Investing in Disaster Resilience Now ‘Mission Critical’ for Business

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Gillis, Ellis & Baker, a New Orleans-based insurance company, relocated from the battered, flooded city to nearby Baton Rouge so it could carry on serving its 4,000 clients, who all had at least one claim following the storm.

Had it not been able to keep operating after the disaster, “we would have been out of business today”, said the firm’s president, Anderson Baker.

“We would not have been able to live up to our promise to get our customers’ claims initiated,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The company had decided to ramp up its disaster plan just weeks before the deadly hurricane hit, and was able to make use of a generator-powered trailer with office equipment and satellite phones provided by U.S. firm Agility Recovery.

“We don’t see it as a choice,” said Baker. “It’s part of being in business. For us, it’s mission critical.”

Whether a devastating hurricane like Katrina – the costliest storm in U.S. history, which left 1,800 dead — or more commonplace events such as a rat infestation, natural hazards can disrupt business operations and harm profitability.

In 2016, over 10,000 people died as a result of natural and man-made disasters globally, while financial losses amounted to at least $158 billion, according to insurance giant Swiss Re.

Increasingly, companies are realizing how important disaster recovery can be for their survival, and are finding ways to keep their staff and assets safer from threats. Gillis, Ellis & Baker is now investing in remote and cloud-based systems as part of a strategy to protect its operations in case of future disasters.

“We’ve got to be there or those clients—  have no reason to stay with us any further if we’re not there to answer the phones and do what they need us to do,” said Baker.

Stock-piling critical materials, backing up computer data, identifying alternative suppliers and re-locating activities are among the measures businesses can take to prepare and build resilience to disasters, experts say.

Recovery services

And as climate change brings more extreme weather around the globe, there is growing demand from the private sector for backup services in case a disaster strikes.

“It’s asset protection, employee protection — so there’s a responsibility for companies to have to do this,” said Hyune Hand, chief executive officer of Agility Recovery. “The biggest gap we have is when customers say ‘we’ll deal with that if it comes’.”

Agility Recovery, which provides mobile units, computers and generators to disaster-affected clients, is gearing up to increase the number of ready-to-use offices it can offer its customers in emergencies.

When Superstorm Sandy ploughed into the U.S. northeast in 2012, leaving over 120 people dead and knocking out power and telecommunications, Agility Recovery brought in equipment to help its clients, ranging from large financial institutions to local convenience stores.

But businesses need not wait for a crisis to hit before putting in place measures to reduce losses.

When it comes to building resilience to climate change, companies should consider the potential impact on their physical assets, as well as rising costs, from energy prices to raw materials, said Geoff Lane, a partner in the sustainability team at professional services firm PwC.

“Another key aspect is ‘brand resilience’ as consumers, employees and investors are increasingly looking at companies’ overall positioning and response to climate change when making financial or life choices,” he said.

‘Triple Dividend’

But many businesses — and governments — are still too used to under-spending on prevention, taking a short-term approach that ultimately costs them more, experts say.

“We are actually far outspending on recovery and response, the post-event funding … than on prevention and ex-ante anticipative management, and this is really a problem,” said Swenja Surminski, a senior fellow at the London-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

“We’re locking ourselves into a less resilient future if we don’t address risk right now,” she told a recent webinar for the International Center for Climate Governance.

A new book co-authored by Surminski, “Realizing the Triple Dividend of Resilience,” argues that boosting resilience can save lives and avoid losses; unlock economic potential; and generate additional value known as “co-benefits.”

These “co-benefits” could be investing in life boats for floods that can also be used by communities for fishing and trade, or leasing shelters that double up as meeting spaces.

Ripple effects

Adam Rose, research professor at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy, agrees that emphasizing the benefits could be one way to incentivize businesses to invest in resilience.

Doing so could help them avoid a drop in profits due to loss of customers and market share, and lessen disruptions to the local economy or society they operate in, he said.

“People are realizing that disaster losses to an individual business have spill-over effects,” he said.

For example, the GDP losses from Hurricane Katrina far exceeded the cost of property damage, while business interruption caused by the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York was valued at around four times higher than the physical damage to the World Trade Center, Rose noted.

So far, larger companies have generally been quicker to take action, while many medium and small-sized firms still need to get up to speed and adopt best practices, he added.

“Businesses are getting more involved in sharing information [and] learning more about all features of the broad definition of resilience,” he said.

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У парламенті Нідерландів проголосували за ратифікацію Угоди про асоціацію України і ЄС

У Нідерландах нижня палата парламенту, Друга палата Генеральних штатів, проголосувала за повторну ратифікацію Угоди про асоціацію між Україною і Європейським союзом.

На такий крок очікували, бо владна коаліція має в нинішньому складі палати більшість, хоча може втратити її за результатами виборів 15 березня.

Верхня Перша палата голосуватиме щодо цієї ратифікації після виборів, але її склад на цих виборах не зміниться.

Уряд Нідерландів подав угоду з Україною на повторну ратифікацію всупереч результатам консультативного референдуму після того, як на саміті ЄС у грудні 2016 року ухвалили символічну спеціальну офіційну заяву, що цілком відповідає змістові угоди, але окремо наголошує на тих моментах, яких угода дійсно не містить (наприклад, що угода сама по собі не гарантує Україні членства в ЄС чи військової допомоги від Євросоюзу), щоб заспокоїти євроскептиків.

Нідерланди наразі є єдиною країною в ЄС, що ще не здійснила ратифікації цієї угоди. Ця ратифікація вже була схвалена в Нідерландах на всіх рівнях, але процес зупинився на найостаннішій, уже технічній стадії – передачі на зберігання до Брюсселя ратифікаційних документів – після того, як ця угода стала першим об’єктом прагнення євроскептиків скористатися новим законом Нідерландів про консультаційні референдуми щодо вже ухвалених законів. У референдумі у квітні 2016 року взяв участь ледь більший відсоток виборців, ніж мінімальних 30%, необхідних для визнання його чинним, але серед цих учасників більшість була проти ратифікації: 61% відсоток учасників референдуму, в якому взяли участь понад 32% виборців, проголосував проти, таким чином долю угоди вирішили менш ніж 19,7% нідерландських виборців. Відтак уряд країни напередодні виборів опинився у складній ситуації: він виступав за ратифікацію, але не міг просто проігнорувати результати референдуму.

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Trump Vows Push to Bring Back Jobs Lost to Other Countries

U.S. President Donald Trump met Thursday with chief executives of some of the country’s biggest manufacturers, praising their efforts to add jobs in the U.S. and vowing to bring back jobs that corporate America has moved to other countries in search of cheaper labor.

 

 

“My administration’s policies and regulatory reform, tax reform, trade policies, will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country,” Trump said at the White House meeting.

“Everything’s going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs, the real jobs,” he said. “They’ve left, and they’re coming back. They have to come back.”

More than 12 million U.S. workers hold manufacturing jobs, but the country has lost five million such jobs since 2000, sometimes to automation, but also to other countries as corporate executives look to cut their employment costs by moving jobs to places where workers are paid less than they are in the United States.

Corporate conference

Trump went around a conference table as 24 corporate chieftains introduced themselves, telling Marillyn  Hewson, the chairman and chief executive of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, that he appreciated the company’s agreement to cut the cost of building the country’s new F-35 stealth fighter jets.

“She’s tough, but it worked out well I think for everybody,” Trump said. “And I think — I have to say this, Marillyn, you’ve gotten a lot of credit because what you did was the right thing. So we appreciate it. She cut her price over $700 million, right? By over $700 million.”

Then, recalling his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in last November’s presidential election, Trump said, “Do you think Hillary would have asked for $700 million? Oh, boy. I hope you — I assume you wanted her to win.”

As the manufacturing executives laughed at his remark, Trump told Hewson, “But you know what? You’re going to do great. And you’re going to make more planes. It’s going to work out the same or better.”

When chief executive Denise Morrison of the Campbell Soup Company introduced herself, Trump gave his pithy assessment of her company’s products, “Good soup.”

Corporate leaders from defense contractor General Dynamics, U.S. Steel, General Electric, carmaker Ford Motor, appliance manufacturer Whirlpool, pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and others were among those meeting with Trump, now in his second month in office.

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Кононенко та Грановський регулярно бувають в АП та СБУ під час зустрічей Порошенка з керівництвом СБУ – «Схеми»

Народні депутати з фракції «Блок Петра Порошенка» Ігор Кононенко та Олександр Грановський регулярно приїжджають в адміністрацію президента та Службу безпеки України під час зустрічей президента Петра Порошенка з керівництвом СБУ, зокрема з Василем Грицаком. Про це йдеться в сюжеті програми «Схеми», в якому журналісти показали декілька таких епізодів.

Так, у ніч на 22 грудня 2016 року опівночі до центрального управління СБУ на вулиці Володимирській приїхав президент. У той же час біля СБУ журналісти помітили автомобілі, якими користуються народні депутати Ігор Кононенко та Олександр Грановський.

15 лютого 2017 року журналісти програми «Схеми» зафіксували, як в адміністрацію президента з різницею в сім хвилин під’їхали депутат Грановський та голова СБУ Василь Грицак і перебували там приблизно протягом години. Обидва залишили будівлю майже одночасно.

 

20 лютого журналісти помітили, як з адміністрації президента виїжджали народний депутат Грановський, народний депутат Кононенко та голова СБУ Грицак.

Окрім того, журналісти помітили, що 18 січня 2017 року депутат Грановський перебував у центральному управлінні СБУ одночасно з генеральним прокурором України Юрієм Луценком.

«Схеми», спільний проект Радіо Свобода і телеканалу «UA.Перший», звернулись до президента України з проханням прокоментувати ці факти. «Згадані Вами депутати не беруть участі у нарадах Президента України з представниками силових відомств, бо не мають для цього жодних підстав. У той же час кожен народний депутат має право вільно, без окремого запрошення відвідувати Адміністрацію Президента України. У вказані у Вашому запиті дати згадані народні обранці не зустрічалися з Президентом», – мовиться у відповіді прес-служби адміністрації президента на запит програми.

Депутат Олександр Грановський на запитання програми відповів письмово.

«Такі візити мають виключно професійний характер у контексті моєї депутатської діяльності. Також очевидно, що в рамках даної відповіді на Ваш інформаційний запит я не буду говорити про деталі своїх зустрічей. Я далекий від думки, що Президент України Порошенко Петро Олексійович, Голова Служби безпеки України Грицак Василь Сергійович і Генеральний Прокурор України Луценко Юрій Віталійович проводять будь-які секретні наради, на яких присутні люди, статус яких не дозволяє їм бути учасником подібних робочих зустрічей», – зазначив він.

Прес-служба СБУ та прес-служба народного депутата Кононенка поки що не відповіли на запити програми «Схеми» із проханням про коментар.

Олександр Грановський був одним із об’єктів журналістських розслідувань програми «Схеми» про зустрічі депутата з представниками судів та прокуратури. Неформально саме його називають куратором від влади у правоохоронній та судовій системах.

Народний депутат Олександр Грановський – близький соратник депутата Ігоря Кононенка, партнера і друга президента України Петра Порошенка.

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Influence Game: GM Bill Self-driving and Self-interested

With states seizing the initiative on shaping the future of self-driving cars, General Motors is trying to persuade lawmakers across the country to approve rules that would benefit the automaker while potentially keeping its competitors off the road.

The carmaker denies trying to freeze out other brands, but legislators in four states say GM lobbyists asked them to sponsor bills that the company’s competitors contend would do just that. The bills set a blueprint for the introduction of fully self-driving cars that are part of on-demand, ride-sharing fleets, but they must be owned by an automaker.

Competitors working on self-driving technology like Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo fear the measures could shut out their companies because they don’t manufacture cars. And some automakers that are developing autonomous cars say they could be shut out, too, because their vehicles still rely on having a driver ready to step in.

GM began by getting a bill passed last year on its home turf, in Michigan. In response to complaints from Waymo, a compromise bill was also passed to allow participation by technology companies. But Bryant Walker Smith, a leading legal expert on self-driving cars, said the compromise was poorly worded and that it’s unclear what it would do.

This year, bills similar to the Michigan law, but without the compromise language, have been introduced in at least five states: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Tennessee. GM lobbyists have also urged lawmakers in other states to introduce versions of the bill.

Prospects for passage of the bills are uncertain. But the state-by-state lobbying by the powerful automaker and its competitors shine light on the behind-the-scenes fight to determine how self-driving cars will operate on American roads and which companies will have the competitive edge.

With no federal regulations for self-driving cars in place, states are assuming responsibility for ensuring the benefits of the technology can be reaped without sacrificing safety. Federal regulators provided safety guidance to states and automakers last year, but stopped short of issuing binding rules. Key members of Congress say they also are exploring legislation. Eight states have self-driving car laws, and bills have been introduced in 20 states this year, according to tracking by Volvo.

General Motors’ dealerships throughout the United States, many of which have close ties to local politicians, give the giant carmaker a lobbying advantage. GM has also made campaign contributions to state lawmakers who introduced the legislation it favors.

GM supports restricting who can deploy self-driving cars because “public acceptance of the technology is going to be very critical,” said Harry Lightsey, a top GM lobbyist. “If somebody is allowed to put technology on the roads and highways that proves to be unsafe, that could have very harmful repercussions.”

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which includes Ford, Lyft, Uber, Volvo and Waymo, opposes the bills, saying they “would favor one company, create an uneven playing field and deter life-saving innovations from reaching citizens in these states by precluding or severely limiting technology companies from testing or deploying fully autonomous vehicles.”

Audi and its parent company, Volkswagen, worry that the bills could exclude partially self-driving cars like the one Audi plans to introduce next year, said Brad Stertz, Audi’s government affairs director. GM hasn’t been willing to see the bills modified or to answer other companies’ concerns so far, he said.

Lightsey said lawmakers who have introduced bills are acting on their own, not at GM’s behest.

“These bills aren’t being introduced at GM’s urging,” he said.

But several lawmakers told The Associated Press that GM lobbyists asked them to introduce bills based on the Michigan law.

Illinois state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat, said he sponsored a bill after GM sought him out. State records show Zalewski has received $2,000 in GM campaign contributions. The bill’s Republican co-sponsor, state Rep. Tom Demmer, has received $2,500 from GM and the bill’s state Senate sponsor, Democrat Martin Sandoval, has received $3,500.

“I don’t make a connection between campaign contributions and policy,” Zalewski said.

Maryland state Sen. William Ferguson said he introduced a bill at GM’s urging in part because he hoped the automaker would expand its transmission facility near Baltimore, creating jobs.

The Democrat said GM lobbyists told him the company would “certainly look more favorably toward expanding in Maryland if there were a legal framework to test and develop (self-driving cars) more freely.” After the AP asked GM about the transmission facility, Ferguson sought to clarify his remarks, saying the automaker didn’t explicitly promise to expand its operations.

Several bill sponsors said they’re willing to consider changes to the measures.

Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green, a Republican, said he wants to reach a compromise. Language that has drawn objections “is there now to get people to join the discussion,” he said. Green’s political action committee has received $3,000 from GM. The bill’s Tennessee House sponsor, Republican William Lamberth II, received a $2,000 contribution from GM a month before introducing his bill.

Lamberth said the contribution had nothing to do with his decision to introduce a bill. Green, Demmer and Sandoval didn’t respond to questions from the AP about the contributions.

Some lawmakers said they didn’t introduce bills despite GM’s requests because they view the measures as anti-competitive.

“We didn’t want to pick winners and losers in the autonomous vehicle arena,” said Colorado state Rep. Faith Winter, a Democrat.

Arizona lawmakers met last month with Gov. Doug Ducey’s staff, GM, Waymo, Uber, Lyft and other companies in response to GM’s effort to get a bill introduced there, said state Sen. Bob Worsley, the Senate transportation committee chairman. While GM argued in favor of the measure, everyone else opposed it, he said.

Worsley, a Republican, called GM’s proposal “a protectionist measure for everybody in manufacturing.”

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Рада ухвалила у першому читанні зміни до «закону Савченко»

Верховна Рада Україна підтримала у першому читанні зміни до так званого «закону Савченко». Цей законопроект підтримали 235 народних депутатів.

Законопроектом передбачається, що зарахування судом терміну попереднього ув’язнення відбувається у разі засудження до позбавлення волі за злочини невеликої та середньої тяжкості із розрахунку один день попереднього ув’язнення за два дні позбавлення волі.

У разі засудження, якщо хоча б один із злочинів є тяжким, особливо тяжким або повторним, попереднє ув’язнення зараховується судом до строку покарання при засудженні до позбавлення волі з розрахунку один день попереднього ув’язнення за один день позбавлення волі.

Закон «Про внесення змін до Кримінального кодексу України щодо удосконалення порядку зарахування судом строку попереднього ув’язнення у строк покарання», або так званий «закон Савченко», набрав чинності 24 грудня 2015 року. Він передбачає зарахування одного дня у СІЗО як двох днів позбавлення волі.

За цим законом, серед інших, було раніше, ніж за попереднім законодавством, звільнено після повного відбування перерахованого терміну позбавлення волі колишнього голову Львівського апеляційного адміністративного суду Ігоря Зварича та екс-депутата Віктора Лозінського. 15 листопада минулого року Верховна Рада відмовилася внести зміни до цього закону.

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«Соратник» Манафорта повідомив про план повернення Януковича в Україну (уточнено)

Колишній співпрацівник американського політтехнолога Пола Манафорта, якого називають «людиною» Манафорта в Києві, Костянтин Килимник повідомив Радіо Свобода, що він розробив іще один план мирного врегулювання на Донбасі, що передбачає повернення до України колишнього президента Віктора Януковича.

Як сказав Килимник, що є громадянином і України, і Росії, в перебігу інтерв’ю в Києві, за цим його так званим «маріупольським планом» Янукович разом із народним депутатом від «Опозиційного блоку» Сергієм Льовочкіним мали б керувати Донецькою і Луганською областями.

При цьому Килимник наголосив, що Манафорт, колишній голова виборчого штабу нинішнього президента США Дональда Трампа і колишній радник Януковича, не причетний до створення цього плану.

Раніше Радіо Свобода помилково повідомило, ніби саме Манафорт є автором «маріупольського плану», і помилково назвало Килимника заступником Манафорта.

Крім того, за словами Килимника, під час виборів у США 2016 року він говорив із Манафортом «кожні пару місяців». «Я інформував його про Україну», – сказав Килимник.

Як розповів Килимник, після перемоги Януковича на виборах 2010 року, яка, на думку багатьох аналітиків, значною мірою стала можлива завдяки роботі Манафорта, він проводив 90 відсотків свого часу в адміністрації президента України, допомагаючи американському політтехнологові.

Килимник також розповів про те, що Манафорт наполягав на підписанні угоди про асоціацію України з Євросоюзом 2013 року, але Янукович до порад політтехнолога не дослухався.

Килимник каже, що він припинив оплачувану роботу на Манафорта 2014 року.

За його словами, востаннє Манафорт відвідував Україну 2015 року, а тим часом залишається радником членів «Опозиційного блоку».

Килимник також припустив, що Манафорт може знову взятися за роботу, пов’язану з Україною, «якщо з’явиться серйозний політичний проект, що буде проукраїнським і зможе принести мир цій країні».

Днями про інший план, що мав би нормалізувати відносини між Україною і Росією, повідомило американське видання The New York Times. За його даними, такий план подав від свого імені народний депутат, на той час член фракції Радикальної партії Андрій Артеменко тепер уже колишньому радникові президента США Майклові Флінну незадовго до відставки американського посадовця. Цей план, зокрема, передбачав би проведення всеукраїнського референдуму про передачу Криму Росії в оренду на 50–100 років, а також виведення російських військ із території України. Це повідомлення викликало різку критику в Україні, Артеменка виключили зі складу фракції Радикальної партії Олега Ляшка, Генеральна прокуратура України відкрила кримінальне провадження за статтею про державну зраду.

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Moody’s Sticks to Initial Assessment of Trump, US Economy

Before Donald Trump won the November election, many analysts were sharply critical of his economic proposals. Some predicted big declines in financial markets, hiring slowdowns and a heightened risk of recession.

But just a little more than a month since Trump became the 45th U.S. president, U.S. stocks have enjoyed the longest winning streak in decades, hiring continues to beat expectations and consumer confidence is soaring.

Were naysayers wrong?

VOA spoke with an early critic of Trump’s economic plans, Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, to ask him if the experts got it wrong.

Zandi’s answer was a crisp “No.”

 “If Mr. Trump got precisely what he wanted, the policy proposals that he had put forward, what would happen to economy? And the answer is, the economy would go into a deep recession.”

Zandi told VOA he stands by his initial assessment before Trump became president, saying that from a policy perspective, he has yet to deliver on his campaign promises.

“What he wanted was 11 million undocumented workers to leave the country. What he wanted was a 45 percent tariff on China, 35 percent on Mexico. What he wanted was tax cuts and government spending increases that would increase the budget deficit by $10 trillion over 10 years. So if that is what he got, that would lead to a recession. That hasn’t changed.”

Others see good signs

But others say the record run-up in stock prices reflects renewed investor optimism under Trump, much of it driven by expectations of corporate tax cuts and fewer regulations. PNC senior analyst Gus Faucher says it’s about higher profits in the short term.

“So they (investors) are expecting stronger U.S. economic growth under President Trump, both real growth — that is after inflation — but also perhaps higher inflation, and that’s going to boost profits as well,” he said. “And then also it looks like we’ll get corporate income tax cuts, so that means more profits to distribute to the shareholders so that’s good news for stock prices.”

Faucher says investors will be disappointed if Trump fails to introduce concrete proposals to boost growth, such as corporate income tax cuts or a major infrastructure jobs program, but he says, in general, the economic outlook is much better than it was just a few months ago.

Enthusiasm wanes

But enthusiasm surrounding Trump’s economic agenda may be waning.

Goldman Sachs says investor confidence may have reached its peak. And Kevin Kelly at Recon Capital Partners says markets may be close to reaching a tipping point.

“Now, it’s focusing on, OK, are we going to get deregulation or are we going to get taxes? Are things going to be weighing for a while? Is it going to be a second half of the year story? I think that’s what’s kind of seeping into the market right now.”

Some economists say Trump’s protectionist, anti-trade positions pose another risk to the larger global economy. 

Trump has turned his back on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he wants to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Critics of NAFTA say the North American trade deal destroyed millions of high-paying manufacturing jobs in the United States.

But Zandi of Moody’s says, “The United States is at the center of the global economy. It’s taken hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and brought them into the middle class. Think about Brazil, think about Eastern Europe, think about China and Asia. Consumers have also benefited enormously from cheaper goods. If we pull back on globalization, the world suffers and we will also suffer.”

Congress likely to back policies

Despite reports of disarray in the early days of the Trump administration, Zandi believes a Republican majority in both houses of Congress is likely to approve most of Trump’s policy proposals. 

But some economists wonder, given the Republican party’s brand of fiscal conservatism, if lawmakers approve Trumps proposed tax cuts, how is the administration going to pay for a major infrastructure jobs program, or new border agents, and of course, that giant border wall between the U.S. and Mexico?

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Moody’s Economist Sticks to His Prediction: Trump Bad for Economy

Before Donald Trump won the election, many analysts were sharply critical of his economic proposals. However, in Trump’s first month in office, U.S. stocks have hit a series of record highs and consumer confidence improved. Did analysts get it wrong? Economist Mark Zandi, an early critic of Trump’s economic plans, said it’s still too soon to tell. Mil Arcega reports.

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Brit Awards Pay Tribute to David Bowie, George Michael

The Brit Awards recognized big international stars, including Drake and Beyonce, and a cross section of homegrown talent Wednesday, but the ceremony was overshadowed by the much-missed David Bowie and George Michael.

 

Bowie, who died in January 2016 at age 69, was crowned British male artist of the year and won British album of the year for “Blackstar,” released days before his death.

 

Bowie’s son, filmmaker Duncan Jones, accepted the best album award on behalf of his father. 

“This award is for all the kooks, and all the people who make the kooks,” Jones said. “Kooks” is the song Bowie wrote for his son when he was born.

 

As well as rewarding Bowie, the show paid tribute to one of the music industry’s many losses of 2016: George Michael, who died Christmas Day at age 53.

 

His Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley said that with Michael’s death, “a supernova in a firmament of shining stars has been extinguished.”

 

Coldplay singer Chris Martin performed a moving rendition of Michael’s “A Different Corner” — dueting with a recording of Michael himself and backed by a group of violins.

Beyond the tributes

The flashy show at London’s O2 Arena opened with girl group Little Mix giving a thunderous performance of “Shout Out to My Ex,” backed by silver-painted dancers. The song went on to be named British single of the year.

 There were also performances by Bruno Mars, The 1975, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Robbie Williams and grime musician Skepta on a night where Britain’s music industry celebrated U.K. talent and a smattering of international stars.

 

Soulful chanteuse Emeli Sande was named female British artist of the year, while Manchester indie pop group The 1975 won the trophy for best British band.

 

Singer Matt Healy noted that the band, whose album “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It” has been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, has had the same lineup since the members were 13.

 

Politics (mostly) stay home

Few of the winners and performers took up the invitation. The closest thing to edginess at the show was provided by a pinstripe-clad Katy Perry. 

 

She performed “Chained to the Rhythm,” with its references to zombified people “living in a bubble,” accompanied by Skip Marley and a pair of giant skeletons dressed as U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

The international awards went to global stars, none of whom came to accept them. Drake was named international male solo artist, while Beyonce took the international female prize. A Tribe Called Quest took the trophy for international group.

 

Adele, who took four Grammys last week, was not up for many Brits because her album “25” was eligible last year, and won four Brits. She won this year’s Global Success award, which recognizes international sales.

 

Robbie Williams, former member of boy band Take That turned adult pop hitmaker, was given the Brits Icon award.

 

The award for British breakthrough artist went to big-voiced soul singer Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, whose song “Human” has had heavy play around the world,

 

“Oh my days,” said the singer, whose real name is Rory Graham. “I’m nearly speechless.”

 

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man beat nominees including the favored grime musician Skepta. Grime artists Stormzy and Kano were also award contenders, reflecting the growing artistic and commercial clout of the distinctly British rap genre.

More diverse lineup

The awards have been accused of failing to represent the industry’s ethnic diversity. All last year’s British nominees were white, and protesters rallied under the hashtag britssowhite.

 

Organizers responded by expanding the diversity of the voter base of 1,000 music-industry figures.

 

This year’s list was more diverse, with Sande, soul singer Michael Kiwanuka and singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas among non-white British contenders, along with the three grime performers. 

La Havas, who lost to Sande for best British female artist, said on the red carpet she was glad the London-centric sound of grime was being recognized.

 

“For me personally, when I hear grime, because I’m from London it sounds like London to me,” she said. “It does in hindsight feel a bit unusual that it was something that wasn’t promoted as much.

 

“But I also think now we’ve got some real stars happening in that genre, it makes a lot of sense now.”

 

Keith Harris, who was appointed to head a diversity task force for the British music industry, said “people feel there might actually be a breakthrough.”

 

“The question is whether this is going to be long-term or short-term,” he said. “That’s my concern.”

 

Most Brits winners are chosen by music-industry members, with several selected by public vote, including a best video category decided by social-media ballot during the broadcast. It was won, for the fourth year in a row, by One Direction.

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