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UK to use medieval church spires to boost digital connectivity



The U.K. government has signed an agreement with the Church of England that will see church spires across the country used to improve digital connectivity in rural areas.

The accord was signed by the National Church Institutions of the Church of England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It encourages the Church of England to uses its buildings and properties to boost mobile, WiFi and broadband connectivity for communities. The British government said that 65 percent of Anglican churches were in rural areas and that their locations, often in the center of communities, meant they were “well placed” to help solve problems surrounding connectivity and coverage.

“Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country,” Matt Hancock, secretary of state for DCMS, said in a statement Sunday. “This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”

Two dioceses, Chelmsford and Norwich, are already backing programs that make use of church buildings to boost rural connectivity. The government said it was hoped that the new accord would encourage other parishes and dioceses to “positively consider” how they could follow suit.

Downing Street said that guidance from both the Church and heritage body Historic England would mean that any new telecoms infrastructure would not impact on the character or architectural and historic significance of churches.

The Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, welcomed the agreement. “It builds on what we have been seeking to do in the Diocese of Norwich since 2011 with the creation of WiSpire, a company seeking to use church towers and spires to enable Wi-Fi connectivity in communities, especially in rural locations,” he said.

The bishop added that parish churches were a truly national network. “To use them creatively to create new forms of connectivity enhances their value for the communities they serve.”

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Meme stocks are a ‘false market,’ sees shift in cinema industry



The rise to prominence of so-called “meme stocks” — those favored by retail traders on forums such as Reddit — is creating “false markets” that should be actively avoided, according to Man Group CEO Luke Ellis.

Meme stocks such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment took markets by storm in January and have continued to grab headlines, as Reddit traders piled into previously unfavorable companies for brief periods of time and sent their share prices skyrocketing, causing a squeeze on several hedge funds with short positions against the stock. Shorting a stock involves borrowing it and selling it on with a view to buying it back at a lower price, hence profiting from a depreciation in the share price.

A recent CNBC analysis found that the typical upward run for an individual stock, often as a result of being championed by 10.5 million-member Reddit thread “Wallstreetbets,” lasted around nine days before its first big drop.

Speaking at CNBC’s Evolve Global Summit on Wednesday, Ellis said Man Group uses technological screening and natural language processing to identify the stocks being touted on sites such as Reddit and “avoid trading the names that they’re super excited about because they’re mostly creating false markets.”

Some of the surging share prices have translated into tangible results for the companies involved. Cinema chain AMC Entertainment recently saw its credit rating upgraded by S&P after using Reddit-fueled share offerings to raise capital and make a debt restructuring program less likely.

“I think it becomes really interesting when companies then take advantage of what are otherwise false share prices and issue stock, and I think we’re going to see a radical shift in the cinema industry because one of the cinema chains has been able to use the pumping of the stocks on ‘Wallstreetbets’ in order to go and raise capital,” Ellis said.

“That’s going to put them at a significant competitive advantage compared to other people in their industry.”

However, Ellis added that his FTSE 250-listed firm, which manages around $124 billion in assets, was interested in up to 10,000 stocks around the world and therefore found it “easy to avoid the ones where we think it’s a false market.”

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IMF chief says vaccine policy is the most important economic driver



LONDON — Vaccine policy will trump all other economic polices this year as the world tries to recover from the coronavirus crisis, Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund said at CNBC’s Global Evolve Summit on Wednesday.

“Vaccine policy this year, probably next year, is going to be the most important economic policy, may beat even monetary and fiscal policy in terms of significance,” Georgieva told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore.

“A pre-requisite to bring the world to a sustained high level of growth everywhere is to vaccinate all people and that’s not yet done. We have [a] two track vaccination path right now; we have to overcome that,” she said.

The Fund said in April that the end of the crisis was “increasingly visible.” At the time, the institution raised its economic projections for the global economy based on higher vaccination rates and the ongoing monetary and fiscal stimulus.

As a result, the IMF projected a global GDP growth of 6% for this year, and of 4.4% next year. But the forecasts are heavily dependent on how vaccination programs evolve, including in low-income nations.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva delivers her curtain raiser speech previewing the key issues to be addressed in the Annual Meetings in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2019.

NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP | Getty Images

The IMF suggested last month that an investment of $50 billion should be spent to ensure a faster rollout of coronavirus vaccines, saying it could ultimately generate returns of $9 trillion for the global economy.

Georgieva said Wednesday that this plan is “the best return on investment in our lifetimes.”

The Fund also called for at least 40% of the global population to be vaccinated by the end of the year, and at least 60% by June 2022.

According to Our World in Data, only about 21% of the global population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In the United States, 52% of people received the first shot, in the United Kingdom that number stands at 62% and in the European Union at 45%.

As a way to boost the economic recovery post-pandemic, some parts of the world have developed a certificate that allows travelers to show their status of vaccination. In the European Union, for instance, the rollout of a Covid-19 digital certificate is underway, which shows if the individual has been vaccinated, has tested negative for the virus, or has some degree of immunization.

“Having a vaccination card that shows when you were vaccinated is a very useful tool. It is already being applied. I do believe that we need to look into applying that more broadly,” Georgieva said.

Some industries have suggested that a vaccination certificate should be used to attend large gatherings such as music concerts.

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Women in finance feel overlooked for ‘mediocre’ male co-workers: study



LONDON — A U.K. study of women’s experiences in the financial and professional services sectors found that many felt they were held to higher performance standards versus “mediocre” male co-workers. 

The study, which gathered the views and experiences of 79 women working in finance and professional services, was carried out by Grace Lordan, the director of the Inclusion Initiative at the London School of Economics. 

It was produced by U.K. not-for-profit Women in Banking and Finance, sponsored by major financial firms including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and BlackRock, and was published Wednesday. 

Some 44 of the women in the study were interviewed, some of which said they felt that their “high performance was more regularly discounted as compared to men.” 

Other women said they felt they were treated differently when making mistakes. 

Many believed they were either labeled “competent or incompetent in their ability,” yet there was a “much bigger distribution of perceived ability among their male colleagues, with ‘mediocre’ men being mentioned explicitly by 22 women.” 

The women interviewed attributed this to a number of factors, including these men being part of a “social club where other members are gatekeepers with power.”

Of the women interviewed, 11 were Black. WIBF said in the report that Black women were “strategically over-sampled given they are the group whose progression in the sector is notably slow and cannot be explained away.” 

WIBF also said that “what was striking about the conversations was that the headwinds and tailwinds they faced were not different to the remaining 33 women.” 

“Rather the headwinds were more intense and the tailwinds fewer,” the report added. 

Some of Black women interviewed also highlighted this theme of “mediocre” male co-workers, with some saying that they felt as if they had to perform better than both men and white women “by a specific margin to get the same recognition.” 

More broadly, some of the women interviewed also felt they had to be innovative to succeed, while men were “often welcomed on traditional career pathways.” 

The women surveyed also spoke of encountering managers who talked about caring about equality but that their “walk didn’t match the talk,” indicating a lack of authenticity. 

Indeed, a separate report by Women on Boards U.K., also released on Wednesday, highlighted that 37% of the 261 small companies listed in the U.K. below the FTSE 350 had one or no female directors. 

It also found than less than half had met the U.K. target for having 33% women on boards. 

Fiona Hathorn, CEO of the network Women on Boards U.K., said that these findings showed “the job is far from done” on working toward diversity among the U.K.’s public companies. 

“To accelerate diversity and close the gender pay gap we must look beyond the FTSE 350 and ensure that every company in the FTSE All-Share is held accountable to change,” Hathorn said.

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