. But there is nothing look-at-me about him.

He speaks quietly and with a straight face, nothing like the mega-watt smile Johnson brought to Hollywood from Michigan State. Surrounded by cameras after the game, he couldnt wait to move on.

The only way to go now is up, Lonzo said. Thatll probably be the worst game Ill have all week so hopefully I keep getting better.

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