Planet Business: A week of inconvenient truths

‘Code red’, crypto-keen companies and a tobacco giant seeks to suck in inhaler-maker

Image of the week: Code red

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its "code red for humanity" in a landmark new report published on Monday, thousands of hectares of Greek island Evia remained pointedly on fire, with firefighters and local residents desperately trying to control the blazes on tinder-dry forested land. Greece, Turkey, Sardinia and southern Italy have all been battling wildfires after the worst heatwave in decades, while California has also seen its second-worst wildfire on record, somewhat highlighting the urgency of the IPCC's message ahead of the forthcoming UN climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow this November. To wit: we can expect more extreme weather events (including intense rainfalls and droughts), but if governments and citizens take action now to slash emissions, the most severe consequences of Earth's "intensifying" climate change can be avoided. It's an inconvenient truth that is still inconvenient and still true.

In numbers: Twitter abuse

1,961
Racist tweets removed by Twitter in the three days following England's defeat on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final. Most of these were taken down in 24 hours and Twitter said most were removed "proactively".

99
Percentage of suspended accounts that came from identifiable people, with the UK the largest country of origin. "ID verification would have been unlikely to prevent the abuse from happening – as the accounts we suspended themselves were not anonymous," Twitter said.

34
Percentage of Tweeters who revise their initial reply or decide not to send a reply at all after receiving a recently introduced Twitter prompt telling them it looks like the language they are using could be harmful.

Getting to know: Jacek Olczak

"Born optimist, educated-by-life pragmatist" Jacek Olczak wants to "unsmoke the future", which might seem odd given he is chief executive of Philip Morris International (PMI), aka the seller of more than 130 cigarette brands, the best known being Marlboro. The Swiss executive, promoted to PMI's top job earlier this year, is now leading its attempt to be "majority smoke-free" by 2025 – a target that has lately and remarkably involved bidding for asthma inhaler maker Vectura Group. PMI became chaser-in-chief this week, though some Vectura shareholders might yet baulk at selling a respiratory medicines company to a tobacco one. Indeed, the European Respiratory Society has suggested the deal could hurt Vectura because doctors might avoid prescribing drugs from a company that makes money from smoking, while the American Lung Association and American Thoracic Society have described PMI's interest in Vectura as "the latest reprehensible choice from a company that has profited from addicting users to its deadly products". Well, there is that.

The list: Bitcoin accepters

Amazon recently denied reports that it would start accepting bitcoin as payment on its main ecommerce site by the end of the year, though it said it remains "focused on exploring" what cryptocurrency usage "could look like for customers". So which other companies have declared their bitcoin intentions?

1. AMC. The US cinema giant, owner of Odeon, says US customers will be able to pay for tickets and concessions in bitcoin by the end of the year, thereby uniting the previously separate worlds of cryptocurrencies and popcorn.

2. Axa. The insurer accepts bitcoin in Switzerland, saying the move "represents an investment in the company's digital future".

3. Microsoft. Founder Bill Gates is a bitcoin sceptic, but Microsoft itself has been keen on crypto for years and has helped confer legitimacy on bitcoin as a payment.

4. Starbucks. US latte fans can pay for a crypto-caffeine injection with converted bitcoin through the Bakkt app. Anything is better than those wallet-fattening $1 bills.

5. Lush. It's possible to buy a "bath bomb" from the beauty retailer using bitcoin. But it's not compulsory.

READ MORE