Toyota’s recall of more than 6 million vehicles in the US is certainly not the first time a major company has been forced into an about-face on a product. A chronological look at some of the major product recalls in the last 28 years also shows that how a company manages its product recall can have quite a dramatic effect on future profits.   

1982 – Tylenol murders
When seven people in September 1982 died in a small district in Chicago, Illinois – two after gathering to mourn the death of another victim – and it was discovered that the cause of death was cyanide-laced extra-strength Tylenol pain relief capsules, experts sounded the death knell for the popular American drug.

Video: CBS report on murders in 1982

However, there was a ray of light for Johnson & Johnson, the drug’s manufacturer when Illinois police quickly ruled out contamination at the company’s plants, saying they were looking for a rogue operator, possibly taking bottles off the shelves in local pharmacies to contaminate. J&J acted quickly to recall the drug – which was their most profitable product at the time – and started a big two-phase public relations campaign. The first involved cooperating with the media and advertising the message that the public should not use any Tylenol-based drug but should return them to the company for a refund.

From Gideon Rachman’s blog

On an earlier version of this article, posted late last night (see below), I expressed some scepticism about the Nobel Peace Prize, even suggesting that it might be pointless. Now that Barack Obama has been awarded the peace prize, I would like to withdraw this criticism.  The prize is clearly an award of huge significance, awarded after only the deepest reflection, and won only by demi-Gods.

Advertisers, and the celebrities who endorse their services, will be liable for any untruthful statements made about products, as part of a crackdown by US regulators announced on Monday.

But apart from being welcomed by the FT in an editorial on Wednesday, the new rules, which cover the use of testimonials in advertising, could prove a hidden boon.

While an endorsement from the right celebrity at the right time, or advertising campaigns using famous people, can prove very beneficial, they can do more harm that good – as this top 10 (in ascending order of embarrassment) of worst celebrity endorsements highlights…

10. US Beef Industry Council – Cybill Shepherd

In 1986, the Beef Industry Council hired actress Cybill Shepherd – the Hollywood starlet who was enjoying a new lease of life alongside Bruce Willis in Moonlighting at the time – to expound on her beef cravings for the “real food for real people” campaign.

Within weeks of the campaign starting, however, Shepherd admitted in public that she tried to “stay away from red meat”.

In January 1988, her contract was not renewed.

By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

The free ride is coming to an end. Owners of media content, squeezed by a shrinking advertising market, piracy and aggregators building audiences from their stories, programmes and films, are looking for new ways to get paid for their efforts. In a week-long series starting today, the FT is looking a new at a sector many have left for dead. Amid the wreckage of an industry beset by a steep cyclical downturn and fundamental structural problems, answers are beginning to emerge about where media companies might find new opportunities for growth.
As publishers, broadcasters, games groups and social media upstarts alike redefine their businesses, common questions run through the sector: How can content re-establish its value? Will subscription, membership, e-commerce or micropayment models restore revenues or send consumers elsewhere? Should media owners charge for their content online, and how can they?

How can media companies best get paid for their content online? Leave your comments below and follow the series at www.ft.com/mediachallenge

Robin Harding

Welcome to the FT’s live coverage of the elections in Japan.

0140 For comprehensive coverage of the election and what it all means, please read the newspaper tomorrow. Good night!

0139 It’s been an exciting evening, but the real fun starts now, as the shape of the DPJ government becomes clear and the LDP works out what to do with itself.

0137 It’s about time to wrap this up. The DPJ has won a historic victory and taken a substantial majority in the lower house of the Japanese Diet. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama will be the new prime minister. Prime minister Taro Aso has quit as leader of the LDP.

0136 That means that there are some constraints on its power: if all the other parties unite they will be able to block legislation in the upper house. The lack of a super-majority also makes the DPJ vulnerable if the LDP bounces back in the upper house elections next year.

0132 There are only three seats left to declare. The DPJ has 306 and its smaller allies another 10 so they will not reach the super-majority of 320.

0128 Akio Kyuma, a former defence minister, has lost his seat in Nagasaki No. 2 district to the DPJ’s Eriko Fukuda, a 28 year-old woman. Mr Kyuma will not win a seat via proportional representation.

0125 Yuriko Koike lost in Tokyo No. 10 but she will also return via proportional representation. That means both Ms Koike and Kaoru Yosano, now the ex-finance minister, will be in the Diet for possible election as the new LDP leader.

0121 Mr Hatoyama is talking about the need to listen to the people. He makes an odd reference to the views of Ichiro Ozawa, the previous leader of the DPJ and still a dominant figure in the party. For the time being, that relationship is the pivot on which Japanese politics will rest.

0118 Nobutaka Machimura, leader of the LDP’s largest internal faction, and ex-LDP general secretary Tsutomu Takebe are returned via the Hokkaido PR list. Given the LDP’s reduced size, however, policy debates in Japan will no longer be played out amongst the LDP’s internal factions.

0115 Kaoru Yosano, the LDP finance minister, has been elected via the Tokyo proportional representation list. The fate of Yuriko Koike, the former defence minsiter, is still not clear.

0113 The LDP are picking up seats in the PR lists. They now have 116 with 10 left to declare.

0112 Mr Hatoyama apologises for not winning enough seats in the proportional representation part of the vote. I imagine his party will forgive him.

0109 “The role of politics is to support vulnerable people and think about each person’s happiness,” says Mr Hatoyama.

0107 We are not denying all market principles but they are not the only principles, says Mr Hatoyama.

0103 The situation is now 303 seats for the DPJ and 115 for the LDP with 14 left to declare. The DPJ can no longer reach the 320 super-majority by itself.

0102 Mr Hatoyama is fending off further questions about his cabinet. He says that some positions may have to be decided sooner than others, e.g. foreign minister.

0100 Japan’s new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama is speaking. He is making the very good point that the LDP will have as many seats after the election as the DPJ before it. “I am sure that they will revive,” Mr Hatoyama says. Good politics to say that.

0050 Back to the Hokkaido situation – the LDP have only won 2 proportional representation seats, so ex-finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa is almost certainly gone. I’m fairly sure that faction leader Nobutaka Machimura and ex-LDP general secretary Tsutomu Takebe will get those two seats.

0047 Yuriko Koike, the former defence minister seen as a possible leader of the LDP, has lost her seat in Tokyo No. 10 district. She, too, may survivie via proportional representation.

0046 Finance minister Kaoru Yosano has lost his seat in Tokyo No. 1 district. He may come back via the proportional representation list.

0042 The current state of play is that NHK have called 302 seats for the DPJ and 111 for the LDP with 22 seats still to go. It therefore looks likely that the DPJ will fall short of a 320 super-majority by itself, although it may get there with allies.

0040 I can confirm that despite the DPJ’s dramatic victory, I saw no dancing on the rather damp streets of Tokyo. I overheard several interesting conversations on the train but none of them were about politics.

0039 Almost exactly an hour later, this is live again. FT accountants will be pleased to know that I caught the second last train home, and so saved them a taxi fare.

2341 Right. There’s not a lot going on at the moment, so I’m going to make a dash for the last train home. I’ll pick this up again in an hour or so. NHK has called 276 seats for the DPJ and 91 for the LDP. See you in an hour.

2332 DPJ vice president Katsuya Okada has taken to the airwaves on behalf of the party now. The LDP are keeping pretty quiet.

2329 Anyway, back to the big picture. NHK has now called 268 seats for the DPJ and 87 for the LDP. It is going to be tight for the 320 super-majority.

2326 So, how does that work out in Hokkaido (and we really are getting inside-Japanese-electoral-politics here)? Well, the LDP has won 2, and may win 3 proportional representation seats on the island. Nobutaka Machimura and Tsutome Takebe lost by less than Mr Nakagawa, so I think that he is gone.

However, there are two other close races, which could yet spell the end for Mr Machimura and Mr Takebe if LDP candidates lose by less than they did. Is that all clear now? No? It’s not clear to me either.

2322 Basically, all the LDP’s candidates in single-seat constituencies are ranked equal first in the LDP’s proportional representation list for that block. So, in Hokkaido, the 12 LDP candidates in the various constituencies are equal top of the LDP’s list for the Hokkaido PR block.

What I understand is that the candidates who lose by least in their own constituency get priority in the PR list.

2321 Going back to the situation in Hokkaido, I’ll try to explain the complicated rules for how PR candidates are chosen if they lost their personal constituency. Please don’t trust this too much.

2320 Former LDP prime minister Yoshiro Mori is, by the skin of his teeth, the projected winner in Ishikawa No. 2.

2318 In Hokkaido, it looks like former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned after his tired and emotional press conference at the G7 in Rome, is out. He has definitely lost his personal constituency and I don’t think he can come back through proportional representation.

2311 The Social Democrats and the People’s New Party – the DPJ’s allies – are on TV putting forward their demands. The Social Democrats like peace and don’t like nuclear weapons; the New Party wants to scrap postal privatisation. This is a small sign of the very large policy differences that still have to bridged without and within the DPJ.

2307 One of the commercial networks – sorry I’ll need a commercial break to work out which one – is forecasting 324 seats for the DPJ. That would be the super-majority, if it pans outs.

2301 So what is left for the rest of the night? The big question is whether the DPJ can reach a 320 super-majority, with or without its coalition partners. Other than that, we still want to know whether some famous LDP names will survive. Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori is a little ahead in Ishikawa No. 2.

2259 An update on the scores in play. NHK has now declared 255 seats for the DPJ and 65 for the LDP. 240 is enough for an absolute majority; 320 gives the super-majority that allows a party to force bills through the upper house, where the DPJ only has a majority in coalition.

2256 Yasuo Fukuda, the LDP prime minister before Taro Aso, has retained his seat in Gunma prefecture. That tells us something: he was thought to be at risk, so his survival sets the limits on the DPJ’s victory. It’ll be a close run thing as to whether the DPJ can win the super-majority of 320.

2252 As for what it all means, there will be extensive analysis in tomorrow’s Financial Times.

2251 Just to sum up the story of the night: the DPJ have an absolute majority, prime minister Taro Aso has conceeded defeat and said that he will quit as leader of the LDP.

2246 Hakuo Yanagisawa, the former LDP health minister who drew controversy in 2007 when he described women as “birth-giving machines”, has lost his constituency seat. He may be back via PR.

2244 The current situation according to NHK is: 247 seats called for the DPJ, 61 for the LDP, 10 for Komeito, 2 for the Communists, 2 for the Social Democrats, 3 for the People’s New Party, and 9 others.

2243 Sorry for the delay in updates. I’ve just been updating the main online news story.

2223 Mr Hatoyama is refusing to be drawn on who will be in his cabinet. “I have to keep next year’s upper house election in mind”, he says, in reference to whether all-powerful party boss Ichiro Ozawa will get a cabinet post.

2222 Mr Hatoyama is on NHK now. The climax of the evening has arrived early. “We have to absorb the needs of the people and respond to those needs,” says Mr Hatoyama. Early platitudes from the new prime minister.

2220 And that’s it. NHK has now called 241 seats for the Democratic Party of Japan. They will be the new government and Yukio Hatoyama the new leader.

2219 “I would like to express my congratulations and expectations on the Democratic Party’s victory,” says Mr Aso.

2218 NHK has now called 240 seats for the DPJ. One more will give them an absolute majority.

2217 “I think I should take responsibility for the defeat,” says Mr Aso. I think that’s it.

2216 This a concession speech, just without the word concession. “I think there will be talks about who will succeed me as president of the LDP,” Mr Aso says.

2215 “I believe that this is the judgement of the public and we will have to reflect on that sincerely,” says Taro Aso.

2213 Taro Aso is about to speak at LDP headquarters. It’s typical of the man’s timing – NHK will probably declare that the DPJ has reached 241 seats while he is on air – they have 237 at the moment.

2211 Things are also looking grim for finance minister Kaoru Yosano in Tokyo No. 1 district.

2208 All three LDP heavyweights are declared losers in Hokkaido. Nobutaka Machimura, leader of the LDP’s biggest faction, former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, and former LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe are all gone. I don’t think that all three can come back through the proportional representation list.

2207 Prime minister Taro Aso is at the LDP’s party headquarters but his seat in front of the cameras is empty for now. LDP insiders are saying that he will have no choice but to resign as leader of the party, according to NHK.

2156 It’s getting closer to official. Including allies, NHK has now called 242 seats for a potential DPJ coalition, enough for an absolute majority. The DPJ has 230 by itself.

2149 Including its allies, such as the Social Democrats, the DPJ is now at 237 seats called by NHK. 241 are needed for an absolute majority.

2143 Mr Hatoyama is being asked whether he will include the Social Democrats and People’s New Party in his government if he wins. Yes, is the answer. “Whether they will be members of the cabinet, we will have to talk to them,” he says. The small parties would probably prefer a less overwhelming DPJ victory.

2142 Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ leader and likely the new prime minister of Japan, is answering questions. He’s thanking the public while at the same time claiming that we have to wait for the final results.

2141 LDP prime minister Taro Aso has now been called as winner of his own seat.

2140 Things have slowed down a little now with most of the obvious seats already called. Do comment if you’re out there.

2134 NHK is now calling 212 seats for the DPJ. A reminder, they need 241 for an absolute majority.

2133 NHK is projecting a turnout of 69 per cent, the highest since 1996. A high turnout was expected and it looks to have come through.

2131 Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the DPJ, has arrived at party HQ. He is attaching red flowers to a board next to the names of victorious candiates. It may take him a while if he does them all.

2129 The 28 year-old Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, has been declared winner for the LDP in Kanagawa No. 11 district, the seat his father has just vacated. The LDP looks to be on its way out, but dynastic politics in Japan lives on.

2122 Ichiro Ozawa is hoping from channel to channel with no sign of Yukio Hatoyama, the party leader. Mr Ozawa really is the face of the DPJ tonight.

2117 NHK is now calling 197 seats for the DPJ. It’ll be time to declare victory when NHK calls 241.

2114 Mr Ozawa carefully points out that he is not the prime minister (although you can understand why people might be confused, such is his stature) before promising that the DPJ will undoubtedly be able to keep all of its election pledges.

2112 Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ chief before Yukio Hatoyama and the political mastermind between the DPJ’s advance, mops his brow on Asahi TV and then says that it’s “too soon for congratulations”. The TV network that he’s taking to would disagree – they now have 279 seats called for the DPJ.

2108 The commercial networks are not being as conservative with ther declarations as NHK. Asahi TV has already called 278 seats for the DPJ, which would give them an absolute majority.

2103 NHK says the mood at LDP headquarters is grim. Another seat has been called for the DPJ – it’s 182 now.

2101 The overall situation: the DPJ now has 181 declared seats to 43 for the LDP. The DPJ needs 241 for an absolute majority.

The DPJ is already declared the winner of 11 of the 25 Tokyo single-member seats. It won 1 last time.

2054 Some links for those who want to follow all this in more detail. If both you and your computer understand Japanese, then visit NHK’s interactive site. If not, NHK World will update the results faster than I can.

There are good maps of what happened last time at Adam Carr’s Election Archive. Or, if you want to know why it’s all happening and what it all means, read Mure Dickie’s superb coverage on ft.com.

2047 Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ leader, has already won his Hokkaido seat. Some other notable figures, such as former LDP prime minster Shinzo Abe, are also declared winners.

2045 In Tokyo, finance minister Kaoru Yosano is behind in district No. 1, as is Yuriko Koike in Tokyo No. 10.

2037 It looks like Nobutaka Machimura, the head of the LDP’s largest internal faction, has lost his seat in Hokkaido No. 5. He may survive via the proportional representation list, but the LDP looks set to be wiped out in the constituencies on the northern island.

2030 The current state of play: NHK has already called 176 seats for the DPJ versus 42 for the LDP. The DPJ needs 241 for an absolute majority.

Welcome to our regularly updated coverage of a Japanese election that already looks set to be a landmark in the country’s post election history.

The polls only closed 30 minutes ago but a huge amount has already happened. The top line: exit polls say the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will win between 297 and 329 seats, giving it an absolute majority in the lower house, and possible even a two-thirds super majority that would let it rule without the need for allies in the upper house.

That is revolutionary: the LDP has ruled Japan for all but a brief 11-month since 1955

I’ll update on the results we already know in a minute.

Robin Harding

A landmark Japanese election – one that all the polls say will see the ejection of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for only the second time in 53 years – is nearing a climax. Voting ends at 8pm in Japan, which is 12 noon in London, and 7am on the US East Coast.

After that, we expect things to move fast. Exit polls should be available rapidly, and with electronic voting in many polling stations, some urban seats may produce results early in the evening, with a possible concession in the early hours of the morning if the outcome is clear.

I will be updating the site throughout the evening, and with correspondents at both LDP and Democratic Party of Japan HQs, we are planning an extensive package on what it all means for tomorrow’s paper.

In the meantime, here’s a guide on what to look out for this evening:

- Voting is in two parts. There are 300 first-past-the-post constituencies and 180 seats elected from 11 proportional representation blocks. The first-past-the-post system means that big swings are possible.

- In 2005, the LDP won 219 constituencies and 77 PR seats, for a total of 296. The DPJ won 52 constituencies and 61 PR seats for a total of 113. For details on the outcome last time, visit Adam Carr’s Elections Archive or Wikipedia.

- The main question, therefore, is whether the DPJ can get to 241 seats and secure an absolute majority. Some polls suggest it will get 300, or even 320, which would mean a two-thirds supermajority and the power to force bills through the Diet’s upper house.

- There are lots of interesting subplots. One is the fate of the smaller parties – New Komeito, the LDP’s Buddhist allies; the Social Democrats; the Communists; and several others – who look likely to be squeezed by the DPJ.

- Another is the fate of several LDP big-hitters who are in danger of losing their seats. Some would be saved via the PR lists – but at grave cost to their prestige.

- Areas to watch include Tokyo, where the DPJ won only one single-seat constituency of the 25 last time, and may win 20 this time. That could include the Tokyo No. 1 district of finance minister Kaoru Yosano, and the Tokyo No. 10 seat of Yuriko Koike, the female former defence minister seen as a possible future leader of the LDP.

- On the northern island of Hokkaido, the LDP is at risk of annihilation in the 12 single-seat constituencies, which would mean defeat for faction leader Nobutaka Machimura, former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, and former LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe. With the LDP likely to win a maximum of 3 seats in the Hokkaido PR block, all three would be unlikely to survive.

- Several former prime ministers risk defeat. In Ishikawa No. 2, former PM Yoshiro Mori is in a close race with a 33 year-old DPJ candidate called Mieko Tanaka. Yasuo Fukuda, who was the PM before current LDP leader Taro Aso, is also in a tight race in Gunma No. 4.

Stick with us this evening – whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting.

So President Barack Obama has offered Ben Bernanke a second term as chief of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank.

Krishna Guha, the FT’s US Economics Editor, has pointed out that economists, investors and fellow central bankers overwhelmingly favour the Fed chairman’s reappointment. Francesco Guerrera, the FT’s US Finance and Business Editor, says the same is true of Wall Street bankers. Stephen Roach, however, writing for the Financial Times, makes the case against Bernanke.

The chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia likens the decision to a doctor who has been guilty of malpractice being given credit for coming up with a miracle cure. The Baseline Scenario, a US blog, asks which Bernanke will be reappointed.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary accused Libya of breaking a promise not to give freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi a hero’s welcome on his return home, PA reports.

 ”It is a matter of great regret that Mr Megrahi was received in such an inappropriate manner,” Kenny MacAskill told an emergency session of the Scottish Parliament. “It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie.”

UPDATE

The Libyan was greeted by crowds, some waving Scottish flags, when he landed at Tripoli on Thursday after being released on compassionate grounds by Mr MacAskill because he is dying from prostate cancer, adds Andrew Bolger, the FT’s Scotland correspondent.

“It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie,” said Mr MacAskill. “Assurances had been given by the Libyan government that any return would be dealt with in a low-key and sensitive fashion.”

Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader at Holyrood, said the Scottish National party government made “a wrong decision, in the wrong way, with the wrong consequences”.

Mr Gray said: “Does he understand how much his decision has angered the silent majority in Scotland? Does he understand how ashamed we were to see our flag flying to welcome a convicted bomber home?”

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Conservative leader, said: “I want to make clear that the decision to release Mr Megrahi was not done in the name of Scotland or in the name of this parliament or in my name.”

Ms Goldie asked why, if Mr Megrahi’s condition was so severe that keeping him in prison is inhumane, could he not have been released to a secure house or a hospice or a hospital in Scotland.

She said: “Is this SNP government seriously suggesting that our Scottish police who coped so admirably with security arrangements for G8 Leaders could not adequately protect Mr Megrahi?”

Gordon Brown kicked off the week by congratulating England’s cricket team for winning the Ashes while maintaining a dogged silence over the decision by the Scottish government to release the Lockerbie bomber.

The prime minister’s spokesman insisted it would be inappropriate for Mr Brown to comment on a matter that “was and remains a matter for the Scottish justice secretary”, in spite of a wave of anger over the decision in the US and UK.

That assertion has been greeted with scepticism in the media and Tory circles, where it has been noted that Mr Brown is usually free with his opinions on a range of less weighty issues, including cricket or reality television shows.

But Mr Brown’s reticence is unsurprising, given that the decision by Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s justice secretary, to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is perhaps the least worst outcome from the prime minister’s perspective.

Firstly the convicted Libyan bomber’s release on compassionate grounds will further warm relations between Tripoli and London (Colonel Gadaffi is unlikely to care a great deal about the constitutional niceties of Scottish devolution) and will improve trading links between the two countries.

Secondly the whole affair has backfired badly on Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, who now finds himself embroiled in a high-level dispute with Washington. Mr Brown cannot abide Mr Salmond, the SNP leader whose government is now under severe pressure.

If Mr Brown criticises the decision, he will annoy the Colonel; if he backs the SNP government in Scotland, he will infuriate the Americans. Silence is perhaps his best policy.

Nevertheless, he will face more tough questioning on his own personal view when he returns to Downing St on Tuesday for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.

By Vincent Bevins and agencies

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for a doubling of Afghan security forces to 400,000 to allow them to take over for Western troops, according to Reuters. “We should develop the capacity of the Afghan national security forces, the army and the police, so they can take care of their own security,” he said.

In Germany, as Reuters also reports, the government today has been attempting to avoid a debate about pulling troops out of Afghanistan that has intensified after the violence of the elections there.

By Vincent Bevins and agencies

Counting has begun in Afghanistan amid further evidence that turnout was uneven and claims of fraud may need to be investigated.

Election officials have confirmed earlier reports that turnout was low, especially in the south, where incumbent Hamid Karzai’s support is stronger. AP reported that voting in Kandahar, the south’s largest city and the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace, appeared to be 40% lower than in 2004. Abdullah Abdullah, who is more popular with the Tajik communities in the North, may benefit enough from this imbalance to force a run-off.

Scattered violence and clear threats of violence closed at least 800 poll stations (12% of total) and kept many voters from those that were open.

The Guardian reported that Ashraf Ghani, another presidential candidate, acknowledged widespread claims of fraud and hoped they could be resolved through official channels.

Barring hold-ups, some preliminary results may be released as early as Saturday and the final results should be announced 17 September.

The return of Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord, to Afghanistan only days ahead of the country’s presidential and provincial elections, was “appalling”, Richard Holbrooke, US President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Thursday.

Mr Holbrooke, who was visiting some of Kabul’s polling stations on election day, said he was “moved” by the sight of Afghans going to the polls to chose their leaders, defying threats of violence by Taliban militants.

“What we have seen is what you want to see,” Mr Holbrooke told the Financial Times. “Many predicted that these [elections] wouldn’t be held.”

Read the full story from James Lamont in Kabul here: US envoy hits out at Karzai deal

Follow the day’s events so far on the blog below.

By Vincent Bevins

The credible threat of violence from Afghan militants appears to have been effective in keeping many voters away from the polls. Various reports claim more than two-thirds of polling stations in Afghanistan appear empty when compared to the last presidential elections five years ago.

Correspondents and officials have indicated turnout is better in the more secure north of Afghanistan, where presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah has stronger support. A strong performance by Mr Abdullah would force a second round.

Violence has not been absent, however, with reports of suicide and mortar attacks in various locations throughout Afghanistan.

The supposedly indelible ink which has been used to mark the fingers of voters seems to be removable. Despite this, insurgents have made good on the promise to kill people marked with it in at least one case.

The opening of polling stations has been extended until 6pm local time.

Below are some of the day’s main updates so far.

The economic crisis has prompted governments across the world to re-evaluate their financial regulatory framework, to try to tackle the causes of, and fallout from, the global downturn. The next 12 months could bring the most dramatic change in financial services regulation in decades.

Our graphic explains the existing framework and proposed changes to financial regulation in the EU, US and UK. Will these changes prevent another financial crisis? Leave your comments below.

Just when we thought the focus on Sir David Walker’s report would be pay, now the worry is about banks’ possibly making even more errors of judgment.

Richard Northedge questions whether there will be meddling by ‘amateur’ non-execs and investors, even if bankers can ‘get it wrong’ sometimes. Could they do more damage than Fred the Shred? But perhaps The Edge is right in questioning whether the Walker proposals might be made compulsory across all companies.  And he raises the issue of better training.

Channel 4′s John Snow has weighed into the debate as well, questioning whether banks can really change their greedy habits? Don’t hold your breath on getting more transparency, concludes the C4 news host.

Should London’s bankers be shaking in their boots – or watching their wallets – after the release of the Walker Review published this morning?

A large amount of attention has been paid to proposals on bankers’ remuneration, one of 39 recommendations in Sir David Walker’s report. Bonuses are once again in the headlines due to Goldman Sachs boosting the pay of its staff back to pre-boom levels.

Sir David, a former chairman of Morgan Stanley International, wants bank boards’ remuneration committees to take on far more work, scrutinising the pay of anyone who earns more than the average board-level executive.

The FT’s City editor Andrew Hill says that this move was a surprise with a tougher than expected constraint on bankers’ bonuses. The challenge, of course, remains whether any of these proposals will prevent another banking crisis.

Indeed, a push to disclose the pay and bonuses of City high-flyers dominated some discussion this morning on the FT’s Alphaville site, even before the report was published.

While hopes for greater transparency on the part of banks seems to be the gist of government and business reaction, the blogosphere needs convincing.

The BBC’s business editor Robert Peston questions whether banks can really change their habits. Indeed, some question whether a flurry of reports on banking will generate anything more than just comment.

Interestingly, another angle to be followed could be concerns that Sir David’s proposals will reduce the international competitiveness of the City. Sir David has tried to head this off already by saying ‘phooey‘ to such criticism.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown today held breakfast talks with Muammar Gaddafi, touching on oil price volatility, improving bilateral relations between Britain and Libya and the sensitive issue of the Lockerbie bombing.

In their first head-to-head meeting, the colonel asked Mr Brown for help in the case of the dying former Libyan agent who is appealing against a life sentence for the 1988 attack.

The Scottish Appeal Court said this week the case would not be concluded until next year, raising concerns that 57-year-old Abdel Basset al-Megrahi – who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer – will die before the appeal finishes.

Mr Brown deftly passed the buck to his old adversary Alex Salmond, the Scotland first minister, pointing out that the Scottish National party leader was responsible for dealing with the issue.

Silvio Berlusconi’s wise decision to avoid over-the-top banqueting arrangements at the G8 summit has been welcomed by summiteers in L’Aquila but the menus have not gone down well with everyone.

Sarah Brown, wife of the British prime minister, complains today that she is tiring of being presented with veal, a meat she refuses to eat on ethical grounds because of allegedly cruel production methods.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “Am hoping that no veal served at lunch again
today – have declined it twice this trip as just feel very strongly about it.”

But it hasn’t been all terrible for Mrs Brown. On Thursday she hooked up with George Clooney for a tour of the earthquake damage in L’Aquila.

By Giulia Segreti in L’Aquila

After two days of peaceful and symbolic demonstrations by  its own citizen committees, the town of l’Aquila will become the focus of an anti-G8 Summit march on Friday, organized by independent trade unions.
Franco Gabrielli, prefect of the earthquake-hit town, says he is not too worried but does expect infiltration by violent “no-global” elements.

“There is no exacerbated fear nor a superficial underestimation of what will happen tomorrow. It will be, however, a demonstration against the G8 summit and there will be people who will come into l’Aquila with non-peaceful purposes,” says Mr Gabrielli.

The march is being organized by the Cub, Cobas and Sdl unions and starts from the quake-hit town of Paganica and intends to finish in L’Aquila’s central park.  Fifteen buses will bring marchers from Rome and more from Milan and the regions of Tuscany, Puglia and Campania. Cub expects about 2,000 to show up, while Cobas hopes for over  7,000 people, matched by similar numbers of local people.

Although the organisation committee had initially said that it would march up to the doors of the military barracks where the summit is being held, there is no intention of violating the “red zone”. “Violence is not part of our philosophy. We do not want to put on a clown show. our Prime Minister is already very active in this sector ,” says Alex Miozzi, spokesperson for Cub. “On our side, we guarantee 100 per cent no violence although in other countries red zones do not exist,”  says Vincenzo Miliucci for Cobas.

The demonstration has been authorized  but there are fears that the core group of participants will be joined by violent demonstrators. On Wednesday three Italian young men travelling towards l’Aquila were stopped by police for carrying metal bats and improvised weapons and rocks.

Since the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, the unions have held rallies against the G8 system and campaigned for alternatives.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, told a news conference more than once after lunch at the G8 summit, expressing his concerns that world leaders had to start thinking seriously about their “exit strategy” after massive fiscal stimulus packages.

Asked by the FT who had paid for his lunch, Mr Strauss-Kahn replied: “Probably you”.

But he defended these ever more frequent gatherings of world leaders – in April in London, this week in L’Aquila and then next to Pittsburgh in September.

“Globalisation is not just a topic for  FT editorial  pages,” he added.

But he also expressed the view that the days of the G8 were numbered as it evolved into something bigger and broader.

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