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Uber fights for its London survival in court

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Uber will defend its right to operate in London in a court hearing on Monday after the app was deemed unfit to run a taxi service and stripped of its license in its most important European markets.

Regulator Transport for London (TfL) shocked the Silicon Valley firm by rejecting its license renewal bid in September, citing its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Uber’s 40,000 drivers, representing around one in three of all private hire vehicles on the British capital’s roads, can continue to take passengers until the appeals process is exhausted, which could take years.

The legal battle pitches one of the world’s richest cities against a tech giant known for its forays into new markets around the world that have prompted bans, restrictions and protests, including by drivers of London’s famous black cabs.

Uber’s lawyers will begin their appeal at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday, in what is expected to be a largely administrative hearing designed to set a date for a fuller hearing next year.

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has apologised to Londoners and met TfL Commissioner, Mike Brown, in October for what both sides described as constructive talks.

Brown said in November that “there are some discussions going on to make sure they are compliant.”

Months of legal wrangling are likely unless the Silicon Valley app, valued at around $70 billion with investors including Goldman Sachs (GS.N), can come to a new arrangement with the regulator.

“We continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London in order to resolve this,” an Uber spokesman said ahead of the hearing.

“As our new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said, we are determined to make things right.”

Losing its London license was just one of many blows to Uber this year as a stream of executives left amid controversies involving allegations of sexual harassment and issues surrounding data privacy and business practices.

In Britain, Uber is looking to appoint a new boss after Jo Bertram announced her departure less than two weeks after London’s decision

It also faces potential problems in the northern English city of Sheffield where its license has been suspended and in Brighton, southern England, where local officials extended the firm’s license for only six months to give them more time to consider the outcome of the dispute in London.

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24 Hours Across Africa

World food prices hike for first time in five months: U.N. FAO

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World food prices rose for the first time in five months in October, boosted by jumps in quotations for sugar and cereals, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 172.7 points in October, up 1.7% on the previous month and 6.0% year-on-year.

FAO also predicted that cereal production would be 2.704 billion tonnes in 2019, slightly lower than its last forecast.

The FAO sugar price index jumped 5.8% from September levels, largely because of expectations of lower supplies in the year ahead following forecasts of large reductions in sugar output in India and Thailand.

The cereal price index rose 4.2%, with wheat and maize export prices climbing on the back of reduced crop prospects in several major producing countries and “robust trade activity”. By contrast, rice prices fell, hit by subdued demand and expectations of an abundant basmati harvest.

The vegetable oil price index increased 0.5% to reach its highest level in more than a year, while the meat price index rose 0.9%, driven by higher import demand especially from China.

By contrast, the dairy price index dropped 0.7% in October, as lower quotations for cheese offset increases in those for skimmed and whole milk powders, FAO said.

FAO lowered its forecast for global cereal production in 2019 by some 2 million tonnes, pegging world cereal output at 2.704 billion tonnes, but still up 1.8% from 2018 levels.

The U.N. agency said worldwide coarse grain production in 2019 was seen at 1.425 billion tonnes, down 1.3 million on the previous forecast.

Wheat output was seen at 765 million tonnes, down nearly 1 million tonnes on the last outlook, but still on course to set a new record and up 4.5% on 2018 levels.

The forecast for global rice production was put at 513.4 million tonnes, little changed on the previous forecast and slightly below 2018 levels.

Source: Reuters

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24 Hours Across Africa

Director Genevieve Nnaji reacts over Oscar snub.

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Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar submission for best international feature film has been disqualified by award organisers, sparking criticism from its director.

Films in this category, formerly best foreign language film, must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”.

However, the 95-minute film Lionheart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.

Director Genevieve Nnaji  said the film represented how Nigerians communicate.

The disqualification of the film by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was announced to voters in an email on Monday, according to The Wrap.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, questioned the decision on Twitter, pointing out that English is Nigeria’s official language.

Presentational white space

Ms DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of more than $100m in 2016.

Ms Nnaji, who directed and starred in Lionheart, thanked Ms DuVernay for speaking out, saying the film “represents the way we speak as Nigerians”.

She added: “This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country.”

In another tweet, she said: “We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian”.

English is still the official language of Nigeria because of British colonisation, which lasted for nearly a century until independence in 1960.

Lionheart, which is currently streaming on Netflix, is about a Nigerian woman trying to keep her father’s company together in a society dominated by men.

Media captionThe Tanzanian making ‘pure African’ film costumes

The best foreign language film category was changed ahead of the 2020 awards to best international feature film, with the Academy saying that the reference to “foreign” was “outdated within the global filmmaking community”.

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