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The innovators: the cloth cap that treats the brain

Barcelona’s Neuroelectrics develops soft helmet which examines brainwaves to help diagnose and treat conditions, from depression to strokes and maybe beyond

At first glance, the cloth cap produced by Barcelona-based Neuroelectrics looks less like a medical device than a hybrid of the headgear for a Soviet-era cosmonaut and a swimmer in the 1930s.

With a network of protruding wires and an electronics pack on the back, the futuristic soft helmet is in fact a tool for electrically stimulating the brain to identify and treat depression and strokes. Soon, the technology could be used by patients at home while doctors monitor them remotely.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Low pay, low inflation and low interest rates? This is not 1975

The debate over an interest rate hike labours on in both the UK and the US, but static pay and minimal inflation means ultra-low rates are staying put

August 1975. Harold Wilson was prime minister. Gerald Ford had been in the White House for a year following Richard Nixon’s resignation. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was the summer blockbuster and inflation in Britain hit a postwar peak of 27%.

Statutory incomes policy was Wilson’s response to the cost of living crisis in what now seems like a completely different world. With inflation non-existent, today’s central banks have a big decision to make. Is it safe to go back in the water and start raising interest rates for the first time since the global financial crisis and recession of 2007-09?

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

UK economy: the low-interest rate era is far from over

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney may hope otherwise but it’s a safe bet that rockbottom rates will stay rockbottom this year and next

It’s a safe bet that Britain’s rock-bottom interest rates are going to stay at rock bottom, this year and next. That is the message from the global economy, where all the signs point to low inflation for years to come, robbing central banks of any reason to raise the base rates that set the benchmark for mortgages, overdrafts and loans.

Some central banks might even be forced to pump more funds into their economies through those inelegantly titled quantitative-easing programmes just to keep inflation from sinking again into negative territory.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Glencore’s investors want it to stop digging

The mining and trading giant is suffering as the oil price falls and Chinese economy slows down. Now it’s promising to draw in its horns

It’s all happening in Zug, the former Swiss fishing village that now hosts one of the world’s largest concentrations of millionaires. Zug is home to more registered companies than people, and among its 30,000 corporations is Glencore, which will share gory details about the downturn in its fortunes at half-year results on Wednesday.

Unless you are filling up at a petrol station, now is not a great time to be investing in oil. The plummeting price of petrol and the end of the Chinese production boom has hurt the mining and commodities trading company run by the outspoken Ivan Glasenberg. Since its May 2011 float, the shares have lost two-thirds of their value.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Europe has taken charge of Greece like a television nanny

The publication last week of the debt deal signed by Alexis Tsipras has laid bare an alarming programme of social revolution and pervasive oversight

On Channel 4’s The Three Day Nanny, modern-day Mary Poppins Kathryn Mewes arrives in a household of tantrum-prone tots and has just 72 hours to transform them with tough love and discipline into model family members. Judging by Greece’s latest bailout deal, its lenders, led by the German government, are adopting much the same approach.

It was already clear in the wake of eurozone leaders’ marathon all-night talks last month that the governing leftist party Syriza was being punished for its temerity in challenging the eurozone orthodoxy of austerity.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Michelle Mone: lingerie queen becomes the startup tsar | Observer profile

The entrepreneur, best known for her Ultimo brand, is David Cameron’s latest business adviser. Critics may say she is more glamour than substance, but she is being tipped for a peerage

In January 2014, David Cameron hosted a lunch at 10 Downing Street for 15 Scottish executives to discuss the forthcoming referendum. He might not have said so explicitly, but the prime minister wanted their backing for the No vote. Michelle Mone, the founder of Ultimo lingerie, whose parent company claims to employ 63,000 people, was one of those in attendance and she remembers the occasion in her recent autobiography, My Fight to the Top. “I was listening to them all thinking, ‘You arse-lickers. Tell him how it really is,’” she wrote. Mone proceeded to do exactly that, announcing to the room: “Your Better Together campaign is rubbish.”

This forthright display seems to have had an impact on Cameron. Or perhaps he appreciated Mone’s support: the 43-year-old entrepreneur became an outspoken advocate for the union, making that classic threat to leave Scotland in the event of a Yes vote and take her business with her.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Big deal: takeover fever returns as memories of the crash recede

Warren Buffett’s largest ever buyout is just the latest example of a resurgence in the merger market that might break records set before the financial crisis

Legendary investor Warren Buffett likes to think of his keynote deals as elephants. The one he unveiled last week, a $37.2bn (£23.8bn) takeover of Precision Castparts, a supplier of parts for aircraft, has trumped all his other solo deals to stand as the largest.

Buffett’s move took place against the backdrop of an increasingly buoyant global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market that could see deal values for this year topping pre-crash totals. US deals are already well on their way to beating their previous high of 2007; the UK is quieter, but nevertheless keeping investment bankers busy.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

From Alphabet to Warren Buffett: how the conglomerate was reborn

Google’s radical restructuring seems inspired by the veteran investor’s Berkshire Hathaway empire. Suddenly, the most unfashionable of corporate models is back

Conglomerates have been distinctly unfashionable among investors for decades. But that may be about to change.

Just as Warren Buffett put the final touches to a $37.2bn deal to add a nuts-and-bolts maker to his sprawling Berkshire Hathaway empire last week, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin unveiled a restructuring that borrowed liberally from the sage of Omaha’s rulebook.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Businesses delivering the most coveted perk: a better commute

Everyone hates a rough commute. So why aren’t more companies helping their employees come up with better alternatives to driving?

Send us your tips, tales and secrets from the front lines of sustainable business

Imagine that, starting tomorrow, half your company’s employees stopped driving to work. The benefits would start accruing almost immediately: less pollution, less real estate needed for parking spaces, improved quality of life and much more. So how do companies do it and, given all these benefits, why aren’t more jumping onboard?

Google – which this week rebranded itself as Alphabet – may not have been the first company to offer shuttles to its employees, but the size and growth of its shuttle program have made it the most prominent, for better or for worse.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS

Greece secures third bailout after Germany backs down on opposition

Jean-Claude Juncker claims Greece will ‘irreversibly’ remain part of the eurozone, after vote by Greek MPs committed to radical economic and fiscal reforms

Greece clinched a three-year bailout worth €86bn (£60bn) after parliamentarians in Athens backed the deal, and Germany backed down on its opposition to the third rescue of the bankrupt country in five years.

A meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels representing the country’s main creditors agreed to launch the new bailout with €26bn being disbursed next week following six months of bitter recrimination that almost saw the country, under the leftwing government of Alexis Tsipras, becoming the first to exit the single currency.

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Source: The Guardian Circular Economy RSS